LYRICS: ONCE UPON AN OLIVE BRANCH (2012)

 

  1. Oran do Ghilleasbuig òig Heisgir
    A song for young Gillespie of Heiskir

 

Anna Dhòmhnallach; arr. Mackinnon, Lyon, Watson

 

A eulogy on Gillesbuig MacLean of Heiskir, composed by his foster sister, Anna Dhòmhnallach, house keeper at Balranald, North Uist. Gillespie was a descendant of the last Lord of the Isles, a fine sailor and had a holding on Heisgeir until he broke off his engagement to Susan MacDonald of Vallay. This was a punishable offence and MacDonald’s brother, Major Alexander MacDonald, who was factor of North Uist, forced Gillespie to leave Uist. He emigrated to Canada in disgrace, where his son became Chief Justice of Upper Canada (now Ontario).
A complete text can be found in the MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry. It also appears in KC Craig’s Orain Luaidh (Màiri Nighean Alasdair) as “Gura mise fo Mhulad”, and in “From the Farthest Hebrides” edited by Donald A Fergusson, 1978.

 

Ach ‘Illeasbuig òig Heisgir
Bu tu ‘n aoibhneas nan nìghneag

 

Hòro ho hùg hòireannan,
Fallain gun till thu
Hòro ho hùg hòireannan.

 

Mo chèist fear a chùil bhuidhe
Nì am bruthach a dhìreadh

 

Mo ghaol fear a chùil dualaich
‘s nan cuileanan rìomhach

 

Bu tu sgiobair na fairge
Ri lath’ gailbheach ‘s droch shìde

 

Nuair a nochdadh do bharca
chite dearrsadh gun till às

 

Dalta cìche mo mhàthair
‘s iad ag ràdh nach tìll thu

 

Their gach neach air am beag e
‘s gum beadradh a mhìll e

 

Tha Luchd gabhail do leisgeul
aig an eaglais nan sìneadh

 

Iad gad dhìteadh a Bhalaidh
‘s do bhràthrean na h-Innsibh

 

Gur e mis’ tha fo mhulad
‘n tìr a Mhurain ‘s an t-sìobain

 

‘S e do thuras ‘Illeabaig
thug an leagadh do m’inntinn

 


Alas young Gillespie of Heisgir
You were the delight of the young girls

 

Hòro ho hùg hòireannan
May you return in good health
Hòro ho hùg hòireannan.

 

My choice, the man with the fair hair
Who can climb the hill

 

My love, the man with the curly hair
And beautiful tresses.

 

You were a fine skipper of the seas
On a fearsome day in bad weather

 

When your boat appeared
Its brightness could be seen from land

 

Foster child of my mother
And they say that you’ll not return

 

All who dislike him say
That it was the flirting that ruined him

 

Those who would excuse you
Are laid beside the church

 

They are condemning you in Vallay
and your brothers in the Indies.

 

It is I who am sad
In the land of marram and spindrift

 

It is your journey, Gilleasbuig
That has given such a blow to my spirits.

 

 

 

2. Kind Friends and Companions
– Trad; arr. Mackinnon, Lyon, Watson (MCPS/PRS)

 

A popular emigrant song, also known as “The Parting Glass” and “Good Friends and Companions”. Versions exist in Robin Morton’s “Folksongs Sung in Ulster” as well as Shields’ “Shamrock, Rose And Thistle”. The last verse of the song is not widely known and can be found in Paddy Tunney’s book “The Stone Fiddle: My way to Traditional Song”.

 

Kind friends and companions come join me in rhyme
And raise up your voices in chorus with mine
Let’s drink and be merry all grief to refrain
For we may or might never all meet here again

 

So here’s a health to the company
And unto my lass
Let’s drink and be merry all out of one glass
Let’s drink and be merry all grief to refrain
For we may or might never all meet here again

 

So here’s to the wee lass that I love so well
Her style and her beauty there’s none can excel
I smile on her countenance as she sits on my knee
For there’s none in this wide world as happy as me

 

CHORUS

 

My ship lies at harbour, she’s ready to dock
God grant her safe landing without shake or shock
And when we are sailing to the land of the free
I will always remember your kindness to me

 

CHORUS

 

I’ve read that old proverb, I’ve read it so true
My love is as fair as the bright morning dew
I’ve read that old proverb I suppose you have too
So kind friends and companions I bid you adieu

 

CHORUS x2

 

 3. Fionnghuala

 

Trad; arr. Mackinnon, Lyon, Watson (MCPS/PRS)

 

This is a very well-known port, or little song. Various versions of this song exist in the Highlands and Islands. The Bothy Band recorded a version of this song to critical acclaim, on their 1976 album, “Old Hag You Have Killed Me”.

 

Bheirinn fead air fulmairean
Bheirinn fead air falmairean
Luithannan beaga na mara
Bheireamaid greis air an tarrainn
Na maireadh na duirgh dhuinn


‘S i gheala nam bothan nam bothan
Pe horo bha hin an doicheam
‘s hala han de han an doicheam
Bothan a bh’aig Fionnghuala

 

Thuirt an gobha fuirighidh mi
Thuirt an gobha falbhaidh mi
Thuirt an gobha leis an othail A
ir bh’air aig dorus an t-sàbhail
Gu rachadh e a shuirighe

 

Sèist

 

Cha d’thuirt an dadan an seo
Cha d’thuirt an dadan an seo
Cha d’thuirt an dadan an seo
Bheireamaid greis air an tarrainn
Na maireadh na duirgh dhuinn

 

I’d knock spots off the birds;
I’d knock spots off the hakes.
Little lythes of the sea;
We’d take a while hauling them in
If our hand lines last.


It’s the white bothy of bothies
“Pe horo bha hin an doicheam”
“‘s hala han de han an doicheam”
Fingal’s bothy.

 

The blacksmith said I’ll stay
The blacksmith said I’ll go
The blacksmith said in his confusion
Standing at the door of the barn
That he would go courting.

 

Chorus

 

We got nothing here
We got nothing here
We got nothing here
We’d take a while hauling them in
If our hand lines last.

 

 

 

4. A’ Mhic Dhùghaill ‘ic Ruairidh
– Son of Dougal, son of Ruairidh

 

Trad; arr Mackinnon, Lyon, Watson

 

A murder ballad thought to originate from Barra; lyrics taught to me by the great tradition-bearer Flora MacNeil MBE.

 

A’ mhic Dhùghaill ‘ic Ruairidh
Chuir am buaireadh fo m’chèill-sa
Chuir an tainead mo ghruaidhean
‘s a dh’fhàg mo ghruag air dhroch ghrèidheadh

 

‘S diombach mise dha m’phiuthair
Nighean bhuidhe ‘n fhuilt steudaich
‘S cha bhuidheach mi dha m’ mhàthair
‘S òg a chàirich i bhreug orm

 

Mo mhìle bheannachd aig m’athair
‘Se nach gabhadh droch sgeul orm
Mo mhìle mollachd aig a’ bhuachaill’
Bha ri uallach na sprèidhe

 

Chaidh a dhùsgadh nam balach
Moch ro latha mus d’èirich
‘S ann a’ dìreadh a’ ghàrraidh
Leig thu ghràidh a’ chiad èigh as’d

 

‘S ann a’ tearnadh a’ bhruthaich
Fhuair thu ‘m bruthadh a lèir thu
Gu robh fuil do chuim chùbhraidh
A’ drùdhadh ro’ d’ lèinidh

 

‘S ged a dh’òl mi ghaoil pàirt dhi
Cha do shlànaich do chreuchdan
‘S truagh nach robh mi an Sasunn
‘m Beul-Fèirst n’ an Dùn Eideann

 

Nan tìr nam fear dubha
Na ‘n Coige Mhutha na h-Eireann
Mun do chuir mi ort grabadh
Moch ‘s a mhadainn ‘s tu ‘g’ èirigh

 

Mun do chuir mi riamh iùil ort
A lùb uir a’ chùil cheutaich
A’ mhic Dhùghaill ‘ic Ruairidh
Chuir am buaireadh fo ‘m chèill-sa

 

Son of Dougal, son of Ruairi
Who disturbed my peace of mind;
You made me cheeks hollow
You left my hair unkempt.

 

I am resentful of my sister
The girl with the golden curls;
With my mother I am displeased
Young was I when she slandered me.

 

My thousand blessings on my father
For he would hear no ill of me;
My thousand curses on the cow-herd
The one who was watching the cattle.

 

The one who did rouse the young men
Who had not risen before daybreak;
It was climbing the wall
That you gave the first shout, my darling.

 

It was when you went down the bank
That you received the fatal crushing blow;
The blood from your sweet body
Was seeping through your shirt.

 

And though I drank some of it, my love
Your wounds did not heal;
A pity I was not in England
in Belfast or Edinburgh.

 

In the land of the black men
Or Munster in Ireland;
Before I ever came to speak to you
Early in the morning as you rose.

 

Before I ever got to know you
Oh fresh youth of the comely hair;
Son of Dougal, son of Ruairi
Who disturbed my peace of mind.

 

 

 

5. The Olive Branch
– Maeve Mackinnon, 2010 (MCPS/PRS); Arr. Mackinnon, Lyon, Watson (MCPS/PRS)

 

The troubles in the Middle East are a highly charged topic of debate. The daily and relentless injustices inflicted on the people of Palestine are unimaginable for so many of us in the Western World and this song is my small contribution in helping to spread awareness about this issue.

 

Once upon an olive branch in 1998
To a land deep in conflict, the autumn deals its fate.
Peace is a concrete line, built to separate
And with this wall between us the hard times await.

 

Once upon an olive branch, the ravens circle high
Dawnraids at daybreak, as Saracens stand by
Families arrested and tensions reach the sky
Hope slips away from us and darkness is nigh

 

CHORUS:
Leave me to grieve now the olive branch is broken
And it broke as I shed my tears.
Leave me to grieve, give me something to believe in
The second intifada’s drawing near.

 

Once upon an olive branch in 1999
115 homes reduced to just nine
If home is where the heart is, the heart must be blind
As land disappears in these hard troubled times

 

Once upon an olive branch there grows a bitter thorn,
Families evicted and all the neighbours gone
Forced into exile, indignity and scorn
The olive branch is twisting, rebellion is borne.

 

CHORUS

 

Once upon an olive branch, millenium unfolds
As corpses of children lie in the olive groves
Truth is distorted as ethnic cleansing grows
And if this is democracy I’ll take another road

 

Once upon an olive branch I heard somebody say
The other side once suffered, now it’s gone the other way
All the world watching has got its part to play
Those who favour justice can’t afford to look away.


Leave me to grieve now the olive branch is broken
And it broke as I shed my tears.
Leave me to grieve now the olive branch is broken
History repeated, injustice unspoken
Leave me to grieve, give me something to believe in
The branch of resolution drawing near

 

 

 

6. Sugar Town
-D.Carton/L.Moran/P.Stevens; Arr. Mackinnon, Lyon, Watson (MCPS/PRS)

 

This used to be a sugar town
Beet was drawn from all around
They came and put their money down
This used to be a sugar town
This used to be a thriving place
Full time work, semi-state
Trucks and tractors coming late
Wagons at the railway gates


But the kids have dreams, brand new dreams
They’re in control of a bright new future
The kids have dreams

 

This used to help to keep me sane
Walking down there in the rain
In the darkness of a beet campaign
This used to help keep me sane
This used to put my mind at ease
Sweet Molasses In the breeze
They closed the plant down by degrees
This used to put my mind at ease

 

CHORUS

 

I see them in the morning
Going out to school
Laughing and joking ,
Playing the Fool
They’ve never known what it’s like
To be this down
They’ll never known what it was like
Living in a sugar town

 

 

 

 

7. Hòro Iollaraigh
Trad; arr. Mackinnon, Lyon, Watson

 

An emigrant song, this is a variation of a well-known pibroch, Fraoch à Ronaigh. Nostalgia is the fundamental theme of this song, as shown by the focus on the geology and landmarks specific to certain parts of the Western Isles. The song was taught to me by the fantastic tradition-bearer Lachie Morrison (Lachlainn Phàdruig) who learned the song from his father Pàdruig Morrison of Grimsay, North Uist.

 

Hòro Iollaraigh, Iollaraigh, Iollaraigh
Hòro Iollaraigh, ‘m Baile Sear Bhearnaraigh;
Hòro Iollaraigh, Iollaraigh, Iollaraigh
Hòro Iollaraigh, baile ceann traghad.

 

Tao’ Siar, Tao’ Siar, Tao’ Siar Sholais
Tao’ Siar, Tao’ Siar, Tao’ Siar Sholais
Tao’ Siar, Tao’ Siar, Tao’ Siar Sholais
Beinn Dubh a’ Chaoil ‘s Aird a’ Mhorrain.

 

‘S fhada bhuam Lìrinis, Càirinis, Grìminis,
‘S fhada bhuam Lìrinis, ‘m Baile Sear, Bhearnaraigh
‘S fhada bhuam Lìrinis, Càirinis, Grìminis,
‘S fhada bhuam Lìrinis, baile ceann traghad.

 

Fraoch à Rònaigh ‘s muran à Bhàlaigh
Fraoch à Rònaigh ‘s muran à Bhàlaigh
Fraoch à Rònaigh ‘s muran à Bhàlaigh
‘S fhada bhuam Druim Dubh Bhaile Raghnaill.

 

Mo bheannachd fhìn do thìr nan lochan
Do thìr an fhraoich ‘s nan daoine cosant.
Do thìr an àigh is b’àird a moladh
Do thìr mo ghràidh far an tàmhainn sona.

 

Translation :

 

Hòro Illeray, Illeray, Illeray.
Hòro Illeray, Balashare, Berneray.
Hòro Illeray, Illeray, Illeray,
Hòro Illeray, a town at the end of a beach.

 

The West side of Sollas (x3)
The black hill of the kyle
And Aird a’ Mhorrain.

 

Far away from me is Lirinish, Carinish, Griminish
Far away from me is Lirinish, Balashare, Berneray
Far away from me is Lirinish, Carinish, Griminish
Far away from me is Lirinish, a town at the end of a beach.

 

Heather from Rona, Marram from Vallay (x3)
Far from me is Druim Dubh Balranald

 

My personal blessings to the land of the lochs
To the land of the heather and diligent people;
To the land of paradise, worthy of the highest praise
To my beloved land where I would live contentedly.

 

 

 

8. She Moved Through The Fair
Trad; arr. Mackinnon

 

Most well-known songs are well-known for a reason; that the lyrics and tune resonate with many people. This is one of my all-time favourites.

 

My young love said to me “my mother won’t mind”
“And my father won’t slight you for your lack of kind”
And she stepped away from me and this she did say
“It will not be long, love, til our wedding day”

 

She stepped away from me, and she moved through the fair
And fondly i watched her move here and move there.
And she turned her way homeward with one star awake
As the swan in the evening moves over the lake.

 

The people were saying “no two were e’er wed”
But one has a sorrow that never was said
And she smiled as she passed me with her goods and her gear
And that was the last that I saw of my dear

 

Last night she came to me, my true love came in
She came in so easy her feet made no din
And she laid her hands on me and this she did say
“It will not be long, love, til our wedding day”.

 

 

 

9. O Phàil o ho ghràidh
Oh Paul, my love

 

Trad; arr Mackinnon/Lyon/Watson

 

Internal evidence in the song suggests that a girl is in love with “Paul” but aspersions have been cast on her character; suggestions that she is pregnant by somebody else and that he has left her.
“O Phàil o ho ghràidh” was recorded from Mrs Archie Munro “Màiri aʼ Ghobha” at Lochboisdale, South Uist, 14/11/61 by Captain DJ Mackinnon.

It appears extensively in Hebridean Folksongs III and text only in KC Craigʼs Orain Luaidh (Màiri Nighean Alasdair).

 

O Phàil o ho ghràidh
Bheir mi o hù ill o
O Phàil o ho ghràidh

 

ʻS gura misʼ tha fo mhulad
Tha liondubh air mo lionadh,

 

Mu fhear àrd aʼ chùil bhuidhe
Nì am bruthach a dhìreadh

 

ʻS ga bʼe thog oirnn na breugan
O gur fheudar dhaibh innse.

 

ʻS mi gun aithnicheadh tu tighinn
Fhìr chrìdhe nam mìogshùil

 

ʻS mi gun aithnicheadh do choiseachd
Air thòiseach nam mìltean.

 

ʻS mi gun aithnicheadh tu ʻd sheasamh
Ann an eaglais na sgìre.

 

Air dheirgead, air ghilead
Air ghrinnead, ʻs air bhinnead.

 

ʻS math thig sìod air mo leannan
Bròg bharr-iallach ghrinn-dubh.

 

ʻS math thig ad aʼ chuic àird ort
Agus fàbhar bho ʻn righ inntʼ.

 

Oh Paul, oh my love
Bheir mi o, hù ill o
Oh Paul, oh my love.

 

It is I that am sorrowful
Sadness has filled me.

 

About the tall yellow-haired man
Who climbs the hill;

 

And whoever lied about us
Oh they had better tell us.

 

I would recognise you coming
Dear man of the smiling eyes,

 

I would recognise your walk
Before thousands.

 

I would recognise your standing
In the parish church.

 

By redness, by fairness (of skin)
By handsomeness, by sweetness.

 

Well does silk become my lover
Elegant laced black shoe.

 

Well does a high cocked hat become you
And a favour from the king in it.

 

 

 

 

10. The Fatherʼs Song
-Ewan MacColl

 

arr. Mackinnon, Lyon, Watson

 

I first heard this song in the mid 1980s on Dick Gaughanʼs fantastic album, A Different Kind of Love Song.

 

Thatʼs another day gone by son, close your eyes
Now the moon is chasing clouds across the skies
Go to sleep and have no fear son
For your mam and dad are here son
And the giantʼs just a shadow on the wall

 

Go to sleep and when you wake it will be light
Thereʼs no need to fear the darkness of the light
Itʼs not like the dark you find son
In the depths of some menʼs minds son
That defies the daily coming of the dawn

 

Stop your crying now, let daddy dry your tears
Thereʼs no bogeyman to get you never fear
Thereʼs no ogres wicked witches
Only greedy sons of bitches
Who are waiting to exploit your life away

 

Lie easy in your bed and grow up strong
Youʼll be needing all your strength before too long
For youʼll soon be on your way son
Fighting battles every day son
With an enemy who thinks he owns the world

 

Donʼt you let ʻem buy you out or break your pride
Donʼt you let yourself be used then cast aside
If you listen to their lying
they will con you into dying
You wonʼt even know that you were once alive

 

No more talking now, itʼs time to go to sleep
There are answers to your questions but theyʼll keep
Go on asking while you grow son
Go on asking til you know son
Then send the answers ringing through the world.

 

 

Copyright © 2012 Maeve Mackinnon, All Rights Reserved