💛 Latha Buidhe Bealltainn Sona Dhuibh & Happy May Day! 🗓️

🔥 Latha Buidhe Bealltainn Sona Dhuibh (Happy Yellow Day of Beltane to you) to those celebrating, & Happy May Day/International Workers’ Day too 💪🏻

🎧 Have a listen for how to pronounce “Bealltainn” here – it may be different from what you expect!

📺 Or if you have Facebook you can watch Learn Gaelic’s video on how to pronounce it here.

📖 This is a good time to remind ourselves why Scottish Gaelic is important & to bust some common myths, so please do have a read here as well as here.

🗓️ Today is also May Day/International Workers’ Day, so this post showing a photo of a demo in Glasgow in the 1930s with some history might be of interest – see it here. Additionally more information of the history of May Day can be read here.

🐍 For more folklore, traditions & history relating to this day have a look at previous posts such as this & this. You can also use the search function to find even more 🔍

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

🔥 Oidhche Bhealltainn Sona Dhuibh! 🔥

🔥 Tonight is Oidhche Bhealltainn (Beltane Eve) – hope everyone celebrating has a good time 💛

📖 This is always a good time to remind people that the assertion you often see floating around that Bealltainn is somehow related to the Phoenician God Baal is not an accurate one. Renowned Scottish Gaelic folklorist John Gregorson Campbell wrote:

“…Bealtainn is commonly derived from Bel teine, the fire of Baal or Belus, and is considered as sure evidence of the Phoenician origin of the sacred institutions of the Celts. It is a derivation, however, that wants all the elements of probability. There is a want of evidence that the Phoenician Baal, or any deity resembling him, was ever worshipped by the Celts, or that the fires kindled and observances practised on this day had any connection with the attributes ascribed to him; while the analogies of the Gaelic language prevent the supposition that ‘the fire of Baal’ could be rendered Beall-tein: Besides, the word is not Beall-teine, but Bealltainn, a difference in the final syllable sufficiently noticeable to a Gaelic ear. It is the difference between the single and double sound of n…”

“…In Gaelic the noun limited or possessed always precedes the qualifying noun, and it would require strong evidence to show that ‘Baal’s fire’ could be ‘Beltane’ (i.e. Baal-fire), and not “Tane-Bel’ (Teine-Bhail), i.e. fire of Baal. The contrast between English and Gaelic in this respect is often very striking, and a safe rule in etymology…”

from The Gaelic Otherworld: John Gregorson Campbell’s Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands and Witchcraft and the Second Sight in the Highlands and Islands, edited by Ronald Black (2008 ed)

💭 The above quotes show just how important knowledge of the language connected to the culture you’re talking about is and how easily errors can be made – and repeated unquestioned – without it.

🎧 Have a listen to some Scottish Gaelic recordings with short English explanations here, here and here on the Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o’ Riches website.

🐍 For more traditions associated with Bealltainn in Scotland, have a read of this previous post.

🗓️ Lastly, for more background on how Bealltainn fits into the year as a whole & how this compares to the modern Neopagan “Wheel of the Year” see this post.

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

Women’s History Month 2023 – Some Highlights ✨

As this Women’s History Month draws to a close I thought I would highlight some things that were shared for future reference or incase you missed them elsewhere on social media. (If you’re not already following the Facebook page you might want to for even more posts!) Of course the posts on women won’t be stopping now that this month is over as I think it’s essential to draw attention to lesser known parts of history, which obviously includes women as well as minorities. However, I also think it’s important to take part in these annual events that help get conversations going ☺️

📍 One excellent resource shared was Quinepedia – an online encyclopedia of notable women from the Northeast of Scotland throughout history.

📚 Historic Environment Scotland has put together some brilliant online collections too – “Women’s Work” & “Makers and Creators”, for example, are well worth having a look at. They put together a good article on The Pittenween Witch Trials as well, which is a timely reminder of why the historic State Apology was given by former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on International Women’s Day last year & that there’s still more to do. For information & updates on the current campaign for justice for those accused of witchcraft the Witches of Scotland podcast is the place to go.

🌱 There were also some good posts on women & medicine. For example this post from University of Aberdeen on Elizabeth Blackwell, who published one of the earliest books on botanical medicine in the 1730s. Another very interesting item was a Notebook of Old Medicine thought to have been written by a Wise Woman in the early to mid 1700s, but unfortunately her identity has not been confirmed.

🪡 Lastly, even during Women’s History Month we couldn’t escape yet more corset controversy. After false claims by certain “newspapers” that large media companies such Netflix we’re going to ban corsets in their productions due to health concerns, several fashion historians & other more informed parties once again put the work in to remind us that corsets (as well as bodies, jumps, stays etc) were/are just simply everyday underwear, much like bras are now. This isn’t Scotland specific but definitely applies to Scotland too so I feel worth mentioning as so many ridiculous myths are still widely circulating. Prior Attire was amongst those who came forward to dispel these, as of course did Abby Cox, Bernadette Banner, Karolina Zebrowska & Nicole Rudolph when they got together – in the latter video they also make brilliant points about working conditions for actors in general & show real extant corsets at the of the video for you to have a look at. (If you’re still wanting more after those I linked a couple of slightly older videos in my Women’s History Month post last year).

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

Boreraig – Cleared Township on the Isle of Skye 🌊

🗓️ This week is Gaelic week! As part of that I recently saw a post with two stories from Boreraig, so I thought in addition to linking it I’d also share some more of the history and my own photos from when I visited it myself all the way back in 2016.

🗃️ From Canmore:

“Boreraig and Suisinish Clearance villages on Loch Eishort’s northern shore, with rich evidence of settlement and land use spanning centuries. Boreraig is particularly haunting, surviving almost as it was when cleared in 1852…

…NG 619 164 Boreraig: cleared by Lord MacDonald in 1852, (Nicolson 1930) – still partly occupied in 1901, (OS 6″map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., 1903) but totally deserted by 1954-5 (OS 1″map, 7th series)

A Nicolson 1930.”

From the Canmore Website search results for Boreraig

ℹ️ The Highland Clearances took place from the late 1700s into the mid-1800s and beyond, when thousands of Highlanders were forced off of their ancestral lands by the landowners, many of whom were former clan chiefs, to be replaced by more profitable sheep. In the case of Boreraig we can see from the quotes above that it was Lord MacDonald, Chief of the MacDonalds of Sleat who was in involved.

🪦 The above photo shows Cill Chriosd (Kilchrist), the Church that’s often the starting point for the walk to Boreraig. One of the flimsy excuses given for clearing the township was that they were too far from the church and so it was being done for benevolent piety. However, having a bit of a trek to get to church – including for funerals and having to carry a coffin all the way – was not uncommon in the countryside at the time. Also, Lord MacDonald had gotten himself into debt and needed the money.

💬 Here’s the first of the stories from aforementioned post I saw shared by Coast (English follows Scottish Gaelic):

“Chan eil Heasta ach 3 mile air falbh bho Boreraig. Bha torr dhe na daoine a bha a’ fuireach ann an Heasta, thainig iad a Boreraig agus thainig mo shin-sheanair a Boreraig. Theich iad a Boreraig mus do chuir iad tene ris a bhaile. Bha teaghlach a’ fuireach ann am Boreraig ris an canadh iad na Kellys. Bha e a’ cur an iognadh orm co as a thainig na Kellys. Thug na Kellys cuideachadh do na Jacobites aig Cul Lodair. Tha an teaghlach ann an Heasta chun an latha an-diugh. Bha boireanach Kelly ann am Boreraig nuair a thainig na maor trath ‘s a mhadainn. Chunnaic i iad is dh’aithnich i gun robh an bairligeadh gu bhith ann. Thainig iad dhan dorus aice is dh’iarr iad oirre bobhla de dh’uisge fuar a thoirt dhaibh. Thug i a-mach le bobhla falbh ach bha cuman aice ri taobh an dorais. Chuir i am bobhla anns a chuman ach thuirt iad rithe “Cha dean sin an gnothach idir. Bha an t-uisge anns a chuman ann fad na h-oidhche is theirig dhan tobar. Dh’fhalbh i dhan tobar, is nuair a bha i leathach rathad a’ tilleadh air ais bhon tobar, chunnaic i an ceo agus bha sin an taigh aice na theine. Dh’fhag i creadhal a-staigh nuair a dh’fhalbh i agus càraid ann (twins), agus ‘s e dithis ghillean a bh’anns a chàraid. Ach thug iad an creadhal a-mach mus do chuir iad teine air an taigh. ‘S e Kellys a bh’innte-sa. A chàraid a bha sin, iad fhein is a mathair, theich iad a Heasta. Dh’fhas iad suas ann a Heasta agus dh’fhuirich fear aca agus phos e te ann a Heasta. Chaidh am fear eile dhan Druim Fheàrna agus phos e boireanach as an Druim Fheàrna agus bha e an sin gus an do chaochail e.

Above in Gaelic is a story from the time when the village of Boreraig was forcibly cleared in 1853 to make way for sheep. The Kellys were a family living in Boreraig. The Kelly woman, a mother of twins, spotted the eviction agents/factors arriving at the shore early in the morning. They knocked on her door and asked for a bowl of cold water. She returned with an empty bowl and went to fill it from the wooden pail outside but before she did, she was ordered to go and collect fresh water from the well. When she was half way home she saw the flames of her house on fire. She had left her twin boys in a cradle inside, but they had taken the cradle out of the house. The family relocated to Heaste, as did some of the families from Boreraig.”

From the Coast website & originally spotted on Facebook – click/tap through to the Coast website to read the other shorter story, just in English this time, under the longer one.

📖 Additionally, you can read more about the Boreraig clearances on Electric Scotland:

“…The only plea made at the time for evicting them was that of over-population. Ten families received the usual summonses, and passages were secured for them in the Hercules, an unfortunate ship which sailed with a cargo of passengers under the auspices of a body calling itself “The Highland and Island Emigration Society.” A deadly fever broke out among the passengers, the ship was detained at Cork in consequence, and a large number of the passengers died of the epidemic. After the sad fate of so many of those previously cleared out, in the ill-fated ship, it was generally thought that some compassion would be shown for those who had been still permitted to remain. Not so, however. On the 4th of April, 1853, they were all warned out of their holdings. They petitioned and pleaded with his lordship to no purpose. They were ordered to remove their cattle from the pasture, and themselves from their houses and lands. They again petitioned his lordship for his merciful consideration. For a time no reply was forthcoming. Subsequently, however, they were informed that they would get land on another part of the estate—portions of a barren moor, quite unfit for cultivation.

In the middle of September following, Lord Macdonald’s ground officer, with a body of constables, arrived, and at once proceeded to eject in the most heartless manner the whole population, numbering thirty-two families, and that at a period when the able-bodied male members of the families were away from home trying to earn something by which to pay their rents, and help to carry their families through the coming winter…”

From the version of The History of the Highland Clearances uploaded by Electric Scotland

🎧 The above extract mentioned the voyage of the Hercules – if you want to know more about that, I highly recommend listening to the Stories of Scotland podcast episode on it here or wherever you get your podcasts. They have an excellent episode on the later “Battle of the Braes” too which also took plant on Skye with the involvement of Lord MacDonald. Celebrated Scottish Gaelic bard Màiri Mhòr nan Òran composed a song about this “battle”.

⬆️ While exploring the remains of Boreraig, I happened to look up when entering the house pictured in the Featured Photo at the top of this post, and noticed these wee bits of shell embedded into the underside of the lintel stone. Since doors are liminal places I wondered if they had been either deliberately pushed in, or even if they’re naturally occurring fossilised shells that particular stone may have been used because of that. However, so far I unfortunately still haven’t been able to find any reliable folklore/folk tradition sources that talk about this – I will definitely post about it if I do in future. In the meantime, here’s an ominous wee bit of lore regarding whelk shells I came across while looking:

“Empty whelk shells (faochagun failmhe) should not be allowed to remain in the house for the night. Something is sure to come after them.”

From the book The Gaelic Otherworld by John Gregorson Campbell, edited by Ronald Black

🥾 Lastly, for the walking route my husband & I took to Boreraig, plus some more great photos taken at a different time of year and before it was quite so overgrown, have a look at IsleofSkye.com. We went at the end of September so not too cold, but as you’d expect very changeable weather! It had just stopped raining when we set out and unlike more famous sites in Skye there was no-one else around, which made for quite an eerily atmospheric walk. If you go wear appropriate footwear and waterproofs – the path gets narrow and slopes in places as a proper road/path was never completed while the township was still occupied. The walk itself isn’t too difficult though so don’t be put off by that ☺️

📸 Featured Photo credit & all other photos: taken by myself on a – far too short – visit to the stunning Isle of Skye in 2016. Hopefully the remains of Boreraig are still accessible and visible through all the vegetation etc now.

Paisley’s Gaelic Graveyard 🪦

🗓️ Following on from my previous blog post on the cleared village of Boreraig, I think Gaelic week is a good time to write about the former St Columba’s Gaelic Chapel Graveyard in Paisley, which I was also able to visit but much more recently – in December 2022! One of the destinations for those forced off of their land due to the Clearances was of course Scotland’s towns and cities, so this is where many ended up whether directly or after having to leave poorer land they were first pushed on to due things like famine. Below I’ll detail some of the history of Paisley’s Gaelic population, the graveyard and highlight some gravestones in particular with photos.

Information Board on the wall of the former graveyard, unfortunately in a poor state…

ℹ️ The above photo shows the information board on the wall of the former St Columba’s Gaelic Chapel Graveyard in the Oakshaw area of Paisley. Unfortunately the Scottish Gaelic information was a bit too obscured by the graffiti to try to transcribe, but I’ll quote the English information below so it’s easier to read:


This plaque marks the location of a former gateway into St. Columba’s Gaelic Chapel Graveyard which was in use for more than 150 years from 1795 to 1949.

Many who were buried here were Gaelic speakers who worshipped in the Chapel. They came to Paisley from 1770 onwards to find work in the booming textile and manufacturing industries and to escape famine in the Highlands and Islands.

Rates of infant mortality were particularly high in the first half of the 19th Century when the town’s population increased rapidly but sanitation remained very basic. Many people buried here died young. One wealthy family lost five of their seven children.

A number of gravestones from the Gaelic Chapel Graveyard can be seen at Hawkhead Cemetery. Inscriptions show that Gaelic people brought skills with them from the Highlands or learned new skills to adapt to an industrial town. More than 30 jobs are mentioned and it is clear that Gaelic people helped enrich the lives of people in Paisley and beyond.

The chapel was built in 1793 and the last service was held in 1958. The building was then converted into flats.

The graveyard has developed into a wildlife sanctuary with woodland providing undisturbed nesting sites for songbirds like Blackbirds, Blackcaps, Chaffinches and Wrens. The damp, shady conditions are ideal for woodland flowers like Bluebells, Enchanter’s Nightshade and the Wild Orchid, Broad-leaved Helleborine.”

From info board put up by Historic Scotland and Renfrewshire Council
Looking up the road that runs alongside the graveyard turned wildlife sanctuary and leads to the former Gaelic chapel.
The former St Columba’s Gaelic Chapel, now converted into flats with the former graveyard behind them. To find it turn right at the top of the hill in the previous photo and walk along the street on the opposite side of Oakshaw Trinity Church, then you’ll see it on your right.
The former graveyard, now gone back to nature after many of the gravestones being moved to Hawkhead Cemetery after the 1949 closure.
Back down the hill again – Paisley has many of these old, interesting streets to explore.
Information Board at Hawkhead Cemetery, where many of the gravestones were moved to.

ℹ️ The information board at Hawkhead Cemetery was thankfully in a better state, though a bit dirty. I think I’ve been able to get both the Scottish Gaelic and English this time so I’ll put both below – scroll down to the relevant language for yourself and for more photos, including some of the gravestones:


Anns an sgìre seo tha clachan-uaighe bho sheann Chladh Cill Ghàidhlig Naoimh Chaluim Chille ann an Oakshaw, Pàislig.

Bha cladh na Cille Gàidhlig air a cleachdadh còrr air 150 bliadhna, eadar 1795 gu an tiodhlacadh mu dheireadh ann an 1949.

Ged a bha a-Chill Ghàidhlig air a stèidheachadh airson Gàidheil a bho air gluasad a Phàislig bhon Ghàidhealtachd agus na h-Eileanan, cha robh ach beagan chlachan-uaighe sgrìobhte sa Ghàidhlig.

Bha còrr air 30 dreuchdan air ainmeachadh air na clachan-uaighe, mar chomharra air farsaingeachd sgilean nan Gàidheal agus mar a ghabh iad ri beatha bhailteil Phàislig agus gnìomhachasan soirbheachail.

Tha cuid de na dreuchdan sin gun atharrachadh mòran ann an 150 bliadhna, gu sònnaichte feadhainn togail leithid sgleàtair, sglàibeadair agus criadh-chlachair. Tha cuid cha mhòr air falbh gu tur ann an Alba m.e: feadhainn ceangailte ri muilleannan clò, leithid glanadair clò agus dathadair agus cuideachd feadhainn eile leithid uaireadairiche agus ròpadair. Tha cuid eile, leithid breabadair, greusaiche, diolladair is gobha staoin ann fhathast mar obair dhualchas no làmh-cheàrd sonràichte.”

From info board put up by Historic Scotland and Renfrewshire Council
To find the gravestones, turn left after entering Hawkhead Cemetery from Hawkhead Road. Go along to the wall you’ll see ahead of you, then turn left again and follow that same wall along until you find them in the far corner of that section of the cemetery.


This area contains gravestones retrieved from the former St. Columba’s Gaelic Chapel Graveyard in Oakshaw, Paisley.

The Gaelic Chapel Graveyard was in use for more than 150 years from 1795 until the last burial in 1949.

Although the Gaelic Chapel was founded for Gaelic speakers who had moved to Paisley from the Highlands and islands, only a small proportion of the stones were inscribed in Gaelic.

More than 30 jobs are mentioned on the gravestones, indicating the diversity of skills held by Gaelic speakers and how they adapted to their new urban life in Paisley’s booming industries.

Few of these jobs have changed in 150 years, particularly building trades like slater, plasterer and bricklayer. Some have virtually disappeared from Scotland – those associated with textile mills, like cloth lapper and dyer, but also watchmaker and ropemaker. Others survive as heritage of luxury handcrafts – weaver, shoemaker, sadder and tin-smith.”

From info board put up by Historic Scotland and Renfrewshire Council
As mentioned in the info there were only a few gravestones actually inscribed with Scottish Gaelic – this was the only one I could find, at least that was semi-legible, not covered in water etc.
A closer look at the same stone – from what I can see it’s for a man called Gileasbaig McCaog. Quite difficult to make out all of the words due to erosion & my Gaelic isn’t good enough to translate them fully, so I’m not sure what’s written in italics – I suspect it means the stone was erected for him by his wife Anna NicDhonuil. Not sure exactly where they came from either. It’s nice though we can clearly see the wife’s surname as women in Scotland traditionally didn’t change theirs after marriage, & of course in the female form too with “Nic” instead of “Mac/Mc”. As far as I can tell the year spelled out rather than in numerals at the bottom is 1817. UPDATE: thank you very much Peter MacDonald Tartan Historian for letting me know about a good online translation that also explains things such as issues with how the Mr McCaog’s job is spelt. The translation is given as follows: “This stone was set up by Gillespie McCaig, Tailor, and Anne McDonnell his Spouse, from Upper Kintyre. Year eighteen hundred and seventeen.” (With the Gaelic being: “Tha chlach so air a cur suas [le?] Gileasbaig McCaog, Taighlear, agus Anna NicDhonuil a Bhean, o Bhraigh Cheantire. Aon mhile, ochd ceud, agus seachd bliana deug.”) Please do have a look at the Geograph site where this was quoted from for more details.
Most of the stones were inscribed in English – here’s a slightly older, but less eroded one that reads: “This is the burying plot of Robert McAusland and Agnes Robson his Spouse; and their Heirs 1799. No 116” – interesting mix of older & newer style Ss.
A very sad memorial of a father & 2 children – Malcom McIntyre died only 48 years old on 13th October 1812 after his infant son Alex died on 8th. The next August they were joined by daughter Elora who was only 3.5 years old. Perhaps this was some kind of sickness that caused this? The stone was erected by Marg (?) McKingie, the wife & I assume also the mother.
This stone seems to have been shared – first the property of John Campell, a weaver, erected for his wife Margaret Wright who died in 1809. Then property of a Fergus Ferguson & Margaret Campbell – maybe John’s daughter? – in memory of their deceased 7 year old daughter Eliza.

🍂 Those were just a few of the surviving gravestones that I wanted to highlight – many of the older ones were of a similar, quite plain design with some more recent ones being a bit bigger and a bit more ornate. Have a look at the gallery below for more photos:

🪦 Thank you for reading! It was very interesting looking into this being from Paisley myself, as well as being interested in Scottish Gaelic and death customs in general 🔍

📸 Featured Photo & all other photos credit: me and my dad. We went to look for the graveyard and graves along with my husband and mum. My dad instilled a love of history in me from a young age and took us to lots of sites as we were growing up, so it was really nice to be back in Scotland after travel restrictions were eased to do something like that again 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

🌱Happy St Bride’s Day/Là Fhèill Brìghde or Imbolc/Imbolg to those celebrating 🔥

💧Have a watch/listen to a story about St Brìde in Scottish Gaelic or English from the wonderful, new Map of Stories website:

📰 More folklore & folk customs can be found in this great article from the West Highland Free Press.

🐍 Also, for people interested in our native adders, some seasonal folklore associated with them may be of interest – read here. You also might want to have a look at last year’s Là Fhèill Brìghde post.

✨Lastly, some brilliant thoughts on Brìde/Brigid that are well worth the read so I’m re-sharing this year from Monumental Ireland’s FB page. It’s fantastic that in Ireland, as of this year, St Brigid’s Day has been made a Bank Holiday with the aim of celebrating women there 🥳

📸 Featured Photo Credit: Pexel

🥂Happy New Year! Bliadhna Mhath Ùr! Guid New Year & lang may yer lum reek 🔥

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 My highlight of 2022: finally managed a – far too short – trip back to Scotland to see family & friends after almost 3 years (due to the pandemic)! Hope everyone has had a great festive season & new year too! Here are some wee seasonal links that may be of interest ⬇️

📖 You can read all about Scottish, particularly Scots, Hogmanay & New Year traditions on the Scots Language Centre Website.

🎧 If you missed it, have a listen to the most recent Stories of Scotland podcast episode for some haunting Hogmanay stories here or wherever you get your podcasts.

🐍 If you want to read even more, you might like to have a look at some previous blog posts on both Gaelic & Scots seasonal traditions:

📸 Featured Photo Credit: Pexel

🎅🏻Merry Christmas🎄Nollaig Chridheil ⭐️Blythe Yule to all celebrating!

Hope everyone had a great day ☺️

🎧 Anyone who likes a chilling Christmas ghost story should have a listen to the latest Christmas Special of the Uncanny podcast – in it we’ve got someone from Scotland telling us about his experiences that centre around Christmas time – listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.

(⚠️The above mentioned Uncanny is a brilliant podcast in general, though for this particular episode I would flag one thing – Evelyn, who to be fair isn’t a folklore expert, unfortunately mashes together genuine traditional Scottish folklore/practices such as ”charring the old wife” & “the Cailleach” with imported modern Neopagan concepts such as ”the triple goddess/maiden-mother-crone” & “pagan sabbats” which have nothing to do with native Scottish traditions…This is obviously disappointing not only in terms of misinformation, but also in terms of horror/potential folkloric explanations for what happened – if you look beyond the imported “the Cailleach is the winter crone aspect of the triple goddess” & go into the traditional Gaelic lore, you’ll find various entities with the Cailleach titles that can be quite scary, dangerous & even deadly. This, imo, would make much more sense than any goddess in the scenario presented as well as avoiding misrepresentation of Gaelic culture 💭)

🏷️ Have a look at the “The Cailleach” topic tag for more info, folklore & resources regarding these Scottish Gaelic entities.

📚 There was also brief mention of the Scottish Witch Trials, so if you want to learn more about those you can look at the topic tag & resources section.

🔍 Lastly, you might want to search for previous posts on Christmas customs, folklore etc 🐍

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

Flora MacNeil & Challenging Themes in Traditional Scottish Gaelic Songs🩸

🎶📺 There’s a fab documentary about Scottish Gaelic singer & tradition bearer Flora MacNeil (1928-2015) available to watch on YouTube. It features information about her life, her contribution to the survival of traditional Gaelic songs, her building of ties with Ireland & Brittany, & of course you can hear her singing too 🎙️⬇️

🩸An interesting challenge in performing & preserving some of the traditional songs was raised in the documentary – at one point some were worried that they may be too grizzly for modern, non-Gaelic audiences & even give the “wrong impression” of Gaels. In particular this worry was surrounding old songs mentioning the drinking of the blood of slain male relatives or spouses/lovers by female protagonists in their extreme grief & devotion. This behaviour is occasionally associated with male characters but is usually associated with mourning women.

⬇️ I’ve put a couple of online examples (I sadly couldn’t find any of Flora herself singing these ones) below so please read on for those…

“Cumha Ni Mhic Raonuill” (sometimes “Caoineadh Nic Raghnaill”) – a song about the Keppoch murders (associated with the infamous Well of the Seven Heads monument) thought to be composed by a grieving sister contains the verse:

“No fume, smoke or haze pouring out,
Your chamber’s door I opened –
Your blood spilled over my shoes!
I barely refrained from drinking my fill.”

You can read more on Women’s Poetry & listen to a version in Gaelic on Tobar an Dualchais. (More information on the Well of the Seven Heads can be found on Canmore)

Another example mentioned in the documentary is “A Mhic Dhùghaill ‘ic Ruairidh” – a song in which a woman laments the murder of her lover & curses those involved, containing the lines:

“And your blood on your lovely chest, pouring through your shirt
Although I drank, my love, some of it, it did not heal your wounds”

Listen to a version in Gaelic again on the indispensable Tobar an Dualchais.

You can also listen to & read the lyrics in both Gaelic & English by a modern Scottish artist Julie Fowlis on this lyrics site.

💭 I think a lot of old ballads, stories etc can be quite grim in many cultures & can tell us a lot about people’s attitudes at the time. I’m glad traditional Gaelic singers like Flora MacNeil, & current Gaelic singers like Julie Fowlis, didn’t/don’t shy away from difficult themes so these songs haven’t been lost.

🐍 If you found all this interesting, you may also like to read a previous post on the Scottish Gaelic lament Griogal Cridhe here. In some surviving versions of this old song the singer also makes reference to blood drinking, saying she would have if she could.

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

🗓 Scottish Government Consultation on commitments to Scottish Gaelic & Scots languages closes 17th November 2022 – be sure to have your say! 🗓

💭 In Scotland, as with English speaking countries in general, language learning is unfortunately severely undervalued which leads to many never properly learning &/or using any languages other than English. I think it also leads to people being less aware of the inextricable connection between language, culture & worldview; an example of which is nicely put in the image below ⬇️

Made & shared by BBC Speak Gaelic, a language learning programme, website & podcast for Scottish Gaelic learners 👩🏻‍🏫

⚠️ When a language dies we sadly lose not only words but also ideas & culture along with it. Anyone into Scottish history should be aware of a very famous historical example of this in the Picts, whose language has been lost after being superseded by Gaelic & Norse, frustratingly leaving us with very little idea about Pictish beliefs, worldview etc 😞

⭐️ So, let’s not let this happen with Scottish Gaelic or Scots! Let’s stop putting these languages down as “dead”, “just not speaking English properly” etc when they aren’t. Let’s stop seeing learning & using languages native to Scotland as a barrier when it isn’t – it’s an asset that not only helps people see the world & communicate in a different way, but also helps them get the skills to learn other languages should they wish to do so. It’s not like the human brain can only handle 1 or 2 languages max lol 🧠

💬 You can make your views known by filling out the online consultation ⬅️

📄 The consultation paper is available in:

📚 Further reading/watching:

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel