Tune Origins – Scots Wha Hae

This used to be considered Scotland’s national anthem; now several songs are in contention for that honour. It is the first tune that many people learning the bagpipes play, as it features in the College of Piping Tutor Book 1.

Robert Burns called this stirring song ‘Robert Bruce’s March to Bannockburn’, using the ancient tune ‘Hey Tutti Taitie’. He imagined what ‘one might suppose to be the gallant Royal Scot’s address to his heroic followers on that eventful morning’.

Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled

Scots, wham Bruce has aften led

Welcome to your gory bed

Or to victorie!

Now’s the day, and now’s the hour

See the front o battle lour

See approach proud Edward’s power –

Chains and slaverie!

Wha wad be a traitor knave?

Wha can fill a coward’s grave?

Wha sae base as be a slave?

Let him turn and flee!

Wha for Scotland’s King and Law

Freedom’s sword wad strongly draw

Freeman stand or freeman fa’,

Let him follow me!

By Oppression’s woes and pains

By your sons in servile chains

We will drain our dearest veins

But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!

Tyrants fall in every foe!

Liberty’s in every blow!

Let us do, or dee!

We probably know what tune was played for Robert the Bruce’s troops as they marched to the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Robert Burns wrote in a letter, ‘There is a tradition, which I have met with in many places in Scotland, that [‘Hey Tuttie Taitie’] was Robert Bruce’s march at the battle of Bannockburn.’ Burns took the tune and slowed it down.

‘Hey Tuttie Taitie’ is a very old tune. We do not have a document from 1314 that says the tune was used at Bannockburn. But there is, we are told, a document in the French Château Royal de Blois that says the tune was played as a march by Joan of Arc’s Scottish soldiers when she entered the city of Orleans on 29 April 1429. It was called a Scottish march then. It has been played as part of the annual Joan of Arc memorial celebrations in the town of Orleans, where they called it ‘Marche des Soldats de Robert Bruce’ (‘March of the Soldiers of Robert Bruce’).

‘Hey Tuttie Taitie’ demonstrates the problems of trying to put a simple label on a tune. It was used as a march. It is in the form of a strathspey. Burns gave two sets of lyrics for the tune – he wrote ‘Scots Wha Hae’ and wrote or added to ‘Landlady, Count the Lawin’, a song about drinking all night. So ‘Hey Tuttie Taitie’ is a march, a strathspey dance tune, and the tune of a patriotic song and a drinking song.

These are the lyrics of ‘Landlady Count the Lawin’.

Landlady, count the lawin
The day is near the dawin
Ye’re aa blind drunk, boys
And I’m but jolly fou

Hey, tutti, taiti
How, tutti, taiti
Hey, tutti, taiti
Wha’s fu noo?

Cog an ye were aye fu
Cog an ye were aye fu,
I wad sit and sing tae you
If ye were aye fu.

Weel may we aa be,
Ill may we never see,
God bless the guidwife
And the company.