29 June 2021
Words by Angus MacPhee (1927 – 2011); music by Fiona MacKenzie Researched and sung by Rory Cormack
The white mist of morning raises its head
And the shadows of night leave the bens;
The lark spirals upwards in the heavens
Hailing us all with her song.
The scent of the flowers in the fields around
Is sweet in my nostrils at this gentle time;
It is good to be alive in my beloved country
In the Spring of the year, with such balmy weather.
The tops of the peaks are appearing above the mist
Their clear reflections seen in the mirror of the sea
And the colours of the hill-slopes and fields so lovely
In the rays of the sun, rising in brightness.
Swift skiffs are sailing from the bay
And young children play on the sands of the beach
Strong calves call to one another in the marsh
And the milch-cows answer, bellowing from the fold.
Aren’t the surrounding sights lovely
And isn’t it good to be alive and thankful to treasure them?
With honour to the One who has given us all this
That is a bleassing here, in the beauty of our land.
(Translation from Òrain nan Rosach, compiled by Fiona MacKenzie, Highland Regional Council 2005)
Why I chose the song
I began my research on the internet looking for songs from my own area, Ross-shire. After a short while I found a book and CD by Fiona MacKenzie, both titled ‘Òrain nan Rosach’. After listening to the songs and reading the lyrics I came to the conclusion that I was particularly interested in Angus MacPhee’s work. There was something slightly magical about his writing that affected me and I really like the imagery he created. It was obvious that there was a strong connection between Angus and Fiona so I sent her an e-mail asking for more information about Angus. As it happened Angus was a kind of mentor to her!
Angus was born on the 8th of July 1927 and he died on the 13th of February 2011, aged 83. He was brought up in Glasgow and Skye and he was a graduate of Glasgow School of Art. After this he worked as an art teacher in Inverness. He had a particular interest in pipe music and song-writing. Angus and his wife sang with Dingwall Gaelic Choir and in 2006 he published his own book of Gaelic songs, based on pipe music. The ‘The Crunluath Collection’ shows how many of his songs are to a great extent based on pipe music, although they are new compositions.
Here Angus describes a beautiful morning he experieced outside in nature which was so precious to him. He writes about the world coming alive in front of him, the colours and the animals in his favourite view. Angus wrote the words but Fiona MacKenzie composed the tune.
Fiona MacKenzie is a Gaelic singer from Dingwall. She has performed all over Europe and North America and she won the An Comunn Gàidhealach Gold Medal in 2005. In addition she has been nominated as Gaelic Singer of the Year in 2005, 2006, 2012 and 2015. In 2015 Fiona started a new job as archivist and manager with The National Trust for Scotland.
I would like to thank Karen Oakley, Jo MacDonald and Fiona MacKenzie who helped me with my research.