The Scottish National Anthem – who wrote it and what are the lyrics?

30 January 2019, 09:54 | Updated: 30 January 2019, 10:11

Nicky Benedetti plays Scottish National Anthem at Glasgow Games opening ceremony
Nicky Benedetti plays Scottish National Anthem at Glasgow Games opening ceremony. Picture: Getty

By Helena Asprou

Scotland’s unofficial anthem, ‘Flower of Scotland’ has become a firm favourite in Scottish households, so here’s everything you need to know about this patriotic tune.

If you’ve ever watched any sporting event, you’ll know just how evocative a national anthem can be – and the 'Flower of Scotland' is no exception.

This powerful tune commemorates the victory of the Scots after Robert the Bruce defeated England’s Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Composed by Scottish folk musician Roy Williamson, it can often be heard at football matches and has been used as Scotland’s victory anthem at the Commonwealth Games since 2010.

Although sung regularly at special occasions, the song wasn’t originally meant to be a national anthem – ‘Scots Wha Hae’, ‘Caledonia’ and ‘Scotland the Brave’ had all been used as Scottish national anthems before it.

However, it's grown in popularity over the years and is now sung at high profile events, like the Rugby Six Nations, alongside England, Ireland and Wales' national anthems.

When the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted an online poll in June 2006 to find out which tune the country should use as it’s national anthem, ‘Flower of Scotland’ came out on top with 41 per cent of the vote.

Roy Williamson (left) in The Corries
Roy Williamson (left) in The Corries. Picture: Getty

About the composer

Roy Williamson was born in 1936 and his love of music first began after he learned to play the recorder at school.

When his teacher discovered that he preferred to learn by ear rather than read from manuscript, he was swiftly banned from music lessons.

Despite his slow start, he later attended the Edinburgh College of Art where he met Ronnie Browne – with whom he went on to form the successful ‘60s folk band, The Corries.

An avid rugby fan, Williamson also played for Edinburgh Wanderers in his younger years, so it’s a neat turn of history that ‘Flower of Scotland’ is now sung before Scotland's games.

What are the lyrics to ‘Flower of Scotland’?

There are several versions of this song – including some with lyrics written in Scottish Gaelic – but ‘Flower of Scotland’ was originally composed in English.

Nowadays, it’s usually performed in English but often using the Scots’ pronunciation of words like ‘tae’ instead of ‘to’.

O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him (against who?),
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
To think again.