The Low Road

Episode #17
Aired 1947-09-29
Read Overview

The Low Road

"Quiet, Please!"

Wyllis Cooper

Wednesday, October 1, 1947

10:00 – 10:30 PM EST


WOR – 1000-1025 PM EST, MON. SEPT. 29, 1947
MBS – 830-825 PM EST, WED. OCT. 1, 1947
REH – 200-500 PM EST, MON. SEPT. 29 – STUDIO 16
800-1000 PM EST, MON. SEPT. 29 – STUDIO 15

CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.


CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.


ANNCR: The Mutual Broadcasting System presents "Quiet, Please!" which is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper, and features Ernest Chappell.

"Quiet, Please!" for tonight is called "The Low Road."


SINGER: By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes Where the sun shines bright on Ben Lomond

ROBERT: In the evening, in the fair evening, I stand by the banks of Loch Lomond, and the crest of Ben Lomond is golden in the last sun across the water; and here is the first blue dusk of evening along the braes, and the Black Mountain behind me as it was all those years ago when I, proud in my first kilt and my fine Balmoral broad bonnet with the red toorie upon it, stood and watched another sunset upon the Ben.

Och aye, and it was many years ago when I said goodbye to Loch Lomond and the Vale of Leven, and took ship a lone laddie for America, sailing away from Dumbarton where Robert the Bruce himself onetime built his ships. Around Loch Lomond is the Land of the Colquhouns, and I am of that ilk, being named Robert Kilpatrick Colquhoun for the founder of Clan Colquhoun, who had these lands from Malcolm of Lennox in the time of Alexander the second.

Now I have lost the burr from my voice in those long motherless years in the New World; but I have not forgotten these bonnie braes and the setting sun on the mountain across Loch Lomond. And I can still shout our clan's war-cry Cnoc Eilachann with any man that wears a sprig of dogberry in his bonnet. Aye, and the feel of the philibeg, the small kilt, is good about my knees, and the sgain-dubh, the little black knife, in my stocking-top, is a comfort.

I have found that I remember many things: my grandfather when I was small taught me four-and-twenty tartans, and today I have seen the yellow and black MacLeod, and the green and black and red Leslie, very difficult to tell from our own, and even an ancient parson in the dark blue and light blue of the Clergy. And I am happy that my brother Patrick has come down from the town to stand on the banks of Loch Lomond with me and watch the sunset shadows crawl up the slopes of Ben Lomond.

PATRICK: Do ye find it as ye remembered it, Robert?

ROBERT: Aye, it's the same, Patrick, though the loch seems smaller and the mountains not so high as they all were then.

PATRICK: It maun be yersel that's grawn bigger, lad, for I've been here to seem them a' every day o' the years ye've been awa', and they havena changed at a' at a'.

ROBERT: It was a joke I was making, Patrick.

PATRICK: Oh? (DOUBTFULLY) Weel. Aiblins ye'd like tae walk alang the shore up t'wards Glen Douglas?

ROBERT: Along the old path....

PATRICK: Na, the auld path isna there any mair, Robert. We maun just walk up the highroad tae Inverbeg if ye like.

There's time before dark, if ye will.

ROBERT: The highroad. I've not heard that word in speech for many's the long year, Patrick.

PATRICK. Ye mind the song, though.

ROBERT: Ay, I mind the song. Many's the time I've heard the song sung back there in the States, and even the times I've heard 'em making it a jazz song in the night-clubs, I—

PATRICK: They dinna do that!

ROBERT: Ay, they do, but they're Sassenachs that do it, not knowing the meaning.

PATRICK: But whit dae ye do aboot it?

ROBERT: Nothing.

PATRICK: Nothing! Are you a Scot!

ROBERT: What's the good? I'd not be thanked for interferin'. So I take the song to my heart, and – in good time I come back to Scotland.

PATRICK: And God be thankit ye come to the high-road, Robert.

ROBERT: Highroad or lowroad, we all come back.

PATRICK: Ay. Ye mind how grandfather told us how Charlie's men cam back frae Carlisle along this very road on the way to Culloden in the '45?

ROBERT: All that was left of the six thousand that invaded England..marching back to the Well o' the Dead –

PATRICK: Aye, and the lowroad crowded too, wi' them that was left behind at Carlisle.

ROBERT: Patrick, have you ever heard them at night, as grandfather used to tell?

PATRICK: There's mony a strange thing to be heard of a winter's night alang the banks o' Loch Lomond, Robert. I have heard the coronach skirlin' amang the braes on a night when no livin' mon wad be oot in the storm, and waked to hear the news o' death in the village in the mornin'.

ROBERT: You're fey, Patrick.

PATRICK: Aye. We're a' fey, we Scots. We hear things that ither men canna hear, and we see things that naebody sees but us, and here amang the lowerin'
crags an' the dark tarns we're ay closer t' Death an' all his secrets than ither race upon the Earth. Aye, we're a dour, dowie, fey folk, Robert, and noo the sun has set should we no be turnin' oor steps back tae the village and a guild willie-wacht.

ROBERT: Now that I've forgotten, Patrick.

PATRICK: Weel, ye have been a lang time away frae hame, then, Robert, to've fergot that a guild willie-wacht is a gey long drink of uisge-beatha. Come alang, noo, before the bogles o' the nicht come oot an' charm ye awa' wi' their singin' –

ROBERT: Listen!

SINGER: ...where me and my true love will never meet again On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond...


ROBERT: Ben Lomond has looked upon many's the dying sun since that night I first heard your voice, Janet. The winds that stir the heather in the Vale of Leven tonight are a coronach above your lonely grave beside the bonnie banks of the lonely loch.

And there was prophecy in the words of the song you sang, Janet.

SINGER: ...will never meet again...

ROBERT: For neither the High Road nor the Low Road brought your lover back in time.

I saw you first, Janet, in the gloaming, and Orion the Mighty Hunter was rising behind you. I saw him not as the huntsman he seems to others, but as a giant in kilt and plaid, with Aldebaran for a cairngorm at his shoulder, and the mighty drones of his war-pipes upon his arm. And from the jewel-studded chanter that some think to be his sword came the high, wild skirling of a Highland song that was old when Kenneth MacAlpin was King of the Picts and Scots.

And I have heard the song many another time, Janet, as Orion nightly rises above Ben Lomond or above the thousand-windowed towers of a city far away.

Then I remember the Low Road waits for me, Janet, and a day will come when I shall hear the Lament, and follow the ancient pipes back to the land whence I came.


ROBERT: I had no words when I first saw you, Janet.

I remember how my brother spoke your name. I remember how he called you by the old Gaelic "Seonaid" ...

PATRICK: Ye'd not be rememberin' Seonaid MacFarlane, Robert...

ROBERT: And you spoke, Janet, Seonaid....

JANET: I was a wee bairn when you went awa', Robett, all the years syne, but I remember you.

ROBERT: You remembered ME!

You'd not know me, though, Janet, Seonaid, now I'm a grown man...

JANET: Oh, no, but that ye look like Patrick. I'd know ye, Robert.

ROBERT: And I stared at her in the dusk, until she laughed ...

JANET: (LAUGHS) But ye'll know me anither time, Robert frae the way ye're gogglin' at me the noo!

ROBERT: And I spoke; like some back-country loon I spoke. I said you're so beautiful, Seonaid. And Patrick laughed, too

PATRICK: (LAUGHS) Robert thocht ye some bogle or kelpie i' the dark, Seonaid, syne we was bletherin' aboot the like.

JANET: Ay, then, Robert, see ye mind yersel', for 'tes true there are fairy-
folk that dwell beside the loch.

ROBERT: And I spoke like a loon again, and the long-forgotten burr came to my tongue as I said Och aye, and it wad seem that I ha' foond ane o' them ... Seonaid.


ROBERT: Long walks in the shining days of the fall ... Up the steep hill above Rudha Mor to the Fairch Loch where the waters are forever blue because the fairies used to wash their clothes there... Down to scones and wild bramble jam at Inverbeg ... Across the Loch Rowardennan, and once we climbed Ben Lomond himself and set to watch the sun go down behind the Black Mountain ... Patrick, and Seonaid, and me.....And the song, the song...

SINGER: ... me and my true love will never, never meet On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond ...

ROBERT: Patrick, and Seonaid, and me ...

And one day; one day at last, Only Seonaid and me.

The first time, Seonaid, you and I have been alone together.

JANET: Why, so it is, Rob.

ROBERT: I had begun to think you never wanted to be alone with me, Seonaid.

JANET: Had you?

ROBERT: Aye. (A PAUSE) Is it so?

JANET: Do you think so?

ROBERT: Seonaid.

JANET: Yes, Rob?

ROBERT: I must go back to America soon.

JANET: To America! (A PAUSE) I thought you had come to stay.

ROBERT: No. Not this time. Another time I will come back ... to stay.

JANET: We will be sorry to see you go, Rob. It has been good having you. But must you go?

ROBERT: Will you care?

JANET: I will care, aye.

ROBERT: Seonaid, do you know what I am trying to say to you?


ROBERT: Must I say it?

JANET: Dinna say it.

ROBERT: Seonaid, I love you.

JANET: (SLOWLY) Aye, I ken you do, Rob.

ROBERT: I love you.

JANET: Ye ha' loved me ever syne the first time ye saw me.

ROBERT: You knew it?

JANET: I saw yer face in the starlicht, Rob.

ROBERT: Ah, Seonaid ...


ROBERT: Dearest, Seonaid –

JANET: No, Rob! No!

ROBERT: But you –

JANET: Rob. Hasna Patrick said aught to ye?

ROBERT: Patrick!

JANET: Aye, Patrick. Ye rain brither ...

ROBERT: Janet! No!

JANET: Aye, Rob. Didna ye ken that we are betrothed?

ROBERT: And the skies above me darkened then.

I saw the white leven-fire lash at the brow of Ben Lomond across the loch, and

Through the thunder's crash (SOUND) a burst of music from the blackened skies

Louder than the roar of the drones of the great war-pipes of MacCrimmon, and the music hammered at me like the blows of a Lochaber axe –


ROBERT: And in that moment I hated my brother.


ROBERT: We Scots are a strange race.

There is something in us of the berserk Norsemen who came to conquer us and became a part of us.

There is something of the Pict in us; the dark dwarfs who opposed their bare, blue-painted bodies against the wicket short swords and darting spears of Agricola's legions from Rome;

And amongst us there are men with races that you might see on a Roman coin of Hadrian's time; for we did not put all our Roman captives to the sword.

A strange race; strange even to ourselves. A race of violent men with all the virtues of our forefathers, and not a little of their forgotten wickedness. Brother has hated brother before, in Scotland.

Were not the Protestant Campbells arrayed against Charles Edward at Culloden?

Was not the very chief of my own clan slain by Alistair MacGregor three hundred years ago? I hated my brother.


PATRICK: Me, I was no sure aboot it.

I dinna ken why I didna tell Robert about Seonaid and mysel'.

Aiblins I thocht Seonaid herself wad tell him.

Aiblins I hesitated aboot it, thinkin' a better dee wad come, and a fairer opportunity.

I dinna ken.

Noo I can see that perhaps a' that scather could ha' been avoided had I just spoke the richt words at the richt time.

Or maybe it couldn't.

Anyways, it was too late.

Robert spoke to ME:

ROBERT: You're a luck man, young Patrick.

PATRICK: Och, aye?

ROBERT: Aye; you're a luck man.

PATRICK: And what's brought that up, Robbie?

ROBERT: I mean about Seonaid.

PATRICK: Oh. (A PAUSE) Ye – ye know aboot it, then?

ROBERT: She told me.

PATRICK: Oh. Weel ... I mean to tell ye aboot it afore, Rob, but somehow or ither –

ROBERT: Well ... it wasn't quite fair to me, you know.

PATRICK: I ken that, Robbie, and I'm sorry. But – I – I (HE STOPS)

ROBERT: Forget it, Patrick.

PATRICK: I know, but ...

ROBERT: Forget it. I'm going back to the States next week.

PATRICK: Oh, no! Why, ye said ye was come hame to stay, Robbie!

ROBERT: I thought so at first, but ... I can't stay.

PATRICK: Is it because ... Seonaid ....

ROBERT: Well ... that's part of it, Pat. (HE LAUGHS SHORTLY) As a matter of fact, I told her I was going back ...

PATRICK: Ye did!

ROBERT: I ... it was by way of asking her if she'd come back to the States with me that I ... I didn't know, Pat.

PATRICK: I should ha' told ya.

ROBERT: Yes; you should have. I – I thought she – she might have loved me. But --- well, you're a lucky man, Pat.

PATRICK: Och, aye, Robbie. But no a happy one the noo.

ROBERT: It's all right, Pat. So you see I've got an even better reason for leaving now.

PATRICK: Aye. Aye, so. (A PAUSE) Ye'll be leavin' soon, then, eh?

ROBERT: Very soon. Next week.

PATRICK: I looked forward so many years tae seein' ye again, Rob.

ROBERT: Well, you've seen me, Patrick. And you know, even if Janet hadn't already said the word to you ... even if she'd been free, and even if she'd have said yes to me, I couldn't have stayed anyway.

PATRICK: Why, Robbie?

ROBERT: Because. I knew you loved her, and I thought if I'd prove myself the better man to her, and married her ... even then one of us'd have to leave, wouldn't we?

PATRICK: Weel ...

ROBERT: And this is home to you. I have another home, you know. I haven't seen Loch Lomond in nearly thirty years, and now I've seen it, and seen you, and .. you do see I must go, don't you?


ROBERT: Well, then.

PATRICK: Aye. Weel, then.

ROBERT: And I couldn't say to my brother, there is a better reason than any other for my leaving. I couldn't say to my brother, Patrick, I hate you. I couldn't tell him that if I stayed, a day would come when ... when ... I knew in my heart that if I stayed...

And I didn't want the crime of murder on my soul.


ROBERT: Not then, I didn't.

But in the dark of the night, alone at the window, staring out at Orion striding across the sky, and shutting my eyes and seeing the bright hair of Seonaid against the pattern of Betelgeuse and Aldebaran in the blackness of that sky above Ben Lomond, then ...

Then another thought came.

And I opened my eyes, and that great smouldering red star that some folk call Siris the Dog Star – that star was the hilt of a blood-stained sgain-dubh that the mighty piper of the skies carried ... even as I did ... in his stocking.

The little black-hafted knife that is as much a part of Highland dress as plaidie, sporran, or filibeg.

And the toneless rhythm of MacRimmon's Lament

Return, return, return no more ...

SINGER: .... Shall never meet again On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond

ROBERT: And I, Robert Kilpatrick Colquohoun of Luss in Dumbartonshire, fell to my knees and prayed in the night that I should not slay my brother.



JANET: I am glad he is going.

Had it not been for the word I gave Patrick ...

If he stayed...

I love Patrick. I love Patrick.

It is good that he is taking Patrick with him to see him off on the ship that will take him back to America.

Patrick has never been out of Scotland.

It will be good for him to have a few days alone with his brother, to laugh together and talk of old days, and then to say good-by.

Come back soon, Patrick.

Come back to Scotland.


ROBERT: Down the highroad through Balloch in a bumpy motorbus; down above Kilpatrick along the hillside and John Brown's shipyard along the Clyde; onto the Great Western Road and the last into Glasgow.

And my heart is heavy in my breast, but my brother is gay at the thought of a few days with me, to talk mantalk and perhaps to sit in an ancient public-house in the City of the Bells and take a stowp o' Dew o' Glenlivet, and another and another, till our pates ring louder than all the bells o' Glasgow put together.

And this we do; aye, this we do.

And in the heavy peat-smoke reek of the unblended spirit we are suddenly brothers again, with naught but song and story between us.

But there is an end to the night, and in the biting air of the streets sobriety comes to me, and above me the Mighty Piper takes his stately way, and faintly, faintly a certain rhythm that beats itself out to the sound of our echoing footsteps


ROBERT: Patrick is only faintly puzzled when I say no to the deoch an doruis, the drink at the door, and make my way to the room, stony-sober to sit the night out.


ROBERT: South from Glasgow, and a sudden impulse at Carlisle, the first town on the English side of the Border. Here it was that the song was born. Did you know? It was after the '45, after Prince Charles Edward's invasion of England with six thousand men. He paused at Carlisle, and the wounded who were too far gone to struggle north with him were left.

And many of them died.

It was some sorely-wounded, dour old warrior who took leave of a comrade still able to march. He knew his fate was upon him, and his farewell was as dour as anything he ever did in a hard life. "Ye'll tak' the high-road," he said to his friend. "Ye'll tak' the high-road, and I'll take the Low Road – och, aye, and I'll be in Scotland afore ye."

You don't understand?

The Low Road is the last way home for the Scot who dies beyond the Border, beyond the seas. It's the Long Way Home for many a man.

That's why we don't like to have it sung the way we sometimes hear it.

Would you remember that?

No, that isn't the end of the story.

We saw the old gaol in Carlisle, and the place where they hanged the men of the Highlands who couldn't take the High Road. We stayed there two days.

We were about to leave when the telegram came.


ROBERT: Seonaid.

She was dying.

She had been stricken suddenly, and the telegram had followed us from Glasgow.

It was addressed to Patrick, but I opened it.

I think I went mad in that moment.

I flung myself down the stairway of the little inn where we were staying. There was a hire-garage across the street. I ran inside, and I remember I was screaming.

But I got a car. I flung all my money in the man's face, and I leap into the seat of the car.


I didn't even think of Patrick.

Not even when he came racing out of the door, waving the telegram that I had dropped in my haste.

I didn't think of Patrick even when the car struck him and flung him still screaming under the wheels as I headed out the highroad to the North and Loch Lomond.


ROBERT: I have only confused memories of that ride northward.

I roared past the border guards.

Through Greta Green, and Dumfries, and through Ayr and Kilmarnock, through the streets of Glasgow in the earliest hours of the morning....

I think policemen shouted at me; probably someone chased me.

Certainly there were motorcycles waiting for me when I passed through Balloch, my tyres screaming like banshees at the tight turn there, and motorcycles scattering all-which ways....

And up the high road to Loch Lomond, to Luss, where Seonaid lay dying.

I called her name.


ROBERT: And the high road stretched white ahead of me.

And I had a confused thought that there was another road alongside me, and a hurrying crowd of men who raced along it with me....

I could have sworn that I caught a glimpse of a broad Balmoral bonnet flying across the road in the glare of my headlamps, and I could see the golden hart's head badge of the Colquhouns upon it, and a red toorie that somehow seemed to be bloody....

And I drove faster and faster and faster.

And the men on the other road kept pace with me and I could have sworn I heard the skirl of pipes – what was it Patrick had said about the skirl of the coronach abune the braes? – and the waters of the Loch gleaming blackly in my headlamps, and then at last the white church at Luss.

Yes. I was too late.

Seonaid was dead.

The telegram had been delayed two days, you remember?

And so I walked down the highroad to the little church-yard and somewhere I heard a clock strike three.

I looked up to the sky, and Orion was there.

And the red jewel in the haft of the sgain-dubh glittered evilly down at me.

Yes, I found Seonaid's grave; her new-made grave.

And in the starlight that came down from the figure of the great piper above me there stood another figure.

A figure in full Highland dress, with plaidie and shawl, with bonnet and claymore and sporran, and the golden hart's head badge of the Colquhouns gleaming in the starlight.

And I remembered as I knelt down by her grave.

I remembered when Patrick spoke to me.

PATRICK: You are late, brother.

SINGER: Ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the Low Road And I'll be in Scotland afore ye...


ROBERT: In a little while they'll take a man from his cell in Carlisle Gaol, and then a warden will come to the street door, and he'll tack up a little notice and if you can get close enough you can read it. It'll say "The sentence of death upon the person of Robert Kilpatrick Colquhoun, late of Luss, Dumbartonshire, Scotland, has been duly carried out."

And then I'll take the Low Road back to Scotland.

But where will I go?

I have murdered my brother.


ANNCR: You have listened to "Quiet, Please", which is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper. The man who spoke to you was Ernest Chappell.

CHAPPELL: And Pat O'Malley played Patrick. Betty Wragge was Janet, and it was she who sang "The Bonnie Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond."

The music on "Quiet Please" is composed and played by Gene Perrazzo.

Now, for a word about next week's "Quiet, Please" here is our writer-director Wyllis Cooper.

COOPER: "Not Enough Time" is the title of next week's story, which is about another of those interesting scientists who invented a machine for traveling in time. This one has an interesting twist that I hope you'll like.

CHAPPELL: And so until our next week at this time, I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell.


ANNCR: "Quiet, Please" comes to you from New York.