> Folk Music > Songs > The Gallant Forty-Twa / The Stoutest Man in the Forty-Twa

The Gallant Forty-Twa / The Stoutest Man in the Forty-Twa

[ Roud 1877 ; G/D 1:70 ; Ballad Index Hamm036 ; DT GALNT42 , STOUT42 ; Mudcat 12677 ; trad.]

Norman Buchan, Peter Hall: The Scottish Folksinger Elizabeth Stewart: Up Yon Wide and Lonely Glen Sheila Stewart: The Sang’s the Thing

John Strachan of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, sang The Stootest Man in the Forty-Twa on 16 July 1951 to Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson. This recording was included in 2002 on Strachan’s Rounder anthology Songs From Aberdeenshire. It was also included the title Jock McGraw on the 1961 Tradition album Heather and Glen. Hamish Henderson and Ewan McVicar noted on the first album:

There are perhaps as many popular songs that mention the 42nd Highland Regiment, the Black Watch, as there are that mention all the other Scots regiments combined. But the 42nd Regiment recruited further south, in Perthshire, Angus, and Fife. The local regiment to Aberdeen was the Gordon Highlanders. Singing in the spirited chorus is Jimmy McBeath, who served in the Gordons.

Jimmy McBeath sang The Gallant Forty Twa at the 1951 Edinburgh People’s Festival Ceilidh. This recording was also included in 2002 on his Rounder anthology Tramps and Hawkers. A 1959 recording at the Scottish National Institution for War Blinded in Linburn was released in 1960 on his Collector EP Come A’ Ye Tramps and Hawkers.

Jeannie Robertson sang The Gallant Forty Twa in a School of Scottish Studies recording (SA 1954/104 (A10a)) on the 2005 Kyloe anthology of songs and ballads from the School of Scottish Studies Archives, Hamish Henderson Collects.

Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor with The Galliards sang The Stoutest Man in the Forty-Twa in 1961 on their Decca album Scottish Choice.

The Union Folk sang The Stoutest Man in the Forty-Twa in 1969 on their Traditional Song album A Basketful of Oysters.

The Clancy Brothers with Louis Killen sang Gallant Forty-Twa in 1973 on their Vanguard album Greatest Hits.

Ian Manuel sang The Gallant Forty-Twa on his 1977 Topic album, The Dales of Caledonia. This track was also included in 2009 on Topic’s 70th anniversary anthology, Three Score and Ten. A.L. Lloyd noted on the original album:

The 42nd Highland Regiment is the one better known as the Black Watch. Regimental praise songs are usually pretty turgid affairs (The Gallant Ninety Twa is an example), but this one is a spirited breezy piece that was something of a favourite in the Northeastern bothies. Indeed, Ian Manuel learnt it from that grand old master of bothy ballads, Jimmy McBeath.

Elizabeth Stewart sang a quite different The Gallant Forty-Twa on her 1992 Hightop cassette ’Atween You an’ Me. She also sang it during the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2007. This was included in the following year on the festival’s anthology Nick-Knack on the Waa (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 4).

This beautiful traditional song from Elizabeth’s family repertoire. The ‘forty-twa’ is the 42nd Highland Regiment, more commonly known as the Black Watch. It was established in [1667] ‘to be constant guard for securing the peace in the Highlands’ and ‘to watch upon the braes’. The name comes from the dark tartans its members wear, which was originally to distinguish them from regular troops who wore red uniforms. Several other traditional songs include the broken token motif but few pack such feeling of loss as this. There is, of course, a much better known and more recent song with the same title that was published by The Poet’s Box in Dundee in the 1880s.

Andy Hunter sang The Gallant Forty-Twa on the 1995 Greentrax album of songs from the Greig-Duncan Collection as performed at the Edinburgh International Festival, Folk Songs of North-East Scotland.

Ian Bruce sang The Stoutest Man in the Forty-Twa in 1998 on his Greentrax album Hodden Grey, and he with his brother Fraser Bruce sang it on their 2017 album Auld Hat New Heids.

Bock of the Moon sang Here’s tae the Blackwatch in 2003 on their Foot Stompin’ album Fortune’s Road.

The Spiers Family sang The Stoutest Man in the Forty-Twa on their 2012 album Oh, Gin I Were There…. Their live recording from June 2019 at Portsoy Folk Festival was released on the festival’s CD and DVD Folk Songs Live From North East Scotland.


John Strachan sings The Stootest Man in the Forty-Twa

Behold I am a soldier bold
And only twenty-five years old,
A braver warrior niver was seen
Frae Inverness tae Gretna Green.

When I was young my father said
He would pit me tae a decent trade.
But I didnae like that job at aa,
So I went and joined the Forty-Twa.

Chorus (after each verse):
The wind may blaw, the cock may craw,
The rain may rain and the snaw may snaw,
But you winna frichen Jock MacGraw,
He’s the stootest man in the Forty-Twa.

The sergeant when he listed me,
He winked his ee, and then says he,
“A man like you sae stout and tall
Can ne ’er be killed be a cannon-ball.”

The captain then when he come roon,
He looked me up and looked me doon,
Then turning to the sergeant. “Wha, you scamp,
You’ve listed the bleachfield oot on tramp.”

At oor last fecht across the sea
The general he sends after me.
When I get there an my big gun,
Of coorse the battle it was won.

The enemy aa ran awa,
They were feart at the legs o Jock MacGraw,
A man like me, sae tall and neat,
Ye ken yersel he could never be beat.

The king then held a grand review,
We numbered a thousand and sixty two.
The kiltie lads come marchin past,
And Jock MacGraw cam marchin last.

The royal pairty grabbed their sticks,
And aa began tae stretch their necks.
Cried the king to the colonel, “Upon my soul,
I took that man for a telegraph pole.”

Elizabeth Stewart sings The Gallant Forty-Twa

Oh it’s six weeks come Sunday since ma laddie’s went awa,
He’s awa tae join the regiment o the gallant Forty Twa.

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh broken herted I may wander for the loss o ma true lover,
He’s awa tae join the regiment o the gallant Forty Twa.

I haed only one sixpence and I broke it into twa,
An I gaed ma love the half o’t afore he went awa.

I will set at my windae and I’ll spin at ma wheel,
An I’ll I think aboot ma laddie and the times we haed sae weel.