Mairidh Gaol is Ceol

(Love and Mu­sic are eter­nal)

The Oban Times - - Leisure -

ONE hun­dred years ago this week, the Bat­tle of the Somme was in its hor­rific early stages. The be­gin­ning of The Great War launched the world into an un­prece­dented erup­tion of bru­tal­ity and sav­age vi­o­lence on a scale that leaves shock waves to this day.

The Bat­tle of the Somme epit­o­mised the hor­ror of trench war­fare and the long drawn out months of hell that was in cruel con­trast to the swift glo­ri­ous ad­ven­ture to vic­tory that so many of the men had been promised and be­lieved they were em­bark­ing on in 1914.

Last week­end, as many coun­tries paid re­spect and trib­ute to the fallen, the vast amount of deeply beau­ti­ful and poignant mu­sic and po­etry gen­er­ated by this mo­men­tous hu­man tragedy came to mind.

The works of Wil­fred Owen, Siegried Sas­soon, Isaac Rosen­berg and many oth­ers are known to the world and por­tray, from the per­spec­tive of those who were there, the fu­tile slaugh­ter and de­spair of the Somme. From the High­lands and Is­lands, too, were many mu­si­cians and bards who com­posed tunes and songs that are per­formed and recorded widely to this day.

Th­ese works of artis­tic beauty from the depths and squalor of the trenches give a last­ing me­mo­rial to the brave men who sac­ri­ficed their lives for what they be­lieved was a no­ble cause.

As mu­si­cians, we play many of the tunes com­posed from this time and it is easy to for­get their ori­gins. It is fit­ting to re­flect on what th­ese com­posers went through, as il­lus­trated in the short Poem be­low com­posed by my mother, Flora MacPhail.

The lines ref­er­ence three well known pipe tunes – The Bat­tle of the Somme, ( by Wil­lie Lawrie of Bal­lachullish), The Ru­ins of Ar­ras and The Tak­ing of Beau­mont Hamel ( Both by John MacLel­lan of Dunoon), and the fa­mous song An Eala Bhàn The White Swan ( By Don­ald MacDon­ald of North Uist – Dòmh­nall Ruadh Chorùna).

It is not in the re­mit of this col­umn to com­ment on the flaws of hu­man­ity that lead to such trag­i­cally re­peat­ing chap­ters in our his­tory, or on the po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary fol­lies that were so ap­par­ent be­fore and dur­ing The Great War. The men who died did so bravely, self­lessly and with hon­our. For that, we will con­tinue to hon­our them and we will re­mem­ber them.

The po­ets and mu­si­cians of the First World War are long passed away but in their mu­sic and words, they live on.

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