Another Song on Culloden Day (selection of verses)

A' Ghàidhealtachd

29 June 2021

John Roy Stewart (1700-1749) Researched and sung by Finlay MacLennan

Lyrics

O I am in agony,
My heart has sunk to earth,
And tears often fall to my heels from my eyes.

I have no pleasure left,
My cheeks withered with sadness,
At this time, I won’t hear cheerful news.

About my beloved Prince Charles
Rightful heir to the crown
He knows not which way to turn.

Pure excellent royal blood
Now being sacrificed
And bastard children rising up.

Lord Cromarty with his host
And young Barrisdale
And MacKinnon with his unyielding heroes.
Clan Gregor of the glens
Agile band of the swords
Men who would come if called.

And virtuous Clan Mhuirich
We were lacking them all
That’s my sorrowful lament to read.

Clan Donald, my beloved,
It’s distressing what happened
That you didn’t charge with the rest to the battle.

My entire sorrow and woe
The excellent men who are wounded
Good Clan Chattan of the flags and keen swords.

And Clan Finlay of Braemar
An assertive, proud band
Who would cause destruction in the wounding battle.

And we will yet see your head
Going without homage to the gallows
And the birds of the air closely tearing it.

And we will all finally be,
old and young together,
ruled by the rightful king we should obey.

Why I chose the song

I found this song on the BBC website Làrach nam Bàrd when I was looking at material from the 18th century. There was plenty information there about the poet and I really liked this song. It’s slightly different because it describes the destruction that happened at Culloden. Most Jacobite songs praise the Jacobites but this song gives us a different insight into what happened on the day.

The author

John Roy was born in Kincardine (Strathspey) in 1770 and he received a good education in school in Inverness. After school he joined the Royal Scots Greys where he was an officer. He was a Jacobite supporter and as a result he lost his officer post in 1737. According to tradition he let a Jacobite prisoner escape.

After that he went to France to fight with other Jacobites against the British, at the battle of Fontenoy in 1745. When he heard that the Prince had reached Scotland he returned and raised the Edinburgh regiment and he was involved in the uprising for its duration. He was very knowledgeable about battle tactics and skilled in planning battles. He helped the Jacobites to win many battles during his involvement. Some people say that if John Roy had been in charge of planning the Battle of Culloden it would have had a very different outcome.

He went to France with the Prince in 1746. He died in 1749. We don’t know what caused his death or where he died.

The song

The poet tells of the destruction that happened at the Battle of Culloden. He describes the clans who were not present on the day and he gives detailed information about the battle. He accuses Lord George Murray of accepting bribes. He also gives an account of the clans which suffered great losses.

More information

After the Battle of Culloden John Roy hid for 5 months in a cave near Grantown on Spey and local people used to bring him food. One day this boy was walking in the woods, taking food and water to John. He met English soldiers who asked where he was going. He didn’t want to tell them the real reason so he said he was just out for a walk in the woods. He noticed that one of the soldiers had a drum and he asked if he could play it. He started beating to a particular rhythm. In the cave John Roy recognised the rhythm and this gave him a chance to flee and escape capture.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Roddy MacLean who helped me with my research.

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