Tune of the Day: The Garb of Old Gaul
This 18th-century patriotic Scottish march and song is about Highland soldiers during the Seven Years War (1756–1763). The music was written by General John Reid, who was a senior officer of the 42nd Regiment of Foot, and who later founded the chair of music at the University of Edinburgh. Robert Burns described the piece as “This excellent loyal Scottish song” and states that it first appeared in print in 1769. Today, the melody still serves as the slow march of all Scottish battalions in the British army.
According to David Murray (Music of the Scottish Regiments, 1994), “Cases have been known, where some soldiers have believed that ‘Old Gaul’ was some ancient regimental hero immortalised in music, but the mundane fact is that Gaul was a province of the Roman Empire corresponding to Eastern France and Western Germany. Its natives were reported to have worn a mantle or cloak belted round the body in the style of the ‘Feile Mor’, the belted (Highland) plaid of yore. Hence the kilt is the ‘Garb of Old Gaul,’ and hence too, the words of the opening verse”:
In the garb of old Gaul with the fire of old Rome,
From the heath-covered mountains of Scotia we come;
When the Romans endeavoured our country to gain,
Our ancestors fought, and they fought not in vain.