Òran do dh’Iain Dòmhnallach

Mary Ann Kennedy
Language: Gaelic

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An Dàn

Word came home that renewed sorrow and sadness for us”

MA: My father, Alasdair, came from Tiree, a low, sandy, fertile island, farthest out into the Atlantic of the Inner Hebrides – the first port-of-call on the Shipping Forecast. He would have been quietly satisfied at seeing this Tiree collaboration.

In 2015, I had the honour of writing the soundtrack to a BBC documentary following fellow Tirisdeach, Prof. Donald Meek, in the footsteps of his great-uncle John MacDonald, killed in the Great War, and those of the man whose life he saved in sacrificing his own – 2nd Lt. Jock Stewart. At the heart of the music were two poems, one of which was this one. Ìrig’s words are as poignant and eloquent as any in the great Gaelic poetic tradition of eulogy and elegy. Jock spent most of his post-war life in Ghana and South Africa: I used a Tswana song about homeland, ‘Ko Gae, Ko Gae’, as the basis of the melody. Our huge thanks to Michael Baird and SWP Records for allowing us to use the sample from the legendary Hugh Tracey archive.

Donald Meek:  Effie’s elegy was published on a ‘broadsheet’ and circulated among relatives. She uses the poetic form which, at the outset, described clan chiefs, with the image of the tree at the beginning. John is a ‘branch’, and a ‘sapling’. The family is the clan. But in every note we hear a woman’s voice, lamenting a fine young man for whom she had the greatest esteem. Everything she says about John’s bravery is confirmed by the magnificent letters which his officers wrote about him.
Thàinig naigheachd don dùthaich
Dh’ùraich mulad as ùr dhuinn, is bròn,
Nach bu mhaireann am flùran
A bha measail is cliùiteach na dhòigh;
Leam is duilich ri innse 
Thu bhi d’ chàradh glè ìosal fon fhòd,
Fad o d’ chairdean ’s o d’ dhìlsean,
’S fad on dachaidh ’s on tìr thug dhuit lòn.

Tha do phàrantan lèirte,
’S beag an t-ioghnadh an ceum a bhi mall,
On is fìrinn an sgeula
Gun do spìonadh a’ gheug às a bonn;
Thàinig saighead bhon nàmhaid,
Chuir a daithean gu làr thu ’s b’ e ’n call;
’S iomadh òganach sàr-mhaith
Chaidh an lath ’ud gu bàs a’s an Fhraing.

Tha do pheathraichean brònach,
’S tha do bhràithrean fo leòn ’s thu gan dìth,
’S tu gun dèanadh an comhnàdh,
Bha thu tuigseach is eòlach ’s gach gnìomh;
’Nuair a ghlaoidhte thar chàich riut 
Air an raon latha bhlàir ann an strì,
’S tu gun seasadh an làrach 
Eadar sinne san nàmhaid gar dìon.

 Bu tu fhèin an duin’ uasal:
B’ e sin teisteas an t-sluaigh ort gu lèir;
Bha thu faic’leach a d’ ghluasad
Agus measarra, stuama da-rèir;
Bha thu smioral mar shaighdear
Agus iriosal caoimhneil am beus;
’S mise dh’fhaodadh a ghràitinn,
Gura fìrinn tha ’m dhàn, ’s nach e breug.

’S iomadh cliù tha ri inns’ ort
Nach bi mise cur sìos ann am dhàn;
On a dh’fhalbh is nach till thu,
Dh’fhàg thu chridheachan ìosal aig pàirt;
Ach, cliù don Tì chaidh a cheusadh,
’S e choisinn dhuinne rèite le bhàs,
Gun do shaor E dha fhèin thu
Le chorp naomh thoirt mar èirig nad àit.

’S iomadh aon a tha duilich
Bhon a chual iad mu bhuille do bhàis,
’S gun do chrìochnaich do thuras
Nuair a thuit thu le tubaist sa bhlàr;
Seo ’n cogadh thug cìs dhinn,
Ged is fheudar bhi strìochdte nar càs;
Tha ar beatha neo-chinnteach,
Air a coimeas san fhìrinn ri sgàil.

Contributed by Dq82 - 2017/12/26 - 17:40

Language: English

English translation by

That renewed sorrow and sadness for us,
That the flower was no more
That had been kindly and worthy in his manner;
I am so sorry to have to report   
That you are buried deep in the ground,
Far from your family and companions,
And far from the land and home that fed you.

Your parents are beside themselves,
Little wonder their footfall is slow,
Since there’s truth in the tale 
That the branch was plucked out by its root;
An arrow from the enemy – 
Its point laid you low, and what a loss;
Many’s the finest young man
That went to his death that day in France.

Your sisters are sorrowful,
And your brothers sad in your absence,
Yours was fine company for them,
You were understanding and knowledgeable in every way;
When they called you above others,
On the battle-day field in the fight,
You would stand your ground 
Between us and the enemy to defend us.

You were the noble man:
That was what everyone said of you;
You were nimble in movement,
Modest and temperate to boot; 
You were hardy as a soldier
Kindly and modest amongst attributes;
I could well say 
That this is no lie, but the truth.

Great things could be told of you
That I won’t recount in this song;
Since you have left and will not return,
You have left many downhearted;
But, praise to the Lord who was crucified,
He secured our redemption through his death,
He freed you for his own sake
And His holy body offered up in your stead.

So many are sorrowful
Since they heard of your death-blow,
And that your journey ended
When you fell in battle; 
This is the war that cost us dearly,
Though we must suffer in our cause; 
Our lives are uncertain,
Compared in the truth but to a shadow.

Contributed by Dq82 - 2017/12/26 - 17:44

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