I saw an OK flick the other day, “Their Finest”. It’s about making a patriotic movie to rally British morale after the evacuation of their trapped army from Dunkirk in 1940. I liked it well enough – it was ostensibly about something I find interesting, but it morphed into more of a love story and a story of the growth and emergence of a talented woman film-writer. It had the advantage of a strong and sympathetic female at its center, which is something we’ve talked about here at GOML in the past.
The movie’s principal weakness is that it doesn’t know when to quit. It goes on past the moment it should end, and actually breezes right through two or three points that would have been a perfectly appropriate ending, until it feels like it’s testing the patience of the audience a little bit.
But it does have several emotional moments that are really well done. One, for me, comes when the cast members of the movie within the movie are gathered having drinks after the project is just about done, and are led in the singing of the Scottish folk song, “Wild Mountain Thyme” (actually written by Francis McPeake, who was from Northern Ireland).
It’s a really beautiful song, and everybody who has any interest in traditional music has covered it at some point. Mark KnopfIer did a nice instrumental version, and I really like the authenticity and feeling of the Clancy Brothers’ version:
The Corries, a Scottish duet from the early sixties, did a very heartfelt and emotional version, which I also like very much.
In this version, when the chorus begins with, “And we’ll all go together…”, listeners join in, as they do also in the movie version and in many others as well. It’s a powerful and sad effect – it feels like an anthem to solidarity in some common cause or shared feeling. It almost makes you want to cry, but the thing is, you don’t even know what the hell you’re crying about!
And here’s my question for you today: What is this song actually about? Are we “all going together” to war? To a cult meeting where we’ll drink some thyme Kool-Aid and die? To courting? If it’s just a love song asking the lassie for her hand, “Will ye go, lassie, go?”, why so sad and serious?
Or are we just all going to pick some thyme and then come right back? Is it about summer being all too brief after waiting so long for it? It’s written like something promising is beginning, but it’s played like something tragic is ending.
Maybe it’s simply that element of morbidity in all things Scottish that often comes through – cold, wet, darkness, death, and melancholy – no matter the subject?
So tell us, dear readers, what does Wild Mountain Thyme say to you?