Songs I Love: Billy Bragg – Both Sides the Tweed

This is Billy Bragg’s version of a song first recorded by Dick Gaughan back in 1979 after the defeat of the first Scottish Devolution Referendum. The original song was written or collected by James Hogg (aka The Ettrick Shepherd) and published in The Jacobite Relics of Scotland as Song LXXV (page 126).  It appears to date back to or possibly recall the 1707 Treaty of Union between Scotland and England.

What Dick Gaughan has done is alter the lyrics to give them a more contemporary Scottish Republican feel and put his own tune to the song. However even if he is singing the “original” 1 tune to a song it often feels as if he has put his own tune to it so that is not really a surprise. His lyrics and interpretation of what the song is about can be found here.

The song can be sung as a lament/rant against those who, as was felt then, sold Scotland’s freedom to clear their debts from the Darien Scheme. But it is also be a plea for tolerance and understanding between peoples

Let friendship and honour unite And flourish on both sides the Tweed.

There is a lot of history and emotion in this song. And although I think that Billy Bragg and Dick Gaughan were on the wrong side of the Referendum debate they are both on the correct side when it comes to the debate about humanity.

This is a version by Dick Gaughan from 1989; The fiddler is Aly Bain, the Keyboard player is Phil Cunningham

1. Most traditional folk songs don’t really have an *original* tune as the tune has  usually been lost or become so altered by passing the song from one singer to another that the original composer, if there was one, would not recognise their song. Many  traditional songs are composites of other songs, to a certain extent like Both Sides the Tweed. Some songs, however do have an accepted tune that they are normally sung to.


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