Willie rode across the Clyde to see Maggie. She refused to let him in, saying there were gentlemen in her bower. Returning over the Clyde, he was unhorsed. His brother urged him to swim, but he had lost heart because of Maggie's falseness. Maggie followed, begging his forgiveness and blaming her stepmother, and saying they would drown together.
Stanley Robertson explains that it was Maggie's stepmother who had spoken to Willie. There is some discussion of songs with similar themes.