Great historical footage and music from the Isle of Lewis

I’ve mentioned before that my Dad’s side of the family are from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. My Nana was originally from the Island of Benbecula and my Dad grew up on Barra, where his father was the doctor.

My oldest brother Michael and his family settled on the Island of Lewis where Michael’s wife, Donella is from. They are Gaelic speakers. My nephew Calum Iain put this wonderful video together using clips he sourced from YouTube and adding the soundtrack of Donald Macrae singing the beautiful Gaelic song ‘Eilean Leòdhais Ge Fada Thriall Mi’ (Isle of Lewis, Though I strayed Far’.)

That’s Donella‘s father John Paterson at 0:34

Song ‘Eilean Leòdhais Ge Fada Thriall Mi‘ was written by Colonel Iain MacGregor who was born in Stornoway 1848. He wrote this song homesick for Lewis while deployed to India. Sung brilliantly here by Donald MacRae.

Footage drawn from following videos:

Isle of Lewis 1970 (Around Scotland) / Last Batch Of British Troops Leave India (1948) | British Pathé / North Tolsta 1967 / Around Stornoway / On The Road – Stornoway / Stornoway 1964 (footage by Ken Holgate, provided by Stornoway Historical Society) / The Corncrake and the Croft.

Here’s a translation of the lyrics:

EILEAN LEÒDHAIS, GUR FADA THRIALL MI

ISLE OF LEWIS, THOUGH I STRAYED FAR

Eilean Leòdhais, gur fada thriall mi

Bho d’ bheanntan àrd, ach cha d’ rinn mi d’ dhiochuimhn’;

Ged tha na h-Innseachan clìth gam chrìonadh

Cha trèig mi chaoidh thu ged chlaoidh a’ ghrian mi.

Isle of Lewis, though I have strayed far

From your high mountains, but I have not forgotten,

Although India has treated me harshly

I will never forsake you, even should the sun exhaust me

An t-eilean buadhach san d’fhuair mi m’ àrach

Thug mise spèis dhut nach trèig gu bràth mi,

Tha tuinn a’ chuain ri cuir bhuainn an tràth seo

Ach nì mi ‘n dìreadh gu tìr nan àrmunn.

That outstanding island where I was reared

I gave you affection I’ll never betray

The waves of the sea separate us this morning

But I’ll climb back to the land of warriors

Ach chur an Leòdach an t-òigear ciatach

An cliù ‘s am mòrachd an òrdugh rianail,

B’ e fhèin am fiùran air cùl pean-iarainn

Gu tìr a dhùthcha s a cliù chuir sìos leis.

But the Macleod, that excellent young man,

has put his name and greatness in proper order,

Himself a hero with his pen,

Honoring his nation with it

Ma chì thu ‘n t-òlach, cuir eòlas dàn air

Is faic an cuimhne leis oidhchean àraid,

Bha sinn le chèil’ – ach chan fheuch mi càite,

Ri mir’ is sùgradh ‘s ri smùideadh Gàidhlig.

If you see that outstanding man, greet him boldly

See if he remembers strange nights

We were together – I’ll not say where

Laughing and flirting, with plenty of Gaelic.

Mo rùn an triùir dh’fhàg mi brùite, cianail,

Am measg nam bràithrean a dh’fhàs cho ciatach,

Tha aon san ùir aca, ‘s cuid ‘s an lìonadh,

‘S e shil mo shùil bhi le tùrs’ gan iargain.

My desire, the three who left me broken, mournful

Amongst the brothers who grew so handsome

One of them in the soil, and others washed away

My eyes wept in sorrow for them

Oir leam ro bhinn tha guth-cinn mo shinnsear

Na dèan-s’ a dearmad, oir dhearbhainn fhèin dhut

Gur i a’ chànan a bha ‘n Gàrradh Eden

‘S gur e thuirt Àdhamh “Mo ghràdh” ri Eubha.

Too melodious the voice of my ancestors

Don’t neglect, because I tell you myself

That she’s the language that was spoken in Eden

And that Adam called out “My love” to Eve

Eilean Leòdhais, gur fada thriall mi

Bho d’ bheanntan àrd, ach cha d’ rinn mi d’ dhiochuimhn’;

Ged tha na h-Innseachan clìth gam chrìonadh

Cha trèig mi chaoidh thu ged chlaoidh a’ ghrian mi.

Isle of Lewis, though I have strayed far

From your high hills, but I have not forgotten,

Although India has treated me harshly

I will never forsake you, even should the sun exhaust me

Thanks very much Calum Iain for drawing my attention to this.

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