O nach éisdeadh

′My chief Clan Donald correspondent reminds me that, in addition to Shrove Tuesday, today is the 326th anniversary of the massacre of the Jacobites at Glencoe. British soldiers, billeted by force of law, but received with generous hospitality, rose in the night to murder their hosts; and many women and children then died of exposure when their cottages were torched and possessions impounded.

It was one of many similar incidents in Scotland and Ireland, as the illegitimate regime of William and Mary consolidated its power against the Stuart loyalists, but has been remembered as among the most satanic. There was some subsequent official inquiry, but this was limited when King William’s signature was discovered among the orders, and so the conclusion had to be that any Highland chieftains got what they deserved. They were “lawless,” by the official account, and although they had signed oaths of allegiance to the new Orange co-regency, they had not done so quickly enough. Moreover, most of those chieftains were Catholic, and thus held to be implicitly opposed to aggressive Protestant interlopers.

Of course, the story is told differently by the Orangemen of Ulster, and in the propaganda for that self-styled “Glorious Revolution” — to which I remain unalterably opposed, as to all worldly revolutions. But the facts speak for themselves, of the dark deeds by which the English-speaking world was put on the path to “democracy” and “progress” and all the other modernist fatuities.

The story of the Mort Ghlinne Comhann was revived in the spirit of Victorian romanticism, paradoxically in response to a cold retelling by that seedy old Whig, Thomas Babington Macauley — the primer of every raw English schoolboy, as Lord Acton called him. But I should like to depart at an angle from this.

The song I will flag instead this morning is that scarifying Gaelic number, O Nach Éisdeadh (performed rather jauntily, here). It conveys the frank “lawlessness” of the Highlands, most featly. Follow the words carefully, for they are of timely significance, and theological resonation — now, on the very eve of Lent.


I append an interlinear translation, in case gentle reader’s Scotch Gaelic is rusty. The opening triplet repeats after each distich:

O nach éisdeadh tu ′n sgeul le aire
— (Oh that you would listen to the tale attentively)
Dh’innse ′n éifeachd tha′n réit′ na fal
— (To tell of the efficacy that is in atonement by blood)
O nach éisdeadh tu ′n sgeul le aire
— (Oh that you would listen to the tale attentively)

Chuirinn impidh ort thu ghrad philltinn
— (I implore you to turn back quickly)
M′am bi thu millt, o gabh suim dha d′anam
— (Before you are destroyed, oh take care for your soul)

Sluagh gun chùram, tha′n dorus dùint′ orr′
— (Careless people, the door is closed on them)
′S tha claidheamh rùisgt′ air a chùl dha′m faire
— (And there is a naked sword behind it to watch them)

Sluagh gun àireamh ′nan seasamh làmh ris
— (People without number, standing near him)
Ach ′s daor a thàinig thu ghràidh dha′n ceannach
— (But it was at great cost that you came, love, to redeem them)

Ni Nicodemus is a chéile
— (Nicodemus, and his partner)
′S Manasseh féin fuil na réit a ghlanadh
— (And Manasseh himself can be washed in the blood of atonement)


Faic an t-óigear rinn ′fhuil a dhòrtadh
— (See the young man who spilt his blood)
Do pheacaich mhór thainig beò tre ′ghlanadh
— (For great sinners who came alive though his cleansing)

Cluinn thu tàirneanach beinn Shinài
— (Hear the thundering of Mount Sinai)
Tha bagraidh bàis ′g iarraidh làn de pheanas
— (Death threatens, asking for full penance)

Ma tha thu ad′bhantraich, ′s e féin is ceann ort
— (If you are widowed, he is at your head)
Cur séile teann ann am bonn a gheallaidh
— (Putting a firm seal on the trueness of his promise.)