Our first conscious event (meaning after jet lag left our weary bodies!) in Scotland took us to Loch Lomond, deep in the Trassachs National Park. We loaded onto a little boat that took us on a peaceful, circular route around the banks of this freshwater loch. Loch Lomond is considered the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and highlands. We sipped coffee laced with Scottish whiskey and enjoyed the stories shared through speakers by the captain as we stood on the upper deck in the misty rain.
The story I enjoyed most was about the popular song, “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.” Everyone knows this particular lyric, “you take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Scotland before ya.” The song was published in 1841 but its author is unknown. The poet Andrew Lang wrote a poem based on the lyrics later in 1876. The poem, and likely song, reference the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebellion and the subsequent hanging of his supporters.
“The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond”
“By yon bonnie banks an’ by yon bonnie braes
Whaur the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Whaur me an’ my true love will ne’er meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomon’.
O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and Ah’ll tak’ the low road
And Ah’ll be in Scotlan’ afore ye
Fir me an’ my true love will ne’er meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomon’.
‘Twas there that we perted in yon shady glen
On the steep, steep sides o’ Ben Lomon’
Whaur in (soft) purple hue, the hielan hills we view
An’ the moon comin’ oot in the gloamin’.
The wee birdies sing an’ the wild flouers spring
An’ in sunshine the waters are sleeping
But the broken heart it kens, nae second spring again
Tho’ the waeful may cease frae their greeting.”
Banks of Loch Lomond (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford
There are several interpretations of the lyrics but the one given to us by our guide matches this version: “Attributing the song to a Jacobite Highlander captured after the 1745 rising. The Hanoverian British victors were known to play cruel games on the captured Jacobites, and would supposedly find a pair of either brothers or friends and tell them one could live and the other would be executed, and it was up to the pair to decide. Thus the interpretation here is that the song is sung by the brother or friend who chose or was chosen to die. He is therefore telling his friend that they will both go back to Scotland, but he will go on the ‘low road’ or that of the dead, and be home first. Another supporting feature of this is that he states he will never meet his love again in the temporal world, on Loch Lomond. Some believe that this version is written entirely to a lover who lived near the loch.” (Wikipedia)
This experience was so delightful that I couldn’t imagine Scotland getting any better. But it did. Oh, it did.