The Battle of Harlaw
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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John Renfro Davis

This ballad is Child Ballad #163.

In The complaint of Scotland (1549) "The Battel of Hayrlau" is noted as being a popular song. Child notes, however, that the original ballad has been lost and the most widely known poem of the battle was printed by Ramsay in 1724. The tune is in Wm. Mure of Rowallan's Lute Manuscript (c 1612-28).

The Battle of Harlaw took place on July 24, 1411. To establish his claim to the Earldom of Ross, Donald of the Isles invaded the south with ten thousand islanders. At Harlaw, eighteen miles northwest of Aberdeen he was met by an army led by Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar and Alexander Ogilby, sheriff of Angus. Donald lost more than 900 men and the Lowlanders lost five hundred, "including nearly all the gentry of Buchan."*

Dunidier is a hill on the old road to Aberdeen and Netherha is less than two miles from that. Drumminor was more than twenty miles away.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.

Frae Dunideir as I earn through,
Doun by the hill of Banochie,
Alangst the lands of Garioch-
Great pity 'twas to hear and see,
The noise and dulesome harmonie,
That e'er that dreary day did daw.
Crying the coronach sae hie,
"Alas! alas! for the Harlaw!"

I marvelt what the matter meant.
All folks were in a feiry-fary;
I wist not wha was fae or friend,
Yet quietly I did me carry:
But sin' the days of auld King Harry
Sic slauchter was not heard or seen;
And there I had nae time to tarry,
For bissiness in Aberdeen.

Thus as I walkit on the way,
To Inverury as I went,
I met a man, and bade him stay,
Requesting him to mak me 'quaint
Of the beginning and the event,
That happen'd there at the Harlaw;
Then he entreated me, tak tent,
And he the truth sould to me shaw.

"Great Donald of the Isles, did claim
Unto the lands of Ross some richt;
And to the Governor he cam,
Them for to have, if that he micht;
Wha saw his interest was but slicht,
And therefore answer'd with disdain;
He hastit hame baith day and nicht,
And sent nae bodword back again.

But Donald, richt impatient
Of that answer Duke Robert* gave,
He vow'd to God omnipotent,
All the hale lands of Ross to have,
Or else be graith├Ęd in his grave:
He would not quat his richt for nocht,
Nor be abusit like a slave-
That bargain sould be dearly bocht."

*Duke of Albany
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From Genuine Scottish Melodies and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
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