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Scots Wha Hae


Scots Wha Hae

This used to be considered Scotland’s national anthem; now several songs are in contention for that honour.

Robert Burns called this stirring song ‘Robert Bruce’s March to Bannockburn’, using the ancient tune ‘Hey Tutti Taitie’. He imagined what 'one might suppose to be the gallant royal Scot’s address to his heroic followers on that eventful morning'.

Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victorie!

Now's the day, and now's the hour
See the front o battle lour
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and slaverie!

Wha wad be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

Wha for Scotland's King and Law
Freedom's sword wad strongly draw
Freeman stand or freeman fa',
Let him follow me!

By Oppression's woes and pains
By your sons in servile chains
We will drain our dearest veins
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do, or dee!

We probably know what tune was played for Robert the Bruce’s troops as they marched to the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Robert Burns wrote in a letter, 'There is a tradition, which I have met with in many places in Scotland, that [‘Hey Tuttie Taitie’] was Robert Bruce’s march at the battle of Bannockburn.' Burns took the tune and slowed it down.

‘Hey Tuttie Taitie’ is a very old tune. We do not have a document from 1314 that says the tune was used at Bannockburn. But there is, we are told, a document in the French Château Royal de Blois that says the tune was played as a march by Joan of Arc's Scottish soldiers when she entered the city of Orleans on 29 April 1429. It was called a Scottish march then. It has been played as part of the annual Joan of Arc memorial celebrations in the town of Orleans, where they called it ‘Marche des Soldats de Robert Bruce’ (‘March of the Soldiers of Robert Bruce’).

‘Hey Tuttie Taitie’ demonstrates the problems of trying to put a simple label on a tune. It was used as a march. It is in the form of a strathspey. Burns gave two sets of lyrics for the tune - he wrote ‘Scots Wha Hae’ and wrote or added to ‘Landlady, Count the Lawin’, a song about drinking all night. So ‘Hey Tuttie Taitie’ is a march, a strathspey dance tune, and the tune of a patriotic song and a drinking song.

These are the lyrics of 'Landlady Count the Lawin'.

Landlady, count the lawin
The day is near the dawin
Ye’re aa blind drunk, boys
And I’m but jolly fou

Hey, tutti, taiti
How, tutti, taiti
Hey, tutti, taiti
Wha’s fu noo?

Cog an ye were aye fu
Cog an ye were aye fu,
I wad sit and sing tae you
If ye were aye fu.

Weel may we aa be,
Ill may we never see,
God bless the guidwife
And the company.

‘Scots Wha Hae’ and many other Burns songs were translated into Russian by the poet Samuil Marshak.

'Scots Wha Hae', played on the harp by Heather Yule.
Recorded for Learning and Teaching Scotland for Scotland’s Songs.

'Scots Wha Hae', sung by Hamish Henderson and the audience at the end of the 1951 People's Festival Ceilidh in Edinburgh.
From Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales: 1951 Edinburgh People's Festival Ceilidh (February 2006) Rounder Records.