Gaelic Literature  of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   










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This work is based upon my thesis presented for the degree of M.Litt. at the University of Aberdeen in 1986: The Literature of the Island of Skye: a Bibliography with Extended Annotation, which had been supervised by Professor Donald MacAulay *. 


Here the bibliographical citations are presented as they were in the original work, but with the annotations abbreviated in a number of cases.  I have also modified the way in which some of the sections are arranged.


The present work was updated in 2006 with the addition of new material and with updating continuing for a few years after that.  I should point out that this new material has not been as comprehensively researched and listed as was the material in the original work.  This has led to certain inconsistencies, but I felt it better to update the work to some extent rather than not at all.





Although the title of this bibliography refers to the literature of Skye, it also encompasses the literature of the islands immediately adjacent to Skye: Raasay, South Rona, Muck, Rum, Eigg, Canna and Soay.  In the absence of indications to the contrary, general references to Skye made throughout may be taken to include references to the forenamed islands as well.


The main categories of my source materials were periodicals, anthologies, individual collections and miscellaneous books and articles in the libraries of Aberdeen University, the National Library of Scotland and the Central Public Library in Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Library, The Mitchell Library in Glasgow, the library of Sabhal Mór Ostaig in Skye and a number of other libraries through inter-library loan.  While all these printed sources were examined as systematically as possible, constraints of time made it impossible to be as systematic in the case of newspapers.  In general, I confined myself to newspaper material to which I found reference in independent sources.


As this is a bibliography of printed works, there are no main entries for manuscript or other non-print material, although references may be made to such material in the annotations, along with listings in the ‘References and Sources’ section.



Criticisms : Translations


Critical material is normally referred to in the annotation, rather than being cited as a main entry.  Exceptions are made in two cases.  Subsequent to the first publication of J.C. Watson’s edition of the poems of Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh (1934) there has been some significant published research concerning this work which is cited in this bibliography in the form of main entries.  A selection of critical material on the poetry of Somhairle MacGill-Eain is also cited in the form of main entries.


Translations are not normally noted unless they have been published alongside works cited.  An exception has been made in the case of Somhairle MacGill-Eain, with translations of some of his works made by other poets being cited.



Language Use


Where an author’s name is used as a main heading, I normally use the Gaelic form if this occurs in any of that author’s works which are cited.  However, there are certain exceptions.  For instance, the greater part of the work of Coinneach MacLeòid has been published under the anglicised form of his name, Kenneth MacLeod ( 1,  2,  3, ) and this is the form which I use as the main heading.  In all cases, appropriate cross-references are made.


Where any item cited is exclusively in Gaelic, Gaelic descriptive terms are usually used within the citation, e.g. fear-deasachaidh, etc.



Individuals:  Poets, Songwriters, Traditional Singers, Authors, Collectors etc.


I generally include material by persons who belong to the area through birth or long residence.



Bibliographical Form


Citations are made in the form of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Code, with modifications to accommodate the nature and form of this work.



Traditional Poetry and Song: Known Authorship


Included are the works of those poets who have belonged to Skye and its adjacent islands, either through birth or long residence.  The exact criteria may vary, depending upon circumstances.  For instance, William Ross (1762-1790) was born and spent his childhood years in Skye, but his active poetic life was spent on the mainland Gaidhealtachd.  With the exception of one poem, ‘Còmhradh eadar am Bàrd agus Blàth-bheinn’ I do not feel that he can be called a Skye poet, although I recognise that there are those who will disagree with me on this point.


Where a recognised collected edition of a poet’s work exists, separate publication of an individual item included in such an edition is not cited here unless there are significant textual variations between the two versions and the variant version is not noted in the collected edition.


Where the published title of a poem is descriptive, rather than derived from the text, the first line is quoted in the annotation.

Where recorded versions of a poet’s work have been issued in conjunction with the printed text these are noted and wherever possible, printed versions of tunes for poems or songs published separately from the texts cited are noted.



Traditional Poetry and Song: Anonymous


Included in this category is any anonymous poem or song which, according to internal or external evidence, may have originated in Skye or one of its adjacent islands.  The strength of this evidence may vary from the strong to the tenuous.


Also included in this category are versions from within the area of songs which may have originated elsewhere or whose origins are indeterminate.  Within an oral tradition it is not uncommon for a song which has originated in one place to travel over a wide geographical area with different versions becoming embedded in the oral tradition of many different districts.  Modern social conditions and modern media have of course affected the oral tradition and a traditional singer’s repertoire may now include items which do not have any clear link with his or her home district.



Traditional Poetry and Song: Collections


‘Collections’ includes collections of material from the repertoire of individual tradition-bearers as well as collections made by both professional and amateur collectors.  Such collections may include both material of known authorship and anonymous material.



Modern Poetry and Song


Raasay-born Somhairle MacGill-Eain (Sorley MacLean) has been described by Domhnall MacAmhlaigh as being the “vital and incomparable link” between the older, traditional poetry and the new, modern poetry (MacAmhlaigh 1976:54).  There is a substantial section in this bibliography devoted to the work of Somhairle MacGill-Eain.


There is a selective listing of the work of new modern poets who have worked and are working in Skye today.



Traditional Prose: Single Items


Material listed in this section ranges from transcriptions of full length tales taken from oral recitation, through literary versions of traditional tales, to descriptive and anecdotal material.  All the items have been collected from, or written by men and women from the area.  Each item is listed under the name of the reciter, collector or author within a single alphabetical sequence. 


As far as this section is concerned, my definition of ‘traditional’ has a certain flexibility.  Generally, material composed for publication is included if the matter is traditional and the style does not vary too much from the traditional.  For instance, the subject matter of Niall MacLeòid’s ‘Gaol Gaidhealach’ in his Clàrsach an Doire is certainly traditional, but his style varies so much from the traditional that ‘Gaol Gaidhealach’ is listed in the section for non-traditional creative prose.



Traditional Prose: Collections


As well as single items, there are several collections.  For example; tales and lore collected by Calum I. MacLean, tales and lore collected from Hugh MacKinnon and collections of the published compositions of individual authors, most notably the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach.



Non-traditional Creative Prose


The short story is well represented in this section in a wide range of styles from writers like Màrtainn Domhnallach, Ailean Caimbeul, Eilidh Watt etc.  Included too, is one of the few full length novels ever to be published in Gaelic, Angus Robertson’s An t-Ogha Mór.


There is evidence of the persistent influence of the Rev. Norman MacLeod, ‘Caraid nan Gaidheal’, in the use of the dialogue form first popularised by him in An Teachdaire Gaelach.  This may be seen in items by John Lorne Campbell and T. M. MacCalmain.


A number of sketches and short plays are listed, most of them the work of Domhnall Grannd.



Journalism and Miscellaneous Prose


Material in this section is listed on a fairly selective basis.  Material written by people belonging to Skye and its adjacent islands is usually only included if it has specific reference to the area.  This means that what is listed for writers like T. M. MacCalmain and Màrtainn Domhnallach does not represent anything like their total output.  However, in such cases I try to include in the notes some discussion of the nature and scope of their literary activities.



Anne Loughran

October 2016



* An t-Ollamh Dòmhnall MacAmhlaigh


Bàrd agus sgoilear cliùiteach,

fear-teagaisg barraichte.






















Traditional: known authors 

Traditional: anonymous 

Traditional: collections 





Traditional: collections   

Non-traditional creative   

Journalism & misc.










© A. Loughran, 2016