Recording Rob Donn
Our projects have brought together several people with an interest and knowledge of Rob Donn. We have recorded some episodes on various topics related to the time, environment and work of Rob Donn. The films and audio recordings are below.
At 3 locations in Mackay Country Jim Johnston talks about stories related to Rob Donn
Dr. Donald William is a senior researcher at Edinburgh University and a lecturer at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Donald William spoke about Rob Donn at a ceilidh in Strathy.
Christine Stokes gives an introductory talk about Rob Donn
A video recording from a ceilidh in Strathy in 2007 a precursor to the Project
Celebrating the life and works of Rob Donn
THE YEAR 1714 marked a turning point for the British nation. A little over a decade earlier, the century-old Union of the Crowns had been followed by a Union of the Parliaments and, with the death in August 1714 of Queen Anne, the reign of the long-serving Stewart monarchs had come to an end, being replaced by a new dynasty in the diminutive form of the Hanoverian, George I. Within a year the accession of the "wee, wee German lairdie" had sparked a brief and pretty innocuous civil war but, 30 years further on, the so-called Bonnie Prince had fanned the smouldering Jacobite flame into a great conflagration which led ultimately to the slaughter at Culloden and an enormous, violent dislocation in the power structure, economy and lifestyle of the traditional Highlands.
During the snowy winter of the same year, under the shadow of Ben Hope, and in the humblest of circumstances, a child was born who from an early age displayed a remarkable gift for poetry and who, by the time he died in 1778, had left behind a remarkable corpus of work of a quality unequalled in the North and, many would argue, in the entire Gaidhealtachd. This was Rob Donn, bard to the Lords of Reay, as the then Chief of Mackay had styled himself when elevated to the peerage in 1614. Most remarkably, Rob Donn's poetic achievement was attained entirely without conventional education. He was entirely illiterate and, like the bards of even more ancient times, both composed and retained his work, from the longest and most complex elegies to the briefest of rhymes, entirely in his head. Thus it was left to others, from a higher social stratum, to record his work for posterity, sometimes to its detriment. Though the number of Gaelic speakers in the Mackay Country has declined catastrophically over the past century, their premiere bard has not been forgotten and, to ensure that his name remains to the forefront,
Feis Air an Oir held a ceilidh in his honour at Strathy Hall on Saturday night. Fear an taighe was Cathy-Barbara Mackay of Tongue and, in addition to young performers from Feis Air and Oir itself, there was an array of musical stars from the Gaelic world including Mod god medallist Alison Rapson, BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of the Year 2004 James Graham from Lochinver, and singers Marlene Rapson, Jean Mackay and David Morrison. Both the Melvich and Lairg Gaelic Choirs were represented as well.
The upsurging interest in traditional music was represented by fiddler Jenna Reid and piper Carol-Anne Mackay of the successful west-coast band Dòchas and, to ensure that those who had striven to keep the music alive in the doldrum days were not forgotten, there was a special tribute from Emily Wade, to the late Pipe Major Charlie O'Brien of Strathnaver, who honed the skills of many a young musician in his day. The keynote speech in praise of Rob Donn came from Dr Donald William Stewart, a native of Back in Lewis, who teaches in Edinburgh University and Sabhal Mor Ostaig and who has a special interest 18th century Gaelic literature. The event, which included a much appreciated buffet, was very well supported from throughout Sutherland and Caithness and, while that still has to be calculated, is likely to return a significant profit to Feis Air and Oir funds.
At the 2018 Durness Highland Gathering Mackay Country held impromptu ceilids in the bough tent and recorded Mackay Country Gaelic singers.