with Carl Peterson
By Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta,
The title of your new book is NOW’S THE DAY, NOW’S THE HOUR.
Why did you choose that title, what is its origin, and who wrote
The words were part of Robert Burns’ poem "Scots Wha Ha'e" which was
put to a tune that at that time was known as Hey Tuttie Taitie, a
Jacobite song from the early 1700s. In Scottish tradition, it is
believed to be the tune that was played by Robert the Bruce's
musicians the night before the start of the Battle of Bannockburn,
which was fought over two days, June 23rd and 24th, 1314. Sam
Houston was of Scottish ancestry and, as it turns out, was an avid
reader of Robert Burns and quoted a lot of Burns' poetry to his son,
Sam Jr., throughout his life. When Sam Houston was Commander in
Chief of the forces for the district of Nacodoches in October of
1835, he wrote out an appeal for volunteers with the heading:
To Arms!!! To Arms!!!
Now's The Day, & And Now's The Hour.
must have been tremendously popular at that time for no less than 13
songs were written to that tune during the course of the Texas
You refer to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Lord Byron
throughout your book and quite often. Could you give an example of
each of these writers as to their influence on the men at the Alamo?
Well, not only was "Scots Wha Ha'e" a popular song by Burns at that
time, but other songs by Burns and Sir Walter Scott were being sung
and listened to and used to write Texas songs about the Alamo and
the Texas revolution. Also Scott's Waverley novels had a great deal
of influence, especially on the southern States. It has often been
said that the chivalry and romance of the southern folk come from
the Waverley novels. William Barrett Travis had in his possession
several of Scott's novels, including Ivanhoe,
Waverley and The Black Dwarf, and once again
many historians believe that Travis may have emulated Scott's
fictional heroes. I try to illustrate this connection by comparing
battle scenes in the Waverley and battle scenes from
the Alamo that are hauntingly similar. I truly believe that Travis
saw himself as at least one of Scott's swashbuckling heroes. These
songbooks and novels, by the way, were published in the USA in New
York and Philadelphia mostly, which once again might be indicative
of the influence of the Scottish immigrant's success over here. Lord
Byron's works were read a great deal, but as to his influence in a
revolutionary spirit, he was not as strong as Burns or Scott.
Most people naturally think of Byron as an Englishman, and rightly
so, but did “Scotch” (your word, and I like it) blood run through
Byron may be regarded as an Englishman, but he classifies himself as
being born half a Scot and bred a whole one. His mother was a Scot,
born in Aberdeen, and Byron spent his early years in Aberdeen up
until the age of eight.
In a few sentences, what is the primary reason for your book?
When I found out just how Scottish the period music was in the South
and in Texas, I realised that this was more or less a continuation
of the Scottish way of life in the States. It wasn't enough for me
to be told that these people were of Scottish ancestry, but at that
time they were Scottish in just about everything but being born
Did Travis really draw a line in the sand and ask his men to cross
over, knowing it meant certain death?
The answer to that question will never really be known for certain,
but having read as much as I could about it, I am of the opinion
that he did. It is a hotly contested debate, and I know most Alamo
historians think not, but I can't agree. I do believe that had they
surrendered they would have been executed anyway, as they were in
Goliad days later. There are many similar questions concerning the
Alamo such as did Crockett die fighting or did he surrender, did he
wear a coon skin cap, was there really a bagpipe playing Scot and a
fiddle playing partner, what flags were flying over the Alamo and so
on, that we will probably never know the truth about. I think that
this is an aspect that makes the story of the Alamo so intriguing.
What is the tie-in with your CD, Scotland Remembers the Alamo,
and your book, Now’s the Day, Now’s the Hour?
When I had finished researching and recording the material (which
took me about 15 years off and on), I found myself having to explain
the songs and the entire concept of the title Scotland
Remembers the Alamo, so I decided to do a
companion music book which turned into a history/music book. Once
again, it was to show just how Scottish the people still were at
that time and why, but I couldn't help straying into other aspects
of the Alamo story that maybe were not so Scottish (like the line in
the sand). Once one has read about the controversies surrounding the
story, I think you feel compelled to add your two bits worth.
Your CD has two tartans on its cover and six men across the top.
Which tartans are they, why were they chosen, and who are the men?
The two tartans are the Macgregor and the Texas Blue Bonnet, so
named for a Texas flower. I chose the MacGregor for piper John
Macgregor, of course, but there are alleged ties to James Bowie
being a member of Clan Gregor also. The faces on the CD cover are
Bowie, Travis, Crockett, Houston, Scott and Burns. The spirit of the
latter two were present in Texas.
What part did music play at the Alamo, and what were a few of the
There was music from within and without. The Mexican camp had its
own musicians playing for Santa Anna's amusement. In fact I read
somewhere that Santa Anna had up to 1200 musicians in his army and
no real medical staff. The music inside the Alamo, according to
Susanna Dickinson, consisted of a fiddler, whom she says was
Crockett, which I personally doubt. I think it was Micajah Autry.
She is also the one responsible for the story of piper John
MacGregor joining the fiddler in duels of music and noise. Susanna
identifies only one tune that she names as The Flowers of
Edinburgh. The Mexican music would have been a mix of
military and social music, while I think most of what would have
been played by our Alamo musicians would have been social. There
were no real soldiers in the Texas army, what one might call a
citizens' army. Evidence points to Scottish music being prevalent in
the South and Texas at that time. Music, though, is a major presence
in peace and war. Robert the Bruce had his at Bannockburn.
What was your favorite song at the Alamo and on your CD?
Of my favorites, I'd have to say, I like the song The Flower
of Edinburgh. We know it today and even back
then as a country-dance tune, and I was excited to find the song
version from the 1700s, something that had slipped through the
cracks of time. The same for The Dashing White
Sergeant. If you listen close enough you hear Dixie
in that song. It's well known that a lot of the songs from the old
country were either used to write new American songs or were
plagiarised by writers to write "new" songs. The Anacreonic
Song and its two Texas versions are other favorites. The
tune, of course, was used to write The Star Spangled Banner.
I also love Will you Come To the Bower.
Were there any Gallic speakers at the Alamo?
Not that I'm aware of and there is no mention by Alamo historians of
any. However, one Alamo historian collected a series of stories in
the oral tradition taken from relatives and descendants of the Alamo
defenders, and he mentions John MacGregor as being hard to
understand. This may have been because he had a very thick Scottish
brogue or broke out into speaking Gallic every so often. With a
Highland name like MacGregor and him being a piper, it seems natural
to assume he could have been a Gallic-speaking Highlander. The
Highland Clearances were taking place in Scotland during that time.
I also feel that Alamo historians in general, without knowing
Scottish history, miss a lot of those subtle connections.
Who is your favorite Scottish author and why?
I would have to say Sir Walter Scott because of the range he had.
Not only a novelist and poet, but like Burns, a collector and writer
of songs. If he were alive today, he would be the most sought after
Hollywood writer ever with so much of every human emotion in his
stories. He also did a great deal to preserve Scotland's history not
only in his novels but also in such things as his Tales Of A
Grandfather. But goodness knows Scotland had so many great
writers, and in America today and around the world, we delight still
in Peter Pan, Sherlock Holmes, Kidnapped,
Treasure Island and so on.
Is there a final word from you about the book, the CD, or the men at
the Alamo that you would like to leave with our 70,000+ Family
Just that I hope you understand that as far as I can see, Scots born
in Scotland or Scots born in America were not that far removed from
their homeland, their culture, music, history, ideals and that's
what the men at the Alamo were all about. Land and freedom that had
been denied them in Scotland was what they were so fighting for at
the Alamo. (4-29-04)