2007 - 2021


941007_10153528109948300_6307407919988318722_nThe Isle of Rum’s name comes from the Gaelic ‘Rùn’ meaning secret, mystery, love or desire.

‘Ma theid duine a-steach do lathair Rùin
Bidh a h-uile càil air a chall ‘s a bhuidhinn’

Rùn, Root of Wonder
letting the deer out in the morning
while still they sleep in Kinloch
dreamfishing like shearwater
remembering  themselves

Two vessels sailed from Ceann Loch in eighteen twenty six
Bound for Nova Scotia with two hundred-odd Rùmaich
Banished from the island by Dr Lachlan Maclean
Appointed by their clan chief, the purpose of his reign
To replace the existing townships with eight thousand Blackface sheep
‘It was distressing to hear,’ he claimed,’ the women and children weep.’
But the mutton market collapse brought the final evacuation
That ended nine thousand years of near continuous occupation
Is beannaicht’ ar sinnsearachd uasal

We said farewell to our brothers
Warrior wounds in underground tombs
Beacons of hope on fatherless steppe
Kurgan kings riding replete, a feast of horsemeat
Gateway to the Garden
Long since looted for schastiye gold
The Scythian heartbeat cannot be sold
It cannot be silenced, even in defeat
The snake goddess rebirths, the journey unfolds

Rùn is the fabled Forbidden Isle, graveyard of gentleman and saint
Culdee-sac of Stygian exile and priapic Edwardian torment
Rùn is doing deep time in the revelation of the rocks
sixteen sublime pulses,  Ceridwen’s caldera uncorks
Rùn is the interglacial G-spot, the topography of desire
erogenous orogeny, the passion play of phylogeny
the dreamtime of MacTire, the slaughter of Finn’s progeny

Rùn is ex occidente pax, antler pick or bloodstone ax
solan noose or wicker trap, Bride’s apples fell into our lap
Rùn is the sacred soma that sleeps in Maternity Hollow
quickens the newborn breath, erupts like a rutting stag bellow
Rùn is the bond between root hair and mycorrhiza
That venerates her Holy Name in the Garden of Genizah
Rùn is the mystery of the meristem, the Pure Land of the Heart
The natural law of the native loon, that sly, leaf-eyed upstart
Rùn is the mountain fastness of the red throated diver’s call
A Phoenician avatar fathoming the Hebridean soul
Rùn is the path of the shearwater, forever wandering, always at home
The unvisionable, unfathomable ocean of unlimited love an devotion

The ecstasy of this harvest of Hebridean light,
The mystery of the meristem, the desire of the tides
Are laid down in my bones, the secrets of the moon
The sun and stars conspire in me
This ever-ripening Rùn

The sun and stars conjoin in me, evolve in me, confide in me, convolve in me, reside in me, resolve in me
Yer hame.
‘s beannaicht’ ar dachaidh uasal

Rùn is darsana, the architecture of the pine
I planted twenty years before, her whorls bless me each time
I count upon her enchantment as I count upon her stem
Who was that uncut youth back then? What is this stranger gem?

Rùn is the extravagant silence we encounter in these islands
Grinding the heart’s unfocused lens, deadheading Homo Impatiens
Rùn is the deerhounds rough bounds, twenty pennylands of frith, stoking the MacRuaraidh’s bloodlust for a sodden Gall-Ghaidheal horoyally
Rùn is a fountain of hind milk on the margins of prediction
Exclose the deer,  sweet herbs disappear, pleading cervine intervention
Rùn is a deep swell of kindness of man, deer, midge and spoot
That probes your fences, confuses your census
What kittles my stock meats her sea meadow roots
Rùn is synderesis, the sun-eyed eagle rejoices
Above this croftless kingdom, full of tongueless voices

Rum is a deep ethnic cleansing
A post-Culloden bleeding frenzy
That reverted to her role as a mountain retreat
Where the wildlife could be pursued by a bestial elite
Have mercy

Free me from barbarity, bless me with your switch
Birth me in your ecstasy, brand me like your bitch
Crave me in your heresy, adore me in your snare
Condemn me in your potency, bind me with a prayer
Avenge thee my ethnicity or thole me now unmanned
To witness thee, thy leprous spree, lover of the damned
Desecrate my purity, slake me in my grief
Come to me in miracles, in the sinblack night, like a thief

Rum is an abandoned burlesque, a foosty vignette
a pre-war costume cameo
Now log on ‘Friends of Rum and help raise the funds
to revamp old Bullough’s bagnio
Rum is a rifle’s crosshairs, a garland of prayers
Forty luchd-muinntir fleet of flower in Flanders flinty care

I first met Angus years ago, the last real Rumach alive – he claimed
He’d carved his legend by the Hearadh road – AD 55
Well he didn’t die in the end in institutional care
But fell, na fhìor Ghaidheal, bottle in hand, dead drunk down the stairs
 Is beannaicht’ ar sinnsearachd uasal

As Rùn is my compass, I shall not walk
in the valley of Diobadail but that she guide me safely.
No darkness shall I fear
A candle-lit window guides my way
Surely goodness and kindness shall indwell her House forever

Thathar ag radh gun robh an Gaidheal air a bheannachadh le canain bhrèagha ‘s
ceòl iongantach ‘s eachdraidh ghlòrmhor
Agus gun caill an saoghal rudeigin luachmhor
nuair a chaochaileas e (mu dheireadh thall)
‘s beannaicht’ an siubhal de a spiorad mhì-fhoisneach

I arise today from All Souls’ Head, Light of Sun, Radiance of Moon
And refresh myself in Loch Sgathaig, Diamond Heart, Holy Triune
I release myself from Dornabac, wingless flight, kindred track
And restore my faith in the zodiac, dervish stars ripening Rùn

I carry our kings, I carry our wounds
Our lodestone offspring, they carry my tombs
From the script of scars to the crypt of stars
The relicts exhumed: Our Sweet Lady of Rùn

Feeling hundreds in us in the same sac  pulsing through me, the birth canal
Like ashkeys dropping yggdrasil into the cathedral of my heart

I need you all
Tha feum agam oirbh uile
A h-uile pios beag
Ge b’e cho mor sa tha am briseadh-cridhe
Every little, least, heartbroken, pissed-on, bombed-out, blind, cursed or maimed piece of you
I need you. All of you.
Have mercy

Comments (27)

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  1. Roderick MacLeod says:

    “The Isle of Rum’s name comes from the Gaelic ‘Rùn’ meaning secret, mystery, love or desire.”

    Who says? Hebridean island names are old, poorly documented and notoriously difficult to pin down.

    1. Kevin Murphy says:

      It’s a poem, Roderick, a flight of fancy, if you like. I hope you read past the first line.

      1. Roderick MacLeod says:

        Of course we are uncritical about “post facts”, like whether Jesus visited actually England’s “mountains green”, when appreciating great poetry like Blake’s.

        Until Kevin Murphy pens a Scottish “Jerusalem”, it is difficult to ignore the cod philology.

        1. Kevin Murphy says:

          ‘ Until Kevin Murphy pens a Scottish “Jerusalem”, it is difficult to ignore the cod philology.’

          Roderick MacLeod, what’s ‘cod philology ‘ got to do with the price of fish?

  2. Crubag says:

    Consensus seems to be it’s either pre-Celtic, i.e. unknown or Norse, meaning wide island.

    It’s actually been part of a community buy-out, albeit led by the current and past employees of Scottish Natural Heritage who live there now.

  3. Crìsdean Mac Fhearghais says:

    why on earth do you put things in Gaelic with no translation – like the saying you have at the beginning:

    ‘Ma theid duine a-steach do lathair Rùin
    Bidh a h-uile càil air a chall ‘s a bhuidhinn’

    To me this translates as something like

    “if someone goes out to the the secret place (or place of love)
    Every desire that has been lost will be won”

    Or something like that (it is always difficult translating things – esp things like this which is a play on words – but an effort should be made!). Not translating something written in another language where the audience may not all understand is a) lazy b) trying to look smart c) actually being ignorant of the language and trying to pretend you underestand it.

    Gaelic is the heritage of all Scots, whether they speak it or not, but many want to learn – so at least give a translation and don’t make it obscure and unavailable to people – that is equally taking the language out off the mouth of the people!

    And I agree with Roderick MacLeod above, who says that the meaning of the place name “run” comes from “rùn”??? I have never heard that before

    1. Kevin Murphy says:

      As I said to Roderick, this is my definition of ‘Rum’ based on my experience. ‘Run’ was the result of my journey:. my use of language attempts to convey the vastness of the feelings a small island can conjure up. I use Gaelic as a tribute to the Gaels I knew there who are gone now. It is not necessary to understand it to grasp what I felt about them. I debated with myself about including a translation but thought better of it. Sorry.
      I hope you got past the first few lines, Crisdean 😉

      1. K. A. Mylchreest says:

        Nam bitheadh sibhse airson bardachd a dhèanamh ´sa Ghàidhlig, réiste dèanaibh e, ma ´s urrainn dhuibh. But sticking a few words of G. in an English text, unless they are well known and likely to be understood, is rather pointless. No doubt you were trying to create a feeling of ¨Celtic myst and mystery¨ or the ¨Otherworldlyness of the Gael¨. Forgetting maybe that these were and are very real people who have to live in an often all-too-real world? Or worse still maybe, simply seeking to exploit their legacy?

        1. Kevin Murphy says:

          I used to write a bit of bardachd Mr Mylchreest but your invitation to do so was tainted somewhat by your specious imputation regarding my use of Gaelic. I was inspired by the Gaels I met on Rum 30 years ago by which time I had already been learning the language. I am no stranger to the Gaelic language or culture but am often bemused by some of its advocates who suspiciously regard anyone who dares to use their beloved tongue and then bemoan the fact that most of Scotland doesn’t share their enthusiasm. Surely there couldn’t be a connection?

        2. K.A. – it’s a poem, it’s meant to be evocative not literal. It was offered to me in various language forms, and I chose this one, so any blame lies with me. But it’s worth reminding yourself, it’s a poem, enjoy it for what it’s worth.

    2. Fionnghal says:

      ‘why on earth do you put things in Gaelic with no translation – like the saying you have at the beginning: ……. Gaelic is the heritage of all Scots, whether they speak it or not, but many want to learn – so at least give a translation and don’t make it obscure and unavailable to people – that is equally taking the language out off the mouth of the people!’

      This is a Gaelic page, Crìsdean – it is supposed to be entirely in Gaelic – for those of us who can read and appreciate the language. For those who can’t, there are heaps more articles in this publication alone which give a flavour of our culture. There are very few spaces for us to enjoy the language without having to to be faced by constant bilingual columns, as if our language is never quite good enough to stand up for itself. We don’t ask English writers to automatically translate into other languages. And if it is poetry that is of particular interest, there are many bilingual books out there.
      If non-Gaelic speakers want to read Gaelic, well, there are lots of ways open to them: online facilities, books & tapes, night school, college and university courses without spoiling the pleasure we get from reading an interesting article in Gaelic. Learn it!
      My sympathy to those born to Gaeldom but denied the opportunity in their youth to learn to read and write the language, however, it’s never too late to put that right. They too can learn it!
      I appreciate that the editor had reasons for posting this English version. I look forward to our next Gaelic posts and hope there will be more than have appeared recently

      le meas

      1. Crìsdean Mac Fhearghais says:

        I will English here,rather than Gaelic, because it seems that there are a lot of English speakers on here who do not probably understand any or much Gaelic – and it would be unfair to exclude them from what is being said about this issue.

        You said “this is a Gaelic page” – I’m sorry – when the post appeared in my mail box it was the piece on the “meaning” of the name the isle of Rum’s name by Kevin Murphy which was almost completely in English with a few phrases, saying etc in Gaelic with no translation. Then there were comments in English about his article – mostly questioning his reasoning. So for a “Gaelic page” I have seen very little actual Gaelic. It has to be presumed that if Kevin Murphy is writing his piece in English with the odd bit of Gaelic (untranslated) in, then he means it for an English speaking audience. If it had all been in Gaelic then I’d presume that he intended for an entirely Gaelic speaking audience – and thus there would be no problem with there being no translation, but it was in English and there was NO translation! So if it is a Gaelic page then is should be enforced as a Gaelic page – if it is addressed to English speakers to, then if you put beul-cainnt (sayings) etc in – then give some sort of a translation – esp if you are using it as some form of a support for your argument -as done here for the spurious supposition that “rum” comes from “rùn”!

        Abair amaideas! (what foolishness!)


        1. It was published as Poetry, our Gaelic pages are deliberately almost entirely in Gaelic here:


  4. K. A. Mylchreest says:

    ¨Thathar ag radh gun robh an Gaidheal air a bheannachadh le canain bhrèagha ‘s
    ceòl iongantach ‘s eachdraidh ghlòrmhor
    Agus gun caill an saoghal rudeigin luachmhor
    nuair a chaochaileas e (mu dheireadh thall)
    ‘s beannaicht’ an siubhal de a spiorad mhì-fhoisneach¨

    Translation :
    You could say that the Gael had been blessed with a beautiful language, wonderful music and a glorious history / But that he´ll lose the world, something very valuable, when he finally passes away, and blessed is the journey of his unquiet spirit.

    Whatever that´s supposed to mean?

    1. Kevin Murphy says:

      You will understand it when you translate it correctly

      1. K. A. Mylchreest says:

        A charaid, rinn mi mo dhìcheall, chan urrainn dhomh nas fhèarr 🙂

        Please assist me, not to mention those here without any Gaelic, by providing the correct interpretation, as far as this may be possible, of course.

        1. Kevin Murphy says:

          In point of fact, your interpretation is more relevant than any sentiment I was trying to convey. Sorry for being so haughty. I am oversensitive to Gaelic purism

          1. K. A. Mylchreest says:

            ´Se ur beatha — no apology needed. I, and no doubt others here, would however be interested if you´d explain a little further where you´re coming from. What exactly are you trying to express in the poem, what do you mean by ¨Gaelic purism¨ and what if anything is the relationship between the two. Le meas …

    2. K. A. Mylchreest says:

      [BC Editor : No edit facility here! Please correct for me]

      I made an error in my translation; ¨… But that he´ll lose the world, something very valuable …¨ should read ¨… But the world will lose something very valuable …¨, which of course makes a lot more sense! Gabhaibh mo lethsgeul.

      1. Kevin Murphy says:

        I wrote this poem ten years ago when I was far more fluent in the Gaelic so I’m not entirely sure what I meant myself but I know the Gaelic in ‘Run’ is based on a Gaelic poem I wrote maybe twenty years ago. I could provide a link in due course if you like?

        1. K. A. Mylchreest says:

          Mas e bhur toil e 🙂

          1. Kevin Murphy says:

            Actually I have no link. I need to email or PM you. Are you on Facebook?

          2. Alasdair Maol-Chrìosd says:

            I´m afraid I don´t do FB or Twitter. Why not just post the poem here for us all to see, assuming it isn´t 90 pp long 🙂

  5. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Language is there to build bridges between us. I have no Gaelic to draw upon. My loss. But sometimes pedantry gets in the way of communication which surely is the purpose of all genres of language whether poetry or prose form. Thanks Kevin Murphy to this tribute to the people of that island who are a part of the rich tapestry of Scotland. I am not privy to the culture of the land of my birth (being one of those countless who emigrated) other than through this excellent site and the the rich inheritance of writers of poetry and prose both from the past and present who am discovering daily. Thankyou to everyone who participates here.

  6. Jim Bennett says:

    I find it difficult to fathom the rationale behind the negative comments on Kevin’s poem. Congratulations Kevin, a creative approach towards political/cultural thought is always very welcome to me. As for the dreary naysayers; perhaps you need to go back to locking up swings!

  7. MBC says:

    Well I like your poem very much Kevin, for me it is a lament, an elegy, of vast scope. I like very much the foreign mystical elements you bring into it, mixed with the Gaelic, like dervish or Scythian. To me it’s a journey, a wondering and a wandering at and through the vast complexity of culture that has been on Rhum in the time of human habitation. It reminds me of Sorley Maclean’s Woods of Raasey, where he says, ‘there is no knowledge of the crooked veerings of the heart, or of the way by which it finally loses its course’. Thank you.

    1. Kevin Murphy says:

      Thank you, MBC, your words honour me. Wondering/wandering. That’s it. 🙂

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