Tag Archives: Bardic poetry

Fíor mo mholadh ar Mhac Dhomhnaill – medieval bardic poetry performance

This is the final set at the Ceòl Rígh Innse Gall concert in the museum at Armadale, Isle of Skye, last month: medieval Gaelic ‘bardic’ poetry, sung with accompaniment played on the replica of the medieval Scottish ‘Queen Mary’ harp.

Fíor mo mholadh    ar Mhac Dhomnaill
Cur la gceanglaim    cur gach comhlainn
True my praising of MacDonald, hero I am tied to, hero of every fight

Croidhe leómhain   láimh nár tugadh
Guaire Gaoidheal   aoinfhear Uladh
Lion’s heart, hand that did not reproach, Guaire of the Gael, sole champion of Ulster

Aoinfhear Uladh   táth na bpobal
Rosg le rugadh   cosg na cgogadh
Champion of Ulster, welder of people, eye which caused the ceasing of warfare

Grian na nGaoidheal   gnúis í Cholla
Fa bhruach Banna   luath a longa
Sun of the Gael, face of the sons of Coll, around the Bann his galleys were swift

Cuiléan confaidh   choisgeas foghla
Croide connla    bile Banbha
Furious hound, stopping raiders, steadfast heart, tree of Ireland

Tír ‘na teannail   deirg ‘na dheaghaidh
A bheart bunaidh   teacht go Teamhair
The land is a blazing beacon behind, his ancestral duty to go to Tara

Measgadh Midhe   onchú Íle
Fréimh na féile   tréan gach tíre
The confuser of Meath, the wolf of Islay, the root of bounty, the defender of each land

Níor éar aoinfhear   no dáimh doiligh
Craobh fhial oinigh    ó fhiadh n-Oiligh
Refusing no-one, no pleading poets, generous honourable branch from the land of Oileach

Níor fhás uime    acht ríoghna is ríogha
Fuighle fíora   fíor mo mholadh
No-one raised with him but kings and queens. True these judgements; true my praising

Poet: anonymous MacMhuirich c.1500
Singer: Gillebrìde MacMillan
harpist: Simon Chadwick

After the music finishes we hear Godfrey, Lord MacDonald, speaking with the ‘vote of thanks’.

Concert at Armadale

Here’s the first photo I have seen so far from the Ceòl Rígh Innse Gall concert at the Museum of the Isles, Armadale, on the Isle of Skye a couple of weeks ago.

Left to right: Concert organiser Ian MacDonnell, harpist Simon Chadwick and singer Gillebrìde MacMillan in front of the reproduction of the medieval Iona grave slab of Aonghus Og, Lord of the Isles. Photo: Judith Parks

An address to Aonghus of Islay

Today in the harp class in Dundee we had fun trying out harp accompaniment to medieval bardic poetry! Everyone was very game!

We looked at the poem which was the centrepiece of Wednesday’s concert, Ceannaig Duain T-Athar a Aonghas (pay for your father’s poem, Angus). It is addressed to Aonghas Mòr, the father of Aonghas Og the companion of Robert the Bruce and the leader of the Islesmen at the Battle of Bannockburn in June 1314. (The picture here shows Angus Og’s gravestone on Iona – see Ian MacDonnell’s work for more info).

Ní fhuil a nÉirinn ná a nAlbainn
Aonghas mar thusa, a thaobh seang
Aonghais fháid bhraonghlais an Bhroga
láid, a Aonghais, comha ad cheann.

In Ireland or in Scotland, there is not another Aonghas like you! You graceful form! May Aonghus of the dewy grass of Newgrange, send you gifts, Aonghus!

(Aonghus an Bhroga was the chieftain of the Tuatha Dé Danann, son of the Dagda, and lived at Brú na Bóinne i.e. Newgrange)

It’s pretty sycophantic stuff, extended ego-stroking of the rich and powerful Lord of the Isles, effectively the King of the West of Scotland, but it is also subtle and powerful word – magic, and the voice of the harp supporting and helping to project the verbal presentation of the complex nested ideas has a lot of presence and power.

Medieval bardic poetry recital at Armadale, Skye

Yesterday evening I was in Sleat, presenting the medieval Gaelic poetry addressed to the Clan Donald Lords of the Isles, alongside Gaelic singer Gillebrìde MacMillan. We did two different hour-long sets, the first a more formal presentation in the atmospheric acoustic of the Museum of the Isles, and the second after a delicious buffet supper in the Victorian Stables building on the Armadale estate.

The audience, who comprised the great and good of Clan Donald, were entranced and delighted by Gillebrìde’s singing of the classical Gaelic verses praising their 12th and 13th century ancestors Angus Og as well as Donald himself.

As well as playing the harp to accompanying Gillebrìde’s delivery, I also did some solo harp tunes on the replica Queen Mary harp, including Cogaidh no Sith. I was delighted to get the same reaction as when I played it in St Andrews – people said it mesmerised them and seemed much shorter than the 15 minutes (I played a half-version with only 6 variations).

I understand there was some videotape made as well as photographs – I have not seen any of this yet though.

Sleat was beautiful; this morning I woke up early and walked down through a wooded valley to a secluded bay where I was able to swim in the sunshine before going back to the B&B for a hearty breakfast with fresh local eggs and strawberries.

Here’s the view across to Morar while waiting on the 8:30am ferry this morning:

I am really looking forward to repeating some of this material with Gillebrìde on Sunday 29th at the MacMhuirich Symposium. Do come along if you can, at 7pm at the Western Club, 32 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow G1 3AB.