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Excerpts from Songs of the Camerons and Other Poems
by Lillias Hartley-Wilson, Lady Ashmore


While H.R.H. The Duke of York, Hon. Col. 4th Batt. Cameron Highlanders, inspected the Guard of Honour, H.R.H.  The Duchess of York watched from a window of the Cameron Club Edinburgh - 9th October 1926.

Once, long ago in the Wars of the Roses,
Camerons cared not for red or for white -
Whether a rose were of York or of Lancaster,
Scotsmen had nothing to do with the fight;
But when the day came to follow Prince Charlie,
Camerons flocked to his Flag in the glen,
And when they saw the white rose in his bonnet -
That was the badge for the Cameron men!

Now that a Rose has looked in at their doorway,
And their own walls have been graced by a flower,
Beauty will linger for ever and ever
Where it once blossomed if but for an hour:
And though the Camerons, as at Cu1loden,
Worship the rose of the Stuart as then,
Stuart and York in one Rose will be cherished
Deep in the hearts of the Cameron men.



Far, far away in the wilds of Lochaber,
Ever since there was a home on the heath,
There have been men with a dirk or a claymore
Ready if need be to fly from the sheath:
And as of old in the Cameron country,
When the dear Standard is raised in the glen,
There will the tartans be gathered together
While there are Camerons - Cameron men.

Have they not shown the brave Cameron spirit
Over and over and over again,
Ever since facing the Germans' first fury,
Whether at Mons, on the Marne, or the Aisne -
Are there not many new names on their Honours -
And though the Colours may only bear ten,
None of the rest will be ever forgotten
While there are Camerons - Cameron men.  

Who could forget their success at Givenchy,
When a great midnight advance had been made -
Mile after mile with the Camerons marching
Right at the head of the war-worn Brigade:
All day and night the fierce battle had lasted,
Many a comrade had passed from their ken;
But in the line when Sir Douglas took over,
There were the Camerons - Cameron men.

Theirs is the heart that will rise in disaster -
Oh, how they fought with their backs to the wall,
In that dark hour when the Channel was threatened,
Holding their own though the heavens should fall!
Vainly the enemy tried to recover
Even a part of that dearly bought fen -
Vainly he tried - not an inch would be yielded
While there were Camerons - Cameron men.

And, in the end, after taking Buzancy,
Storming the fort of the Hindenburg Line,
They would remember then, even while marching -
Marching at last on the road to the Rhine -
Those gallant comrades who fell by the wayside,
Giving their all for their country - and then
Say but these words - and no more would be needed -
"They, too, were Camerons - Cameron men."



 To see a regiment swinging down the hill,
Makes every Scottish heart the quicker beat,
And oh, the pipers' music gives a thrill
When Highlanders are marching through the street!

And if at times to cheer we may seem slow,
The reason is not very far to seek -
Although our burning hearts are all aglow,
We cannot even trust ourselves to speak.

Some may be thinking of that August day
They rose long, long before the dawn, to try
To get a glimpse of Camerons going away,
When streets were lined with friends to say good-bye.

At last they come - the crowds more closely press -
No waving plumes, no tartan gleams - and yet
Glengarries and the simple service dress -
They make a picture none can e'er forget.

No weeping now - all bravely wear a smile -
And here and there maybe is thrown a rose,
And handkerchiefs are fluttering for a mile -
A last farewell - and then the barriers close.

And in the papers you might read next day,
Among all sorts of news, these lines, perchance,
"Another Scottish regiment slips away,
So silently and secretly to France"...

Yet, ever since, that hallowed ground is dear,
And dear the very stones upon the street,
To those who heard - and evermore will hear -
The echo of the tramp of marching feet.



Edinburgh - August 1914

 They do not know yet where you may be going,
Or if your friends can see you march away -
But on the chance, the crowd keeps ever growing,
And some have waited here since break of day.
What will your women-folk do now without you -
Your mothers and your sweethearts and your wives -
Days will be years until they hear about you -
While they are praying, praying for your lives -
Camerons! Camerons!

Far, far away in Hebridean islands -
In Inverness - in every heather glen -
In every cot and castle in the Highlands
Are lonely women working for their men;
For well they know, when hearts are almost breaking,
That only work can save the soul alive;
And so they give and serve, to still the aching,
As did their forebears in the 'forty-five -
Camerons! Camerons!

While many here are passionately yearning
To try to be more worthy now of you,
And from this hour, till home you are returning,
They dedicate themselves to service too.
And now you pass - and now the veil is falling -
A rush for one last look - but all in vain -
No cheering now - yet every heart is calling,
O God be with you till we meet again -
Camerons! Camerons!




There are ten new names on the Colours now
The Camerons proudly bear;
But only the soldiers who wrote them know
What it cost to write them there.

They will talk to you of some trivial thing -
A bird on a tangled wire -
A butterfly caught in a battered trench;
But never of furnace-fire:

Yet if anyone breathed the one word Somme,
Then, though he might not speak,
You would see the light in a soldier's eye,
The red in a soldier's cheek.

It is ten years since: and the scenes grow dim;
But he still remembers one -
The Figure that leant from a ruined tower,
And shone like gold in the sun.

He can see the Babe in His Mother's arms,
With His hands held out to bless,
When many a warrior's heart was cheered
Amid the storm and stress.

And as one by one, to the stream of death,
His Cameron comrades passed,
He thinks how the blessing would cheer them still
When they crossed the stream at last.

There are ten new names on the Colours now
The Camerons proudly bear;
But only the soldiers who wrote them know
What it cost to write them there.




There has never been a regiment
At the Castle since the day,
Every heart so well remembers,
When the Camerons went away;
But although in Edinburgh
Many of us think it hard,
We may still see our defenders
At the changing of the Guard.

Now and then a crowd will gather
To the sound of pipe and drum,
To the measured tread of soldiers
And the cry of "Here they come!"
If among the men we welcome,
One or two are battle-scarred -
Oh, we kneel to them in spirit
At the changing of the Guard!

Years have passed since that sad August -
Though but yesterday it seems -
Yet our young men still see visions
And our old men still dream dreams
Every time they see the soldiers
Marching through the Castle-yard,
And our hearts still burn within us
At the changing of the Guard.



(Fifteenth Century)

Down strode the Chieftain to the ford
To keep his tryst with Atholl's lord -
When suddenly - a voice - and then -
"Lochiel! Lochiel! Where are your men?"
And through the mist Lochiel descried
A witch who hobbled to his side,
And clutched his cloak and croaked again,
"Where are your men, where are your men?"
The Chieftain laughed - " No need have I
For followers to-day - good-bye" -
But still there echoed through the glen
The warning words - Where are your men?

Lochiel, uneasy, turned at last
Back to a clachan, lately passed,
And there collected clansmen who
Could keep him secretly in view:
Among the heather they could hide,
And be at hand should ill betide
At Loch-na-Clive that afternoon...
High words were passing all too soon
About the boundary of the land:
The Earl of Atholl waved his hand -
At once a score of men arose!
And when Lochiel asked "Who are those?"
"My wethers, who have come to graze,"
Said Atholl, "on Lochaber Braes!"

Lochiel then merely turned his cloak
To show the red, and never spoke;
But at the signal down there ran
The warriors of the Cameron clan!
"And who are those?" Lord Atholl cried.
"Lochaber dogs" - Lochiel replied -
"Sharp-toothed and hungry, and so keen
To taste your wethers' flesh, I ween,
That if you keep me waiting, well -
My dogs are fierce - I cannot tell
How long the leash will hold them in -
They are so eager to begin!"

The wethers went the way they came,
For Atholl's lord renounced his claim:
He swept his sword around his head
And flung it in the loch, and said -
"Through summer heat and winter cold,
Lochiel alone this land shall hold,
And henceforth it is Cameron ground
Until the day my sword is found!"



(Sword Loch)

In Loch-na-Clive a sword has lain
Since Mary Queen of Scotland's reign -
The Earl of Atholl, as we know,
Threw in the brand himself, to show
That this was Cameron domain.

But at the time he made it plain,
'Twas only while it did remain
Where he had thrown it down below
In Loch-na-Clive!

What Camerons hold, they will retain:
The sword, with many a rusty stain,
Was fished up ninety years ago -
There might be awkward questions - so
The Camerons threw it back again
In Loch-na-Clive!




The wild bees of Lochaber
Are not as other bees -
In all the Cameron country
O there are none like these!
Once they were Fingal's heroes,
And some, they say, were kings
Before they were enchanted
And swords were turned to stings!

High up among the mountains,
Still Camerons declare,
A piper once was playing
An old Lochaber air,
When bees came swarming round him
From every heather glen,
And while the pibroch sounded
They followed him like men!  

"They loved the martial music,"
The piper used to say,
"As long as I am living
I'll not forget that day:
My very heart was swelling -
A lump was in my throat-
Until at last for pity
I could not play a note!  

"And then a strange thing happened -
The bees took up the strain!
There never was a pibroch
So passionate with pain -
And even yet it stirs me,
For O the music bore
The sound there's no mistaking -
A call to arms once more!"




In Nevis Glen long, long ago
A Cameron owned the land - although
He held it in the strangest way -
The charter granting it, they say,
"While in the valley there is snow."

Though, generally, safe below
Some friendly crag, a drift of snow
Lay hidden from too bright a ray
In Nevis Glen,

Once there was hardly any snow -
Just here and there a patch would show -
And then the Cameron of that day,
For fear it all might melt away,
Put up a little tent or so
In Nevis Glen!  



One by one I sold my treasures,
And my heart was torn in two,
When I parted with the sporran
I had worn at Waterloo:
Though it saved us all from starving,
I was well-nigh driven wild,
And I cried - I couldn't help it:
'Twas as though I'd lost a child.

But I kept my trusty claymore,
And will keep it to the last -
Give me only strength to wield it
In the future as the past,
And I want no better weapon:
To the clansmen of Lochiel
There is no more stirring music
Than the clash of steel on steel!  

While our Chief is in Lochaber,
And the Mackintosh at Moy,
Though there's peace now in the Highlands -
Peace that nothing can destroy -
There will always be a claymore,
Or a ready dirk to spring
Like a flash from out its scabbard
In the service of the King!




My great-grandfather used to say
A silver coin
Had saved his life on that dark day
For Scotland at Culloden Moor:
And that his brother, he was sure,
Would never, never have been slain
Had he not lost upon the plain
His silver coin!

Though it was but a little thing -
That silver coin -
What thoughts to him it still could bring
Of fighting in the 'forty-five,
When it was good to be alive,
And he was young who now was old -
He would not part with it for gold,
That silver coin!

My mother too would make me wear
A silver coin -
"'Twould bring good luck," she would declare,
For she had heard a Cameron tell
How, at the battle of Nivelle,
One turned a bullet, and he swore
That he would wear for evermore
That silver coin.

Then afterwards, at Waterloo,
The silver coin
Had helped to bring him safely through;
While her own cousin, at Lucknow,
But for a scratch upon his brow,
Escaped again and yet again,
And wore through every new campaign
A silver coin.

So when by chance I am without
My silver coin,
I feel uneasy, there's no doubt:
It may be superstition, yet
There are some things we can't forget:
And not for old sake's sake alone
I wear one still - but for my own -
A silver coin.




Oh! to hear the pipers playing
In a far-off foreign land -
Speaking in the dear old language
Camerons can understand -
They can see the mist arising
From Lochaber's bonnie braes
Where they hunted for white heather
In their boyhood's happy days:
And where tartans waved the foremost,
Hear once more the pibroch yell,
When the note that nerved an army
Was a coronach as well.  

Oh! to hear the mighty beating
Of the Regimental Drum -
Still old Camerons remember
That reverberating Come!
Famous ever since Peshawar,
When the thunder of its voice,
Rolling through the roar of battle,
Made the General rejoice!
Through Australia then it sounded,
Kindling such a martial flame,
That when fighting men were wanted,
In the hour of need they came.




(An unexpected incident which took place prior to the first presentation of V.C.'s - Hyde Park, 26th June 1857)

"Mother, O Mother - the pipes!  Don't you hear them -
Come, let us follow them - come, Mother, come!
Look!  It's the Cameron Highlanders, Mother;
How the kilts swing to the beat of the drum!

Do let us wait for a little and watch them -
It would be pleasant to sit in the shade -
Are not the Highlanders perfectly splendid -
How I do love to see troops on Parade!

Who are these veterans coming so slowly -
One with an empty sleeve - isn't he kind
Helping that other old tottering soldier -
He too has medals - but oh, he is blind!

See!  They are halting in front of the Colour -
Now they are kneeling and kissing its hem!
They must be Waterloo pensioners, Mother,
Nobody worships the Colours like them.

How the crowd cheers as they limp to their places!
Everyone's standing now - what does it mean? -
Mother, O Mother dear, you have been crying!"

"Take off your cap, sonny, here comes the Queen"...




Yes - I was born in the regiment:
My name - it is Cameron too:
And the days I spent in the army
Were the happiest days I knew.

After they made me a sergeant,
Though maybe I thought, with pride,
That when fighting days were over
They'd make me a Castle guide:

Little I thought of the future -
I never had thought of fame -
When, suddenly, Belgium was threatened -
And nothing was ever the same.

War was declared - we were ready -
From our bonnets down to our boots -
But some had to stay for a twelvemonth
To deal with the rush of recruits:

Long ere the country was calling,
Or Kitchener made his appeal,
The pibroch was heard in the Highlands -
The pipe as of old of Lochiel!

How they were storming the stations -
Waves of young Cameron men!
Never was such volunteering -
Such an enrolling as then:  

One hurried home through the Andes,
All the way round by Cape Horn -
Ten thousand miles had he travelled -
He, too, a Cameron born.

Camerons coming from Cairo,
Camerons from Brazil,
Camerons marching, marching -
In my dreams I hear them still.

Talk of the wonder of wireless -
There is nothing on earth so sweet
To the ear of a Cameron soldier
As the music of marching feet!

Hard at the end to be blinded? -
Perhaps not so hard as it seems -
Only alone for a little
With the wonderful wireless of dreams:

Only alone till "Revally,"
When comrades will bid me good morn,
And brothers - dear brothers - will greet me -
The lads who were Cameron born!




There's a soldier in the ward here -
Quite an ordinary chap -
But the only thing he cares for
Is the badge from off his cap:
He will rub it till the gleaming
Sets the other soldiers dreaming
Of the day when they were streaming
Into France to fill the gap.

A St. Andrew's Cross had saved him,
For it somehow made him feel
That as long as he could see it
Nothing mattered - lead or steel -
While through all the smoke and smashing,
And the clangour and the clashing,
He could still behold it flashing
In the bonnet of Lochiel!

No one in the ward has ever
Heard that Cameron complain;
And though some declare his idol
Makes him patient under pain,
Others cannot help divining
That what keeps him from repining
Is the hope to see it shining
In his bonnet once again!




The Camerons of Canada
Are Scottish to a man,
And proud to wear the tartan
Belonging to the Clan:
They have, like all their fathers,
The heart to do and dare,
And where the battle's hottest,
Those Camerons are there.

When through Lochaber echoed
The call to arms once more,
And Highlanders responded
As Highlanders of yore,
Canadians in their thousands
Were coming o'er the sea -
Proclaiming to an Empire
What brotherhood may be.  

Among the brave battalions
Were many who became
Far more than even brothers:
Not only one in name -
In Canada, in Scotland,
In India, on the Rhine -
One heart beneath the tartan
That bears the golden line!

*Set to an old air (Paterson's Publications Ltd.)




Too young to be enlisted,
Too small as yet to fight -
He might be long of reaching
The regulation height:
They said - "Wait till you're taller" -
But no, he wouldn't wait -
Although he looked so little,
The laddie's heart was great.

In Edinburgh, later,
On going up the Mound,
I heard a sudden whistle
And saw, on looking round,
Among a group of soldiers,
A Highlander I knew -
"Hullo! "I cried- "I wondered
"What had become of you!"

"Been chasin' the Senussi,"
He answered with a grin:
Then, adding that in war-time
A sin was not a sin -
And his recruiting paper
Had made him seventeen -
The laddie winked, well knowing
I'd guess what that would mean!  

Though Canada has claimed him,
I can't help feeling glad
Whenever I remember
There, too, how many a lad
Who hears his country calling -
As call again it may -
Will up and join the Camerons
The old Lochaber way.

Editor's Notes:  Lady Ashmore was the daughter of William Hartley, Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire.  She married John Wilson, Lord Ashmore, a Senator of the College of Justice, Scotland.  Their only son was killed in action in 1915, quite possibly while serving in the Cameron Highlanders.  It seems that Lady Ashmore had Cameron ancestors, as referenced in many of her compositions, especially in her "Cameron Coins."