Battle of Harlaw


As I cam in by Dunidier
And doon by Netherha',
There were fifty thoosand Hieland men
Cam mairchin' tae Harlaw.

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

As I cam on and further on
And doon and by Harlaw,
They fell fu' close on ilka side;
Sic fun ye never saw.

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

They fell fu' close on ilka side;
Sic fun ye never saw,
For Hieland swords gied clash for clash
At the battle o' Harlaw.

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

Brave Forbes tae his brither did say,
"Noo brither, dinna ye see?
They beat us back on ilka side,
And we'll be forced tae flee."

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

"O no, o no, my brither dear,
That thing maun never be;
Tak ye your gude sword in your hand
And come your wa's wi' me."

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

Then back tae back the brithers twa
Gaed in amang the thrang,
And they hewed doon the Hieland men
Wi' swords baith sharp and lang.

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

MacDonal, he was young and stout,
Had on his coat o' mail,
And he has gane oot through them a'
Tae try his hand himsel'.

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

The first ae strake that Forbes strack,
He gart MacDonal reel;
The niest ae strake that Forbes strack,
The great MacDonal fell.

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

On Monaday, at mornin',
The battle it began;
On Saturday, at gloamin',
Ye'd scarce ken wha had wan.

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

Gin onybody spier at ye
For them ye took awa',
Ye may tell their wives and bairnies
They're sleepin' at Harlaw.

Wi' a dree dree dradie drumtie dree
A dree dree drumtie dra.

Battle of Harlaw


Frae Dunideir as I earn through,
Doun by the hill of Banochie,
Alangst the lands of Garioch-
Great pity 'twas to hear and see,
The noise and dulesome harmonie,
That e'er that dreary day did daw.
Crying the coronach sae hie,
"Alas! alas! for the Harlaw!"

I marvelt what the matter meant.
All folks were in a feiry-fary;
I wist not wha was fae or friend,
Yet quietly I did me carry:
But sin' the days of auld King Harry
Sic slauchter was not heard or seen;
And there I had nae time to tarry,
For bissiness in Aberdeen.

Thus as I walkit on the way,
To Inverury as I went,
I met a man, and bade him stay,
Requesting him to mak me 'quaint
Of the beginning and the event,
That happen'd there at the Harlaw;
Then he entreated me, tak tent,
And he the truth sould to me shaw.

"Great Donald of the Isles, did claim
Unto the lands of Ross some richt;
And to the Governor he cam,
Them for to have, if that he micht;
Wha saw his interest was but slicht,
And therefore answer'd with disdain;
He hastit hame baith day and nicht,
And sent nae bodword back again.

But Donald, richt impatient
Of that answer Duke Robert gave,
He vow'd to God omnipotent,
All the hale lands of Ross to have,
Or else be graithèd in his grave:
He would not quat his richt for nocht,
Nor be abusit like a slave-
That bargain sould be dearly bocht."



































Midi sequenced by John Renfro Davis

The battle of 'Red' Harlaw was fought on July 24, 1411. Donald MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, raised a Highland army to gain control of the Earldom of Ross (to which he had a solid claim). The lowlanders, not wanting a Gaelic chieftain to rule so much of their territory, opposed his claim. MacDonald, with an army estimated at ten thousand men, set out to ravage Aberdeen and take over his earldom. The lowland forces, led by the Earl of Mar and the Sheriff of Angus, raised troops to stop him. The resulting battle was not technically decisive; both armies survived but MacDonald, having suffered somewhat more casualties, gave up his attack on Aberdeen. There is no record of a Forbes being involved in the battle. Walter Scott published a poem about Harlaw; it bears little resemblance to the piece given here. There is a record of a piece called 'The Battle of Hayrlau' from 1549, but that may not be the same as this ballad.

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