Maggie Smith and John Murdo Macdonald have recently produced a DVD of songs of Uig, an excellent record for which the Comann Eachdraidh is grateful. The DVD can be purchased for £10 plus postage from Maggie on 01851 860204.
Traditional singers Pèigi Oighrig Smith of Kneep and Agnes Fraser originally from Reef, sing songs from the rich Uig tradition, on the new Clann Nighean Uig DVD. Eighty two year old Pèigi Oighrig Smith, sings both her own songs and some written by her grand uncle Donald MacIver, Dòmhnall Dònn who died about1945. Pèigi firmly believes that Dòmhnall Dònn while on his death bed passed his gift of composing bàrdachd to her.
Pèigi sings the first song she composed shortly after her grand uncle’s death. The subject is the islands and the landmarks seen from a hilltop near her childhood home in Kneep. Pèigi still holds those landmarks close to her heart as she watches the weather and the light in Kneep, cast changes on Caolas Phabaidh each day.
During her time working in the civil service in London, Pèigi composed the exiles’ anthem Tha mise dol dhachaigh. There is also a very lively, descriptive rendering of a Stornoway man’s tale of the ramshackle lorry Làraidh Chalum Sòda.
Peigi’s repertoire of Dòmhnall Dònn songs on the DVD includes one in praise of the vision of Lord Leverhulme, who owned the Isle of Lewis until 1923.
Dòmhnall Dònn’s talent for composing was unfazed, when one day he went to the neighbouring village of Valtos, to borrow a plank to repair a boat. A Valtos man challenged him to compose a song for the boat, before he would give him a loan of a plank. The resulting song exalts the boat A Rud and names several Valtos characters on an imaginary journey passing the rock of Gibraltar.
Dòmhnall Dònn’s wife Hannah, having innocently asked him to put a peat on the fire, must have been surprised when she got a response several verses long:
Thug mi às a’ phòl i
Chuir mi air a bonn i
Chuir mi ceap a’ phùill orra ga còmhdach
Thug mi air mo dhrùim i dhachaigh gu Pòl Lòngail
‘S cha dèan Dòmhnall Dònn dhut a chòr rithe.
Another Dòmhnall Donn song dates from December 1914, written the day after the Battle of The Falklands, where he urges the safe return of the Valtos seamen on board HMS Kent and HMS Orama. Both those ships played a part in the victorious British Naval battle in the South Atlantic.
The same song recognises the sacrifice of those Uigeachs who had emigrated, but returned to serve their home country after war was declared and who were subsequently lost on a battlefield in France.
Bha mòran ga ar càirdean anns na tìrean fada thall,
An Ameireagaidh ‘s an Astràilia a b’ fheudar tighinn a null,
‘Son dìon na dùthaich mhàtharail nuair bha i ann an tinn,
‘S gun tug iad bhrod a d’ fhàsgadh orra ‘s na blàr a bha anns an Fhraing.
Agnes Fraser from Reef living in Nairn won the Traditional Medal at the Mod in Edinburgh in 1986. Agnes sings Saighdear Chaluim Bhàin, an Uig song she learned from her mother and Hi Horo Tha Mi Duilich composed by Donald Morrison born in 1858 in Valtos, who emigrated as a young man to Canada.
Although the Comann Eachdraidh Uig fundraiser features songs mainly from Pèigi Oighrig and Agnes Fraser, it also features other island singers and musicians: The Lewis Pipe Band, David MacKenzie Balallan, Ishbal MacAskill Point, Iain Mackay Point, Dòmhnall Angaidh Martin Aridhbhruach, Dòmhnall Angaidh Matheson Barvas, Ishbal Mackay Stornoway, Iain Angus and Calum MacLeod Manish, Harris. Comann Eachdraidh Uig are extremely grateful for their support.