Under Cover (2001) 3:27
 
Lyrics: Robert Burns
Music arrangement: Big Country
   
Special thanks to Colin Dawson, Tom Hunter Sam Brookes (contributors on the Official Big Country Website) and the World Burns Club for the background information on the song.
   
Historical background:

The song is about a battle during the late 17th century civil war in Scotland. In April 1689 John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, raised the standard of James VII on Dundee Law, a hill in the city of Dundee, Scotland. He was known to his supporters as “Bonnie Dundee”. His support came from the Catholic Highland Clans (mostly from Clans Cameron, Donald, Stuart and McLean) , and his army were known as the “Jacobites”. Coming from Inverness over the Corrieyairack and Drumochter Passes, he had raided Perth on 10 May 1689.

General Hugh McKay (1640-1692) was commander-in-chief of the Williamite (Government) forces in Scotland. They were also known as the “Covenanters”, and they marched against the Jacobites. His forces largely came from the Scottish Lowlands but also included professional Highland soldiers who fought against their close relatives. “Williamite” means William III of Orange who reigned over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1689 till 1702, as Queen Mary II ‘s husband.

On 26 July 1689, although they outnumbered 2 to 1, the Jacobites ambushed the Covenanter army of 4000 men under General Hugh McKay at the Pass of Killiecrankie. The Jacobites overwhelmed the Covenanters and their victory was absolute, however Dundee had been mortally wounded in the initial charge down the hillside. He could direct the battle and learn of his victory but died soon after. The Jacobites had no leader capable of replacing him and were later defeated at the Battle of Dunkeld. The first Jacobite Uprising ended on 1 May 1690.

Explanation of the song:

The song is addressed to a young soldier by a veteran. The veteran asks the young soldier why he’s all kitted out and where he has been. The veteran and young soldier are both on the side of Mackay i.e. Covenanters.

This song, to a great traditional tune of maybe the same date as the battle, was altered by Robert Burns in the late 18th century. There are another two verses, presumably traditional, that are not included in the Robert Burns version.

“Killiecrankie” (Gaelic for “aspen wood”) is a very narrow and steeply sided mountain pass between Blair Atholl and Pitlochry, in Perthshire, Scotland.

“Pitcur”, who fell in a furr, was Hallyburton of Pitcur fighting on Dundee’s side. Pitcur is a hamlet and a castle 8 miles northwest of Dundee in the Sidlaw Hills.

“furr” is a furrow or drainage ditch.

“Athole” is the old name for the area of Perthshire, Scotland that Killiecrankie lies in.