DTStudy: The Dark Island
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DTStudy: The Dark Island


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Jim McLean 11 Nov 02 - 10:52 AM
GUEST,Alan Ross 11 Nov 02 - 09:48 AM
Susanne (skw) 27 Oct 02 - 06:33 PM
GUEST,ALAN ROSS 26 Oct 02 - 06:30 AM
Malcolm Douglas 24 Jun 02 - 09:45 PM
Joe Offer 24 Jun 02 - 09:15 PM
Joe Offer 24 Jun 02 - 08:59 PM
Malcolm Douglas 24 Jun 02 - 04:02 PM
Malcolm Douglas 24 Jun 02 - 01:16 PM
GUEST,Phil Myers 24 Jun 02 - 12:58 PM
Joe Offer 24 Jun 02 - 12:55 PM
Joe Offer 24 Jun 02 - 12:52 PM
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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island
From: Jim McLean
Date: 11 Nov 02 - 10:52 AM

Hi Alan,
I had the same trouble with Scotdisc. They featured my song on the front of a CD but on the CD itself, they put an entirely different title and claimed it as Trad! MCPS have told me they have to keep an eye on Scotdisc. As you say, the damage is done and the error multiplies as uninformed people believe the CD credits.
Good luck,
Jim McLean

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island
From: GUEST,Alan Ross
Date: 11 Nov 02 - 09:48 AM

Sorry to muddy the waters all over again! I do have fresh information on the origins of the tune. Legally Ian Maclachlan wrote it - and Westminster Music own the copyright of the standard tune.

However, I now have information from a woman who is in her late 80's and comes from a piping family, that she knew the tune as a child (so it's now supposedly dating from around the 1940's or before). Ian Maclachan is credited as having written or re-arranged it c1958 - before it became Dark Island in 1963. All vocal versions using the words Dark Island date from after 1963.

The woman who wrote and published her memoirs gave me a very similar title to the one I knew without any prompting. She knew it as 'Doctor Macarthur's Farewell to South Uist'. As Ian Maclachlan got to the tune first and recorded, "composed", or collected the melody, this has no legal bearing on the current confusion.

I do have documentary material on the matter available for the long-term folk music experts who have been writing for years on the subject.

For my postal address I can currently be contacted at: (if I remember my e-mail correctly) I only have an e-mail phone. I would like to share some of the legal paperwork or any other information/queries on my father's full songs with the long-term correspondents. (My mother and family get sick of me talking about it!)

Incidentally, my father wrote another song called 'Here's to Scottish Whisky'. This was written in 1974 and is a pure heather and haggis effort. In this case Stewart Ross wrote both the words and music - and it is a full copyright work. However, there have been misspellings of the title such as "Here's to Scottish Whiskey", and at least one botch up on medley versions with a spurious 'trad' credit. The consequences are now filtering down the Internet. It's extremely upsetting. In case the subject ever crops up, it was written in Inverness by my father and originally recorded by the Tartan Lads on EMI.

I took legal action against a record company called 'Scotdisc' and they are supposed to have agreed not to produce any more copies of the song with the wrong credit information. However, copies have already been retailed, so much damage has been done - even though we have many correctly credited Scottish samplers which use the track.

Finally, many thanks to those responsible for correcting the lyric credit for 'Dark Island' (even though it's still a legal mess!).

Alan Ross

Thread #36086   Message #496220
Posted By: GUEST,rossey
01-Jul-01 - 09:46 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Dark Island
Subject: Lyr Add: DARK ISLAND (Stewart Ross)

This is not the one you're looking for but - my late father Stewart Ross (1929-1993) of Inverness, Scotland - wrote a very well known version of the song in 1963, after being assured that the tune was traditional. It was published on sheet music and record, where he was formally registered as the author of the lyric alone.

There is a very long story involved. The tune had two earlier titles before becoming known as Dark Island for the TV series. Disputes arose over the origin of the tune and the two larger selling vocal versions. This situation has never been fully resolved and there are rights and wrongs on both sides, as the publishers exploited both versions of the song at the time, without payment and credited to the wrong author. Catch-22: to be credited today, artists and record companies have to know whose version they are using in the first place - and not put it down as the other version. Back in the 60's and 70's, the record company, artists, and publishers knew whose version they were using (and I have legal papers which prove it).

My father did win one court case in Scotland against a small record company for the use of the lyric, but the whole thing became a mess when the larger record company PYE became defunct.

The Ross version has appeared on over 40 albums, singles, TV advertised samplers etc. The Silver version is now the most widely used and recorded - but the ghost versions always come back. Both of these lyrics were written within one month each other. The Ross version was the first set to be published. The Mudcat site, however, has planted a bit of a time-bomb for my family by including it on their Digi site without credit or permission - and with misheard lyrics which do not scan, and don't do it any justice.

There were at least 4 English lyrics that I know of written in the 60's to versions of the tune. Each have different properties and suit singers in various ways. The Ross words were written to a very different version of the tune and are not a straight fit to the accordion tune.

Words PRS copyrighted, Stewart Ross (c) 1963

In the years long gone by when I first left my home,
I was young and I wanted the wide world to roam,
But now I am older and wiser you see,
That lovely Dark Island is calling to me.

CHORUS: Though I've wandered away from the land of my birth,
And been roaming around to the ends of the earth.
Still my heart is at home in a land far away,
That lovely Dark Island where memories stray.

[This verse is usually axed for length's sake:]

With a sorrowful heart I look back through the years.
When I think of that Island, my eyes fill with tears.
Once again then I long for the land I adore,
That lovely Dark Island I long for once more.

CHORUS: Though...

LAST VERSE: One day I'll return to that far distant shore,
And from that Dark Island I'll wander no more.
Till the day that I die, I will no longer roam,
For that lovely Dark Island will be my last home.

CHORUS: Though...
That lovely dark island where memories stray.

My father went on to write other less problematic copyright works where he wrote both words and music. Mostly he wrote in the country music vein - and Scottish/Irish emigration songs. 'My Bonnie Maureen' is one really nice song recorded by Daniel O'Donnell on platinum selling 'From the Heart'. Another, 'Here's to Scottish Whisky' has become very big on Scottish samplers, - but nothing eclipses the sales of his version of 'dark island' at its peak in the 60's and 70's.

Posted By: GUEST,Alan Ross
17-Dec-08 - 09:05 AM
Thread Name: DTStudy: The Dark Island
Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island

I have to correct my own innacuracy, repeated in many places. The TV series 'dark island' was first broadcast in July 1962.

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Subject: Lyr Add: THE DARK ISLAND (W. Gordon Smith)
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 06:33 PM

Just to muddy the waters further: I've just searched the forum and DT, and couldn't find a mention of the tune in connection with W. Gordon Smith. However, on the first album by the long-gone Scottish band The Islanders, there is a set of lyrics to the tune written by Smith. It goes:

(music, Ian Maclachlan / Words, Gordon Smith)

Come again, come again, sings the sandpiper's song
Come back to the island where you belong
And the isle that is home wherever you stray
Will blossom its flowers in welcome one day

The tide's on the turn and the boat must away
And your sad eyes reveal what the heart cannot say
Every step to the quay is a mile of the way
From the island that can't stop you leaving today

Oh load up the boat and we'll cast her away
See the waves show their teeth on the rocks in the bay
Turn your back on the hills, turn your face to the sea
Turn away from the island you're leaving today

Oh the water is deep, watch the waves turn to grey
And the islands astern, a lifetime away
You can turn to the hills, you can just see the way
Turn and smile to the island you're leaving today

No further info. Just thought I'd throw it in ...

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island
Date: 26 Oct 02 - 06:30 AM

I am catching up on some of the volumes of info on this song. I am indebted to Malcolm Jones and many others for setting the record straight. There are copyright concerns with uniting my late father's lyrics to the tune. Westminster Music and David Silver (writer of the official lyrics) are in a permanent and very weird copyright wrangle - refusing to admit the version exists. So for decades it has been wrongly circulating (mostly via Calum Kennedy/Fiona Kennedy being licensed on compilations).

My father mentions a little of the dispute in a 'Scots Magazine' article in April 1993. I had a double page spread in the 'Highland News' a couple of years ago. All hell broke loose in October/November 1988 when a country music group Colorado recorded and used the Ross version on an award-winning country album. Westminster Music and Silver had stories all over the Scottish press that this version of the song was banned!

I have been simply trying to resolve the confusion over whose version is whose. As circulating the (misquoted) lyrics makes the song sound ancient when it was only written in 1963. New information has arisen and been sent to me on the origin of the tune - which only became Dark Island in 1963.

I don't have the Internet and only use it sporadically. The first version of my father's lyric came out on sheet music - which was withdrawn after a year due to copyright reasons.

The first recording was made in 1966 by a singer called Argo Cameron (terrible badly arranged version). This was credited. However, MCPS withdrew this. Calum and Fiona Kennedy preferred my father's version and would not stop using it. They recorded it on large-selling LP's, tracks of which have been licensed out and re-cycled. The work was wrongly attributed to Maclachlan or Maclachlan/Silver as my father was not at the time an MCPS (British copyright licensing member).

It gets very complicated - but my father did win an out of court settlement with one small record company at the high court Edinburgh in 1977. Anyway, I've become obsessed with the dispute and am trying to distance myself, at the same time correct wonky histories on this and other songs if I can. I had the lyrics taken off - but they have re-appeared elsewhere. It's not quite as bad when credit is given and the misquotes are corrected. The official copyright owners of the tune and Silver lyric will not be happy either way.

If Malcolm Jones or other parties with a long standing interest in the song would like to contact me for some documents - and fresh information on the tune - I'd be happy to oblige. I don't know whether to post my address on the Internet or give my e-mail phone address.

Anyway, my father Stewart Ross (1929-1993) wrote a number of (maybe cheesy - but effective) Scottish and country songs. Mostly he wrote words and music, but he was haunted by record company errors, misprints, mistitles of his own songs and registration errors. Don't always believe a single sleeve credit!

I would like to find somewhere to archive his songs (all are registered copyright works), but though many have been used on numerous albums, they have never been put together in one place - and are too eclectic or cheesy for the 'traditional' purists. Yet some of his songs are on standard Scottish samplers. You will find a bit about my father in the Scots Magazine of April 1993. This article does not mention the country music aspect. My father was a nominee for top British songwriter by the CMA Britain in 1979.

He never made much money though! Only lucky break was having Daniel O'Donnell doing one of his songs (and this song is a Scottish song - not Irish!).


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 24 Jun 02 - 09:45 PM

David Silver wrote (official) lyrics to the tune made by Ian MacLachlan. The lyric you give above was written by Stewart Ross. As I've said, all the necessary information is available in earlier discussions. If I had started this thread, I'd do a proper digest of all that; I didn't (and don't much care for any of the lyrics anyway) but if somebody has to do it and you don't want to, I suppose I will feel obliged to. Not today, though.

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Subject: ADD Version: The Dark Island (Alan Bell)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Jun 02 - 09:15 PM

Here's another:

words by Alan Bell, music by Ian Maclachlan

On my father's own land I was born to be free
I was born to the island, the boats and the sea
To work and to live as we always have done
But I've no son to follow, the young ones have gone

Fare thee well, fare thee well
My island, my home
It's away o'er the ocean now I must roam
To find a new land and learn the new ways
But I hope to return in the future one day

I've known the bad ways of the wild roaring surf
And I've felt the salt rain as I cut the peat turf
And I've mended the nets in the evening's soft glow
Now these are my memories, wherever I go

The homes are all empty, no fires in the hearth
And the nettles grow tall all along the old lanes
Where as children we laughed and played our rough games
Now the children have grown up, the island has changed

The school door is closed, and the blackboard is bare
The old floor is dusty, there's no one to care
But there we have laughed and danced many a night through
Now the old ways have ended, we must learn the new

The fishing is finished, and sheep graze the land
Where my kinsfolk once lived there is only the sound
Of the wind and the waves and the wild sea-birds' cry
Now my heart aches with sadness, I must say goodbye.

Transcribed by ear from the CD, Alan Bell: The Definitive Collection

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Jun 02 - 08:59 PM

The "Dark Island" that was removed from the Digital Tradition is this one:


In the years long ago
When I first left my home
I was young and I wanted
The whole world to roam;
But now I am older
And wiser, you see,
For that lovely dark island
Is calling to me.

O, I've wandered away
From the land of my birth,
And been roaming around
To the ends of the earth,
Still my heart is at home
In that land far away
That lovely dark island
Where memories stray.

One day I'll return
To that far-distant shore,
And from that dear island
I'll wander no more.
'Til the day that I die
I will no longer roam
For that lovely dark island
Will be my last home.

@home @travel
filename[ DARKISLE

I'm not familiar with this one. I'd guess that it was recently composed, but I don't know who wrote it. No attribution was given in the Digital Tradition.
-Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 24 Jun 02 - 04:02 PM

The tune was written in 1963 by Ian MacLachlan, and was to begin with called Dr. Mackay's farewell to Creagorry and Dr. McInnes's Farewell to South Uist at various times. It was not called The Dark Island until it was adopted as signature tune for the television serial of that name; after that, several sets of lyrics were written for it, in some cases by people who were under the misapprehension that it was traditional. This information is available in previous discussions of the song, which I would suggest people read before adding comments here.

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 24 Jun 02 - 01:16 PM

That lyric has been posted in the Forum by the son of the man who wrote it. One of his concerns was the issue of correct attribution, which I believe the DT file did not give; the history of the three sets of (modern) lyrics written to this (modern) Scottish tune is complex and fraught with misunderstandings and legal problems. Indeed, a thread was started recently by someone wanting further information about what they imagined to be a traditional Irish song, so it would be a good idea to have the facts spelled out concisely and in one place.

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island
From: GUEST,Phil Myers
Date: 24 Jun 02 - 12:58 PM


Just out of curiosity, if it can't be in the DT for copyright reasons, why is it OK to post it on Mudcat?

Surely the same copyright restrictions would apply?


    It's a slim distinction in some ways, but Mudcat is a discussion forum, and discussion generally falls under the "fair use" allowance granted by copyright law. The Digital Tradition is a more permanent and more formally indexed archive, and that tends to make copyright holders a little more nervous. In general, we have received very few complaints about information posted either in the Forum or in the Digital Tradition.
    -Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: DTStudy: The Dark Island
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Jun 02 - 12:55 PM

We have a number of threads on this song, and I think if might be worthwhile to summarize what we have. I see that one version of the song is no longer in the Digital Tradition, apparently because the copyright holder has asked that it be removed.
What are the definitive versions of the song? Is it traditional, or a recent composition?

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Subject: DTStudy: The Dark Island
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Jun 02 - 12:52 PM

This is an edited DTStudy thread, and all messages posted here are subject to editing and deletion.
This thread is intended to serve as a forum for corrections and annotations for the Digital Tradition song named in the title of this thread.

Search for other DTStudy threads

Song removed from the Digital Tradition due to copyright concerns

(Silver Maclachlan)

Away to the westward I'm longing to be
Where the beauties of heaven unfold by the sea
Where the sweet purple heather blooms fragrant and free
On a hilltop high above the Dark Island

Oh, isle of my childhood
I'm dreaming of thee
As the steamer leaves Oban
And passes Tiree
Soon I'll capture the magic
That lingers for me
When I'm back once more upon
The Dark Island

So gentle the sea breeze that ripples the bay
Where the stream joins the ocean and the young children play
On the strand of pure silver I'll welcome each day
And I'll roam forever more the Dark Island

True gem of the Hebrides bathed in the light
Of the midsummer dawning that follows the night
How I yearn for the cry of the seagulls in flight
As they circle above the Dark Island

@Scots @home
filename[ DARKISL2

PLEASE NOTE: Because of the volunteer nature of The Digital Tradition, it is difficult to ensure proper attribution and copyright information for every song included. Please assume that any song which lists a composer is copyrighted ©. You MUST aquire proper license before using these songs for ANY commercial purpose. If you have any additional information or corrections to the credit or copyright information included, please e-mail those additions or corrections to us (along with the song title as indexed) so that we can update the database as soon as possible. Thank You.
Traditional Ballad Index: No listing
This page (click) makes things even more muddy. It appears to me that the song we attribute to Silver Maclachlan, could be by David Silver? The page I linked to says the song was recorded by "Silver/Mclachlan." Other sources credit the tune to Ian Maclachlan.

Search for "dark island" threads

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