Tune of the Day: Blue Bonnets Over the Border
This Highland pipes march in four parts was transcribed as far back as 1869 in a collection of pipe tunes made by a Mr Ross. “Blue bonnets” was slang for Scotsmen, and we thought they were so named because of the blue hats worn by the men of the 1745 Jacobite uprising. One of our readers (Gavin), however, sent us the following:
Actually, it is not a Jacobite song. Rather, it is a traditional song referring to the inter-border “reiving” (basically bandit wars) between England and Scotland that took place in the centuries well before the '45. As Protestant Lowland Scots, the men of the Borders actually took up arms against the mainly Highland Catholic Jacobites (the Jacobite wars being civil wars, not a war between England and Scotland). This explains why “Blue Bonnets” is the regimental march of “The King's Own Scottish Borderers”, a Lowland Scots regiment that fought against the Jacobites. The blue bonnet was the traditional headdress of the border folk.
Sir Walter Scott wrote a song about blue bonnets going over the Border, and included a version of it in his 1820 novel The Monastery.
The tune appears in the 1968 song “Sky Pilot” by Eric Burdon & The Animals. This was in fact a recording of the pipers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, captured by Burdon while performing at a school. It is said that he later received an angry letter from the UK government (or possibly the Crown) over his use of the recording in the song!