Scots Wha Hae

Scots Wha hae wi' Wallace Bled

"Scots Wha Hae" (English: Scots Who Have; Scottish Gaelic: Brosnachadh Bhruis) is a patriotic song of Scotland written using both words of the Scots language and English, which served for centuries as an unofficial national anthem of the country, but has lately been largely supplanted by "Scotland the Brave" and "Flower of Scotland".


The lyrics were written by Robert Burns in 1793, in the form of a speech given by Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Scotland maintained its sovereignty from the Kingdom of England. Although the lyrics are by Burns, he wrote them to the traditional Scottish tune "Hey Tuttie Tatie" which, according to tradition, was played by Bruce's army at the Battle of Bannockburn.[1]

According to tradition, the same theme was played in 1429 by the Franco-Scots army at the Siege of Orleans in front of Jeanne d'Arc. The song, called "Marche des soldats de Robert Bruce" in France, belong to the traditional list of military musics and commemorates the long lasting Awld alliance between France and Scotland. As for the Battle of Bannockburn the theme really played was probably a traditional Scottish theme like Hey Tuttie Tatie.

The tune tends to be played as a slow air, but certain arrangements put it at a faster tempo, as in the Scottish Fantasy by Max Bruch, the concert overture Rob Roy by Hector Berlioz, and the Real McKenzies' punk rock rendition on their 1998 album Clash of the Tartans.

The song was sent by Burns to his publisher George Thomson, at the end of August 1793, with the title Robert Bruce's March To Bannockburn, and a postscript saying that he had been inspired by Bruce's 'glorious struggle for Freedom, associated with the glowing ideas of some other struggles of the same nature, not quite so ancient.' This is seen as a covert reference to the Radical movement, and particularly to the trial of the Glasgow lawyer Thomas Muir of Huntershill, whose trial began on 30 August 1793 as part of a British government crackdown, after the French Revolutionary Wars led to France declaring war on the Kingdom of Great Britain on 1 February 1793.

Muir was accused of sedition for allegedly inciting the Scottish people to oppose the government during the December 1792 convention of the Scottish Friends of the People Society, and was eventually sentenced to fourteen years' transportation to the convict settlement at Botany Bay, Australia.

Burns was aware that if he declared his Republican and Radical sympathies openly he could suffer the same fate. It is notable that when Burns agreed to let the Morning Chronicle, of 8 May 1794, publish the song, it was on the basis of 'let them insert it as a thing they have met with by accident, and unknown to me.'

The song was included in the 1799 edition of A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice, edited by George Thomson, but Thomson preferred the tune "Lewie Gordon" and had Burns add to the fourth line of each stanza, to suit. In the 1802 edition, the original words and tune were restored.

In 1881 the New York Times, reviewing Our Familiar Songs and Those Who Made Them by Helen Kendrick Johnson, asserted that there was no song "more glorious" than Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled, explaining that once Burns' poem had been set to the tune of Hey Tuttie Tatie, it "marched through the land forever, loud and triumphant."[2]

"Scots Wha Hae" is the party song of the Scottish National Party. In the past, it was sung at the close of their annual national conference each year.

The tune was adapted for military band as Marche des soldats de Robert Bruce by French army Chef de Musique Léonce Chomel, and recorded around 1910 in his Marches historiques, chants et chansons des soldats de France.[3]


Original lyrics
Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae yer gory bed,
Or tae victorie.
English translation
Scots, who have with Wallace bled,
Scots, whom Bruce has often led,
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victory.
Scottish Gaelic translation
Fheachd Alba, thug le Uallas buaidh,
'S tric fo Bhrus bha 'n cogadh cruaidh,
Fàilte dhuibh gu fois na h-uaigh,
No gu buaidh is sìth.
Now's the day, an now's the hour:
See the front o battle lour,
See approach proud Edward's power –
Chains and Slaverie.
Now is the day, and now is the hour:
See the front of battle lower (threaten),
See approach proud Edward's power –
Chains and slavery.
Seo an latha – an uair seo tha,
Feuch fo 'n cruaidh a-nuas mar sgàil,
Feachd na h-uaill fo Ionbhar dàn',
Dhèanamh thràillean dinn.
Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn an flee.
Who will be a traitor knave?
Who will fill a coward's grave?
Who's so base as be a slave? –
Let him turn, and flee.
Cò 'na shloightear, feallta, fuar?
Cò 'na ghealtar dh'iarradh uaigh?
Cò 'na thràill fo shail luchd-fuath?
Clis bi bhuam fhir-chlith.
Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or Freeman fa,
Let him on wi me.
Who for Scotland's King and Law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or freeman fall,
Let him follow me.
Cò às leth a Thìr, 's a Còir
Thairrneas stàillinn chruaidh 'na dhòrn?
Buaidh an àird, no bàs le glòir!
Lean a dheòin do Rìgh.
By Oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free.
By oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains,
We will drain our dearest veins
But they shall be free.
Air ar bruid fo shluagh neo-chaomh,
Air bhur n-àl an sàs san daors',
Tràighidh sinn ar fuil 's an raon,
Bheir sinn saors' d' ar linn.
Lay the proud usurpers low,
Tyrants fall in every foe,
Liberty's in every blow! –
Let us do or dee.
Lay the proud usurpers low,
Tyrants fall in every foe,
Liberty is in every blow,
Let us do or die!'
Sìos na coimhich bhorb gur bas!
Sreath gun ìochd – gach ceann thig 'bhàin,
Saorsa thig an lorg gach stràic.
Buaidh no bàs man till.

In popular culture

The opening lyrics of the song are the keywords for the posthypnotic-suggestion programming of United Nations Exploratory Force soldiers in Joe Haldeman's military science fiction novel The Forever War, intended to make them particularly aggressive in battle.


  1. ^ Murray Pittock, Poetry and Jacobite politics in eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland
  2. ^ "The Songs of Former Days". The New York Times. 6 November 1881.
  3. ^ Chomel, Léonce, Marches historiques, chants et chansons des soldats de France, 3 tomes, Musée de l’armée, 1912 (manuscrit).
  • Bold, Alan (editor), Rhymer Rab, An Anthology of Poems and Prose by Robert Burns, Black Swan, Transworld Publishers Ltd, London 1993, ISBN 0-552-99526-6
  • Mackay, James A. (editor), The Complete Letters of Robert Burns, Ayr 1987.

External links

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