By Bernie Bell
The story goes, that in a short time after, a crow built her nest in the deserted church.
Poetry Corner : The Last Sad Sabbath
The Last Sad Sabbath (Celtic Magazine) by Annie Mackay Twas not the beacon light of war Nor yet the “slogan” cry That chilled each heart and blanched each cheek In the Country of Mackay And made them march with weary feet As men condemned to die Ah! Had it been their country’s foe That they were called to brave How loudly would the piobrachd sound How proud their “bratach” wave How joyfully each man would march Tho’ marching to his grave No! ‘Twas a cruel sad behest An alien chief’s command Depriving them of house and home Their country and their land Dealing a death-blow at their hearts Binding the “strong right hand” Slowly and sadly down the glen They took their weary way The sun was shining overhead Upon that sweet spring day And earth was throbbing with the life Of the great glad month of May The deer were browsing on the hills And looked with wondering eye The birds were singing their songs of praise The smoke curled to the sky And the river added its gentle voice To nature’s melody No human voice disturbed the calm No answering smile was there For men and women walked along Mute pictures of despair This was the last sad Sabbath they Would join in praise and prayer And men were there whose brows still bore The trace of many scars Who oft their vigils kept with death Beneath the midnight stars Where‘er their country needed men Brave men to fight her wars And grey-haired women tall and strong Erect and full of grace Meet mothers of a noble clan A brave and stalwart race And many a maiden young and fair With pallid tear-stained face They met upon the river’s brink By the church so old and grey They could not sit within its walls Upon this sunny day The Heavens above would be their dome And hear what they would say The preacher stood upon a bank His face was pale and thin And as he looked upon his flock His eyes with tears were dim And they awhile forgot their grief And fondly looked at him His text “Be faithful unto death And I will give to thee A crown of life that will endure To all eternity” And he pleaded God’s dear promises So rich so full so free Then said “Ah friends, an evil day Has come upon our Glen How sheep and deer are held of more Account than living men It is a lawless law that yet All nations will condemn I would not be a belted knight Nor yet a wealthy lord Nor would I for a coronet Have said the fatal word That made a devastation worse Than famine, fire or sword The path before each one of us Is long and dark and steep I go away a shepherd lone Without a flock to keep And ye without a shepherd go My well beloved sheep But God our Father will not part With one of us I know Though in the cold wide world our feet May wander to and fro If we like children cling to Him With us He’ll ever go Farewell my people fare ye well We part to meet no more Until we meet before the throne On God’s eternal shore Where parting will not break the heart Farewell for ever more” He sat upon the low green turf His head with sorrow bowed Men sobbed upon their father’s graves And women wept aloud And there was not a tearless eye In that heart-stricken crowd The tune of “Martyrdom” was sung By lips with anguish pale And as it rose upon the breeze It swelled into a wail And like a weird death coronach It sounded in the vale “Beannaicht’ gu robh gu siorruidh buan Ainm glormhor uasal fein Lionadh a ghloir gach uile thir Amen agus Amen” And echo lingering on the hills Gave back the sad refrain Methinks there never yet was heard Such a pathetic cry As rose from that dear hallowed spot Unto the deep blue sky ‘Twas the death wail of a broken clan The noble clan Mackay And ere another Sabbath came The people were no more Within their glens but they were strewn Like wreck upon the shore And the smoke of each burning home ascends To Heaven for ever more.
Related link: Strathnaver Museum Needs Some Help!
Something religious frae an atheist!
I’m not an atheist.
At the same time, I don’t have a religion.
Those people did, though.
That’s not the root of what it’s about.
I half expected someone to pull me up about that – it’s simple enough – Annie Mackay is writing of folk who did have that belief – I don’t even know if Annie Mackay herself did.
One thing I do know – a religious faith can help people in hard times – my Mother’s faith held her up and got her through some very hard times.
Can you tell me when the poem was written. I am researching my MacKay family and found this poem most interesting.
There is a mention of an article about the Strathnaver clearances, by Annie MacKay, in this……
And there’s this….
Have you seen these, previously published in TON?
I hope these are helpful, and can maybe point you in the right direction for more research.
The folk at the museum are very helpful, and might be better at Internet searches than I am!
I had a closer look – and it’s more than a mention of the article by Annie MacKay – it’s the whole article – in fact, the whole magazine!