RONAN MARTIN - The Coigach & Assynt Collection
Coigach (Population circa 260) and Assynt (circa 1000), two parishes of Easter Ross and South-East Sutherland, punch well above their weight in the songs, stories, poems, oral history, photographs and lore published in this well-produced ring-bound volume printed on expensive glossy paper. As Mairi Anna NicUalraig writes in her introduction: “In a part of the world where Gaelic clings to the very rocks by her fingertips, her life in danger, this collection of music, songs and stories is a priceless thing.”
The 15 or so Gaelic songs are given with the words, the notation of their tunes and their English translation, and three songs are written in English. The themes of the songs are dominated by sea-going and fishing, an appreciation of the rugged beauty of their land, but in Óran Bad An Tarbairt and Fuadch Bháile Bhiáir there remains a harsh anger of the time of the Clearances.
The book ends with 25 tunes which are aimed at pipers and accordionists: attractive dance tunes with a good range of difficulty.
The middle section shows us lots of lovely archive photos with associated oral history, again with themes of the sea and fishing, crofting and the land, music making along with the summer visits by the Traveller folk and, inevitably, emigration.
This book deserves a place in every household in these communities and should have an appeal far beyond it.
This review appeared in Issue 144 of The Living Tradition magazine