Most people are familiar with “Amazing Grace”, the bagpipe melody that bands often play at military funerals. However, this tune is not Scottish; it came to the bagpipe by way of England. The author and lyricist wrote this song aboard a slave ship bound for home. Although this popular song soon gained a strong following in Protestant churches, this haunting melody has lyrics that speak neither of Scotland nor of the lives of people who created the Great Highland bagpipes.
The earliest known record of the Scottish bagpipe date to around 1400 A.D. The songs that Scottish pipers first played on their bagpipes had their origin in folk songs heard for centuries at weddings, dances and community celebrations. These songs regale Scottish culture and traditions. They tell the stories of beautiful women, famous clans, Scotland’s heroes and places that bonded the Scottish people to each other and to their land.
“Auld Lang Syne” is a familiar tune that we often hear at New Year’s celebrations. It plaintively asks, “should auld (old) acquaintance be forgot”? The Scottish author, Robert Burns tells us “no”, in a poem he wrote in the 18th century. Burns tells the Scots (and all of those throughout the world who have adopted this tune), that friends and memories must be held dear, no matter how far from home.
“Scotland the Brave” is one of the most famous folk tunes in Scotland. When it is played on the bagpipe, by either a band or single piper, it moves the stalwart clansman to public displays of emotion. The bagpipe melody has been played since the beginning of the 20th century. Cliff Hanley added lyrics to this tune in the mid-1950s, recalling the history of Scotland, its beauty and the fierce spirit of its people.
“Flower of Scotland” is a strong contender to be Scotland’s official national anthem. It also details the history of Scotland and its troubled relationship with England. Scotland is officially part of the United Kingdom, after centuries of struggle against British rule. However, the Scottish Football Association and the national rugby team adopted “Flower of Scotland” for their opening ceremonies before each game. It is especially significant when Scottish teams play against England, where the national anthem, “God Save Our Queen” is the ceremonial tune.
Find the lyrics for nearly 200 Scottish bagpipe tunes at Rampant Scotland.