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Hard as Nails

by Alex MacDonald

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1.
St Valery 08:32
ST VALERY From the coal mines and the towns of Fife, and the crofts of Sutherland From Dundee, Perth and Lothian and far Northumberland From the jewelled islands of the west and the barley fields of Banff To stem the Nazi tide, we crossed the sea to France The Camerons and the Seaforths, the Sutherland and Argylls, The Black Watch and the Gordons, from the lowlands and the isles We’d always stand together when the worst came to the worst The Highland Division, the gallant 51st St Valery St Valery St Valery St Valery From Dieppe to the Belgian border and on to the Maginot Line We were under French command and the grand French design But the grand design was bypassed, as we dreamt of hills and glens The Germans invaded Belgium and came through the Ardennes Cut off from the British Army, the 51st was lost, Our orders to defend the Somme no matter what the cost The harvest of appeasement was reaped now by all ranks Our weaponry was useless against Stukas and Panzer tanks St Valery, St Valery, St Valery, St Valery Outmoded communication against the radios of the foe Meant the French command gave orders about things they couldn’t know Rommel’s 7th Panzers cut off retreat to the west The Highlanders for once would come off second best The Division was surrounded apart from a force called Ark And from Le Havre some remnants managed to embark But at St Valery the 51st made their last stand There they stood their ground, outgunned and outmanned St Valery, St Valery, St Valery, St Valery The Royal Navy organised two hundred ships and boats To rescue the Division with the enemy at our throats We were running out of ammo and we hadn’t any food But no ship or boat could get near, to reach us where we stood The enemy’s guns on clifftops and their bombers in the air And finally the fog came down and left us stranded there Our history and our heritage said the Highlander never runs But the 12th of June the order came to lay down our guns St Valery, St Valery, St Valery, St Valery Marched through France and Belgium to barges on the Rhine To prison camps in Germany at the end of the railway line But some would not submit and took every chance to escape By boats and trains and other means and many a daring scrape And the 51st was formed again and from Alamein to Berlin We fought under Monty and we won through thick and thin But in France he gave the order which no one could foresee And on 1st September 44, we set St Valery free St Valery, St Valery, St Valery, St Valery Now you who guard your rights and love to criticise To mock, debunk and ridicule all history as lies Who deny the right to others that you yourselves enjoy Your freedom of expression – but not for the hoi polloi You wouldn’t have your freedom were it not for men like these Who fought and died or suffered from torture and disease In many a foreign field they fell when shells around them burst The Highland Division, the gallant 51st St Valery, St Valery, St Valery, St Valery © Alex J MacDonald
2.
I'M STILL WALKING They said that you’d be happy; they said that you’d be free They said you could be anything that you wanted to be They said just play the game; they said just toe the line There’s a wide world out there; everything’s gonna be fine But they didn’t tell you about the serpent inside Or about the battlefield where good and evil collide And they didn’t tell you about the Shepherd who died And to follow him you’ve got to swim against the tide They put me down, but I’m still walking I’m weary to my bones, but I’m still walking I’m still walking along this narrow way No turning back no matter what they say Some days it’s hard, some days it’s harder You’ve got to protect her; you’ve got to guard her You feel so helpless, there’s nothing you can do Everybody’s lost hope and you have too An unseen killer is stalking our town And everybody’s screaming, “Your side’s going down” So many people facing a new reality So many people facing their own mortality They put me down, but I’m still walking I’m weary to my bones, but I’m still walking I’m still walking along this narrow way No turning back no matter what they say No one’s listening to your silent scream You’ve got a nightmare while they’ve got a dream The wise and the powerful are nothing but fools With their tactics and plans, and political tools Everyone’s progressive, but progressing to what? On the right side of history—the kind that Hollywood’s got You’re fashionably woke, but are you really awake Are you the only ones who’re not making a mistake? They put me down, but I’m still walking I’m weary to my bones, but I’m still walking I’m still walking along this narrow way No turning back no matter what they say © Alex J MacDonald
3.
DARKNESS COMING DOWN The light shone on the hillside, and the light shone on the shore The light shone on the outcast, and the light shone on the whore On the children and the working men, on the beggar and the thief On the wealthy and religious, and on those without belief But in the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down The light shone on the hopeless, and the light shone on the lost The light shone on the crippled, but no one asked the cost The light, it was shining in the glowing words of life And the light, it was shining in the face of hate and strife But in the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down The light shone on the soldier, the scholar and the priest The light shone on the cup of wine, the light shone on the feast The light it was shining in the touch of a loving hand On the sick and on the stranger in a hidden promised land But in the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down The light shone in the city but the rulers they were blind The light exposed their greed and hate, and the secrets of their mind So the light must be extinguished to let the darkness reign While east of Eden people strayed in the fruitless paths of Cain But in the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down In the garden the light was dimmed in sorrow and distress There was heartbreak and temptation, but courage nonetheless In the garden there was darkness, it was the devil’s hour When the friends of light and kindness ran from the evil power In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down In the courtroom and the palace injustice reigned supreme But the light burned all the brighter to rescue and redeem On a hill outside the city was where the darkness fell And the light went down in darkness to the deepest pit of hell In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down The light was shut away in the darkness of the tomb But the grave could not contain it, in hopelessness and gloom The stone was rolled, the grave was bare, the light was shining bright The light of the world was shining and dispelled the darkest night In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down In the garden, in the garden There’s a darkness coming down © Alex J MacDonald
4.
LANDSCAPE OF DREAMS Sheep and sheepdogs, shepherds and kings Bows and arrows, and swords and slings Hills and pine trees, rivers and streams Just the landscape of childhood dreams Ninety and nine and one lost sheep Psalms and hymns, still waters run deep One who corrupts and One who redeems Just the landscape of childhood dreams Bruce and Wallace and stories of clans Cowboys and Indians, and blood on our hands Jungle doctors and African schemes Just the landscape of boyhood dreams Fields of glory and rivers of song There’s a world out there but you don’t belong Someone you know isn’t all that he seems Just the landscape of boyhood dreams Songs of wild rovers and patriot games The times were changing and so were the names The strength of strings and echo of screams Just the landscape of teenage dreams Girls and fast cars and blood on the track Put your hand to the plough and don’t look back If you’re not careful, you’ll come apart at the seams Just the landscape of teenage dreams It’s cold and it’s dark on Union Street Been trying to stand on your own two feet Serving two masters and going to extremes Just the landscape of a young man’s dreams But it took a star to open my eyes Lift up my head and point to the skies Saw the light dawning, saw the Son’s beams Just the landscape of a young man’s dreams © Alex J MacDonald
5.
IOLAIR IOLAIRE To honour and resist so Europe wouldn’t fall The men of the Long Island in their thousands met the call They fought in France and Flanders and on the restless sea Bright hope to dark ending that no one could foresee A thousand men from Lewis had died in earth or foam But now the war was over and the sailors were coming home From Devonport and Portsmouth through Inverness to Kyle Then on the yacht the Iolaire they passed the Misty Isle Iolair, Iolaire; Iolair, Iolaire Happiness and peace that dark Hogmanay They were all sailing home for a precious New Year’s Day Hundreds crammed together as they neared their journey’s end Some talked and laughed with brother, with neighbour, and with friend From Shawbost and from Ness, from Point and Carloway From Harris and from Uig, from Back and Stornoway Glad to be going home from war and wounds and loss To Tolsta and to Lochs, to Barvas and to Cross Iolair, Iolaire; Iolair, Iolaire And over all the island, their homes were being prepared By sisters, wives and mothers; their clothes were being aired The peats were in, the fires were bright, the tables richly spread With neighbours’ gifts and hoarded treats, with meat and wheaten bread Excited children waiting, running out to see them come Running out and waiting till the cold made them numb The women all were waiting for the homecoming long desired And the lads were building bonfires that never would be fired Iolair, Iolaire; Iolair, Iolaire Out in the stormy Minch the wind began to rise The sea was dark and sombre as were the starless skies As she neared the harbour the ship had lost her way And the fearful Beasts of Holm pounced upon their prey Rocks tore her with their teeth and pierced her iron side And in that raging sea two hundred seamen died Just twenty yards from shore, and the safety of the land Exactly how it happened, none can understand Iolair, Iolaire; Iolair, Iolaire But on the ship were brave men who would not give up hope John Finlay Macleod was one, he swam ashore with a rope Battered by the crashing waves, the third one took him in He grasped the solid rock, soaking to the skin But forty of the eighty saved were rescued by that line In the midst of all the horror, there still was grace divine And clinging to the mast, Donald Morrison of Ness Was assured “the Lord shall help” in the face of his distress Iolair, Iolaire; Iolair, Iolaire In the still morning air, the sound of wailing crossed the land The bodies of her fine young men were strewn upon the sand Every village across the island lost fathers, sons and brothers Young widows left alone, orphaned children, grieving mothers Sorrow was heaped on sorrow, for the disillusioned and distressed And many left the island, sailing to the west That never to be forgotten day the Eagle sailed the wave, But the Beasts of Holm tore her down with the good men and the brave Iolair, Iolaire; Iolair, Iolaire © Alex J MacDonald
6.
LONG WAY TO GO As a child, your world was bounded by trees Soft needles of pinewoods and moss on your knees Your horizon was formed by mountain and hill The Irishman, Morven and the Child’s Seat to fill You’re going to go far and there’s far to go Beyond the horizon where the rivers flow A long way to go, a wide world to roam A long way to go before you get home Sheep in the snow fed on hay and on straw Green smell of the earth just after the thaw Your father was ploughing with a horse-drawn plough And cutting the peats way out on the flough You’re going to go far and there’s far to go Beyond the horizon where the rivers flow A long way to go, a wide world to roam A long way to go before you get home The kettle was singing and your mother was too She welcomed old Ram the pedlar Hindu, A van-man or a shepherd, a lady or a toff It would be all the same if it was Khrushchev You’re going to go far and there’s far to go Beyond the horizon where the rivers flow A long way to go, a wide world to roam A long way to go before you get home But the three Rs were calling for you and for me The railway, the river and the road to the sea See the steam coming for miles down the track If you got on that train would you ever come back? You’re going to go far and there’s far to go Beyond the horizon where the rivers flow A long way to go, a wide world to roam A long way to go before you get home Per mare per terras, and labyrinthine ways You’ve crossed the lines, caused eyebrows to raise The light’s full of clour, only the dark’s monochrome But there’s a far green country that’s calling you home You’re going to go far and there’s far to go Beyond the horizon where the rivers flow A long way to go, a wide world to roam A long way to go before you get home © Alex J MacDonald
7.
THE TATTERED OUTLAW When fishes flew and forests walked And figs grew upon thorn, Some moment when the moon was blood Then surely I was born. With monstrous head and sickening cry And ears like errant wings, The devil’s walking parody On all four-footed things. The tattered outlaw of the earth, Of ancient crooked will; Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, I keep my secret still. Fools! For I also had my hour; One far fierce hour and sweet: There was a shout about my ears, And palms before my feet. Lyrics credit: ‘The Donkey’ by G. K. Chesterton
8.
THE OLD VIOLIN It was battered and scarred and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while To waste much time on the old violin as he held it up with a smile. “What am I bidden, good folks?” he cried; “Who’ll start the bidding for me? A dollar? A dollar? Who’ll make it two? Two dollars! Who’ll make it three? Three dollars once! Three dollars twice! And going? And gone? But no! From the room far back came a grey-haired man, and he picked it up with the bow. And wiping the dust from the old violin and tightening up all the strings He played a melody pure and sweet - as sweet as an angel sings. The music ceased and the auctioneer in a voice that was quiet and low Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?” as he held it up with the bow. “A thousand dollars? Who’ll make it two? Two thousand! Who’ll make it three? Three thousand once! Three thousand twice! And going, and gone!” said he. And the people cheered, but some of them said, “We do not quite understand What changed its worth.” Swift came the reply, “It was the touch of the master’s hand.” And there’s many a man with his life out of tune, that’s battered and torn with sin Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin. A mess of pottage, a glass of wine, a game and he travels on; He’s going once, he’s going twice, he’s going and almost gone. But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand The worth of a soul or the change that is wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand. Lyrics credit: ‘The Touch of the Master’s Hand’ by Myra Brooks Welch
9.
LOVED AND LOST I love you when I see your face I love you in my dreams And in my dreams you love me back But nothing’s what it seems This love will never give me peace This pain will never end Your eyes tell me you love me true Your lips say “just a friend” Chorus They say it’s better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved But they don’t have to count the cost And learn to be unloved I wish that I could see you now And hold you in my arms And I would show you what I think Of your beauty and your charms This longing in my heart’s a fire That burns into my brain It eats up all my life and soul And leaves me in the rain Chorus They say it’s better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved But they don’t have to count the cost And learn to be unloved I guess you’ll never know the pain You’ve given me tonight Or the emptiness and loneliness That darkens all my sight But I want you to know, my love You’re blameless in my eyes Your beauty and your loveliness You never realise Chorus They say it’s better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved But they don’t have to count the cost And learn to be unloved But is there someone somewhere else Who loves without reserve, Accepts me as I am and gives The love I don’t deserve? I’m holding out for such a love I’m holding on like death I’m clinging by my fingertips Until my final breath Chorus They say it’s better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved But they don’t have to count the cost And learn to be unloved © Alex J MacDonald
10.
HARD AS NAILS Hard as nails with a heart of gold When others faltered he was bold - Hard as nails The world he left seems poor and cold Now he’s gone where he’ll never grow old - Hard as nails A heart of gold and as hard as nails He believed no fairy-tales - Heart of gold He held on fast by his fingernails The morning star for who prevails - Heart of gold He fought the fight, he ran the race He got the crown, he kept the faith - Hard as nails Hard as nails with a heart of gold Just by One was he controlled - Hard as nails His love for the lost he’d not withhold The truth of God he did uphold - Hard as nails Heart of gold and as hard as nails Knew the love that never fails - Heart of gold Up the hills and down the dales Across the rivers and along the trails - Heart of gold He fought the fight, he ran the race He got the crown, he kept the faith - Hard as nails The bell it rang, the bell it tolled Tears were shed and the good news told - Hard as nails What graves were opened and stones were rolled Only eternity will unfold - Hard as nails Weighed in the balance, weighed in the scales Run like the wind and break the jails - Heart of gold Through the frost and through the gales For everyone gone off the rails - Heart of gold He fought the fight, he ran the race He got the crown, he kept the faith - Hard as nails Hard as nails with a heart of gold A word of grace and love untold - Hard as nails Search for those in sin who’re sold To break the chains and break the hold - Hard as nails Heart of gold and as hard as nails We laughed out loud and we laughed in gales – Heart of gold He pierced the dark, he removed the veils Till the morning comes and the white dove sails – Heart of gold He fought the fight, he ran the race He got the crown, he kept the faith - Hard as nails Hard as nails with a heart of gold When he was born they broke the mould - Hard as nails A father’s heart could not grow cold Till the lost was found and the tales were told - Hard as nails Heart of gold and as hard as nails He held to the Rock whose love avails – Heart of gold It wasn’t a matter of heads or tails It came from the One who was pierced with nails – Heart of gold He fought the fight, he ran the race He got the crown, he kept the faith - Hard as nails © Alex J MacDonald
11.
THE BAND SONG Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen When we started out I was just sixteen In Golspie we played in my old school Doug and Rob thought it really cool But we had laid on too much drink We were drinking Irn Bru for a week I think Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen Rob plays the drums and the tambourine When Donald turned fifty we had a do At Leith Town Hall and Glenrothes too No sunshine on Leith or coopers in Fife But Donald Forsyth had the time of his life Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen Donald on guitar is a mean machine We played the Picnic at Loch Ness Down a great big hill our gear was a mess Our PA grabbed by a motley crew In the howling wind our lips turned blue Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen No one blows the horn like Big Jon Green We played a gig in Kildonan Hall It’s my home turf, so we had a ball The three stags’ heads looked very queer So the fee for the hall was really deer Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen Cailean on the keys always looks serene For a birthday do for my cousin Jake He wanted a gig in Edinburgh zoo But the chimp on guitar was a big mistake And the elephant on the trumpet too Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen Rebecca’s backing vocals are just supreme Through my friend Bob we got the gig So in Shotts Prison we had a bash With disease and drugs, I nearly died Impersonating Johnny Cash Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen Doug played the bass - so he was keen! In Elgin town we put on a show But before I left it began to snow All up Strathspey I skidded the van But on the A9 “I was the man” Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen Driving hard like Steve MacQueen In Livingston the band played really hot The temperature was rising off the scale So I took off my shirt and I took of my top The crowd thought this was beyond the pale Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen And we never did anything remotely obscene We’ve played many times in Campbeltown And every time we brought the house down But a guy walked out which made us weep Couldn’t stand our singing about all these sheep Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen Phil on the bass looks moody and mean We played at bonny Oban bay Olivia had a puncture on the way So off to the rescue went Jimmy B She was so sick she couldn’t eat her tea Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen Olivia on the fiddle should be on the big screen Then there was the flood in Gardenstown In stair-rods the rain was coming down I was in the van so I was fine But the rest of the band they nearly drowned Glasgow, Dundee, Gairloch and Kyle We played them all and we played with style Helmsdale, Smithton and Aberdeen You haven’t heard us! What do you mean?! © Alex J MacDonald
12.
Farewell 03:34
FAREWELL Farewell, no tongue can tell How great I think you are I know you will excel Always you’ve been a star Farewell, no one can say How much you mean to us You’d work and talk and pray Always without a fuss Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I know you’ll say How small were all your deeds But grace showed you the way You met all kinds of needs Farewell, but this I’ll say Great help you were to me And now you’re going away Good friend you’ll always be Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I want to say So far the Lord has led For you I’ll always pray I know you’ll knock them dead Farewell, I love your smile Light up a darkened room You went the second mile Burned bright amid the gloom Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I wish you well. Farewell, I wish you well. © Alex J MacDonald

credits

released November 19, 2021

Alex MacDonald - guitars and vocals
Rob MacDonald - drums and backing vocals
Phil Onslow - bass
Cailean Morison - piano, organ and backing vocals
Donald Forsyth - electric guitar
Olivia Ross - fiddle

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Alex MacDonald Edinburgh, UK

Grew up in Kildonan Strath, Sutherland, where I loved the psalms and hymns and the old folk songs my father had learned from his drover grand uncle.Went on to Cash, the Clancys and Corries, Tom Paxton and Dylan. Started playing guitar and writing songs in my teens, but only started recording this century with my rock band sons! Either solo or with my band, I've played all over Scotland. ... more

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