Hallaig strongly evokes the specific place from which it takes its name. MacLean reflects on the place as it was and as it is now. He both laments and celebrates a once-thriving community and way of life, displaced by the Highland Clearances.
Maclean mixes images of nature, of people and place, and uses different tenses to explore ideas of change and permanence. He suggests that the power of his love is strong enough to overcome time.
His vision of Hallaig makes connections between himself, the place and his people, and he suggests these connections will survive as long as he is alive.
In Hallaig MacLean builds on the tradition of bardic poetry. It was the role of bards to memorise and preserved the history and traditions of a clan or country. MacLean does just this with his references to a way of life and to specific notable people.
Longing for a distant or lost place or time is a common theme in Gaelic poetry. The Highland Clearances brought about persecution of the people, their removal from the land and their dispersal to all corners of the globe. Traditional communities and ways of life were largely lost, only kept alive through music and verse.
Rather than just refer to a lost way of life as something in the past, MacLean expresses that his own strength of feeling is such that he somehow keeps Hallaig and its people alive.
One leaves the poem with the feeling that the connection between the poet, his place and his people could never be broken.