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The Haughs of Cromdale

[ Roud 5147 ; G/D 1:113 ; Ballad Index BrHauCro ; Bodleian Roud 5147 ; trad.]

Norman Buchan 101 Scottish Songs Ewan MacColl Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland

John MacDonald from Morayshire sang The Haughs o' Cromdale in a Peter Kennedy recording on the His Master's Voice 1955 album of songs and ballads of England and Scotland, Folk Song Today. Another recording made by Tony Engle and Tony Russell in Moray's caravan in Pitgaveny, Elgin, Morayshire, in November 1974 was released in 1975 on his Topic album The Singing Molecatcher of Morayshire and was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology A Story I'm Just About to Tell (The Voice of the People Volume 8). Hamish Henderson noted on MacDonald' album:

After the Battle of Killiecrankie and the death of Claverhouse (1689), the forces attempting to secure the restoration of King James VII and II displayed little cohesion and less intelligence. As the Ettrick Shepherd later expressed it, “they were men struggling in a dream, and seem to have acted without counsel and without energy”. James, who was in Ireland, displayed his customary ineptitude and appointed an inefficient Gallowegian (Col.”Cannon) to assume command over the Jacobite clans. These were eventually surprised at Cromdale (1 May 1690) by the Williamite commander, Sir Thomas Livingston. The dragoons of the “Whig” army were guided virtually into the midst of the sleeping Jacobite camp by Grants (Highlanders from the area who were “wild for the engagement”). The Jacobites had no time to rally; some fought naked with only a targe in one hand and a claymore in the other, and they were soon cut to pieces, or forced to fly. It was a complete shambles, prefiguring the Battle of the Boyne fought two months later, and the present song reflects events very much the way they happened.

Curiously enough, the first song called The Haughs o' Cromdale to be printed (Jacobite Relics, 1819, vol. 1, song 2) makes the battle a Jacobite victory, and brings in the long-dead Montrose to retrieve the day. John’s song, recorded 150 years later, is certainly older than the Jacobite Relics rewrite.

Ewan MacColl sang The Haughs o' Cromdale in 1962 on his Topic album The Jacobite Rebellions. This track was also included in 1993 on his Topic anthology The Real MacColl. He noted:

Poetic licence has been strained to breaking point in this vigorous ballad. The battle fought upon the plains of Cromdale in Strathspey did, in fact, result in the army of 1,500 Highlanders being defeated by Sir Thomas Livingstone’s Hanoverians. Montrose, the hero of the song, was not present at the event. Some forty-five years before, however, he won a victory at the Battle of Auldearn against the Whig forces and it is probable that the two events have been dovetailed to provide us with a fine, optimistic, if somewhat chronologically inaccurate song. The tune is a great favourite with pipers.

Norman Kennedy sang The Haughs o' Cromdale in 1965 on the Topic anthology New Voices from Scotland. He sang it at concert for the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston at the First Parish of Watertown Unitarian Universalist Church on 23 October 1999. A recording of this concert was released in 2004 on his Autumn Harvest album I Little Thocht My Love Wid Leave Me. Arthur Argo and Peter Hall noted on the first album:

On 1 May 1690, Sir Thomas Livingston surprised and defeated troops supporting James II under the command of Major-General Thomas Buchan of Auchmacoy. The song usually starts by retelling this defeat, changing mid-way through to a celebration of the victory of Montrose over the Covenanters at Auldearn 45 years earlier. This confusion is not present in the version Norman sings. As often happens when a song loses its historic significance, modernised variants creep in. For example, some Peterhead schoolchildren sing a parody of the first verse:

Strap yer bands across yer shoulders,
A bag o’ meal an’ a Siedlitz pooder;
We’re awa’ tae ficht the Germans
Ower the hills o' Mormon.

Isabel Sutherland sang The Haughs o' Cromdale in 1974 on her eponymous EFDSS album, Isabel Sutherland.

Ian Manual sang The Haughs o' Cromdale in 1977 on his Topic album of Scots traditional songs The Dales of Caledonia. A.L. Lloyd noted:

History is seldom straight in the folk songs. The battle of Cromdale took place on 1 May 1690, when a Jacobite force of 1500 Highlanders were surprised in their blankets and routed by the forces of Sir Thomas Livingston. A ballad was made about it, but a later bard, favourable to the clan cause and mortified by the disgrace, tacked on to the opening of the Cromdale song an account of the battle of Aldearn, won by the Highlanders. He had to go back forty-five years, for Aldearn was fought on 4 May 1645. Well, if the words are a jumble, the tune is good.

The Gaugers sang Haughs o' Cromdale in 1990 on their album The Fighting Scot.

Andy M. Stewart sang The Haughs of Cromdale in 1990 on his and Manus Lunny's Green Linnet album At It Again.

Ewan Robertson sang The Haughs o' Cromdale at St Andrew's in the Square, Glasgow, during Celtic Connections 2017. A recording of this concert was released in the same year on the TMSA DVD 101 Scottish Songs: The Wee Red Book 2.

Lyrics

John MacDonald sings The Haughs o' Cromdale

Ah, I threw my plaidie o’er my shoulder
And a bag o' meal and a flask of powder
O’er the hills and far awa'
Into the haughs o' Cromdale.

When I crossed out o’er ****moor
And I wandered on for hour and hour,
And then I soon I passed Grantoon
Upon the ***’ o' Cromdale.

As I came in by Auchendoon
Just a litte wee bit frae the toon
Into the Highlands I was bound
To view the haughs o' Cromdale.

And I met a man wi' tartan trews,
And I spiered at him, but what’s the news.
Says he, “The Highland army lose
The day they came to Cromdale.”

For MacDonalds' men, Clan Ronald's men,
MacKenzie’s men, MacGillivray's men,
And the highland men and the lowland men
Lay dead and dying in Cromdale.

Ewan MacColl sings The Haughs of Cromdale

As I came in by Achindoon,
A little wee bit frae the town,
When to the Highlands I was bound
To view the haughs of Cromdale.
I met a man in tartan trews,
I spiered at him what was the news,
Who’ he, “The Highland army rues
The e’er we came to Cromdale.

“We were in bed, sir, every man,
When the English host upon us came;
A bloody battle then began
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.
The English horse they were so rude,
They bathed their hoofs in Highland blood,
But our brave clans, they boldly stood
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.

“But alas! We could no longer stay,
For o’er the hills we came away,
And sore we do lament the day
That e’er we came to Cromdale.”
Thus the great Montrose did say:
“Can you direct the nearest way?
For I will o’er the hills this day,
And view the haughs of Cromdale.”

“Alas, my lord, you’re not so strong,
You scarcely have two thousand men,
And there’s twenty-thousand on the plane,
Stand rank and file on Cromdale.”
Thus the great Montrose did say,
“I say, direct the nearest way,
For I will o’er the hills this day,
And see the haughs of Cromdale.”

They were at dinner, every man,
When the great Montrose upon them came;
A second battle then began
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.
The Grant, MacKensie and M’Ky,
Soon as Montrose they did espy,
Then they fought most valiantly
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.

The M’Donalds they returned again,
The Camerons did their standard join,
M’Intosh played a bloody game
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.
The M’Gregors fought like lions bold,
M’Phersons, none could them control,
M’Lauchlins fought, like loyal souls
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.

M’Leans, M’Dougals, and M’Neils,
So bold as they took the field,
And made their enemies to yield
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.
The Gordons boldly did advance,
The Frasers fought with sword and lance,
The Grahams they made the heads to dance,
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.

The loyal Stewarts, with Montrose,
So boldly set upon their foes,
And brought them down with Highland Blows
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.
Of twenty-thousand Cromwell’s men,
Five-hundred fled to Aberdeen,
The rest of them lie on the plain,
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.

Andy M. Stewart sings The Haughs of Cromdale

As I came in by Achin doon,
Just a wee bit frae the toun,
Tae the Highlands I was bound
To view the haughs of Cromdale.
I met a man in tartan trews,
I spiered at him what was the news,
Quo’ he, “The Highland ar my rues
That e’er we came to Cromale.

“We were in bed, sir, every man,
When the English host upon us came;
A bloody battle then began
Upom the haughs of Cromdale.
The English horse they were so rude,
They bathed their hoofs in Highland blood.
But our brave clans, they boldly stood
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.

“But, alas! We could no longer stay,
For o’er the hills we came away,
And sore we do lament the day
That e’er we came to Cromdale.”
Thus the great Montrose did say;
“Can you direct the nearest way?
For I will o’er the hills this day,
And view the haughs of Cromdale.”

“Alas, my Lord, you’re not so strong.
You scarcely have two thousand men,
And there’s twenty-thousand on the plain,
Stand rank and file on Cromdale.”
Thus the great Montrose did say,
“I say, direct the nearest way,
For I will o’er the hills this day,
And see the haughs of Cromdale.”

They were at dinner, every man.
When the great Montrose upon them came;
A second battle then began
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.
The Grant, Mackenzie and Mackay,
Soon as Montrose they did espy,
O then they fought most valiantly
Upon the haughs of Cromdale.