Growing up in England, I carefully studied all my family tree,
And learnt of a tiny lonely island, way out in the Atlantic Sea,
Of always being true to who I am, and my Scottish name,
To listening to the pipes and drums, and to never douse the flame.
So I got to journey to the docks, as the boat into the harbour came,
And I felt my heart a-pounding, inside my body’s frame,
I wandered on the quayside, with its smells of oysters, crabs and fish,
And I watched the seagulls fall & climb, and knew I would get my wish.
As the boat hurled up and down, upon the Atlantic waves,
I climbed onto the deck and waited, filled with awe and praise,
Until there, suddenly, on the horizon, the isle came into sight,
Its fresh green fields came rolling down, to the castle dark as night.
It stood there stark upon the rocks, surrounded by the sea,
The water surged & crashed, shrieking the castle’s destiny,
It guarded the harbour at Castlebay and all that spread around,
And I thought my heart would burst, as my feet touched solid ground.
I could not rest, I would not wait, for another day to dawn,
To see where for centuries, the MacNeil’s had sung, danced, and mourned,
My heart was light, my mission sworn, to see my father’s land,
To traverse the crags and moors and march to the piping band.
The graveside lay on a hillock, overlooking the Atlantic Bay,
I read each name with deep regret, MacNeil most of them, did say,
Beneath my feet stretched a carpet of beautiful yellow gorse,
As I placed it on the graves, I felt an intense remorse.
I then entered a tumbled building, that loomed there all alone,
But I did not feel any fear, from the burnt and crumpled stone,
I saw the MacNeil House, as it had been in the days of old,
Its elegant rooms and chandeliers and drapes of scarlet & gold.
Rounding a bend I suddenly came, upon an unusual scene,
For there carved out in the rock above me, Victoria our late Queen,
Then a jerk back to modern times, for there on the beach below,
An aircraft landing on the sands, as the sea lapped to and fro.
The crags hovered in the distance, as I struggled on through the storm,
The crofts were tucked into the hillsides, nestled there safe and warm,
I felt like an ancient warrior, surveying all my captured domain,
With a swish of my kilt, I bounded along, no feeling of guilt or shame.
I hurried on for my last quest, as I knew the boat would not wait,
To row me out to the castle, with its many steps and iron gate,
As the huge worn granite walls, towered tall above my head,
I thought of all my clansmen, through the years, that now lay dead.
Inside, upon a thick stone wall, a portrait, of a former chieftain of my clan,
Kilt, sporran, and bonny jacket too, my what a handsome man,
In the Great Hall a fireplace, and my coat of arms, with a candle on each side,
The majesty of it all, filled me with love, and I was over-whelmed with pride.
Long boat, strong castle, and rampant lions, the rock, steadfast and true,
All of these are the heart of me, and play a part in everything I do,
The Red Hand of Ulster, nine shackles about, reveals the Irish power,
This all unfurled on my clan flag, flying majestic above the tower.
Victory or Death our motto, is plainly displayed there for all to see,
And I hope there is some of Barra, that still lingers inside of me.
The tombs of my forebears, lying side by side in exquisite grace,
Instills in me my heritage, that lies within this ancient family place,
I took my leave from my beloved isle, as the boat came round again,
And I knew my committed, but weary journey had never been in vain,
As I looked again to the rolling hills, the pipers, the dancers in a reel,
I knew that wherever I did roam, I was proud to be called McNeal.