Brahan Seer

Strathpeffer, the Highland village where I live, was once the most northerly spa in Britain. In its hey-day famous folk like Florence Nightingale, Robert Louis Stevenson, and George Bernard Shaw came here to take the waters. A few years ago, in the Spa Gardens, five massive wooden sculptures appeared, seemingly overnight. They were inspired by local history and legends. When Dingwall Choral Society commissioned me to write a set of lyrics which would be set to music by Edinburgh composer Chris Hutchings, we agreed that they should be based on the Spa statues.

The themes of the five pieces are The Brahan Seer (in the picture to the left), Scathach the Warrior Queen of Skye, Pictish iconography, the legend of Knockfarrel Hill, and the Three Norns (lyrics below). Statue Songs will be premiered in the Spa Pavilion, Strathpeffer, on 7th December 2019.

The Song of the Three Sisters

 

Over the sea, in a land beyond borders
Deep in a valley stands a tall tree
Down in the roots, by a fathomless well
There we keep vigil, my sisters and me

 

All through night the sisters are weaving
Weaving while mortals snore in their beds
All through the night, shuttles are flying
The warp and the weft and the tying of threads

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You may be a lord with a lover clandestine
You may be a spy with secrets to sell
We knew your deceit before you conceived it
Me and my sisters who weave at the well

 

Courtesans, conquerors, shop girls and slaves
Warriors who fought, warriors who fell
Your stories are told in the burgeoning tapestry
Woven by sisters down at the well

 

All through night the sisters are weaving
Weaving while mortals snore in their beds
All through the night, shuttles are flying
The warp and the weft, and the tying of threads

 

What do we hear in the still of the evening?
Whispers of trysts, rumours of war
The rumbling of empires rising and falling
The roar of the powerful, the cries of the poor

 

What do we see when we look in the water?
Unions, betrayals, battles at sea
Promises kept and promises broken
All that once was, and all that will be

 

All through night the sisters are weaving
Weaving while mortals snore in their beds
All through the night, shuttles are flying
The warp and the weft, and the tying of threads

 

Come, if you dare, to the land beyond borders
Come to the valley deep in the glen
Come to the pool in the roots of the tree
Boldest of women, bravest of men

 

Boldest of men, bravest of women
This is the place where dreams are unfurled
Questions are answered before they are uttered
Here by the well at the end of the world

 

All through night the sisters are weaving
Weaving while mortals snore in their beds
All through the night, shuttles are flying
The warp and the weft, and the tying of threads

 

Bob Pegg