Monday, 21 January 2008

Eilein Duinn: Karen Matheson sings for Rob Roy

Ailein duinn ("Dark-haired Alan") is the song sung during the Ceilidh in the film version of the life of Rob Roy, just before Alan MacDonald's riderless horse appears at the feast indicating foul play against him and Rob's borrowed money.

It is sung by the immortal Karen Matheson of the singing band, Capercaillie. Sir Sean Connery once said of her that her "throat has been touched by the hand of God".

This haunting melody sung by Karen can be heard on Youtube at the following site:

Ailein duinn is a Scots Gaelic (or Gallic) lament written for Ailean Moireasdan (Alan Morrison) by his fiancée, Annag Chaimbeul (Annie Campbell).

In 1788, Ailean, a sailor, set off with his ship to Scalpay, Harris, where he and Annag were to be married.

In a tragic twist, the ship sailed into a storm and all on board were lost.

Annag was devastated and lost her will to live, dying several months later. Her body was later discovered on the beach, not far from where Ailean's body was found. Before she died, Annag composed this lament for her lost love.

It is a story with a tragic ending and whilst it is not edifying that anyone should so lose the will to live yet Annag's undying love for Ailean cannot but move us.

The melody is deeply affecting and is a classic in the genre of the solo female voice singing the Gallic.

Here are the lyrics, in Gallic for those who read it, and translated for those who do not:

Gura mise tha fo éislean
Moch sa mhaduinn is mi g'éirigh

Ò hì, shiùbhlainn leat
Hì ri bhò hò ru bhì
Hì ri bhò hò rinn o ho
Ailein Duinn, ò hì, shiùbhlainn leat

Ma 's e 'n cluasag dhuit a ghaineamh
Ma 's e leabaidh dhut an gheamainn

Ma 's e 'n t-iasg do choinnlean geala
Ma 's e na ròin do luchd-faire

Dh'òlainn deoch ge b' oil le càch e
De dh'fhuil do choim 's tu 'n déidh do bhathadh

"How sorrowful I am
Early in the morning rising

Chorus (after each verse):
Ò hì, I would go with thee
Hì ri bhò hò ru bhì
Hì ri bhò hò rinn o ho
Brown-haired Alan, ò hì, I would go with thee

If it is thy pillow the sand
If it is thy bed the seaweed

If it is the fish thy candles bright
If it is the seals thy watchmen

I would drink, though all would abhor it,
Of thy heart's blood after thy drowning."


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