Song of the Highland Clans

Oran Nam Fineachan Gaidhealach.
Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair

A chomuinn rìoghail rùnaich
Sàr-ùmhlachd thugaibh uaibh,
Biodh ur roisg gun smùirnein,
‘S gach cridh’ gun treas gin lùib ann;
Deoch-slàinte Sheumais Stiùbhairt
Gu mùirneach cuir mu’n cuairt!
Ach ma ta giamh air bith ‘nur stamaig,
A’ chailis naomh na truaill.
Lìon deoch-slàinte Theàrlaich,
A mheirlich! stràic a’ chuach!
B’ì siod an ìocshlàint’ àluinn
Dh’ath-bheòthaicheadh mo chàileachd,
Ged a bhiodh am bàs orm,
Gun neart, gun àgh, gun tuar —
Rìgh nan dùl a chur do chàbhlaich
Oirnn thar sàl ri luas!

O, tog do bhaideil arda,
Chaol, dhìonach, shàr-gheal, nuadh,
Ri d’ chrainnghridh bìgh-dhearg, làidir,
Gu taisdeal nan tonn gàireach;
Tha Æolus ag ràitinn
Gun sèid e ràp-ghaoth chruaidh
O’n àird anear, ‘s tha Neptun dìleas
Gu mìneachadh a’ chuain.
Is bochd atà do chàirdean
Aig ro-mheud t’fhardail uainn,
Mar àlach maoth gun mhàthair,
No beachainn bhreac a’ ghàraidh
Aig sionnach ‘n d’èis am fàsaichth’
Air fàillinn feadh nam bruach;
Aisig cabhagach le do chàbhlach,
Us leighis plàigh do shluaigh.

Tha na dèe ann an deagh-rùn duit,
Greas ort le sùrd neo-mharbh
Thar dhronnag nan tonn dubh-ghorm,
Dhriom-robach, bhàrr-chas, shiùbhlach,
Ghleann-chladhach, cheann-gheal, shùgh-dhlùth,
Nam mòthar cùl-ghlas, garbh;
Na cuan-choirean greannach, stuadh-thorrach,
‘S crom-bhileach, molach, falbh.
Tha muir us tìr cho rèidh dhuit
Mur dean thu fèin an searg’;
Dòirtidh iad ‘nan ceudaibh,
‘Nan laomaibh tiugha, treuna,
A Breatuinn us a h-Eirinn
Mu d’ standard brèid-gheal, dearg;
A’ ghaisreadh sgaiteach, ghuineach, rìoghail,
Chreuchdach, fhìor-luath, gharg.

Thig do chinneadh fèin ort,
Na treun-fhir laomsgair, gharbh,
‘Nam beathraichibh gu reubadh,
‘Nan leòmhannaibh gu creuchdadh,
‘Nan nathraichibh grad-leumnach,
A lotas geur le ‘n calg;
Le ‘n gathaibh faobharach, rinn-bheurra
Nì mòr-euchd le ‘n arm’.
‘Nam brataichibh làn-èidicht’
Le dealas geur gun chealg,
Thig Domhnullaich ‘nan dèidh sin,
Cho dìleas duit ri d’ lèine,
Mar choin air fasdadh èille
Air chath chrith geur gu sealg;
‘S mairg nàimhde do ‘n nochd iad fraoch,
Long, leòmhann, craobh, ‘s làmh dhearg.

Gun neartaich iad do champa
Na Caimbeulaich gu dearbh,
An Diùc Earraghàidhealach mar cheann orr’,
Gu mòralach, mear, prionnsail,
Ge b’è sid an tionnsgnadh searbh,
B’è sid an tionnsgnadh searbh,
Le lannaibh lotach, dubh-ghorm, toirteil,
Sgoltadh chorp gu’m balg.
Gu tairbeartach, glan, caismeachdach,
Fìor-thartarach ‘nan ranc,
Thig Cluainidh le ‘chuid Phearsanach,
Gu cuanna, gleusda, grad-bheirteach,
Le spàinnichibh teann-bheirticht’
‘S cruaidh fead ri sgailceadh cheann;
Bidh fuil da dòrtadh, smùis da spealtadh,
Le sgealpaireachd ur lann.

Druididh suas ri d’ mheirghe,
Nach meirbh an am an àir,
Clann Ghill’ Eathain nach meirgich
Airm ri h-uchd do sheirbhis,
Le ‘m brataichean ‘s snuadh feirg’ orr’,
‘San leirg mar thairbh gun sgàth;
Am foirne fearail, nimheil, arrail,
As builleach, ealamh làmh.
Gun tig na fiùrain Leòdach ort
Mar sheochdain ‘s eòin fo ‘n spàig;
‘Nan tùiribh lann-ghorm, tinnisneach,
Air chorra-ghleus gun tiomachas,
An rèisimeid fhìor-innealta,
‘S fàth giorraig dol ‘na dàil;
Am bi iomadh bòcan fuilteach, foirmeil,
Thèid le stoirm gu bàs.

Thig curaidhnean Chlann-Chamshroin ort,
Thèid meanmnach sìos ‘nad spàirn;
An fhoireann ghuineach, chaithreamach,
‘S neo-fhiamhach an am tarruinge,
An lainn ghlas mar lasair dealanaich
Gu gearradh cheann us làmh;
‘S mar luas na dreige, ‘s cruas na creige,
Chluinnte sgread nan cnàmh.
Thig mìlidhean Chlann-Iain ort,
Thèid fritheilteach gu d’ champ,
Mar fhaloisg ris na sliabh-chnuic
Us gaoth a’ Mhàirt ‘ga biathadh,
No marcaich’ air each srianach
A rachadh sìos gun chàird –
Cho ealamh ris an fhùdar ullamh,
An t-srad ‘n uair bhuineadh dhà.

Gur cinnteach dhuibh d’ur coinneachadh
Mac Coinnich mòr Cheann-t-sàil’,
Fir làidir, dhàna, cho innealta
Do’n fhìor-chruaidh air a foinneachadh,
Nach ghabh fiamh no somaltachd
No sgreamh roimh theine bhlàr;
‘S iad gu nàrach, fuileach, foinnidh,
Air bhoil’ gu dol ‘nad chàs.
Gur foirmeil, pròiseil, ordail,
Thig Tòisichean ‘nan ranc,
A’ màrsal stàtail, comhnard,
Gu pìobach, bratach, sròl-bhuidh’;
Tha rìoghaltachd us mòrchuis
Gun sòradh anns an dream,
Daoine làidir, neartmhor, cròdha,
‘S iad gun ghò, gun mheang.

Thig Granndaich gu ro-thartarach,
Neo-fhad-bheirteach do d’ champ,
Air phriob-losgadh gu cruadal,
Gu snaidh’ cheann us chluas diubh,
Cho nimheil ris na tigiribh,
Le feachdraidh dian-mhear, dàn’,
Chuireas iomadh fear le sgreadail
‘S a’ breabadaich gu làr.
Thig a rìs na Frisealaich
Gu sgibidh le neart garbh,
‘Nan seochdaibh fìor-ghlan, togarrach,
Le fuathas bhlàr nach bogaichear,
An comhlan feardha, cosgarrach,
‘S mairg neach do ‘n nochd iad fearg;
An spuir ghlas aig dlùths an dèirich
Bidh ‘nan èibhlibh dearg.

‘Nan gaisreadh ghaisgeil, losgarra,
Thig Lachlunnaich gun chàird,
‘Nan soighdibh dearga, puinnseanta,
Gu claidhmheach, sgiathach, cuinnsearach,
Gu gunnach, dagach, ionnsaichte,
Gun chunntas ac’ air àr;
Dol ‘nan deannaibh ‘n aodainn pheileir
Tiochd o theine chàich.
Gabhaidh pàirt de t’ iorghaill-sa
Clann-Fhionghain ‘s sìor-bhualadh,
Mar thuinn ri tìr a’ sìor-bhualadh,
No bile lasrach dian-losgadh,
‘Nan treudaibh luatha, sìor-chonfach,
Thoirt grìosaich air an nàmh’;
An dream chathach, Mhuileach, Shrathach,
‘S maith gu sgathadh chnàmh!

‘S mòr a bhios ri corp-rùsgadh
Nan closaichean ‘sa bhlàr,
Fithich ann, a’ rocadaich,
Ag itealaich, ‘s a’ cnocaireachd,
Cìocras air na cosgarraich
Ag òl ‘s ag ith’ an sàth;
Och, ‘s tùrsach, fann, a chluinntear mochthrath,
Ochanaich nan àr.
Bidh fuil us gaorr dam fùidreadh ann
Le lùth-chleasan ur làmh,
Meangar cinn us dùirn diubh,
Gearrar uilt le smùisreadh,
Cìosnaichear ur biùthaidh,
Dan dubh-losgadh, ‘s dan cnàmh’;
Crùnar le poimp Tearlach Stiùbhart,
Us Frederic Prionns’ fo shàil.

Continue reading “Song of the Highland Clans”

Wall Tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod

Wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of Clan MacLeod, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, 1528.
Wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of Clan MacLeod, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, 1528.

Reputed to be the finest medieval wall tomb in Scotland, the monument to Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of Clan MacLeod of Harris, is located on the south side of the choir of St. Clement’s Church (Tùr Chliamhainn in Gàidhlig or “Clement’s Tower”), Rodel, Harris.

Effigy of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, in full armour and with sword, in his elaborate wall tomb, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris.
Effigy of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, in full armour and with sword, in his elaborate wall tomb, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris.

Over a carved effigy of the chief, four angels circle above the Virgin Mary and two bishops, the chief’s castle at Dunvegan, and his birlinn (galley); below is a hunting scene, the weighing of the chief’s soul, and an inscription. The tomb is crowned by an arch bearing carvings of the Twelve Apostles, two angels, and God the Father holding the Cross, surrounded by the beasts of the Four Evangelists.

Detail of a bishop, wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris.
Detail of a bishop, wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris.

The 9th Chief of Clan MacLeod, Alasdair’s son William, had his tomb prepared in the south wall of the nave of Tùr Chliamhainn in 1539. In the south transept, there is a third grave probably belonging to John MacLeod of Minginish, the 10th Chief. There are five more grave slabs leaning against the wall of the north transept. The graveyard surrounding St. Clement’s Church contains a number of additional MacLeod tombs.

According to Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles, in his work, Description of the Western Isles of Scotland (1549), St. Clement’s Church itself was built for the MacLeods of Harris.

Within the south pairt of this ile lyes ane monastery with ane steipell, quhilk was foundit and biggit by M’Cloyd of Harrey, callit Roodill.

Beannachadh Luinge

Detail of birlinn from the wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of Clan MacLeod, St. Clement's Church, Rodel, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, 1528.
Detail of birlinn from the wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of Clan MacLeod, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, 1528.

God bless the good ship of Clan Ranald,
The first day it leaps on the wave,
The ship and the sailors who man it
The first on the roll of the brave!

May the Three and the One be their guidance,
Who tempers the blasts when they bray,
Or tossed mid the war of the billow
Or lulled in the sleep of the bay!

Great Father that gathered the waters,
Whose breath is the strength of the storm,
Bless Thou our frail bark and its men
When the rage of the tempest is warm.

O Son of the Father give blessing
To anchor and rudder and mast,
To sail and to sheet and to tackle,
When they stand the rude strain of the blast.

Bless yard and halyard and stay,
All gear both above and below,
Give soundness to rigging and rope,
That no flaw and no fault they may know.

May the Spirit the Holy protect us,
Whose grace we devoutly implore,
Who hath fathomed all depths of the ocean,
And numbered all bays of the shore!

— Form of prayer for the blessing of a ship on going to sea Beannachadh Luinge, from the Gàidhlig poem, Birlinn Chlann Raghnaill, Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, Englished by Professor John Stuart Blackie.

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Beannachadh Luinge

Maille ri brosnachadh fairge, a rinneadh do sgioba is do bhirlinn tighearna Chlann Raghnaill.

Gum beannaicheadh Dia long Chlann Raghnaill
A’ cheud là do chaidh air sàile,
E fèin ‘s a thrèin-fhir da caitheamh,
Trèin a chuaidh thar maitheas chàich.

Gum beannaich an Coimh-dhia naomh
An iùnnrais, anal nan speur,
Gun sguabte garbhlach na mara,
G’ ar tarraing gu cala rèidh.

Athair, a chruthaich an fhairge
‘S gach gaoth a shèideas às gach àird,
Beannaich ar caol-bhàirc ‘s ar gaisgich,
‘S cum i fhèin ‟s a gasraidh slàn.

A Mhic, beannaich fèin ar n-acair,
Ar siùil, ar beartean, ‘s ar stiùir,
‘S gach droineap tha crochte ri ‘r crannaibh,
‘S thoir gu caladh sinn le d’ iùl.

Beannaich ar racain ‘s ar slats,
Ar crainn ‘s ar teudaibh gu lèir
Ar stagh ‘s ar tarraing cùm fallen
‘S na leig-s’ ann ar cara beud.

An Spiorad Naomh biodh air stiùir,
Seòlaidh e ‘n t-iùl a bhios ceart;
‘S eòl da gach longphort fon ghrèin,
Tilgeamaid sinn fèin fo ‘bheachd.

— Form of prayer for the blessing of a ship on going to sea, Beannachadh Luinge, from the Gàidhlig poem, Birlinn Chlann Raghnaill, Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair.

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A considerably more literal English translation by Gordon Barr (1924):

Blessing of the Ship

Including encouragement of the ocean which was made for the crew and ship of the Lord of Clan Ranald.

May God bless Clan Ranald’s ship the first day it went to sea, itself and the strong men driving it, warriors who went beyond the excellence of the rest.

May the sacred Lord bless the storm, the breath of the stars, and may the stony river bed of the sea not be hit and may he pull us to a smooth harbour.

O Father, you who formed the ocean and every wind that blows from every direction, bless our narrow bark and our champion heros and keep herself and her crew in good health.

O Son, bless even our anchor, our sails, our mast rope-rings, our rudder and all the rigging which is bound to our mast and take us to a harbour with your guidance.

Bless our mast rings, our yard-arms, our masts and all our mooring ropes, and keep safe our stays and our halyards and don’t allow any messing up of our direction.

Let the Holy Spirit be at the helm and he will sail a route which will be correct; let him have discernment about every boat-harbour under the sun and let us move ourselves with care.

Eaglais na h-Aoidhe

The crofting village of Aignish on the Isle of Lewis is home to the historic Eye Church (Gàidhlig: Eaglais Chaluim Chille or Eaglais na h-Aoidhe/Uidh). Last used for worship in 1829 and once the island’s foremost parish church, it stands on an earlier religious site said to have been founded by St. Columba’s contemporary, St. Catan (Eaglais na h-Aoidhe is said to have once housed his relics). The present ruined structures date from the XIV century with XVI century enlargements, including the raised unlit north wall and addition of a chapel/burial aisle with tomb recess on the west gable. In the chancel — burial place of the MacLeods of Lewis, formerly divided from the nave by a timber screen with loft above — two important graveslabs of circa 1500 stand against the walls. Carved in hornblende schist, one depicts a knight with pointed helmet, said to be Roderick, 7th Chief (d. c. 1498), the other, with an inscription to his daughter Margaret MacKinnon (d. 1503), an interlaced cross decorated with animals and foliage.

The Solace Which the Bagpipe Can Give

A Canadian piper plays “Amazing Grace” during a memorial service at Forward Operating Base Wilson, Afghanistan.

The solace which the bagpipe can give, they have long enjoyed; but among other changes, which the last Revolution introduced, the use of the bagpipe begins to be forgotten. Some of the chief families still entertain a piper, whose office was anciently hereditary. Macrimmon was piper to Macleod, and Rankin to Maclean of Col.

The tunes of the bagpipe are traditional. There has been in Sky, beyond all time of memory, a college of pipers, under the direction of Macrimmon, which is not quite extinct. There was another in Mull, superintended by Rankin, which expired about sixteen years ago. To these colleges, while the pipe retained its honour, the students of musick repaired for education. I have had my dinner exhilarated by the bagpipe, at Armidale, at Dunvegan, and in Col.

— Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).

Father of the Clan

Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, from the gardens.

The name of highest dignity is Laird, of which there are in the extensive Isle of Sky only three, Macdonald, Macleod, and Mackinnon. The Laird is the original owner of the land, whose natural power must be very great, where no man lives but by agriculture; and where the produce of the land is not conveyed through the labyrinths of traffick, but passes directly from the hand that gathers it to the mouth that eats it. The Laird has all those in his power that live upon his farms. Kings can, for the most part, only exalt or degrade. The Laird at pleasure can feed or starve, can give bread, or withold it. This inherent power was yet strengthened by the kindness of consanguinity, and the reverence of patriarchal authority. The Laird was the father of the Clan, and his tenants commonly bore his name. And to these principles of original command was added, for many ages, an exclusive right of legal jurisdiction.

This multifarious, and extensive obligation operated with force scarcely credible. Every duty, moral or political, was absorbed in affection and adherence to the Chief. Not many years have passed since the clans knew no law but the Laird’s will. He told them to whom they should be friends or enemies, what King they should obey, and what religion they should profess.

– Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).