Caitrìona, Cèile Mac Rìgh Èireann Do Chathie (Catherine, Wife of the Prince of Ireland For Chathie)
Tha Spiorad na Gàidhealtachd dhòmhsa beò anns na daoine, anns an tìr a tha gar cuartachadh agus anns a’ chànan a tha fhathast beò annainn agus innte.
I have been obsessed with an epic Gaelic song of high adventure for the best part of 40 years, telling the story of Seathan, Mac Rìgh Èireann (son of the King of Ireland) from the perspective of his partner, although she is never identified.
I had the good fortune few years ago to meet Cathie Laing from North Uist who was likewise fascinated by the song, who had set about finding the identity of Seathan, and more importantly the identity of the composer of the song herself. Cathie’s research culminated in a compelling argument for Shane O’ Neill of Antrim and his wife Catherine MacLean of Duart, who led an adventurous and dangerous life in the era of Stuarts and Tudors seeking to repress Gaels on either side of the Irish Sea. Both of us believe that theirs was a love match as well as a political one and that Catherine would have been an equal partner, steering Shane through the vagaries of the Scottish and English courts.
This poem is written in the same form as the original, from Seathan’s voice and giving Caitrìona her rightful place. It is the first of several responses that I hope to create for this remarkable story and this remarkable woman.
Caitrìona, Cèile Mac Rìgh Èireann
Do Chathie Laing
Mise Seathan, oighre Èireann,
Dearbh-fhine Uí Nèill, ’s mar chèile
Bàrr-gheug Leathanach, mo reul-iùil,
Mo threòir, mo stiùir, is mo thrèine.
B’ annsa siubhal le mo cheud-ghaol,
Siubhal monaidh, siubhal slèibhe,
Cha bu chrùbag ’s cha bu chreubhag,
Màrsach thu a’ chridhe threubhaich
Do bhòidhchead is math is lèir dhomh
Tro thrusgan a’ bheagan èididh
Fon chòta ruadh suathadh slèisne,
Fon a’ chriosan dubh mud lèine
Bruinne sheang is broilleach peucaig
Àilleachd thairis air na leugan
Leis na laigh mi uair bho chèile
’S leis na dhùisg mi ri àm-èirigh
A thasgaidh, a m’ eudail as mìne
Laigheadh leam air leabaidh-lìne
Ach a b’ annsa leam air frìthean
Far am biodh tu fhèin ’s mi-fhìn ann
Seathan mi is laoigh do chèille,
’S ged a mheasadh mi mar reubal,
Ann am beachd rìoghachdan cèine
’S ged a dhèanadh cùirt mo lèireadh
Cha tug thu do lagh no rìgh mi
No don chlèireach, no do Chrìosd mi
’S ann a rinn thu fhèin mo dhìonadh
Le rabhadh is comhairle chiallaich
’S tusa rinn Aontruim a sgèitheadh
Threòraicheadh le cinnt air breas-ròd
An Lunnainn ’s a-rithis Dùn Èideann
’S tu rim thaobh, cha dh’èireadh beud dhomh
A Chaitrìona, a ghaoil ghlèghil
Mo shaogh’l air an dèanainn sèisdrich
’S tusa leig le Èirinn èirigh
Ciod a dhèanainn fhèin as d’eugmhais?
Catherine, Wife of the Prince of Ireland
For Cathie Laing
I am Shane, heir to Ireland,
True son of O’ Neill, and as companion,
Highest branch of the MacLean, my guiding star,
My direction, my helm, and my strength.
It was my wont to roam with my first love,
Roaming moors, roaming hill-slopes,
No crooked hag, no puny woman,
A strong-hearted woman who stood her ground.
Your loveliness I can well appreciate
Through your little underclothing,
Beneath the russet coat rubbing against thighs
Beneath the black belt about your shirt.
A slender waist and a peacock breast,
Beauty beyond jewels,
That I lay with more than once
And with whom I wake at rising.
My treasure, my finest darling,
Who’d lie with me on linen bed
But with whom I’d rathbe on the deer-forests,
Where you and I could be.
I am Shane and the calf of your love,
And though I’d be branded a rebel
In the judgement of foreign kingdoms,
And though court should torment me
You did not give me away to law or king,
Nor to clergy, nor to Christ,
Rather you protected me
With wise counsel and advice.
It you who shaped Antrim
That surely guided on the king’s road
To London and to Edinburgh
With you by my side, I would come to no harm.
Catherine, my pure-white love,
My whole world that I would sing of,
It was you allowed Ireland to flourish,
What should I do without you?
Màiri Anna NicUalraig/ Mary Ann Kennedy
Do Spirit 360, Lùnastal 2022
Visit Mary Ann Kennedy's website: www.maryannkennedy.co.uk
Watercolour Music: www.watercolourmusic.co.uk
Listen to the original Seathan: https://sonichits.com/video/Aon_Teanga/Seathan_%01_Mac_R%C3%ACgh_%C3%88ireann?track=1
Buy the Aon Teanga album here: http://watercolourmusic.co.uk/Label/Releases/Aon%20Teanga.html