Kenyon Love Song (19th-century Ontario)

I’m slogging my way through a very large project at present, the first modern anthology of Canadian-Gaelic literature that I’m calling Seanchaidh na Coille // The Memory-Keeper of the Forest, which will be published by Cape Breton University Press next year.

I’m trying to cover as much territory as I can in Canada, as Gaelic-speaking immigrant communities could be found in all of the provinces in the 19th century, and the real challenge is deciding what of the copious amount of material to keep and what to use, to keep the collection balanced.

Although I had edited the Gaelic text of the following song, I’ve decided not to include it in the volume, as it all seems to happen in Scotland, even though it was composed by Donnchadh Niall Domhnallach of Kenyon, Glengarry, Ontario, apparently late in the 19th century. I’m not sure because I was given the text amongst photocopies of miscellaneous clippings from newspapers by the late Kenneth McKenna of Glengarry, a true stalwart of the Gaelic cause. This unfortunately means that I haven’t yet discovered where it was originally printed or when.

I will give my edited version of the text here. It’s pretty straightforward forward for any Gaelic speaker to understand. It does merit a few notes. The accompanying text says that it was composed by “one of our bright young Glengarrians,” so he was definitely from Ontario (listed as the resident of 6 3rd Kenyon). And his Gaelic was very good — this is as mainstream and strong as any love song from Scotland at the time.

The introductory text describes the song as “moladh a leannain, agus a dhùthcha féin.” What’s interesting about the text is that it is located in Scotland, and evinces a strong affinity for the Highlands and strong contempt for the Lowlands and her people. I read from this and the evidence of the song itself that Donnchadh had spent some time in Edinburgh (maybe for his studies?), visited the home of his ancestors in Lochaber, and fell in love with a young woman there. He still strongly identified as being a Scottish Gael, despite probably being the 2nd or 3rd generation born in Canada.

  E ho ró mo rùn a’ chailin,
  E ho ró mo rùn a’ chailin,
  Mo rùn cailin shuairc a’ mhànrain
  Tha gach là a’ tighinn fo m’ aire.

Gur e mise tha briste, brùite —
Ge b’ e ri ’n leiginn mo rùnachd –
Mu’n ainnir as binne sùgradh
Is mi ri giùlain a cean-falaich.

Tha mo chridhe mar na cuaintean,
Mar dhuilleach nan crann le luasgan,
No mar fhiadh an àird nam fuar-bheann
Is mo chadal luaineach le faire.

Shiubhail mi fearann nan Gàidheal
Is earrainn de Bhreatainn air fàrsan,
Is chan fhacas na bheireadh barr
Air finne bhàn nam blàth-shùl meallach.

Bu bhinne na smeòrach Chéitinn
Leam do ghlòir is tu còmhradh réidh rium,
Is mo chliabh air lasadh le h-éibhneas
Tabhairt éisteachd dha d’ bheul tairis.

Bu tu mo chruit, mo cheòl, is mo thàileasg,
Is mo leug phrìseil riamhach àghmhor;
Bu leigheas teugmhail o’n Bhàs domh
Nam faodainn a ghnàth bhith mar riut.

Gur muladach mi is mi smaointinn
Air cuspair mo chean gun chaochladh:
Òigh mhìn mhaiseach nam bas maoth-gheal
Is a slios caoin tlàth mar an canach.

Tha do dhealbh gun chearb gun fhiaradh:
Mìn-gheal, fìor-ghlan, dìreach, lìonta,
Is do nàdar cho sèamh is bu mhiannach
Gu pailt fialaidh ciallach banail.

Air fhad m’ fhuirich an Dùn Éideann,
Cumail comann ri luchd Beurla,
Bheir mi ’n t-soraidh seo gun tréigsinn
Dh’ionnsaigh m’ éibhneis anns na gleannaibh.

Ged a thàrladh dhomh bhith ’n taobh-sa,
Gur beag mo thlachd dha na Dubh-Ghoill
Is bidh mi nis a’ cur mo chùil riuth’
Is a’ dèanadh an iùil air na beannaibh.

Gur eutrom mo ghleus is m’ iompaidh,
Is neo-lòdail mo cheum o’n fhonn seo
Gu tìr àrd nan sàr-fhear sunntach
Is a’ tréigsinn Galltachd ’nam dheannaibh.

Dìridh mi gu Tulach Àrmainn
Air leth-taobh Srath mìn na Lairce,
Is teàrnaidh mi gu Innseag blàth-choill’
Is gheibh mi finne bhàn gun smalan.

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