(Auld). Words by Lady Anne Lindsay, daughter of the Earl of Balcarres, and afterwards Lady Barnard, in 1772, written to an old Scotch tune called “The bridegroom grat when the sun gaed down.” Auld Robin Gray was the herdsman of her father. When Lady Anne had written a part, she called her younger sister for advice. She said, “I am writing a ballad of virtuous distress in humble life. I have oppressed my heroine with sundry troubles: for example, I have sent her Jamie to sea, broken her father's arm, made her mother sick, given her Auld Robin Gray for a lover, and want a fifth sorrow; can you help me to one?” “Steal the cow, sister Anne,” said the little Elizabeth; so the cow was stolen awa', and the song completed.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894