On wi' the Tartan
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ON WI' THE TARTAN. Scottish, Air (6/8 time). B Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. A song with music by Robert Archibald (R.A.) Smith, published in his Scottish Minstrel, vol. 4 (1824, p. 68). The pastoral love-song lyric by Hew (Hugh) Ainslie (also printed in Allan Cunningham's The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern, 1825) begins:
Can ye lo'e, my dear lassie, the hills wild and free,
Where the song of the shepherd gars a' ring wi' glee?
Or the steep rocky glens, where the wild falcons bide?
Then on wi' the tartan, an' fy let us ride!
Ayrshire-born poet Ainslie (1792-1878) died in Louisville, Kentucky.
At the second relief of the Residency in Lucknow, India, in 1857 the seven pipers of the 93rd Highlanders led by Pipe Major John McLeod struck up the "Haughs of Cromdale (The)," which oft-repeated accounts say was also known as "On wi' the Tartan", but the are different tunes. When complimented on their piping by Sir Colin Campbell, McLeod replied "I thought the boys would fight better with the national music to cheer them..." A more martial set of words called "On wi' the Tartan" were written later in the 19th century, beginning:
Ay! on wi' the tartan, the black plumes are wavin',
Nae longer oor flags noo in peace may be furled;
The war-cloud has fallen, oor foemen are ravin',
An' foremost against them the tartan is hurled.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 3); No. 247, p. 28.
See also listing at:
Hear a version played on the harmonica on youtube.com