FolkWorld #53 03/2014
© Harry Edward Piggott (1937)

Piggott, Songs That Made History

Songs of the Jacobites

Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie
JOHNNIE COPE Sir John Cope trode the north right far Yet ne'er a rebel he cam naur Until he landed at Dunbar Right early in a morning Hey, Johnnie Cope, are ye wauking yet? Or are ye sleeping I would wit? Oh, haste ye, get up, for the drums do beat! O fye, Cope, rise in the morning! It was upon an afternoon Sir Johnie marched to Preston town He says, 'My lads, come lean you down And we'll fight the boys in the morning' But when he saw the Highland lads Wi' tartan trews and white cockades Wi' swords and guns, and rungs and gauds Oh Johnnie, he took wing in the morning Sir Johnie into Berwick rade Just as the deil had been his guide Gi'en him the world, he wadna staid T' have foughten the boys in the morning Said the Berwickers unto Sir John 'Oh, what's become of all your men?' 'In faith,' says he, 'I dinna ken I left them a' this morning' Says Lord Mark Carr, 'Ye are na blate To bring us the news o' your ain defeat I think you deserve the back o' the gate Get out o' my sight this morning'
The Battle of Prestonpans 1745 - Music and Song of the Campaign
Listen to Johnnie Cope from: Ceolbeg ft. Davy Steele, Hilary James, Lack of Limits, Dave Townsend & Gill Redmond Watch Johnnie Cope from: The Corries, Alastair McDonald, Rapalje, Andy Stewart, Tannahill Weavers, The Tim Malloys

Songs That Made History: We saw in the last chapter that God save the King[51] sprang into fame in 1745 as a song of the party called the Whigs, the wearers of the black cockade. The other party wore the white cockade: they were the Jacobites, who wished to see a Stuart again as King of England and Scotland.


What Booker doth prognosticate
Concerning kings or kingdoms' fate
I take myself to be as wise
As he that gazes on the skies
   My skill goes beyond
   The depth of a pond
Or rivers in the sorest rain
   Whereby I can tell
   That all will be well
When the king enjoys his own again

There's neither Swallow, Dove, nor Dade
Can soar more high or deeper wade
Or show more reasons from the stars
What causes peace, what causes wars
   The man in the moon
   May wear out his shoon
By running after Charles's Wain
   But all to no end,
   For the times will not end
Till the king enjoys his own again

For forty years our royal throne
Has been his father's and his own
Nor is there anyone but he
What right can there a sharer be
   For who better may
   Our high sceptre sway
Than he whose right  it is to reign?
   Then look for no peace,
  For the wars will never cease
Till the king enjoys his own again

Though for a time we see Whitehall
With cobwebs hanging on the wall
Instead of gold and silver bright
That glanc'd with splendour day and night
   With rich perfume
   In every room
All to delight that princely train
   These again shall be
   When the time we see
That the king enjoys his own again

 Watch When the King Enjoys... from:
    Bruce Baillie, John Potter

When, as a practical policy, the Jacobite cause collapsed soon after 1745, the white cockade faded out. The black survived as a part of the livery of coachmen and went on down to the motor-car era. In the early eighteenth century there was a regular contest of song between the two parties. Although the single Whig song, our national anthem, has survived and has become permanently embedded in the history of our race, yet the Jacobites had by far the best of it. We will study some of these Jacobite songs.

First we must go back in history to the time of the Civil War when Charles the First had left London. There grew up in his army a Cavalier song called When the king enjoys his own again. The author of the words was Martin Parker and the date 1643. This song was sung during the Commonwealth by those who were looking for the Stuart restoration.

It gathered volume towards 1660, and it was this song which greeted Charles II when he made his triumphal entry into London on 29th May of that year. It fell out of use during the next two reigns, but we read of its being sung in Ireland when James II went there in 1688 after he had lost the throne of England.

Later it became the great song of the English Jacobites. During the reigns of Anne and the first three Georges it was sung in country houses up and down the land by the many squires who were, in theory, attached to the Stuart party. They would plant Scotch firs as symbolical of 'the cause,' they would drink to the health of 'The king over the water' and they would sing this song; but most of them were not prepared to give practical support in the 'Forty-five.'

This particular song, then, started as a Cavalier song and went on as a Jacobite one. It had a long run. Its sturdy seventeenth-century tune is to be found in most song-books. The first verse is very interesting:

What Booker doth prognosticate
Concerning kings and kingdom's fate;
I take myself to be as wise
As he that gazes on the skies;
   My skill goes beyond
   The depth of a pond,
Or rivers in the sorest rain;
   Whereby I can tell
   All things will be well
When the king enjoys his own again.

This is quite without any meaning until we know who Booker was. Here is a quaintly expressed note on him by James Hogg(in Jacobite Relics of Scotland, 1819):

Booker was a great fishing-tackle maker in Charles I's time and a very eminent proficient in that noble art and mystery; by application to which he came to be deeply skilled in the depth of ponds and rivers, as is here wisely observed. He lived a the house in Tower Street which is now the sign of the Gun, and, being used to this sedentary diversion he grew mighty cogitabund; from whence a frenzy seized on him and he turned enthusiast like one of our French prophets and went about prognosticating the downfall of King and Popery, which were terms synonymous in those days.

The Jacobites where those who, after the revolution of 1688, wished to see the restoration of James II (and VII); then, after his death, of James III (and VIII), whom the Whigs called the Pretender, and our history books the Old Pretender.

When Charles Edward landed in Scotland in 1745 he called himself Prince of Wales. As the song put it, he 'came hame to Scotland to proclaim his daddie.' After James's death he was known in Jacobite circles as Charles III. In our history books he is the Young Pretender.

It was naturally in Scotland that Jacobite feeling was strongest, for the Stuarts were a Scottish family, and it was from Scotland that the two rebellions of 1715 and 1745 started. So it is to Scotland that we turn for Jacobite songs, and we find them in great numbers. There has been no contest in history which has produced so many songs of fine quality and varied character. Some of the songs express resolution and defiance, some are bitterly satirical, some are full of exuberant joy, others are deeply sad.


Our gallant prince is now come hame
   To Scotland, to proclaim his daddie
May Heav'n protect the royal name
   Of Stuart, and the tartan plaidie!

   Oh, my bonny Highland laddie
   My handsome charming  Highland laddie!
   May Heav'n stillguard, and him reward
   Wi' 's bonnet blue and tartan plaidie

When first he landed on our strand
   The gracefu' looks of that brave laddie
Made every Highland heart to warm
   And lang to wear the tartan plaidie

When Geordie heard the news belyve
   That he was come before his daddy
He thirty thousand pounds would give
   To catch him in his tartan plaidie

He sent John Cope unto the north
   Wi' a' his men for battle ready
But Charlie bauldly sallied forth
   Wi' bonnet blue and belted plaidie

Cope raid a race to Inverness
  And fand the prince gane south already
Like lion bold, all uncontrolled
    Wi' belt and brand and tartan plaidie

Cope turned the chace, and left the place
   The Lothians was the next land ready
And then he swore that at Gladsmuir
   He wad disgrace the Highland plaidie

Now, where is Cope wi' all his brag?
   Say, is the craven gane already?
Oh, leeze me on my bonny lad
   His bonnet blue and belted plaidie!

It is well to remember that not all the songs about 'bonnie Prince Charlie' are contemporary. Long after there was any prospect of a Stuart restoration, Jacobitism survived as a sentiment, a romance. Sir Walter Scott has been described as a 'sentimental Jacobite.'

A certain number of songs about Charlie and Flora Macdonald belong to the aftermath of the movement. They are not true Jacobite songs, which were inspired by action and themselves inspired action.

Many of the best Jacobite songs were Highland songs, and therefore with Gaelic words. These have been translated by poets like James Hogg, Lady Nairne, Scott, and Burns. In some cases, the words which we know are paraphrases rather than translations. In any case, something of the vigour of the original must have been lost.

No British general has been covered with more obloquy than Sir John Cope, though some modern historians hold that he was unfortunate rather than incompetent. He was sent into the north of Scotland to prevent the Highland army from coming south. His forces and equipment were inadequate and the enemy slipped past him.

He then embarked his army at Aberdeen and sailed to Dunbar, hoping to arrive at Edinburgh before his opponents. But the Highland forces were there first and Charles led them out to meet him. They met in the afternoon at the village of Prestonpans, on the shores of the Firth of Forth.[43]


Fare thee weel, my native cot
   Bothy o' the birken tree!
Sair the heart and hard the lot
   0' the lad that parts wi' thee
My good grandsire's hand thee reared
   Then the wicker work was full
Mony a Campbell's glen he cleared
   Hit the buck and houghed the bull

Never hand in thee yet bred
   Kendna how the sword to wield
Never heart of thee had dread
   Of the foray or the field
Ne'er on straw, mat, bulk, or bed
   Son of thine lay down to die
Every lad within thee bred
   Died beneath heaven's open e'e

Charlie Stuart he came here
   For our king, as right became
Wha could shun the Bruce's heir?
   Wha could tine our royal name?
Firm to stand, and free to fa'
   Forth we marched right valiantly
Gane is Scotland's king and law!
   Woe to the Highlands and to me!

Freeman yet, I'll scorn to fret
   Here nae langer I maun stay
But when I my hame forget
   May my heart forget to play!
Fare thee well, my father's cot,
   Bothy o' the birken tree!
Sair the heart and hard the lot
   0' the lad that parts wi' thee

The Battle of Culloden, 1746
Watch Lenachan's Farewell @

The English army had its front protected by a marsh. But it is said that in the Jacobite army was a man who had shot snipe in that marsh and knew a causeway across it. In the early morning of 21st September, when the mist was on the ground, the Stuart army stealthily approached and fell upon the English forces. The battle was over in ten minutes. Sir John Cope and a few of his staff left the army to its fate and rode hell-for-leather to Berwick.

The Scottish said that Sir John was still asleep when the battle began. Anyway, they made several sarcastic songs about him, of which Johnnie Cope is the best known, and the most exciting. It is said that the words were written to fit the tune, which was one popular in that neighbourhood and sung to words with the refrain: 'Fye! to the coals in the morning.'

Oh, my bonny Highland laddie, is an example of the very cheerful type of song. The charming lilt of the tune invites one to dance. 'Gladsmuir,' referred to in verse 6, is another name for the battlefield of Prestonpans.

It was at Culloden that all was lost for the Stuart cause. Then came the severities of 'Butcher' Cumberland, and political repression - the prohibition of national dress and the Disarming Act. Many of the leaders went into exile.

It was to this period that the sad Jacobite songs belong. One of the most beautiful is Lenachan's Farewell. Its deeply pathetic words are matched by one of the most expressive of Highland melodies.


Farewell, Manchester! noble town, farewell!
Here with loyalty ev'ry breast can swell
      Wheresoe'er I roam
      Here, as in a home
   Ever, dear Lancashire
      My heart shall dwell

Farewell, Manchester! sadly I depart
Tear-drops bodingly from their prison start
      Though I toil anew
      Shadows to pursue
   Shadows vain - thou'lt remain
      Within my heart

 Watch Farewell, Manchester from:
    Robert Davies

Farewell, Manchester is one of the songs which arose from the sentiment rather than the action of the Jacobite movement. Words were written in 1746 or later which were supposed to be put into the mouth of Charles Edward as he left Manchester (a city which had welcomed him with enthusiasm) for his flight north after the fiasco of the invasion of England.

These words were fitted to a tune very popular in England just then, and known as Felton's Gavotte. The Rev. William Felton was a vicar-choral of Hereford Cathedral. His name lives by reason of a single chant, sometimes known as the 'Funeral Chant.' The other fragment of his music which has survived, his Gavotte, is, in this form of a song-tune, surely one of the most lovely of all melodies.

It is not, of course, a real Jacobite tune. The Scottish Jacobite songs are things apart. They sprang from a race which was wild and in some ways uncontrolled, but it was a race full of poetic fancy. They were called forth by intense feeling which they strengthened and extended. They gave to the Jacobite cause a unity and an inspiration.

Hey, Johnnie Cope, Are Ye Waking Yet?

Excerpt taken from: H.E. Piggott, Songs That Made History. J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, London, 1937.

Photo Credits: (1) Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), (2) CD Cover 'The Battle Of Prestonpans 1745 - Music And Song Of The Campaign', companion album to The Prestonpans Tapestry, (3) Battle of Culloden, 1746, (4) Song 'Hey, Johnnie Cope, Are Ye Waking Yet?' (unknown).

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