> Folk Music > Songs > Highland Soldier

Highland Soldier / Mary and the Soldier

[ Roud 2496 ; G/D 1:91 ; Henry H782 ; Ballad Index HHH782 ; DT MARYSOLD ; Mudcat 159515 ; trad.]

Sam Henry’s Songs of the People

Norman Kennedy sang My Highland Soldier in 1968 on his Folk-Legacy album Ballads & Songs of Scotland and on his Topic album Scots Songs and Ballads. Peter Hall commented in the first album’s notes:

Like many other remote and poorer parts of Britain, the highlands have always been a rich source of cannon-fodder for England’s wars of expansion. At least the highlanders have a proverbial, if not always actual, popularity among the fair sex to compensate them for their exile and the rigours of army life. Numerous songs attest to their attraction for the ladies, who are usually rich and highborn. Probably the best known are The Bonnet o’ Blue [Roud 819], common in both Scotland and England, and the Irish Johnny Harte [Roud 2929; Henry H106]. Our song is a little-known example of this genre. Gavin Greig obtained a rather longer text of it from his redoubtable informant Belle Robinson, but otherwise the song does not seem to have been noted.

Paul Brady sang Mary and the Soldier in 1976 on his and Andy Irvine’s eponymous album Andy Irvine Paul Brady. He also sang it live at another album’s launch at Liberty Hall on 21 July 1978. A recording of this concert was released in 2001 on his CD The Missing Liberty Tapes. Frank Harte noted on the original album’s sleeve:

It’s the old story of the soldier heading for the wars and leaving the girl behind him. In some ballads she dressed herself up in men’s clothing and went along with him. Numerous too are the songs about the female sailors and female soldiers. More often than not, she went along as the pretty drummer boy or the pretty cabin boy. In this particular song, he is so impressed by her loyalty that he marries her before he goes away.

Sam Henry collected this song in Magilligan Co. Derry and it appears in his collection under the title of The Gallant Soldier.

Battlefield Band sang The Hieland Sodger on their 1978 album Volume II: Wae’s Me for Prince Charlie

Tony Cuffe sang The Hieland Soldier in 1980 on Jock Tamson’s Bairns’s eponymous first album, Jock Tamson’s Bairns. They noted:

Tony’s brother Tom learnt this song from Bob Cherry, an elderly Glasgow piper, who said that the song was a favourite song among soldiers of the Highland Light Infantry during the First World War. In the middle of the song we play a march called Mullindhu.

Iain MacGillivray sang Mary and the Soldier in 1986 on his Fellside album Rolling Home. He noted:

Mary shows grit and determination to “land” her man in the face of stiff opposition from her parents and the lad himself!

Graham Moore sang Mary and the Soldier on his 1995 album Tom Paine’s Bones.

Andy M. Stewart sang Mary and the Hielan’ Sodger in 1997 on his Green Linnet album Donegal Rain. He noted:

Oh the glamour of a man in uniform! This is my version of this old song, but there are many others, with versions coming from Lucy Stewart from Aberdeenshire and a wonderful Irish version, called Mary and the Soldier, recorded by Paul Brady and Andy Irvine on their classic album from 1976.

Lynch the Box sang Mary and the Soldier on their 1998 album … and More.

Billy Ross sang The Hielan Sodger in 2000 on his Greentrax album Shore Street. He noted:

Versions of this popular Broadside Ballad are found everywhere from America to Ireland and England. This is one of the Scottish versions. The tune at the end is Beverley’s Wedding by Canadian piper Michael Grey, and which I heard from Iain Maclnnes.

Jack Beck sang The Hielan’ Sojer in 2001 on his Tradition Bearers album Half Ower, Half Ower tae Aberdour. He noted:

I remember Norman Kennedy singing a version of this song back in the 1960s, before he went to stay in the States. Paul Brady recorded an Irish version of the song called Peggy and the Soldier which became very popular around the folk-clubs in the 1980s. This version is collated from two versions in volume 1 of the Greig-Duncan collection, using a variation of Norman’s tune.

Maurice Condie sang Mary and the Soldier in 2005 on his and Gillian Tolfrey’s album Balanced Books. He noted:

I got this from the singing of Paul Brady on the album Andy Irvine Paul Brady. I’m sure I’ve changed one or two words over the years. Wonderful to know that true love will bloom as long as someone is loaded.

Emily Spiers sang Mary and the Soldier on her 2010 album The Half-Moon Lovers.

Kelly Oliver recorded Mary and the Soldier in 2014 as the only traditional song on her album This Land.

Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith sang Mary and the Soldier in 2016 on their Fellside CD Night Hours. They commented:

One that’s been in Sid’s repertoire for years without being recorded. I remember first hearing it sung by a friend in a session and being struck by the sureness of Mary and the sense of the strong pair going forward into a dangerous future with each other’s support.

Steve Turner sang Highland Soldier on his 2016 Tradition Bearers album Spirit of the Game. He noted:

The Greig Duncan collection of songs from Aberdeenshire and the North East of Scotland, from the early years of the 20th century, published in 1983, is one of the most important books of Scottish folk songs. Unfortunately, only the first two volumes are currently readily available, and this version of the Highland Soldier comes from Volume One and is recorded as “a broadside” and I think is a little less well known than its Irish counterpart. It is of course one of the many traditional songs where the girl dresses as a soldier to follow her lover into battle. I was never too sure that this actually happened to a great extent, but having read several books on the Battle of Waterloo to perform some 200th anniversary concerts with background, it is noted that the bodies of several young women, who had dressed in uniform to join their lovers, were found amongst the dead at Waterloo. Fortunately, the young lady in this song avoided that fate.

Steamchicken sang Mary and the Soldier in 2017 on their CD Look Both Ways.

Miguel Girão sang Mary and the Soldier on his 2022 EP The Courtly Seam.


Norman Kennedy sings My Highland Soldier

Far o’er yon hieland hills sae far,
There lives a comely maiden.
She walked oot a lang simmer’s day
Tae see the soldiers paradin’.

Chorus (after each verse):
They march sae neat an’ they dress sae gay,
The drums they did beat an the pipes they did play,
Which caused puir Mary tae sigh an say,
“They’re awa wi my hieland soldier.”

“Lassie, oh lassie, my wage it’s but sma,
What in some battle though I might fa
When ye’re far, far awa fae your daddy’s hame,
Be advised by a hieland soldier.”

“I’ve got twenty pounds in store,
I’ve got a heart worth twa times o’er.
An I’ll gie it tae the laddie that I adore.
I’m gang tae follow up my hieland soldier.”

Jock Tamson’s Bairns sing The Hieland Soldier

Far up amang yon hieland hills
There dwelt a comely maiden,
And she gaed doon ae fine Summer’s morn,
Tae see a’ the soldiers paradin’;

Chorus (after each verse):
For they looked sae braw as they marched away,
The drums they did rattle and the pipes they did play;
And it caused poor Mary for to weep and say,
“I will follow my Hieland soldier.”

“But Mary dear, my pay is sma’
And if on the battlefield I should fa’
Ye’d better gae hame tae your faither’s ha’,
Think nae mair on your Hieland soldier.”

“But I’ve a hundred pounds in store.
And I’ve got a hairt that’s worth ten times more;
And I’ll gie them a’ tae the laddie I adore,
And I’ll follow my Hieland soldier.”

Andy M. Stewart sings Mary and the Hielan’ Sodger

Far awa’ and o’er yon hielan’ hills
There lives a comely maiden,
And she’s ga’ed oot on a fine summer’s morn
To see a’ the sodgers paradin’.

Chorus (after each verse):
And they marched sae neat and they looked sae braw,
Their drums they did rattle and their pipes they did blaw.
Which caused young Mary to sigh and say,
“Til follow the bonnie hielan’ sodger.”

“Mary, dear Mary, wir pay is but sma’,
And if on the battlefield I should fa’,
And you sae far from your own daddy’s ha’
Just to follow the bonnie hielan’ sodger.”

“But I hae fifty pound in store
And I hae a heart worth ten times more,
And I’d gie them a’ to the lad that I adore,
I’d marry ma bonnie hielan’ sodger!”

(repeat first verse)

Billy Ross sings The Hielan Sodger

On yonder hill not far awa
There lives a lovely maiden,
And she’s gone out on a summer’s day
Tae see a’ the sodgers parading.

Chorus (after each verse):
They looked so braw and they dressed so gay,
The drums did rattle and the pipes did play,
Which caused young Mary for tae say,
“I’m awa’ wi’ the Hielan’ sodger.”

She watched the sodgers on parade
Till they were a at their leisure,
She says, “I ’ve found my love at last,”
She says, “I ’ve found my treasure.”

But Willie says, “My pay is sma’
And my rations are but scanty,
And it would grieve me most of a’
If at hame ye might have plenty.”

“Well I hae fifty pounds in store,
I hae a heart worth ten times more.
I’d gie it tae the laddie I adore,
Gie it tae the Hielan’ sodger.”

“But what would happen if I were tae fa’,
Doon by the face o f some angry cannon ba’?
And you sae far from your Daddy’s ha’,
Listen tae the Hielan’ sodger.”

Willie says, “Since you are true
And been so loyal hearted,
Mary I will marry you
And till death we’ll ne’r be parted.”

Maurice Condie sings Mary and the Soldier

Come all you lads of high renown
That would hear of a fair young maiden
For she went out on a summer’s day
For to view the soldiers parading
They marched so fine and they looked so gay
Their colours flying and the bands did play
And it caused young Mary for to say
“I’ll wed you me my gallant soldier”

She viewed the soldiers on parade
And as they stood at their leisure
Young Mary to herself did say
“At last I’ve found my treasure
But oh how cruel my parents must be
To banish me darlin’ so far from me
I will leave them all and I’ll go with thee
And I’ll wed you my gallant soldier”

“Oh Mary dear, your parents’ love
I pray don’t be unruly
For when we’re in a foreign land,
Believe me you’ll rue it surely
Perhaps in battle I might fall
From a shot from an angry cannonball
And you so far from your daddy’s hall
Be advised by your gallant soldier.”

“I have fifty guineas in bright gold,
Likewise a heart that’s bolder
I will leave them all and I’ll go with you
My proud undaunted soldier
So don’t say no but let me go
And I will face the daring foe
And we’ll march together to and fro
And I’ll wed you, my gallant soldier”

And when he saw her loyalty
And Mary so true-hearted
He said: “My darling, married we’ll be
And nothing but death shall part us
And when we’re in the foreign land
I’ll guard you, darling, with my right hand
In hopes that God might stand a friend
To Mary and her gallant soldier”

Steve Turner sings Highland Soldier

On yonder mountain far away
There lived a lovely maiden
And she walked out on a summer’s day
To view the soldiers parading.
They dressed so neat and they looked so gay,
The drums did beat and the pipes did play,
And it caused young Mary to sigh and say,
“I’ll go with my highland soldier.”

She watched the soldiers to and fro
Till they were at their leisure,
She cried, “I’ve found my love at last,”
She cried, “I’ve found my treasure.
It’s cruel were my parents to me,
They took my true love away from me.
I’ll forsake them all, I’ll go with thee
And I’ll go with my highland soldier.”

But then said William, “Oh my pay is low
And my rations are but scanty,
And one thing grieves me worst of all
At home you may have plenty.”
She cried, “I’ve fifty pound in store
Beside of a heart worth ten times more,
And I’ll give it all to the lad I adore,
I’ll give it to my highland soldier.”

Then said William, “Don’t you be unkind
And don’t you be unruly,
And when you’re out on the foreign shore,
You’ll grieve and leave me truly.
If I should happen for to fall
In the face of an angry cannonball
And you so far from your native shore,
Be advised by your highland soldier.”

Then said Mary, “Won’t you let me speak?”
And the tears were gently falling.
“Don’t say no love, but let me go,
Don’t you hear the bugles calling?
Into the battle I will go
And it’s there I’ll face the daring foe.
With my gun I’ll wander to and fro
And be guarded by my highland soldier.”

Then said William, “Since you’ve been so true
When you’ve been so tender-hearted,
Sweet maiden, I will marry you
And together we’ll never be parted.
When we reach the foreign land
I’ll take my true love by the hand,
For providence as a friend will stand
For Mary and her highland soldier.”


Thanks to Garry Gillard for transcribing Steve Turner’s lyrics.