Music Monday: My Heart’s in the Highlands, The Barra McNeils

Research and writing go hand in hand.  You read something that sparks an idea, and a story is born.  Or, you begin to write something and find you need to go in search of some details.  In the process, you can get lost for hours on interesting tangents, or you can stumble across exactly what you need in a relatively short amount of time.  Below is a song I stumbled across when I found I needed some details for my story on Friday evening.

Barramacneils. “My Heart’s in the Highlands.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Mar. 2007. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.

I was working on With the Colonel’s Help.  In it, Darcy has loaned Elizabeth a book of poems written by William Wordsworth.  As my characters were settling in to ride to London, I decided it might be nice to have Darcy read to Elizabeth. But what was he going to read?

Thankfully, there are search engines to help with such issues.  I typed in my search phrase, pressed enter and ta-da! lots and lots of poems by Wordsworth. So, I picked “The Solitary Reaper”, read it, and liked it well enough to allow it to be what Darcy would read to Elizabeth.

But then Darcy had to ask what song the young lady in the poem might have been singing.

Oy! These characters! 🙂

So, it was off to do another search.

A random click of a mouse on a song title, “My Heart’s in the Highlands”, in a list of traditional Scottish songs brought me this bit of information:

Written by Burns in 1789 to a traditional Gaelic tune. Burns was a Lowland Scot from Ayrshire, but he toured in the Highlands for a month in 1787.

Ah, Robert Burns! Perfect.

Colonel Fitzwilliam, however, wished to sing the song.  Which brought me to another question: what does the song sound like when sung?

That required a trip to YouTube.

In the list of results, I noticed this one by The Barra McNeils. I knew that name and was familiar with their Celtic style of music. (They’re from Cape Breton.) So, I clicked play.

As you will see in the excerpt I have included below, the song goes well with the Wordsworth poem, and I have Colonel Fitzwilliam beginning to sing before asking Elizabeth to continue — so while you listen to the recording above, imagine the colonel starting the song with the chorus, and then Elizabeth picking it up on the verse and being joined by the others on the choruses.

I am including the words to the Robert Burns poem below so you can see the words that are being sung, and below that you will find the excerpt from this week’s writing session.

My Heart’s In The Highlands

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe –
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go!

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of worth!
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.


Farewell to the mountains, high-cover’d with snow,
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below.
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods!


EXCERPT FROM With The Colonel’s Help

Discussion shifted to the weather and the scenery and various other mundane topics before drifting into a natural lull.  Elizabeth settled back and drew out her book of poems. 

“May I?” Darcy asked.

Elizabeth nodded and hand him his book. 

“You have surpassed me,” he said with a smile when he saw where she was in the book. He smoothed the page and began reading.

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.  

The rich tones and the natural rise and fall of Darcy’s voice made the poem come alive as Elizabeth listened.  She leaned her head against the back side of the carriage but did not close her eyes as Maria was doing. There was little chance she would be able to fall asleep listening to Mr. Darcy read.  His brows furrowed at parts and his lips curved upwards in other places.  It was evident that he did not just read the words but surrounded himself with their emotion and meaning.

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;–
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

 He paused for a long moment after he completed the last line.  “I wonder what she sang?”

“Likely something by Burns,” replied Richard.

“My Heart is in the Highlands?” Elizabeth asked. 

“A very good choice.”  Richard straightened himself and began to sing.

“My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here, 
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer; 
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe – 
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go!” 

“Come now, Miss Bennet,” he said as he finished the chorus, “Darcy says you sing.” 

“Oh, she does!” cried Maria. 

“Please?”  Darcy prodded.

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and shook her head.  “I will sing but only if you all promise to join me on the chorus.” 

There were no dissenters, and so she sang.  And as she did, Darcy knew that though he sang the words “my heart is not here” when he joined in on the chorus, it was not true. His heart was most certainly here, perched on the bench across from him and singing of the forests and wild-hanging woods of the highlands. 

“Have you ever been to the highlands?” Maria asked when the song had drawn to a close. 

“Indeed I have,” said Richard.  “Beautiful, rugged country.” 

Maria sighed. “I should like to travel to the north one day.” 

“My aunt and uncle are going to the peak district this summer,” said Elizabeth. 

Maria sighed again. “And taking you with them.  I never get to travel anywhere exciting.” 

“Will you pass through Derbyshire?” Darcy asked. 

“I do not know the route we intend to take, but my aunt is from Derbyshire, so I would expect we will,” replied Elizabeth.

“Your aunt is from Derbyshire?” Darcy asked in surprise. 

Elizabeth nodded. “Lambton.” 

“Lambton?” Darcy’s eyes grew wide, and he smiled. “Then you will have to visit Pemberley for it is not far from Lambton.” 

“Truly?” It was Elizabeth turn to be surprised.  She had not considered how close her travels might take her to Mr. Darcy’s home.  But then, she had not cared to know where his home before this. 

Maria sighed a third time. “I wish I could visit Pemberley.” 

Richard chuckled at the girl’s wistful tone. “Perhaps one day you may.”

“No,” she said in a most forlorn tone. “I shall never travel farther than Kent or London.” 

“Oh, come now,” Richard cajoled, “you may meet a fine Scottish laird and be whisked away on his noble stead.”  

Maria propped her head on her hand and leaned against the window. “If only it were possible.”  She then was lost to the conversation and consumed by the scenery outside.  


Leenie B Books


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Leenie Brown

Leenie Brown fell in love with Jane Austen's works when she first read Sense and Sensibility followed immediately by Pride and Prejudice in her early teens. As the second of five daughters and an avid reader, she has always loved to see where her imagination takes her and to play with and write about the characters she meets along the way. In 2013, these two loves collided when she stumbled upon the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. A year later, in 2014, she began writing her own Austen-inspired stories and began publishing them in 2015. Leenie lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with her two teenage boys and her very own Mr. Brown (a wonderful mix of all the best of Darcy, Bingley and Edmund with healthy dose of the teasing Mr. Tillney and just a dash of the scolding Mr. Knightley).

4 thoughts on “Music Monday: My Heart’s in the Highlands, The Barra McNeils”

  1. Delightful! Although now I feel like Maria, sighing and yearning to visit the highlands, or Derbyshire, or Pemberley.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I have always wanted to visit Scotland. However, there are highlands here in Nova Scotia. Have not been to them, but driven through the area en route to the Newfoundland Ferry. Would be fun to compare both by visiting them both.

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