Notes on Glencoe, Scotland and Scottish Song Lyrics

Yesterday, I worked in the children’s area at the Bedford Celtic Heritage Festival. Rebecca and Warren Sheffield have done a great job the past two years with this important part of the festival.  I did manage to sign a few books as well as help. My good friends, Linda King & Michael Harrison (singers) were there as well as John Burleson (storyteller, but also an excellent guitarist). Today is the first post resulting from attending this festival and the inspiration came from the Campbell clan!

Below are the lyrics to the “Ballad of Glencoe.” This is a song I use in my Scots-Irish school program. You can read all about the background of the song, i.e., the slaughter of the MacDonald clan, here:

They came in a blizzard, we offered them heat
A roof for their heads, dry shoes for their feet
We wined them and dined them, they ate of our meat
And they slept in the house of MacDonald.
O, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o’ Donald
O, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald

2. They came from Fort William with murder in mind
The Campbell had orders King William had signed
“Put all to the sword” these words underlined
“And leave none alive called MacDonald”

3. They came in the night when the men were asleep
This band of Argyles, through snow soft and deep
Like murdering foxes amongst helpless sheep
They slaughtered the house of MacDonald

4. Some died in their beds at the hand of the foe
Some fled in the night and were lost in the snow
Some lived to accuse him who struck the first blow
But gone was the house of MacDonald

And here is the memorial of the tragic event I found at the Campbell booth. This is true Scots humor!

And here are the lyrics to the stirring song, “The Campbells Are Coming!” I’ve mostly heard the song in the instrumental version, but it is a song I’d like to add to my Scots-Irish program somehow. According to this site, it is traditional pipe tune which may be centuries old and to which the Clan marched to many a battle. It was later the March Past of the 1st Battalion The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (formerly the 91st Highlanders) and has also formed the theme of songs. The best known song is “The Campbells are Coming” and the tune is now called by no other name.


The Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!
The Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!
The Campbells are coming to bonnie LochLeven
The Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!

Upon the Lomonds I lay, I lay,
Upon the Lomonds I lay, I lay,
I lookit down to bonnie Lochleven
And saw three perches play-hay-hay!
The Great Argyll he goes before,
He makes the cannons and guns to roar,
With sound o’trumpet, pipe and drum,
The Campbells are coming, Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!
The Campbells they are a’ in arms,
Their loyal faith and truth to show,
With banners rattling in the wind,
The Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!