Monday, May 12, 2008

Ray Michie

In 1987 I was campaigning in Gordon, and after the long campaign our group of Liberals adjourned to watch the results.

Of all the results, the one that gave the most pleasure was the election of Ray Michie in Argyll. Ray represented in her family and herself the embodiment of the tradition of Scottish Liberalism. That John Bannerman's daughter could be elected when he could not, seemed to be the harbinger of a further revival in the fortunes of Liberalism in Scotland and across the UK, as so it proved.

That Ray proved to be a doughty fighter for her constituency was no surprise to those who knew her equally passionate commitment to Gaelic culture and to the cultural idea of Scotland, not to mention to Scottish Rugby, where her father in his day was indeed a fine player in the national team.

To her very fingertips Ray represented the feisty, independent tradition of Scottish Liberalism- plain spoken, determined, and a true beleiver in the Liberal idea of freedom. She stood up for the cause of the individual against corporate behemoths and the unfettered state equally, and her integrity was an adamant.

Ray was one of those who always made me proud to belong to the long tradition of Scottish Liberalism- as I sat with some well known Scottish Liberals last week, discussing what she meant, there was respect and admiration, and for all of us the sweet memory of the day Ray Michie took Argyll & Bute from her Ministerial opponent.

Hallaig (fragment)

Tha iad fhathast ann a Hallaig,
Clann Ghill-Eain ’s Clann MhicLeòid,
na bh’ ann ri linn Mhic Ghille Chaluim:
chunnacas na mairbh beò.
Na fir ’nan laighe air an lèanaigaig ceann gach taighe a bh’ ann,
na h-igheanan ’nan coille bheithe,
dìreach an druim, crom an ceann.
Eadar an Leac is na Feàrnaibhtha ’n rathad mòr fo chòinnich chiùin,
’s na h-igheanan ’nam badan sàmhacha’ dol a Chlachan mar o thùs.
Agus a’ tilleadh às a’ Chlachan,
à Suidhisnis ’s à tir nam beò;
a chuile tè òg uallachgun bhristeadh cridhe an sgeòil.
O Allt na Feàrnaibh gus an fhaoilinntha soilleir an dìomhaireachd
nam beannchan eil ach coitheanal nan nigheana’ cumail na coiseachd gun cheann.
A’ tilleadh a Hallaig anns an fheasgar,anns a’ chamhanaich bhalbh bheò,
a’ lìonadh nan leathadan casa,
an gàireachdaich ’nam chluais ’na ceò,
’s am bòidhche ’na sgleò air mo chridhemun
tig an ciaradh air na caoil,’s nuair theàrnas grian air cùl
Dhùn Canathig peilear dian à gunna Ghaoil;
’s buailear am fiadh a tha ’na thuaineala’ snòtach nan làraichean feòir;
thig reothadh air a shùil sa choille:chan fhaighear lorg air fhuil rim bheò.

(Translation from the Gaelic)

They are still in Hallaig,
MacLeans and MacLeods,
all who were there in the time of Mac Gille Chaluim:
the dead have been seen alive.
The men lying on the greenat the end of every house that was,
the girls a wood of birches,
straight their backs, bent their heads.
Between the Leac and Fearnsthe road is under mild moss
and the girls in silent bandsgo to Clachan as in the beginning,
and return from Clachan,
from Suisnish and the land of the living;
each one young and light-stepping,
without the heartbreak of the tale.
From the Burn of Fearns to the raised beach
that is clear in the mystery of the hills,
there is only the congregation of the girls
keeping up the endless walk,
coming back to Hallaig in the evening,
in the dumb living twilight,
filling the steep slopes,
their laughter a mist in my ears,
and their beauty a film on my heart
before the dimness comes on the kyles,
and when the sun goes down behind
Dun Canaa vehement bullet will come from the gun of Love;
and will strike the deer that goes dizzily,
sniffing at the grass-grown ruined homes;
his eye will freeze in the wood,
his blood will not be traced while I live.

Somhairle MacGill-Eain
Sorley Maclean

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