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Scots Sangs An Tunes Fur Schools

Traditional and new Scots songs and tunes
for use in Scottish schools - and everywhere else


Marches were originally composed for soldiers to march along to and so they have regular beats in 2/4 and 4/4 time and also sometimes in 6/8 time. Some Scottish pipe marches are very old indeed, such as the Sherramuir March that you can listen to here. The army has also had a big influence - regiments in the Highlands had pipers and drummers  to march to, and eventually these groups became formal regimental pipe bands, where marches naturally formed a large part of their repertoire. The influence of these military bands can still be heard today in modern pipe bands, even bands not connected with the army. Nowadays, marches are often used for dancing - one popular couple dance which is danced to marches is the 'Gay Gordons'.

The Sherramuir March

The jaunty 'Sherramuir March' or 'Stewarts' March' has a long and complex history. The tune played here has two parts but the original pipe march has nine parts. In Gaelic, it is called 'Gabhaidh Sinn an Rathad Mòr', which means 'We Will Take the High Road'.
The pipe march first belonged to the MacIntyres of Cruachan in Argyll, but was taken and claimed as their own by the Stewarts of Appin some 500 years ago. It is said that the Stewarts played it when they went home from the Battle of Pinkie in 1547.
The Gaelic name and words relate to the Battle of Inverlochy, between the forces of Montrose and Argyll in 1644:

Gabhaidh sinn an rathad mòr,
Gabhaidh sinn an rathad mòr,
Gabhaidh sinn an rathad mòr,
Olc air mhath le càch e.
Olc air mhath le Cloinn-an-t-saoir,
Olc air mhath le Cloinn-an-t-saoir,
Olc air mhath le Cloinn-an-t-saoir,
’S bodaich mhaol an Làgain.
Gu Mac-’ic-Alasdair ’s Loch Iall,
Bidh iad leinn mar bha iad riamh,
’S Fear-na-Ceapaich mar ar miann,
Olc air mhath le càch siud.
We will take the high road,
Whether or not the others like it.
Whether or not the MacIntyres like it
Or the bald old men of Laggan

To MacDonell of Glengarry and Locheil,
They will be with us as ever,
And MacDonald of Keppoch, as we would want,
Whether or not the others like it.

The Battle of Sheriffmuir

The march was played again by the Stewarts of Perthshire on 13 November 1715 at the Battle of Sheriffmuir near Dunblane, where the march got its English name. The battle was part of the 1715 Jacobite uprising, fought between the Highland clans led by the Earl of Mar and the Hanoverian government forces led by the Duke of Argyll. No-one could agree who won the battle. Later, a lyric about the battle of Sheriffmuir was put to the pipe tune by James Hogg.

'Will ye gang tae Sheriffmuir, Bold John o Innisture?  
There to see the noble Mar and his Highland laddies.  
Aa the true men o' the north, Angus, Huntly and Seaforth,  
Scouring on to cross the Forth wi' their white cockadies.'

Children's Song

The tune was later used for Scottish children’s songs. The best known tune is called 'Katie Bairdie'.

About 120 years ago a version of the song without the Scots snap was created in England, using an old children’s song to fit the tune. Try singing or playing the first part of the tune with all the bouncing dotted and semiquaver notes turned to an even rhythm of quavers. You'll notice that the tune becomes 'London Bridge is Falling Down'.