I Went to Eaval on a Flitting

Western Isles

29 June 2021

Anonymous song Researched and sung by Peigi MacVicar

Lyrics

Hem bò, ho luì leò,
Ro challa leò èileadh,
Hem bò, ho luì leò.

I went to Eaval on a flitting
Hem bò, etc
and I built a wall, I filled a stackyard
not with clean dry barley,
but with youths beloved of my people;
And I said farewell to the mountains,
to great Eaval and to Beinn na h-Aire,
to Rona Sound with white sails covered.
to the Island of the Whales.

I it was who had the brothers,
Ùisdean, Lachlann, Eachann, Teàrlach
Iain and Raghnall and Ràghall
and Alasdair with hair in ringlets.

A thousand curses on you, fellow,
heavy your blows, though light your footsteps;
my curses on your foster-mother,
for not laying on you her knee or elbow
before you killed all our people.

Uisdean mac Ghill’Easbaig Chlèirich
where you lie down in health, may you not waken,
may the women of Sleat get news of your dying,
may I get my own share of the tidings.
(Translation from Duanaire na Sracaire)

Why I chose this song

I found the song in Duanaire na Sracaire – Anthology of Medieval Gaelic Poetry eds. Wilson MacLeod & Meg Bateman (Edinburgh, 2007: 424-427). That’s where I found the words and information about the song but I learned the tune by listening to the song sung by Fanny MacIsaac on Tobar an Dualchais. The song appealed to me because it’s from the perspective of a young MacVicar woman in North Uist and that is my own name and one side of my family comes from Uist.

The author

I don’t know who composed the song but it is evidently from the viewpoint of a young woman who is lamenting the murder of her brothers in North Uist at the end of the sixteenth century. They were killed by Ùisdean MacGhillEasbaig Chlèirich, a wicked man who belonged to the MacDonalds of Sleat.

The song

This song was composed at the end of the sixteenth century and it’s about a young MacVicar woman in North Uist lamenting the murder of her brothers by Ùisdean Mac GhillEasbaig Chlèirich. The clan chief had appointed him bailiff of North Uist, not knowing at the time that he was after their lands. Ùisdean tried to persecute the MacVicars with horses, dogs and swords but, when the chief found out about it, he caught Ùisdean at Dùn an Sticir and brought him to Skye, to Duntulm Castle. There he fed Ùisdean with salt meat until he died of thirst

More information

Ùisdean MacGhillEasbaig Chlèirich was one of the MacDonalds of Sleat but at this time he was Bailiff of North Uist, with evil intentions. While he was in Uist he lived at Dùn an Sticir and he was there when he heard that people were after him. Dressed as a woman to avoid being recognised, he tried to escape and although that worked for a while, he was eventually caught and brought to Skye. While he was in Duntulm castle he was locked in the castle dungeon.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Calum Alex MacMillan for his guidance and my father for encouraging me to research various topics.

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