Island Voices contributor Catherine Eunson crossed paths with Professor Alan Riach at this year’s StAnza poetry festival in Saint Andrews, where Alan was giving a reading of his newly published, and highly acclaimed, English version of the classic Gaelic poem ‘Birlinn Chlann Raghnaill’ (‘The Birlinn of Clanranald’) by Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair.
In the poem the birlinn in question sets sail from Loch Eynort, South Uist.
“Let’s do it”, said Alan.
With these difficult negotiations completed, and financial assistance from Stòras Uibhist, an attractive and bilingual evening programme of poetry and music took place at Kildonan Museum on July 19th, with Alan’s readings complemented by various contributions from local residents and other visiting musicians.
Prior to the event Alan was also able to visit the shores of Loch Eynort where he gave an appetising foretaste of the feast to come:
(Follow this link if you would like to read while you listen.)
The following longer clip shows the final part of the evening, as the birlinn weathers a fierce storm and safely reaches Carrickfergus.
(Follow this link if you would like to read the Gaelic verses that Bill presents.)
The readings were further enhanced with the illustrations that Alexander Moffat had provided for the book. A selection is reproduced here, with his kind permission. (Click to enlarge.)
It’s probably not that often that South Uist plays host to an eminent professor of Scottish Literature, but as Alan pointed out at the end of the evening, its success was owed in no small part to the contributions of other performers. So thanks are also due to Anndra MacIsaac, Marion Morrison, Catherine Eunson, Fiona Mackenzie, Bill Innes, Morag Wells, Alasdair MacIntyre, Rosie Mapplebeck, and Pauline Prior-Pitt.