November 03, 2009

Robbo Is Currently Listening To....

"Hey, Johnnie Cope, Are Ye Wakin' Yet?" is a traditional Scots tune that tells the tale of the Battle of Prestonpans during the '45, in which the Jacobites fell on an inexperienced Hanovarian army at dawn and, as they would say, "tore at 'em".

I was rereading a very funny story by George MacDonald Fraser last evening about his torture as a young officer in a Highland regiment in '46 who had to endure a full-scale pipe and drum corp rendition of the tune for reveille immediately outside his window every Friday morning. (Of course, because Fraser loved the army, once the practice had been stopped by the regiment's Colonel under hy-larious circumstances, he missed it.)

I tried to find a pipe and drum rendition of the tune to get a sense of the unholy noise they must produce, but had to settle for the folk version.

UPDATE: I happen to have the book still to hand. Says Fraser:

Now, "Johnnie Cope" is one of the most magnificent sounds ever to issue from musical instruments. It is the Highlanders' war clarion, the tune that is played before battle, the wild music that is supposed to quicken the blood of the mountain man and freeze the foe in his tracks. It commemorates the day two and a half centuries ago when the broadswords came whirling out of the mist at Prestonpans to fall on Major-General John Cope's redcoats and cut them to ribbons in something under five minutes. I once watched the Seaforths go in behind it against a Japanese-held village, and saw for the first time that phenomenon which you can't really appreciate until you have seen it - the unbelievable speed with which Highland troops can accelerate a slow, almost leisurely advance into an all-out charge....Well played, it is a savage, wonderful sound, unlike any other pipe march - this, probably, because it doesn't truly belong to the Army, but to the fighting tails of the old clansmen before the government had the sense to get them into uniforms.

Scots Wha Hae!

Posted by Robert at November 3, 2009 09:12 AM | TrackBack
Post a comment

Remember personal info?