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The Highland Widow’s Lament

[ Roud V13721 ; Mudcat 17948 ; Robert Burns]

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Highland Widow’s Lament in 1966 on their Transatlantic EP Four Highland Songs. Ian Campbell noted:

‘A well known and popular song’ (Hogg). In a troubled history the Highlands have known many ladies violently widowed and Lorna [Campbell] acknowledges this by omitting in this version all references to Charlie and the Jacobite cause. The tune is Gaelic.

Barbara Dickson sang The Highland Widow’s Lament in 1969 on her, Archie Fisher and John MacKinnon’s Trailer album of songs of the Jacobite rebellions, The Fate of Charlie.

Alison McMorland sang The Highland Widow’s Lament in 1977 on her Tangent album of Scots songs and ballads, Belt wi’ Colours Three. Hamish Henderson noted:

Alison tells me she often sings this song after singing The Blackbird (Side One, No. 3), to show “the other side of the coin” The high-flown loyalist hyperbole of the Jacobite balladeers still comes over today as credible political idealism, but the bitter reality of human degradation and despair cannot be left out of the picture. (In similar fashion a Gaelic singer might use Mo Run Geal Og—My Fair Young Love, the lament for William Chisholm of Strathglass—as a corrective to the magniloquent partisan hauteur of Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair’s A New Song for the Prince.)

This lament is printed in the Scots Musical Museum (No. 498). The text is by Robert Burns, who collected the tune during one of his tours. Alison is accompanied on the Lowland pipes by Rab Wallace.

Heather Innes sang Highland Widow’s Lament in 1994 on her Fellside album Coaineadh. She noted:

The story of a Culloden widow. Jackie Barry sang the song at Alnwick Music Festival and later sent it to me—thanks Jackie.

Elspeth Cowie sang O, I Am Come to the Low Countrie (The Highland Widow’s Lament) in 1998 on the Linn anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 5.

Moira Craig sang The Highland Widow’s Lament on her 2000 album On ae Bonny Day. She noted:

In the Burns Kilmarnock Edition 1935 this is given as a Jacobite ballad. The exclamation “Ochon Ochon Ochrie!” is stated as originally occurring in an old song composed on the massacre of Glencoe. According to Wilma Paterson’s recent book, Songs of Scotland (1996), Burns learned the air of the same name from a lady who came from the North of Scotland.

Shona Donaldson sang The Highland Widow’s Lament in 2009 on her and Katie Mackenzie’s duo Pūr’s album of songs of Robert Burns in Scots and Gaelic, The Lassies’ Reply.

The Owl Service sang Widow’s Lament on their 2016 album His Pride. No Spear. No Friend..


Shona Donaldson sing The Highland Widow’s Lament

O I am come to the low countrie
Ochon, ochon, ochrie!
Without a penny in my purse
Tae buy a meal tae me.

It was nae in the Highland Hills
Ochon, ochon, ochrie!
Nae woman in the country wide
Sae happy was as me.

For then I had a score of kye
Ochon, ochon, ochrie!
Feeding on yon hill sae high
And giving milk tae me.

And there I had three score o’ yowes
Ochon, ochon, ochrie!
Skipping on yon bonnie knowes
And casting woo tae me.

I was the happiest o a’ the clan
Sair, sair may I repine
For Donald was the bravest man
And Donald he was mine.

Till Charlie Stewart cam at last
Sae far tae set us free
My Donald’s arm was needed then
For Scotland and for me.

Their waefu’ fate what need I tell
Richt tae the wrang did yield
My Donald and his country fell
Upon Culloden field.

Ochon! Ochon!, a’Dhomhnaill o!
Ochon, ochon, ochrie!
Nae woman in the world wide
Sae wretched now as me.