Monday, 14 December 2009

Duan Callain – A Christmas Carol

Now that Christmas is drawing near it would not be inappropriate to mark it with a carol that was sent to the Highlander by Alexander Carmichael. This newspaper, which was produced between 1873 and 1882, was edited by his friend and fellow Gael, John Murdoch (1818–1903) and where Carmichael is described in his article as ‘our Uist Correspondent’. Also the correspondence sent along with the enclosed carol tells us something about what Carmichael thought regarding his contribution: ‘A. A. C. [Carmichael] expresses his regret that the fasts and festivals connected with Christmas have been to such an extent suppressed, that now there are many who do not know the origin of the very name. He thinks it would have been well to preserve those practices, as they led people to reflect upon the great Christmas events, and to benefit by meditation on the lessons inculcated.’ Carmichael wrote down the Christmas Carol from the dictation of Mr Angus Gunn, a pauper aged 85, who resided at Dail fo Thuath, Ness, on the northernmost tip of the isle of Lewis:

DUAN CALLAIN


Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht thainig ’s am.
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí!
Beannaich an taigh ’s na bheil ann,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí!
Eadar chuail ’us clach ’us chrann,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí!
Iomairst do Dhia e adar bhrat’ us aodach,
Slainte dhaoine gu’ ro’ ann.


Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí!
Gu ma buan mu’n tulach sibh,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí!
Gu mu slan mu’n teallach sibh,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí!
Gu mu slan ceann sguilb ’is taigh,
Daoine slan na bhuntair.


Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí!
Noc[hd] oi[dh]che Nollaige Moire,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Rugadh mac na Moir Oighe,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Rainig a bhonnach an Iar,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Shoillich Grian na’m beann ard,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Shoillich fearann, shoillich fonn,
Chualas an fhonn (am fonn?) eir an traigh.


Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí! Beannaicht E, beannaicht E,
Ho-Rí! Ho-Rí!
Beannaicht mo Righ,
Gun toiseach gun chrioch,
Gu sumhuin gu sior,
Gach linn gu brach!

A translation of the above carol, presumably by Carmichael himself, was also appended and which may be given:

Hail to the King! hail to the King!
Blessed is He, blessed is He who is come.
Hail to the King!
Blessed be this dwelling and all therein.
Hail to the King!
With its sticks, and stones, and staves.
Hail to the King!
With its covering and clothing.
And the health and welfare of all herein.


Hail to the King! hail to the King!
Blessed is He! blessed is He!
Hail to the King!
Long around this house be you!
Hail to the King!
Happy round this hearth be ye.
Hail to the King!
Many may the stakes in the roof-tree,
And joyous be all within.


Hail the King! hail to the King!
Blessed is He! blessed is He!
Hail to the King!
This is the eve of the great nativity.
Hail to the King, blessed is He.
Born is the Son of Mary the Virgin–
Hail to the King, bless is He.
The soles of His feet have touched the earth–
Hail to the King, blessed is He.
Shines the sun on mountains high–
Hail to the King, blessed is He.
Shines on the sea and shines on the land,
And loudly sounds the chorus of the strand.


Hail to the King! hail to the King!
Blessed is He, blessed is He1
Hail to the King!
This is the eve is the glorious nativity.
Hail! hail! all hail, O! King to Thee,
Through the limitless hounds of eternity.

The carol was later republished in Carmina Gadelica with only slight variations to the orthography made. Carmichael adds some detail about his informant:

Angus Gunn had been a strong man physically and was still a strong man mentally. He had lived for many years in the island of North Roney, and gave a graphic description of it, and of his life there. He had much oral lore which he told with great dramatic powers.

References:
A[lexander] A[rchibald] C[armichael], ‘Duain Challuin’, The Highlander, vol. II, no. 36 (17 January 1874), p. 3
Carmina Gadelica, i, pp. 126–37.
CW 115, fos. 1v-2r

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]