Finlay Cameron, with Joe Lawrence MacDonald joining heartily in the chorus, sings a fragment of a song that originally had 40 verses. It was composed by The Bard MacLean. Originally from the island of Tiree, John MacLean (1787-1848) came to Nova Scotia in 1819 and settled at Barney’s River in Antigonish County. The best known of his many songs is A’ Choille Ghruamach” (The Gloomy Forest) where he voices his initial disillusionment with the New World.
This song is called Dìteadh Mhic an Tòisich (MacIntosh’s Condemnation). In Antigonish it was known as Òran Dhòmhnaill Màmaidh, after a local character, Donald MacGillivray, in whose name MacLean composed the song. MacIntosh is one of the Gaelic names for whisky; it comes from Ferintosh, the location of a well-known distillery.
The song reflects the views of the “friends of Ferintosh,” including tavern-keepers, a lawyer, a jail-keeper, a doctor and a piper. They were not too pleased when Bishop Fraser formed a Temperance Society in Antigonish in 1841. Most people in his diocese promised that they would observe abstinence for three years. They signed the pledge on New Year’s Day. When many broke their promise MacLean wrote another song of 46 verses. This one is called Aiseirigh Mhic an Toisich (MacIntosh’s Resurrection).
‘Tha Mi Sgìth On Tìm Seo ‘N Dè’, 1968. Finlay Cameron, with Joe Lawrence MacDonald. T-095. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.