The lyrics of the song, written by Sir Henry Erskine (c. 1710-1765), are about the martial prowess of Highland soldiers and the perceived British tradition of freedom and fighting against the despotic French. The phrase "Garb of Old Gaul" refers to the traditional Highland dress, ancient Gaul being thought of at the time as the heartland of the Celtic peoples.
Robert Burns described it as "This excellent loyal Scottish song" and states that it first appeared in print in Herd's Collection of 1769.
The music was written by General John Reid, who was a senior officer of the 42nd Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch) during the Seven Years' War.
Such our love of liberty, our country and our laws,
That like our ancestors of old, we stand by freedom's cause,
We'll bravely fight like heroes bright for honour and applause
And defy the French with all their arts to alter our laws.
No effeminate customs our sinews unbrace,
No luxurious tables enervate our race;
Our loud sounding pipe breathes the true martial strain
And our hearts still the old Scottish valour retain.
As a storm in the ocean when Boreas blows,
So are we enrag'd when we rush on our foes,
We sons of the mountains tremendous as rocks,
Dash the force of our foes with our thundering strokes.
We're tall as the oak on the mount of the vale,
Are as swift as the roe which the hound doth assail;
As the full moon in autumn our shields do appear,
Minerva would dread to encounter our spear.
Quebec and Cape Breton, the pride of old France,
In their troops fondly boasted till we did advance,
But when our claymores they saw us produce,
Their courage did fail and they sued for a truce.
In our realm may the fury of faction long cease;
May our councils be wise and our commerce increase,
And in Scotia's cold climate may each of us find
That our friends still prove true, and our beauties prove kind.
Then we'll defend our liberty, our country and our laws,
And teach our late posterity to fight freedom's cause,
That like our bold ancestors for honour and applause
May defy the French with all their arts to alter our laws.