CD Review: Somme - The Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra

Produced by the The Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra

Somme - The Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra

Another excellent CD by the Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra, this one commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. All through the CD is the theme ‘No more brothers wars’ which makes it is a ‘must get’ for those of us with an interest in our European history and culture, who don’t want to see brother killing brother ever again.

Somme has twenty great tracks, starting with #1. Fare Ye Well Enniskillen; which starts with the sound of the Enniskillen Dragoons marching off to France, full of hope and singing about their return. Sadly as we now know most did not return to ever see their beloved Ulster again.

#2. Killaloe; The sound of bagpipes and drums. #3. Far Off Fields of Picardy; The singer says “was it really worth it - for a few miles of ground?” Very powerful, but very upsetting song about the thousands who fell on the first day - for nothing.

#4. Battle of the Somme; Another moving song about those brave lads who died at the Somme. #5. Brian Boru’s March; Musical with fiddles, flutes and even a harp. #6. Bloody Road to the Somme; How Carson called for the sons of Ulster to rally around the flag and fight for England against the Kaiser’s German army - and how senseless it was.

#7. Young Sons of Erin; This is my favourite and a very powerful song, in which Ulstermen recognise - maybe for the first time in song - that Irish Catholics stood and died side by side with them. Their sacrifice was just as great, and just as pointless. “Orange and Green for the same cross the same loss”. #8. Stille Nacht; The famous carol Silent Night that both the British and German troops sung together in the trenches during the Christmas of 1916. First sung in Ulster-Scots and then in German. If there was ever a call for ‘no more brothers wars’ this was it’.

#9. Garryowen; A well known tune, very popular with American Ulster-Scots during the Revolutionary War. #10. Bonnie Woodgreen; A young Belfast lad from Bonnie Woodgreen joins up to serve his King and finds himself at death’s door facing the German foe. #11. Billy’s March; Lots of flutes and then the Lambeg drum play the popular Ulster tune.

#12. Thiepval Graveyard; Sung in English/Ulster-Scots, a song about the brave lads from the villages and towns who fell at the Somme and who were buried there. #13. Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye; Sung to the tune of ‘when Johnny comes marching home’, a mother sings of the young man she hardly knew before he went off to war, who returned minus a leg and an arm.. She pledges that she will not let it happen again. Sadly it did.

Commemorative archway in Sandy Row, Belfast, marks the sacrifice of the original UVF at the Somme in 1916

#14. St. Patrick’s Day; A lovely Irish tune which starts on a harp then goes on to the fiddle. #15. Young Crozier of Battenbergs Street; Another song about a young Shankill lad who joins up for all the best reasons only to die at the Somme.

#16. Willie McBride/Flowers o the Forest; Another track to bring tears to your eyes. I thought Ian Stuart sang it well, then I heard Lynx and Lamb sing it, and now the Ulster-Scots guys. Just what can you say. #17. Killiecrankie, Ower the Water; A few words, lots of fiddles, then the famous Lambeg Drum and finally bagpipes play out this famous Ulster tune.

#18. Ower the Water; Another very moving song. The war is now over and won, but what about their only son, who never returned like thousands of other Ulster lads. #19. Where Have All the Flowers Gone; Sung by an Ulster lass with a truly beautiful voice - she sings ‘where have all the young men gone?’ and lastly #20. Last Post; A fitting end to the CD, an Ulster bugler plays the Last Post.

Band member Willie Drennan explains; “The 36th Ulster Division alone lost 5,553 men during the first two days of the Battle of the Somme in what was one of the most horrendous events of the First World War. This has had a major effect on the psyche of the people in the small province of Northern Ireland to this day. In 2006, 90 years later, this recording tries to address the enormity and the futility of it all - not just for Northern Ireland, but for everyone, everywhere. All we can do is to examine what happened at the Somme and try to understand it.”

Add this excellent CD to your collection and you will not be disappointed.

The 36th Ulster Division

Reviewed by: Mark Cotterill, Blackburn, Lancashire

Somme - The Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra CD is available for £12.00 or $20.00 USA/Canada from Colin Agnew, 14 Woodgrove,
Woodtown Road, Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, BT43 5JQ, or online at

This review first appeared in the July-September 2006 issue of Heritage and Destiny (Issue 25). You can buy single back issues of H&D for £4.00, while an annual subscription (four issues) costs just £20.00. Visit the Heritage and Destiny page here for more details and to place an order.