Will Ye Go Tae Flanders

Verses 2 and 3 by John Faulkner

Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally-o,
Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally-o,
We'll get wine and brandy,
Sack and sugar candy,
Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally-o.

Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally-o,
Tae see the bonnie sodgers there, my Mally-o,
They'll gie us pipes tae blaw,
Coats o red an kilts sae braw
Aye the finest o them a’, my Mally-o.

Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally-o,
Gin I tak the royal shillin there, my Mally-o,
Will ye tae a foreign shore,
For tae hear the cannons roar,
An the bloody shouts o war, my Mally-o.

Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally-o,
Tae see the chief commanders, my Mally-o,
You'll see the bullets fly,
And the sodgers how they die,
And the ladies how they cry, my Mally-o.

Gin: if
Sack: a dry white wine, imported from Spain and the Canaries

This can be seen as a powerful anti-war song and raises images of the historical practice of ladies and gentlemen going to view the fighting from a safe distance. For example, the defeat of the Jacobite force at Culloden on 16th April 1746 was “an event watched with enthusiasm from Cromarty Hill by a crowd from the town” according to My Little Town of Cromarty: The History of a Northern Scottish Town by David Alston.

The first and last verses are over 200 years old, but the middle two are a 20th century addition by singer/songwriter John Faulkner. His notes for the album Broken Hearted I Wander with Dolores Keane (Mulligan LUN033) say that he learned the two early verses from Ewan MacColl and wrote the additional verses 2 and 3, according to a Bruce Olson entry in 2000 on http://www.mudcat.org.

Ewan MacColl includes the song of two verses in his collection Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland (1965) and comments “These two superbly contrasted verses provide a perfect example of the Scots genius for irony in song-making.”

The original two verses appear as a complete song in the 1776 collection by David Herd, Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs and in Robert Chambers’ collection, Scottish Songs Prior to Burns.

It is not clear which battle Mally might have been asked to attend – maybe Oudenarde in the war of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century in the reign of Queen Anne where the Duke of Marlborough led and Scots were on both sides - or perhaps the song refers to the 17th century when King William’s troops fought in Flanders. It is certainly true that Flanders, lying along the North Sea and including bits of France and the Netherlands as well as the Belgian heartland, had many armies crossing its soil and was a good place to go to see some fighting.