MacPhail – 14.11.19

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Armistice day has passed for another year and as it does every year, it brings a multitude of mixed emotions and conflicting feelings that surround the subject of war.

It is a sad reflection on the lack of progress that mankind has made since we emerged from the swamps that war is as much a part of life now as ever it was.  However, it is part of life, and while it remains so and while its history and its current presence continues to have direct impact on how we live, those who have sacrificed themselves for us all should be honoured and remembered.

Tunes and songs relating to war make up a large part of the repertoire of musicians, but as we happily play and dance to these tunes, little do we think of their brutal and harrowing origins.  This is conveyed well in the poem below.

Na Puirt Dannsaidh by Flora MacPhail 

Ceum an dannsaidh, òigridh àlainn                                           

“Blàr an Somme”, “Làraichean Àrras”,                                      

“Beaumont Hamel” – fuinn an àmhghar,                                  

Fuinn an ìobairt, fuinn a’ chràidh,                                                

An dannsa sìorraidh.                                                                     

An danns’  mu dheireadh                                                             

“An Eala Bhàn”.

The Dance Steps 

Dance steps, beautiful youth

“The Battle of the Somme”,”The Ruins of Arras”,

“The Taking of Beaumont Hamel” – tunes of pain,

Tunes of sacrifice, tunes of anguish,

The never-ending dance.

The last dance

“The White Swan”.

The recruitment of soldiers, while of course necessary, is another area where reality can be far divorced from the images created.

Deise Mheallta (Beguilng Apparel) By Flora MacPhail

Thàinig saighdear spaideil don sgoil an-dè

Le dheise, ’s le bhutain ’s le bhoineid – 

Gille gasta.

Tharraing e dealbh dhomh

Air tursan do thìrean cèin,

Ciùirtean air mo chorraig

’s dòigh-beatha eireachdail – 

dealbh cho soilleir ris a’ ghrèin.

A smart soldier came to the school yesterday

In uniform, buttons and bonnet – 

A handsome young man.

He created for me an image

Of tours to foreign countries,

Training for trades,

Such a wonderful lifestyle – 

A vision bright as the sun. 

Ach cha tug e diog fhathast air marbhadh,

air peilearan chuireadh as

do ghillean eile cheart cho snasail.

Cha tug e dealbh dhomh

air deiseachan nan stròicean ragach

ruadh le fuil – 

dòigh-bàs cho grannda

dubh, dorcha sa th’ againn.

But never yet did he mention the killing,

Ot the bullets which would kill others – 

Young men as handsome as himself.

He did not give me a vision

Of uniforms ragged and torn

Red with gore – 

A way of death as ugly,

Black and dark as we can imagine.

Regardless of the politics and the complexities in the background and history of war, respect should be shown to those who have risked all on the behalf of others and remembrance should be marked for those who have given all and cut their own lives short for the good of others.