Sounds great, hey? He was a acclaimed Scottish poet, but this paper is not about his poetry but those who came before him and who wrote in Gaelic. I haven’t had a chance to read it in full yet but did a quick flick through after finding a pdf of it here. If this link goes dead then you can also find it hosted here on our website too.
Just parking this all here so I can find it when time comes to do more research on Scottish shazzle and you never know, someone else might find this useful too!
By Seumas Mor Maceanruig (Hamish Henderson) to the tune: ‘Johnston’s Motor Car’.
The Seven Men of Knoydart was the name given, to a group of squatters who tried to appropriate land at Knoydart in 1948. The name evoked the memory of the Seven Men of Moidart, the seven Jacobites who accompanied the Young Pretender on his voyage to Scotland in 1745. Comprising seven ex-servicemen, their claim was to be the last land raid in Scotland – from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Men_of_Knoydart
‘Twas down by the farm of Scottas, Lord Brocket walked one day, And he saw a sight that worried him Far more than he could say, For the “Seven Men of Knoydart” Were doing what they’d planned– They had staked their claims and were digging their drains, On Brocket’s Private Land.
“You bloody Reds,” Lord Brocket yelled, “Wot’s this you’re doing ‘ere? It doesn’t pay as you’ll find today, To insult an English peer. You’re only Scottish half-wits, But I’ll make you understand. You Highland swine, these Hills are mine! This is all Lord Brocket’s Land.
I’ll write to Arthur Woodburn, boys, And they will let you know, That the ‘Sacred Rights of Property’ Will never be laid low. With your stakes and tapes, I’ll make you traipse From Knoydart to the Rand; You can dig for gold till you’re stiff and cold– But not on this e’re Land.”
Then up spoke the Men of Knoydart; “Away and shut your trap, For threats from a Saxon brewer’s boy, We just won’t give a rap. O we are all ex-servicement, We fought against the Hun. We can tell our enemies by now, And Brocket, you are one!”
When he heard these words that noble peer Turned purple in the face. He said, “These Scottish savages Are Britain’s black disgrace. It may be true that I’ve let some few Thousand acres go to pot, But each one I’d give to a London spiv, Before any Goddam Scot!
“You’re a crowd of Tartan Bolshies! But I’ll soon have you licked. I’ll write to the Court of Session, For an Interim Interdict. I’ll write to my London lawyers, And they will understand.” “Och to Hell with your London lawyers, We want our Highland Land.”
When Brocket heard these fightin’ words, He fell down in a swoon, But they splashed his jowl with uisge, And he woke up mighty soon, And he moaned, “These Dukes of Sutherland Were right about the Scot. If I had my way I’d start today, And clear the whole dam lot!”
Then up spoke the men of Knoydart: “You have no earthly right. For this is the land of Scotland, And not the Isle of Wight. When Scotland’s proud Fianna, With ten thousand lads is manned, We will show the world that Highlanders Have a right to Scottish Land.”
“You may scream and yell, Lord Brocket– You may rave and stamp and shout, But the lamp we’ve lit in Knoydart Will never now go out. For Scotland’s on the march, my boys– We think it won’t be long. Roll on the day when The Knoydart Way Is Scotland’s battle song.”
We get sent, given and recommended a lot of books by people who’ve seen the show. They are nearly always very useful and often even get read. Every so often one comes along that wins. This is such a book. What a title! And full of lovely maps and considered prose too. Copies come up 2nd hand for about the £20 mark fairly often, well worth it.
Needless to say this book is a glorious source of academically thorough research into peasant struggles against the greed and tyranny of the aristocracy.
That there are algorithms out there on the internet that know so much about us all is shit scary. Some days it can be annoyingly useful though, like the day when it suggested that I might want to buy a 2nd hand copy of this book and I did… and was grateful for the recommendation. Grrrrrrrr….
The book is very geographically focussed on the north east lowlands of Scotland and explores advances in technology and the repercussions for workers through the medium of bothy ballads. Sounds ace, doesn’t it?
It covers the 1800s in detail and really helped me to understand the transition from women working the fields with a sickle, to men working the fields with scythes, and oxen pulling rudimentary ploughs, to a paid of horses pulling a far more modern device. It also explores the beginnings of automation, steam power and machines. All evidenced by songs. Brilliant.
Money earned through enslavement played a key role in the eviction of Highlanders in the 18th and 19th centuries, study finds
Between roughly 1750 and 1860, wealthy landowners forcibly evicted thousands of Scottish Highlanders in order to create large-scale sheep farms. Known today as the Highland Clearances, this era of drastic depopulation sparked the collapse of the traditional clan system and the mass migration of Scotland’s northernmost residents to other parts of the world.
As Alison Campsie reports for the Scotsman, new research argues that this pivotal period in Scottish history had close ties to the enslavement of people in British colonies, with a cadre of individuals enriched by slavery evicting at least 5,000 people from their property and buying up more than one million acres of land relinquished during the clearances.
In the tenements o’ Glesga in the year one nine one five It was one lang bloody struggle tae keep ourselves alive We were coontin’ oot the coppers tae buy wor scraps o’ food When the landlords put the rent up just because they could A’ the factories were hummin’, there was overtime galore But wages they were driven doon tae subsidise the war Oot came Mrs. Barbour from her wee bit single end She said, I’ll organise the lassies if I cannae rouse the men
‘Cos I’m from Govan and your from Partick This one here’s from Bridge o’ Weir and they’re from Kinning Park There’s some that’s prods, there’s some that’s catholic But we’re Mrs. Barbour’s Army and we’re here tae dae the wark
Mrs. Barbour made a poster sayin’, We’ll no’ pay higher rent Then she chapped on every door of every Govan tenement She said, Pit this in the windae when you hear me bang the drum We’ll run oot an’ chase the factor a’ the way tae kingdom come When the poor wee soul cam roon’ he was battered black and blue By a regiment in pinnies that knew just what tae do Mrs. Barbour organised the gaitherin’ o’ the clans And they burst oot o’ the steamie armed wi’ pots an’ fryin’ pans
Mrs. Barbour’s Army spread through Glesga like the plague The maisters got the message and the message wisnae vague While our menfolk fight the Kaiser we’ll stay hame & fight the war Against all the greedy bastards who keep grindin’ doon the poor If ye want tae stop conscription stand and fight the profiteers Bring the hale big bloody sandpit crashin’ doon aroon’ their ears We’ll no’ starve, said Mrs. Barbour, While the men we care for ain Are marchin aff to hae their heart’s blood washed like water doon a drain
Well it didnae take the government that lang tae realise If you crack doon on the leaders then the rest will compromise They arrested Mrs. Barbour and they clapped her in the jile Then they made an awfy big mistake, they let her oot on bail She called men out the factories on the Clyde and on the Cart They marched up tae the courthoose sayin’, We’ll tear the place apart Mrs. Barbour’s Army brought the maisters tae their knees Wi’ a regiment in pinnies backed by one in dungarees
Mo mhallachd aig na caoraich mhòr My curse upon the great sheep Càit a bheil clann nan daoine còir Where now are the children of the kindly folk Dhealaich rium nuair bha mi òg Who parted from me when I was young Mus robh Dùthaich ‘IcAoidh na fàsach? Before Sutherland became a desert?
Tha trì fichead bliadhna ‘s a trì It has been sixty-three years On dh’fhàg mi Dùthaich ‘IcAoidh Since I left Sutherland Cait bheil gillean òg mo chrìdh’ Where are all my beloved young men ‘S na nìonagan cho bòidheach? And all the girls that were so pretty?
Shellar, tha thu nist nad uaigh Sellar, you are in your grave Gaoir nam bantrach na do chluais The wailing of your widows in your ears Am milleadh rinn thu air an t-sluagh The destruction you wrought upon the people Ron uiridh ‘n d’ fhuair thu d’ leòr dheth? Up until last year, have you had your fill of it?
Chiad Dhiùc Chataibh, led chuid foill First Duke of Sutherland, with your deceit ‘S led chuid càirdeis do na Goill And your consorting with the Lowlanders Gum b’ ann an Iutharn’ bha do thoill You deserve to be in Hell Gum b’ fheàrr Iùdas làmh rium I’d rather consort with Judas
Bhan-Diùc Chataibh, bheil thu ad dhìth Duchess of Sutherland, where are you now? Càit a bheil do ghùnan sìod? Where are your silk gowns? An do chùm iad thu bhon oillt ‘s bhon strì Did they save you from the hatred and fury Tha an diugh am measg nan clàraibh? Which today permeates the press?
Mo mhallachd aig na caoraich mhòr My curse upon the great sheep Càit a bheil clann nan daoine còir Where now are the children of the kindly folk Dhealaich rium nuair bha mi òg Who parted from me when I was young Mus robh Dùthaich ‘IcAoidh na fàsach?
I was told about Hamish Henderson a few weeks ago and just spent a delightful hour making friends with his best known song ‘Freedom Come All Ye’.
There have been a few translations into English but I didn’t really like any of them so I’ve written my own, building on unattributed previous efforts. It’s such a shame that ‘down’ and ‘bloom’, and ‘more’ and ‘bare’ don’t rhyme in my southern English accent!
Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawin Blaws the cloods heilster-gowdie owre the bay But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin Thro the Great Glen o the warld the day
It’s a thocht that wad gar oor rottans Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay Tak the road an seek ither loanins Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play
Nae mair will our bonnie callants Merch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan Mourn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw
Broken faimlies in lands we’ve hairriet Will curse ‘Scotlan the Brave’ nae mair, nae mair Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare
Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom In yer hoos aa the bairns o Adam Will find breid, barley-bree an paintit rooms
When Maclean meets wi’s friens in Springburn Aa thae roses an geans will turn tae blume An the black lad frae yont Nyanga Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun.
Robin’s English translation
Rough the wind in the clear day’s dawning Blows the clouds topsy turvy about the bay, But there’s more than a rough wind blowing Through the great glen of the world today.
It’s a thought that will make our tyrants (Rogues who fancy themselves so fine and gay) Take the road, and seek other pastures For their ill ploys to sport and play
No more will our bonnie callants March to war when our braggarts crousely craw, Nor wee ones from pit-head and hamlet Mourn the ships sailin’ down the Broomielaw.
Broken families in lands we’ve harried, Will curse our names no more, no more; Black and white, hand in hand together, Will drive the tyrants from every shore
So come all ye at home with Freedom, Never heed the crooked hoodies croak for doom. In your house all the bairns of Adam Can find bread, barley-bree and painted room.
When MacLean meets with friends in Springburn Sweet the flowers will all bloom that day for thee And a black boy from old Nyanga Will break his chains and know liberty
I’ve posted links to Melvyn Braggs ‘In Our Time‘ podcasts/radio shows a number of times on this website but it has to be said that I’ve always been a little weary of them… something about the fact that the large majority of the guests are Oxbridge academics and the number of massively posh accents always leaves a little bell of warning ringing somewhere that I’m getting the official ruling classes imperial spin on history.
I remember having a post show email disagreement with one of Melvyn’s academic guests after their ‘Putney Debates’ show managed to completely ignore the issue of land during the civil war period which still seems a critical oversight from other things I’ve learnt and read.
Beautiful and achingly sad, I personally wonder if it needs another few verses, as I felt from The Cheviot The Stag and The Black Black Oil, that there were a number of defiant pockets of (mostly female) resistance to the Clearances which this song doesn’t touch on.
Hush, hush, time tae be sleepin
Hush, hush, dreams come a-creepin
Dreams o peace an o freedom
Sae smile in your sleep, bonnie baby
Once our valleys were ringin
Wi sounds o our children singin
But nou sheep bleat till the evenin
An shielings stand empty an broken
We stood, wi heads bowed in prayer
While factors laid our cottages bare
The flames fired the clear mountain air
An many lay dead in the mornin
Where was our fine Highland mettle,
Our men once sae fearless in battle?
They stand, cowed, huddled like cattle
Soon tae be shipped owre the ocean
No use pleading or praying
All hope gone, no hope of staying
Hush, hush, the anchor’s a-weighing
Don’t cry in your sleep, bonnie baby