Bàthadh Dhail – en

Western Isles

29 June 2020

Composed by: Donald MacDonald (Dòmhnall Chràisgean, The Barvas Bard)
Researched & performed by: Ceitlin L.R. Smith

I first heard this story from my father. Another of our family relations is mentioned in the song and for this reason I wanted to learn it. Ishbel T MacDonald taught me this version.


It was on the Monday you sailed with a bonny new boat,
Everything was in order, the ropes were in the sails,
It was not because of inexperience that your time was cut short
But it was through divine providence that you did not return.

Indeed I lost a good friend, Iain Alasdair, and the rest:
Iain mac Aonghais ’ic Ailein and Aonghas Chaluim, the skipper,
Iain mac Dhòmhnaill ’ic Dhòmhnaill who lived in Aird,
And Aonghas ’An ’ic Aonghais whose role in the crew was very dear to me.

I didn’t count Dòmhnall mac Aonghais ’ic Fhionnlaigh along with the rest,
It wasn’t that I forgot him, he was worthy of a place,
He was a great sailor when rowing against the sea,
And you were all so brave and strong on land.

Wasn’t it a painful sight to see you giving her sail
Setting a course for home through swelling seas and mists,
But the messenger is so swift with no pity for living breath,
And he it was who rent you from us in the wide and endless sea.

There are such great expanses, Oh mile upon mile,
And it would not be satisfied until it was filled to the brim,
But the One who rules each hill, slope and glen
He will not forget nor forsake anyone when their time comes.

Pity the orphans who are as sheep in the glen,
Many children without fathers and mothers in charge of them,
If only their fathers were safe even if their relatives were few
But now it’s the neighbours’ duty to act as fathers to them.

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