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Subject: Canan nan Ga\idheal
From: Tom Thomson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Tom Thomson <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 9 Aug 93 14:00:58 BST
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This is the third of the songs Craig was looking for.
 
I'm not very sure at all that all of it is correct - I've fixed
what seem obvious errors in the version I got from An Comunnn,
left alone anything that might be Lewis dialect rather than an
error, but there are still bits that make no sense to me (and are
certainly different from any version I've ever heard sung; but
some of the bits that do make sense are different too, so that
doesn't mean anything). Besides, the corrections are guesswork
too. If anyone can make sense of the last line of verse four
please post it! There no accents (except an acute on the i of
Gaidheal in the title, heaven help us) in that version, I've
added some but probably left some off as I tend to be pretty
sloppy about them anyway.
 
some notes (using the line numbers) follow the text. then a
translation. [?] in the translation means I'm guessing -
comments/corrections especially welcome.
 
The song is by the late Murdo MacFarlane (Murchadh MacPharlain,
Bard Mealbhoist) and I think it was written about 1970. So far as
I can make out it hasn't been published - it isn't in Eilean
Fraoich, An Toinneamh Diomhair, or Orain Mhurchaidh and I don't
think any of his songs have been printed anywhere else. If anyone
knows of a published version I would be very pleased to hear
about it. There are records/tapes of bits of it by various
singers/groups.
 
1. Cha b' e sneachda 's an reo\thadh bho thuath,
Cha b' e 'n crannadh fuar bho 'n ear,
Cha b 'e 'n uisge 's an gailleon bho 'n iar,
Ach an galair a bhlean bho 'n deas
Bla\th, duilleach, stoc, agus freumh
Canan mo threubh 's mo shluaidh.
 
Seisd:
7.  Thig thugainn, thig co-rium gu siar
  Gus an cluinn sinn ann canan nam Fe/inn,
  Thig thugainn, thig co-rium gu siar
  Gus an cluinn sinn ann canan nan Gaidheal.
 
11. Far a nuas dhuinn na coinnleirean ior
'S annt' caraibh coinlean geal ceir
Lasaibh suas iad an seo\mair bhroin
Ti\gh-'aire seann chanan a' Ghae'l
'S sud o chionn fhad' thuirt a namh
Ach fhathast tha beo\ canan a' Ghae'l.
 
'17. S iomadh gille thug greis air a' chuibhl'
'S an du-oidhch' thog fonn Ga\idhlig a chridh
'S iomadh gaisgeach a bhrosnaich 'sa bhlair
Gu euchd nuair bu teo\tha bha 'n stri\
O Ghaidheil, o caite 'n deach t' uaill
'Nad fhine 's 'nad chanan 's do thir.?
 
23. Uair chite fear-feilidh 'sa ghleann
Bu chinnteach gur ga\idhlig a chainnt
Ach spion iad a fhreumh as an fhonn
'N aite ga\idhlig tha canan a Ghoill
'S a Ghaidhealtachd creadhal-nan-sonn
'S tir-mhagors is cholnarls 'n diugh th' innt'.
 
29. O chanan ta leath ri mo chridh
M' aran m' amhlan is m' anal 's mo smior
'S tu cho aosd ri fraoch-dosradh nam frith
Shloinneadh og leat beinn, leitear is sgur
Ghaidheil, 'gad easbhuidh, 's 'gad dhith
'S clarsach aon-theud, is cuislean gun fhuil.
 
35. Ged theich i le beath' as na glinn
Ged 's gann an diugh chluinntear i nis mo
O Dhuthaich MhicAoidh fada tuath
Gu ruig thu Druim-Uachdar nam bo
Gigheal, dhi na Eileanan Siar
Bi na claimheamh 's na sgiath'n ud dhoirn.
 
41. Ged nach chluinntear nis mo i 'san dun
No 'n talla-nan-cliar is nan co\irn
Ged tha meo\ir chloinn'icCreumein gun luths
O 'n tric feasgair ciuin dhoirteadh ceo\l
Gigheadh, anns na Eileanan-siar
'S i fhathast ann ciad chainnt an t-sloigh.
 
47. Tha na suinn le 'm bu bhinne bha t' fhuaim
'Nad linn thir nam fuarbeannaibh ard
Aig an druim anns na uaidhean nan suain
Suas air eirigh mo thruaigh tha nan a\it
Eadhon siar ann an duthaich-MhicLeoid
Linn og oirt a gha\idhlig rinn tair.
 
Notes:-
 
line 4: bhlean: what i've heard is bhlian, which means blanched
(taken the colour out of). bhlean could be a Lewis spelling or a
typo or a differnt word altogether - I've no idea which.
 
line 11: ior: as I've never heard this vese sung, I have to take
"ior" at face value: but I've never seen or heard "ior" - maybe
it's Lewis for iubhair - made from yew wood.
 
line 14: Ti\gh-'aire is ti\gh-faire I guess. A house in which a
wake is held (not a watch-house, which it could be in other
contexts). (ti\gh is a very common spelling of taigh).
 
lines 18 and 25: fonn (tune, song, air) and fonn (land, ground)
are two quite different words that just happen to be spelt and
pronouced the same.
 
line 25: a fhreumh not a freumh: so it's the kilted man who has
been uprooted, not the language. A reference to the depopulation
that killed the language in most of the highlands, maybe.
 
lines 25-26: the version I have heard sung goes
  Ach chaochail i 'n duthaich nam beann
  'N a\ite gha\idhlig cluinn canan a ghoill
  (but it has died it the land of bens, in the place of
   Gaelic hear the language of the foreigner)
but the this version from An Comunn is much better.
 
line 26: Goill: this word is why learners must learn to pronounce
Gaidheal [ge:jl] ([ga:l] is acceptable too, but hopelessly
old-fashioned), never [ga:j(@)l] in spite of the spelling; you
can see fom the chorus of this song that in current northern
gaelic gaidheal has the same vowel as Fe/inn, and from this verse
that goill has the same vowel as cainnt.
 
lines 27-28: "tir-mhagors" and "cholnarls" are what is printed on
An Comunn's sheet. I don't believe it. Neither of those words is
gaelic, not even Lewis gaelic (I could of course be wrong). For
the purporse of translation I've guessed mhagors is mhagh-suinne
and picked an english word at random for cholnarls as i can't
imagine anything it could be a typo for. Hope someone on GL knows
what it should be and provides a correction. When i've heard
these two lines sung, they've been something like
  Chan i 'n duthaich a b'ann ud thall
  Tir nan laoich is nan gaisgeach 's nan suinn
 - It's not the country that it used to be over there,
   the land of heroes and heroes and heroes
(you can think of your own three different words in english for
gaisgich, laoich, and suinn)
but that's so different from the printed text that it couldn't be
a typo so it's no guide to what the printed sheet is supposed to
say.
 
line 29: leath ri: Lewis for leth ri. If you go a couple of
Islands south you can find spellings as weird as leigh ri, and
sometimes the word order is inverted. ta and ta\ are rare these
days (unless you're Irish), the usual form in sg is tha. but it
seems perfectly reasonable to drop lenition of t after the n of
chanan.
 
line 31: amhlan is annlan in most places.
 
line 37: duthaich MhicAoidh: McKay's country. There are very few
McKays left in Sutherland, the McKays and Munroes were probably
the worst sufferers of the 19th centuy phase of the clearances as
the Dukes of Sutherland carried on the policies of genocide by
fire and sword well into the second half of the century while
elsewhere in the Gaidhealtachd these policies had been replaced
by less effective (or at least less directly murderous) ones by
about 1785. Anyone familiar with Scottish history will see the
reference to the McKay's land in the far north (ie where
practically none of them are left) as a pretty pointed reference
to the Sutherland clearances. I think Strathnaver was the main
MacKay area but I'm not sure.
 
Line 39: Gigheal: i don't know whether this is a typo (for
gigheadh) or deliberate: dh and gh sometimes take on an l-like
sound when followed by a pause, so this may represent that.
 
line 40: claimheamh: the first syllable is nasal in Lewis, so
this is a more accurate spelling than the standard claidheamh -
but not anywhere else.
 
line 42: co\irn. lewis spelling of cu\irn. talla nan cu\irn =
hall of the horns; the horns are drinking horns, not musical
instruments or wall decorations.
 
line 43: the MacCrimmon's were traditionally the best pipers (and
fiddlers) - music was the clan's trade.
 
line 48: 'Nad linn: the printed version has "Nadfhlinnn";
obviously wrong, but I worry about dropping the "fh" in trying to
correct it; there are many words that begin with an optional f
(rather have or haven't an f according to dialect) but all the
ones I know begin with a vowel; maybe this is a valid one that
doesn't? Or maybe I've got the wrong meaning altogether?
 
line 52: oirt: My best guess is that this is a funny spelling of
ort.Or maybe Linn og oirt should be translated as a new junk
generation (if oirt is Lewis for uird) - meaning the young
generation are rubbish (because they're interested only in
English and not in Gaelic).
 
Translation:-
 
1. It was not the snow and frost from the north,
nor the cold withering from the east,
it wasn't the rain or the storms from the west,
but the sickness from the south that has faded [?]
the bloom, foliage, stock and root
of the language of my race and my people.
 
7. Come, come on, come with me westwards
until we hear the language of the Fein,
Come, come on, come with me westwards
until we hear the language of the Gaels.
 
11. Pass over to us the yew [?] candlesticks
and put in them white waxen candles
light them up in a grief-filled room
in the wake-house of the Gael's old language
That's what the enemy has long been saying
but the language of the Gael is alive yet.
 
17. Many a lad who has worked for a while at the wheel
[i guess that means steering a ship] has had his heart uplifted
by a Gaelic song; and many a hero has spurred on on the battle
field to valour where the fight was hottest; O Gael, where has
your pride in your race and your language and your country gone?
 
23. Once if a kilted man was seen in the valley it was certain
that Gaelic was his language, but they have torn his roots from
the ground, in the place of Gaelic is the foreigner's language,
and the Gaeltachd, cradle of heroes, today it is a land of
slaves [?] and cowards [?].
 
29. O language that's close to my heart,
My food, my spice, my breath, and my strength,
you are as old as the abundant heather on the hills
The hills, slopes, and peaks were named by you when they were young
Gael, you're needing and you're wanting,
like a one-stringed harp or a vein without blood.
 
35. Although it has escaped with its life fom the valley,
although it's rare today that it's head any more
from Strathnaver [?] in the far north
right down to Drumouchter where the cattle are
nevertheless, for it in the Western Isles
the swords and shields are taken in hand [?] there.
 
41. Although it is heard no more in the city
or in the festive hall of the laureates,
Although the strength has gone from the MacCrimmons' fingers
from which often music would be poured out in the evening
Nevertheless, in the western Isles,
there it is still the first language of the people.
 
47. The heroes to whom your sound was sweetest
in your time [?] in the land of the cool high bens
are on their backs at rest in graves
and risen up, Oh woe, in their place, is
even in McLeod's country
a new [?] generation who despise you, gaelic.
[to me, MacLeod's Country is Skye around GlenDale and Vaternish;
but the author almost certainly meant Lewis, which seems to
contradict the optimism at the end of the previous verse.]
 
Tom
 
 

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