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What are the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne, and what does Auld Lang Syne actually mean?

We all know Auld Lang Syne from bleary-eyed New Year’s Eve renditions, but have you ever wondered exactly what the words mean, and where they come from? And what about the tune?

Most of us will know ‘Auld Lang Syne’ from joyful New Year’s Eve festivities, joining friends and family in raising our voices to welcome in a new year, but how many people can truthfully say they know the words beyond the first verse?

As for the melody, it pre-dates any New Year’s celebrations as we know them, and has been used by the likes of Beethoven, Haydn, and even Cliff Richard.


See the reference below and the second image for a must watch and listen:

‘Auld Lang Syne’ by the Choral Scholars of University College Dublin

What are the lyrics to Auld Land Syne?

First verse:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Second verse:
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


Third verse:
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.


Fourth verse:
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.


Fifth verse:
And there’s a hand,
my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

What does ‘Auld Lang Syne’ mean?

The most accurate plain English interpretation of the piece’s famous title is ‘Old long since’, or ‘For the sake of old times’.

The song itself is reflective in nature, and is basically about two friends catching up over a drink or two, their friendship having been long and occasionally distant.

The words were written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788, but Burns himself revealed at the time of composing it that he had collected the words after listening to the verse of an old man on his travels, claiming that his version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ marked the first time it had been formally written down.

However, an earlier ballad by James Watson, named ‘Old Long Syne’, dates as far back as 1711, and use of the title phrase can be found in poems from as early as the 17th century, specifically works by Robert Ayton and Allan Ramsay.

What is the tune to ‘Auld Lang Syne’?

The tune is thought to stem from a traditional folk song, collected in the Roud Folk Song Index (it’s listed as #6294). The famous tune is loosely based on a pentatonic (five-note) scale, and has been borrowed and quoted by countless composers and writers.

Beethoven even wrote an arrangement of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as part of his 12 Scottish Folksongs from 1814 (listen below).

One of the more unusual and most famous uses of the tune came in 1999 when Cliff Richard used the melody for his single ‘Millennium Prayer’, in which he sang the words of The Lord’s Prayer over the familiar tune.


Members of National Clan Cameron Australia Inc. attended the 40th Anniversary of The Celtic Council of Australia on 12 November 2022 where Dr Robert Stewart (Bob) Cameron was posthumously awarded Cyfaill y Celtiad (CyC) (from Welsh – ‘Friend of the Celts’) for his years of dedicated service to Clan Cameron and to the wider Scottish and Celtic communities.

In 1983 Dr Cameron initiated the re-establishment of the NSW Clan Cameron Association, and served as Clan Cameron Australia Commissioner and as Clan Cameron NSW Inc President. He was instrumental in initiating and maintaining a wealth of Cameron genealogical data that is available on this website. Dr Robert’s son, Dr Stewart Cameron, continues that genealogical work today.

This was Dr Bob Cameron’s third Celtic Council award, having already being awarded Duine Uasal (Post nominal – D Ua) (from the Irish language – “Honoured Person/(Celtic) Gentleman or woman”) and Duine Urramach (D Urr) ( from Scots Gaelic – “Noble Person/Honoured Person”)

Convenor Dr Suzanne Jamieson presenting Dr Stewart Cameron and Fiona Cameron with Dr Robert Cameron’s award. Australian Clan Cameron Commissioner Dr James Cameron & NCCA Inc. President Alistair Cameron looking on.












Dr Robert Stewart Cameron – ‘Friend of the Celts’


CyC Medal awarded to Dr Cameron











Members of National Clan Cameron Australia Inc attended the ceremony


NCCA Inc. members enjoying lunch at the Royal Automobile Club of Australia.











Eilean Munde, Sacred Burial Island, Loch Leven

On the death of a Highlander, the corps being stretched on a Funeral board, and covered with a coarse linnen wrapper, the friends lay on the breast of the deceased a wooden platter, containing a small quantity of salt and earth, separate and unmixed; the earth, an emblem of the corruptible body; the salt, an emblem of the immortal spirit.

All fire is extinguished where a corps is kept; and it is reckoned so ominous for a dog or cat to pass over it, that the poor animal is killed without mercy.

Thomas Pennant: A Tour in Scotland. White, London; 1776

With thanks to the National Trust for Scotland

© Canna House Photographic Collection

The name Halloween comes from a Scottish shortening of All-Hallows Eve and has its roots in the Gaelic festival of Samhain.

Scottish Halloween traditions have certainly changed over the years. In the 1930s on South Uist, children were known to make homemade costumes from the skin and skulls of dead animals.

The otherworldly magic of a traditional Hebridean Halloween was captured on camera by Margaret Fay Shaw, who amassed a huge collection of Gaelic song, poetry and images when she lived in the west of Scotland from the 1930s onwards.

A Hebridean Halloween: Play here

Margaret and her husband, Gaelic scholar John Lorne Campbell, bought the Isle of Canna in 1938, donating it to the Trust in 1981. Their collection, archived at Canna House, includes images and film of Halloween, or Samhain, festivities in South Uist.

The roots of Halloween in Scotland go back to the Gaelic festival of Samhain. ‘There are lots of theories about the origins of Samhain, but the overriding idea is that it was a time when the boundary between this world and the other world could be crossed,’ says Canna House archivist and manager Fiona Mackenzie.

“That was the origin of dressing up – you were disguising yourself from the spirits and trying to please them, so they’d look after you during winter. ”

Fiona Mackenzie

‘Costumes were usually made out of sheepskin or whatever was lying around the croft. Unravelled rope was used to make headpieces. In Margaret’s photos you can see someone dressed entirely in sheepskin. She wrote in the 1930s about watching a boy skin the head of a sheep, leaving the ears intact. He lifted it over his head and looked just like a sheep,’ continues Fiona.

Traditional Samhain costumes © Canna House Photographic Collection

Fiona adds: ‘There’s a lot of food involved in Samhain too, both as a feast day for yourself but also to leave food out for the spirits.’ One tradition was to leave a place set at the table to welcome the souls of dead relatives.

Food for Halloween (the word comes from the Scots shortening of All Hallows Eve) included a pudding shared by the family, with a silver sixpence, a thimble and a button hidden inside. There were also traditions to do with romance. You could foretell the future of two sweethearts by throwing two nuts into the fire. If they exploded at the same time, it was said ‘they were away together’.

The Massed Pipes and Drums of the Scottish and Irish Regiments led the procession of the Queen’s Coffin and Gun Carriage through the streets of London.

The Massed Pipes and Drums chose to lead off from the Funeral at Westminster Abbey with ” Chi Mi Na Morbheanna”.

Chì mi na mòrbheanna (commonly known in English as The Mist Covered Mountains of Home) is a Scottish Gaelic song that was written in 1856 by Highlander John Cameron (Iain Camshroin), a native of Ballachulish and known locally in the Gaelic fashion as Iain Rob and Iain Òg Ruaidh. He worked in the slate quarries before moving to Glasgow where he was engaged as a ship’s broker. He became the Bard of the Glasgow Ossianic Society and also Bard to Clan Cameron.

He returned to carry on a merchant’s business along with his elder brother and to cultivate a small croft at Taigh a’ Phuirt, Glencoe, in his beloved Highlands. Other songs and odes appeared in The Oban Times and in various song books. He was buried in St. Munda’s Isle in Loch Leven. Wreaths of oak leaves and ivy covered the bier. The song is a longing for home and, with its wistful, calming melody and traditional ballad rhythms, is often used as a lullaby.

See: The Massed Pipes and Drums of the Scottish and Irish Regiments