MacPhail – 7.11.19

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A letter in last week’s paper brought to mind a poem my mother wrote many years ago which is published in her book Maraiche nan Cuantan.

I expect Andrew Green’s opinions on crofting to have attracted some response on the letters page this week and rather than delve into the subject myself, I will refer readers to the poem below.

Crofting has underpinned the existence of people in the Highlands and Islands since it first came into being in the late 1800s. If crofters in the 1880s kept ‘…their heads down and their mouths shut…’ the population of the Highlands and Islands would not exist today.

Making such derogatory and sweeping comments about an industry that is so deeply ingrained in the identity and livelihood of a population is an example of the worst of human traits.

Wherever we are in the world, we are all strangers, but respect for people and place should be shown.

An Coileach Coigreach – Flòraidh NicPhàil

Ars’ an coileach coigreach:
‘Is e seo mo dhùnan
Ged nach d’ rinn mi ach tigh’nn thuige
Chionn began ùine.
Chan eil ùidh agamsa nur cleachdaidhean
Nur cànan no nur dualchas.
Deanaibh mar a fhreagras ormsa ’s
Spaideil bhios mo ghiùlan!’

Said the alien cockerel:
‘This is my dung heap
Although I have only arrived
A short while ago.
I have no interest in your customs
Your language or your traditions.
Do what suits me and
Smart indeed will be my bearing!’

‘Nach b’ e dà lath’ e,” ars’ an t-seann chearc-ghuir
’S na h-itean aice molach, dùbhrach.
‘B’ eòlach mis’ air coilich neartmhor –
Seòid nach leigeadh leas bhi bùirich,
Bha modhail, sìobhalta, neo-shanntach
’S a rinn beòshlaint shnasail, thùrail
Ge be’n dùthaich anns an robh ’ad
Neadaich iad nar measg gu sùrdail.

‘Changing times,’ said the old clucking hen,
Feathers fluffed up and threatening.
‘I have known powerful cockerels,
Fine fellows who had no need to boast,
Who were polite, civil and not greedy,
Who earned a good sensible living.
No matter where they came from –
They settled among us happily.

’S bochd an aire mar a thachras
Anns an leithid seo de dh’ àite
Isean cuthaig anns an nead
Gun ghuth aig’ ach a bhith mi-chàileil.
Sgaoileadh mi-ghean is droch amharas,
Aineòlas gabhail làmh an àirde –
Dean do ghairm, a choilich choigrich
’S tu tha airigh air mo thàir-sa!’

It’s a great pity what can happen
In places such as this:
A cuckoo’s chick in the nest
Whose main intent is to be unpleasant
Spreads unrest and suspicion
Based on its deep ignorance.
Crow, alien cockerel,
You are only worthy of my contempt!’