Scotland is a country rich in heritage, tradition, and music. From the thrilling bagpipes to the haunting folk songs, I’ve heard a fair amount of melodies that really stick with you. I’ve even done some musical research for my newest book. So here is some history behind song of the songs we’ve read about in the Outlander books as well as some others you might not be as familiar with!
This song you’ll probably recognize from the Outlander book. It’s about a beautiful woman named Maggie who meets a bagpiper named Rob who claims to be the best piper in the land. Francis Sempill wrote it sometime in the 1600s and it’s been covered numerous times since.
Flowers of the Forest
This haunting tune has survived the test of time. It was first noted in history in the early 1600s as a lament of women and children who lost their men in the Scottish war against the English in 1513. It’s been used since by many countries as a funeral song with traditional bagpipes. It’s even been played at the funerals of military personnel and even Queen Victoria.
Ailain Duinn (Dark-Haired Alan)
This late 1700s song is best listened to in traditional Gaelic and even if you aren’t familiar with the language, you can feel the sorrow in the woman’s voice. This one is about a young woman who’s captain lover drowned at sea. She waits for him, but eventually knows he won’t be coming home and throws herself into the ocean.
The Parting Glass
This song, while in more modern times being sing by many Irish artists, is a traditional Scottish one. It was sung before the Auld Lang Syne we often hear around New Years and it’s not clear exactly how old it is. As the title hints, it’s a parting song about leaving your friends behind after a glass of something strong. I know the UCD Choral Scholars is an Irish group, but they sing it so beautifully!
Smile in your Sleep
This song is particularly sad, being written after the great Highland Clearences that decimated much of the traditional way of life in much of Scotland. Sung like a lullaby, it has much darker underlays of being ousted from your home.
Chì mi na Mòrbheanna
This song is one of my personal favorites. It was written by a highlander who had the chance to return to his native lands. It’s about the mountains, language, and people he loved. It was also played at John F. Kennedy’s funeral although it’s most commonly sung as a lullaby.
The Skye Boat Song
I doubt there’s anything about this song you guys don’t know, so here’s a Sam Heughan introduction to the music we all love.
Ba Mo Leanabh
The history of Clan Gregor, particularly the MacGregors, is very near and dear to me, as is this song. It was written after the execution of the Clan Chief MacGregor of Glenstrae in 1570. It’s said that his widow composed and sang this lullaby for their child. If you want to read a bit more about the MacGregors, click HERE.
I hope you guys enjoyed this mini musical lesson and end up listening to hours of Scottish music like I do all the time! Read all of our fun Outlander articles and quizzes HERE to keep you going during droughtlander.
I have a new book out on preorder today, The Amethyst Bride, which is book two of The Scottish Stone Series. It really gets into Scottish history, the loss of the Clan MacGregor culture, and traditional music. You can read all about it HERE or just jump right into Amazon HERE! As always, Queen of Emeralds, the first in the series, is available HERE for your droughtlander enjoyment!