The Royal Scots Cap Badge


Beloved Scotland


It is a tune that purports to portray the anguish of folk forced to leave Scotland. It was said to have been played on board ship as emigrants departed for America or some other faraway place. The tune probably dates from the late 1700's, a time when most emigrants left voluntarily, albeit with sadness in their hearts.


That is one version. Another is that it was the favorite march of Sir Donald MacDonald XXth of Sleat when marching to the Battle of Sheriffmuir, circa 1715. He was known as Donald of the Wars for his participation at the Battle of Killiecrankie and other engagements. He died in 1718.


That there is such a sharp contrast between these two versions of the tune is not an uncommon thing in the lore of cèol mor. A lament in a similar vein, Weighing from the Land, has been referred to as a Ioram. The Glen is Mine, MacCrimmon's Sweetheart, In Praise of Mary, for example, are among many with different and, for the most part, irresolvable conflicting stories about their origins. The reconstruction and renaming of ancient tunes appears to have been a fairly common practice, particularly at a period in history when glens were relatively isolated and music was passed on orally. The proscription years immediately following the unsuccessful Jacobite rebellion of 1745/46 were particularly hurtful to the presevation of ancient tunes.


Despite uncertainties as to origin, one can still take considerable pleasure in the music when this tune is played to reflect the sadness of emigrants bound for whatever faraway place fate might take them.


Beloved Scotland, I Leave Thee, Desolate, or, Beloved Scotland, Thee I am Leaving – take your choice – it depends on who does the translation from the Gaelic.


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