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Updated 06/10/2020


Highland Harry

A melody popular with both fiddlers and bagpipers. Highland Harry appears in Neil Stewart's Reels (1762) and in David Young's Gillespie Manuscript of Perth (1768) under the title "Highlander's Farewell to Ireland (1) (The)". It was this melody to which poet Robert Burns set his song "Highland Harry," which appeared in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum of 1790. Burns based his song on an older one that he picked up from "an old woman in Dumblane," although he reworked much of the material, save for the chorus "My Harry was gallant and gay."

The tune appears as "Blue Bonnet (6)"/"Am Bonaid Borm" in Glasgow piper, pipe teacher and pipe-maker William Gunn's Caledonian Repository of Music Adapted for the Bagpipes (1848).

The original song describes the affection between Harry Lunsdale, the second son of a Highland gentleman, and Mrs Jeanie Gordon, daughter to the Laird of Knockespock, in Aberdeenshire. "The lady was married to her cousin, Habichie Gordon, a son of the Laird of Rhynie; and sometime after her former lover having met her and shaken her hand, her husband drew his sword in anger, and lopped off several of Lumsdale's fingers, which Highland Harry took so much to heart that he soon after died'. Burns' reworking gives it a political cast, and is among his 'Jacobite' songs.

 Lyrics by Robert Burns

My Harry was a gallant gay,
Fu' stately strade he on the plain;
But now he's banish'd far away,
I'll never see him back again.

Chorus.-O for him back again!
O for him back again!
I wad gie a' Knockhaspie's land
For Highland Harry back again.

When a' the lave gae to their bed,
I wander dowie up the glen;
I set me down and greet my fill,
And aye I wish him back again.
O for him, &c.

O were some villains hangit high,
And ilka body had their ain!
Then I might see the joyfu' sight,
My Highland Harry back again.
O for him, &c.