It takes some time to find the proper funeral song that speaks to you and your loved ones. But if you take a moment to consider the culture, then you'll quickly realize that there are likely many funeral songs that people play to keep the ceremony traditional and authentic while also paying tribute to where they come from. You see this strategy with many, many cultures and Scottish funerals are certainly no exception.
Interestingly, many of the popular Scottish funeral songs were written hundreds of years ago. Many of these songs have withstood the test of time simply because they offer a level of comfort and connectivity that more modern music simply can’t. These songs have been played over and over again because they each resonate with people.
Scottish musical culture includes several songs with bagpipes — however, you'll discover that not every song on this playlist contains them. There are some songs that are best heard through other instrumental means, but if you love bagpipes, then there are certainly a number of songs that you’ll appreciate.
COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, test your audio before the ceremony, so you can anticipate any day-of-funeral issues. Make sure to create a unique playlist for the digital reception, wake, or other gatherings and send the playlist URL to the guests with the funeral thank-you cards.
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1. "The Parting Glass" by Sir Alex Boswell
“The Parting Glass" is a traditional Scottish song typically played during gatherings of friends and family. However, it has also transitioned into a popular funeral song, focusing on the meaning of friendship. Many people appreciate the meaning of this song and love to play it for a family member or friend that held a special place in their heart.
2. "My Love is Like a Red Red Rose" by Eddi Reader
While this song is often seen published as a poem, it is originally a song. It was written in 1794 and has since been played at countless funerals. It may even appear in greeting cards from time to time.
3. "Flower of Scotland" by Roy Williamson
"Flower of Scotland" is considered a sort of an anthem of Scotland is often played at large public gatherings. However, due to its sentimental nature, it is not uncommon to hear it played at funerals. People connect with this song in a way that makes it a great choice to say a final “farewell” as you lay your loved one to rest.
4. "Ye Banks and Braes O' Bonnie Doon" by Robert Burns
This song was initially written about a marriage that never came to be; the beautiful melody can often be heard during a Scottish funeral. The song certainly adds a little something special to the procession despite the content being somewhat out of context.
5. "Hasten and Come with Me" by The Munros
While the original artist is unknown, the version by The Munros is certainly worth a listen. For Scottish funerals, it is common for the tune to be played with bagpipes. It is common for this song to be played without lyrics.
6. "Ashokan Farewell" by Jay Ungar
Commonly used as music for waltzing, the melody is so moving that it is often used for funerals as well. While an American folk musician wrote it, the Scottish undertones are undeniable.
7. "Flowers of the Forest" by John Skene
The original words to the melody are unknown, but since its creation in the 1700s, it has undergone various lyrical changes. The music is intended to depict a Scottish battle but has so much meaning to many people that it is often associated with funeral songs as well.
8. "Lochaber No More" by Robert Prescott Stewart
Both Scotland and Ireland use this song for traditional funeral services. There are said to be three renditions of the song, and it is unclear from which country the tune originated.
9. "Amazing Grace" by John Newton
This timeless religious funeral song is played during funerals around the world. While not incredibly common at a Scottish funeral, it has certainly been added to the playlist. However, it is noted that this song is not easily played with bagpipes.
10. "The Dark Island" by Fiona Kennedy
This melodic instrumental song is performed at a variety of gatherings, including Scottish funerals. The song itself is about leaving home, and the many memories created there.
11. "Highland Cathedral" by Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb
While this is originally a German song, it is so well-loved in Scotland that it has been suggested to be the national anthem. Many people opt to play this traditional song during funerals and include bagpipes.
12. "Farewell to Lismore" by Unknown
This conventional Gaelic song is often included in Scottish funerals. It includes bagpipes and has various instruments added based on personal preferences.
13. "Sleep, Dearie, Sleep" by Lone Piper
"Sleep, Dearie, Sleep" is another favorite song played with bagpipes. The focus of the song is about the comparison of death and long sleep. It is peaceful music that resonates with many.
14. "MacLeod's Oran Mor" by Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band
This is another bagpipe tune that is often played at a variety of gatherings. Sometimes, it can also be heard at funerals for those that enjoy this song or have personal memories tied to it.
15. "Iain Ruaidh's Lament" by Unknown
As noted throughout this list, bagpipes are a common instrument to use when playing Scottish funeral music. This is another option to choose from when searching for the perfect bagpipe song to add to the playlist.
16. "Rowan Tree" by Lady Nairne
While the origin of the song is unknown, Lady Nairne wrote the lyrics to the melody. The song pays tribute to the life of the rowan tree, which in many ways can be compared to the life of a person lost.
17. "The Skye Boat Song" by Sir Harold Boulton
This song depicts the journey of Prince Charles Edward Stuart as he evaded capture during battle. Today, it is often played as a lullaby or slow waltz, making it an excellent choice as a funeral song as well.
18. "Abide with Me" by Anglican Henry Francis Lyte
The poem was first written in 1847 and was only set to music as the composer was dying from tuberculosis. In fact, Lyte only lived three weeks after the poem was put to music. Today, it can be heard at Scottish funerals.
19. "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" by Martin Luther
This is a Christian song that was composed around 1527. The song is actually somewhat of a summary of Psalm 26 and has been translated into several languages. There is no question that many people adore this music.
20. "Mist Covered Mountains of Home" by Highland John Cameron
Written in 1856, this song has since been played during many Scottish gatherings, including funerals. It is a comforting ballad that is often played as a lullaby or even at weddings. This versatile song is loved by many.
Songs with History
Scottish funerals often include music that not only means something to the deceased but the entire country as well. The music that's played during funerals is typically rooted in Scottish history—melodies that are near and dear to many people.
With so much rich history, it is no wonder that many people prefer to hear these songs in their funeral ceremony. Folk songs passed through generations can bring people together and make them feel a sense of connectivity—which can mean everything as you grieve the loss of a loved one.