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Cock O the North

‘The Cock O' the North’ is very old tune, first written down over 300 years ago, when it was called ‘Jumping Joan’.

As a pipe tune it is the regimental march of the Gordon Highlanders, because the Duke of Gordon was so powerful in the North East of Scotland that he was known as the Cock of the North.

In 1897 the regiment was fighting in Afghanistan and they were attacking uphill at a place called the Heights of Dargai. The soldiers were led by their pipers, one of whom, George Findlater, was shot through both legs. He propped himself up against a rock and carried on playing this tune to encourage the soldiers to go on. Piper Findlater was awarded the Victoria Cross, but he did not at first get an army pension. He performed in music halls, telling his story and playing his pipes until the government changed its mind.

This tune has had words fitted to it. Some verses are too rude to print here, but we can tell you the version that is the ‘party piece’ of Prince Charles, perhaps learned from his Scots grannie.

Aunty Mary had a canary
Whistled the Cock of the North
It whistled for oors
And frightened the Boers
And won the Victoria Cross.

The Boer War in South Africa took place from 1899 to 1902.

In 1932 a longer version of the lyrics was printed; it mentions the Barnum and Bailey circus and one of the Boer leaders, Kruger.

Barnum and Bailey had a canary
Whustled The Cock o the North
It whustled for oors
An frichtened the Booers
An they aa fell intae the Forth 
B for Booer, K for Krudger
J for General French
The Bri’ish were up at the tap o the hull
An the Boers were doon in the trench.

Listen to 'Cock O' the North', played by Josh Dickson.
From Traditional Scottish Songs and Music, Gallus Recordings.

  • Cock O' the North