PS 204 – War or Peace

      Cogadh no Sìth

      Coma leam coma leam cogadh no sìth

      Cruinneachadh nam Fineachan

Primary Sources

J [War or Peace: first 2 bars] J:17v.7
Joseph MacDonald’s treatise (c. 1760), folio 17v

Coma leam, coma leam cogadh na’ sith / Alike to me peace or war / The gathering of the clans P:43
DM Peace or War / Cogadh na Sith DM:39
Cogadh na’ Sith / Peace or War R.13: 11v
D2 ’Sco math leam, ’Sco math leam, Cogadh no Sith / Equal to me, Peace or War D2.42: 240
Coghiegh nha Shie / War or Peace / The True Gathering of the Clans G.3: 6
KB Cogadh na Sith / War or Peace KB.50: 128

Notes on Gaelic Titles

Cogadh no Sìth Coma leam, coma leam cogadh no sith / Alike to me peace or war P; Cogadh na, sith / Peace or War DM; Cogadh na’ Sith / Peace or War R; ’Sco math leam, Sco math leam, Cogadh no Sith / Equal to me, Peace or War D2; Coghiegh nha Shie / War or Peace G (GN has na for nha); Cogadh na Sith / War or Peace KB. War or Peace. Why the first four sources reverse the order of the two nouns is not obvious, except that each can be assumed to have been influenced by its predecessors. Angus MacKay gives the text at greater length, and perhaps completely: Is comadh leam s’ comadh leam cogadh na sìth ann. Marbhair sa chogadh na chrochair sa’n t-shith mi. [Is coma leam ’s coma leam cogadh no sìth ann. Marbhar sa chogadh no chrochar san t-sìth mi.] ‘I don’t care, I don’t care, war or peace. I’ll be killed in war or hanged in peace’ (KB notes, p. 12).

The subtitle ‘gathering of the clans’ found in sources P and G is supported by a reference to an incident in 1746 when Prince Charles, in hiding, was almost caught by the Government forces, but saved by his pipers playing this tune. The writer refers to it as ‘the general’, meaning general alarm signal, and names it as Cogga na si (N. MacKenzie, ‘The Jacobites’ “General”: Spanish John’s evidence for the history of military bagpiping,’ Scottish Tradition 25, 2000, pp. 3–25). MacLeod of Gesto mentions the use of the tune ‘to bring the different clans to battle when the Scots were to cross the Border to England’ (GN.3), the significance again being that it transcends individual clan loyalties. He may have called it the ‘true’ gathering in order to distinguish it from another tune called The Gathering of the ClansPS 163.

Cruinneachadh nam Fineachan The Gathering of the Clans P; The True Gathering of the Clans G; Cruinneachadh na’ Fineachan / The gathering of the clans K3; Cruinneachadh na Fineachan / The Gathering of the Clans KK. The Gathering of the Clans. ‘Gathering’ in this sense is a distinct Scots usage, the contemporary English expressions being ‘assembly’ or ‘general’ (see R. D. Cannon, ‘Gaelic names of pibrochs: a classification’. Scottish Studies 34, 2000–2006, pp 20–59). The English expression ‘The Gathering of the Clans’ is now such a cliché that one might ask whether it was adopted as a tune name by Angus MacKay following popularisation by Walter Scott. On the other hand it is found as early as 1784 (source P). Another tune with this title is PS 163.

Roderick Cannon (2009), rev. Barnaby Brown 2016

Archive Recordings

1970 George Moss: song, canntaireachd and practice chanter
1981 George Moss: discussion and 1st line of the Ùrlar on practice chanter

Other Material

2011 William Donaldson: Set Tunes Notes

1 thought on “PS 204 – War or Peace”

  1. The fatalism of the words, ‘It’s all the same to me; I’ll be killed in war, or hanged in peace’ suggests it may have been a soldier’s drinking song – one may as well get drunk.

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