Scots Sangs Fur Schools

Traditional and new Scots songs for use in Scottish schools

[HEY] JOHNNIE COPE

An exciting Jacobite song about a battle in 1745. The English general Cope challenged Bonnie Prince Charlie to fight. When the Highland Army met Cope’s soldiers at Prestonpans near Edinburgh, Cope’s army ran away, and General Cope ran faster than most, according to the song.


Cope sent a challenge frae Dunbar,
Sayin "Charlie meet me an' ye daur;
An' I'll learn ye the airts o' war,
If ye'll meet me in the morning."
Chorus
Hey! Johnnie Cope are ye waukin' yet?
Or are your drums a-beating yet?
If ye were waukin' I wad wait,
Tae gang tae the coals in the morning.


When Charlie looked the letter upon,

He drew his sword its scabbard from,
"Come, follow me, my merry men,
And we'll meet Johnnie Cope in the morning."

Now Johnnie, be as good as your word,
Come, let us try baith fire and sword,
And dinna flee like a frichted bird,
That's chased frae its nest i' the morning.

When Johnnie Cope he heard o' this,
He thocht it wouldna be amiss,
Tae hae a horse in readiness,
Tae flee awa in the morning.


Fye now, Johnnie, get up an' rin,
The Highland bagpipes mak' a din,
It's better tae sleep in a hale skin,
For it will be a bluidie morning.

When Johnnie Cope tae Dunbar cam,
They speired at him, "Where's a' your men?"
"The de'il confound me gin I ken,
For I left them a' in the morning."

Now Johnnie, troth ye werena blate,
Tae come wi' news o' your ain defeat,
And leave your men in sic a strait,
Sae early in the morning.

"In faith", quo Johnnie, "I got sic flegs
Wi' their claymores an' philabegs,
Gin I face them again, de'il brak my legs,
So I wish you a' good morning"


The song is performed by the group Ceolbeg.

This is one of many songs that were written about the struggles, battles, successes and disappointments that happened to supporters of the royal Stuart family from the 1680s up until the ’45 Rising of 1745, when Prince Charles Edward Sobieski Stuart led a Highland army down to England to try and win back the throne for his father, James.

The first battle of the ’45 happened at Prestonpans outside Edinburgh, and was a glorious victory for the Highlanders. The last battle, at Culloden in 1746, was a horrific defeat.

The English General Sir John Cope had sent a brave message to Prince Charlie who was in Edinburgh, but when the two armies fought at Prestonpans, where there were small coalpits as well as salt pans where sea water was boiled in large metal pans to get the salt, Cope was beaten and had to flee. This song was written by Adam Skirving, who lived near Prestonpans at the time.