The Rising in 1745 by Scots' Highlanders met with a worse than expected fate after their defeat at Culloden by the British Redcoats. They were required by the Act of 1747 to not only turn in their weapons, but were also banned from wearing their traditional tartan plaid. Non-compliance would be considered a crime, and the Proscription required the vanquished mountaineers to pledge an oath to this humiliation.
The Hero - Songwriter
One stubborn warrier, Alexander MacDonald continued to wear his "proud plaid" and the invaders rewarded his efforts by burning to ashes his and pregnant wife's little thatched cottage. Now on the run, across Ben (Alpine summits) to cladaich (rocky land) he had to use his plaid as a blanket while they slept out in the open. Even on the lam he composed this song, which was the best of the protest hymns shared by not just Gaels, but Jacobites and Hanoverian as well.
The Proud Plaid
The wearing of the cloth with the sett (tartan or plaid)-- the essential symbol of the home, clan, and community was simple: when finished as a blanket, while laying on the turf it was folded over the belt, and when girded and buckled it hung out as the kilt, and the rest of the length was slung over the shoulder and fastened by a ring-brooch.
The women, who wore their version, the arisaid, were responsible as wife and mother to dye the web, spin and weave; and have it 'waulked' (fulled - shrink and thicken wool by moistening by family and friends all singing tunes, including this one. The weaver blesses the garment before giving it to it's happy owner.
= barren hilltop
= town location of the church
) = Hey, Fie (shocked disgust), the Black Cloth!
THE PROUD PLAID:
"FIE THE BLACK CLOTH!"
strict waulking beat
Hey'n clo-du', Ho'n clo-du',
Hey'n clo-du', wear the tartan!
Hey'n clo-du', Ho'n clo-du,
Hey'n clo-du', praise the tartan!
I'd rather wear the proud plaid,
around me and o'er my shoulder,
Than a Sass'nach great-coat tho'
tailored of finest coating.
Trim's the pleated plaiding,
The fairest garb of all for heroes;
Far we'd range the hoar hill,
'mong cold, springs and grand on green, thou!
Splendid thou for hunting
when sun rose on craig and crechan!
Light, wi' thee, at morning
on Lord's Day I'd go t' the Clachan.
Tho' wrapped in thee, so close,
like a roe deer, I'd spring, uncumbered,
Readier for my en'my
than a Redcoat, wi' 's clattering
Going ó'er the hills to a wedding gay,
thy edge ne'er would brush a dew-drop;
Seeing thee borne with pride there,
the bride loved thee, worn by'r true love.
Thou'rt góod by day or night time,
and fine thou from Ben to Cladach,
Good in peace, or 'n warfare --
no king he, but coward, who banned thee.
Tho' our héarts you're cruelly tearing
and making us bare and starving,
Ne'er, till we be strangled,
shall Saxon arrest our Charlie.
So, when she's in child-birth,
a wife's swept by waves of suffering,
Yet, instead of hatred,
her flame burns f'r her man, redoubled ...
Our fáthers' blood is ours now,
be't ours to be bold as they were:
They bade us be royal,
and loyalty's our creed and prayer ...
Source: The Songs of Craig and Ben; Vol. I, Arthur Geddes; Serif Books: Edinburgh (1951)