Tuesday 30 August 2011

A Jacobite Song: The Silver Whistle

Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Many would perhaps consider one of the most popular Jacobite songs out of more than just a few as An Fhìdeag Airgid (The Silver Whistle) composed in honour of the Young Pretender. The silver whistle in the context of the song refers to a silver reed used in the pipe chanter. Alexander Carmichael collected one of the earliest recordings of this songs from the recitation of Donald MacPhee, a blacksmith from Breivig in Barra, mentioned in an earlier blog. The version given here looks slightly corrupted perhaps because Carmichael had not understood the reciter or that the reciter himself had picked up the song incorrectly or perhaps merely misremembered some of the words:

Co shein[n]eas an fhideag airgid
Hi uill uill o
Mac mo righs eir ti[ghin]n a dh Alba
O ro hu o huill o.
Air luing a mharaiche ghreanan
Ho ro hu o hu ill o
Ribenan an t si[o]da Fhrangach
Ullagan oir eir g [sic] gach ceann diu
Mo ghaol ammister ainmeil
Cha b e mac sin M Fearachar
Cha b e ogha Mairi Simason
Ga b e thrialla gu tai[gh] talla

Carmichael notes that it was taken down on 21 May 1869 and he later wrote out the piece in a transcription book in a neater hand on 16 and 17 June 1869. Perhaps the most interesting part of this recording session is the song narrative that Carmichael had the pleasure of hearing. A further note says the MacPhee had heard from a North Uist bard and catechist called An Dall Mòr that the song had been composed specifically for the Prince. The reciter then goes on to give some historical details about the actual song. It is also of interest to note that this song or rather variations of this song was later recorded from quite a few tradition bearers from Barra:

One Peter Campbell from Barra
went to Loch nan Uagh for timber. Food
was scarce in Barra – no grain but
plenty of butter cheese & flesh. They
landed a pot in a nook to boil beef
when they saw a large vessel come
ashore in the Loch. He sent a boat
ashore. A gentleman landed
from the boat under whose arms
two men went & took him outdey[?]
They asked P[eter] Campbell to take
ashore arms swords & guns. He did
so and they hid them. He was asked
what pay he charged. He told them
that if they had grain food he pref[erred]. The
boat was loaded with flour & biscuits
till he told them that they would sink
his boat. He came home to Barra
and the pot is still in Lochnanua [Loch nan Uamh].
This was the landing of P[rince] Charlie.

CW150/13, ff. 5r–5v.
An Fhideag Airgid: http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/fullrecord/22363/1 (Flora MacNeil)
http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/fullrecord/93660/1 (Captain Donald Joseph MacKinnon)
http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/fullrecord/30346/1 (Nan MacKinnon)
Image: Prince Charles Edward Stuart.

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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]