NA H-ÒRAIN | THE SONGS

01 Seinneam Cliù nam Fear Ùr

(I Will Sing in Praise of the New Men)

Composed Iain Dhòmhnaill Bhàin (John MacLeod)

Arranged Graham/Lyon

This song was commemorates the young men who fought in the Great War. Iain Dhòmhnaill Bhàin was too old himself to fight and so he composed this song in their honour.

I first heard this sung by Maggie MacDonald and was struck by its poignant simplicity.

 

Text: Fonn The Campbells of Greepe

Seinneam cliù nam fear ùr,

Gillean glùn-gheal nam breacan,

Fèileadh beag os cionn nan glùn,

Èideadh sunndach nan gaisgeach.

 

Seinnam cliù na dh’fhàg Port Rìgh

Fon cuid phìoban is bhreacan;

Leam bu mhiann a bhith nan cùl;

Miann mo shùil bhith gam faicinn.

 

Seinneam cliù na dh’fhalbh à Slèit’,

Gillean treun nach roch meata,

Chaidh a dhìon an crùn ’s an tìr

Bhon a’ mhìlltear gun cheartas.

 

Bidh an cliù ga shèinn gu bràth

Fhad ’s bhios tonn air tràigh no cladach;

Fhad ’s bhios grian air àird nan speur;

Mairidh spèis do na gaisgich.

I will sing in praise of the new men,

White-kneed lads in their tartan,

The short kilt above the knee,

Brave attire of the heroes.

 

I will sing in praise of all those who left Portree

Following their pipes and colours;

My dearest wish was to support them;

My eye’s desire to see them.

 

I will sing in praise of all who left Sleat,

Brave lads, not faint-hearted,

Who went to defend the crown and country

From the unjust oppressor.

 

Their praise will be sung forever,

While there is wave on strand or shore;

While there is sun in the firmament,

Respect and pride for the heroes will endure.

 

02 'S Gann Gun Dìrich Mi Chaoidh

(I May Never Climb Again)

Composed Tormod MacNeacail (Norman Nicolson)

Arranged Graham/Lyon

Norman composed ’S Gann Gun Dìrich Mi Chaoidh in reaction to his hunting liberties being curtailed. Where he once enjoyed the freedom of hunting on the hills (albeit not altogether lawful), new capitalist legislation saw the estate landlords tightening up on poaching and Norman was advised to stop his activities or be penalised.

We have sung this song in our family since I was a child although to a slightly different melody. I heard this lesser sung melody from the singing of Mary Ann Kennedy.

Text: Fonn The Campbells of Greepe and Songs of Gaelic Scotland

’S gann gun dìrich mi chaoidh

Dh’ionnsaigh frìth àird a’ mhonaidh;

’S gann gun dìrich mi chaoidh.

 

Thàinig litir à Dhun Èideann

Nach fhaotainn fhèin bhith dol don mhonadh.

Pàdruig Mòr aig Ceann Loch Àoineart

Rinn e ’n fhoill ’s nach d’ rinn e buinnig.

Tha mo ghunna chaol air meirgeadh

Cha tèid mi don t-seilg leis tuilleadh.

Thèid e chrochadh air na tàirgnean

’S cha b’ e sin leam àite fuireach.

’S iomadh latha sgìth a bha mi

Nam shuidhe leis ’s e làn air tulaich.

Gabhail sealladh air na slèibhtean

Far am bi na fèidh a’ fuireach.

Ach a-nis gur fheudar strìochdadh

’S fear gun chiall a thèid an cunnart.

Cùl mo làimh do laghan fiar’

Tha toirmeasg biadh thug Dia don duine.

I may never climb again

To the deer forests on the high moor;

I may never climb again.

 

A letter came from Edinburgh

Forbidding me to go to the hill.

Padraig Mor from Ceann Loch Aoineart,

He did wrong, and did not gain by it.

My slim-barrelled gun is rusted:

I will not go to hunt with it again.

It is hanging on nails,

Not to me the best place for it.

Many a weary day I was

Sitting with it, loaded, on a hill.

Viewing the slopes

Where the deer lived.

But now I must comply;

Only a fool would court danger.

I dismiss perverse laws

That deny us God-given food.

 

03 Moch an-Diugh a Rinn Mi Èirigh

(Early Today I Arose)

Traditional

Arranged Graham/Lyon

A waulking song from Barra. The woman is tending to cattle on a hill when she inquires about her love, Dòmhnall Donn (brown haired Donald) of Sleat (Skye). The song becomes an outpouring of her feelings as she reacts to the news that he is betrothed to another. The song escalates further and castigates the dishonourable man’s actions, hinting at a possible assault.

 

I learnt this song through Kenna Campbell, who has been a huge influence on me and my singing over the years.

Text: Catriona Cecelia MacNeill and Flora MacNeill, Barra

Moch an-diugh a rinn mi èirigh

Hi ri linn is ògaibh ò

Thug mi gu siubhal an t-slèibhe

Iù na hi rì rì ahù

Hi ri a hoilibho hi a hògaibh ò

Chunna mi bhuam badan sprèidhe

Air tulaich ghuirm ’s iad gun èirigh

Ghreas mi cas is chas mi ’n èighe

Dean fuireach ’s gum faighinn sgeul’ bhuat

Bheil fallaineachd aca Slèite

Aig Dòmhnall donn laogh mo chèille

Chuala mi gun d ’rinn e rèiteach

Ri nighean iarla nam brèid gheal

Nan saoilinn gum b’ fhior an sgeula

Dhòrtainn fuil ’s gun gearrainn fèithe

Ciod thuige rachainn-sa Cholla

Shealltainn air fear donn gun onair

Rinn mo leapa ’m bun an doruis

Thug bhuam mo phaidirean corrach

Early today I arose

 

I began to walk the slope.


 

I saw at a distance a small group of cattle

On a green hillock, lying down.

I hastened my step and raised a shout:

“Wait til I get news from you;

Are they well in Sleat - 

Dòmhnall Donn, my dearest love?

I heard that he was betrothed

To the daughter of the earl of the white sails.

If I thought the news was true,

I would draw blood and cut a vein.”

Why should I go to Coll

To see the dishonourable man

Who made my bed by the door,

Who took my rosary?

 

04 Dòmhnall nan Dòmhnall

(Donald of the Donalds)

Traditional

Arranged Graham/Lyon

This is one of the few happy love songs that survives in the Gaelic song repertoire. Despite no record of a composer ever being found, the song has survived through the oral tradition. It belongs to Kintyre and describes a woman’s love for a certain ‘Donald’ who can do no wrong. He is handsome, is an effective hunter, is generous and gracious, can hold his drink and never loses at cards! The song uses imagery of Donald as a fox, hunting on the hills and her as a swan on the loch.

Text: Cliar

Thug mi sùil thar a' bhealach,

Thug mi sealladh ud bhuam

Feuch am faicinn mo leannan 

Tighinn dhan bhaile san uair;

Fhir a dh'òladh an tocsaid 

'S a chostadh a luach:

'S math thig bonaid ghorm dhathte 

Air cùl bachlach nan dual.

 

B'fheàrr gu faicinn a-nuas thu 

'S do ghruaidh mar an ròs,

Agus d' anail mar ùbhlan 

'S do chùl mar an t-òr;

Do bheul tha dearg tana, 

'S blas na meal' air do phòig:

Gur gìomanach eal' thu 

Agus lach air an lòn.

 

Gura h-èibhinn gach àite 

‘S am biodh pàirt de Chlann Nìll;

Gura h-uasal gach òigfhear 

Leis an òlte am fìon;

Air chairtean ag iomairt 

Gun mhionnan gun strì -

Gur ann làmh riutha shuidhinn 

Is gu leiginn mo sgìths

 

Gura bòidheach, gura bòidheach, 

Gura bòidheach na lòin,

Gura bòidheach an t-aonach 

Air an sgaoileadh an ceò

Gura bòidheach an Losaid 

'S Baile Ghrobain na còir

Gura bòidheach Ceann Loch 

Far 'm bi mo sheachd rùn ag òl.

 

Dè nam biodh tu mar shionnach 

Air an tulaich ud thall

Agus mise mar eala 

Air bharraibh nan tonn;

Nàile! Rachainn Nad choinneamh 

‘S mheallainn thu leam

Lùb ùr a' chùil chlannaich, 

Ort tha m' anam an geall.

 

‘S a Dhòmhnaill nan Dòmhnall, 

Sùil mhòdhar ad cheann;

Rìgh! Gur math thig dhut triubhais 

Dhol a shiubhal nam beann;

'S cha mhios thig dhut stocaidh, 

Bròg shocair 's i teann

'S tric a laigh mi ri d' thaobh, 

'S ann leam a b' aobhach bhith ann.

I looked to the hill

Looked yonder 

For any sign of my lover

Coming to town

He who'd drink the hogshead

And earn its worth

A blue bonnet looked well

On his curly hair 

 

Oh to see you coming

With your rosy cheeks

Breath like apples

And golden hair

Your narrow red lips

Kisses like honey

You, the hunter of the swan

And the wild duck on the loch  

 

Clan Neill brought pleasure

To any place

Every noble young man

Among them who'd drink wine

Playing cards

Without swearing or fighting

I'd gladly sit by them

And take my rest  

 

How beautiful, how beautiful

How beautiful is the sight of the lochs

How beautiful is

The misty moorland

How beautiful is the Lossit

And Ballygrogan before it

How beautiful is Campbeltown

Where my love is wont to drink  

 

How would it be if you were like the fox

On the hillock yonder

And I like the swan

On the crest of the wave

I would go to you

And entice you away

Young man of the curly hair

My soul is promised to you  

 

Oh Donald of the Donalds

With your gentle eye

Lord, how well the trousers suit you

Going to hunt in the hills

No worse the hose

Or a well-fitting shoe

Often have I lain by your side

It is where I would be now

 

05 Òran Mòr Sgoirebreac

(The Big Song of Scorrybreac)

Traditional

Arranged Graham/Lyon

A fragment of a praise song for Clan Nicolson of Scorrybreac (Skye).

Text: Fonn The Campbells of Greepe

Thogarainn thogarainn bhith dol dhachaidh,

E horò, e horò

Gu Sgoirebreac a’ chruidh chaisfhinn.

E ho hì ri-i iu ò ’s i iura thogairainn falbh

Ceud soraidh slàn mar bu dual dhomh

Gu taigh mòr ’icNeacaill shuas ud,

Far am bu tric a shuidh na h-uaislean;

Rìgh Seumas a Còig ’s a shluagh ann,

Na cùirtearan glana suairce.

I greatly wish to go home

 

To Scorrybreck of the white legged cattle,

I wish to go.

A hundred farewells from me as was customary,

To the great house of Nicolson up yonder,

Where often sat the nobility;

King James the Fifth and is retinue,

The handsome, pleasant courtiers.

 

06 Tha Mi Sgìth 'n Fhògar Seo

(I am Tired of this Exile)

Composed John MacRae

Arranged Graham/Lyon

John MacRae composed this song while in exile in North Carolina. He found himself fighting in the American Wars of Independence on the side of the British Army. He is dwelling in a small hut “without smoke” so as not to bring attention to himself, and his thoughts are returning to his homeland of Kintail, near Skye.

My thanks to Kenna Campbell for introducing sharing this song with me.

Text: Beyond the Hebrides - Fada air Falbh às Innse Gall

Tha mi sgìth ’n fhògar seo

Tha mi sgìth dhen an t-strì

Seo an tìm dhoiruinneach

Tha mi sgìth ’n fhògar seo.

Ged a tha mi fo ’n choille,

Chan eil coire ri chomhdach orm.

Ach mi sheasamh gu dìleas

Leis an rìgh bhon bha choir aige

Mi air fogradh bhon fhoghar

Deanamh thaighean gun cheo annta.

Ann am buthaig bhig bharraich

Is gun charaid gam fheoraich ann.

Ach nam bithinn aig baile

Gheibhinn cairdean ’s luchd eolais ann.

Ach nan tigeadh Cornwallis

Sinn a ghluaiseadh gu sollasach.

Thoir mo shorraidh thar linne

DH’ionnsaigh ’n glinne ’m bu choir dhomh bhi

Far am minig a bha mi

’G eisteachd gairich laogh oga aca

I am tired of exile,

I am tired of strife,

It’s a tormenting time,

I am tired of exile.

Though I’ve now been outlawed here,

There’s no wrong in what I’ve done.

Since I faithfully stood up

For the King, who was in the right.

I’m an outlaw since autumn,

Building huts without smoke in them.

It’s a little birch lean-to

Where I’m living now all alone.

But if I were in town now,

I’d have friends and companions there.

If Cornwallis were coming

We would join him with great delight.

O’er the ocean my greetings

To the glen where I’d like to be.

Where so often I used to

Hear the laughter of young people.

08 Air Fàir an Là

(At the Dawn of Day)

Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh (Mary MacLeod)

Arranged Graham/Lyon

A waulking song from the Isle of Skye that takes the listener on a journey to Dunvegan, the seat of Clan MacLeod. This song is one of a vast collection of praise poetry for the MacLeods of Dunvegan and Harris from the 17th century.

Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh was the unofficial bard and nurse to the Clan MacLeod chiefs. She was one of the first bards to compose court poetry in the vernacular. MacLeod was a force to be reckoned with, was exiled for a while and is said to have been buried face down.

Text: One Hundred and Five Songs of Occupation from the Western Isles of Scotland

Air fàir an là ill o ho

O hao ri ri o ho

Siuthadaibh siuthadaibh a mhnàthan

E ho hi ri iu o ho

 

Air fàir an la ill o ho

O hao ri ri o ho

Luaidhaibh athaiseach leam

E ho hi ri iu o ho

 

Ma thèid mi air m’adhart

Ni mi tadhal ’s an Dùn

Far eil Ruairidh mac Iain

Mac athar mo rùin

Feuch am faigh sinn a’ bhirlinn

No am faod i toirt dhuinn

Tha sinn an seo nar ceathrar

Duine bharrachd air triùir

Cha b’uilear dhuinn ochdnar

Chuireadh a’ bhirlinn air stiùir

’S e gheibh sinn an coite

’S i bu choltaiche ruinn

At the dawn of day

 

Begin, begin ye women




 

Waulk leisurely with me


 

If I proceed on my way

I shall call at Dunvegan

Where Ruairidh dwells, son of Iain

Son of the father dear to me

To try if we may get the galley

Or if he may give her to us

We are here, four in number

One person more than three

We should need to be eight

To put the galley on her course

What we shall get is the fishing boat

Which were more befitting for us

 

07 Iain Ghlinn' Cuaich

(John of Glen Quoich)

Traditional

Arranged Graham/Lyon

A heartbreaking song of unrequited love. The song begins as the woman describes Iain in beautiful detail; poring over his superlative qualities. As the song unfolds the heartbreak becomes evident as the relationship has broken up.

Some interpretations of the song have the woman taking the upper hand at the, challenging Iain to find someone better then her. I have chosen to interpret it otherwise and opted for heartbreak!

Text: Sidewaulk

O Iain Ghlinn Cuaich

Fear do choltais cha dual da fàs

Cùl bachlach nan dual

'S e gu camlùbach suas gu bhàrr

'S i do phearsa dheas ghrinn

A dh'fhàg mise cho tinn le gràdh

'S nach eil cron ort ri inns

O mhullach do chinn gu d' shàil

Ach an trian dhe do chliù

Cha chuir mise a rùin an cèill

'S caoimh faiteal dhe d' ghnùis

Na ùr choille do dhriùchd ri grèin'

Gum b' e miann mo dhà shùil

A bhith 'sealltainn gu dlùth a d' dhèidh

'S math a b' airidh mo rùn-s'

Air ban-oighre a' chrùin fo sgèith

Iain, Iain a ghaoil

Cuim' a leig thu mi faoin air chùl?

Gun ghuth chuimhn' air a' ghaol

A bh' againn araon air tùs

Cha tug mise mo spèis

Do dh'fear eile fon ghrèin ach thu

Is cha toir as do dhèidh

Gus an càirear mo chrè 's an ùir

Ged a chinn thu rium fuar

Bheil thu Iain, gun truas 's mi 'm chàs?

'S a liuthad latha agus uair

Chuir thu 'n cèill gum bu bhuam do ghràdh

Ach ma chaochaill mi buaidh

'S gun do choisinn mi t' fhuath na t' fhearg

Tha mo bheannachd ad dhèidh

'S feuch an tagh thu dhut fhèin nas fheàrr

Oh Iain of Glen Quoich

It is not often that one encounters your like

That ringletted head of hair

Curled right to the roots

It was your beautiful, handsome appearance

That left me lovesick

And there is no fault to be noted

About you from head to toe  

I can't begin to express

A third of your worth

Better to catch a glimpse of your face

Than the new-grown dew-laden forest in sun

The desire of my eyes

Is to catch close sight of you

My love deserves a crowned heiress

Under his protection  
 

Iain, Iain, my love

Why did you turn your back on me?

Without a thought for the love

That we once had

I never gave my respect

To any other man under the sun but you

And neither will I

'Til my body is beneath the ground  

Although you have turned cold towards me

Are you, Iain, without pity, and I in this state?

Despite the many days and times

You told me our love was forever

But if my effect on you has changed

And earned your hate or anger

I still send you my blessing

And see that you choose a better one for yourself

 

09 Mairead nan Cuiread

(Tricky Margaret)

Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh (Mary MacLeod)

Arranged Graham/Lyon

Another waulking song that presents Mary MacLeod’s quick witted and bold nature. The lyrics slight ‘Tricky Margaret’ in retaliation to spreading untruths of her bearing an illegitimate child and dismissing her father’s status. MacLeod sets out to put the record straight!

Text: Hebridean Folksongs Vol III

Tha mulad, tha mulad

Tha lion dubh orm fhìn

Hi ri hoireann o, hi ri hoireann o

Mun ògannach ghasda

Ùr mhacraich nan steud

Hi ri riri oho ro ho hi hoireann o

Tha de mhighean air m’aire

Nì nach aide mo bheul

Chan innsinn dham phiuthar 

Meud mo chumha ’s do dheidh

No dhan mhàthar a’ rug mi

Chuir mi cudthrom na ceum

Tha sac trom air mo chridhe

Nach tog fidheall nan teud

Mun taca seo ’n uiridh

Bu leat m’ fhuran ro cheud

Cha mhudh ort mi ‘m bliadhna

Na eunlaith nan speur

Ach a’ Mhairead nan Cuiread

’S dàn a chuir the orm bhreug

Thilg the orm-sa mar ailis

Nach b’ uilear dhomh ’m brèid

Gun robh leanamh am pasgadh

Fo asna mo chleibh

Cuim nach innseadh tu ’n fhirinn

Mar a dh’innsinn ort fhein?

Ann an lathjair mo thighearn

Far am bithinn ’s tu reidh

Thilg thu orm-sa mar dhearrais

Gun robh m’athair an eis

Cha b’ionnan dham athair

’S dhad athair-sa fhèin

Cha b’ionnan dhar taighean

Nam laighe don ghrein

’S ann a gheibhte ’n taigh d’ athar

Cìnn is cnàmhan an èisg

’S ann a gheibhte ’n taigh m’athar

Cìnn ’s casan an fhèidh

Sorrowful, sorrowful

Melancholy am I,

 

About the fine young youth,

Young rider of steeds.

 

There is discontent on my mind

Which my lips will not confess.

I would not tell my sister

How much I am longing for you.

Nor the mother who bore me,

On whose footstep I weighed.

There is a heavy load on my heart

Which the stringed fiddle cannot raise.

This time last year

You preferred my welcome to a hundred.

You have no more regard for me this year

Than the birds of the air.

But, oh, Tricky Margaret,

Boldly you have betrayed me.

You cast up to methe reproach

That I should have a married woman’s kertch.

That an unborn babe

Was hidden in my ribs.

Why would you not tell the truth

As I would have of yourself?

In the presence of my laird

Where you and I would be on equal terms.

You attacked me like a viper, saying

That my father was in want.

Things were not alike 

For my father and yours.

Things were not alike in our houses

In the evening.

In your father’s house would be found

The head and bones of fish.

In my father’s house would be found

The heads and bones of deer.

 

10 Uamh an Òir

(Cave of Gold)

Traditional

Arranged Graham/Lyon

Uamh an Òir entwines four songs from the supernatural repertoire; the first three songs different versions of ‘Uamh an Òir’ and the fourth song, ‘Là Millegàraidh’.

Uamh an Òir’ exists in many localities across Scotland and mythical settings but these songs refer to the cave near Kilmuir (Skye).

Legend has it that a piper from the MacCrimmon dynasty and his dog entered into the Cave of Gold to seek treasure, which was guarded by a fierce creature. It is believed that in order to survive it and escape from the cave, the piper must play continuously; the lyrics lament the fact that he does not have three hands; two to play the pipes and one to brandish a sword. The dog is said to have escaped, however, the piper did not but his playing can still be heard resonating from the cave to this day.

 

‘Là Millegàraidh’ commemorates the Battle of Millegàraidh, which took place at Waternish (Skye) in 1570. It is the last occasion at which the Fairy Flag was unfurled, bringing protection to the MacLeods of Dunvegan and disastrous consequences to their enemies, Clan Ranald. Having fallen under the spell of the flag (which made the MacLeod army appear to be much larger than their actual number), Clan Ranald retreated to their galleys, where they were cut down by the MacLeods.

The Fairy Flag was gifted to the MacLeods and hangs today in the Great Hall in Dunvegan Castle. It is said to provide protection three times. So far, it has only been unfurled twice...

Text: One Hundred and Five Songs of Occupation from the Western Isles of Scotland

Mo dhìth mo dhìth,

Gun trì làmhan.

Mo dhìth mo dhìth,

Gun trì làmhan.

Dà làimh ’s a phìob,

Dà làimh ’s a phìob,

Dà làimh ’s a phìob,

’S làmh ’s a chlaidheamh

 

’S iomadh maighdean òg bho ceud bhearr

Thèid a-null, thèid a-null

Mun tìll mise, mun ruig mise

Uamh an Òir, Uamh an Òir

 

E ho ro ho ro ho

An cuala sibh

O hi rìrì rìrì ho ro ho

Là na h-àirde

E ho ro ho ro ho

My loss, moy loss

That I lack three hands!

My loss, my loss

That I lack three hands!

Two hands to the bagpipe

Two hands to the bagpipe

Two hands to the bagpipe

And one to the sword

 

Many’s the young maiden in her first bloom

Will have gone beyond, gone beyond

Before I come, before I return

From the Cave of Gold, Cave of Gold


 

Remember ye

 

The day of the Aird