Posts Tagged ‘Jacobite Rebellion’

My Latest Compulsion

Posted in General on December 18th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – 10 Comments

Ewan portrait for linkedIn and Scotland articleSo what are my symptoms?  I am eating oatmeal, trying to ferment peat, imagining myself in a tartan and thinking of dyeing my leg hair red.  Yes, I definitely have Scotsophrenia.  But the most obvious and obnoxious manifestation is my singing.  While I do have a good voice, how many times would you want to hear me sing “Wha Wadna Fecht for Charlie?”  Please stand in line with your restraining orders.

But there is a method to my monotony.  In the 18th century, songs served as news, editorials and opinion polls.  Yes, even my singing is pedantic.  My Highland medley is a musical history of the Jacobite Rebellion–from its early, exuberant triumphs to its mouldering, embarrassing nostalgia.

In 1745, Prince Charles Stuart landed in Scotland to reclaim the British throne for his ousted dynasty.  “Wha Wadna Fecht for Charlie” reflects the Highlanders’ enthusiasm for the Young Pretender.


Wha wadna’ fecht for Charlie?
Wha wadna’ draw the sword?
Wha wad nae up an’ rally
At the royal Prince’s word?

Ironically, the Bonnie Prince could not have mastered the lyrics himself.  With his French accent, his version would have been “Oo oodno feet fo Charlee.  However, his opponent George II was just as unintelligible, having a German accent.  The War was not a contest of grammar.   But the rival songs of the rebellion would indicate the war’s outcome.  The English were marching to “The British Grenadiers”, a good tune in itself and an indication of an ample supply of gun powder.  The Scots were massacred and the Bonnie Prince wandered the Highlands disguised as a woman before finally escaping to France.

So the next song in my Highland medley is a dirge.  The English were not gracious winners.  Their hangmen were fully employed;  as for the resulting widows and orphans, they found themselves indentured servants in North America.  The Crown attempted to eradicate the Highland culture.  Bagpipes were outlawed, and even the spelling of “Wha Wadna Fecht” would have gotten you six months in prison.  However, the Scots did not blame the Prince who had led them to disaster; on the contrary, they were hoping for his return.

Will ye no come back again?

Luckily for the Scots, their incompetent Prince preferred to drink himself to death.  He left no legitimate children and his only sibling was a Catholic cardinal.  So there would be no Stuart heirs for the Jacobite cause.  The Bonnie Prince died in 1788, but a Jacobite resistance continued–even if it amounted only to pointless mayhem.  In 1792, an exasperated Robert Burns told his fellow Scots to grow up and get over it.

Ye Jacobites by name, give an ear, give an ear;
Ye Jacobites by name, give an ear;
Ye Jacobites by name,
Your fautes I will proclaim,
Your doctrines I maun blame–
You shall hear.

Was Burns a traitor to Scotland?  No, he was an exhausted realist, pleading an end to the futility.  His song fittingly ends this history and my Jacobite Bandstand.

My Scotsophrenia, however, continues.  I tried convincing my Hebrew adult education class that Maccabee was a Scottish name.