Gaelic Literature of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   

 

Traditional poetry and song:  collectors and collections

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TOLMIE, Frances  (1840-1926)

 

Frances Tolmie was born in Skye in 1840 and died there in 1926.  Her life-long love of Gaelic lore and song bore fruit in 1911, when her collection of one hundred and five songs of occupation was published by the Folk-Song Society (Journal of the Folk-Song Society, 16).  This collection gained immediate and well-deserved recognition, but does not in itself fully represent Frances Tolmie’s work.  The collection’s main emphasis is upon the tunes of the songs, and consequently texts are in many cases much abbreviated.  Material was also

contributed by Miss Tolmie to the published collections of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser, but subject to considerable editing on the part of Mrs.Kennedy-Fraser.  Material contributed to Keith Norman MacDonald’s published collections is presented in the form in which he received it from her, but he quite often omits to acknowledge his source.

 

Ethel Bassin’s The Old Songs of Skye: Frances Tolmie and her Circle (Bassin 1977) provides a useful account of Frances Tolmie’s life and work, chronicling the long gestation of the 1911 collection and giving an account of her involvement with Keith Norman MacDonald, Marjory Kennedy-Fraser and Kenneth MacLeod among others.  In Appendix A (pp.176-184) Miss Bassin lists all of the songs in Frances Tolmie’s 1911 collection in chronological order, indicating those songs which also appear in Keith Norman MacDonald’s Gesto Collection (MacDonald 1895) and Puirt-a-Beul (MacDonald 1901).  In Appendix B (pp.185-192) she lists those songs which Frances Tolmie gave to Marjory Kennedy-Fraser, giving both Kennedy-Fraser and Tolmie titles and

ascriptions, and indicating those which also appear in the Gesto Collection and Puirt-a-Beul.

 

Though Miss Bassin’s work is interesting and useful, it cannot be said to do full justice to Frances Tolmie’s work as a collector of Gaelic song.  A considerable amount of space is taken up with reproducing material already available in print, and it is a matter of regret that the opportunity to publish previously unpublished

material from Miss Tolmie’s MSS has not been more fully used.  In the 1980’s I made a preliminary survey of these MSS in the National Library of Scotland (Acc. 4863), and I found that they appeared to contain a significant amount of unpublished material.  Appendices A and B of the Old Songs of Skye contain a few errors and the treatment of two of the printed sources for Miss Tolmie’s work are unsatisfactory.

 

Miss Bassin notes (p. 90) that Frances Tolmie contributed some traditional material to the MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry (MacDonald and MacDonald 1911), but does not specify the material concerned.  Her treatment of Miss Tolmie’s connection with Donald Campbell’s Treatise on the Language, Poetry and Music of the Highland Clans is somewhat confusing.  She notes (p.31) that one or two unspecified songs in the Treatise can be identified by their resemblance to songs of the same title in Miss Tolmie’s 1911 collection, and she does this in a context which suggests that she may be referring to the tunes of the songs.  She states (pp. 174-175) that ‘Fuaim an Taibh’ and ‘An Crònan’ (Journal of the Folk-Song Society, 16:262-264), along with a few others (unspecified), are in the Treatise.  In this case it is unclear whether she is referring to texts and tunes, or to tunes alone.  In my opinion the Treatise  texts of ‘Fuaim an Taibh’ (pp.156-157) and ‘An Crònan’ (p.155) do not show sufficient resemblance to those in Miss Tolmie’s 1911 collection to enable ascription to her on textual basis alone. Where the tunes are concerned, I would only ascribe the Treatise version of ‘An Crònan’ (App., p.2) to her.  As to the unspecified ‘few others of her repertory’ to which Miss Bassin refers, I

have not been able to pinpoint any which I would with confidence ascribe to Miss Tolmie.

 

I thought that it might be useful to list here in a single alphabetical sequence all those of Miss Tolmie’s published songs which I have been able to trace, indicating in each case the printed sources and using the following abbreviations:

 

 

BG

 

William J Watson (ed.).  Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig: Specimens of Gaelic Poetry 1550-1900.  2nd ed..  Stirling: A. Learmonth & Son, 1932.  (1st ed.  Inverness: Northern Counties, 1918).

 

FTH

 

Marjory Kennedy-Fraser & Kenneth MacLeod (eds.).  From the Hebrides.  Glasgow: Paterson’s Publications, 1925.

 

GCApp.

 

Keith Norman MacDonald (ed).  The Gesto Collection of Highland Music.Leipzig: Oscar Brandsetter, 1895.  Appendix.

 

LC

 

J. F. Campbell.  Leabhar na Feinne.  Vol. 1.  London: Spottiswoode & Co. for the author [repr. Shannon: Irish University Press, 1972]

 

MC

 

A. & A. MacDonald (eds).  The MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry.Inverness: Northern Counties, 1911.

 

MSH

 

Marjory Kennedy-Fraser & Kenneth MacLeod (eds.). More Songs of the Hebrides.  London: Boosey & Co.

(post-1927 publication, see:  Bassin 1977:185).

 

OSS

 

Ethel Bassin.  The Old Songs of Skye: Frances Tolmie and Her Circle.  Edited by Derek Bownam.  London and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul., 1977

 

PB

 

Keith Norman MacDonald (ed).  Puirt-a-Beul = Mouth-Tunes.  Glasgow:  Alex. MacLaren & Sons, 1901.  [repr. 1931].

 

SH1

 

Marjory Kennedy-Fraser & Kenneth MacLeod (eds.). Songs of the Hebrides.  London: Boosey & Co, 1909.

 

SH2

 

Marjory Kennedy-Fraser & Kenneth MacLeod (eds.). Songs of the Hebrides.  Second volume.  London: Boosey & Co., 1917.

 

SH3

 

Marjory Kennedy-Fraser & Kenneth MacLeod (eds.). Songs of the Hebrides.  Third volume.  London: Boosey & Co., 1921.

 

ST

 

Marjory Kennedy-Fraser & Kenneth MacLeod (eds.). Sea-Tangle: Some More Songs of the Hebrides.  London: Boosey & Co, 1913.

 

TC

 

Frances Tolmie.  [Collection of One Hundred and Five Songs of Occupation], Journal of the Folk-Song Society, No. 16 (1911). London.

 

TLPM

 

Donald Campbell.  A Treatise on the Language, Poetry and Music of the Highland Clans.  Edinburgh: D. R. Collie & Son, 1862.

 

Items which are not ascribed to Miss Tolmie in the publications concerned are marked ‘N.ascr’.  My own ascriptions in some of these cases are tenuous and might be more properly described as suggestions that Miss Tolmie might have been the source.  The most reliable authority is of course Miss Tolmie herself.  When items in her 1911 collection have also been contributed by her to Keith Norman MacDonald’s Gesto Collection and Puirt-a-Beul, this is usually indicated in her notes.

 

For material listed below, the titles of the songs as they appear in Miss Tolmie’s 1911 collection are used as headings, and those few songs which are not of Skye or Eigg origin are included.  In all the publications, apart from the MacDonald Collection (MacDonald and MacDonald 1911), tunes are given, all of these being in staff notation, with the exception of those in Puirt-a-Beul (MacDonald 1901), which are in tonic sol-fa notation.  Most items have English translations, but any reference which I make may be taken to refer to Gaelic

textual material, unless otherwise indicated.

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Ailein, Ailein, ‘s fhad an cadal

 

i    G.C. App., p. 16.  Thirteen verses and a vocable refrain.  N.ascr

 

ii   T.C., p. 222.  Fifteen verses and a vocable refrain.  Miss Tolmie notes that she is the source of the G.C. version

 

iii   O.S.S., p. 45.  Reproduction of T.C. version

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Ailein Duinn, nach till thu ‘n taobhsa?’

 

G.C. App., p. 16.  Two verse-couplets and a refrain of mixed vocables and text.

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Ailein Duinn shiìbhlainn leat

 

i     G.C. App., p. 61.  Seven verses and a refrain of mixed vocables and text.  N.ascr

 

ii    S.H. 1, pp. 130-133.  Entitled ‘Harris Love Lament’.  Tune attributed to Frances Tolmie.

 

iii   O.S.S., pp. 131-133.  One verse and a refrain.  Transcribed by Ethel Bassin from Frances Tolmie’s MS.  Miss Bassin indicates that Frances Tolmie is the source of the G.C. version and discusses the

circumstances of Miss Tolmie’s giving of the tune to Marjory Kennedy-Fraser, whose version (see above) is, in this instance, remarkably close to Miss Tolmie’s.  See also ‘Shiùbhlainn, Shiùbhlainn’  .

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‘Air fàir an

 

T.C., pp. 216-217.  Fourteen single-line verses and a vocable refrain.  Attributed to Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh.  Otherwise known as ‘Siuthadaibh, siuthadaibh, a mhnàthan’. 

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‘Alasdair ‘mhic, O-

 

i     T.C., pp. 257-258.  Seven verse-couplets, to be sung in quatrain continuation form, and a vocable refrain.  From Barra.

 

ii    M.C., pp. 40-42.  Eighteen couplets, to be sung in quatrain continuation form and a vocable refrain.  Collated from Frances Tolmie’s Barra version and one other.

 

iii   B.G., pp. 212-213.  Professor Watson quotes T.C. and M.C. as his sources.

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‘Am faca tu ‘n gobha?’

 

i     G.C. App., p. 23.  One verse and a refrain of vocables and text.  N.ascr

 

ii    T.C., pp. 165-166.  Neither Frances Tolmie nor Ethel Bassin claims Miss Tolmie to be the source of the G.C. version above, but I am fairly certain that she is.  The texts are almost identical and the tunes are the same, although given in different times.

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An téid thu bhuain mhaoraich?’

 

T.C., P. 180.  A nurse’s song.  One verse and a refrain.

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Ba-bà mo leanabh

 

i     P.B., p. 43.  A few words and a refrain.  N.ascr

 

ii    T.C., pp. 164-165.  Text the same as that in P.B., which Miss Tolmie notes she contributed.

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‘Bean Mhic a’ Mhaoir  (1)

 

T.C., p. 205.  A fragment, beginning with ‘Cha b’é ‘n ainnis’.  The tune was used by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser for part of her ‘Sea-Tangle’ (S.H. 2, pp. 56-63).  ‘Sea-Tangle’ is a reworking of the ‘Bean Mhic a’ Mhaoir’ (or ‘A’ Bhean Eudach’) theme.  See Ethel Bassin’s discussion of this (Bassin 1977:139-141).

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‘Bean Mhic a’  Mhaoir  (2)

 

i     P.B., pp. 44-45.  Entitled ‘A’ Bhean Eudach’.  Thirty verses, with two vocable refrains and two tunes.  N.ascr

 

ii    T.C., pp. 206-207.  Text, apart from a few minor variations, the same as that in P.B., which Miss Tolmie notes she contributed.

 

iii   O.S.S., pp. 193-196.  Includes P.B. text, and P.B. tunes in staff notation, as well as the T.C. tune.

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Bithidh clann bheag a’ bhaile muigh

 

P.B., p. 12.  Three verses.  N.ascr.  I believe that Frances Tolmie may be the source.  Compare this version with that in her MSS (NLS Acc. 4863, MS 14904).

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Brochan lom, tana lom

 

T.C., pp. 192-193.  Two verses and a refrain.

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‘Am Bròn Binn – Aisling Righ Bhreatainn

 

i     T.C., pp. 251-253.  Twenty couplets and a vocable refrain.

 

ii    S.H. 3, pp. 169-181.  Entitled ‘The Sea-Quest’ or ‘The Harp Sorrow (Am Bron Binn)’.  Tunes from Frances Tolmie and Annie Johnson of Barra.  Words collected and collated by Kenneth MacLeod. 

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Buain na Rainich

 

T.C., pp. 178-179.  Two verses and a refrain.

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Caoidh an Eich-uisge

 

T.C., p. 161.  Two verses. beginning with ‘Och, Ochan ‘s mi dìreadh’.

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Caoidh Leannain

 

T.C., p. 266.  Four single-line verses and a refrain, ‘Si mo Ghaolach-sa bh’ann’.

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Caoidh Màthar

 

i     T.C., pp. 204-205.  A vocable refrain and ten single-line verses, beginning with ‘Mhàiri bhàin a bhroillich ghlé ghil’.

 

ii    S.H. 2, pp. 182-184.  Entitled ‘Caristiona’.  Frances Tolmie’s tune, with words collected by Kenneth MacLeod.

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‘Na caoraich ‘s na gobhair

 

T.C., pp. 240-241.  Fragment of a milking song.

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‘Cha dean mise car a chaoidh

 

T.C., pp. 266-267.  One verse and a refrain.

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Chaidh mis’ dh’ an tràgh

 

i     G.C. App., p. 22.  Twenty-eight lines and a vocable refrain.  Another tune is given on p.16.  N.ascr

 

ii    P.B., p. 46.  Nine lines and a vocable refrain.  Ascribed ‘From the Gesto Collection’.

 

iii   T.C., pp. 210-211.  Two lines and a vocable refrain.  Two tunes.  Miss Tolmie notes that she contributed the words and both tunes to G.C., 

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Chaidh na fir a Sgathabhaig

 

i     G.C. App., p. 21.  Four couplets and a vocable refrain.  N.ascr

 

ii    T.C., pp. 221-222.  Four couplets and a vocable refrain.  Miss Tolmie notes that she contributed the G.C., version.

 

iii   F.T.H., pp. 74-75.  Text same as in T.C., tune same, but value of notes has been doubled.  Ascribed to both Frances Tolmie and Marjory Kennedy-Fraser.

 

iv    O.S.S., p. 13.  Reproduction of T.C. version.

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Chall ò

 

T.C., p. 200.  Eight lines and a vocable refrain.

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‘Cha ‘n fhaigh duine Màigean

 

i     P.B., p. 40.  Two verses.  N.ascr

 

ii    F.T.H., p. 24.  Text same as that in P.B., apart from one minor variation.  Ascription: ‘Air and words from Skye’.  Ethel Bassin states that this song, which she refers to as ‘For a child’, is from Frances Tolmie (Bassin 1977:82).

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‘ ‘Chraobh an iubhair

 

T.C., p. 231.  Five lines and a refrain.

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Ciod é ‘ghaoil

 

i     T.C., pp. 188-189.  Three lines and a refrain.

 

ii    S.H. 1, p. 74.  Text same as in T.C.; same tune, but in a different key and without the grace notes.

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Clò nan Gillean

 

i     T.C., p. 223.  Three line-verses and a refrain.

 

ii    S.H. 1, pp. xxiv-xv.  Noted by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser from Frances Tolmie.  Apart from the omission of part of the refrain and an orthographic variation, the text is the same as in T.C.  The tune shows

several variations.

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Coisich a rùin

 

i     T.C., pp. 211-213.  Twenty-seven line-verses and a refrain.

 

ii    G.C. App., p. 56.  Tune only.

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Colann gun Cheann

 

i     T.C., pp. 186-187.  One verse.

 

ii    O.S.S., pp. 57-58.  Reproduction of T.C. version.  See individual entry for ‘Is fada bhuam fhìn bonn Beinn Edra’.

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Comhairl’ Oisein dhaMhàthair

 

i     L.F., pp. 198-199.  Entitled ‘Ossian’s Song to his Mother’.  Includes part of Frances Tolmie’s version, obtained by J. F. Campbell through Miss Emily MacLeod of MacLeod.

 

ii    G.C. App., p. 21.  Entitled ‘Oisein ri Mhàthair’.  Nineteen lines and a vocable refrain.  N.ascr

 

iii   T.C., pp. 249-250.  One couplet with vocable refrain.  Miss Tolmie notes that she contributed the G.C. version.

 

iv    O.S.S., pp. 51-52.  Reproduction of the T.C. version.

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ni bhùirich

 

i     G.C. App., p. 19.  Entitled ‘Oran Cadail’.  N.ascr

 

ii    T.C., pp. 241-242.  Neither Frances Tolmie nor Ethel Bassin claims the G.C. version to be from Miss Tolmie, but it is so close to the T.C. version that I believe Miss Tolmie to be the source.

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Crodh Chailein

 

T.C., pp. 243-244.  Two verses, noted from Isabel Cameron of Mull.  The notes include a legend concerning the origin of the song from Niall MacLeòid, the Skye bard.

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‘An Crònan

 

i     T.L.P.M., App. p.2.  N.ascr. Tune only.  See reference to this in introductory essay above.

 

ii    T.C., pp. 263-264.  Version of Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh’s song.

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‘An Bàn

 

i     P.B., p. 40.  Entitled ‘Ho-an O-an, arsan Bàn’.  Three lines and a refrain.  N.ascr.  Ethel Bassin claims that this version is from Frances Tolmie, but there are some textual variations.

 

ii    T.C., p. 173.  Three lines and a refrain.

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‘An Cùbhrachan

 

T.C., p. 167.  Five verses.

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‘Cumha an Eich-uisge

 

i     G.C. App., p. 20.  Entitled ‘Oran an t-Each-Uisge Nuair a Theich a Bhean bhuaidh’.  Four verses and a vocable refrain.  N.ascr

 

ii    T.C., pp. 162-163.  Four verses and a vocable refrain.  Frances Tolmie notes that she contributed the G.C. version.

 

iii   S.H. 1, pp. 94-97.  G.C. is acknowledged as the source.

 

iv    O.S.S., pp. 36-37.  Reproduction of T.C. version.  See also individual entry for ‘A Mhór, a Mhór, till ri d’ mhacan.

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‘Cumha Bantraich

 

T.C., p. 214.  Vocable refrain and one line, ‘O! gur h-é mistha air mo leònadh

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‘Cumha Bhràithrean

 

i     T.C., p. 202.  Fifteen couplets and a vocable refrain.

 

ii    M.C., pp. 172-173.  Unascribed, but very close to the T.C. version

 

iii   O.S.S., pp. 55-56.  Reproduction of T.C. version.  See also individual entry for ‘Cumha Peathar’.

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‘Cumha Dhiarmaid’

 

i     G.C. App., P. 26.  Twenty-three lines and a vocable refrain.  N.ascr

 

ii    T.C., pp. 248-249.  One couplet and a vocable refrain.  Miss Tolmie notes that she contributed the G.C. version.  See also individual entry for ‘Laoidh Dhiarmaid’.

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‘Cumha Mhic Gille-Chalum a b’òige

 

i     G.C. App., p. 17.  Ten couplets, to be sung in quatrain continuation form, and a vocable refrain.  N.ascr

 

ii    O.S.S., p. 44.  Reproduction of the G.C. version, which Ethel Bassin identifies as having been contributed by Frances Tolmie.  See entry for Nighean Mhic Ghille Chaluim in section for poetry and song of known authorship.

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‘Cumha Mhic-Leòid

 

i     G.C. App., p. 52.  Three stanzas of Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh’s lament for Sir Norman MacLeod of Bernera.

 

ii    T.C., pp. 198-199.  Four stanzas noted from Roderick MacLeod of Bracadale in 1862.

 

iii   M.C., pp. 150-151.  Nine stanzas, noted by Miss Tolmie from Màiri Bheag Nigh’n Domh’llic Ruairidh of Ebost, Skye in 1861.

 

iv    S.H. 2, p. xx.  Tune only.  N.ascr. Ethel Bassin says Miss Tolmie is the source (Bassin 1977:188).

 

v     O.S.S., pp. 33-34.  Reproduction of T.C. version.  Miss Bassin notes that this version also appears in G.C. (Bassin 1977:179).

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‘Cumha Sheathain

 

T.C., pp. 207-210.  Two versions: the first, with one couplet and a vocable refrain, from Skye; the second, with twenty-five couplets and a vocable refrain, from South Uist.  See also individual entry for ‘Seathan Mac Rìgh Eireann.

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‘Dean Cadalan

 

T.C., p. 168.  Fragment of a cradle song.

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‘Dh’ fhalbh an Triùir Mhaighdinnean

 

T.C., pp. 183-184.  Two versions: the first with one couplet and the second with four.

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Dhomhnuill, a Dhomhnuill

 

T.C., p. 192.  Fragment of a port-a-beul.

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Eile na hùraibh o-ho’

 

i     T.C., p. 237.  Thirteen lines and a vocable refrain.

 

ii    S.H. 2, p. xxii.  Tune only.

 

iii   O.S.S., pp. 87-88.  Reproduction of T.C. version.

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Eóghann Bàn

 

i     T.C., p. 190.  One verse and a refrain of mixed vocables and text.

 

ii    M.S.H., p. 30.  Song entitled ‘Till I return’ uses Frances Tolmie’s tune for ‘Eóghann Bàn’ (Bassin 1977:192).

 

For another version of ‘Eóghann Bàn’ see the Hugh MacKinnon Collection.

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Fac thu na féidh

 

T.C., pp. 180-181.  A short children’s song.

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Fàill ill o-ho-ro

 

i     T.C., pp. 267-268.  Two verses and a refrain of text and vocables.

 

ii    S.H. 2, pp. 42-44.  Entitled ‘The Island Mermaid’. Text same as that in T.C., but tune given in a lower key.

 

iii   O.S.S., p. 32.  Reproduction of T.C. version.

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‘Fear Bhàlai

 

i     G.C. App., p. 22.  Entitled ‘An raoir chunna mi ‘n aisling’.  Ten verses and a vocable refrain.  N.ascr

 

ii    T.C., p. 255.  One verse, with the refrain slightly different from that in G.C.  Frances Tolmie notes that she contributed the G.C. version.

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Fuaim an Taibh

 

T.C., pp. 262-263.  One stanza of Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh’s poem.

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‘Gaol nam Ban’

 

T.C., p. 189.  Two verses of a dialogue song between a husband and wife.

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Goiridh an coileachan uair roimh

 

T.C., pp. 232-233.  A matchmaking song.  See individual entry.

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Griogal Cridhe

 

i     G.C. App., p. 25.  Seven quatrains and a refrain of mixed vocables and text.  N.ascr

 

ii    T.C., pp. 196-197.  Six quatrains and a refrain of mixed vocables and text. Frances Tolmie notes that she contributed the G.C. version.

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See also: Frances Tolmie II (H – Z)

 

 

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Abbreviations 

 

Traditional: known authorship

A-C       D-Domhnall       Domhnallach-Dz        E–G       H–L       M–MacA       MacB–MacC        MacD        MacE-MacK,  MacLa-MacLeod        MacLeòid A-H        MacLeòid I-Z        MacM-MacN       MacO-MacZ      M      N      O-Q      R-Z

 

Traditional: anonymous

A-B      C-D      E-K      L-N       O       P-Z     

 

Traditional: collections

Annie Arnott       An Cabairneach        Carmina Gadelica        Catriona Dhùghlas        Tormod Domhnallach                  Marjory Kennedy-Fraser         Angus Lamont        K. N. MacDonald         Johan MacInnes          Hugh MacKinnon          Calum I. MacLean         Sorley MacLean        Kenneth MacLeod         Niall MacLeòid        Màiri Nighean Alasdair

Cairistiona Mhàrtainn         Alexander Morison          Kenneth Morrison         Angus Nicolson          Portree HS Magazine   Lachlann Robertson         Frances Tolmie I          Frances Tolmie II

 

Modern

Somhairle MacGill-Eain         The New Poetry

 

References

Books etc: A-L         Books etc: MacA-MacL         Books etc: MacM-Z   Periodicals, MSS, AV

 

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