Spiritual Hymn (Some verses)

Sgìrean Eile

29 June 2021

A hymn by Angus MacInnes Researched and sung by Fergus Munro


I am downcast
And numbering out my flaws:
I cannot deny
That I am unblemished;
Though I received the grace of faith
To deliver me from evil
Hope and love
Would bring healing to my wound.

Faith is the first requirement
That is essential for us to receive,
That will free us from the debts
That were always ours from the start.
Methinks in abundance are the miracles
Christ accomplished in the new law
When we are made God’s children
By the word and the water.

Love for God and our neighbour
Is the sum of all the commandments.
If we keep those two
We will keep the others accordingly.
Those edicts so hard on us
For our own advantage,
Their virtues will be seen
In every step we take.

There is comfort in the kingdom
In the presence of God’s throne;
Not one person has yet measured
The words of His mouth.
Eye has not seen and ear not heard
And no-one has imagined
All that the Saviour has
For His own beloved people.

The attributes of our generous God
Are limitless, endless, eternal.
I see them all around me
Although my eyes are blind.
His works are like a book
In front of me in my hand
And though I turn a thousand pages
I shall see more on the other side

Why I chose this hymn

Songs and poems with religion, Christ or Church as their subject rarely appear at the Mod or at Fèisean or their like. Even in Church! I wish to remedy that because there are many examples of excellent writing on these subjects. So I have been collecting Christian songs. I intend to create a resource for the Gaelic church, but also for those who have, or do not have, any faith.

Fuaran has given me a good opportunity to research songs from my own area. This song is a good example of the kind of faith the people of Lochaber had a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago, and of the collecting work of Father Allan MacDonald. As a Christian I agree with the beautiful words of the poet: Eye has not seen and ear not heard/And no-one has imagined /All that the Saviour has/For His own beloved people.

The author

Father Allan MacDonald (1859-1905) got Spiritual Hymn from a man called Angus MacInnes and it was published in 1883.

Although I received a lot of support from Ronald Black (a writer and researcher who is an expert on the history and work of Father Allan), unfortunately there is little information that can be gleaned about MacInnes, despite the fact that he was from Arasaig. It is certain however that this is a very fine song from Lochaber which Father Allan valued.

Allan MacDonald was born in Fort William in 1859. His people belonged to the MacDonalds of Keppoch, known for great poets. Sìleas of Keppoch is still famous for her poems and hymns.

Fr Allan served as a priest in Daliburgh, South Uist, and in Eriskay for nearly twenty years. He collected a lot of history, songs and tales as a hobby and he composed songs and poetry as well.

His strong faith is evident in his writings. He often meditates on Mary, God, Christ and the Catholic Church. He wrote much about the day of judgement as did other hymn-writers such as Peter Grant and Dugald Buchanan. He died in Eriskay in 1905.

The hymn

This is a Christian hymn. The poet begins in a terrible state , meditating about sin and death. He contemplates ‘the seven deadly sins’. At the end he gains courage and hope from God. The complete song has 29 verses.

The traditional tune for this song is ‘A Nochd gur Faoin mo Chadal Dhomh’ (according to Sources of the Gaelic Hymnal). Here is the tune as sung by Angus MacDonald on Tobar an Dualchais:


I would like to say thankyou to Ronald Black who helped me with my research.

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