Red and Strong Is the Blood

The Lamont Harp, Clàrsach Lumanach, presented c. 1460-1464 to Charles Robertson of Lude, National Museum of Scotland.
The Lamont Harp, Clàrsach Lumanach, presented c. 1460-1464 to Charles Robertson of Lude, National Museum of Scotland.

THE HARP OF THE GAEL.

GAELIC MOD PRIZE POEM.

BY REV. DUGALD MACECHERN, B. D.
(Translated by Author.)

HARP of my own dear country,
Trembling against my bosom,
Sweeter to me are thy strains
Than all of the wide world’s music,
Shapely thy curving neck
Like the wild swan afloat on the ocean,
Gleaming thy sun-bright strings,
Like the golden hair of my dear one.
What ah! what can express
Like the harp’s wild tender trembling,
Love that lies in the heart
Like a precious jewel hidden?
Sweet to me is the viol
When move in the dance the maidens,
Dear to me are the pipes
When my sword is red in the battle,
But ’tis the harp should be tuned
With slender and swift-moving finger,
When in her song my dear one,
Sweet-throated, her love confesseth.
Tell me thy secret, my harp,
Who taught thee to tremble in music?
Was it the ocean crooning
To th’ yellow sands and the sea-wrack?
Say, were thy tutors the lark
And the tuneful thrush of the wild-grove,
Blast of the giant bens
And whisper of wind-kissed forest,
Chant of the waterfall where
The stream leaps down from the mountains,
These, and in glens of our love
The songs of the sweet-throated maidens,
Say, were thy tutors these?
Who taught thee to tremble in music—
Music of kings in the times
When the Sun in his youth was shining,
Music of more than heroes
In the days of Fingal and Ossian.

Coll of the waves! Eilean Chola,
Musical were thy children,
Thine was the last of the line
Of the old-time harpers of Albyn,
Sad was thy heart, oh Murdoch!
When last thou tunedst the harp-strings,
Sad was thy heart, and the ship
Like a seagull out on the ocean,
Passing tby spray-swept island,
Bearing the Prince of thy bosom,
Bearing Prince Charlie an exile
Out on the sorrowful ocean,
Saying good-bye to Albyn
And to the crown of his fathers—
The golden crown of his fathers
Lost on the field of battle,
And to the land of the heroes
Who unto death were faithful.
Passed thy prince from thy view
Till the sail seemed merged in the ocean,
Passed—and together that hour
Thy harp and thy heart were broken.

Never again did thy song
Rise in the halls of the chieftains,
Never in Coll of the waves
In the eyrie of Tighearn Chola.
Even as the rose will shut
When her lover the Sun is departed,
So didst thou close thy heart,
The music, the glory departed.
Music with thee was laid
In thy grave in Mull of the mountains.
How could the strings be tuned
When lost were the rights of our fathers.
Banned was the tartan plaid
And they cursed the tongue of the mountains;
Who, who could tune thy strings
And the land of the Gael dishonoured?

Harp of the kings, let us sing
In the ears of the wise of the nation,
Standing on steps of the throne
Of the Scot-descended Edward,
Close to the Destiny Stone,
The stone of the Scots and of Aidan—
Sing how a nation alone
May stand forever unshaken.
Red and strong is the blood
Where the wind is scented with heather,
Races of heroes are bred
On the purple breasts of mountains,
Often the heroes of hills
Have hurled back doom from a nation—
Have we forgotten Omdurman
And Hector in crisis of battle?
Sing how the blood of the cities,
Swiftly degenerate, faileth,
Sing of proud kingdoms that fell
Their children forsaking the mountains.

Harp of the Scots, thou art kin
To the harp that is slumbering in Tara,
Shall we not therefore sing
Together our songs, O Erin?
Branches we are of the stem
Whose roots reach the ages forgotten,
Proudly the harp of the Gael
In the banner of Erin is floating,
Proudly in veins of the king
The blood of the Gael is flowing—
Blood of the Scots of Dalriad,
Blood of O’Neil and of Canmore.
Here in the hands of our love
Is balm for the wounds of thy bosom,
Thy deep, red wounds—and thy grief
Shall vanish like visions with morning.
Cease from your terrible tears,
O dark-haired daughters of sorrow,
Golden and beautiful breaks
The morn on the hilltops of Erin!

Harp of the world-scattered Gaels,
Sing how the Gaels are in number
Even as the stars; how in strength
They are sinew and muscle of empires.
Brothers they are, of our blood,
Though spread to the four winds of heaven,
Brothers, if exiles, still,
Though their white-sailed ships return not.
What if the straths are forlorn,
The Blood of the race is not passing,
What if the language should fail,
The Race of the Gael is not dying!
See how the Gaels are in number
As sands on the marge of the wild wave,
Conquering with hands of toil
The cities and lands of the stranger;
Under the sun of the Indies
And in the lands over ocean,
Wielding the axe of the settler
Far in the depths of the forest,
Digging the yellow gold,
Low in the depths of the canyon,
Struggling on far fields of battle
Struggling—and falling with glory!

Tell me, my harp beloved,
Shall the hope that I cherish fail me—
Shall I behold the Gaels
To the glens of their love returning,
Men at work on the crofts
As I saw in the times unforgotten,
The mother in musical Gaelic
To the babe at her bosom crooning.
Friendly at feast of the Old-Year,
Chieftain and clansmen together,
Cheeks of the youth aglow
At the Shinty on New-Year’s morning—
Every old custom so dear
To our beautiful glens returning,
Bagpipes on fields of battle
Chanting their war-notes defiant,
And, in the halls of peace
The harp with its wild sweet trembling,
Why should I thus drop tears
On the ruins of old homes broken—
Spanning the bens, behold!
The rainbow, the rainbow is shining!

Listen, my harp, my beloved!
When cometh the time of my changing,
When my hand white as the snow,
To dust in the grave shall crumble,
Do not let any man’s hand
Strike from thee chords of sorrow —
Shall I not rise again
To the wind my boat’s sail spreading,
For the beautiful Island of Youth
In the gold of the Sea of the Sunset.
There I shall practice thy music,
There in the Hall of the Noble—
Beloved! when I am dead,
For me let no wail of sorrow
Rise from thy sun-bright strings,
But a song—a song victorious.

Don the MacLean Tartan

Recruitment poster for the 236th Battalion (New Brunswick Kilties), Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Recruitment poster for the 236th Battalion (New Brunswick Kilties), Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Black Duncan of the Cowl and Buchanan of Bochastle

West rampart of Bochastle Roman fort, with Ben Ledi (left) and the Pass of Leny (centre) in the background.
West rampart of Bochastle Roman fort, with Ben Ledi (left) and the Pass of Leny (centre) in the background.

Once when Black Duncan of the Cowl was in the house of Buchanan of Bochastle (Bochaisteil), the food that was customary at the time was put before him — milk, bread, and cheese. Black Duncan liked the cheese well, and he said to Buchanan, “Where was this cheese grown (made), laird of Bochastle?”

“It grew among the broom in these yellow braes and hollows,” replied Bochastle.

In a short time thereafter Black Duncan observed, “I should like to see your title-deeds. I am sure they are good.”

“I have no written title-deeds,” rejoined Bochastle; and he went to his armoury, got a sword and a target, stood before Black Duncan with these, and said, “These are the title-deeds of the land of Bochastle, and there are none but these.”

“Oh, very good — very good. Lay them by — lay them by;” and the laird of Bochastle went and laid by his sword and target. There was nothing further about this for the time being.

Black Duncan went home, and the laird of Bochastle did not in the least suspect that he himself and Black Duncan were not on amicable terms.

It happened some time after this affair that the laird of Bochastle went to Edinburgh, and Black Duncan of the Cowl was there at the same time.

They met one another at the same inn. Black Duncan had sent Green Colin1 with a large force of men to plunder Bochastle; but Buchanan was not aware of this, and Black Duncan felt inclined to give him a hint of the matter. So he said to Buchanan, “Would not this be a fine day to carry off a cattle-spoil from Bochastle?”

“It would be equally as good a day for turning back the cattle,” answered Buchanan. Nevertheless the latter did not know that Black Duncan had sent a force of men to carry off a spoil, and the two were speaking to one another as though they were in jest.

When Green Colin had reached Bochastle, the people of the place did not expect that he was coming for pillaging purposes, till the men who were with him began taking away the cattle. The people of Bochastle did not know that Black Duncan was not at peace with them; but Colin took away the cattle of the district, and went with them up the Strath of Balquhidder and the way of Lairig Eirinn (Pass of Eirinn or Erne). The laird of Bochastle had five sons, who were called the Red-haired Lads of Bochastle: these went and raised all the men in Bochastle and Lenny (Làinidh), who went after the cattle-spoil to turn it back.

There was a man at Lenny (Làinidh) who had been fishing on the river. He killed a trout, with which he went home. He spoke of the excellence of the trout, and a woman who was in said —

“It does not signify much to you; you shall never eat a bit of it.”

“It is a lie,” he said; “I will eat a part of it.” He cut a piece off the trout and put it on the fire to roast it, but before it was ready the cry came for armed men to turn back the cattle-spoil.

This man went out and went away with the rest. He was slain at the battle of Lairig Eirinn (Pass of Erne), and never returned.

They overtook the plunderers at Lairig Eirinn. Green Colin turned back towards the pursuers and said, “Let the best man among you hold up his hand!”

The eldest son of the laird of Bochastle held up his hand. Green Colin let fly an arrow at him, and the arrow pierced his armpit.

Green Colin cried, “Bring home that spike to the women of Lenny (Làinidh), that they may see how good the aim was.”

“Well now,” said Bochastle’s eldest son, “let the best among you hold up his hand.”

Green Colin scorned to decline to lift his hand himself, and he lifted his hand. Bochastle’s eldest son put an arrow in his bow: he shot it at Green Colin, and the arrow went in at his mouth and out at the back of his head; and the laird of Bochastle’s eldest son cried, “Bring that spike home with you, that the women of Lorne may see how good the aim has been.” A battle then began between the plunderers and pursuers, and the battle went against the plunderers. The latter were scattered, and six of the sons of Black Duncan of the Cowl were slain that day. Black Duncan’s force had to flee, and the red-haired lads of Bochastle turned back the cattle.

Black Duncan, as has been said, was at the time in Edinburgh, and the Baron of Bochastle along with him. A messenger was sent to Edinburgh to inform Black Duncan of the affair of the cattle-spoil, and of how the battle went. The messenger arrived in Edinburgh, and the Baron of Bochastle met him in the street, and knew by his dress that he was from the land of the Campbells.2

So he inquired of him, “What is your news? I perceive that you come with intelligence to the Black Knight.”

“I come to the Black Knight with the intelligence,” replied the messenger, “that the cattle-spoil which his men were taking away from Bochastle was turned back; that a battle was fought; that Green Colin was slain, and his men slaughtered.”

The laird of Bochastle continued his inquiries until he ascertained all the particulars, and he then said to the messenger, “You would be the better of a drink after your journey. Come into the inn, and I will give you a drink.”

They went in. The laird of Bochastle called for a bottle of ale. They gave a drink to the messenger, and said to him, “Stay here till I come back. I will go and get the Black Knight and bring him home.”

The messenger sat where he was, and the laird of Bochastle went out quietly, got the messenger’s horse, and rode home before Black Duncan could obtain information concerning the battle, and then get men and send him (Bochastle) to jail. The messenger sat in the inn till his patience was exhausted, and he had thereafter to search for Black Duncan in the best way he could.

— From the Dewar MSS. Given to the Editor by Lord Lorne, for whom and the Duke of Argyll the tales were collected in 1870-1871. Translated by Mr. Hector MacLean, Islay; Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll: Legends, Traditions, and Recollections of Argyllshire Highlanders, Collected Chiefly from the Gaelic, with Notes on the Antiquity of the Dress, Clan Colours, or Tartans, of the Highlanders (1885).

1 “Green Colin” must have been a natural son, as he cannot be Black Duncan’s eldest lawful son Colin, who succeeded as 8th Laird and 2nd Baronet of Glenorchy.

2 This is perhaps an important early reference to district (tartan) dress.

Finlay of Colonsay

Finlay, The Deerstalker, Hill and Adamson  (British, active 1843–1848), calotype print, c. 1845, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Finlay, The Deerstalker, Hill and Adamson (British, active 1843–1848), calotype print, c. 1845, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Robert Adamson (1821 – 1848) was a pioneer photographer whose subjects included Archibald McNeill (1803 – 1870), Sir John McNeill and “Finlay of Colonsay, a deerstalker in the employ of Campbell of Islay.” There are three images of this Finlay, taken on 17 April 1846. Adamson established his studio in Rock House, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, based upon the Fox Talbot calotype process. He worked closely with the painter David Octavius Hill and his brother Alexander Hill, a publisher of prints.

This image of Finlay of Colonsay is one of the first photographic images to depict a civilian in tartan attire.

Formalities Observed

A romantic depiction of Highland chiefs, in Stewart and Gordon tartans; J. Logan, The Scottish Gaël, 1831.
A romantic depiction of Highland chiefs, in Stewart and Gordon tartans; J. Logan, The Scottish Gaël, 1831.

Every Heir or young Chieftain of a Tribe was oblig’d in Honour to give a publick Specimen of his Valour before he was own’d and declar’d Governor or Leader of his People, who obey’d and follow’d him upon all Occasions.

This Chieftain was usually attended with a Retinue of young Men of Quality, who had not beforehand given any Proof of their Valour, and were ambitious of such an Opportunity to signalize themselves.

It was usual for the Captain to lead them, to make a desperate Incursion upon some Neighbour or other that they were in Feud with; and they were oblig’d to bring by open force the Cattel they found in the Lands they attack’d, or to die in the Attempt.

After the Performance of this Achievement, the young Chieftain was ever after reputed valiant and worthy of Government, and such as were of his Retinue acquir’d the like Reputation. This Custom being reciprocally us’d among them, was not reputed Robbery; for the Damage which one Tribe sustain’d by this Essay of the Chieftain of another, was repair’d when their Chieftain came in his turn to make his Specimen: but I have not heard an Instance of this Practice for these sixty Years past.

The Formalities observ’d at the Entrance of these Chieftains upon the Government of their Clans, were as follow:

A Heap of Stones was erected in form of a Pyramid, on the top of which the young Chieftain was plac’d, his Friends and Followers standing in a Circle round about him, his Elevation signifying his Authority over them, and their standing below their Subjection to him. One of his principal Friends deliver’d into his Hands the Sword worn by his Father, and there was a white Rod deliver’d to him likewise at the same time.

Immediately after, the Chief Druid (or Orator) stood close to the Pyramid, and pronounc’d a Rhetorical Panegyric, setting forth the antient Pedigree, Valour, and Liberality of the Family as Incentives to the young Chieftain, and fit for his imitation.

—  A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, Martin Martin, 1703.

Tha sinn ‘san t-sean-nàdur

Tha sinn ‘san t-sean-nàdur
A bhà sinn roimh am an achda,
Am pearsanna ‘s an inntinn,
‘S ‘bar rìoghalachd, cha tèid lagadh.

We’re still of our old nature
As were we ere the Act was passèd,
Alike in mind and persons
And loyalty, we will not weaken.

Am Breachan Uallach, Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair.

Precious Few Heroes

I was listening to the news the other day
I heard a fat politician who had the nerve to say
He was proud to be Scottish, by the way
With the the glories of our past to remember
“Here’s tae us, wha’s like us?” Listen to the cry
No surrender to the truth and here’s the reason why
The power and the glory’s just another bloody lie
They use to keep us all in line

Chorus:
For there’s no gods and there’s precious few heroes
But there’s plenty on the dole in the Land o’ the Leal
And it’s time now to sweep the future clear
Of the lies of a past that we know was never real

Sae farewell to the heather in the glen
They cleared us off once and they’d do it all again
For they still prefer sheep to thinking men
Ah but men who think like sheep are even better
There’s nothing much to choose between the old laird and the new
They still don’t give a damn for the likes of me and you
Just mind ye pay your rent to the factor when it’s due
And mind your bloody manners when ye pay!

(Chorus)

And tell me, will we never hear the end
Of puir bluidy Charlie at Culloden yet again?
Though he ran like a rabbit down the glen
Leaving better folk than him to be butchered
Or are you sittin in your Council house dreaming o’ your clan?
Waitin’ for the Jacobites tae come and free the land?
Try goin doon the broo with your claymore in your hand
And count a’ the Princes in the queueI

(Chorus)

So don’t talk to me of Scotland the brave
For if we don’t fight soon there’ll be nothing left to save
Or would you rather stand and watch them dig your grave
While ye wait for the Tartan messiah?
He’ll lead us tae the promised land wi laughter in his eye
We’ll all live on the oil and the whisky by and by
Free heavy beer, pie suppers in the sky
Will we never have the sense to learn?

That there’s no gods and there’s precious few heroes
But there’s plenty on the dole in the Land o’ the Leal
And I’m damn sure that there’s plenty live in fear
Of the day we stand together with our shoulders at the wheel
Aye there’s no gods

No Gods and Precious Few Heroes,  Brian McNeill.

Priestly Ordination

I have just returned from Incarnation Catholic Church where, this morning, Deacon William P. “Doc” Holiday became Fr. William P. “Doc” Holiday, Catholic priest.

The whole affair was similar to Thursday’s diaconal ordination. This time, though, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson was in attendance. Though Fr. Steenson is the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, he is not a bishop, so once again Bishop John Noonan of Orlando performed the ordination.

It was announced that paperwork is still being drawn-up, but Incarnation Catholic Church will become a parish in the Ordinariate and that Fr. Holiday will become its first pastor.

At the conclusion of the Mass and after photos had been taken, I received Fr. Doc’s blessing, kissed his freshly-annointed hands, and became his first penitent, making my confession in the chapel.

Afterwards, at the reception, I was pulled into a brief conversation with both Bishop Noonan and Msgr. Steenson. Bishop Noonan termed me “an expert in canon law,” an (erroneous) notion he picked-up when I met with him the first time (about a matter of ecclesiastical law), and they were both enquiring about the office of a titular abbot, wondering if this might be a way to honour certain individuals who were former Anglican clergy who worked towards the Ordinariate, but, for whatever canonical or practical reasons could not be ordained in the Church.

Msgr. Steenson and I had an extended conversation wherein I observed that, with the demise of Morning Prayer in The Episcopal Church and other Anglican sects (in favour of Holy Eucharist every Sunday), and with no strong history in the USA of Evensong in the parishes, one of the greatest treasures of the Anglican Patrimony — namely Anglican Chant — was going to be lost unless the Ordinariate made its preservation and growth a high priority. We seemed to be in agreement on this point.

We spoke briefly about the Customary of Our Lady of Walshingham. He had not studied the book, so I offered to mail him my copy due the very steep price through Amazon. Msgr. Steenson noted that the USA, Canada, and Australia were fairly united in their desire to maintain as much of the Prayer-Book tradition as possible, but the English seemed in great disarray and were not so committed to the traditional Anglican forms.

We also briefly discussed the merits of the recently abrogated Scottish Highland regimental system. (I was wearing a kilt, which started this tangent, and being a Campbell, the Government has long used the clan’s tartan which I was wearing.)

Congratulations, Fr. Doc! I would ask that my readers continue to pray for him.

John Campbell of the Bank

John Campbell of the Bank, 1759 (or 1749). All “modern tartans” identified with the Clan Campbell are blue, green, and black. I am not aware of any red tartan which has been associated either historically or by the tartan mills with the Clan Campbell. This portrait just reinforces the truth that Highlanders simply wore what tartans were locally available or to their taste. John Campbell (c.1703-1777) was a Scottish banker and man of business. He worked for The Royal Bank of Scotland from its foundation in 1727, and was its cashier, 1745-77. He served as agent for his kinsmen the 2nd Earl of Breadalbane and Lord Glenorchy, keeping their estate accounts and acting as their representative for all types of business in Edinburgh. Campbell was a Gaelic-speaker with an interest in supporting the survival of the language. He read poetry and his diary suggests that he also wrote it, although no samples are known to survive. It is thought that he was one of the financial supporters of James Macpherson, in his search for the ‘lost’ Ossian cycle of poems.

John Campbell’s diary recounts how the Jacobite army took control of Edinburgh on 17 September 1745. On 1 October, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s secretary informed John Campbell that he had £857 of Royal Bank banknotes and wanted payment for them in gold. Upon failure to comply, the Jacobites would seize property from the Bank and its directors to the value of the notes.

It was not immediately easy for the Bank to comply, because all the Bank’s valuables, including its reserves of gold, had been moved to Edinburgh Castle for safekeeping during this time of turmoil. At first, it had been possible to get access to the Castle when necessary, but by this time the Castle – still in government hands – was locked down, while the rest of the city was under Jacobite control. Just a few days earlier, Campbell and some colleagues had been refused access to the castle, despite waiting at the gates for an hour.

Campbell sought and obtained a special pass from the Jacobite authorities permitting him to pass through the streets safely on his way to the castle. He also wrote ahead to the castle warning its commander that he would be asking for access. The commander implied he would be allowed in, but refused to put anything in writing.

Campbell, accompanied by colleagues and directors from the Bank, made his expedition to the castle on 3 October 1745. He successfully gained access, withdrew the gold to meet the Prince’s demands (which by now had risen to over £3,000), and more to meet any imminent further demands. He also destroyed a large quantity of unissued notes to remove the risk of them entering circulation and becoming an additional liability. While he worked, shooting went on between government forces in the Castle and Jacobites outside.

He paid the money to the Prince’s secretary at his office later that evening. The Jacobite army left Edinburgh on 1 November, marching on into England in a bid to claim the British throne. The army’s progress into England was funded in no small part by the gold it had received from The Royal Bank of Scotland.

R. R. McIan’s Buchanan

A Highlander in Buchanan tartan in a XIX century engraving by McIan, from James Logan’s “The Clans of the Scottish Highlands”, 1845.

Robert Ronald McIan (1803 – 13 Dec 1856), also Robert Ranald McIan, was an actor and painter of Scottish descent. He is best known for romanticised depictions of Scottish clansmen, their battles, and domestic life.

Black Watch (Muted) Kilt

Just heard from Alexis Malcolm that my new kilt — in Muted Black Watch (Campbell) tartan — is in the post. I should receive it on Monday or Tuesday! Even though an Ancient Campbell kilt was first in order, Alexis says that Hurricane Sandy has delayed shipments of cloth from Scotland.

R. R. McIan’s Lord of the Isles

The Lord of the Isles portrayed in his ceremonial costume in a XIX century engraving by McIan, from James Logan’s “The Clans of the Scottish Highlands”, 1845.

Robert Ronald McIan (1803 – 13 Dec 1856), also Robert Ranald McIan, was an actor and painter of Scottish descent. He is best known for romanticised depictions of Scottish clansmen, their battles, and domestic life.