I am going to play the replica Queen Mary harp in Kisimul Castle on Barra in the Autumn, and so I thought I should get a MacNeil of Barra tune up and running. I am finding it a great challenge to get MacNeil of Barra’s March working on the harp.
I am wearied ma lane, pu’in breckens early. Tha mi sgith ’s mi leam fhìn, buain na rainich, daonnan. Cùl an tomain, bràigh an tomain, an tomain bhoidhich; h-uile la n’am onar.
I am tired, I am alone, pulling bracken, all the time. The back of the hill, the side of the hill. The pretty hill; every day I am alone.
This is a song we have been working on at my harp class in Dundee.
This is the final set at the Ceòl Rígh Innse Gall concert in the museum at Armadale, Isle of Skye, last month: medieval Gaelic ‘bardic’ poetry, sung with accompaniment played on the replica of the medieval Scottish ‘Queen Mary’ harp.
Fíor mo mholadh ar Mhac Dhomnaill
Cur la gceanglaim cur gach comhlainn
True my praising of MacDonald, hero I am tied to, hero of every fight
Croidhe leómhain láimh nár tugadh
Guaire Gaoidheal aoinfhear Uladh
Lion’s heart, hand that did not reproach, Guaire of the Gael, sole champion of Ulster
Aoinfhear Uladh táth na bpobal
Rosg le rugadh cosg na cgogadh
Champion of Ulster, welder of people, eye which caused the ceasing of warfare
Grian na nGaoidheal gnúis í Cholla
Fa bhruach Banna luath a longa
Sun of the Gael, face of the sons of Coll, around the Bann his galleys were swift
Cuiléan confaidh choisgeas foghla
Croide connla bile Banbha
Furious hound, stopping raiders, steadfast heart, tree of Ireland
Tír ‘na teannail deirg ‘na dheaghaidh
A bheart bunaidh teacht go Teamhair
The land is a blazing beacon behind, his ancestral duty to go to Tara
Measgadh Midhe onchú Íle
Fréimh na féile tréan gach tíre
The confuser of Meath, the wolf of Islay, the root of bounty, the defender of each land
Níor éar aoinfhear no dáimh doiligh
Craobh fhial oinigh ó fhiadh n-Oiligh
Refusing no-one, no pleading poets, generous honourable branch from the land of Oileach
Níor fhás uime acht ríoghna is ríogha
Fuighle fíora fíor mo mholadh
No-one raised with him but kings and queens. True these judgements; true my praising
After the music finishes we hear Godfrey, Lord MacDonald, speaking with the ‘vote of thanks’.
Yesterday evening I was in Sleat, presenting the medieval Gaelic poetry addressed to the Clan Donald Lords of the Isles, alongside Gaelic singer Gillebrìde MacMillan. We did two different hour-long sets, the first a more formal presentation in the atmospheric acoustic of the Museum of the Isles, and the second after a delicious buffet supper in the Victorian Stables building on the Armadale estate.
The audience, who comprised the great and good of Clan Donald, were entranced and delighted by Gillebrìde’s singing of the classical Gaelic verses praising their 12th and 13th century ancestors Angus Og as well as Donald himself.
As well as playing the harp to accompanying Gillebrìde’s delivery, I also did some solo harp tunes on the replica Queen Mary harp, including Cogaidh no Sith. I was delighted to get the same reaction as when I played it in St Andrews – people said it mesmerised them and seemed much shorter than the 15 minutes (I played a half-version with only 6 variations).
I understand there was some videotape made as well as photographs – I have not seen any of this yet though.
Sleat was beautiful; this morning I woke up early and walked down through a wooded valley to a secluded bay where I was able to swim in the sunshine before going back to the B&B for a hearty breakfast with fresh local eggs and strawberries.
Here’s the view across to Morar while waiting on the 8:30am ferry this morning:
I am really looking forward to repeating some of this material with Gillebrìde on Sunday 29th at the MacMhuirich Symposium. Do come along if you can, at 7pm at the Western Club, 32 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow G1 3AB.