Cam Ye O'er Frae France

by Isabel Northwode

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This is a Scottish song from about 1715, sung by the Highland Jacobites to stir up rebellion against the English throne. There are a number of metaphors within the song in order to (thinly) veil the dire insults being tossed against the king and his household, which, variously, call the royal palace a brothel, the king's mistresses prostitutes, the king's son a bastard, and the king himself a cuckold. The fact that the song is in early-18thC Scots doesn't help matters. Thus, I have included both the lyrics and, after each verse, a loose translation/explanation. For a more thorough work-through of the song, the best article is James Prescott's "Unriddling Cam Ye O'er Frae France," which can be found here:

Many thanks to Douglas Romanow for all his work on this song!


Cam ye o'er frae France? Cam ye down by Lunnon?
Saw ye Geordie Whelps and his bonny woman?
Were ye at the place ca'd the Kittle Housie?
Saw ye Geordie's grace riding on a goosie?

[Did you come over from France? Did you come over through London?
Did you see /King George/ and his /mistress/ (prostitute)?
Were you at the place called the /brothel/ (the royal palace)?
Did you see His Royal Grace riding on a /prostitute/ (his mistress)?]

Geordie, he's a man there is little doubt o't;
He's done a' he can, wha can do without it?
Down there came a blade linkin' like my lordie;
He wad drive a trade at the loom o' Geordie.

[George is a man; there is little doubt of it.
He's done all he can (sex w/ his wife); who can do without it (but it's not enough and she can't do without it - so...)
Down there came a blade, acting like My Lord (A man came to be her lover and acted/slept with her/ like the king)
He would drive a trade (weave cloth) at King George's loom (he would impregnate the Queen, perhaps)]

Though the claith were bad, blythly may we niffer;
Gin we get a wab, it makes little differ.
We hae tint our plaid, bannet, belt and swordie,
Ha's and mailins braid—but we hae a Geordie!

[Though the cloth were bad (though the fruit of the Queen's loom - the prince - is ill-gotten), blithely may we gamble,
For if we get that cloth, it makes little difference:
We have lost our plaid, hats, belts, and swords,
Our houses and broad lands - but we have a George! (Either way we get a George - the current king or his potentially-bastard son)]

Jocky's gane to France and Montgomery's lady;
There they'll learn to dance: Madam, are ye ready?
They'll be back belyve belted, brisk and lordly;
Brawly may they thrive to dance a jig wi' Geordie!

[King James (in the Jacobites' view, the rightful king) has gone to France with the Queen;
There they'll learn to make war: Madam, are you ready?
They'll be back swiftly, belted, ready, and lordly;
Strongly and battle-ready may they thrive to fight King George!]

Hey for Sandy Don! Hey for Cockolorum!
Hey for Bobbing John and his Highland Quorum!
Mony a sword and lance swings at Highland hurdie;
How they'll skip and dance o'er the bum o' Geordie!

[Hey for /a highland general/! Hey for /another highland leader/!
Hey for /another one/ and his gathering of more highland leaders!
Many a sword and lance swings at the horde of highlanders;
How they'll skip and dance over the bum of George!]

Repeat first verse.


released August 8, 2015
Producer/Recording Engineer/Arrangement: Douglas Romanow.

Track image is a broadside called "The Pretender, Prince James, Landing at Peterhead on 2 January 1716" - the broadsheet gets the date wrong; the battle actually took place on 22 December, 1715. The original document is now held by the National Library of Scotland (Blaikie.SNPG), and the image is courtesy Wikimedia Commons.



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Isabel Northwode Toronto, Ontario

Peryn Westerhof Nyman, aka Isabel Northwode, is an historical reenactor who performs music from a variety of time periods. Originally from Canada, she is currently based in the UK.

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