High Caul Cap March

High Caul Cap

 

There is much to be said about this melody which has been documented back as far as the 1600s, commonly referred to as Highland Laddie which has been set as a sea shantey, an Irish dance, a Highland regimental quickstep march, and even set by Beethoven for piano, violin and cello.

The High Caul Cap, or High Cauled Cap is a popular Irish set dance done to the tune.

The tune is also called If Thou’lt Play Me Fair Play, but Robert Burns’ poem Highland Laddie has provided the most long lasting lyrics for the the song, hence the popular title.

As played by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

There are many lyrics set to the tune, but here is one having to do with the Jacobite Rising of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Where ha’ ye been a’ the day?
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie
Saw ye him that’ far awa’
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie

On his head a bonnet blue
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie
Tartan plaid and Hielan’ trews
Bonnie laddie, Hielan’ laddie

When he drew his gude braid-sword
Then he gave his royal word.
Frae the field he ne’er wad flee
Wi’ his friends wad live or dee.

Geordie sits in Charlie’s chair
But I think he’ll no bide there.
Charlie yet shall mount the throne
Weel ye ken it is his own

Here is another version from colonial America:

Was you ever in Quebec?
Bonny laddie, Highland laddie,
Loading timber on the deck,
My bonny Highland laddie.

High-ho, and away she goes,
Bonny laddie, Highland laddie,
High-ho, and away she goes,
My bonny Highland laddie.

Was you ever in Callao
Where the girls are never slow?

Was you ever in Baltimore
Dancing on the sanded floor?

Was you ever in Mobile Bay,
Screwing cotton by the day?

Was you on the Brummalow,
Where Yankee boys are all the go?

As played by Great Big Sea – with the Canadian work song lyrics Donkey Riding – referencing a steam donkey (steam engine).

One of my favorite settings of the tune is from Jimmy Keane and Pat Broaders on their album Bits of Bohola.

Coleman’s March

Coleman's March

 

This tune is played by both old-time players and Irish players. I initially learned it from Mary Custy and Eoin O’Neill on their album With a Lot of Help From Their Friends.

Legend has it that Coleman played it on his guitar as he was sitting on his coffin while being carted away to the noose in the 1880s, having been wrongfully accused by his live-in sister-in-law of murdering his wife.

Also attached to the tune is the legend that before Coleman was hanged he offered his fiddle to anyone who could play the tune as well as he, and at least one source identified a Kentucky fiddler named Franz Prewitt as the recipient. 

As played by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer on banjos.

As played by fiddler Pete Sutherland in DDAD tuning.

As played by Steve Baughman on Farewell to Orkney.

More information on the Traditional Tune Archive.