The Celtic Music of Silly Wizard

Jun 28, 2014 by

In 1970, a group of young Scottish musicians in Edinburgh got together and formed one the most popular Celtic music bands ever–

Silly Wizard.

The band changed membership throughout the years, but included notable traditional music artists such as Andy M. Stewart, Phil Cunningham and Dougie MacLean.   By the time the band went their separate ways in 1988, they had recorded nine albums and toured throughout the world.

I’ve gathered a few of their best songs for you that will, hopefully,  inspire you to seek out more of Silly Wizard’s beautiful Scottish and Celtic music.

The Queen of Argyll was written by Andy M. Stewart and is one of Silly Wizard’s most popular tunes:

On the evening that I mentioned
I passed with light intention
Through a part of our dear country
Known for beauty and for style
In the place of noble thinkers
Of scholars and great drinkers
But above them all for splendour
Shone the Queen of all Argyll….


This is a recording of Silly Wizard performing live in Atlanta, Georgia in 1988, a concert I attended–it was fantastic!   Donald McGillivray, a song about a fictional Jacobite, is a fast paced traditional song first published in 1820. It’s guaranteed to get your blood up and your feet tapping!


The Fisherman’s Song/Lament For the Fisherman’s Wife was written by Martin Hadden and Phil Cunningham and released on their 1981 album Wild & Beautiful.

By the storm-torn shoreline a woman is standing
The spray strung like jewels in her hair
And the sea tore the rocks near the desolate landing
as though it had known she stood there.
But she has come down to condemn that wild ocean
For the murderous loss of her man.
His boat sailed out on Wednesday morning,
And it’s feared she’s gone down with all hands….



Silly Wizard sings of the call to arms for Bonnie Prince Charlie in this rousing Jacobite tune, “Wha’ll Be King But Cherlie?”, a traditional tune made bittersweet by the knowledge of what is to come for those brave Scots.

The effort to return the House of Stuart to the throne of Scotland cost many, many Scottish lives, especially at Culloden ( read my post on Culloden HERE), the last great battle on British soil.  As with the American Civil war, families were sometimes divided, and Scots fought and died on both sides of the battle.  Highlanders rallied around the young Prince Charles, fighting boldly for this man who would be king, though he had been raised in Italy and spent less than two years on Scottish soil during his lifetime.


The Valley of Strathmore is a song that often brings on tears (myself definitely, and I’ve seen others crying at SW concerts), yet it is probably the most requested Silly Wizard song.  Beautiful and elegiac, the song tells of man’s longing to walk the Scottish valley that he and his love once roamed together.   It’s been covered by other artists, but this is my favorite version, from their 1979 album,  So Many Partings.

By the clear and the winding stream
In the valley of Strathmore
Where my love and I have been
Where we’ll wander never more

But if time was a thing man could buy
All the money that I have in store
I would give for one day by her side
In the valley of Strathmore…..


It always surprises me to meet people interested in Celtic things–music, heritage, culture–who have never heard of Silly Wizard.  Although most of their music is Scottish, they also have numerous songs of Irish origin, and many songs with lyrics that are common to all Celtic cultures.  If you don’t own any of their music, but like what you heard above, I recommend checking Amazon for Silly Wizard CDs or digital music.  Download your favorite, grab a cuppa or a dram of single malt  and enjoy an hour of Celtic zen with Silly Wizard.

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