PS 237 – The Red Speckled Bull

      ’S e ’n tarbh breac dearg

      ’S e ’n t-arm breac dearg

Primary Sources

D2 An t arm breachd derg, Se ’n t’arm mharbh me D2.46: 258
K1 An t-arm Breachd Dearg / The British army K1.46: 104
SC Tarbh Brach derg SC.22
Angus MacKay, ‘Specimens of Canntareachd’ (c. 1854), no. 22

Notes on Gaelic Titles

’S e ’n tarbh breac dearg Tarbh Brach derg SC. The Red Speckled Bull. The story is of a bull which was killed by Ronald MacDonald of Morar. See PS Book 4, p. 106; further details are in the Kilberry files, NLS MS 22107, ff. 1–26. The song is in ‘Abrach’, [i.e. Donald C. MacPherson] ‘Ceol nan Gaidheal’. An Gaidheal, ceud mios an Fhogharaidh, 1874b, pp 116–169; ‘Fionn’, The martial music of the clans, Glasgow (1904), p. 96; and ‘Fionn’, ‘Ronald MacDonald of Morar, a famous piper’, in The Celtic Monthly, 19 (190X), pp. 167–169, all without music. More recently it has been recorded at least twice by the School of Scottish Studies, with different tunes, however, one resembling Claidheamh mór Iain Ghairbh Cholla (PS 78), the other ’S leam fèin an Gleann (PS 58). They all contain lines such as ’S e’n tarbh breac dearg a mharbh mi.

’S e ’n t-arm breac dearg  An t arm breachd derg / Se n t’arm mharbh me D2; An t-arm Breachd Dearg / The British army K1. The Red Speckled Army. According to Donald MacDonald, ‘these words signify the appearance of an army at a distance… the composer of this rattling march says it was the Army which killed him’. See above for what seems to be an older tradition, and for the modern name; but Campbell of Kilberry noted that soldiers’ uniforms at the time of writing featured bright red and white, so the description would be apt (NLS MS 22107, ff. 1–26).

Roderick Cannon (2009)

Archive Recording

1968 Pipe Major/Captain John A MacLellan

Other Material

2006 William Donaldson: Set Tunes Notes

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