Tears of the Emigrant – Tongue of the Gael

Final Part of Lewis and Harris 2012


The Cutter

When you arrived in Canada you walked the streets

Out of work out of money, prospects bleak
Now the plane comes down from
the morning sky
and you touch the land where the fire won’t

Johnny, you’re home, man
It’s a long road
you drove us
It’s only a moment
Since the diesels turned

Now the blade cuts
clean through the island soil
The years roll back and the world grows
You stand on the banks in the wind and the rain
And all of your
money can’t hide this pain

Johnny, you’re home, man
It’s a long road

you drove us down
It’s only a moment
Since the diesels

The heath flame is burning bright
burning every night
winter in Ontario
The wheels that turned us village kids
Still carry
through the heaths
They no longer turn for you

So you hold your mother
and you bless the air
With the tears of the emigrant, tongue of the Gael
And the plane takes off in a clear blue sky
Life’s a long lost list of
last goodbyes

Johnny, you’re home, man
It’s a long road
you drove
us down
It’s only a moment
Since the diesels turned

I have loved the Scottish Celtic Group Runrig since seeing them live at the Edinburgh Playhouse on the second year as a student at Edinburgh Uni.  They were promoting their Searchlight Album and I was hooked not just by the music but also the lyrics and in particular the above song The Cutter.

At the time I was visiting Canada each summer and there was a part of me that had I met the right person or been given the right opportunity would seriously have thought of living there.  But one very important thing happened that changed that at this particular concert. I got the chance to meet another student and get to know him better.  Said student has now been my husband of 20 years!

So my non emigration to Canada had lots to do with falling in love but it also had something to do with my love of Scotland.  I have studied the clearances over the years and been at many locations where people were thrown off their land and forced to emigrate.  I feel for them so much and if I am honest admire the courage that they had to start again and make a new life in a country they had never visited knowing that they would never see their homeland again.  And as I thought about it in my early 20’s as much as Canada was attractive I was proud to live in a Scotland where I also could prosper and grow.   There are so many opportunities here and I resolved to make the most of them which I always have.

The Cutter remains a favourite Runrig song and the words always touch me particularly “Tears of the Emigrant, Tongue of the Gael.”  It was what made sense to me in Lewis.  A beautiful Island but one where many people had been forced to leave over the years.  Each abandoned croft, bus, rusty car and the landscape the peat, the moors and the beaches told stories.  For me it was an Island where stories come alive and an Island I would recommend you visit and let it tell you some of its stories.


About fionadranesblog

40 plus mum of two married with a mad cocker spaniel. Along with two colleagues run Bright Light Marketing a rural marketing agency who specialise in getting rural businesss noticed. www.brightlightmarketing.co.uk. Live in St Boswells in the wonderful Scottish Borders. Love books, walking and living life to the full here in the Scottish Borders though its sometimes a juggle!
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