> Folk Music > Songs > Freedom Come All Ye

Freedom Come All Ye

[ Roud - ; DT FREECOME ; Mudcat 4517 ; Hamish Henderson (1919-2002), tune The Bloody Fields of Flanders]

The Scottish Folksinger

Nigel Denver sang Freedom Come All Ye in 1964 on his eponymous Decca album, Nigel Denver. He noted:

This majestic song of peace written by Hamish Henderson shows his great compassion and understanding of the problems facing humanity.

The Exiles recorded Freedom, Come All Ye in 1966 as the title track of their Topic album Freedom, Come All Ye. This track was also included in 1999 on the EFDSS anthology Root & Branch 1: A New World. Gordon McCulloch noted on the original album:

This is the work of Hamish Henderson, one of Scotland’s most gifted poets, whose Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica won him the Somerset Maugham Award. The folk song revival in Scotland is in debt to Henderson for his years of valuable research at the School of Scottish Studies, and for the many fine songs which he has himself contributed. The air is the traditional pipe tune, The Bloody Fields of Flanders.

Five Hand Reel sang Freedom Come-All-Ye on their 1978 album Earl o’ Moray.

Ed Miller sang Freedom Come All Ye in 1989 on his Folk-Legacy album Border Background. He noted:

Poet, folklorist, songwriter, orator, storyteller, drinker and dreamer, Hamish Henderson has for decades been the seminal figure of the Scots Folk Revival. Renowned in academic circles as a long-time researcher for the Edinburgh University School of Scottish Studies, he is also loved and respected everywhere from the revival festivals to the homes and Traveller tents of the folk from whom he has collected songs and stories. To see big Hamish, arms raised, leading his own songs at a festival session, is a joy to anyone who loves to see any gap between folklorists and the Folk effectively eliminated.

This song takes off from a speech by one-time Prime Minister Harold McMillan in which he stated that there was a wind of change blowing through the continent of Africa. Henderson, whose politics are far to the left of McMillan’s, widens the phrase into an inspiring plea for racial equality, international socialism and an end to war and colonialism. As in his other best songs, such as The John MacLean March or The Banks of Sicily, he demonstrates his ability to write a song that is both uniquely Scottish and international.

Politically, the Scottish folk revival movement has long been associated with leftist, nationalist and anti-war sentiments, so it is no surprise that this song has become its anthem.

Hamish Bayne and Martin Cole sang Freedom Come All Ye in 1991 on their Fellside album Making Music.

Isla St Clair sang The Freedom Come-All-Ye in 1993 on her album Inheritance.

The Band of Hope sang Freedom Come All Ye in 1994 on their Musikfolk album Rhythm & Reds. This track was also included in 2000 on Roy Bailey’s album Coda.

Dick Gaughan sang The Freedom Come-All-Ye, “Hamish Henderson’s great song on Internationalism”, on his 1996 Greentrax album Sail On. A 1982 live recording from the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, next to Harvard University Campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was included in 2019 on his Greentrax album The Harvard Tapes. This video shows him in a 1989 performance:

Mick West sang Freedom Come All Ye in 1997 on his Lochshore album Right Side o’ the People. He noted:

Written by the extremely knowledgeable and poetic Hamish Henderson, this has to rank as one of the finest songs ever written. I have been singing this song for so long that I can’t remember if I first heard it from Arthur Johnstone or Dick Gaughan. I find the generous spirit in which it is written inspiring.

Jim Malcolm sang Freedom Come All Ye on his 2002 album Home. He noted:

Although I was well aware that a flurry of recording would follow the death of Hamish Henderson, a true giant in the cultural life of Scotland, I needed to record this song. It is touchingly lyrical and crushingly aposite.

Jim Reid sang The Freedom Come-All-Ye on Greentrax’s 2003 Hamish Henderson tribute album A’ the Bairns o Adam. He also sang it in 2005 on his Greentrax album Yont the Tay.

Alasdair Roberts sang The Freedom Come-All-Ye on Concerto Caledonia’s 2011 CD Revenge of the Folksingers.

Freedom Come All Ye was sung as the closing tracks of the 2016 and 2018 concerts celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the TMSA. Both concerts were released by the TMSA on DVD as 101 Scottish Songs: The Wee Red Book and 101 Scottish Songs: The Wee Red Book 3.

Steve Byrne sang Freedom Come All Ye at the Tanz- & Folkfest Rudolstadt 2017.

Findlay Napier sang The Freedom Come All Ye in 2017 on the Folk by the Oak album Shake the Chains. He noted:

Written by Hamish Henderson in 1960, it has become the best of Scotland’s unofficial national anthems. Originally themed as an anti-imperialist protest song, the first line echoes Harold MacMillan’s “Winds of Change” speech.

There [was] an excellent translation from the Scots on Dick Gaughan’s [now defunct] website. My favourite part is the verse:

All of you who love freedom
Pay no attention to the prophets of doom.
In your house all the children of Adam
Will have food, drink and hospitality.

Or: “Ignore the Daily Mail, welcome refugees.”

The “black boy frae yont Nyanga” is Nelson Mandela.

Hamish Henderson sang The Freedom Come All Ye in an archive recording from The School of Scottish Studies on the 2018 Greentrax anthology Scotland’s Voices.

Jackie Oates sang Freedom Come-All-Ye in 2018 on her ECC album The Joy of Living.

Jenn Butterworth sang Freedom Come-All-Ye in 2020 on Ross Ainslie’s, Ali Hutton’s and her album Symbiosis III. This video shows them in a Symbiosis concert on 20 March 2019 at Universal Hall Theatre, Findhorn, Moray:

Rod Paterson sang The Freedom Come-All-Ye on Bring in the Spirit’s 2024 anthology Bring in the Spirit. He noted:

Hamish Henderson’s classic hymn to universal peace and freedom will never be out of date. Here we keep to strict ‘retreat march’ time.


Freedom Come All Ye

Roch the wind in the clear days dawin
Blows the cloods heelster-gowdie ow’r the bay,
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin
Through the great glen o the warld the day.
It’s a thocht that will gar oor rottans
—A’ they rogues that gang gallus, fresh and gay—
Tak the road, and seek ither loanins
For their ill ploys, tae sport and play.

Nae mair will the bonnie callants
Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pitheid and clachan
Mourn the ships sailing doon the Broomielaw,
Broken faimlies in lands we’ve herriet
Will curse Scotland the Brave nae mair, nae mair;
Black and white, ane ti ither mairriet,
Mak the vile barracks o’ thier maisters bare.

So come all ye at hame wi’ Freedom,
Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom.
In your hoose a’ the bairnes o’ Adam
Can find breid, barley-bree and painted room.
When Maclean meets wi’s friens in Springburn,
A’ the roses and geans will turn tae bloom,
And a black boy frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o’ the burghers doon.