For all my pro-Gaelic sympathies it was inspiring and instructive to witness some fine Scots recitations at Nunton on Saturday night – in the very heart of Benbecula indeed. The somewhat informal theme was Burns – the perfect excuse for an evening of good food, poetry, and song.
First up was the Address to the Haggis, delivered by the knife-wielding, Dumfries-born and raised Denis Johnston.
Can you get more authentic than that?
And after the appetiser from the South West the main course: Tam O Shanter given a riproaring North Easterly slant by Rob “One Take” Keltie. The bravura performance speaks for itself, but it’s worth recording that it was genuinely delivered entirely from memory.
Then to the songs, led by an ad hoc “Benbecula Burns Band” anchored by Rob again. The first set consisted of The Silver Tassie, John Anderson/Margaret’s Waltz, and Ye Banks and Braes, with the audience participation growing as they warmed to the task. A taste:
In the second half we were treated to a section of Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, delivered this time by the very firmly rooted Lachie Morrison of “generational fame”, again entirely from memory and beautifully filtered through his own high fidelity Gaelic sound system, and which he then followed up with a reading from Thomas Campbell’s Lord Ullin’s Daughter.
Further musical contributions were made by Kate Dawson and John Buckmaster, with notable keyboard pyrotechnics provided by Lachie’s son Padruig. “Formal proceedings” were then completed with a second set from “BBB”, rattling through the following old favourites (while adding an element of innovation/uncertainty by keeping everyone, including themselves, guessing as to the preferred tune…): My Love is like a Red Red Rose, Ca’ the Yowes/Chì mi na Mòrbheanna, Ae Fond Kiss, Auld Lang Syne. By the end the “audience” had more or less completely taken over the performance – difficult to know which side was more relieved…
But all in all a great evening’s entertainment, self-generated from within the community by both “incomers” and “tùsanaich”, of which these recordings can only give an inferior impression. And a reminder to me, and any others in this blog’s readership/audience who might share a linguistic interest, of the rich oral resource that our languages can create and embody, a resource which the written word by itself may seek to imitate or record but can never adequately replace.
And that’s just one half of the story in these parts, by the way. See here what they were getting up to over the causeway in Berneray just recently …