The Battle o Harlaw

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Title - The Battle o Harlaw
Contributors - Jeannie Robertson
Reporters - Hamish Henderson
Item Person - MacDonald, Donald of Islay, Lord of the Isles

Summary - A song recounting the events of the Battle of Harlaw from the perspective of the defenders of land invaded by a Highland army under MacDonald. The invaders are eventually defeated after losing heart when two noble brothers kill MacDonald.

Jeannie Robertson recounts that the Highland men were winning the battle up until MacDonald was killed, and would likely have won the battle had this not happened; however, they lost heart and left the battlefield. It was said after the battle that the Highlanders' blood was running on the roads like water.

Track Duration (h:m:s) - 00:05:41
Date Recorded - 1953.10
Language - Scots
Genre - Song, Information
Collection - School of Scottish Studies

Track ID - 25362
Original Tape ID - SA1953.247
Original Track ID - SA1953.247.A5
Audio Quality - Fair
Audio Format - R2R

Classification - C163; GD112; R2861;

Recording Location:
  County - Aberdeenshire
  Parish - Aberdeen
  Village - Aberdeen

Item Location:
  County - Aberdeenshire
  Parish - Chapel of Garioch
  Village - Harlaw

Item Notes - 16 verses of 4 lines with refrain.
The Battle of Harlaw (Cath Gairbheach in Gaelic) took place near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on 24 July 1411 between Donald MacDonald of Islay, Lord of the Isles, and an army commanded by Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar. Despite the biased and historically inaccurate view of this Scots song (e.g. MacDonald was not in actual fact killed at the battle), and some Gaelic songs that place the outcome more in MacDonald's favour, the battle is generally considered to have been a draw, in view of the severe casualties on both sides. It is remembered as a particularly bloody and savage battle in Scottish history. The site of the battle lies approximately three kilometres north-west of Inverurie.
Greig-Duncan vol. 1, pp. 302-313, no. 112
'Scottish Ballads' (E. Lyle, 1994) pp. 44-47
'Come Gie's a Sang' (S. Douglas, 1995) pp. 20-21
Ord pp. 473-475
'The Scottish Ballads' (R. Chambers, 1829) pp. 20-28
'The Scottish Minstrel' vol. 4 (R. A. Smith, 1821) p. 36
'Ballads of Scotland' vol. 1 (W. E. Aytoun, 1858) pp. 64-78
'Book of Scottish Ballads' (A. Whitelaw, 1845) pp. 138-140
'The Scottish Folksinger' (N. Buchan & P. Hall, 1973) pp. 132-133
'Ancient & Modern Scottish Songs' vol. 1 (D. Herd, 1869, 1973) pp. 37-45
'Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads' (A. Keith & G. Greig, 1925) pp. 101-106
'The Scots Musical Museum' vol. 6 (J. Johnson & R. Burns, 1853 edition) p. 528, no. 512

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