Wae’s Me For Prince Charlie

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Written by Will Glen of Glasgow (1789-1826), ‘Wae’s Me For Prince Charlie’ is another scotch lamentation for the ousted Jacobite ‘Pretender’, Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart). After failing to restore his family to the throne of Great Britain, his romantic rout through Scotland, the Isle of Skye and eventually back to France, all the while helped by those loyal to his cause, has been the focus of much Scottish ballad writing. Bonnie Prince Charlie remains one of the most romantic figures in Scottish and European history, and many still love after his name.

Ewan MacColl writes of the tune that ‘In spite of the harsh repressive measures which followed the collapse of the Forty-Five rebellion, Scots ballad makers continued to extol the virtues of Prince Charles for almost another hundred years’ 

The song is said to be set to the tune of Bonnie House o’ Airey, Johnnie Faa or Gypsy Davy

.

A wee bird cam’ tae oor ha’ door, he warbled sweet and early
And aye the o’ercam’ o’ his lilt was, Wae’s me for Prince Chairlie
And when I heard the bonnie, bonnie bird the tears cam’ droppin’ rarely
I took my bonnet aff my heid, for well I loved Prince Chairlie

Said I, My bird, my bonnie bonnie bird, is that some tale ye borrowed
Or is’t some words you’ve learnt by rote, or a lilt o’ dule and sorrow
Oh no no no, the wee bird sang, I’ve flown since morning early
Through sic a day o’ wind and rain, oh wae’s me for Prince Chairlie

On hills that are by right his ain he roams, a lonely stranger
On ilka hand he’s pressed by want, on ilka side by danger
Yestreen I met him in a glen, my heart near bursted fairly
For sadly changed indeed was he, oh wae’s me for Prince Chairlie

Dark night cam on, the tempest howled oot o’ the hills and valleys
And where was’t that your prince lay doon whose hame should be in a palace
He’s ro’ed him in a Heilan’ plaid which covered him but sparely
And slept beneath a bush of broom, oh wae’s me for Prince Chairlie

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