The Six Nations means a lot of things. It means international rugby on the BBC – which is always nice; it means weekends spent in the pub having impassioned conversations about why so-and-so is a good scrummager but shite in the loose; and, most importantly, it means we get to listen to the fantastic national anthems on display at the start of each match.
Apart from God Save The Queen – which, let’s face it, is boring and monotonous – the national anthems of the remaining five nations in the competition are all great.
Le Marseillaise and Il Canto Degli Italiana are raucous up-tempo tunes that have a definite belt-ability which means they’re terrific for the start of International sports fixtures. Bread of Heaven under the roof at the Millennium Stadium is great, and I don’t know what it is about Welsh people, but they all seem to be fantastic singers; and Ireland’s Call is stellar not just as a song but also for what it represents.
However, there is one clear frontrunner, the jewel in the crown of Six Nations national anthems: Flower of Scotland.
I love this anthem so much. If I had an Alexa, I would get her to wake me up with this song every morning. I would jump out of bed, ready to face the day and march the English (myself included) out of Stirling Castle and back past Hadrian’s Wall. It will be the soundtrack for all significant events in my life: I will play it at my wedding, and I want it played at my funeral.
Such is my love for Flower of Scotland, that it has developed inside of me some strange connection to the Scottish national team. I have no affiliation with Scotland, but I always want them to do well, and I think it’s literally just because of this song.
From the first blow and squeeze of the bagpipes – parping the sweet, sorrowful tune across Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland, the World – to the final cheer, as the fans, players and band finish in unison, the whole stadium and everyone watching on TV is captivated. To be able to sing Flower of Scotland in front of a packed-out Murrayfield would be amazing, and it upsets me when Scotland don’t do well as it seems to not do the song justice.
Even just reading the lyrics, as I am now, gives me goose-bumps. It’s somehow sentimental, romantic, powerful, beautiful and haunting in equal measures. It’s impossible not to be moved by it. A nation bought together by the one thing they all have in common: hatred for the English.
It was Billy Steele who introduced Flower of Scotland to the sporting world. The Scottish winger sung it at a cabaret night during the 1974 British and Irish Lions tour, and at that point not even all of his fellow countrymen had heard of it. Now it is almost synonymous with Scottish rugby and Murrayfield, and when the teams take the field before the Calcutta Cup on Saturday – as they line up to sing the national anthems – turn the volume up, sit back, and enjoy… and then go make a cup of tea when England sing God Save the Queen.
By Will Sewell.