Morvern at the Mòd

The Oban Times - - Districts - Iain Thorn­ber iain.thorn­ber@bt­in­ter­

FOR CEN­TURIES Morvern has been well-known for its Gaelic bards and fine singers.

It was good, there­fore, to find so many peo­ple from the parish qual­i­fy­ing for this year’s Royal Na­tional Mòd and car­ry­ing home prizes. Hearti­est con­grat­u­la­tions go to: Hec­tor MacKech­nie, Hamish Kennedy, Layla MacIn­tyre, Tilly and Ver­ity Lawrence; Rachel Bolton; the Locha­line chil­dren of Mull Mod Club and Morvern’s Bu­rach Choir.

Hec­tor MacKech­nie from Savary, who won this year’s highly cov­eted An Co­munn Gàid­healach’s Gold Medal, is a de­scen­dent of Don­ald MacKech­nie (18361908), a well-known Jura bard and singer. Don­ald was part of a dis­tin­guished cir­cle of Celtic schol­ars which in­cluded Pro­fes­sor Don­ald Mackin­non, first holder of the Chair of Celtic, the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh; Alexan­der Carmichael, folk­lorist, an­ti­quar­ian and ed­i­tor of Carmina Gadel­ica and Dr Alexan­der Ni­col­son from Skye who was a Gaelic scholar, sher­iff-sub­sti­tute of Kirkcud­bright and Greenock, and a pi­o­neer of moun­tain climb­ing in Scot­land.

Don­ald MacKech­nie, or ‘Domh­nall MacEacharn’ as he was known on his na­tive isle, was a fre­quent prize win­ner at Mòds at the turn of the 20th cen­tury. He com­posed An Sruthan, Am Bothan Beag and Bean a’

Cho­tain Ruaidh but only a few pieces of them are re­mem­bered. One of his best is Am Fi­adh – The Deer. He also trans­lated parts of the Rubaiyat – a se­lec­tion of po­ems orig­i­nally writ­ten in an­cient Per­sian. Hec­tor’s many friends in Morvern hope it won’t be long be­fore he pro­duces a CD.

The Morvern con­tin­gent were for­tu­nate in hav­ing Riona Whyte and her son Alas­dair from Salen, Mull, as tu­tors. Both are Na­tional Mòd gold medal­lists (Stornoway 2001) and (Dunoon 2006). The shin­ing ac­co­lades don’t stop there. Riona’s mother, Creina Jack­son (nee MacGre­gor), took gold for her solo singing at the Stron­tian and Oban Pro­vin­cial Mòds in 1951. Now and again, Creina can still be ca­joled into par­tic­i­pat­ing in lo­cal ceilidhs or lead­ing the songs of praise at Kiel Church. Riona’s late fa­ther, Alas­tair Jack­son, and his family came from Glen Can­nel on Mull and Led­gri­anach, Ap­pin, be­fore mov­ing to Morvern where Alis­tair took Fi­u­nary Farm next door to the manse – home of the most fa­mous family of min­is­ters in Scot­land.

A FEW weeks ago, in cel­e­bra­tion of Na­tional Po­etry Day, I gave a se­lec­tion of some of my favourite lo­cal and na­tional verse. .

Judg­ing by the vol­ume of Te­mails I re­ceived they were ob­vi­ously pop­u­lar. Here are a few more:

The Hu­man Race I wish I loved the hu­man race; I wish I loved its silly face; I wish I liked the way it walks; I wish I liked the way it talks; and when I’m in­tro­duced to one, I wish I thought what jolly fun. (Sir Wal­ter Alexan­der Raleigh 1861-1922).

North­ward Bound (on the deer­stalker’s ex­press) Does your heart still beat with the old ex­cite­ment as you wait where the Scotch ex­presses are? Does it an­swer still to the old in­dict­ment of a fond de­light in the sleep­ing- car, as it did when the rush through the au­tumn night meant The Gate of De­sire ajar? Oh! the years, the years, they be rusty and mothy; Oh! the flesh it is weak, that once was strong; but the brown burn un­der the stone falls frothy and the mu­sic it makes is a siren song; then the pony’ll take you as far as the bothy, and that’ll help you along. (Al­fred Cochrane, English crick­eter, no date).

The Dis­tiller’s Grace Oh Gen­tle Je­sus so di­vine, who tur­neth water into wine; please for­give us mor­tal men, who merely turn it back again. (Anon)

An t’eilean Muileach - The Isle of Mull But gone are now all th­ese joys for­ever, like bub­bles burst­ing on yon­der river. (Du­gald Macphail 18191887).

The Burn You keep me com­pany, hos­pitable stream, ca­ress­ing the moor­land shoul­der, or flick­er­ing from boul­der to boul­der, gam­bling goat-footed out of half-light into gleam: you keep me com­pany, hum­ming a tune like pan-pipes heard in a dream, and how many cen­turies older? I keep you com­pany sing the pipes of dream: what mat­ter if blood run colder, if man like a leaf must moul­der? Spirit of love will abide, and sad­ness only seem. I keep you com­pany, lover im­mor­tal, love ever young as a stream, and how many cen­turies older? ( Writ­ten at Ard­tor­nish, Sept 1930, Anon).

Ben Do­rain How finely swept the no­ble deer across the morn­ing hill, while fear­lessly played the fawn and doe be­side the run­ning rill; I heard the black and red grouse crow and the belling of the deer. I think those are the sweet­est sounds that man at dawn may hear. (Dun­can Ban MacIn­tyre, 1724-1812; trans­lated from the Gaelic by Robert Buchanan).

A wel­come to Stron­tian On High­land knoll by fairy foot­steps prest, Stron­tian’s por­tal greets the wel­come guest. ( Words above the door­way of Horsey Hall Ho­tel, Stron­tian, de­stroyed by fire in 1999. Anon).

The Start (of a hill walk) Then he said, “In yon­der for­est there’s a lit­tle sil­ver stream and whoso­ever drinks of it his youth shall never die”. (Al­fred Noyes 1880-1958).

Hors­ley Hall Ho­tel, Stron­tian.

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