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It is said that all good things must come to an end and that applies even to Burns Suppers! This week concludes a collection of items which you can use at your next Burns Supper but remember other Burns’ items are available in both ‘Sing a Sang at Least’ and ‘Complete Poems’. The lines Burns wrote in farewell to his friend John Kennedy can well be recited by the chairman in concluding the evening and no event should close without Scotland’s National Anthem being sung.

Robert Burns wrote ‘Farewell Lines to John Kennedy’ shortly after the publication of the Kilmarnock Edition in 1786. At the time the poet was still planning to go to the Indies and in a note promised to visit his friend before his departure. He wrote the song which he intended as Scotland’s National Anthem in September 1793 – popularly known as ‘Scots Wha Hae’ the Bard’s title was ‘Bruce’s Address at Bannockburn’. As a serving Customs Officer, a gauger, Robert Burns had to show political tact in his writings and he used the words of Scotland’s greatest warrior king, Robert I. to illustrate his attitude to political and radical struggles in his own time. The song was taken up by the Radical Cause and a band was even arrested by the authorities for playing ‘Scots Wha Hae’. Perhaps in the 21st century Scots will finally find the smeddum to sing this magnificent National Anthem in a Free and Independent Scotland.


Farewell, dear friend! May guid luck hit you,
And ‘mang her favourites admit you!
If e’er Detraction shone to smit you,
   May nane believe him,
And ony Deil that thinks to get you,
   Good Lord deceive him.


"Scots Wha Hae"
Sung by Gaberlunzie

Scots! wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots! wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!
Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour:
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and slavery!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

What for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw?
Freeman stand, or freeman fa'?
Let him on wi' me!

By oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow! -
Let us do or die!

So may God ever defend the cause of truth and liberty, as He did that day! Amen.

Footnote : No song is more appropriate for the week containing St Andrew's Day, 30 November, than the Scottish National Anthem. At Primary School in Aberdeenshire I was taught two National Anthems, the Scottish and French, which given the following comment by the late Dr David Murison was very appropriate :-

    'Scots wha hae', which was written about the same time, has the same background in the ferment of the French Revolution and one can hear echoes of 'La Marseillaise' in it. Here Burns is striking the attitude of the patriot, and doubtless it was intended as a kind of national anthem of a nation that may even yet find the moral courage to sing it.

                    from 'The Language of Burns'; contributed to 'Critical Essays on Robert Burns' - edited by Donald A Low (1975)

                                                                                              Return to A Burns Collection 


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