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Johnny Cope

[ Roud 2315 ; G/D 1:125 ; Ballad Index DTjohnco ; DT JOHNCOPE , JOHNCOP2 ; Mudcat 111922 ; trad.]

101 Scottish Songs

Rory McEwen sang Johnny Cope in 1958 on his, Alex McEwen’s and Isla Cameron’s HMV album Folksong Jubilee.

Ewan MacColl sang Johnie Cope on his 1960 Folkways album with Peggy Seeger, Popular Scottish Songs. He also sang Johnnie Cope in 1962 on his Topic album The Jacobite Rebellions which was included in 1993 on his Topic anthology The Real MacColl. MacColl noted on his Topic album:

This song, still very popular with singers, fiddlers and pipers, refers to the Battle of Prestonpans. There the Jacobite army, commanded by Prince Charles in person, routed a numerically superior English force led by General John Cope. The event took place on 21 September 1745, but Scots singers still derive singular pleasure from recalling the outcome of the battle.

Hamish Imlach sang Johnny Cope in 1963 on the Decca album Edinburgh Folk Festival Vol. 1. Eric Winter noted:

Johnny Cope [is] a song in which Scotchmen still celebrate the rout of the English under General John Cope at Prestonpans in 1745. Hamish Imlach, who sings the song, is a rugged Scot with the appearance of Burl Ives and am even more rugged voice. Born in India, Imlach is specially interested in music for the sitar.

Nigel Denver sang Johnnie Cope in 1967 on his Decca album Rebellion!.

Barbara Dickson sang Johnnie Cope accompanied by the McCalmans on chorus in a live recording made in 1969-73 on her 2013 folkclub tapes anthology, B4 Seventy-Four.

Planxty sang and played Johnny Cope in 1974 on their Polydor album Cold Blow and the Rainy Night. They noted:

Johnny Cope combines the well-known song and hornpipe of the same name. How the hornpipe arrived in Kerry—where it was learned from the great fiddler Padric O’Keefe—will never be known but in its travels from Scotland, it picked up four more parts and was collected by Séamus Ennis as a six-part hornpipe. The song that precedes it has the usual words, but it is sung to the tune of the first fifth and sixth parts of the hornpipe. It was written by an Edinburgh man after The Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 when the Scots were jubilant after their defeat of the English forces.

Tannahill Weavers sang Johnny Cope in 1981 on their Plant Life album Tannahill Weavers IV.

Seannachie sang Johnny Cope on their 1988 album Take Note!.

Jamie McMenemy sang Sir John Cope in 1998 on the Linn anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 4.

Gillian Frame sang Johnny Cope with Findlay and Hamish Napier on chorus on Back of the moon’s 2003 album Fortune’s Road. And Findlay Napier sang it in 2014 on his and Chris Sherburn’s album Two Men on a Boat.

Alistair Anderson and Dan Walsh played the Scottish strathspey Johnny Cope on their 2017 album recorded live at Mount Hooley, Right at Home.


Ewan MacColl sings Johnie Cope

Cope sent a letter frae Dunbar,
“O Charlie meet me an ye daur,
And I’ll learn you the art o’ war,
If you’ll meet me in the morning.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Hey, Johnie Cope, are ye waukin’ yet?
Or are your drums a-beating yet?
If ye were waukin’, I wad wait,
To gang to the coals i’ the morning.

When Charlie look’d the letter upon,
He drew his sword the scabbard from:
Come follow me, my merry merry men,
And we’ll meet Cope in the morning.

Now, Johnie, be as good’s your word:
Come, let us both try fire and sword;
And dinna rin away like a frighted bird
That’s chased frae its nest in the morning.

When Johnie Cope he heard of this,
He thought it wadna be amiss
To hire a horse in readiness
To flee awa’ in the morning.

Fy now, Johnie, get up and rin,
The Highland bagpipes mak a din;
It is best to sleep in a hale skin,
For ’twill be a bluidy morning.

When Johnie Cope to Berwick came,
They speir’d at him, “Where’s a’ your men?”
“The deil confound me if I ken,
For I left them a’ i’ the morning.”

Now, Johnie, troth ye are na blate
To come wi’ the news o’ your ain defeat
And leave your men in sic a strait
Sae early in the morning.

Oh! faith, quo’ Johnie, I got a fleg
Wi’ their claymores and philabegs;
If I face them again, deil break my legs –
So I wish you a guid morning.