Coitearan Bhatarsaigh

Composed by Donald Sinclair

Researched and sung by Claire Frances MacNeil

My spirit has risen so high
And my heart so full of hope
Since I saw my beloved people
Sitting in court on Tuesday.
And although they didn’t win any favours
And the weight of the fine over and above,
We will always respect them
And we will sing their praises high.

Let us sing with special thanks
Of a foundation strong as the soil,
Who suffered to such a great extent
So much malicious degradation.
And my blessings especially to our friends
Who sat with cheerfulness at the oars;
The ready Southern clans of the Gael
Who would tackle the most difficult seas.

It is time for us to move
And attend quickly to the matter,
And the embers that were almost cold
To re-kindle them from the ground.
With the swift bitter oil of hardship
Let us fight them,
To the fire of the red flames
Which will light up our cheeks afresh.

O strive! strive! strive!
You sturdy vigorous heroes of my heart,
Don’t let sentence or assault, malice or
obstructions weaken your resolve.
But stand faithful and steady
With the strength of your warring minds,
May you get your rights and your dowry
From the time of detriment and afterwards.

All in Tìr-àrd will rise with you
As manful as they always were from the beginning,
Each one of them will stay with you
With their eternal courage that will not flag.
When they waken, it will be heard everywhere
That every pound was destroyed.
And that everyone was set free
To return to harvest on their land.

No longer will the people in power get
The honour that they will get to lead you,
Because they did all they could before
To view your talking without regard.
One matter that is certain not to continue
The denigration and routing we received
By rude English pups
Without brains, without feet, without understanding.

When you acquire everything with courage
With no lack of gladness or joy,
You will go with your pipes and your standards
Swiftly over to Vatersay.
To that island with the most precious of soil
And the most beautiful machair in bloom,
The island in which the fields grow
Plentiful, chaffy and dense.

Although you are now where you do not wish to be
And you will not see your people for a while;
Do not let that make your desire waver
Or strong are the heroes at your back.
It is their zeal and their prayer every day
That your journey will be crowned with joy;
The blessings of every person and place is with you
And the blessings of the bàrds first and foremost.

The song

It was Donald Sinclair, or D.M.N.C. as he was better known to his learned friends, who composed this song. I got the version which I have from the book “The Writings of Donald Sinclair”, which was published in 2014. It is a song of praise and encouragement for the Vatersay Raiders, after gaining the land in Vatersay. They were sent to prison after being sentenced in court on Tuesday 2 June 1908 for seizing the land in Vatersay illegally.

It is said that the land struggle in Ireland consolidated their campaign to stand up against the Vatersay landlords and ask them to give them the land to alleviate the poverty in Castlebay, Mingulay and Sandray. It is also said that it was the land struggle in Vatersay which empowered the Land Struggle in Scotland. It is understood that this song was composed shortly after the court case to which Sinclair refers in the first verse as an event during that week itself, and in the last verse talking to the Raiders whilst still in prison.

This song is sung to the tune of Duncan ‘Bàn’ MacIntyre’s “Song to the Highland Attire/I Heard Fresh News”, and I learned the tune from a recording of Calum Johnston on Tobar an Dualchais.

Claire Frances MacNeil, 2019

Acknowledgements

Recorded at Chem19, Blantyre
Filmed at Moniack Mhòr Creative Writing Centre
Filmed by Mike Webster, Spiral Out Pictures
Make-up Stephanie Foster