Sad Songs Are Nature's Onions

"For the sickness, that be spreadin with the quickness Remedies, cousin I be doin on my enemies Penalty, then I drink forties to they memories" - "Release Yo' Delf" by Method Man

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Is it Turrsday already, wha?

So I hear through the grapevine that the one and only Kid Rock cancelled his Atlantic Canadian dates this summer (including the upcoming show right here in Halifax). Apparently, everybody remembered that Kid Rock = Audio Diarrhea, so nobody bought any tickets. Excuse me while I go cry a little cry. Sniff.

Speaking of "The American Badass", do you have bad taste in music?

Want to check out some random Internet dudes opinions on all sorts of entertainment media thingys, then why not go over here for a spell. Go on, it'll be okay. C'mon, little trooper...

It looks like I'll be in Cape Breton (Margaree, to be exact) this upcoming long weekend. It's part Gillis family reunion (apparently there are relatives coming in from parts of the U.S., and even Vancouver), part book launch. The book is a collection of songs and poems by my great-grandfather, Malcolm Gillis. After some Googling, I found this little piece of info, written by my aunt Margaret for the West Word news, a Scottish community newsletter:

From Morar To Margaree by Margaret E Gillis
My Story of My Grandfather, Malcolm Hugh Gillis
Malcolm H Gillis, my grandfather, was a Gaelic poet known as 'The Margaree Bard'. He was born, grew up and raised his own family, in the so very beautiful 'Margarees' - a part of Canada's Cape Breton Island, known for its scenic and tranquil beauty. His father, Hugh Gillis,was 3 years old when he came to Canada from Morar, Scotland and settled with his parents Angus and Margaret Gillis in South West Margaree on Cape Breton Island's west side.

Malcolm wrote both Gaelic and English poetry and songs. He is, however, more well known for his Gaelic Songs than his English ones - which I think are very beautiful also, because I have a great love of poetry. I am told that some of his Gaelic songs are known in Scotland - especially the islands where Gaelic is still spoken. Malcolm Gillis had a great love for everything that was 'Scottish'.
A beautiful love song, 'Nighean Donn A Chuil Reidh', was written by him in praise of a lady who he much admired, but did not marry. Her ancestors were also from Scotland. I have a tape of my father singing this song, accompanied by my mother on piano, at a Gaelic Concert called 'Oidhche Leis Na Baird' on Cape Breton Island, in 1974. My father explains to the audience that he had recently met Calum Kennedy at a Rebecca Cohn concert in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mr Kennedy had told him that he had won a medal singing this same song.

'Am Braighe', another composition, was in praise of the scenic and tranquil beauty surrounding him, in the picturesque countryside where he lived.
Totally inspired, deep from within, by the power of the nature around him, he expresses the sincere and true love that he felt for his beloved 'Braes' of Margaree. It was a gaelic song that I heard often, sung by my father in my own home as my mother accompanied him on piano - or as he often did, accompanied himself. That has left a musical memory and a musical memory is a beautiful memory.
A collection of my grandfather's work was published in 'Smeorach Nan Cnoc's Nan Gleann' in 1939 by Alexander MacLaren & Sons, Glasgow, Scotland.
A pipe tune by him, named The New Year, was published in The David Glen Piping Collection in Scotland at the turn of the last century. He played various instruments - organ, pipes, and violin. During a trip to the United States to visit family, he entered a violin competition, where he won two silver cups.
Presently, I am a member of a committee (started in 2002 by a cousin) that is compiling all Gaelic and English poetry, songs and essays, as well as any music, written by our grandfather. This will include the work previously published in 1939 accompanied by English translation, plus previously unpublished works. We are having a Tribute to him on 1st August 2004 in South West Margaree, Cape Breton Island - the very same place to where his father, Hugh, immigrated in 1821. My cousin's wish is to make all his work available to his descendants in a book . On that day, the book will be available to the descendants and invited guests for $15.00 / book. Any profit made from this book is to be used to create a high school scholarship called, The Malcolm H Gillis Memorial Scholarship For Recognition of Excellence In Any One Of The Following:
Scottish Gaelic, Poetry, Essays, Music, Songs, Dance
I have great interest in other people's opinion of my grandfather, Malcolm. One that I will always remember was written by Norman MacDonald, former Professor of Celtic Studies at University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, Nova Scotia, and presently with BBC Scotland on The Isle of Skye. It reads....
'Gillis deserves wider recognition as by far the best nature poet writing anywhere in Gaelic between 1830 and 1930. I also think that he should have high place among Canadian Literary figures of this century.'
I did not personally know my grandfather, Malcolm...only through my father, uncles and aunts did I know him....and, of course through his poetry. I do believe, however, that he would have felt highly honoured by Norman MacDonald's words. I leave you now with an English verse written by my grandfather, about Margaree Island.

Oh! fall gentle showers that nature empowers
To soothe a young flower in bower and lea
Come sunshine that pleases, blow soft gentle breezes
Around This Green Island That Rests In The Sea
To all I leave this Celtic Wish ........
Slainte Mhath Agus Sonas (Good Health and Happiness)


  • At 10:43 p.m., Blogger patrick said…

    Check it out my friend... Learn it... It's not as hard as ya think.
    Even a milling frolic group here in the city.

    You'll never find anything more rewarding than helping to carry on your ancestor's language/culture


  • At 10:33 p.m., Blogger Dinah said…

    Dear iaingillis,
    I have the lyrics to Cape breton Soldiers by Malcolm Gillis
    wanted to know more abut why he wrote the song/poem
    I also have the recording of the tune.
    Can we chat

    dinah Mellin
    Cape Cod, MA

  • At 5:40 a.m., Anonymous magic said…

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