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Updated 03/07/2018


Jessie Brown of Lucknow

The title stems from the Sepoy Rebellion or Indian Mutiny of the mid-19th century. Lucknow is a city in northern India. It was well-known story of the time of a Highland girl who was reported to have heard the sound of the bagpipes of the relieving force long before it was audible to any other ears among the besieged in the Residency at Lucknow. The date of the incident was September 25th, 1857.

The following version of the story, from the pen of a lady, was published in the Illustrated London. News of December 19th, 1857.

" I had gone out to try and make myself useful, in company with Jessie Brown, the wife of a corporal in my husband's regiment. Poor Jessie had been in a state of restless excite- ment all through the siege, and had fallen away visibly within the last few days. A constant fever consumed her, and her mind wandered occasionally, especially on that day, when the recollection of home seemed powerfully present to her. At last, overcome with fatigue, she lay down on the ground, wrapped up in her plaid. I sat beside her, promising to awaken her when, as she said, ' her father should return from the ploughing.' She at length fell into a profound slumber, motionless and apparently breathless, her head resting in my lap. I myself could no longer resist the inclination to sleep, in spite of the continual roar of cannon. Suddenly I was aroused by a wild unearthly scream close to my ear. My companion stood upright beside me, her arms raised, and her bead bent forward in the attitude of listening. A look of intense delight broke over her countenance; she grasped my hand, drew me towards her, and said :—' Dinna ye hear it ? dinna ye hear it? Ay, am no dreaming ; it's the slogan of the Highlanders ! We're saved, we're saved ! ' Then flinging herself on her knees, she thanked God with passionate fervour. I felt utterly bewildered. My English ears heard only the roar of artillery, and I thought my poor Jessie was still raving. But she darted to the batteries, and I heard her cry incessantly to the men:— 'Courage! hark to the slogan—to the Macgregors, the grandest of them a'. Here's help at last.' To describe the effect of those words upon the soldiers would be impossible. For a, moment they ceased firing, and every soul listened in intense anxiety. Gradually, however, there arose a murmur of bitter disappointment, and the *wailing of the women who had flocked out began anew as the • Colonel shook his head. Our dull Lowland ears heard nothing but the rattle of the musketry. A few moments more of this death-like suspense, of this agonising hope, and Jessie, who had again sunk on the ground, sprang to her feet, and cried in a voice so clear and piercing, that it was heard along the whole line Will ye no' believe it noo P The slogan has ceased indeed, but the Campbells are comin'. D'ye hear P d'ye bear?' At that moment we seemed indeed to hear the voice of God in the distance, when the bagpipes of the Highlanders brought us tidings of deliverance; for now there was no longer any doubt of the fact. That shrill, penetrating, ceaseless sound, which rose above all other sounds, could neither come from the advance of the enemy nor from the work of the sappers. No ; it was indeed the blast of the Scottish bag- pipes," &c.

According to this version of the story, it was not the bag- pipes which Jessie first heard, but the battle-cry (" slogan ") of the Highlanders. It is probable, however, that " slogan " is the narrator's word, for other versions of the story substitute " pibroch." And if the bagpipes were playing at all, undoubtedly their shrill strains would rise above the shouts of men and the rattle of musketry.

Jessie Brown; or, The relief of Lucknow became a drama in three acts.  Written by Dion Boucicault and Published in 1858, it was first performed at Wallacks Theater in New York in 1858. Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot (26 December 1820 (or 1822) – 18 September 1890), commonly known as Dion Boucicault (Dee-on Boo-se-koh), was an Irish actor and playwright famed for his melodramas. By the later part of the 19th century, Boucicault had become known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful actor-playwright-managers then in the English-speaking theatre. The New York Times heralded him in his obituary as "the most conspicuous English dramatist of the 19th century."