I’ve already documented my love for George’s book Where Beards Wag All, which he wrote fifteen years later and is far more concentrated on the role of the oral tradition in rural settings.
I’ve been meaning to write up about this book for ages and now I come to do so, what I learnt from it has quite slipped my mind… but just looking at the contents pages is more than enough to wet the intellectual appetite. I mean it has chapters called ‘Beer’, ‘Field Names’ and ‘Bacon and Ham Curing’ and a whole section titled ‘Various Old People’. Ha!
As climate change starts to bite and we continue looking for ways to work the land with nature rather than by fighting against her, books like this will be valuable resources indeed.
The Economist review on the inside cover just about sums it up: ‘Original, arresting and always human… The book is a mine of information, but this is offered so unpretentiously that it reads as easily as a quiet book of memoirs’
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?
In short, communities were deprived of their access to land to make way for sheep. The wool from these sheep became the first resource to be mass produced and traded leading to massive accumulation of excess capital in the hands of a few large landowners.
This excess capital could be invested in ships which laid the foundation for empires and slavery bringing along the second big accumulation of excess capital.