Skip main navigation

Story-telling in song

The Brothers Gillespie have composed music inspired by the discovery of the Scottish soldiers.
8
The year of 1649
13.8
Parliament declares the king must die Now poor women and men Will suffer once again
28.6
The traumas of a strange and troubled time
34.2
The covenant of Scotland did declare
41.2
That the people always should beware When kings and bishops and the like Claim to have the right
54.6
To stand between the spirit and the earth
60.5
A wealthy man named Cromwell boldly claims
66.7
That he is blessed and acts in Jesus’ name But one tyrant he slew
76.7
Only for to prove That he could be a tyrant just the same So the covenanters decided that they must
92.8
Put aside their doubts and place their trust In the very same king’s son Who Cromwell had undone
106
And so the land was plunged back into war
112.7
O you long forgotten sons Peace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters May our song help to guide your spirits home
137.6
Now General Leslie fought a bold campaign
143.2
Harrying his foes on home terrain But a council full of fools His wisdom overruled And bade them march to doom upon the plain
163
On pious grounds those elders did insist
168.8
Three thousand hardened soldiers be dismissed And left the task of war To men who’d never fought before Facing Cromwell and the mighty model army O you long forgotten sons Peace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters May our song help to guide your spirits home In the mournful morning time
219.4
Butchered bodies lay on every side And did a sad wind blow Like an echo Of the wailing of the ones they left behind
238.4
Oh what a cruel and bitter harvest On that sad September day for fair Dunbar And the captives were marched down Down to Durham town Though they were cold and wet and starving
264.1
On that weary road men started dying
270.2
A few escaped, more were killed in trying
275.7
They drank puddles from the ground And diseases spread around
284.1
And they were locked in a living hell on their arrival
290.9
O you long forgotten sons
297
Peace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters May our song help to guide your spirits home
314.9
Haselrigge had care for the captive men And ordered they be given fuel and fed
326.7
But the guards sold the supplies And cloaked their deeds in lies To profit from the dying and the dead
340.3
It must have seemed like hell was drawing near With the sorrow and the sickness, the violence and the fear And if you had a scrap or two Someone might turn on you And precious love had all but disappeared
367.7
They planned to ship the living o’er the waves To work in distant colonies as slaves And the world grew so depraved Men were cast in unmarked graves
386.7
No one there to grieve or give them names Is there any ending to the story It happened again and again And everywhere you see
406.9
People longing to be free And still we haven’t built Jerusalem
418.2
O you long forgotten sons Peace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters May our song help to guide your spirits home O you long forgotten sons
448.4
Peace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters We are singing now to guide your spirit home We are singing now to guide your spirit home We are singing now to guide your spirit home We are singing now to guide your spirit home We are singing now to guide your spirit home

In this video The Brothers Gillespie sing one of their songs inspired by the discovery of the Scottish soldiers. You can find the lyrics on the PDF below.

Archaeology and music have long been associated. There are many songs and album covers creatively inspired by archaeological sites such as Glastonbury Tor and stone circles such as Callanish in the Outer Hebrides. Musicians like Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones have declared their love for the subject; Julian Cope apparently recorded part of one his albums inside the chamber of a Neolithic long barrow. The fields around Stonehenge once hosted the largest free pop festival in Europe between 1974 and 1984 and there is even a 1996 album entitled ‘Archaeology’ by the Beatles parody band The Rutles. Many more people will have become aware of archaeology through this kind of tangential promotion than have ever read an excavation report.

Sound, images and broader cultural links to time, identity, deity, landscape, folklore and tradition – all these themes link archaeology to musicians. It is, however, much rarer to find music inspired by specific archaeological discoveries, although there are in fact recent examples of this. ‘The Chalk Legend’, an oratorio in two parts composed for the London 2012 Festival for Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, was inspired by the discovery of Viking burials near Weymouth in Dorset. In the case of the Scottish soldiers, the folk duo The Brothers Gillespie, Sam and James, were inspired to write a selection of pieces after they heard about the story. Theirs is a sound rooted in the tradition of the troubadour with lyrics which draw on the power of place and the power of story-telling.

This article is from the free online

Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education