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TITLE
'Corrienessan' (1)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_BRIDGET_MACKENZIE_CORRIE_01
PLACENAME
Corrienessan
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
SUTHERLAND: Durness
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Bridget Mackenzie
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1266
KEYWORDS
audio
literary landscapes

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This audio extract is from Bridget Mackenzie's 'Piping Traditions of the North of Scotland', first published in 1998. The extract is read by Elizabeth Parker.

'Corrienessan, the Corrie of the Waterfalls, is a high hanging corrie on the south side of the broad strath known as the Corrienessan strath, due west of Gobernuisgach Lodge, in Strathmore, Sutherland.

A track leads west to the Bealach na Feithe, the Pass of the Stags, and from there down to the house called Lon, on Loch Stack. This track traverses the northern slope of the strath, and about halfway along the length of it, the path is opposite the mouth of the corrie. The corrie is some two to three hundred feet above the path, with a burn falling over its lip to form the waterfall. In wet weather there are several falls, hence the name Corrienessan.

This corrie was the scene of a great deer-hunt in the late 17th century, probably in 1694. The third Lord Reay, chief of MacKay, then a boy in his teens, was entertaining visitors ('the noblemen of Ireland'), and after the killing of the deer, a feast and an amusement were provided, apparently in the corrie itself. The Irish harpers played, and Ruairidh Morison, the blind harper formerly at Dunvegan, played and sang a song of his own composition.

A few years later, in the summer of 1697, Iain Dall MacKay, the blind piper of Gairloch, travelled up the strath, passing the mouth of Corrienessan. He made a remarkable Gaelic poem, 'Corrienessan's Lament', in which he described the journey, with sufficient detail to make it clear he had been there in person. He may have been drawing on childhood memories when he could see the landscape, but he must have returned in later life: he was in his forties when he composed this poem, and was walking with a guide. He mentioned that the path is halfway up the hillside, traversing the slope of the strath, and described the pillars of rock on one side of the corrie.

He personified the corrie in his poem, holding a conversation with it, possibly as an extension of an echo heard from the path. There is in Gaelic poetry a literary conceit involving dialogue with an echo, a device used successfully by Iain's friend, Blind Ruairidh, in a poem about the hall at Dunvegan, in the 1680s. In the Corrienessan poem, Iain extended the idea to create a dialogue, with no mention of an echo, but he was probably aware that his audience would know the background to the convention. (It is not possible to test for an echo now, as plantations of trees have changed the acoustics.)'

Bridget Mackenzie (nee Gordon) is of Scots-Canadian extraction. Born in England in 1933, she was educated at the universities of Oxford and Glasgow. Before her marriage to engineer (and piper) Alex Mackenzie, she was a lecturer in Old Norse at Glasgow University, but retired to bring up their two sons.

Now grandmother of five, she has lived in Sutherland for 25 years, writing books and articles on topics such as piping history and Highland place-names. After the publication of 'Piping Traditions of the North of Scotland' (1998), the Saltire Society presented her with an award for her contribution to Highland culture. A second volume, dealing with Argyll, appeared in 2004 and she is currently working on the piping traditions of the Western Isles.

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'Corrienessan' (1)

SUTHERLAND: Durness

2000s

audio; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: Bridget Mackenzie

This audio extract is from Bridget Mackenzie's 'Piping Traditions of the North of Scotland', first published in 1998. The extract is read by Elizabeth Parker.<br /> <br /> 'Corrienessan, the Corrie of the Waterfalls, is a high hanging corrie on the south side of the broad strath known as the Corrienessan strath, due west of Gobernuisgach Lodge, in Strathmore, Sutherland.<br /> <br /> A track leads west to the Bealach na Feithe, the Pass of the Stags, and from there down to the house called Lon, on Loch Stack. This track traverses the northern slope of the strath, and about halfway along the length of it, the path is opposite the mouth of the corrie. The corrie is some two to three hundred feet above the path, with a burn falling over its lip to form the waterfall. In wet weather there are several falls, hence the name Corrienessan.<br /> <br /> This corrie was the scene of a great deer-hunt in the late 17th century, probably in 1694. The third Lord Reay, chief of MacKay, then a boy in his teens, was entertaining visitors ('the noblemen of Ireland'), and after the killing of the deer, a feast and an amusement were provided, apparently in the corrie itself. The Irish harpers played, and Ruairidh Morison, the blind harper formerly at Dunvegan, played and sang a song of his own composition.<br /> <br /> A few years later, in the summer of 1697, Iain Dall MacKay, the blind piper of Gairloch, travelled up the strath, passing the mouth of Corrienessan. He made a remarkable Gaelic poem, 'Corrienessan's Lament', in which he described the journey, with sufficient detail to make it clear he had been there in person. He may have been drawing on childhood memories when he could see the landscape, but he must have returned in later life: he was in his forties when he composed this poem, and was walking with a guide. He mentioned that the path is halfway up the hillside, traversing the slope of the strath, and described the pillars of rock on one side of the corrie.<br /> <br /> He personified the corrie in his poem, holding a conversation with it, possibly as an extension of an echo heard from the path. There is in Gaelic poetry a literary conceit involving dialogue with an echo, a device used successfully by Iain's friend, Blind Ruairidh, in a poem about the hall at Dunvegan, in the 1680s. In the Corrienessan poem, Iain extended the idea to create a dialogue, with no mention of an echo, but he was probably aware that his audience would know the background to the convention. (It is not possible to test for an echo now, as plantations of trees have changed the acoustics.)'<br /> <br /> Bridget Mackenzie (nee Gordon) is of Scots-Canadian extraction. Born in England in 1933, she was educated at the universities of Oxford and Glasgow. Before her marriage to engineer (and piper) Alex Mackenzie, she was a lecturer in Old Norse at Glasgow University, but retired to bring up their two sons.<br /> <br /> Now grandmother of five, she has lived in Sutherland for 25 years, writing books and articles on topics such as piping history and Highland place-names. After the publication of 'Piping Traditions of the North of Scotland' (1998), the Saltire Society presented her with an award for her contribution to Highland culture. A second volume, dealing with Argyll, appeared in 2004 and she is currently working on the piping traditions of the Western Isles.