Sang ae the stanes

I’m really pleased to have been part of this project for Historic Environment Scotland.

I was asked to write two poems – in Gaelic and Scots – that explored the cultural history of some of the buildings under the organisation’s care.

I looked at: Dunstaffanage Castle, where Flora MacDonald was held for a period; Kildrummy Castle, where the Earl of Mar spent many nights deciding which side he should join – the Jacobites or the Government; Ruthven Barracks, that were built to subdue the Highlands in the years after 1715; Urquhart Castle, that was captured and held by Robert the Bruce during his march through The Great Glen; Crossraguel Abbey, where the Benedictines stayed for long centuries; Kisimul Castle, in the bay where emigrants from Barra and Uist left for Canada; Elgin Cathedral, destroyed during the time of the Reformation, and; Broughty Castle, where General Monck, commander-in-chief of the Commenwealth Army in Scotland, grew tired of war after seeing the behaviour of his soldiers when they took Dundee.

Here’s how I wrote the two poems, side by side:

Òran nan Clachan

Cha bhalbh na clachan seo idir – èist.
Tè òg uasal le blas Eilean Uibhist,
a’ seinn le bròn ann an Gàidhlig bhinn,
glas-làimhe dhubh air a craiceann fionn.
Bàta fo oiteag agus an caisteal air a chùl –
teaghlaichean a’ fàgail airson tìr nan craobh.
Òrdughan, peilearan, rianan catha,
Ceòl na caismeachd, an rìgh anns a’ bhlàr.
Deasbadan tethe air oidhcheannan san fhuachd,
uachdaran a’ meòrachadh air càite an tèid a chumhachd.
Ùrnaighean airson mathanas nam peacannan,
altachadh briste, a’ bristeadh nan leacan.
Fuil a’ sileadh ‘s seanalair sgìth dheth,
na chluasan fhathast, caoineadh beag an leanaibh.
Sin uile glacte anns gach balla.
Cur làmh orra. Fairich am mac-talla.

Sang ae the stanes

These stanes arna soonless – hearken.
A quine fae Uist is quiet-like liltin
in Gylick sae doon-herted, dowie,
tinkling black chines ower her gentie bodie.
Sails in a braith o wind, wi the castle ahint
faimlies leein fir a kintra unkent.
Sodgers reddin up, the blatter ae stooer,
The muisic ae a king’s merch, michty in pooer.
Lang disputations on lang cauld nichts,
ane mickle laird sweir tae chuse whit’s richt.
Prayers tae Goad an benedictiouns,
Grace aw smattered, in years ae destructioun.
A general seeck scunnirt ae bluid awthegither
His lugs fu the screichs ae bairnies an mithers.
Thae soons ar aw kistit in ilka floor ablow.
Touch thaim. Ye maucht fin thair echo.

And here’s how they were used in the film:

Dunstaffanage Castle Cha bhalbh na clachan seo idir – èist.
Tè òg uasal le blas Eilean Uibhist,a’ seinn le bròn ann an Gàidhlig bhinn,
glas-làimhe dhubh air a craiceann fionn.
Kildrummy Castle Lang disputations on lang cauld nichts,
ane mickle laird sweir tae chuse whit’s richt.
Ruthven Barracks Òrdughan, peilearan, rianan catha,
Urquhart Castle ceòl na caismeachd, an rìgh anns a’ bhlàr.
Crossraguel Abbey Prayers tae Goad and benedictions.
Kisimul Castle Bàta fo oiteag agus an caisteal air a chùl –
teaghlaichean a’ fàgail airson tìr nan craobh.
Elgin Cathedral Grace aw smattered, in years ae destructioun.
Broughty Castle A general seeck scunnirt ae bluid awthegither
His lugs fu the screichs ae bairnies an mithers.Thae soons ar aw kistit in ilka floor ablow.
Touch thaim. Ye maucht fin thair echo.

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