View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Sic a Parcel of Rogues

A song that protests bitterly about the Union of Scotland and England in 1707.

Fareweel to a' our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory
Fareweel ev'n to the Scottish name,
Sae famed in martial story
Now Sark rins over Solway sands
An Tweed rins to the ocean
To mark where England's province stands -
Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation!

What force or guile could not subdue
Through many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitor's wages
The English steel we could disdain
Secure in valour's station
But English gold has been our bane -
Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation!

O would, or I had seen the day
That Treason thus could sell us,
My auld grey head had lien in clay
Wi Bruce and loyal Wallace!
But pith and power, till my last hour
I'll mak this declaration
We're bought and sold for English gold -
Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation!

It is usually said that this song was composed by Robert Burns, but he did not himself claim it. Robert Chambers included it in his collection of Scottish Songs Prior to Burns and suggested that there was not at that time known to be clear evidence for corrupt payments having been made to the ‘majority of the Scottish parliament’, the charge of ‘bought and sold for English gold’. More recently details of the payments made at the time have been published.

Many Scots were angry in 1707. Sir Walter Scott summed up the popular Scottish attitude of the time in the words of one of his characters: 'I ken, when we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament - men o' our ain, we could aye peeble them wi' stones when they werena gude bairns - But naebody's nails can reach the length o' Lunnon.'

Robert Burns asked in 1790, 'What are all the advantages which my country reaps from the union that can counterbalance the annihilation of her independence, and even her very name? Nothing can reconcile me to the terms.'

When in 1707 the Act of Union was given royal assent by the Earl of Seafield, he touched the document with the royal sceptre, saying, 'There's the end of an auld sang.' Nearly 300 years later, at the 're-convening' of parliament in Edinburgh in 1999, the Presiding Officer said it was the 'start of a new sang'.

This song and many others written or collected by Burns have been translated into Russian. However, the Russians thought of Burns's songs as poems and composers set some of his work to their own music.

'Sic a Parcel of Rogues', sung by Fiona Forbes of the Sangsters.
From Sharp And Sweet CDTRAX207 (December 2000), Greentrax Recordings.

  • Sic a Parcel of Rogues

    00:00