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The Odes & Aires of the area 


 

Boleskine Shinty Club March    (click on photo to play tune) 

Foyers Pipe Band

     

The Boleskine Shinty Club March was composed by Pipe Major Hugh Fraser of the Royal Scots  from Foyers in mid nineteen Fifties.  Hugh originally a native of Kingussie,  was the father of Hugh Fraser, the first Boleskine captain to lift a trophy, see Boleskine Juveniles 1962.  

 

Foyers Pipe Band were to the fore prior to the First World War, as the picture indicated they did not have any uniforms. They used to march from the Foyers Hotel along to Boleskine house, this photo was taken somewhere along that way . There is a newspaper report in Jan 1912, of the pipe band under the conductorship of Pipe Major Hugh Gillies, playing the Foyers Shinty Club to the field at Dalcrag, for their first round match of the Hussy Cup against Stratherrick. During the course of the game they played music, which was greatly appreciated by the spectators. 

Back L to R  unknown, Bob Macdonald( Birchfield), Dunc MacDonald (Birch), Ewin Tucker, unknown, Angie Kennedy, unknown, Mackintosh (Culharn)

Front L to R  Jackie Leddingham, Willie Cameron (Bonus) unknown, Willie Ross

It is thought that  Alex Mackenzie (Cabers) & Dunc Macdonald (Slash) who were both piper are in the photo , if anyone can identify them or any more people in the photo send an E Mail 


Bards and Poets of the area

The District has had several noted bards and poets over the years, in Stratherrick the most noted Gaelic bard was Angus Cameron (Aonghas Ban) who lived at Seanval (Oldtown), whilst his Strathnairn  counterpart was William Mackenzie "Leys Baird" though born in Culduthel spent a large part of his life in Dunlichity eventually being schoolmaster at Leys. Story  has it, that when  Angus Cameron had to face a criminal charge against him at the Barony court at Stratherrick , he composed a poem flattering the presiding judge and so walked out a free man . Some of both Angus and William's poem's are recorded in the Gaelic transactions of Inverness .

A poet of more modern times  was the Hill Shepherd, one of his poems is dedicated to Hugh Goldie, blacksmith at Bunchegovie featured in Stratherrick 1909 heroes index .

The Deserted Smithy by the Hill Shepherd

I never cross the Gourag now and climb the brae beyond,

without a sense of sadness now for the smith is not around,

His cottage sheltered by the trees is still snug and trim,

But the Smithy door is fastened, and I miss the sight of him.

I miss his friendly greeting as his blue eyes scan the sky 

"It's clear on Ben-a -vrachie and a day for smallish fly

A Palmer on your dropper perhaps a zulu on the bob,

A Bloody Butcher for the tail and that should do the job." 

And with a smiling " Well ! tight Lines ! " he'd briskly turn away ,

And the music from his anvil would cheer me on my way.

Of an evening we'd foregather on the bridge above the burn,

To The Gourag's murmuring 'neath us , we'd smoke and spin a yarn,

And often drop the mantle of the many years between,

When we were drilled and jingled spurs as Soldiers of the Queen.

We'd exchange our angling stories -and some were rather tall,

And as the gloaming deepened tales of fairies we'd recall,

For despite the trials and stresses which life's journey can impart,

We had common ground to tread on, in that we were young at heart.

But--"Boot and Saddle" sounded, and the Smith rode on before,

And I miss his kindly presence when I pass the Smithy door.

 

Fairyburn   By the Hill Shepherd

 

When on my way through Fairyburn I met a little maid,

(a lonely road where silver birch cling fast to lofty craig),

Her jet black curls were tousled her pinafore was torn .

Red - wealed her sunburnt arm's and legs, by multidentate thorn

of tangled sweetbriar thickets growing deep within the dell

where runs a tiny wimpling burn on whose banks elfins dwell  

Tight held on slender hand she bore a shining brimful pail

of glistening clean picked brambles - and the berries told a tale ,

that hours of patient industry instead of carefree play,

had first choice with the little maid this sunny Autumn day

I stopped  - and leaning on my crook spoke to the tired wee lass

"That's easily the finest crop I've seen since Michaelmas,

Have you been picking all alone? " Here soft brown eyes sought mine.

" Oh ! Yes! "she answered quietly . " And please ,sir . What's the time? "

"It's very near to five o' clock ." I told the little maid .

"Now tell me. Brambling here alone, did you not feel afraid ? "

She smiled ."Afraid  In Fairyburn " Why !  There is  naught to fear ,

There's always lots of company. there's birds -and whiles, roedeer." 

                    .        .    .    .    .    .    .    .    

Reproved by childish innocence , I pondered on my way,

A Lesson learned that's simple faith is staff for every day 

Life's troubles meet as Fairyburn and never be afraid,

There's ever kindly company - as found the little maid . 

 


 

 

Duncan "Birch" MacDonald captain of the 1912-13 Foyers Shinty Club, Strathdearn Cup winning team as well as being a fine piper was a local poet of note, his poems sometimes nostalgic often had a satirical theme, we include a couple of his odes. 

 

Burial of Foyers Shinty Club 

I strolled along the country road,

and viewed the scenery so gay,

I gazed enraptured on the scene,

As I sauntered up the bungalow brae.

 

Soon my thoughts were turned aside, 

From all the beauty I could see, 

For on the road not far away, 

A funeral was approaching me.

 

I stood aside and bared my head,

In honour of the passing dead,

But when the sacred coach drew nigh,

No human form could I espy.

 

Alias all huddled in a heap, 

All battle scared with many a chip,

Saw twisted clubs without a shroud,

Behind them walked the mourning crowd.

 

I turned around, retraced my steps,

My happy thoughts were now reversed,

It smote my heart with heavy grief,

To see the Foyers Club in a hearse.

 

And when we reached the hallowed ground,

Where young and old began to pray,

A voice inside the sacred coach,

In awesome tones to me did say.

 

Good old "Hasbeens"  we know you yet,

And we will never leave you so,

Although our bodies they entomb,

They cannot put our souls below.

 

Good old "Hasbeens"if you could last,

This sorry fate was never ours, 

You kept us swinging on the field, 

You never let us nourish flowers.

 

In Victory after Victory,

Hoe the "Hasbeens" did us wield,

Before the present youngsters grew,

When their sires were on the field.

 

How with the "Hasbeens" we have fought,

And conquered foes so fierce and stern,

How we the Hussy cup brought back,

And wrenched another from Strathdearn

 

That day you knew no wintergreen,

or embrocation on your skin,

A week old whisker on your chin was more in your line,

Than flowing locks coiled round your scalps in brilliatine.

 

No more we'll swing upon the field, 

With vigour and Perfection, 

For the shinty spirit passed away,

with no signs of resurrection.

 

And when the day of Union comes,

We'll meet you in the evergreens,

and think upon the happy days, 

When we were "Nows" and not "Hasbeens"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Foyers Fishermen (to the air The Ross-shire Rifles)

 

Saw ye the Foyers Fishers,

Saw ye them going away,

Saw ye the Foyers fishers,

Pulling out across the bay

 

Some of them go to the Camus,

Some of them to Primrose Bay,

Others go to quench their thirst,

Before they start their fishing day.

 

They caught some monstrous salmon

Played for hours  and broke the line,

But the only fish they ever lost,

Was the fish they had at breakfast time.

 

Some fishermen are clever fellows,

They can make dead salmon grow,

That sounds just like a fairytale,

And this is how I came to know.

 

Some of them have seven pounders,

When they land upon the shore,

But before the club at night is closed,

The seven grow to twenty four.

 

Even then they keep on growing,

Just as if they were alive,

When the grog is fully brewing,

The twenty grow to thirty five.

Screw tops make them grow by ounces,

Doubles make them grow by pounds,

Mix them up inside the fishers,

Then their weights gets out of bounds.

 

Bobby gets the thirty fivers,

Kenneth gets them big and small,

Paddy gets the forty pounders,

Roy and Stewart get sweet dash all.

 

They can tell some thrilling tales,

Of how they fought the raging seas,

How they netted forty pounders,

Pulling hard against the breeze.

 

They have many fearful stories,

Great adventures to relate,

Greater than the Battle cruiser,

Scuttled on the River Plate.

 

What about the ablemen,

Who make up the fishing crew?,

They never bounce about their fish,

Just add an honest pound or two.

 

But most of us non expert fishers,

Though yet to catch a fish or two,

We will over add the poundage,

I am guilty, so are you.

 


 

Undoubtedly the best  traditional poet of more recent times was Jock Mackay. Jock was a great supporter and follower of the local shinty teams, though he did play for the Macs against the Crops in Leddingham cup games, I don't think he actually played for the team in competitive games against other clubs. Jocks other great sporting passion was fishing and in February 1980 managed to take from Loch Ness, a monster fish (Salmon) of thirty three pounds, whilst fishing alone as his companion did not think that the days fishing would bear any fruit.  The three poems below are from Jock's pen, The Anglers Farewell was his own epitaph .

Stratherrick  Bound

T'was in the club one winter’s evening

There we quaffed the foaming beer

When suddenly a pal appearing

Told us tidings of good cheer

 

Come, said he, through stormy weather

To this place upon the height

And happy we will be together

Dancing we are going tonight

 

Then up spoke one of our number

Come, said he, let us prepare

And long this night you shall remember

If to follow me you dare

 

So we sat down round a table

Calling for another round

The motion passed that we were able

Soon we’d be Stratherrick bound

 

With many a beaker of the foaming

Did we drink the night’s wild health

And starting forth in the gloaming

What cared we for the miser’s wealth

 

For this night we’d long remember

But what of him who ne’er recalls

When life's fire is but an ember

Cheerie nights and cheerie pal's

 

But I’m from my tale digressing

As we started on the road

Where at speed we were progressing

Burdened with a heavy load

 

Yes, a load of noisy bottles

Had we with us one and all

Nectar for our thirsty throttles

Fuel for the coming Ball.

As we neared our destination

Strains of music met our ear

Where we wondered in creation

Can we plonk our bottles here

 

On our left MacMillan’s garden

Soon does meet our wandering eye

And well we know that us he’ll pardon

If here we let our bottles lie

 

Then on through the open doorway

Where we join the happy band

Well know what one and all say

Here they come and all well canned.

 

But caring not for idle chatter

We made merry in the hall

And on many toes we clatter

As we danced them one and all

 

But I will spare you sordid details

Wild uncouth perhaps they were

And as the alcoholic fire pales

Would that I was never there.

 

But we gathered e’er we parted

To perform the night’s wild rites

And as the last good drink departed

We spoke up as on other nights

 

“In this world of tears and laughter

We have learnt one piece of lore:

We’d rather have a morning after

Than never have a night before

 

 

Bonnie Loch Ness Shore

An early blackbird blithely sings

Its sweet and bright refrain

A distant curlew’s echo brings

The hint of promised rain

Across Dundeardail rocky steep

The morning sunbeams pour

See Foyers awaken from her sleep

By bonnie Loch Ness shore

 

Each mossy bank is splashed with gold

Where bright-eyed primrose grow

A million bursting buds unfold

As soft spring breezes blow

Above the Uchdach’s feathered crest

Two hunting buzzards soar

Oh, Foyers by beauty truly blessed

On bonnie Loch Ness shore

 

I oft in boyhood summer strolled

By Fechlin’s wooded side

And listened while the thrush extolled

The virtues of his bride

The speckled trout, I often fished

Where sparkling waters pour

Nor for another land, I wished

By bonnie Loch Ness shore

Beneath the autumn’s mellow moon

In scented Dalreach’s shade

The shadowed path was aye a boon

To every courting blade

A loving arm, a slender waist,

What man might wish for more

Life’s nectar from sweet lips to taste

By bonnie Loch Ness shore

 

Now winter snows have hid each scar

Upon the Meall’s high crest

And arrowed to the southern star

The winged geese have pressed

No old friends left to greet me there

In bleak and cold Glen Mhor

Where empty windows, sightless stare

O’er lonely Loch Ness shore.

 

The Anglers Farewell

With the pipers sound,

You'll wrap me round,

And my ash to the wildflowers gave,

No need for a tear,

Or a marker here,

To line out an old pal's grave.

 

 It's farewell my friends, 

Here nature tends,

The garden in which I lie,

And the wild bird sings,

While the green grass springs,

As the browsing deer pass by.

 

If you've time to bide, 

just sit by my side, 

partake of the golden dram,

And talk of the days, 

And amusing affrays,

When youth was a mellow dwam.

so drum up there,

There's wood to spare,

And a sandwich in the poke,

And tell of the lore,

Of my Loch Ness shore,

In the tang of the drifting smoke.

 

Remember old times,

And the wee bit rhymes,

Let old father time sneak bye,

Though the healer of grief,

he's a been a thief,

And your yarn is so good forby .

 

Still the sun declines ,

So run out the lines,

You're home on a fishing shore,

And ere twilight fails, 

You'll have silver scales,

To brighten our old pub floor.

 

 


 

The following poem by a writer who wishes  to remain anonymous, laments the end of the Foyers Social Club   ( formally the British Aluminium Social  Club) in 1991. Some say its closure marked the end of Foyers as a vibrant community .

The Foyers Club

You brought me from the depths of Hell,

My soul you saved, you served me well,

I won't forget the times we shared,

I know you felt my deep despair.

 

There's many nights I can recall,

Those happy times within your walls,

The joys we shared (the sorrows too),

You kept me strong and pulled me through.

 

I know at times we merely `used' you,

We even cursed you and abused you,

We didn't mean to seal your fate,

We miss you now that its too late.

We couldn't save you though we tried,

We fought for you and tears we cried,

We promised that we'd rally round,

I'm sorry that we let you down.

 

With rage and blame we saw you go,

With bitter words, we sunk so low,

We dug your grave - laid you to rest,

Perhaps it turned out for the best?

 

And though some things are meant to be,

A part of you lives on in me,

I won't decry you - never would,

I won't forget you - never could.

 


 

 The following poem comes from the pen of Ian MacNaughton, a Foyers man now back staying in Inverness after working abroad and England for a few years. Ian here reminisces of old schooldays at Foyers, I am sure his contemporaries will empathize with Ian's observations. We have had a couple of requests to include Ian in the Odes & Airs page and were pleased to oblige.

FOYERS JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL (in the 50’s)

High above the church tower stands a domicile, that fills my heart with pride,

 Where once so many children’s voices filled the highland fresh spring air,

Where the play-ground was steeply angled, and games were twenty two a side,

Where we learned our multiplication tables, aye pleased am I, that I was there.

 

Children came from Glenlia abiding the factory houses sparse and damp,

Some walked from Inverfarigaig, or luckily,-  got a hurl  in Ken Ross’s van,

Some from up the pass at Torduncan, where stood a lonesome Forestry camp,

Yes it surely was dear old Foyers School, that turned a country boy into a man.

 

There was Mrs Fraser from Drumtemple , she educated  the whole of  Primary  one,

Stern Mrs Brown from Park Terrace, whole two tongued belt was feared by most,

In the final room “Pop” MacPhee, headmaster who liked his garden well done,

And pupils fulfilled chopping kindler duties, so he could make his morning toast.

 

Surrounding pine woods and rhoddies, were the adventure areas we played,

At the short and long intervals, as cowboys and Indians at war’s aggression,

Mrs Brown at the classroom door belt awaiting, if ever any time we strayed,

And missed Pop’s hand bell ringing, recalling us to another educating lesson.

 

Canteen dinners were for most, loving cooked by the Missus MacLeod and Munro,

Soups, roast beef and veg, dumplings round, so full of vitamins of the best.

Fish every Friday, with second helpings aplenty of that dreaded custard and sago,

I know well from whence stemmed such verdure, that sprouted upon my chest.

 

No girl was fashion conscious, dark elasticised knickers and ankle length in gown,

For the boy’s gym shoes and baseball boots, though tackets clad the farm lad’s feet,

Each year we graced the Factory field, as the “Strathucs” would come winding down,

All atop kind Alister Chisholm’s lorry, at sports their intention, “Foyerucs” to soundly beat.

 

There were games for everyone, and the best players always picked the sides,

For Shinty or  for football, I  was often  last  in  that  so  unheralded  chosen  line,

In Spring,” Knifie” and Marbles, in winter snow we would polish up the slides,

“Kick the can” and Rounders in Summer days -, oh  these cherished days of auld land syne!

 

There were the  fondest of all  nicknames for everyone, that never ever will be defaced,

Joober, Toots, Smudger, Gars, Dev and Wishaw, and many others by   the score,

Future fine Shinty and football stars, that school slope, their paraded presence graced,

I ‘m so grateful  that I  was there,  holding  friends  still  from  plus  fifty  years and  more.

 


If anyone knows of any other odes by local poets that would merit inclusion here, please  send an E Mail and submission will come under consideration .  It is the intention of the family of the late Jock Mackay, to gather all his poems together, with a view to publishing them in a book in the future.  So anyone has copies of any  poem's of Jock's, could they  send an E Mail and we will forward the details to Jock's family, who will get in contact with you .

 

 

 


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