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Updated 10/18/2017

 


Johnny Cope

Sir John Cope KB (16901760) was a British general and Member of Parliament. Although a successful officer in the Wars of the Spanish and Austrian Succession, he is best known for his defeat at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.

In 1745 in his role as Commander-in-Chief in Scotland, Cope was in command of the government forces at the Battle of Prestonpans and was defeated by the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). His men broke and ran as the result of a highland charge. 

The battle is commemorated by Adam Skirving's (1719-1803), a tenant farmer in East Lothian, heavily mythologized song "Heigh! Johnnie Cowp, are ye wauken yet?" ("Hey Johnnie Cope, are you awake yet?").  The song includes several apocryphal incidents, including challenges conveyed by letters between Cope and his rival Bonnie Prince Charlie, as well as accurate accounts of Cope's cowardice. It also includes an account of him fleeing from the battle all the way back to Berwick, being the messenger of his own defeat, which is also true.

 

Lyrics by Adam Skirving

  Chorus
Hey, Johnnie Cope, are ye wauking yet?
Or are your drums a-beating yet?
If ye were wauking I wad wait
To gang to the coals i' the morning.

Cope sent a challenge frae Dunbar:
'Charlie, meet me an' ye daur,
An' I'll learn you the art o' war
If you'll meet me i' the morning.'

Chorus

When Charlie looked the letter upon
He drew his sword the scabbard from:
'Come, follow me, my merry merry men,
And we'll meet Johnnie Cope i' the morningl

Chorus

'Now Johnnie, be as good's your word;
Come, let us try both fire and sword;
And dinna rin like a frichted bird,
That's chased frae its nest i' the morning.'

Chorus

When Johnnie Cope he heard of this,
He thought it wadna be amiss
To hae a horse in readiness,
To flee awa' i' the morning.

Chorus

Fy now, Johnnie, get up an' rin;
The Highland bagpipes mak' a din;
It's best to sleep in a hale skin,
For 'twill be a bluidy morning.

Chorus

When Johnnie Cope tae Dunbar came,
They speired at him, 'Where's a' your men?'
'The deil confound me gin I ken,
For I left them a' i' the morning.

Chorus

'Now Johnnie, troth, ye werena blate
To come wi' news o' your ain defeat,
And leave your men in sic a strait
Sae early in the morning.

Chorus

'I' faith,' quo' Johnnie, 'I got sic flegs
Wi' their claymores an' philabegs;
If I face them again, deil break my legs!
Sae I wish you a' gude morning'.

Chorus

Meaning of unusual words:
wauking=waking
speired=asked
blate=shy
sic=such
flegs=frights
philabegs=kilts