Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Battle of Harlaw - On This Day in Scottish Military History, 1411

Today marks the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Harlaw.

The battle was fought to resolve competing claims to the Earldom of Ross, and was fought between Lowland clans commanded by Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar and Highland clans led by Donald of Islay, Lord of the Isles. Despite fierce fighting there was no clear victor.

The wikipedia page on the battle is well detailed and worth a look to discover more information. You can also download a map from the Battlefields Trust showing the approximate deployments.

The battle spawned a ballad entitle "The Ballad of Harlaw". Here is a video of it being performed, with the lyrics reproduced below.

As I cam' in by Dunideer and doon by Nether Ha'
There were fifty thoosand' heilan' men a-marchin' tae Harlaw

Chorus (after each verse):
Wi' a diddy aye o' an' a fal an' doe
And a diddy aye o' aye ay

As I gaed on an' farther on and doon an' by Balquhain
Oh it's there I saw Sir James the Rose and wi' him John the Graeme

"It's cam' ye fae the Heilan's man, cam' ye a' the wey?
Saw ye MacDonald and his men as they cam' in fae Skye?"

"It's I was near and near eneuch that I their numbers saw
There was fifty thoosan' heilan' men a-marchin' tae Harlaw"

"Gin that be true," says James the Rose, "We'll no cam' muckle speed
We'll cry upon wir merry men and turn wir horse's heid"

"Oh na, o' na," says John the Graeme, "This thing will nivver be
The gallant Graemes wis nivver beat, we'll try fit we can dae"

Well, as I gaed on an' further on an' doon an' by Harlaw
There fell fu' close on ilka side sic straiks ye nivver saw

There fell fu' close on ilka side sic straiks ye nivver saw
An' ilka sword gaed clash for clash at the Battle of Harlaw

The Heilan' men wi' their lang swords, they laid on us fu' sair
And they drave back wir merry men three acres breadth and mair

An' Forbes tae his brither did say, "Noo brither, can't ye see
They've beaten us back on ilka side and we'll be forced tae flee"

"Oh na, na, my brither bold, this thing will nivver be
Ye'll tak yer guid sword in yer haun', ye'll gang in wi' me"

Well, it's back tae back the brithers bold gaed in amangst the thrang
And they drave back the heilan' men wi' swords baith sharp and lang

An' the firstan stroke that Forbes struck, he gart MacDonald reel
An' the neistan straik that Forbes struck, the brave MacDonald fell

An siccan a ptlairchie o' the likes ye nivver saw
As wis amangst the Heilan' men fan they saw MacDonald fa'

Some rade, some ran and some did gang, they were o' sma' record
For Forbes and his merry men, they slew them on the road

O' fifty thoosan' Heilan' men, but fifty-three gaed hame
And oot o' a' the Lawlan' men, fifty marched wi' Graeme

Gin onybody spier at ye for them that marched awa'
Ye can tell them plain and very plain they're sleepin' at Harlaw

No comments:

Post a Comment