Bàird Ghàidhlig na Ceapaich Gaelic Bards of Keppoch

About ‘Là Sliabh an t-Siorraim’, ‘The Battle of Sheriffmuir’

This song is composed from a clan and Jacobite perspective and in it the poet is praising the Clan Donald for their support for, and actions during, the Jacobite Rising of 1715 led by the Earl of Mar. Although the song has been ascribed to Sìleas na Ceapaich (c.1660-1729), the second and third stanzas strongly suggest that it was composed by someone who had taken part in the actual battle of Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane, on Sunday, November 13, 1715.

It is a highly charged political cry that outlines the course of the battle and sings the praises of the leading chiefs and aristocrats. At the end of the song the poet laments the failure of the Gaels, but assures them that they will fulfil the long-standing prophecy of Thomas the Rhymer, that the Gaels would emerge triumphant.

Another song, this one certainly by Sìleas na Ceapaich, similarly laments the failure of the Rising but takes heart in the same prophecy:

Dar a ruigeas sibh Lunnainn nan cleòc, ’S a bheir sibh an fhàistinneachd beò, Bidh tomhas an t-sìoda Le ’r boghannan rìomhach Air an drochaid, ’s na mìltean fo ’r sgòd.

When you reach London of the cloaks, And see the prophecy fulfilled, A measure of silk Wil adorn your elegant bodies On the bridge, with thousands at your command.

In spite of this optimistic note however, neither poet is blind to the political machinations which were to blame for the failure of the Rising, and they both castigate the Marquis of Huntly who, they tell us, fled the battle.