All those yesterdays


So this is my latest pastel painting, begun early December and finished yesterday! (In all fairness our holiday and our house removal did get in the way a bit.) It is entitled, 'Badachro Bay' and will feature in this year's Pictures and Poems catalogue and next year's calendar.

To reach this viewpoint you drive the mostly single track along the south side of Gairloch. Just before you reach the village of Badachro you see a river bridge and sharp bend. Park there and walk the rough track down the river until you reach Badachro Bay.

Across the mouth of the little river the white building is, of course, the famous Badachro Inn, venue for many a raucous evening or quiet, drawn out lunch in front of the fire. When we came up on holiday it was our first port of call. Perm any four or five from ten locals, hear all the news and views about what's been happening in Badachro, Gairloch, Wester-Ross and the world at large. Marvellous, but I always used to say I never left the Badachro Inn without an incipient headache. Same whenever I left Dublin, mind.

Talking about headaches, our friends Rita and Affie lived in Badacho's 'Hillcrest'. Each of them departed for their better place many years ago. Rita was a true daughter of the Highlands; softly spoken, beautifully mannered, always meticulous with her silver tray soon after our knock on their door, on it a very respectable uisce beatha for myself and a glass of fine sherry for Dee. Affie wrote his epic poems in Gaelic and would recite the verses in that language and then in English. I recall thinking how much more music there was in the Gaelic. One poem in particular I well remember. The Cabair Feihd told of Affie's experience with the (I think) Cameron Highlanders at El Alamein. 'Cabhair feihd' translates to 'stag's antlers'; the badge of the Camerons.

I wrote The Badachro Gael in 1994. Here it is. Now I have to write a verse to accompany my painting. Maybe I'll use parts of this...

Still honing wit and word he sits there in the West
With she of ever-smiling look, of welcome great
For all who come, who climb to their Hill Crest
Where he plants light as others might, their wheat,
So deep impressed in minds that have the interest.

When loch-side broom's a fringe of yellow lace,
Through hardest nights of winter by the glowing fire,
His verse is of enchantment saved from modern rush;
His eyes have seen the glory and the funeral pyre
And still there's laughter in the old man's face.

As warming uisge beatha lifts the dying of the day
And sun grown cold has slipped below the Hebrides
So then it is the shot-through colours of the bay
For us his voice has turned to desert's dreary leas,
Returned to life who nobly wore the cabair feidh.

His words are golden gifts for us to hear, in thrall,
As through a mirror see reflections of a better time
As well to hear the ancient pitch of pibroch wail,
Each lift and fall an image of these hills sublime -
We learn the thrust and meaning of his epic tale.

The book foretells how sea, that ever needs to move,
Must grind all rock to mud, shall conquer all the land:
It may be then, that of us nought save this will live
In murmured chants of some aquatic faerie band -
The verse of man, the verse they did to Afleck give.


Bryan Islip
21 January 94

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