A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Lochaber no more
LOCHABER NO MORE, an air claimed both for Scotland and Ireland, of which some two or three versions are extant. The source of these is in S3ottish minstrelsy called 'Lord Ronald (or, according to Sir W. Scott, Randal) my son.' The air in Ireland is known as 'Limerick's lamentation,' from a tradition associating its plaintive melody with the events that followed the second capitulation of Limerick, in 1690, when at the embarkation of the Irish soldiery at Cork for France, their wives and children were forcibly separated from them under circumstances of unusual barbarity. The Scottish and Irish airs are here compared.
'Lord Ronald my son' (one strain only).
The verses 'Farewell to Lochaber,' ending 'And then I'll leave thee and Lochaber no more,' were written by Allan Ramsay. Burns recovered in Ayrshire two verses of the old ballad 'Lord Ronald,' in conjunction with this tune: he is recorded to have exclaimed, on hearing Lochaber played on the harpsichord, 'Oh, that's a fine tune for a broken heart!'
The Irish air lies in the fourth and last of the scales given in the article on Irish Music [vol. ii. p. 20a], having its semitones between 3 and 4, 6 and 7; it is also marked by traces of the narrative form characteristic of ancient Irish melody. In the Leyden MS., a Scottish relic of 1690 or thereabouts, in tablature for the Lyra-Viol, a tune closely allied to the above airs is given as 'King James' March to Irland.' James is known to have landed at Kinsale, March 12, 1689. On comparison of the versions, in bar 6 of the 1st and bar 3 of the 2nd strain the Irish air appears to most advantage: the skip of a major ninth in Lochaber is most likely a corruption: it is certainly characteristic of neither Irish nor Scottish melody: Mr. Moore (who is supported both by Bunting and Holden in claiming for Ireland this beautiful air) is in his prefaces to the Irish Melodies rather severe upon the Scots for stealing not only Irish airs, but Irish saints.An interesting example of the effect of 'Lochaber no more' is given by Robert Nicholl. 'During the expedition to Buenos Ayres, a Highland soldier while a prisoner in the hands of the Spaniards, having formed an attachment to a woman of the country, and charmed by the easy life which the tropical fertility of the soil enabled them to lead, had resolved to remain and settle in South America. When he imparted this resolution to his comrade, the latter did not argue with him, but, leading him to his tent, he placed him by his side, and sang him "Lochaber no more." The spell was on him, the tears came into his eyes, and wrapping his plaid around him, he murmured "Lochaber nae mair—I maun gang back—Na!" The songs of his childhood were ringing in his ears, and he left that land of ease and plenty for the naked rocks and sterile valleys of Badenoch, where, at the close of a life of toil and hardship, he might lay his head in his mother's grave.'
[ R. P. S. ]