30TH OCTOBER 1917 AGE 24


Hugh MacInnes's inscription is a quotation from a Gaelic song, a lament, 'Cumha na-h-Oighe', 'Lament for a Maiden'. Despite my best endeavours I had been unable to find a translation for it until Stuart Sinclair saw my Twitter plea. He took it to a Gaelic speaker, Stewart Macleod, who sent a complete translation of the song. The phrase 'Thug thu barrachd ann am beus', from the second verse, means, 'you displayed superiority in manners'. Although the song is written about the death of a young woman, the grief it describes is just as applicable to those mourning the death of a young man. The inscription appears to have been chosen by Mrs Flora MacInnes, Hugh's mother.

Maid of my heart, maid of my love!
Cold today is your resting place,
Your leaves have withered, your bloom has faded,
And they have laid you in the earth.
I am so grief-stricken and wretched,
Missing you night and day.
They locked my joy in the grave,
And neither lamenting nor sorrow will release her.

You were gentle, you were kind;
Every element was in love with you.
It was your soft smooth brow,
That first enticed my love for you.
You displayed superiority in manners,
You were fairer than hundreds.
Your form was without fault or blemish;
Sad is my state, missing you.

You have vanished, star of virtues,
You left the sky too swiftly;
It was the cloud of death that tore you from me,
And ill starred and melancholy is my course.
You were as a guiding light to me,
Radiant star, jewel of my eyes,
I am now like a rudderless ship,
With no harbour in mind without you.

But there is a sky up in heaven
Over which passes neither mist nor cloud;
A bright sky of the greatest beauty
And you will be radiant there anew.
Shine down into my heart
And guide me to the land
Where it is my desire to be with you,
Forever, without want, without care.
Calum MacPharlain 1853-1931

Private MacInnes enlisted in Canada where he had joined the Canadian Bank of Commerce in January 1911. Born and educated in Oban, Argyll, where his father was a crofter and the ferryman for the Kerrara-Gallanach ferry, Hugh MacInnes enlisted in Manitoba in January 1916. He was killed in action on 30 October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele. He had already been wounded twice on that day but had voluntarily remained on duty.