• Just now I am up in a cold land…

    by  • 3 December 2009 • Bàrdachd, Gàidhlig, Military & Police, WWII • 0 Comments

    Just now I am up in a cold land
    And a message has arrived for us to go to sea,
    That the ships are now assembled and when night comes
    We have to move off with them.

    -Murdanie Macritchie

    This song was written by Petty Officer Murdanie Macritchie, Brenish, whilst serving during the Second War on HMS Cape Palliser escorting merchant ships on a Russian convoy, PQ-15, from Iceland to Murmansk.  PQ-15 (not PQ-16, as previously thought) sailed from Iceland on 26 April 1942, reaching Kola Inlet on 5 May, after several air and U-boat attacks.  In the convoy were 25 merchant ships that had arrived from various seaports in the UK, plus naval escort ships. An account from English sailor Geoff Hall aboard the Commodore ship, SS Ocean Voice on convoy PQ-16, later in May, gives detail of the run from the Clyde to Loch Ewe to Iceland and then Murmansk, and of being bombed.

    To be as far away as possible from the enemy’s airfields in Norway, convoys from Iceland to Russia were routed close to the ice-edge, passing Jan Mayen Island, Bear Island and Novaya Zemlya then heading for the Kola Inlet and the port of Murmansk.  Arctic convoys came under attack from aircraft, U-boats, large surface ships and light surface ships.

    For the return journey, HMS Cape Palliser joined convoy QP-12 as an escort, arriving back in Iceland on 29 May.  En route, one day near Bear Island, convoy PQ-16 and homeward bound convoy QP-12 were incessantly attacked by 108 waves of German aircraft.  Seven vessels were lost including SS Lowther Castle, SS Empire Purcell and SS Empire Lawrence.  SS Empire Purcell, on her maiden voyage, was loaded with ammunition and blew up when hit by two bombs.  The Ocean Voice was also badly damaged.

    Murdanie Macritchie survived the war and was ordained a minister in the Church of Scotland.  A translation follows the Gaelic song.

    An till mi gu bràth gu Eilean mo Ghràidh
    ‘S don a’ bhaile a rinn mi fhàgail
    Faic mi tuilleadh le mo shùilean beanntan sgire Uig
    No Mealisbhal ag èirigh an àrda?

    An cuir mi gu bràth mo ghuaillean ri bàt
    Ga cur sios gu sàl air Mol Innis?
    An cuir me tuilleadh na clèibh aig a’ Sgeir Lèith
    Faic mise tuilleadh Mol Bhrèinis?

    An dìrich mi tuilleadh an àrd dhan a’ bheinn
    A thrusadh na caoraich a-nuas?
    Am faic mi iad tuilleadh cruinn anns an fhaing
    An cluinn mi tuilleadh mèilich nan uan?

    Am faic me tuilleadh na mnathan a’ deaschadh biadh
    ‘S ghrian os mo chionn a’ deàrrsadh?
    Faic me tuilleadh chlann nighean a chleachd a bhith ann
    An cluinn mise tuilleadh an gàire?

    An suidh mi tuilleadh mar a b’ àbhaist Latha na Sàbaid
    A dh’ èisdeachd na fìrinn ga leughadh?
    An cluinn me tuilleadh an t-seinn a bha leamsa cho binn?
    Suidh mi tuilleadh ‘s taigh choinneamh am Breinis?

    Faic mi tuilleadh mo mhàthair ‘s m’ athair a dh’ fhàg mi
    Nach robh idir doigheil nuar a dh’ fhalbh mi?
    Faic mi iad tuilleadh a-muigh anns an iodhlann
    ‘S leantainn a dh’ obair gu anmoch?

    An-dràsta tha mi shuas anns an talamh fuar
    ‘S fios air tighinn oirnn dhol gu fàirge
    Gu robh na luingean nis cruinn ‘s nuair a thigeadh an oidhche
    Gu feumadh sinn gluasad gu falbh leo’.

    Chaidh an sgiobair bho rùm a shuidheachadh cùrs,
    Thubhairt e rium gu b’ ann Murmansk a bha dùil ruinn,
    Dh’ fhaighnich mi dha càit idir robh an t-àit’
    No’m bitheadh fada gus a ruigeadh sinn thall ann.

    Nuair a thàinig an uair chaidh na luingean air ghluas’d
    Tè an dèidh tè ann an ordugh
    B’ e geamhradh a bh’ ann ‘s cha robh ann ach an oidhche
    ‘S bha cabhadh a-nuas oirnn a’ dortadh.

    Nuair a ràinig sinn thall cha robh uiread againn ann,
    Rinn an nàmhaid gu làidir ar bualadh
    Na luingean bha gan giùlan nis mar ciste bha gan dùnadh
    ‘S iadnan laighe air ùrlar na fairge.

    Ach ‘s e m’ ùrnaidh ‘s mo mhiann gum bitheadh mo bheatha air a dion
    ‘S gun dèanainn seirbhis don Righ a tha shuas,
    ‘S gun deidhinn am measg dhaoine chum an Soisgeul a sgaoileadh
    ‘S gun innsinn mu Shlanaighear an t-sluaigh.

    An till mi gu bràth gu Eilean mo Ghràidh
    ‘S don a’ bhaile a rinn mi fhàgail?
    Faic me tuilleach le mo shùilean beanntan sgire Uig
    No Mealisbhal ag èirigh an àrda?

    _____________________________________________________________

    Will I ever return to the Island that I love
    And to my village that I left?
    Will my eyes ever again see the mountains of Uig
    Or Mealisbhal ascending so high?

    Will I ever again put my shoulder to a boat
    To launch her down into the sea at Molinish?
    Will I ever more set the lobster pots at Sgeir Liath
    Will I ever again see Mol Brenish?

    Will I ever again climb up into themountain
    To gather the sheep and bring them down?
    Will I ever again see them rounded-up in the fank,
    Will I ever again hear the bleating of the lambs?

    Will I ever again see the women preparing food
    And the sun shining above me?
    Will I ever again see the girls who used to be there,
    Will I ever again hear their laughter?

    Will I ever again sit as I used to on the Sabbath
    Listening to the Truth being read?
    Will I ever again hear the singing that was to me so melodious?
    Will I ever again sit in the Brenish meeting house?

    Will I ever again see my mother and father than I left
    Who were not at all pleased when I departed?
    Will I ever again see them out in the corn-yard
    Continuing with their work until dusk?

    Just now I am up in a cold land
    And a message has arrived for us to go to sea,
    That the ships are now assembled and when night comes
    We have to move off with them.

    The Skipper went from his room to set the course,
    He told me that we were expected in Murmansk,
    I asked him where indeed this place was
    And would it be long until we arrived over there.

    When the time came the ships started moving
    In order, one after the other.
    It was winter-time and there was only night
    And the wind driven snow was gushing down on top of us.

    When we reached the other side there were not so many of us,
    The enemy had struck us very hard,
    The ships that bore it are now like coffins being closed
    And they are lying at the bottom of the ocean.

    But it is my prayer and desire that my life be protected
    And that I will do service for the King on high,
    And that I would go amongst the people to spread the Gospel
    And tell of the Saviour of the multitude.

    Will I ever return to the Island that I love
    And to the village that I left?
    Will my eyes ever again see the mountains of Uig
    Or Mealisbhal ascending so high?

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