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15 Apr 2020

Rare Gaelic songs to mark the Culloden commemoration

A stone marking the graves of several clans stands beside a narrow path on a field. Heather has been laid at the base. Several other grave markers can be seen in the background.
A grave marker on Culloden Battlefield
For centuries, the Battle of Culloden has been marked by a series of events on site but this year, due to the coronavirus public health emergency, we’ve moved our memorial online, with a series of videos and articles.

In the video below, Highland Songs of the Forty-Five, we’re sharing the original audio recordings of a series of Gaelic songs collected by archivist John Lorne Campbell from Canna. John and his wife Margaret Fay Shaw were noted scholars of Gaelic culture and life. Published in 1933, their book brought together songs inspired by the events leading up to the Battle of Culloden, and beyond – many of which had never been written down before. They also collected recordings of the songs from Ruairidh Iain Bhàin and Annie Johnston of Barra.

The film was created by the Trust’s Canna House archivist Fiona Mackenzie, who had been due to give a talk on the book at the battlefield as part of the 2020 anniversary programme.

Raoul Machin-Curtis, the National Trust for Scotland’s Operations Manager at Culloden, said: ‘The anniversary of the Battle of Culloden is a significant date for so many and while we can’t be on site today, we know that people will want to pause, reflect and remember.

‘These beautiful songs reflect the haunting beauty of the battlefield, one of Scotland’s most special places, so powerfully. We feel it is fitting to share them on this poignant day.’

Thursday 16 April is the 274th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, one of the most pivotal moments in Scotland’s history, when the 1745 Jacobite Rising came to a tragic and brutal end. The site of the last pitched battle fought in Britain, Culloden Battlefield attracts more than 300,000 visitors every year; the impact of the battle and its aftermath resonates across Scotland, and the wider world.

Find out more about the battle at our Culloden page.

Highland Songs of the Forty-Five


National Trust for Scotland
Highland Songs of the Forty-Five
What if John Lorne Campbell had never written this book?
His first book, it contains some of the most important and vibrant Gaelic poetic representations of events at the Battle of Culloden.
The songs of well-known bards such as Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, Rob Donn and Uilleam Ros, teamed with John's introduction and accompanying notes, greatly help us to place the importance of the songs into the context of the Battle and its consequences.
['Aiseirigh' - The Jacobite Bard, Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair's greatest work, in Canna House today ...]
Many of the songs had never been written down before Campbell collected them.
The songs tell us about the Jacobite struggle, the people who endured it and the longer-reaching aftermath.
Later, Margaret Fay Shaw also worked on transcriptions of the songs ...
[Margaret Fay Shaw's transcription of 'Oran Eile air Latha Chuil-Lodair']
John collected songs from contributors such as Ruairidh Iain Bhain and Annie Johnston of Barra.
[Ruairidh Iain Bhain.]
If we had no Oran do'n Phrionnsa (Song to the Prince), An Suaithneas Ban (The White Cockade) or Am Breacan Uallach (The Proud Plaid),how much less could we appreciate the stories.
How much less colour and emotion would be contained in our mind's vision and imagination. Not to hear the cry of the widow's pain ...
[Cumha do dh'Uilleam Siosal ...
The Chisholm Lament ...]
Or to contemplate the predicament of the Highlander himself.
All the material seen and heard here is taken from the Canna Archives of John and Margaret Campbell.
For the love of Scotland

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