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Highland Laddie, also known as Hielan’ Laddie, has been adapted from ancient Scottish popular folk tunes “If thou’lt play me fair play” or “The Lass of Livingston”. The melody appears in the Drummond Castle Manuscript inscribed "A Collection of Country Dances written for the use of his Grace the Duke of Perth by Dav. Young, 1734." However the earliest printing of the tune is in Robert Bremner’s 1757 collection. A variant appears under the title “Cockleshell’s” in Playford’s Apollo’s Banquet (London, 1690) and the Dancing Master of 1701.

Highland Regiments raised in the 18th and early 19th centuries employed many unique symbols to differentiate themselves from other regiments and enlisted distinctive music to announce their arrival, but as a result of the Cardwell Reforms of 1881, all British Army Highland Regiments were required to use "Highland Laddie" as their Regimental March. This tune has been probably chosen due to the enthusiasm and energy it brings, reason why the recruiting sergeants of the army were playing this tune warrior to galvanize undecided lads to sign the entry form.

Highland Laddie is also the name of a dance in Scottish Highland dancing, of the "national dance" subtype. Most national dances are usually danced in an Aboyne dress, but the Highland Laddie is one of the national dances (with “Wilt thou go to the Barracks Johnny”) danced in the standard kilt-based outfit as it is said to be a recruiting dance done by soldiers. It is also a dance honoring Bonnie Prince Charlie as he was most lovingly referred to. He was a very handsome young man and the Scots dearly wanted him as their king.

Numerous sets of words exist to the melody. Among the best known: Beethoven’s Opus 108, written in 1815 by James Hogg to the glory of the heroes of Waterloo, one composed just after the Battle of Falkirk (17 January 1746) glorifying the Jacobite rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and finally the beautiful ballad “The Highland Lad and Lowland Lassie” written by the poet A. Burns telling the impossible love between a well educated young girl from Lowlands and a Highlands handsome young man in rags and kilt.

The melody was also used as a capstan and a "stamp and go" shanty, and (without the grand chorus) as a halyard shanty. It was popular on the Dundee Whalers, then later used (c. 1830’s and 40’s) as a work song for stowing lumber and cotton in the Southeastern and Gulf ports of the United States.

Highland Laddie was used for long and slow maneuvers: hoisting sails above (2 pulls per chorus) or hauling up the anchor. It was sung in two voices: a solo asking the question (Where have been ye all the day, my Bonnie Laddie Hieland?) and the answer given in chorus by the crew (Way hay and away we go, Bonnie Laddie, Laddie Hieland).

"Donkey Riding" is described as a variant and was used on the wharfs as a "cargo-working song"

Millin is most famous for being one of the few pipers to play during a World War II battle. Pipers had traditionally been used in battle by Scottish troops however the use of bagpipes was restricted to rear areas by the time of the Second World War by the British Army. Lord Lovat, however, ignored these orders and Millin, aged 21, played "Hielan’ Laddie" as his comrades fell around him on Sword Beach. Germans soldiers did not take him as target because they thought he was crazy.   

Today this song is became a welcome tune played on special occasions to greet a VIP or to accompany the groom processional up the church aisle.


The Jacobite version.

Where ha’ ye been a’ the day?
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie
Saw ye him that’ far awa’
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie

On his head a bonnet blue
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie
Tartan plaid and Hielan’ trews
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie

I hae been at Crookieden
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!
Viewing Willie and his men
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!
There our foes that burnt and slew
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!
There at last they gat their due
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!

Satan sits in his black neuk
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!
Breaking sticks to roast the Duke
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!
The bloody monster gae a yell
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!
And loud the laugh gaed round a’ Hell
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!

When he drew his gude braid-sword
Then he gave his royal word (*).
Frae the field he ne’er wad flee
Wi’ his friends wad live or dee.

Geordie sits in Charlie’s chair
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!
But I think he’ll no bide there.
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!
Charlie yet shall mount the throne
My bonnie laddie, Highland laddie!
Ne’er reflect on sorrows past,
Bonnie laddie, Hieland laddie;
Charlie will be King at last,
Bonnnie laddie, Hieland laddie.


  Où étais-tu tout ce temps ?
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Dis, l’as-tu vu s’approchant
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes ?

  Coiffé de son béret bleu
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Vêtu d’un plaid et de chausses en tartan
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes

  J’étais à Culloden
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Affronter William Duc de Cumberland et ses hommes
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Là nos ennemis après avoir occis et brûlé
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Ont enfin eu ce qu’ils méritaient
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes

  Assis dans un coin sombre satan
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  casse du bois pour rôtir le Duc
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Ce monstre sanguinaire a hurlé
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  et l’enfer, de rire, a éclaté
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes

  Lorsqu’il dégaina hardiment sa claymore
  et fit son royal serment
  de ne point fuir le combat et
  vaincre ou mourir avec ses compagnons.

  Le roi Georges est assis à la place de Charles
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Il ne doit pas y rester
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Charles doit regagner son trône
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Ne te lamentes jamais du passé
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes
  Charles sera enfin roi
  Fier garçon de nos montagnes.

(*) The day before the battle the Prince had drawn his sword in presence of his army, exclaiming: "My friends I have flung away the scabbard!"

The classical version - Beethoven N°7 (for Violin and Cello).

Where got ye that siller moon,
bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Glinting braw your bell a boon,
bonny laddie, highland laddie?
Belted plaid and bonnet blue,
bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Have yet been at Waterloo,
bonny laddie, highland laddie?

Weels me on your tartan trews,
bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Tell me, tell me, a’ the news,
bonny laddie, highland laddie!
Saw ye Bonny by the way,
bonny laddie, highland laddie?
Blucher wi’ his beard sae grey,
bonny laddie highland laddie?

Or that doure and deadly Duke,
bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Scatt’ring Frenchmen wi’ his look,
bonny laddie, highland laddie?
Some say he the day may rue,
bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Ye can tell gin this be true,
bonny laddie, highland laddie.

Would yet tell me gin ye ken,
bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Aught o’ Donald and his men,
bonny laddie, highland laddie?
Tell me o’ my kilted Clan,
bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Gin they fought, or gin they ran,
bonny laddie, highland laddie?


  Lorsque la lune est d’argent,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres
  Ta chance scintille de mille feux,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres
  Ton plaid ceint et coiffé de ton béret bleu,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres
  Etais-tu à Waterloo,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres ?

  Fait moi tourbillonner sur tes genoux revêtus d’un pantalon à tartan,
  beau montagnard
  Raconte-moi tout ce que tu sais,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres !
  As-tu vu lors de ton périple,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres ?
  La barbe grise de Blücher,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres ?

  Ou cet austère et ennuyeux duc,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres
  Qui dispersa les français avec son coup d’oeil,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres ?
  Certains disent maudire ce jour,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres
  Disent-ils vrai,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres ?

  Veux-tu me conter ce que tu sais,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres
  De Donald et ses hommes,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres
  Qui portent le kilt au tartan de mon clan,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres
  S’ils ont combattu ou s’ils ont fuit,
  bel homme des Hautes-Terres ?

Robert BURNS version.

The Lawland Lads think they are fine
But oh they’re vain and idle gaudy
How much unlike the graceful mein
And manly looks o’ my Highland Laddie

If I were free at will to choose
To be the wealthiest Lawland Lady
I’d tak’ young Donald without trews
Wi’ bonnet blue and Highland plaidie

Oh my bonnie bonnie Highland Laddie
Oh my bonnie bonnie Highland Laddie
When I was sick and like to die
He rowed me in his Highland plaidie

O’er Bently Hill wi’ him I’ll run
And leave my Lawland kin and daddy
Frae winters chill and summers sun
He’ll screen me in his Highland plaidie

A painted room, a silken bed
Maun please a Lawland Lord and Lady
But I could kiss and be as glad
Behind a bush in his Highland plaidie

No greater joy I’ll ever pretend
Than that his love prove true and steady
Like mine to him, which never shall end
While heaven preserves my Highland Laddie


  Les jeunes hommes des basses-terres se croient beaux
  Mais ils ne sont que des tape-à-l’oeil oisifs et vaniteux,
  contrairement à l’élégance masculine
  de mon jeune homme des Hautes-Terres.

  Si j’étais libre de choisir
  pour être la plus heureuse Dame des basses-terres
  J’épouserais le jeune Donald sans pantalon
  avec son bonnet bleu et son plaid des Hautes-Terres

  Oh mon beau jeune homme des Hautes-Terres
  Oh mon beau jeune homme des Hautes-Terres
  Lorsque j’étais malade à souhaiter en mourir
  Il m’a enveloppé dans son plaid des Hautes-Terres

  Au delà de la colline de Bently, j’ai couru avec lui
  et quitté mes proches des basses-terres et mon père
  la douce fraîcheur des hivers et le soleil d’été
  en me protégeant avec son plaid des Hautes-Terres

  Une chambre peinte, un lit soyeux
  doivent plaire au Seigneur et à la Dame des basses-terres
  Mais je peux embrasser et être tout aussi heureuse
  derrière un buisson dans son plaid des Hautes-Terres

  Je ne peux pas prétendre à une plus grande joie
  que cet amour assurément sincère et solide
  que j’ai pour lui et qui ne cessera jamais
  tandis que le ciel protège mon jeune homme des Hautes-Terres

Sea shanty version.

There was a laddie cam’ from Scotland
Hielan’laddie, bonnie laddie
Bonnie laddie from fair Scotland
Me bonnie hielan’ laddie, O

Way, hay an’ away we go
Hielan’ laddie, bonnie laddie
Way, hay an’ away we bo
Me bonnie hielan’ laddie, O

Where have ye been a’ the day?
Where have ye been a’ the day?

I did not see ye soon the glen
I did not see ye near the burn.

Nay, I wuz no doon the glen,
Nay I was no near the burn.

But I went to seek a road to fortune,
Thought I’d fins a road to fortune.

I joined a ship and went a-sailin’
Sailed far north and went a-whalin’.

Shipped far north on a Dundee whaler
Shipped far north as a whalin’ sailor.

Bound away to Iceland cold
Found much ice but not much gold.

Greenland is a cold country
Not the place for you and me.

Thought it was the way to fortune
But whalin’s not the way to fortune.

Wished meself in bonnie Scotland
Back again in bonnie Scotland.

We caught some whales and boiled their blubber
Oil and fat choked every scupper.

We’ll soon be homeward bound to Scotland
Homeward bound to bonnie Scotland.

I’ll be glad when I get hame
I’ll gie up the whalin’ game.

Oh, hielan’ laddie went a sailin’
Hielan’ laddie went a-whalin’.


  Il y a un jeune homme venu d’Ecosse
  Un beau jeune homme des Hautes-Terres
  Un élegant jeune homme de la belle Ecosse
  Oh mon beau jeune homme des Hautes-Terres

  Que de chemins parcourons-nous
  beau jeune homme des Hautes-Terres
  Que de chemins parcourons-nous
  beau jeune homme des Hautes-Terres

  Où étais-tu passé toute la journée durant ?
  Où étais-tu passé toute la journée durant ?

  Je ne t’ai pas vu tôt dans la vallée
  Je ne t’ai pas vu près du feu de camp.

  Non, je n’étais pas descendu dans la vallée
  Non, je n’étais pas près du feu.

  Mais je cherchais une route vers la fortune/le bonheur
  je crois l’avoir trouvée.

  j’ai rallié un bateau et navigué
  loin au Nord et pêché la baleine.

  J’ai vogué cap plein nord sur un baleinier de Dundee
  J’ai vogué cap plein nord en tant que marin-baleinier.

  Livré au loin au froid de l’Islande
  J’ai trouvé beaucoup de glace, mais pas d’or.

  Le Groënland est un pays froid
  Pas une terre pour toi et moi.

  Je croyais que c’était la route de la fortune
  Mais baleinier n’est pas le chemin de la fortune.

  Je regrette ma belle Ecosse
  Je veux retourner dans ma belle Ecosse.

  Nous avons attrapé des baleines et fait bouillir leur graisse
  L’huile et la graisse animale engorgeaient chaque écoutille du pont.

  Nous serons bientôt de retour en Ecosse
  de retour dans la belle Ecosse.

  De retour à la maison, je serais content
  d’abandonner le métier de baleinier.

  Oh jeune homme des Hautes-Terres qui navigua
  Jeune homme des Hautes-Terres qui pêcha la baleine.

Note: this version was a song capstan (vertical hoist used to lift the anchor) that is transformed into song halyard (rope used to hoist a sail or a yard on its spar) by deleting the verse. There is another version known as the "Donkey Riding".


8000 players - Glasgow 2008

Beethoven version
The Lass of Livingston

Highland Dance (USA)

Highland Dance (Australia)

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