The first lecture of this year’s Spioradalachd nam Bard (Spirituality of the Bards) was held on Thursday 2 August at Laxdale Hall, Stornoway.
Rev Prof Donald MacLeod, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology, gave what members of the large audience felt was a very personal and moving bilingual lecture entitled Bardachd mo Mhathair about his late mother, Alice MacLeod’s poetry.
Professor MacLeod placed his mother’s poetry into context, sharing his perspective on the reformed, experiential Christian spirituality which underpinned her work. He also highlighted the loving, essential and sacrificial role that women occupied within the Isle of Lewis during the early 20th Century and how it played a part in his mother’s poetry.
As Mrs Macleod wrote, lamenting the death of her son, Angus, at a young age:
Chan fhaic sinn aig an am sin
Gur e iasaid dhiubh a th`ann
’San làmh thug dhuinn gu trocaireach
Gur ì làmh sin tha toirt bh’uainn.
We do not see at the time
That he was a loan to us
The Hand that gave to us so mercifully
That this is the Hand that also takes away from us.
A powerful acceptance of God’s will, reminiscent of Job’s words upon losing his family, ‘The Lord has given the Lord has taken away blessed be the name of the Lord’, Job 1:29
During the evening a lament to ‘Dollan Late’ (Donald MacDonald), Garrabost in Lewis, and to Angus - Mrs MacLeod’s son - were beautifully sung, unaccompanied in Gaelic.
Professor Rob Dunbar, Chair of Celtic Languages, Literature, History and Antiquities at Edinburgh University, who was present at the lecture commented:
“I was delighted to be able to attend Professor MacLeod's lecture, which provided not only a detailed account of his mother's spiritual verse and the nature and importance of spiritual verse more generally, but also a deeply personal and highly moving reflection on her life's joys and challenges, and that of the wider communities of which she was a part.
“It was wonderful that a couple of the pieces were sung beautifully for us.
“Spiritual verse is a very important part of our Gaelic heritage and continues to play an important role in the lives of many Gaels, and this lecture series provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on and partake in this part of our heritage.”
The Spioradalachd nam Bard lecture series was launched in 2010 using seedcorn funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar out of a project started in Uig Church of Scotland on Lewis.
The ecumenical project aims to access, present and promote the rich spirituality contained within past and present works of Christian Bards and Bardesses.
These lectures by academics, well-informed laypersons and living poets are delivered in both Gaelic and English.