The Lyrics and the Legend of ‘Loch Lomond’

LGOberean

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Folk song. Is best not learnt from a written form.

In 1841 I don't think the best version was performed by scribes.
Imagine a transcribed version of Dark was the night Cold was the ground.

Listen to your favourite artists perform the piece and interpret in your way. It is the aural form of folk music, the tradition.

True confessions time. I can't read music.

I have referenced sheet music in this thread for the benefit of others that do. For me, all sheet music really tells me is what the lyrics were at the time of publication. And in post #11 above, the sheet music published in Scots Minstrelsie in 1893 in Edinburgh preserves a version of the lyrics that I take to be the standard.

So I do base my interpretation of the folk song on what I've heard and what I feel. But I do want to get the words right.
 

suthol

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Great topic thanks for starting it an also to those who have contributed.

My distant background is Scottish being descendant of the Macintosh clan, my great grandparents came to Australia as free settlers in the 1800s, great grandfather John Macintosh ran a business in Sydney before being encouraged to run for a seat in government by Sir Henry Parkes which he duly won.

The family home was Lindesay House at Darling Point, now part of the national trust.


I must visit Scotland before I depart the mortal coil
 
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Peter Graham

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I have referenced sheet music in this thread for the benefit of others that do. For me, all sheet music really tells me is what the lyrics were at the time of publication. And in post #11 above, the sheet music published in Scots Minstrelsie in 1893 in Edinburgh preserves a version of the lyrics that I take to be the standard.

So I do base my interpretation of the folk song on what I've heard and what I feel. But I do want to get the words right.
I don't know how useful this will be, but it may be a mistake to think in terms of one particular arrangement of the song being 'right'. It's a folk tune, so there is no canonical version. What there are instead are lots and lots of versions, some of which got preserved by dint of being written down. But the act of writing one version down doesn't give that version primacy. It simply fossilises it.

The history of this song is very interesting (assuming that you are one of those people, like me, who considers the oral tradition to be very interesting!). The received wisdom is that it was written by Jacobite prisoners in Carlisle castle who clearly didn't rate their chances of coming home alive. That's possible, but one might look at the historical and geographical context to ask how likely the song really is to have emerged from that milieu?

My theory is that the song, at least as we have it today, is a Victorian confection. I think I am right in saying it was first collected in the Victorian era, although I stand to be corrected. Now, Scotland and the Highlanders were VERY fashionable in the nineteenth century. This was partly down to the enormous popularity of the works of Walter Scott and also partly down to royal patronage of all things Scottish. The lyrics have more than a whiff of the whimsy of those times. To me, they don't look mid 18th century.

So, if you can't ever find the 'right' lyrics ( because there never were any), just enjoy it and make it your own. That is what everyone else has done...
 

notmyusualuserid

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Not sure what you’re after, but how many people are aware of the meaning of the refrain? The song is the dying words of a Scots soldier on the battlefield to his friend (or perhaps to Bonnie Prince Charlie, in whose service he is dying). The “high road” is the road his friend must take, travelling on the ground; the “low road” is the passage through the Earth that the dying man’s soul will take, which will take him to Scotland before his friend.

If it’s a Jacobite song, as seems likely, it could date from the second half of the 18th Century (the Rising having been brutally put down in 1746). There’s a good chance that it’s an old tune that acquired new words of course.

That's pretty much how I understand it.

File with 'The Skye Boat Song' and 'Braes o' Killicrankie'.
 

notmyusualuserid

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As a previous poster mentioned it is a Jacobean ballad from the time of the uprising. By the way the OP's post is taken from some English translation which wrongly states Scotch folksong. As any Scot will tell you scotch is whisky, the people who live in Scotland are Scots. If you want to make a bad impression in Scotland on holiday for example refer to the people as scotch and you will be quickly told the difference.
Except it was widely used in Scotland in the 18th century. Burns described himself as Scotch.

Walter Scott has a lot to answer for, besides those bloody tartan biscuit tins. :)
 

saltyseadog

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Except it was widely used in Scotland in the 18th century. Burns described himself as Scotch.

Walter Scott has a lot to answer for, besides those bloody tartan biscuit tins. :)
Yes but Robbie liked a dram or two so he was likely slurring his speech when he said that?. :D

Have a read on this:

However, evidence suggests that certain uses are more common in Scotland than North America, so if the preferred usage of the Scottish people is what you need to know for your Burns Supper, here it is:


Scots is most often used to refer to the dialect of English found in Scotland (although, once again, some feel that it instead is a Germanic language which is related to, but distinct from, English).


Scotch is generally used in compounds (such as Scotch pine or Scotch whisky), and set phrases.


Scottish is the preferred adjective; in cases where you are referring to the literature, character, or ancestry of the people of Scotland, it is generally correct to describe them as Scottish.


If you still would like a short mnemonic to aid you in understanding the difference between these words you can use the following: If you do not speak Scots, you may ask your Scottish host for a drink of Scotch whisky.

Speaking for myself though and originating from North East Scotland, the local language we talk is called Doric, in many places in the Highlands and islands Gaelic is still most commonly spoken. Perhaps the soft soothies etc call their lingo Scots I don't know, I do know in Glasgow they refer to their dialect as Glaswegian and I would love to hear Rab C. Nesbit's take on that. :D

:D
 
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Cloodie

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It's been interesting (to me, anyway) researching the language of this old song. Scots, sometimes called Broad Scots or Lowland Scots, is a living language distinct from English or Gaelic. I've read a little about it online, and found online dictionaries to refer to.

And one aspect of the language of the song possibly conflicts with the legend. I've read more than one account of the legend that has the protagonist/speaker addressing his "true love." The trouble is, in the language of the song, he never directly addresses his true love; it's always an indirect reference.

Furthermore, the chorus reads "Ye'll tak' the high road...And I'll be in Scotland afore ye." I know that in Old, Middle and even Early Modern English, "ye" is used as a second person plural pronoun. In the Scots Online Dictionary, there is this entry for the word ye...

you [juː, S. jʌu]
also ye [jiː, jɪ] pl. ye col. yese [jiːz]
pron. You. pl. you col. youse [juːz]

If "ye" is used in the Scots language in this song as a plural, then it would refer to a collective "you," which in the context of this song being about the Jacobite rebellion, I would take as a possible reference to his comrades in arms. Or am I missing something? Anyone care to weigh in on this linguistic detail as it pertains to the meaning of the song?
As someone who uses both the words 'You' and 'Ye' in my everyday language I'd say 'Ye' refers to singular.
 

Kandinskyesque

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If you do you make the journey then perhaps a visit to Isle of Mull and a pilgramage to the Macquarie Mausoleum would be a worthwhile endeavour. Mull is the jewel of the Hebridean islands in my view (although to be fair they're all jewels!).
Around Mull is an excellent recommendation.
I'm itching for a return to Iona, it's been 5 years since I was last there.

My brother and I had a boat trip to Fingal's Cave in 2010 as part of my brother in law's stag weekend; spent entirely on a boat full of doctors and dentists (I felt a bit out my depth in that company until the whisky came out).
Listening to one of the guys playing the pipes in Fingal's Cave is up there with one of my life's greatest experiences.
 

LGOberean

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I use "ye" in singular and plural in my every day speech. Pronounced more like "Yay" on the west coast.
The only time I'll use "you" is when I'm being either more formal or on the telephone to non Scots. My speed of speech also halves its normal rate when doing the latter.

As someone who uses both the words 'You' and 'Ye' in my everyday language I'd say 'Ye' refers to singular.

I'm grateful for this input. It does occur to me to ask, though, is this contemporary usage a blurring of what was originally a distinction, i.e., between you and ye?

My only other observation on this point may also speak to why this is important to me. In my speech, I rarely ever use the pronoun you as a plural. To me, you is singular, y'all is plural. And FWIW, I also say y'all's, all y'all and all y'all's whenever it's appropriate to do so.

Did I mention I'm a native citizen of the Lone Star State?
 

Toto'sDad

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I can well imagine a Scot would find it difficult to ever begin to understand people living in Alabama. He'd ask directions, the reply would be: You go up yonder to the billboard and turn right? Then you go past the old theater and turn left? Then you keep going until, well you'll see it there on the left? He'd have no clue if they were giving him directions or asking him a question.
 

LGOberean

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I don't know how useful this will be, but it may be a mistake to think in terms of one particular arrangement of the song being 'right'. It's a folk tune, so there is no canonical version. What there are instead are lots and lots of versions, some of which got preserved by dint of being written down. But the act of writing one version down doesn't give that version primacy. It simply fossilises it.

The history of this song is very interesting (assuming that you are one of those people, like me, who considers the oral tradition to be very interesting!). The received wisdom is that it was written by Jacobite prisoners in Carlisle castle who clearly didn't rate their chances of coming home alive. That's possible, but one might look at the historical and geographical context to ask how likely the song really is to have emerged from that milieu?

My theory is that the song, at least as we have it today, is a Victorian confection. I think I am right in saying it was first collected in the Victorian era, although I stand to be corrected. Now, Scotland and the Highlanders were VERY fashionable in the nineteenth century. This was partly down to the enormous popularity of the works of Walter Scott and also partly down to royal patronage of all things Scottish. The lyrics have more than a whiff of the whimsy of those times. To me, they don't look mid 18th century.

So, if you can't ever find the 'right' lyrics ( because there never were any), just enjoy it and make it your own. That is what everyone else has done...

There is a degree of truth to what you're saying, and I do intend to enjoy singing it and I will make it my own. But I don't want to sound like a Texan mangling the pronunciation of lyrics in Scots.

To me, a great deal of what communicates the feel of the song is words. And the charm of this folk song to this foreigner's ear is the Scottish terminology. Oh, I could translate words like tak' and a'fore and pronounce them like I would in English, or translate lines like

An' the moon comin' out in the gloamin'

or

Tho' the waefu' may cease frae their greetin'

and also sing them in English.

But I'm not interested in doing that. In performance I want to capture that Scottish charm and convey it as best I can. So I intend to try. Hopefully, I won't come off sounding like "Ernest Tubb Sings Songs of the Scotch."

And one thing more about making it my own, I almost never play/sing anything strictly according to Hoyle, mainly because I can't. As I said before, I can't read music. For more than five decades, the primary way I've learned songs is noodling around on guitar and suddenly saying to myself, "Hey! That sounds like the melody of xyz."

And so I work out my own arrangement according to chord progressions that work for the song and my vocal range, and add it to my performance repertoire. Only later when I try to jam with others on the song in question do I realize that I worked out an arrangement that works for me, but for nobody else.

I've long thought that I need a tee shirt that on the front reads

"Does not play well with others"

and on the back a quote of the title of Jesse Gress' column in Guitar Player magazine:

"You're Playing It Wrong."
 

Kandinskyesque

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An' the moon comin' out in the gloamin'
And the moon coming out in the "gloamin"

The gloaming is that part of the day before twilight/dusk just as the sun has sunk below the horizon, when it's not quite dusk yet but it's not daylight either.
Tho' the waefu' may cease frae their greetin'
Thought the waeful (woeful) may cease frea(from) their greetin'(crying/mourning).

I know what you mean in keeping to what gets conveyed in the original dialect.

I suppose similarly if I were singing an American song and replaced words like sidewalk with footpath/pavement or patrolman with constable it wouldn't quite work.
 

MyLittleEye

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Around Mull is an excellent recommendation.
I'm itching for a return to Iona, it's been 5 years since I was last there.

My brother and I had a boat trip to Fingal's Cave in 2010 as part of my brother in law's stag weekend; spent entirely on a boat full of doctors and dentists (I felt a bit out my depth in that company until the whisky came out).
Listening to one of the guys playing the pipes in Fingal's Cave is up there with one of my life's greatest experiences.
It's been five years for me too! - Last time I visited I met and got chatting to Amythyst Kiah on the ferry across, who put me on to a wee concert she was playing at in Bunessan village hall. She shared the stage with Hamish Hawk and there were about 20 people in the audience.
They've been doing alright since that humble village hall gig. I'm hearing Hamish on Radio 2 and Amythyst has gone on to perform with Moby and also earn a well deserved Grammy nomination!

It seems Mull these days has pretty good music scene if you have your ear to the ground. I believe the Glenforsa Hotel and airfield is run by an Ex-Pink Floyd Roadie
 
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MyLittleEye

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My brother and I had a boat trip to Fingal's Cave in 2010 as part of my brother in law's stag weekend; spent entirely on a boat full of doctors and dentists (I felt a bit out my depth in that company until the whisky came out).
Listening to one of the guys playing the pipes in Fingal's Cave is up there with one of my life's greatest experiences.

Playing my tinwhistle there was one of mine!

There's a weird audio-illusion we experienced in Fingals Cave and also playing by the waterfall at St Nectan's Glen in Cornwall. Something about the white noise of the rushing water led my companions to think they could still hear music even after I had stopped playing.
 




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