The Battle Of Sherramuir


"O cam ye here the fight to shun, Or herd the sheep wi' me, man? Or were ye at the Sherra-moor, Or did the battle see, man?" I saw the battle, sair and teugh, And reekin-red ran mony a sheugh ; My heart, for fear, gaed sough for sough, To hear the thuds, and see the cluds O' clans frae woods, in tartan duds, Wha glaum'd at kingdoms three, man. The red-coat lads, wi' black cockauds, To meet them were na slaw, man; They rush'd and push'd, and blude outgush'd And mony a bouk did fa', man: The great Argyle led on his files, I wat they glanc'd for twenty miles; They hough'd the clans like nine-pin kyles, They hack'd and hash'd, while braid-swords, clash'd, And thro' they dash'd, and hew'd and smash'd, Till fey men di'd awa, man. But had ye seen the philibegs, And skyrin tartan trews, man; When in the teeth they dar'd our Whigs, And covenant True-blues, man: In lines extended lang and large, When baiginets o'erpower'd the targe, And thousands hasten'd to the charge; Wi' Highland wrath they frae the sheath Drew blades o' death, till, out o' breath, They fled like frighted dows, man! "O how deil, Tam, can that be true? The chase gaed frae the north, man; I saw mysel, they did pursue, The horsemen back to Forth, man; And at Dunblane, in my ain sight, They took the brig wi' a' their might, And straught to Stirling wing'd their flight; But, cursed lot! the gates were shut; And mony a huntit poor red-coat, For fear amaist did swarf, man!" My sister Kate cam up the gate Wi' crowdie unto me, man; She swoor she saw some rebels run To Perth and to Dundee, man; Their left-hand general had nae skill; The Angus lads had nae gude will That day their neibors' blude to spill; For fear, for foes, that they should lose Their cogs o' brose ; they scar'd at blows, And hameward fast did flee, man. They've lost some gallant gentlemen, Amang the Highland clans, man! I fear my Lord Panmure is slain, Or fallen in Whiggish hands, man, Now wad ye sing this double flight, Some fell for wrang, and some for right; But mony bade the world gude-night ; Then ye may tell, how pell and mell, By red claymores, and muskets knell, Wi' dying yell, the Tories fell, And Whigs to hell did flee, man.

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Robert Carlyle

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1790 and is read here by Robert Carlyle.

More about this song

On 13 November 1715 the Earl of Mar led his Jacobite forces into battle with the Duke of Argyll's Hanoverian troops at Sherrifmuir. Although both sides claimed victory, the outcome was indecisive. It did, however, bring the 1715 rebellion to an end.

Recognising that the battle was so inconclusive Burns wrote the song as an account of two shepherds advocating opposing views of the unfolding events.

The song was an adaptation of John Barclay's broadside, 'Dialogue between Will Lick-Ladle and Tom Clean-Cogue'. He composed it when he toured the highlands in 1787, and it was first published in The Scots Musical Museum (1790).

Ralph Richard McLean

Themes for this song

war jacobitism

Selected for 13 November

Today's poem marks the Battle of Sherrifmuir, fought near Dunblane on this day in 1715. The Jacobite Earl of Mar took on the Duke of Argyll giving fleeting last hope to those who wished to see the Stewarts restored to the British throne. The battle's outcome was inconclusive and is still contested (so to speak) among military historians. What is beyond dispute is that the next day, by winning the Battle of Preston, the Hanoverians put the rebellion decisively down.

Donny O'Rourke

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