Fair Day in Bowmore

An interesting email was posted in the Islay mailing group about Bowmore Fair Day, and the email was followed by other interesting follow ups. What started off as a link to an image of a painting by William Heath ended with a most interesting link to a digital book from Thomas Pattison called The Gaelic Bards. The connection between the image and the poem is the fact that Thomas Pattison described the happenings at Bowmore Fair Day, the same fair day that inspired William Heath to create this beautiful painting. A larger version of the image is available from this link. The Rev. John George MacNeill's commentary regarding the poem by Thomas Pattison, not quoted in full, goes as follows:

A Fair Day: The Fair Day is Lammas Market held annually in Bowmore. Thitherward wend their way the rural belle, and the rustic beau. It was a benign providence that this lovely town was not a place of public resort for lads and lasses in the palmy days of good Mr. Hugh MacKay of Laggan. For then where stood the Ancient Pump, in his orthodox blue coat, presiding over the copious libations of his freestone trough, was a shaky piece of bogland covered with rank flags. Continue reading.....

The loving arms of Laggan farm then embraced the warm hearth-stones of the Bowmore cottages, which were few and far between. Hugh's son, the gallant Major Makay, Laggan, was the last representative of Donald Balloch's lieutenant, Brian Yicar Mackay who in 1408 received a Gaelic Charter to lands in Islay from his Noble Chief. Bowmore was projected by the fifth Daniel Campbell, of Islay, who died in 1777, and at whose expense also the ring-like church at the head of the Main Street was built. The Rev. John Murdoch was appointed pastor of the combined parishes of Kilarrow and Kilmeny in 1769. He was the first minister who preached in this circular church.

But for leaving Kilarrow, the old place of worship, and for beginning religious services in the new edifice, the good Cleric gave such offence to a few unprogressive parishioners that he had for some time to hide himself in the district of BriUhach an Dhhhraich until this ebullition of wrath had subsided. To continue the services in the new church was much easier than to remove the Fair from Bridgend to Bowmore, This latter struggle, which extended over a period of some years, was almost as famous as the siege of Troy. But what "Old Shawfield" could not do by persuasion, Mr. Patrick Campbell of Balinaby did by stratagem. He employed a number of pipers, who, with banners flying and pibrochs sounding, marched off at the head of the Rhinns and the Harris men, and brought them to Bowmore where Balinaby had a big banquet provided for this peaceful muster of the Clans. This incident verifies the story of Orpheus the musician of ancient Greece whose melody moved the very rocks. Henceforth the Fair found a local habitation in the beautifully situated town of Bowmore.

Tag: bards gaelic bowmore poem fair day

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