Togail Chàrlabhaigh – en

19 February 2024

A song by Seòras Morrison researched and sung by Eilidh MacPhee


There will be a big town in Carloway
With hotels in the streets,
And big many-storied shops,
With court houses and magistrates.

There will be a big town in Carloway,
There will be a harbour and navy there,
Who will travel fearlessly to the Atlantic,
To bring food to Garenin.

There will be a big town in Carloway,
Without heaps of dross or sheilings,
Without bolting cows or salt herring!
Before they are disgusted by the smell of them.

There will be a big town in Carloway,
Mairead will have a fur coat there,
And Donald enclosed in his hard hat,
And the nobility will be angered.

There will be a big town in Carloway,
They will have plenty to hand,
They won't eat cormorant like those in Uig,
They won't even need to rely on potatoes

There will be a big town in Carloway,
Stornoway will be deserted,
And the castle will be brought over,
And placed on the highest mound.

There will be a big town in Carloway,
With trees in the parks,
There will be water from Loch Langabhat in every pipe,
And you won't find any traveller tribes there.

There will be a big town in Carloway,
with a member of Parliament,
And no Englishman will ever say again,
that he has have never heard of the place.

There will be a big town in Carloway,
And if you believe the prophecy,
you won't delay in building
and securing the foundations of your houses,
There will be a big town in Carloway.

How I chose the Song

Usually when I learn Gàidhlig songs I get them from my mum, and because her family come from Lewis I decided to focus my research on songs from Carloway and particularly the village of Garenin. To find out more I went on a trip with granny over to Lewis where I got to speak with people from the area and I was very lucky to get about ten or so songs from or about Garenin. Out of the songs I found 'Togail Chàrlabhaigh' stood out because its quite a funny song and a bit different from most of the Gàidhlig songs I had, which were love songs. I spoke again to people in the area, particularly Iain MacArthur who was able to tell me more about the man who wrote the song and about its context. He also told me that it had been sung to the tune of 'Mo nighean donn nam meall-shùilean', but I’d already started to learn the song with my granny to the tune of 'Mo shoraidh leis na fuar-bheannan' and decided to keep it with that tune.

The Author

Seòras Morrison from North Tolsta wrote 'Togail Chàrlabhaigh', or as he was known 'The Breve' or 'Am Britheamh'. He would write regularly in his column in the Stornoway Gazette called 'The Brevities' for many years and he would write funny excerpts where he would often make fun of something or someone, as we can see in this song. Although he was from Lewis like many others he went to the main land for work and he lived in Glasgow as a School teacher in King's Park.

The Song

The song was written in 1946. Apparently around that time, Donald William MacLeod from Borrowston would often write about Carloway and would praise it greatly. The Britheamh obviously found that very amusing and wrote 'Togail Chàrlabhaigh' as a humorous response which made fun of that view.

Earrann às a' Ghaseat/ Excerpt from the Gazette:

British U.S. friendship and bilateral preparedness was brought vividly to our notice recently by the sight of a husky chappie vaulting over peat banks, pools and dead sheep way out the back of Carloway and him wearing a fine jerkin on his back with the comforting letters U.S.N. We guessed the letters stood for "Uncle Sam Near" and not as someone suggested "Uigeach, Siarach, Niseach".

The jade rumour has it that Carloway, now resolved on marching to greatness as a municipality, has on order a few dozen prefabricated sheilings. These will have hot and cold water laid on, cots for the cows, electric querns, and even reception rooms for visitors from Shawbost.

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