Sing me a song..

Without social media being available in the 18th century other methods had to be used to communicate, songs played an important role in influencing popular sentiment both for and against the Jacobite cause.

Today relatively few Hanoverian or pro-government songs have survived over time but there are many Jacobite songs that have been written and recorded through the centuries.

Many Jacobite songs are in Gaelic as many Highlanders, though not all, fought on the side of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. Many of the great Gaelic poets of the 18th century were Jacobite supporters and composed songs on the subject including Alexander MacDonald.

Moidart-born Alexander MacDonald is considered one of the finest Gaelic poets of the 18th century and was also among the first to join Prince Charles when he arrived at Glenfinnan. It is also said that MacDonald was called upon to try to teach the prince some Gaelic though if this is true it seems it did not go that well. Nevertheless, MacDonald saw himself as a propagandist for the cause through his poetry, and wrote many inspiring songs during the campaign and afterwards, when he continued to write optimistically of a return of the rightful King. Some of his songs include : Òran Nuadh — “A New Song”, Òran nam Fineachan Gaidhealach — “The Song of the Highland Clans” and Òran do’n Phrionnsa — “A Song to the Prince,”

Many years after the Jacobtie risings finished songs were still written though by this stage they often romantised the history and were sentimental of the Jacobite cause.  Such songs include ‘My Ain Countrie’, ‘The Skye Boat Song’ and ‘Will Ye No Come Back Again?’ 

The Skye Boat Song (800)_tcm4-575637
The Skye Boat Song

The Skye Boat Song is probably one of the most well known songs and is a Jacobite lament describing how Bonnie Prince Charlie, disguised as an Irish woman, was rowed from Uist over to the island of Skye to hide from Government soldiers.

Chorus:
 ‘Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing
Onward, the sailors cry!
Carry the lad that’s born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.’
Verse 1:
‘Loud the winds cry, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air.
Baffled our foes stand by the shore.
Follow they will not dare’
Verse 2:
‘Many’s the lad fought on that day
Well the claymore could wield,
When the night came silently lay
Dead on Culloden’s field.’
Verse 3:
Burned are our homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men.
Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath
Scotland will rise again!’
The words were actually written by an Englishman, Sir Harold Boulton, about 120 years ago. He used a Gaelic song format, a rowing song called an iorram, and the tune is said to come from the Gaelic song ‘Cuachan nan Craobh’ or ‘The Cuckoo in the Grove’. Since then many people have covered the song including Rod Stewart and Tom Jones.
Songs and poems were a key part to the Jacobite Risings with both sides using their power to influence the public and record the events of the time. Hopefully this short introduction has been interesting and you can always search for the songs online to have a listen. As always please blog, share, tweet, follow, comment and spend an evening enjoying the songs of the Jacobites if you can.
All the best, K & D
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