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Cumha Choire a' Cheathaich - Lament for the Corrie of the mist

by Donnchadh bn Mac an t-Saoir

This poem is set in Glen Lochay west of Killin. Upper Glen Lochay formed a part of the medieval royal hunting forest of Mamlorn. During the 16th century, Glen Lochay came into the possession of the Campbells of Glenorchy, ancestors of the Earls of Breadalbane. John McGregor McPatrick VcCondachie Abrich, was recorded in 1678 as Forester of Mamlorn. Duncan bn lived there for a time in the 1750s. Before his death in 1812, Duncan bn returned and, in this poem, recalled the former beauty of the glen and regretted its degradation by overstocking of sheep.

Creag Mhr is composed of three ridges, the ESE ridge (Srn nan Eun) descends to Glen Lochay at the habitation of Batavaime. Another ridge also descends to Glen Lochay, this initially goes south from the summit before swinging SE down steep slopes. These two ridges enclose Coire Cheathaich (Misty Corrie), a former royal hunting ground. Duncan Ban MacIntyre, who worked as a gamekeeper in the area, wrote this poem ran Coire a' Cheathaich (Song of the misty corrie) which gives a natural description of the corrie and its flora and fauna.

Duncan bàn here complained of the incompetence of the Duke's factor, MacEwen, whose actions had damaged the environment of the strath. But after Duncan bàn's time, I hardly need to explain to the descendants of those exiled to the far corners of the world that the pursuit of wealth by some clan chiefs and incomers has led to appalling environmental degradation throughout the Highlands. Once sheep had exhausted the ground and became unprofitable later in the 19th century, any remaining people were cleared, so that vast deer and grouse preserves could be created for the pleasure of the wealthy. From the evidence of this poem, one might consider Duncan bn to have been an early environmentalist.
Is duilich leam an cradh
th air coire gorm an fhsaich,
An robh mi greis am rach
sa Bhrighe seo thall;
S iomadh fear a bhrr orm
a thaitneadh e ra ndar,
Nam biodh e mar a bha e
nuair dhfhg mi e nall;

Gunnaireachd is lmhach,
spurt is adhbhar ghire,
Chleachd bhith aig na h-rmainn
a b bhaist bhith sa ghleann.
Rinn na fir ud fhgail,
'S Mac Eghainn th' ann an-drsta,
Mar chlach an ionad cbaig,
An ite na bh' ann.

Tha 'n coir' air dol am filinn,
Ged ithear thun a' bhlir e,
Gun duin' aig a bheil cs deth
Mun it' anns an m;
Na fidh a bh' ann air fhgail
Cha d' fhuirich gin air rainn,
'S chan eil an ite-tmha
Mar bha e sa ghleann.

Tha 'm baran air a shrach',
'S dh'fhairtlich air an tladh,
Gun sgil aig' air an ndar
Ged thinig e ann.
B' fherr dha bhith mar b' bhaist,
Os cionn an t-soithich chtha,
'S a lmhan a bhith ln dith,
Ga fsgadh gu teann.

'S e mthadh air an t-saoghal
An coire laghach gaolach
A dhol a-nis air faondradh
'S am maor a theachd ann;
'S gur h-e bu chleachdainn riamh dha
Bhith trusadh nan cearc biadhta
Gur tric a rinn iad sianail
Le pianadh do lmh,

Is iad nam baidnibh riabhach
Mu t' amhaich 's ann ad sgiathan;
Bhiodh itealaich is sgiabail
Mu t' fhiaclan san am.
Bu ghiobach thu ri riaghailt
Mu chidsin taigh an Iarla,
Gar nach b' e do mhiann
Bhith cur bhian air an staing.

Ged tha thu nis sa Bhrighe,
Cha chompanach le cch thu,
'S a h-uile duin' a' tir ort
On thinig thu ann.
Is iginn duit am fgail
Nas measa na mar thinig;
Cha taitinn thu rin ndar
Le cnmhan 's le cainnt.

Ged fhaiceadh tu ghreigh uallach,
Nuair rachadh tu mun cuairt daibh,
Cha dan thu ach am fuadachadh
Suas feadh nam beann,
Leis a' ghunna nach robh buadhmhor,
'S a' mheirg air a toll-cluaise -
Chan eirmis i na cruachan,
An cuaille dubh cam.

'S e 'n coire chaidh an dis-laimh,
O'n tha e nis gun fhidh ann,
Gun duin' aig am bheil spis diubh,
Ni feum air an cl ;
O'n tha iad gun fhear-glidhte,
Cha n-fhuirich iad r'a chile,
'S ann a ghabh iad an ratreuta
Seach ridhlean nan lb.

Cha n'eil pris an ruadh-bhuic,
An coille no air fuaran,
Nach b' iginn da bhi gluasad
Le ruaig feadh na dthch' ;
'S cha n'eil a nis mu'n cuairt da
Aon spurt a dheanadh suairceas,
Na thaitneadh ri duin'-uasal
Ged fhuasgladh e ch.

Tha choille bh' anns an fhrith ud,
Na cuislean fada, direach,
Air tuiteam is air crionadh
Sios as an rusg ;
Na prisein a bha brioghor
'Nan dosaibh tiugha, lionmhor,
Air seacadh mar gu'n spiont' iad
A nios as an uir ;

Na failleanan bu bhoidhche,
Na slatan is na h-ògain,
'S an t-ait am biodh an smeorach
Gu mothar a' seinn ciuil,
Tha iad uil' air caochladh,
Cha d' fhuirich fiodh na fraoch ann ;
Tha 'm mullach bharr gach craoibhe,
'S am maor 'ga thoirt diubh.

Tha Uisge Srath na Dge
Na shruthladh dubh gun soladh,
Le barraig uaine lth-ghlais,
Gu m-bhlasta grnd';
Feur-lochain is tchair
An cinn an duilleag-bhthte -
Chan eil gn tuilleadh fs
Anns an it' ud san m;

Glumagan a' chthair
Na ghlugaibh domhainn smhach,
Cho tiugh ri sghan ctha,
Na lthaich 's na phlam;
Seann bhrn salach ruadhain,
Cha ghlaine 'ghrunnd na uachdar -
Gur coslach ri muir ruaidh e,
Na ruaimle feadh stang.

Tha 'n t-ait an robh na fuarain
Air fas 'na chroitean cruaidhe,
Gun sòbhrach, gun dail-chuaich,
Gun lus uasal air carn ;
An sliabh an robh na h-èildean,
An àite laighe 's èirigh
Cho lom ri càbhsair fèille,
'S am feur, chinn e gann :

Chuir Alasdair le ghèisgeil
A' ghreigh ud as a chèile,
'S ar leam gur mòr an eucoir
An eudail a chall ;
Cha lugha 'n t-aobhar miothlachd,
Am fear a chleachd bhi tìorail,
A' tearnadh is a' dìreadh
Ri frìith nan damh seang.

Ach mas duine de shliochd Phraig
A thid a nis don ite,
'S gun cuir e s a lraich
An tch'ran a th' ann,
Bidh 'n coire mar a bha e,
Bidh laoigh is aighean dr' ann,
Bidh daimh a' dol san dmhair
Air fsach nam beann;

Bidh buic sna badan bltha,
Na bric san abhainn limh riu,
'S na fidh air Srath na Lirge
Ag rach nam mang.
Thig gach uile n ga bhaist,
Le aighear is le bhachd,
Nuair gheibh am baran birlinn
Siud fhgail gun taing.



I am dismayed at the condition
Of the deserted corrie,
Where I once lived
On the Brae yonder;
There's many's a man besides me
Whose heart would be gladdened,
If it had remained as it was
When I left;

Shooting and gun volleys,
Sport and fun,
Were enjoyed by the heroes
Who once populated the glen.
Those men left,
And MacEwen who now lives there,
Like a stone in place of cheese,
Replacing those who were once there.

The corrie has been blighted,
as though it were cropped to the ground,
Lacking anyone who feels concern for it
around the place at this time;.
The deer have gone -
no one stayed on the land,
it is not the resting place
that it was in the glen.

Great's the bailiff's discomfiture,
Baffled to entice a creature,
With no skill as to their nature
Hither though he came.
Better he, as usual, standing,
O'er the sowan-vat superintending,
Full his hands of streams unending,
As tight he squeezed them.

There's a change upon creation.
The corrie, dear sweet station
Is gone now to ruination.
The steward there commands;
And it was his practice ever
The fat hens to deliver -
Often did they screeching quiver
With pain at your hands.

In brindled flocks, poor things.
They are round your neck in rings,
Feathers shed and fluttering wings
Now among your teeth they are.
Surveillance you were rich in
About the Earl's kitchen,
Though never were you itching
To put skins upon the spar.

In the Brae though now they've placed you,
No companion for the rest you,
Every mortal does detest you,
Since there you have come bragging.
And worse you needs must leave them
Than e'er you did receive them;
Since to the soul you grieve them
With girning and with nagging.

The proud herd, if you scout them,
When you would come about them,
You'll nothing do but rout them
The tops up among,
With a gun that was not trusty,
It's touch-hole being rusty.
The big stacks it missed aye,
The black crooked pole.

The corrie's fallen behindhand,
With not a deer or hind, and
Not a man for them inclined, and
Who will after them avail ;
For without a keeper, they
Together will not stay.
They have beat retreat away
Past the windings of the glen.

Not a roebuck e'en is spared.
In woodland, or well sward.
But must move with driving hard
In flight through the country ;
There is round now within sight
Not one sport that gives delight,
Or would gentleman requite.
Though he his dog should free.

The wood in that forest,
Long, straight trunks,
Have fallen and withered
Down in their bark;
The fruitful thickets
And the thick and plentiful branches,
Have withered as though
They were plucked from the earth;

The most beautiful shoots,
The twigs and the saplings,
And the place where the thrush
Sung its gentle song,
They have all changed,
Neither wood nor heather remains;
The top is missing from every tree,
Removed by the bailiff.

The Water of Srath-na-Dge
Runs black and filled with sediment,
With a gray-green scuf on it,
Foul and ugly,
Marsh and water weed
On top of the water-lily -
There is nothing else growing
Now in that place;

Boggy pools
In its dense, still pits,
Are as thick as corn-husk sowans,
In sediment and slime;
Stale, dirty scurf-water,
Unclean at depth and on the surface -
Like a red sea,
A muddied flow through creeks.

The place where wells to brim rose,
To hillocks dry and grim grows,
With not a violet, primrose,
Or cairn-grown noble plant ;
The slope where hinds were saucy.
There they lie not, rise not, gaucie,
'Tis as bare as market causeway,
And the grass grown scant :

Sandy, with his bellowing thunder.
Has put yon herd asunder.
And great methinks the blunder
The stock should depart ;
And a cause not less heart-rending.
One has, wont to be descending
Cheerily, or ascending
The forest of the hart.

But if one of Patrick's line
Now goes to the place,
And if he drives from his position
The changeling there,
The corrie will be as it was,
There will be calves and rutting hinds there,
The stags will mate
In the mountain wilderness;

There will be bucks in the warm thickets,
The trout in the river beside them,
And the deer on Srath na Lairge
Rearing their young.
Everything will be as normal,
With joy and delight,
When the baron gets the warning to leave
And good riddance.


The Scots Magazine and Edinburgh Literary Miscellany for October 1812, contains the following notice:

" Oct. 6. At Edinburgh, in his 88th year, Duncan M'Intyre, alias Donncha-bàn nan-Òran, the celebrated Highland bard. This veteran, and venerable poet, was born in Druimliaghart, Glenorchy, Argyllshire, 20th March 1724. He fought at the memorable battle of Falkirk, on the 17th of January 1745 (under the command of the gallant Colonel Campbell of Carwhin), where he had the misfortune to lose his sword Claidheamh ceannard chloin an Leasdair of which he has given such a minute description in his admirable song to that memorable day. Being a most excellent shooter, he was afterwards appointed forester to the Right Hon. the Earl of Breadalbane in Coire Cheathaich and Bein Dourain, and thereafter to the Duke of Argyll, Buachill-Eite. He afterwards served in one of the Earl of Breadalbane's fencible regiments, raised in the year 1793, wherein he continued until he was discharged in 1799, and from that period till his death, he has lived a retired life, rendered not uncomfortable by the beneficence of that nobleman.

His patron appointed him forester in Coire Cheathaich and Ben Dorain. The locality was already rich in associations, but the light of his genius has made it classic ground. Here in his youthful prime, in a good position which was assured, combining light duties with ample leisure, he composed the two poems which have raised his name highest in the temple of fame. Tradition says he lived in a cottage near Bad-odhar, the ruins of which are still visible, and every hill and dale in the neighbourhood is sung every mountain between his home and Auch, which was then the seat of power, is named with pride and affection. The Corrie itself is dwelt on with a minuteness of detail which only genius could render interesting. It remains as he left it, save for the disappearance of the wood, and the glugan-phimbach, The latter was, according to tradition, a spring rising out of the mountain to the height of a foot or two. So it was a delight to others besides the poet, till a Sasunnach wandering in these parts, and moved by what spirit it is not easy to say, rammed his stick into the orifice and stopped the jet for ever.