Dumfries Volunteers

Does haughty Gaul invasion threat? 
Then let the louns1 beware, Sir; 
There's wooden walls upon our seas, 
And volunteers on shore, Sir: 
The Nith shall run to Corsincon, 
And Criffel sink in Solway, 
Ere we permit a Foreign Foe 
On British ground to rall-ay! 

O let us not, like snarling curs, 
In wrangling be divided, 
Till, slap! come in an unco2 loun, 
And wi' a rung3 decide it! 
Be Britain still to Britain true, 
Amang ourselves united; 
For never but by British hands 
Maun4 British wrangs be righted! 

The Kettle o' the Kirk5 and State, 
Perhaps a clout6 may fail in't; 
But deil7 a foreign tinkler8 loun 
Shall ever ca'a nail in't. 
Our father's blude the Kettle bought, 
And wha wad dare to spoil it; 
By Heav'ns! the sacrilegious dog 
Shall fuel be to boil it!  

The wretch that would a tyrant own, 
And the wretch, his true-born brother, 
Who w'ld set the Mob aboon9 the Throne, 
May they be damn'd together! 
Who will not sing "God save the King," 
Shall hang as high's the steeple; 
But while we sing "God save the King," 
We'll ne'er forget The People! 


Anderson portrait
Painting by Douglas N. Anderson of Burns as a member of the Dumfries Volunteers.


1 louts

2 terrible

3 club, cudgel

4 Must

5 Church

6 cloth, patch


8 tinker

9 above





Burns was as interested in writing songs as poetry; maybe more so. He contributed about a third of the songs to a major publication of traditional music of Scotland called The Scots Musical Museum. This work was being done in Edinburgh by a struggling music engraver and music seller who was determined to preserve old Scottish songs: James Johnson.

The Scots Musical Museum ended up being six volumes with one hundred songs in each volume.

The fifth volume includes “My Love’s Like a Red Red Rose” and “Auld Lang Syne” and the music which Burns proposed for these songs. The final volume was published in 1803; it includes “Scots Wa Hae”, and acknowledges Burns as its author.

All the volumes are now available to the public through Google, and are indexed and easy to search through.


Now, Burn’s enjoyed fellowship.  He was a Freemason, and near the end of his short life he was also a member of the local volunteer militia group called the Dumfries Volunteers. Militia groups had been organized by the British government to raise arms should the French invade, which was more a rumoured threat than a real risk at the time.


So, the sixth volume of the Scots Musical Museum includes Burn’s song “The Dumfries Volunteers” in which he justifies being a member of a British (or English) militia unit ….


“For never but by British hands 
Maun British wrangs be righted!”


Which is to remind us we may have opinions on Scottish Nationalism, but they only count if we happen to live in Scotland!


The song “The Dumfries Volunteers” is a brilliant mix of British nationalism, socialism, and Scottish nationalism.


Delivered by Jim Fletcher at the club meeting April 2014