Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Eric Bogle on the buzz of anti-war songs

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionEric Bogle 'just wants people to sing' his anti-war songs

The singer-songwriter Eric Bogle left Scotland for Australia almost 50 years ago. There, he wrote two of the most famous anti-war songs of all time.

No Man's Land - also known as The Green Fields of France - And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda - have now been performed and recorded so many times, people assume they're traditional songs from World War One.

But for Eric Bogle, back in Scotland for a brief visit, it doesn't matter who sings his songs, as long as they continue to be sung.

He was born in Peebles 70 years ago and has spent more than half his life in Australia, where he moved in 1969.

Shortly afterwards, in 1971, he wrote And the Band played Waltzing Matilda.

He says: "I wrote it after seeing an Anzac Day March in Canberra.

"Anzac Day is a whole day holiday set aside to honour the men and women who have died in the umpteen wars Australia has been involved in, and I thought the time was right for an anti-war song but I set it in Gallipoli rather than Vietnam, because even though our soldiers were dying in Vietnam, most Australians couldn't point to it on a map, whereas Gallipoli is woven into the psyche of the nation."

The song has been recorded by many artists over the years, The Skids and The Pogues among them.

"And every time I hear someone sing one of my songs, I get quite a buzz, no matter who it is," Eric says.

"I don't always like the versions, I reserve the right not to like them but it still gives you a buzz to hear them sung."

In 1975, Eric wrote another anti-war song, this time inspired by a visit he made to Flanders.

"I was just unready for how young they were," he says

"In all the photos I'd seen, they all looked old because they'd been through hell but they were so young, just wee laddies."

No Man's Land, which the Irish group The Fureys covered as The Green Fields of France, is often mistaken for a traditional song of World War One but Eric doesn't mind.

He says: "People think I'm old and some people think I was killed in the First World War.

"It's a compliment that the song has been so accepted into the mainstream genre of folk music that people assume it's traditional.

"But I always sign my name to it. I just want people to sing it. Any songwriter worth his or her salt just wants their songs to be sung."

And at 70, he is content to give up touring, and concentrate on writing.

"My main thing is songwriting," Eric says.

"I could happily sit and write in my office for the rest of my life.

"Getting angry and frustrated and throwing things and then getting uplifted.

"At the end of the day it's not Rabbie Burns, it's Eric Bogle but it's the best Eric Bogle can do."