Songs of Soldiers and War
The Scottish soldier features heavily in our song traditions, whether it be heading off with the recruiting sergeant, on the plains at Waterloo or following Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Jean Elliot's 18th-century lyrics to the Flooers o the Forest, written for the loss of thousands of Scots and King James IV on the field at Flodden in 1513, are perhaps the best known to this old Scottish melody, Dick Gaughan sings a fabulous version from a 1983 documentary in this clip:
The theme of recruitment, particularly young men going off to join the regiments, is very common. Jimmy MacBeath sings the humorous broadside ballad, The Gallant Forty Twa, the Black Watch, at the Kist o Riches website. A version of the broadside is at the National Library of Scotland's Word on the Street project website.
Here The McCalmans sing Twa Recruitin Sergeants, in which men from rural communities are cajoled into enlisting in the army, with the promise of a better life:
Soldiers and sailors going off to war also feature in love songs, typically returning after "seven long years" to test the love of the girl left behind, who usually does not recognise him when he returns, as in Bloody Waterloo sung here by Willie Scott, at the Kist o Riches website.
Often soldiers would be the cause of grief to maidens whom they would encounter on their tours of duty, leaving behind fatherless bairns - as in the tale of The Trooper and the Maid:
In his remade version of the broadside ballad Jamie Foyers, Ewan MacColl writes of Scottish participation in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s as part of the International Brigades, sung here by Dick Gaughan:
A version of the traditional song, about the Peninsular War (1808-1814), is at the National Library of Scotland Word on the Street project website.
More recently, Hamish Henderson's song The 51st (Highland) Division's Farewell to Sicily recalls the troops leaving Sicily during the Italian campaign in World War II. Set to the pipe tune Farewell to the Creeks by PM James Robertson of Banff, Hamish sings his own song at the Kist o Riches website.
List Bonnie Laddie