Freedom Come Aa Ye

Words: Hamish Henderson / Music: trad
Lyric as sung by Dick Gaughan

Roch the win i the clear day's dawin
Blaws the clouds heilster-gowdie owre the bay
But thair's mair nor a roch win blawin
Thro the Great Glen o the warl the day
It's a thocht that wad gar our rottans
Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay
Tak the road an seek ither loanins
Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play

Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war whan our braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan
Murn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw
Broken faimilies in launs we've hairriet
Will curse 'Scotlan the Brave' nae mair, nae mair
Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare

Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom
Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom
In yer hous aa the bairns o Aidam
Will fin breid, barley-bree an paintit room
Whan MacLean meets wi's friens in Springburn
Aa thae roses an geeans will turn tae blume
An a black laud frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun.


Song Notes

Written to the pipes tune The Bloody Fields of Flanders

This song is so rich in imagery and symbolism that it is impossible to give an adequate understanding of it without writing a major treatise. Basically, the main theme is anti-imperialism coupled with the recognition of the part that Scots have played in the conquest and subjugation of other peoples within the British Empire and the anticipation of the day when all peoples are truly free and can meet in peace and friendship.

The confident "more than a rough wind" in the first verse has two references -- the first to Harold MacMillan's remarkable "Winds of Change" speech about Africa in the early 1960s, and the second as a riposte to the "all the answers are blowing in the wind" pessimism of the "protest song" purveyors.

The title is a nod towards the genre of songs known as "Come all ye's", the kind of song which begins with a call to listen -- "Come all ye (sons of liberty/ good people/ tramps and hawkers etc) and listen to my song"

A quick word to anyone wanting to sing this. There are two fatal mistakes non-Scots often make in singing Scots songs. The first is to try to fake a Scots accent and the second is to try to rewrite the words in English. Neither is necessary. The second is aesthetically disastrous. The first is impossible - there is no such thing as "a Scots accent", any more than there is such a thing as "an English accent"; there are several hundred "Scots accents" and trying to imitate what you might imagine to be a generic one is going to end up with you sounding like Scotty from Star Trek, guaranteed to have any Scot who hears you wetting their legs laughing.

Just sing the Scots words in your own accent. Two of the very best performances of this song I have ever heard were by non-Scots, the first by Luke Kelly who sang it in his broad Dublin accent, and the second by Pete Seeger who sang it with his own accent, quite identifiably from North America. Both were totally convincing - because they made no attempt to pretend to being Scots and they had both made the effort to understand the nuances of the meanings of the words.

It is this understanding which is the decisive factor in singing a song of this magnitude, so to help you achieve this, here is a loose translation. It is a pretty crude attempt at making it a wee bit more accessible to non-Scots and is not so much a literal translation as a descriptive interpretation.

For a more precise glossary and assistance with pronunciation etc see the General Guide to Scots

Interpretation in English

Roch the win i the clear day's dawin
Blaws the clouds heilster-gowdie owre the bay
But thair's mair nor a roch win blawin
Thro the Great Glen o the warl the day

It's a rough wind in the clear day's dawning
Blows the clouds head-over-heels across the bay
But there's more than a rough wind blowing
Through the Great Glen of the world today

the Great Glen is the rift valley which runs diagonally across Scotland, roughly separating Highland and Lowland Scotland, and is used here as a symbol of division, inequality, racism, exploitation and prejudice

It's a thocht that wad gar our rottans

It's a thought that would make our rodents,

in this context "rottans" can also be interpreted as "vermin"; it is a reference to opportunists, exploiters

Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay
Tak the road an seek ither loanins
Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play

All those rogues who strut and swagger,
Take the road and seek other pastures
To carry out their wicked schemes

Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war whan our braggarts crousely craw

No more will our fine young men
March to war at the behest of jingoists and imperialists

"crousely craw" has echoes of the carrion crow, the scavenger; these two lines are refering to the number of young Scots who joined the British Army out of dire economic necessity and were sent to colonised nations to do unto them what had previously been done unto us

Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan
Murn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw

Nor will young children from mining communities and rural hamlets
Mourn the ships sailing off down the River Clyde

this reference to "ships sailing" carries a double image, that of the emigrant ships and also of warships. The images of mining and rural communities are used to bring together industrial and rural Scotland as one.

Broken faimilies in launs we've hairriet
Will curse "Scotlan the Brave" nae mair, nae mair

Broken families in lands we've helped to oppress
will never again have reason to curse the sound of advancing Scots

here "Scotland the Brave" refers to the sound of bagpipes announcing the arrival of Scots troops, a sound which came to be feared throughout the British Empire

Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare

Black and white, united in friendship and marriage,
Will result in the military garrisons being adandoned and empty

i.e., will bring an end to Imperialism.

Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom

So come all you who love freedom

"at hame wi", literally "at home with" can have several meanings in this context - who live with, who love, who already have

Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom

Pay no attention to the prophets of doom

the "houdie" is another reference to the carrion crow

In yer hous aa the bairns o Aidam
Will fin breid, barley-bree an paintit room

In your house all the children of Adam
Will be welcomed with food, drink and hospitality

the unwritten laws of hospitality are historically sacred to the Scots

Whan MacLean meets wi's friens in Springburn

When the spirit of John MacLean returns to his people

John MacLean, Glasgow schoolteacher and anti-imperialist

Aa thae roses an geeans will turn tae blume
An a black laud frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun.

All the flowers will blossom
And black Africa will bring crashing down
All Imperialism's dreadful apparatus of oppression

"dings doun", literally "tears down"


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