Utah State Today regularly highlights work created by the talented student journalists at Utah State University. The following story was published in The Utah Statesman prior to its inclusion in Utah State Today.
Ebenezer Kirkham wrote the beloved Utah State University anthem originally titled “The Scotchman” in 1918, and it has been sung at sporting events and academic ceremonies for decades.
According to the Yorkshire Historical Dictionary, “Scotchman” was formerly the English word for a man of Scottish nationality, now more commonly “Scotsman.”
But Kirkham may not have been the only one to come up with “The Scotsman.”
In 2018, USU historian Robert Parson told the Utah State Magazine Kirkham definitely wrote “The Scotchman” in 1918 for USU, but similar songs are also sung at Ohio Wesleyan University and Dakota Wesleyan University. Parson suspects the original melody could come from some Scottish or English folk song.
He also noted that Kirkham did change some of the words in his version, notably the addition of the word “sagebrush.”
The Scotsman was soon joined by another song, the USU fight song — “Hail the Utah Aggies.”
According to a previous Statesman article, the fight song was the winner of a song writing competition on campus in 1933 that the student body sang along with “The Scotsman.”
According to an article by Utah State Today, Larry Smith, a student at USU during the late 1950s and a professor during the 1960s, wrote a new arrangement for “The Scotsman” after both performing it himself and leading the USU band as they played it.
“I think it’s so special that we have something so iconic that we need to celebrate that and honor it,” USU band professor Lane Weaver said.
He also said when he first came to USU both the fight song and “The Scotsman” didn’t have the same impact or importance as they do now.
The student body started to get more involved around the same time Weaver and the other trombone players started to wave their instruments around with the first notes that play at the beginning of the song.
“At some point along the way, some of the students started to pick up on that,” Weaver said. “They started asking us to play ‘The Scotsman’ because it started to take on this life and they started doing the arm motions back and forth.”
Weaver also recalled the students mimicking the band further by copying the up-and-down arm movements that the bass drummers made halfway through the song.
“I came back to Utah State to work in 2016 and I saw some videos of the Spectrum with the pep band playing ‘The Scotsman’ and I was blown away. I was like, ‘That has just blown up and become such a big thing,’” Weaver said. “It was a little bit emotional to me because it has become such a cool thing. That’s become part of what it means to become an Aggie.”
Even students can agree it’s a tradition that will stay in their hearts forever.
“Everyone knows the song, and it’s iconic for me for sure,” said Janessa Lemon, a sixth-generation Aggie and direct descendent of Ebenezer Kirkham.
Lemon said although she was taught “The Scotsman” during her USU 1010 Connections class, she had been singing the song since she was 3 years old.
She also believes singing “The Scotsman” together shows the student body’s unity.
“There’s a reason that we’re so highly rated,” Lemon said. “It’s a unique thing, just how tight knit the student body is. That’s what it means to me. ‘The Scotsman’ is being a part of the Aggie family.”
Comments and questions regarding this article may be directed to the contact person listed on this page.