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© Alastair McDonald

Mark Clavey: vocals, guitar
Mary Hanover: lead vocals, hammered dulcimer
Rachel Gaither-Vaughan: vocals, fiddle

Here is a modern song about one of the seminal moments in Scottish history – the Battle of Culloden… where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s campaign to recapture the throne of Great Britain and the Jacobite Cause came to a grisly end, and Scotland lost its independence (for two and a half centuries). Forgetting the actual circumstances… the Great Pretender, born in Rome and having never been to Scotland, leading a French-backed rebellion against the English whose king was from the Netherlands… the “Forty-Five” was the stuff legends are made of. Charlie’s two ships landed at Eriskay on July 23rd. A French fleet that was to aid him was severely damaged in the storm that delivered them to Scotland – leaving him to his own devices. He raised the standard of King James at Glenfinnan, and assembled an army large enough to march on Edinburgh – which quickly surrendered. In September, he won the Battle of Prestonpans, General Sir John Cope and the only standing governmental army in Scotland. November found Charlie marching into England at the head of 6,000 men, taking Carlisle, and making it as far south as Derbyshire. There, due to insufficient support and rumors of large English forces being gathered, his war-council, to his objection, chose to return to Scotland… marched north, winning the Battle of Falkirk Muir. They were pursued by Prince William Augustus, son of King George II and Duke of Cumberland – who eventually caught up with, and annihilated them at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746… just nine months after Charlie’s celebrated arrival. The song was written by Alastair McDonald, Scotland’s leading musical minstrel – a banjo-playing folk/jazz musician/singer/songwriter. “I wrote it because there didn't seem to be many songs about that most significant turn in Scottish history. I had recorded one by Jim McLean but a lot of the words were in old Scots, difficult enough for Scots even, let alone folks from a different culture so really it's just an outline of the event in three verses... there could be more of course, but mebbe that’s for another song.” For ‘just an outline’, it’s pretty outstanding.


Cold the winds on the moor blow. Warm the enemy fires glow. Black the harvest of Culloden – pain and fear and death grow.

‘Twas love of our prince drove us all to Drumossie. But in scarcely the time that it takes me to tell, the flower of our country lay scorched by an army as ruthless and red as the embers of hell.

And cold the winds on the moor blow, &c

Red Campbell, ‘the Fox’, did the work of the English. Macdonald, in anger, did no work at all. With musket and cannon against, honor and courage, the invading men stood while our clansmen did fall.

And cold the winds on the moor blow, &c

Now mothers and children are left to their weeping with only the memory of father and son. Turned out of our homes to make shelter for strangers – the blackest of hours on this land has begun.

And cold the winds on the moor blow, &c