Play the song:
A jaunty guitar part which could be a slow jig or a march in triple time, whichever you prefer. Lots of pull-offs and hammer-ons as is my wont when I’m in this folksy mode. When I did some correspondence music course a few years ago I used the opening guitar part as the basis for the scherzo of an imagined string quartet. I believe I still have it somewhere. I did two years of that three year course – it took me that amount of time to discover it was a waste of same.
It is a song of some vintage and I used to perform it often in London. It’s an unusual song for me insofar as it is a cultural / social / political / economics commentary which is a pastime you will rarely hear me indulge in. It’s my little take on The Highland Clearances and was inspired by the book of the same name by John Prebble. I read this book when I was still living in London, was sick of the place, and was feeling nostalgic about Scotland where I had spent a couple of summer and Easter holidays hillwalking. So it was more the latter, I think, than my being deeply impressed by the subject matter of the book, that spawned the song. Anyway, there is more guitar than lyric, and a lot of that is hardly evocative of the those far off times. The title of the song is taken from the Gaelic: Bliadhna nan Caorach, which was the name given to year 1792 by the population. Why? Well more profit could be made from sheep inhabiting the land than people living on it.
The Year Of The Sheep
Five thousand children no foreigner could rule
Were slaughtered in the sleet when following a fool
To keep the people friendly, to keep the lion tame
They used the paper and the pen, the sword and the flame
From the year of the tourist to the year of the sheep
For the morality of the nation and the king’s peace to keep
For sound. economics and common sense
They turned overpopulation into a wilderness
Now the hills are kept empty for sophisticated eyes
The picture on the postcard is the consolation prize
Oh my, look at the view!
The hills are kept empty for me and for you
© 2008 Dave Keir