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    The Battle of Harlaw

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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.