Scots Asked To Pick The Winning Tune

November 9, 2009

At the Commonwealth Games Scotland Awards Dinner on Saturday night (14 November), guests will be asked to help decide which tune or anthem will be played, when athletes representing Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi next year win gold and stand on top of the medal podium.

With no official Scottish national anthem, it is up to individual national sporting organisations like Commonwealth Games Scotland to select the anthem which best reflects their sporting endeavours, engenders the feeling of national pride and can be clearly associated with Scotland.

For Commonwealth Games Scotland the anthem is used at the flag raising ceremony to announce the arrival of Team Scotland in the Games Village and for the victory ceremonies for those athletes winning the ultimate, a gold medal in their events. Hearing both its melody and the words should evoke pride and passion in your country as well as creating a bond between the athlete, their team mates and supporters.

The lack of a single recognised anthem used across all sports has led to a plethora of unofficial tunes being used over the years depending on the taste of each organisation, often creating confusion amongst the athletes, team members, spectators and viewers.

Up until 1958, Burns’ ‘Scots Wha Hae’ was used to mark Commonwealth Games success and since then Scotland the Brave has been the preferred anthem. The continued use of Scotland the Brave was last re-confirmed by the athletes prior to the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

Despite the Scottish Parliament recently taking a lead in giving official guidance on the preferred shade of blue for the Saltire, they have yet to take a stand on their position relating to a Scottish national anthem or song. Therefore Commonwealth Games Scotland is again asking the athletes to state which tune they wish to use.

Highlighting the issue, Commonwealth Games Scotland Chairman, Michael Cavanagh said: “At the Awards Dinner on Saturday night we will give our wider stakeholders the opportunity to have an input into this process. Students from the Royal Scottish Academy of Arts Music and Drama will perform a shortlist of four options and at the end of the evening, guests will be asked to cast their vote.
The most popular two anthems will then be presented to our prospective Delhi 2010 team members at their Team Camp in January, where they will make the final choice of anthem to be played at the Games.

“Hopefully, by the time we reach the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow there will be an official anthem that is nationally recognised and endorsed through our Parliament and one that the whole of Scotland can unite behind on what will be a fabulous and memorable occasion for all Scots.”

Gregor Tait, multi-medal winning swimmer from the 2006 Games in Melbourne, including two gold, is keen to get behind the debate and stresses what an important issue this is for the athletes: “Hearing the anthem in Melbourne was one of the proudest moments of my life. To see the flag being raised to Scotland the Brave really made me feel ‘Scottish and proud’. It was great to see everyone’s reaction to the anthem and see people clapping along really made me smile. Without these moments Melbourne would not have been so memorable. Whatever anthem is chosen this time, it must evoke those same feelings.”

Background to the shortlist

Scotland the Brave
This distinctive tune is thought to have first appeared around the turn of the 20th century, and at that time was sometimes known as Scotland the Brave. However, the lyrics were written around 1950 by the Scottish journalist Cliff Hanley for the singer Robert Wilson in an arrangement by Marion McClurg.

It has been used since 1958 as the anthem for Scottish teams at the Commonwealth Games. In the 1982 and in the 1986 FIFA World Cup, the Scottish national football team used it as its anthem. Furthermore in 2006, Scotland the Brave was adopted as the regimental quick march of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Flower of Scotland
With lyrics written in 1965 by Roy Williamson of the Corries and the music composed by Peter McCormick, the song was used by the Scotland national rugby union team, after winger, Billy Steele, encouraged his team-mates to sing it on the victorious Lions tour of South Africa in 1974. The song was first sung as the pre-match anthem during the 1990 Five Nations championship (the forerunner of the Six Nations Championship), which culminated in the deciding match between Scotland and England, which Scotland won 13-7 to win the Grand Slam. The Scottish Football Association then adopted ‘Flower of Scotland’ as its official anthem in 1997,although it had been used by them in 1993. Usually only the first and third verses are sung.

Highland Cathedral
This distinctive and evocative melody composed for the bagpipes was written by German musicians Ulrich Roever and Michael Korbin a Scottish style in 1982.

Highland Cathedral has since become one of the best-known bagpipe tunes in the world, especially after being featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. It was chosen by pop diva Madonna to be played at her Highland wedding and has also been played alongside Flower of Scotland at rugby internationals.

After early performances by Scottish pipe bands at a Tattoo in Berlin, a number of versions of lyrics have emerged. These include those from the Edinburgh poet and playwright, Donald Smith, and Ben Kelly, an Inverness tenor who copyrighted the words in 1990 – after an eight-year effort to track down the composers and distributors. After the 2006 Commonwealth Games Kelly was quoted in the Scotsman as saying “The original purpose for writing the song wasn’t for the rugby. I was trying to write a Scottish national anthem, to have it sung at the Commonwealth Games, anywhere that Scots actually achieved something, anywhere that someone from Scotland has won something or is standing on a rostrum.”

Loch Lomond
The final contender is the well-known song ‘Loch Lomond’, which was first published around 1841.The song has been recorded by many performers over the years. Both Runrig and Quadriga Consort performed Loch Lomond as their concert’s final song. While the original author is unknown, it is widely believed that he may have been a Scottish soldier who awaited death in enemy captivity. In his final letter home he wrote this song, portraying his home and how much he would miss it. Another tale is that during the 1745 Rebellion a soldier on his way back to Scotland during the 1745-6 retreat from England wrote this song. The ‘low road’ is a reference to the Celtic belief that if someone died away from his homeland then the fairies would provide a route of this name for his soul to return home.

Join the club

Subscribe to our newsletter