Alexander MacDonald / Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair

Birlinn Chlann Raghnaill

Ghairm an fhairge sìoth-shaimh rinne
Air crois Chaol Ile;
Gun d'fhuair a' garbh-ghaoth shearbh-ghlòireach
Ordugh sìnidh.

Thog i uainn do dh'ionadaibh
Uachdrach an adhair,
'S chinn i dhuinn na clàr rèidh mìn-gheal
An deidh a tabhaìnn

Thug sinn buidheachas don Ard-Rìgh
Chùm na dùilean
Deagh Chlann Raghnaill a bhith sàbhailt'
O bhàs brùideil.

An sin bheum sinn na siùil thana,
Bhallach, thùilinn,
'S leag sinn a croinn mhìn-dearg, ghasd'
Air fad a h-ùrlair.

Chuir sinn a-mach ràimh chaol bhaisgeant'
Dhathte, mhìne
Den ghiuthas a bhuain MacBharrais
An Eilein Fhìonain.

The Birlinn of Clanranald

The sea proclaimed peace with us
At the fork of Islay Sound
And the hostile barking win
Was ordered off the ground.

It went to the upper places of the air
And became a quiet
Glossy-white surface to us there
After all its riot,

And to God we made thanksgiving
That good Clanranald
Was spared the brutal death for which
The elements had wrangled.

Then we pulled down the speckled canvas
And lowered
The sleek red masts and along her bottom
Safely stored,

And put out the slender well-wrought oars
Coloured, and smooth to the hand.
Made of the pine cut by MacBharais
In Finnan's Island.

Alexander MacDonald, or Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, was born around 1698 in Lochaber, the son of a minister in Moidart. He studied law at Glasgow, and worked as a schoolmaster for a time, but is best known for his Gaelic poetry and his sometimes controversial political views.

We feature a short extract from his long poem "The Birlinn of Clanranald" - a Birlinn was a small boat, typically with 12 to 18 oars.