The Battle of Harlaw
Traditional ballad arr. Andrew Calhoun, recorded on Telfer's Cows. Child #163.
Fought near Aberdeen in Northeast Scotland, July, 1411. Donald of the Isles (MacDonnell) and his invading Highlanders were in fact defeated.
As I cam in by Dunidier
And in by Netherha'
I saw six thousand lowlanders
A-marching to Harlaw
refrain: Wi' my durrim do, durrim do, daddie durrim day
As I cam on and farther on
Till I cam to Balquhain;
It's there I met Sir James the Rose
And with him was John Graeme.
"Oh cam ye from the Highlands, man,
And did ye cam that way
And did ye see MacDonell and his men
As they marched from Skye?"
"Oh yes I from the Highlands cam'
And I did come that way
And I did see MacDonnell and his men
As they marched from Skye"
"Oh was ye near MacDonnell's men?
Did ye their numbers see?
Can ye tell us, my trusty friend
What might their numbers be?"
"Oh I was near MacDonnell's men,
And I their numbers saw
There were nine thousand Highlandmen
A-marching to Harlaw"
"If this be true," says James the Rose
"There will be hundreds dead
We'd best cry in our merry men
And turn our horses' heads"
"Oh no, oh no" says John the Graeme
"That thing can never be
The gallant Graemes was never cowards
That would from battle flee"
So they went on and farther on
Till they cam to Harlaw
The strokes fell fast on every side
Such fun you never saw
The Highlandmen with their long swords
They fell on them full sore
And they beat back the Lowlanders
Two acres breadth and more
Lord Forbes to his brother said
"Oh brother, don't ye see
How they beat us back on every side
And we'll be forced to flee
"Oh no, oh no my brother
Such a thing can never be
Ye'll take your good sword in your hand
And ye'll go in with me"
Now back to back, the brothers bold
They went among the throng
And they hewed down the Highlandmen
With heavy swords and long
Lord Forbes, he being young and stout
Made the Highlandmen to yield
As a scythe doth the green grass
That grows upon the field.
MacDonell, he being young and stout
Put on his coat of mail;
And he has gone out through the ranks
To fight Lord Forbes himself.
The first blow that Forbes struck
Did make MacDonell reel;
The next blow that Forbes struck
The proud MacDonell fell.
What a cry among the Highlandmen
When they saw their leader fall;
They lifted him and buried him
A long mile from Harlaw.
This battle began on Monday
With the rising of the sun
By nightfall on Saturday
Ye scarce could tell who'd won
And there was such a burial
The like ye never saw
As there was upon the Sabbath day
In the hollow beneath Harlaw
If anyone should ask ye
O' them ye marched away
Ye may tell their wives and babies,
They're sleeping in the clay.