Morag Josephine Grant

Published On


Page Range

pp. 119-138

Print Length

19 pages

6. The Song of Parting

Chapter of: Auld Lang Syne: A Song and its Culture(pp. 119–138)
Building on the previous chapter, this chapter focuses more specifically on the emerging tradition of using Auld Lang Syne as a song of parting rather than reunion. It begins by looking at other songs of parting in the Scottish tradition, before looking more closely at early evidence for Auld Lang Syne’s use in such contexts. Some of the earliest recorded incidences relate to military practices, with Auld Lang Syne being used during the ceremony at which company colours were replaced; it was also often played as troop ships were leaving harbour. This is just one example of how, by the mid-nineteenth century, Auld Lang Syne was increasingly regarded as an important British and not just Scottish patriotic song, often closely linked to God Save the King/Queen and Rule Britannia. The song’s significance in the project of Empire, and the role of imperialism in the spread of the song, is subsequently explored further. The chapter concludes by looking at further types of evidence indicating the increasing use of the song as a song of parting in both Britain and North America, culled from newspaper, literary and other sources. It concludes with a discussion of one of the first ever recordings of the song, made in 1898 when a group of Cambridge anthropologists set off for the Torres Straits.