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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XXXVII. Our Bards, with Specimens of their Work

"IN old times, every nation had bards before writing was common. Men naturally relish stories of their own species, and it enhances greatly the pleasure to have such stories put into such a measure as to be accompanied with music; a plain song of that kind was agreeable, it was enchanting when the voice was accompanied with the harp or other musical instrument. It required an ear, a voice, and skill in instrumental music to excel in such a performance, talents which fall to the share of few, hence the profession of a bard was in great request, and an essential member at every festival and in every meeting for amusement" (Lord Kames, 1772). The bards were an important class from the days of Ossian downwards. Every clan had its clan bard, and every parish had its parish bard. The old order has changed, and only place names, such as Baile-Bhaird, near Castle Grant, Cuil-Bhardaidh, in Abernethy, and such like, with some songs and poems, remain as dim memorials of days that have passed away. But though the bards as a class have been long extinct, the spirit of bardhood lived on, and shewed itself at divers times, as circumstances called it forth.

Colonel JOHN ROY STEWART was the best known of our parish bards. His life is sketched in chapter XX. Most of his poems are in Gaelic. His lament for Lady Mackintosh, not the brave lady of the 45, as is commonly said, but her predecessor, Mary, daughter of Sir John Menzies of Menzies, is marked by an "intenseness of feeling which seems to resolve itself into the element which it contemplates," and his two poems on Culloden. "Catha Chullodair," glow with love for Prince Charlie. and indignation and passionate grief for the wrongs and woe inflicted on his followers. His songs, some of which are still popular, shew that he had much of the light and festive humour and broad sympathies of Burns. It may be said, why not give translations? Captain Macintyre, in the Antiquary, was pressed by Oldbuck to give a sample of the songs of Ossian, which he praised so highly. He tried, and made a "wretched interpreter," as he himself admitted. Others have done better, but all have been free to confess with the gallant captain that they have found it "difficult, if not impossible, to render the exquisite felicity" of the original.

WILLIAM SMITH was born at Rinuigh, a croft high up among the hills, far from the busy haunts of men. He was of a family noted as deerstalkers. Mr Donald Shaw, in his "Highland Legends," says of him, "He was a man of bold and resolute disposition, and of active and powerful frame of body. He was capable of enduring any amount of exposure and fatigue, and long carried on his lawless avocation in open defiance, as it were, of the keepers of the forests, and without any dread of fine or punishment at the hands of the administrators of the law." Smith served for a time in the Strathspey Fencibles. Then, after some years of unsettledness, he joined the army, and died at Portsmouth. His songs deal chiefly with love and hunting. They are marked by simplicity, tenderness, happy descriptions of nature, and a rollicking delight in the chances and charms of a poachers life. His best and best known poem is that entitled "Allt-an-Lochan Uaine," or the Stalkers Dream. Williams brother Lewis succeeded to the croft, and lived to a great age. He was also a famous hunter. It was he that killed the Big Hart of Glenmore, which graced the baptism feast of the heir of Rothiemurchus (1799). Another time he was out with "William the Captains Son" (Captain Lewis of the Doune). They found a hind at the Sithans, near the west end of Loch Morlich. Grant said to Lewie, "Take you Macalpin (the gun), as you are the best shot" He said, "No, shoot yourself." Grant took aim, but at once lowered his gun, saying, "Its not a hind, but an old woman with a mutch." "Nonsense," said Lewie, "try again." He did so, with the same result. When he aimed it was an old woman he saw, when he lowered his gun it was a hind. "This is witchcraft," said Lewie; "put a silver button in your gun." He did so, and took aim, but before he could pull the trigger, he fell down, saying "Im a dead man." The hind disappeared, but Grant died two days after!

ROBERT GRANT was the fourth son of Mr Charles Grant, farmer, Rothiemoon. He had excellent abilities, and early shewed a taste for music and song. When companion to Lord Seafield (1830-9) he took an active part in local politics, and wrote some clever pieces, in prose and verse, in support of his Tory friends. One squib, "Banff Whigs awa!" was often sung at the convivial meetings of the period. Mr Grant acted for some years as factor of Glen-Urquhart, and died at Rothiemoon in 1858. We give one of his songs ("The House o Grant"), with Gaelic translation, executed with much taste and fidelity by another Rothiemoon man, the late

Mr DONALD GORDON. Gordon when a young man travelled as a pack-merchant. This gave him a large acquaintance with the Highlands. Afterwards he kept a small shop at Rothiemoon, and latterly, for several years, he acted as one of the post-runners between Grantown and Forres, walking a distance of 22 miles every day. He was a man of an original and ingenious turn, and an enthusiastic Highlander. He not only played the violin well, but was a skilful maker of violins. He not only loved to don the Highland garb, but deftly manufactured belts and brooches and other Highland dress ornaments. He not only spoke the ancient tongue with rare sweetness and mastery, but he had much of the character of the seanachie and bard, and wrote papers on local traditions, and original poems, which found a welcome and fit place in the "Cuairtear," and were widely popular. It is known that he had been long occupied with a work on the "Bards of Strathspey," with biographies and traditions. This was a congenial task, and one for which he was eminently fitted. Dr Norman Macleod of St Columba wrote to him in kindly and encouraging terms, and offered his assistance as to the publication of the book. At last the work was finished, and sent to Glasgow, but unfortunately the firm entrusted with it failed, and, in the confusion. the MSS. were lost. This was a heavy blow and sore discouragement. The labour of years was gone. Failing health and lack of leisure made it impossible to repair the loss. The modest, simple-minded Highlander made no complaint, but it was easy to see that he never was the same man again. He died 1852, as he had lived, a humble Christian.


Of a the airts the win can blaw,
I dearly loe the North;
For there gang lads, sae blithe an braw,
The wile o sense an worth;
An lasses fair, wi heavenly air,
Wha ilka heart enchant.
Oh! sic a race as this well trace
In a the name o Grant.

In southern climes let others stray,
By burnie, brae, or grove;
Gie me the lang, but mirthsome day,
On Highland hills to rove.
Tho tempest lour, a canny hour
At een ye neer can want;
An aye yell find a welcome kind
Beneath the roof o Grant.

Nae muckle gowd, nae muckle gear,
Nae titles proud I crave;
I wadna be a gartered peer,
I wadna be a slave.
But be my lot a Hielan cot,
Wi scrip nor fou nor scant,
Wi friends sae free as heart can be,
Just like the Laird o Grant.


De na hile taobh, on seid a ghaoth,
Sen Airde Tuath mo mhiann
N sin tha lasgairean thug barr
N seadh, n gradh, san sgiamh,
As cailleagan, tha aoidhil, tlth
A th
ladh chridh s gach m,
Se leithidibh sin do ghineil alt
Don cleachd bhi sloinneadh Grannd.

Biodh cach air iomrad fad mu dheas,
Taobh doire, bruach na alt,
Thoir dhomhsa n la tha fad ach ait,
Am measg nan Gaidheil s nam Beann;
Ged sheideadh stoirmean, falbhidh n sion,
S bithidh fasgadh measg nan Gleann,
Is gheabhar beath, s caidridh shuan,
Fo uachdar Chaisteil Grannd.

Or no earras cha neil uam,
Ni mo tha urram ard,
A bhith m
rd-Earla s mi nach iarr,
S cha mhiann leam bhi am thraill.
Ach a bhi chmhnuidh m bothan glan,
Le sporran nach l
n na gann,
A measg nan cairdean caoimhineil sin,
S cho saor ri Tighearn Ghrannd.

The following translations are also by Mr Gordon, the first being from Sir Walter Scott, and the other from "A Welcome to the Master of Grant." by the late Rev. James Stewart, Abernethy:-

Pibroch of Donuil Dubh,
Pibroch of Donuil,
Wake thy wild voice anew,
Summon Clan Conuil.
Come away, come away,
Hark to the summons!
Come in your war array,
Gentles and commons.

Come from deep glen, and
From mountain so rocky,
The war-pipe and pennon
Are at Inverlochy.
Come every hill-plaid and
True heart that wears one,
Come every steel blade and
Strong hand that bears one.

Leave untended the herd,
The flock without shelter,
Leave the corpse uninterrd,
The bride at the altar.
Leave the deer, leave the steer,
Leave nets and barges;
Come with your fighting gear
Broadswords and targes.

Come as the winds come, when
Forests are rended;
Come as the waves come, when
Navies are stranded.
Faster come, faster come,
Faster and faster!
Chief, vassal, page and groom,
Tenant and master!

Fast they come, fast they come,
See how they gather;
Wide waves the eagles plume,
Blended with heather.
Cast your plaids, draw your blades
Forward each man set,
Pibroch of Donuil Dubh,
Knell for the onset!

Piobrachd Dhomhnuil Duibh,
Piobrachd Dhbmhnuil,
Duisg do ghuth borb as
Gairm Clann nam Mr-bheann.
Tionailibh, tiugainnibh,
Eisdibh an t-
Thigibh n ur cath-uidheam,
Ceathairne 's Mor-dhaoine.

Thall bho gach gleannan,
Gach monadh s sgr-bheann,
Tha phob-mhr s a bhratach
Air faich Inhhir-Lchaidh,
Thigeadh for bhreacan
Gach cridh fior gu sunndach
Gach cruaidh-lann, s lamhan
Bhios lidir gun gilain.

Fg gun bhuachaill a ghreigh,
Na treudan gun fhasgadh,
Fg gun adhlac nam mairbh,
Bean-na-bainnse aig an altair.
Fg am fiadh, s an t-g dhamh,
Gach lin agus bta!
Thigibh le ur cath-airm,
Gach claidh-mr s targaid.

Thigibh mar gaoithe thig,
Nuair reubar na coifftean.
Thigibh mar thuinn nuair bhios
Feachd-mara claoidhte.
Greasaih, as tiugainnibh,
Thigibh nas luaidh,
Gach uachdaran, iochdharan,
Tighearna s tuathanach.

Nach luath tha iad tional,
Nach faic sibh a chmhdhail.
S mr luasg ite n fhr-eun,
Si measgt le fraoch cro-dhearg.
Tilgibh gach breacan
Gach lann biodh an rdugh.
Piobaireachd Dhomhnuill Duibh
Triall thun na cmhraig.

On our rock-crested mountains the beacons are blazing,
They lighten our vales and they redden the sky;
And the voices of thousands glad shouts are upraising,
And Freuchies green banners are waving on high.
The gay gallant sons of the clear Nethy sally
From the glens and the dales of their forests so green
And the Gael of Glenchearnaich, from their verdant sweet valley,
By the banks of the dark winding Dulnan convene.

Oer the broad Haughs of Cromdale the Slogan comes swelling,
And mingles its notes with the roar of the Spey
Yet it sounds no alarmno summonses knelling
To the red battlefield from our homes far away.
Nowe hear not the accents of sorrow or sadness;
The cheeks of our maidens are not faded or wan;
But their hearts bound with joy, and their eyes beam with gladness
To honour the "Roof Tree" and hope of their clan.

While stands fast Craigellachie, high, rugged, and hoary,
Unscathed by the tempests that sweep round its head
As long may that flame-crested rock be our glory
May we follow wherever its banner be spread.
May our chieftains escutcheon bear honours bright blossom
Mong gentles and nobles-may he stand in the van;
And enshrined, and beloved, and endeared to each bosom,
Be ever the "Roof Tree" and hope of our clan.

Tha tein-eibhinn a lasadh an nochd air ar Sleibhtibh,
S e deargadh nan speur agus soilseachadh Ghleann;
S tha ard-ghuth nam miltean, r a chluinntinn gu h-eibhinn,
S tha uain-bhratacb Fhraochaidh ga sgaoileadh ri crann.

Thionail laochraidh og ghaisgeil air bruach Neich nam brais shruth,
Bbo shrathanan dreachail an coilltean dluth gorm;
Agus gaidheil Clann-chearnaich, bho an gleannanan tlachdar,
S bha n comh-dhail aig Tuilnean nan lub s nan sruth dorch.

Thar dailean Spean Crom-dhaile tha i siod tighinn le nuallan,
Si measgadh a fuaim-cheol an toirm uisge Spe
Ach cha ghairm th ann na caismeachd ga ar iarraidh o ar suaimhneas,
No dh fhagail ar dachaidh gu cath an tir chein.

Cha chluinnear ri mulad, ri tuireadh, no bron sinn;
Tha aghaidh ar n oighean gun seargadh gun chaoil;
S ann tha n cridheachana plosgadh le h-aoibhneas is solas
Thoirt onair do n Ceannard is cloeltas an Treubh.

Mar sheasas Creig-eallachaidh nan liath sgorr gu daigheann,
Gun chaireachadh le stoirmean tha g iadh ma ceann
Co fad s a se n lasair-chreig ard sin ar cath-ghairm
Gu n lean sinn a bratach gach taobh sam bi sreann.

Gu robh sgiath-airm ar Ceannard a giulan ard-onair
Measg Mhaithean is Uaislean rin guaillibh san streup;
Air a ghleidh, is air a shaoradh, gu h-ionmhuinn le sonas,
A choidh gu robh Ceannard is dochas ar Treubh.

There were others of our people who did their part as Bards. Charles Stewart, Knock, wrote hunting songs, which were at one time popular. Lewis Macpherson, Tulloch, was famous for his gift of romancing, somewhat after the manner of Baron Munchausen. "Tom Bill" was the author of a clever satire that made a great sensation sixty years ago. Donald Shaw, Achgourish, published "Legends of Glenmore" in 1859; Daniel Grant, late of Bachdcharn, "Spiritual Songs" (2nd ed.), in 1862; and James Horne, Fae, "Poems," in 1865. But the man best known, and whose writings have had the widest and the most salutary influence, was Mr Peter Grant, Baptist Minister. He was affectionately spoken of throughout the Highlands as Parruig Granud nan-ran, "Peter Grant of the Songs," and well deserves the first place among our Bards. Mr Grant was born at Balintua, near Congash, where his father had a small, farm, on the 3oth January, 1783. It was a hard thing in those days for the poor to get education, but Peter was a thoughtful boy, with a great love of knowledge, and he made the best of his opportunities. Gaelic was his mother tongue, but after some years he acquired English, which he spoke with correctness and fluency. Two or three striking incidents in his life may be noted. Once a friend visited his fathers house, who sang some of Dugald Buchanans songs in the evening. Peter was but a boy, and he sat in a corner, drinking in both words and music with delight. Some time after he got a copy of the book, which he used to ponder over when out in the fields herding, and soon he had it all by heart. Another time he had gone to Grantown, when he was drawn to a quiet nookthen a gravel pit, now the site of the Baptist Chapel where certain of the good people called "Missionaries" were holding a Gospel meeting. Mr Grant had been for some time Precentor in the Parish Church, but he was not satisfied with the preaching of the minister. He yearned for something better, and now he felt that he had found it. He used often in after life to tell how the words of the Psalm which was being sung when he drew near, had touched his heart

"For God of Sion hath made choice,
There He desires to dwell;
This is my rest, here still Ill stay,
For I do like it well."

The preacher was Mr Lachlan Mackintosh, one of Mr Haldanes converts. It is said that Mr Haldane made Mr Mackintosh a Christian, and that Mr Mackintosh made Mr Haldane a Baptist! This was a turning-point in Mr Grants life. He was soon after baptised, and joined the Baptist Congregation at Grantown, of which he became Pastor in 1826. Mr Grant was an able minister. He was, as one said, "a plain, pointed, and powerful preacher of the Gospel," and during his pastorate of 41 years he was honoured to do much good, not only in Strathspey, but in other districts where he had preached in his evangelistic tours. Mr Grant was early impressed with the evils in society, and the dangers to which the young were exposed. Like Luther, he did not see why Satan should have the best of the music, and he resolved to do what he could to bring about a change for the better. His "Dan Spioradail," Spiritual Songs, were published in 1809, when he was in his 26th year. It is curious that the Highland people, while they strongly object to hymns in church, have no hesitation in using them in their homes. So it came about that Mr Grants hymns were soon sung all over the Highlands. He lived to see his little book in its 10th edition, and it must have often cheered his heart to know that by its humble means he had been able to commend the love of God and the glorious Gospel to thousands, at home and in the Colonies, who had never seen his face. Mr Grant, though a strict Baptist, lived on friendly terms with ministers of the Old Church, and took an active part with them in promoting Sabbath Schools, Bible Societies, and other schemes of Christian usefulness. In the preface to the 6th edition, 1842, he says to "the Lords people of all denominations, who had been praying and using means to enlighten the dark places," "be not weary in well-doing; your labour has not been in vain in the Lord. I can testify from personal knowledge that a wonderful reformation has taken place on the manners and morals of the people in general; besides, I hope many are truly converted." Mr Grant died on 14th December, 1867, in his 85th year. His last meeting with his people was very touching. Old and feeble, he could not give the usual address, but, leaning on his staff, he said, as it is told in like manner of the beloved disciple, "Little children, love one another." Some days after he passed in peace to that Eternal Rest of which he has sweetly sung in one of his songs.

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