8 IX 1773
9 VIII 2013


The singing oarsmen bladed the voyagers across to Raasay, a 4-hour crossing. As they approached the pier at Clachan, the chorus overlapped with a faster rhythm. The harvesters in the fields around Raasay House came into view and earshot, timing the modulations of their labour to a reaping song. Soon Lady Raasay will take the travellers to see the “wawking” of cloth, at which the women sing in a “loud and wild yowl”.

harvest-songs hone
the strokes of the sickle

waulking-songs amplify
the girth of the cloth

rowing-songs modulate
the slow stroke of the oars

masons-songs raise-up
the castle walls

war-songs bring a glint
to the spear-point

quern-songs turn, turn,
the turning stone

laments keen the scattering
of earth echoing on the coffin

This year’s harvest was not long over when the ferry, renamed Castor & Pollux for the day, landed us near the same spot. “Ferry, ‘cross to Raasay, for this isle’s the one I love”.


Wilma Paterson (ed.) & Alasdair Gray (illus.), The Songs of Scotland (1996)