Song to Sutherland

Highland

28 June 2021

A song by John Munro (1791-1837) Researched and sung by Calum Ross

Lyrics

O we will go, we will go, cheerfully and joyfully
O we will go, we will go, willingly
O we will go, we will go, across Struy
To the land of our kinspeople and friends.

Although we spent years far, far away from it
Living in Glasgow
For a short while we’ll leave our calling and head off
To receive their love and conversation.

We will take a trip once again to the north
We will take a trip to Dornoch.
We will see beloved Droit and on all sides of it
Castles and parks and lochs.

And we will see the Firth where we saw with a wind
Boats lightly sailing;
And we’ll see the mountains which would preserve summer snow
And we’ll see the beautiful rivers.

We’ll see the glens where we were born
Where we used to be light-hearted, foolish,
And with high spirits and pleasure we’ll see the woods,
Where we used to hear the thrushes.

And we’ll see the pastures where calves and lambs
Used to frolic carefree in June,
And we’ll see the uplands where the sheep
From whom we got fine clothes, grazed.

We’ll see the plains with tender broom in flower
Which in May is beautiful and joyful,
And we’ll see the slopes beneath the shade of the green branches
Where we often gathered primroses.

We’ll see the hollow and the fast, roaring waterfall
And the salmon leaping up to join it,
We’ll see the little grove where the playful male birds
Fight in the quiet, misty morning.

We’ll see every slope on which a herd of deer
Plays on the moor grass and in pools,
And we’ll see the little hollow among the high crags
Where the hind sleeps on mossy ground.

We’ll see every loch in which often
Finely speckled, silvery, handsome trout were caught,
The haunt of the otter, travelling beneath the waves
And the swan swimming magnificently above.

And we’ll see the happy milkmaid
Singing her songs and ditties in the fold,
Milking the white-shouldered cows, ceasing their lowing
And with pleasure willingly listening to her.

We’ll see many, many things in the area
That as children we never thought would come there
Across the ferry crossing, there’s choice choice Droit
And instead of the croft Baile-Bhanna.

And a royal, level road through heathery branched crags
With mail vehicles travelling in an orderly way;
Each day down with a roar, each day up at speed
Through Sligeach and lower Preas-an-òrdain.

There’s good new land there, created with much hard work
From difficult fields of heather and moorland
And many hard slopes, unprofitable until now
Are covered with green young pines.

We will breathe anew fresh air and wind
Which will give us health and energy and happiness;
Our relatives will give us bread, cheese and butter
And a strong dram, accompanied by music.

And although we are far away tonight from our land
And our kindly, beloved relations and friends
We will drink with purpose, good health to each one of them
And success to both sides of the Dornoch Firth.

Why I chose this song

I wished to research and present songs belonging to Easter Ross and East Sutherland, especially homeland songs such as this. I came across the song in the book “Place Names of Ross and Cromarty” in the section on “Edderton” about “Struie”. There was a little extract from the song quoted and after research I learned that there was an entire song and that it had been written by John Munro, a local poet from Swordale, near Bonar. Compared with other districts songs from East Sutherland aren’t plentiful, and homeland songs are even scarcer, so it was a joyful surprise to me to find one. I have strong links to some of the areas mentioned in the song and I wished to present them to you all with this song.

The author

John Munro was from Swordale, in the district of Creich, a little village to the north-east of Bonar. He was born in 1791. In 1808 he went to Glasgow to be a clerk. During many years in Glasgow his thoughts often returned to the land of his birth and upbringing. In 1825 he returned to visit his mother. He died in Glasgow in 1837.

The song

John Munro describes his love of his homeland and his desire to return to the land of his upbringing. Apart from that, as he describes his journey north, we hear about the vistas and the fine places to see. Some are as he remembers them but others have changed. The land he knew has been developed and altered. He finishes the song with a toast to the Gaels and to his friends, wishing “success to both sides of the Dornoch Firth”.

More information

Many places are mentioned in the song: Dornoch, the Dornoch Firth, Struy [a rock near the B9176], Bonar, all to be found in Easter Ross and East Sutherland. The village of Creich is east of Bonar in East Sutherland past Swordale and is where the poet was born and brought up. St Demhan’s Cross is to be found beside the church in Little Creich.

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