On Friday 5th December, D.J Macleod gave a presentation on poet Rob Dunn.
Excerpts from ‘The wit and wisdom of Rob Donn’ by D J MacLeod
“He analyses the conduct of these others in a quite masterful fashion:
Tha iad laghail gu lit’reil
Is tha iad nan deibhtearan geura;
Is iad a’ pàigheadh gu maltach
Na bhios ac’ air a chèile.
Ach an còrr thèid a thasgaidh
Ged ’s cruaidh a cheiltinn on fhèile
Is tha an sporan ’s an sùilean
Cheart cho dùint’ air an fheumnach.
What Rob Donn is describing here is the start of a transition from the patriarchal family-based ethos of the clan – as represented by Lord Reay and Iain Mac Eachainn - to a new ‘business’ morality based on the law: you pay your debts as required by law but your responsibility to other people ends there. And if you can’t pay your debts you’re in trouble.
This change created the climate in which the Clearances could take place. So, while Rob Donn didn’t live to witness the full Sutherland Clearances, he did see them coming and has recorded for us the early stages of the process.”
“There is a simpler example of the extended metaphor in an early poem, ‘Am Fear Liath’. The young Rob Donn was annoyed at being excluded from a wedding party and latched on to the fact that the groom was prematurely grey and known as ‘Am Fear Liath’:
Nuair shuidh iad gu biadh, 's nuair thaingich iad Dia,
Bha 'n duin' òg ac' cho liath 's ged b' iar-ogh' do Àdhamh e;
Bha 'm muillear mòr liath ann le churrac mhòr liath,
Is a’ chailleach mhòr liath bu mhàthair dha.”
“My other image from this poem is more original. A particular minister is inconsistent, says the poet, preaching both salvation ‘by faith’ and ‘by works’:
Gheobhar fear dhiubh, là Sàbaid,
Their gur Slànaigheir Crìost dhuinn
'S their e seachdain on là sin
Nach eil stàth ach an gnìomhraibh.
And he drives the message home with this striking, but apt, image:
Bheir e iteagan àrda
'S nì e màgaran ìosal;
'S o nach eun e 's nach luchag,
Nì e trustair de dh'ialtag.”
“Here are some examples of Rob Donn’s witty and precise use of what is otherwise everyday language:
Tha an sporan ’s an sùilean cheart cho dùint’ air an fheumnach.
Co bu staraich', bu charaich' 's bu chlìcich' 's a b' fheàrr chuireadh lìth air a' bhrèig.”
“In the well-known verse four he sums the brothers up as men who had lived blameless but empty lives, doing neither good nor evil:
Daoine nach d' rinn briseadh iad,
'S e fiosrachail do chàch;
'S cha mhò a rinn iad aon dad
Ris an can an saoghal gràs;
Ach ghineadh iad is rugadh iad
Is thogadh iad is dh'fhàs;
Chaidh stràc dan t-saoghal thairis orr',
'S mu dheireadh fhuair iad bàs.
If Rob Donn lived today he’d probably tell the Misers to “get a life”! That is, in effect, what he does say to them and their kind - but in a much more memorable way. And, like much of his best work, the message is as relevant now as it was back then.”
Scroll through the following photographs from the event.