Traditional Scottish Songs
- The Battle of the Braes

A combination of increasing numbers of people working on a land too poor to support them and landowners who could earn more from sheeprearing than from subsistence farmers, resulted in many leaving the land in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some went abroad to the better themselves and many were forcibly evicted in what became known as "The Clearances".

In 1882, the crofters in Braes of Portree on the Isle of Skye stopped paying rent until their demands for the return of common grazing land were met. Using the force of law, the landlord, Lord Macdonald, tried to evict them. The ensuing "Battle of the Braes" was reported in the press and eventually Parliament passed laws giving crofters more security of tenure.

It is sometimes argued that the Battle of the Braes was the last battle fought on British soil (rather than Culloden in 1745).

The Battle of the Braes

A Sheriff from the factor came
And he came down our way,
From Lord Macdonald he was sent
To clear us out from Skye.


Oh the battle was long but the people were strong
You shoulda been there that day! Chorus
Oh had he come wi' fifty men
He could not pass that day,
For all the women from the Braes
Went out to bar the way.


The Laird was angry; he was wild,
Macdonald must not fail.
He sent the Sheriff back again
To throw us into jail. Chorus

And next came fifty policemen,
From Glasgow they were sent,
The Inverness police knew fine
That what we said we meant.


A wet and dismal morning dawned
As from Portree they rode,
The men of Braes were up in time
And met them on the road.


All day the cruel battle raged,
We showed them we could fight.
But five brave men were taken off
To Inverness that night.


The judge he found them guilty men
And fined them two pounds ten,
In half a minute it was paid
And off they went again.

Once more Macdonald's anger broke.
'Invade the Isle of Skye!
Two thousand soldiers, boats and guns
The people must comply!'


'Oh, if we send one million men'
In London they declared,
'We'll never clear the Isle of Skye.
The people are not scared.'


The police up in Inverness
Demanded extra men,
No other town in all the land
Would help them out again.


So back the Sheriff came to Braes
All Scotland watched them go.
'Will you clear off Macdonald's land?'
The people answered 'No!' Chorus

Meaning of unusual words:

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