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Updated 02/14/2018


Highland Laddie
Highland Laddie, also known as Hielan' Laddie, is the name of an ancient Scottish popular folk tune If thou'lt play me fair play, but as with many old melodies, various sets of words can be sung to it and Robert Burns' poem 'Highland Laddie, Highland Lassie' has been the most memorable. Highland Regiments raised in the 18th and early 19th centuries employed many unique symbols to differentiate themselves from other regiments and enlisted distinctive music to announce their arrival, but as a result of the Cardwell Reforms of 1881, all British Army Highland Regiments were required to use 'Highland Laddie' as their Regimental March. Over time, many of these regiments had managed to return to their pre-Cardwell marches when, in 2005, the establishment of the Royal Regiment of Scotland saw the disappearance of all Scotland's historic infantry regiments and their distinctions, including music, and the adoption of a new Regimental March, "Scotland the Brave".

Bill Millin (shown above), born 1923, commonly known as Piper Bill, was personal piper to Lord Lovat, commander of 1 Special Service Brigade at D-Day.

Millin is most famous for being one of the few pipers to play during a World War II battle. Pipers had traditionally led Scottish troops into battle however the death toll among pipers in World War I was so high that the practice was banned by the British high command. Lord Lovat, however, ignored these orders and Millin, aged 21, played "Hielan' Laddie" and "The Road to the Isles" as his comrades fell around him on Sword Beach. He played "The Brown-Haired Maiden" as they were leaving the beach and making their way up to the road because he espied a young brown-haired girl peeking out to the lads from a farmhouse and he thought there would be nothing better in this world than to play her that tune as they went by. As German soldiers later attested, they did not target Millin because they believed him to be mad.

This action was portrayed in the 1962 film The Longest Day. It is a common misconception that Millin played himself; the actor was in fact Pipe Major Leslie de Laspee, the official piper to the Queen Mother in 1961.

Highland Laddie is also the name of a dance in Scottish Highland dancing, of the "national dance" subtype. Unlike most national dances, which are usually danced in an Aboyne dress, the Highland Laddie is danced in the standard kilt-based outfit.



As in the case of most traditional Scottish folk songs, Highland Laddie can be sung with lyrics. One version of the tune's ancient lyrics, which obviously has much to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite Rising, goes:

Where ha' ye been a' the day?
Bonnie laddie, Hielan' laddie
Saw ye him that' far awa'
Bonnie laddie, Hielan' laddie

On his head a bonnet blue
Bonnie laddie, Hielan' laddie
Tartan plaid and Hielan' trews
Bonnie laddie, Hielan' laddie

When he drew his gude braid-sword
Then he gave his royal word.
Frae the field he ne'er wad flee
Wi' his friends wad live or dee.

Geordie sits in Charlie's chair
But I think he'll no bide there.
Charlie yet shall mount the throne
Weel ye ken it is his own

There is yet another version, apparently originated from Britain's colonial dates in America:

Was you ever in Quebec?
Bonny laddie, Highland laddie,
Loading timber on the deck,
My bonny Highland laddie.

High-ho, and away she goes,
Bonny laddie, Highland laddie,
High-ho, and away she goes,
My bonny Highland laddie.

Was you ever in Callao
Where the girls are never slow?

Was you ever in Baltimore
Dancing on the sanded floor?

Was you ever in Mobile Bay,
Screwing cotton by the day?

Was you on the Brummalow,
Where Yankee boys are all the go?

Bonny Laddie, Highland Laddie Beethoven No.7 (for Violin and Cello) Four Verses:

Where got ye that siller moon, bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Glinting braw your bell a boon, bonny laddie, highland laddie?
Belted plaid and bonnet blue, bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Have yet been at Waterloo, bonny laddie, highland laddie?

Weels me on your tartan trews, bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Tell me, tell me, a’ the news, bonny laddie, highland laddie!
Saw ye Bonny by the way, bonny laddie, highland laddie?
Bucher wi’ his beard sae grey, bonny laddie highland laddie?

Or that doure and deadly Duke, bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Scatt’ring Frenchmen wi’ his look, bonny laddie, highland laddie?
Some say he the day may rue, bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Ye can tell gin this be true, bonny laddie, highland laddie.

Would yet tell me gin ye ken, bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Aught o’ Donald and his men, bonny laddie, highland laddie?
Tell me o’ my kilted Clan, bonny laddie, highland laddie,
Gin they fought, or gin they ran, bonny laddie, highland laddie?