“The Haughs o' Cromdale”


"As I came in by Auchindoun, a little wee bit frae the toon... To view the Haughs o' Cromdale," the singer hears that the Highland army has been defeated. But Montrose refuses to accept defeat, and in a second battle heavily defeats the English


Historical accuracy is rarely to be found in folksong, but this piece comes close to taking the cake. There was only one Battle of Cromdale, in which Williamite army of Thomas Livingstone beat the Jacobites under Buchan easily. Montrose (1612-1650) was not involved in any way, having been executed some 40 years before!

That being the case, there have been various attempts to determine what battle the song is actually about. The best guess is the Battle of Auldern, May 9, 1645. Montrose, typically, had won a battle at Inverlochy in February, only to see most of his army dissolve. By May, the Covenanters felt strong enough to attack him. They managed an initial surprise, but Montrose won the day with a counterattack.

In some ways, the story of the song reminds me more of the raid on Dundee a month earlier (April 4-6), though that wasn't much of a battle -- but it did involve an attempt to attack Montrose, which miscarried. This was called a victory in London, but Montrose obviously was around to fight again a month later.

In neither case, though, did the result change the strategic situation much. Auldern came only a few weeks before the Battle of Naseby (June 14), and that much bigger and more important battle settled Charles I's hopes for good and all (though it was a while before people realized that).

Auldern does seem the best fit, but given the strange situation, I would not consider the connection proved. In particular, why conflate it with Cromdale? The latter was not a significant battle in any way; most short histories don't so much as mention it.

The song, despite its inaccuracy, has survived well, but that seems to be mostly because of its excellent tune, beloved by pipers. - RBW

Yates, Musical Traditions site _Voice of the People suite_ "Notes - Volume 8" - 1.3.03 regarding John MacDonald's version of "The Haughs O' Cromdale": "It was a complete shambles, prefiguring the Battle of the Boyne fought two months later, and the present song reflects events very much the way they happened. Curiously enough, the first song called The Haughs o' Cromdale to be printed (_Jacobite Relics_, 1819, vol.1 song 2) makes the battle a Jacobite victory, and brings in the long-dead Montrose to retrieve the day. John's song, recorded 150 years later, is certainly older than the Jacobite Relics rewrite." There are not two songs, but only one (though an argument can be made that the radical difference in outcome would justify splitting them): Hogg's -- and the broadsides' -- version has the reporter "in tartan trews" report the victory for Montrose; MacDonald's reporter simply states

For MacDonalds' men, Clan Ronald's men,

MacKenzie's men, MacGelvey's men,

And the highland men and the lowland men

Lay dead and dying in Cromdale. - BS

Historical references

  • Apr 30, 1690 - Battle of Cromdale

Same tune

  • The Herald's Approach (per broadside Murray, Mu23-y1:070)
  • On the Restoration of the Forfeited Estates 1784 (_Scots Musical Museum_ #298, to the tune "As I came in by Auchindown")


  • Murray, Mu23-y1:070, "Haughs o' Crumdal," James Lindsay (Glasgow), 19C
  • NLScotland, RB.m.143(024), "Haughs o' Crumdale," unknown, c. 1890


  • John MacDonald, "The Haughs O' Cromdale" (on Voice08)


  1. Roud #5147
  2. BI, BrHauCro


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1821 (Hogg)
Found in: Britain(Scotland)