Gaelic Literature of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   


Traditional poetry and song:  collectors and collections







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Carmina Gadelica is an extensive collection of Gaelic lore, mostly in verse form, made by Alexander Carmichael between 1855 and 1899.  Alexander Carmichael was a native of Lismore and a dedicated amateur folklorist.  He worked as an excise man both in the Western Isles and the mainland Gaidhealtachd.  He contributed articles on antiquarian topics to a number of publications, but he is probably best known for Carmina Gadelica.


Carmina Gadelica was originally published in six volumes, four of them after Carmichael’s death in 1912.  The first two were edited by Carmichael and were published in1900; the third and fourth volumes were edited by Carmichael’s grandson James Carmichael Watson and published in 1940 and 1941; the fifth and sixth volumes were edited by Angus Matheson and published in 1954 and 1971. An English-language one-volume edition was published in 1992 (Carmichael 1992).


Much of the material in CG is of a spiritual and religious nature and some of it shows signs of a pagan origin.  The material was collected for the most part in the Western Isles, usually from ordinary people, although Prof. Derick Thomson has pointed out that internal evidence demonstrates a literary rather than a folk origin for a significant amount of it (Thomson 1983:36).


Opinions as to Carmichael’s editorial methods have been divided.  Hamish Robertson, in an article in Scottish Gaelic Studies is very critical (Robertson 1976), but John Lorne Campbell makes a spirited rejoinder to

Robertson’s views (Campbell 1978)


The Carmichael Watson Project: Edinburgh University Library, where the Carmichael Watson Collection is housed has embarked on a project to make the collection more accessible to the wider academic community as well as the broader community ( ).


Listed below is material in Carmina Gadelica relevant to the area covered by this bibliography.  Where individual items are dealt with in more detail elsewhere, this is stated and it may be assumed, unless otherwise indicated, that the items concerned are to be found listed in sequence in the section for poetry and song of unknown authorship.



Carmina Gadelica.  Vol. 1.  Edited by Alexander Carmichael.  Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1900.  xxxii, 339p. 


2nd ed.  Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1928.  xxxvi, 335p.


i     Ora Boisilidh’, pp. 60-63.


A bathing prayer from Janet Campbell, nurse, of Loch Skiport, South Uist.  She was born a MacKinnon of Skye.


ii    Beannachadh Bhliadhna Uir’, pp. 158-159.


A New Year’s blessing from Ann Morrison of Trumsgearry, North Uist, née Ann Ross of Skye.


iii   A lively character sketch of Anne, daughter of Flora MacDonald and wife of Major MacLeod of Stein.  Includes one verse of a rann which she had for St. Bride’s Day (pp. 170-171).


iv   ‘Bride Ban-Cobhair’, pp. 176-177.


A prayer for conception.  From Janet Campbell, née MacKinnon, of Skye and South Uist.


v    Crònan Bleoghain’, pp. 260-261.


A milking croon.  From Mary Stewart of Malacleit, North Uist.  She came originally from Skye and knew many occult runes.



Carmina Gadelica.  Vol. 2.  Edited by Alexander Carmichael.  Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1900.  xi, 350p. 


2nd ed.  Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1928.  xv, 381p.


i     Eòlas na ’, pp. 6-7.


A charm for rose (growth on a cow’s udder).  From Catrine MacCuithean of Fernilea in Skye.


ii    Eòlas’, pp. 58-59.


Incantation to Peter, James and John.  From Mary Stewart of North Uist, originally from Skye.


iii   ‘An Earraid Shìth’, pp. 92-93.


Incantation for the plucking of fairy wort.  From Gormul MacKinnon of Lochmaddy, North Uist, originally from Skye.


iv   Earr Thalmhainn’, pp. 94-95 (no. 163).


Incantation for the plucking of yarrow.  From Mary Stewart of North Uist, originally from Skye.


v    ‘A’ Chloimh Chat’, pp. 118-119 (no. 178).


Incantation for the plucking of catkin wool.  From John Beaton, a shepherd of Aird nan Laogh, South Uist, originally from Skye.


vi   ‘Am Bréid’, pp. 212-215.


Version of the Rev. Donald MacLeod of Greshornish’s poem ‘Beannachadh Bàird’.  See entry in section for poetry and song of known authorship.


vii  ‘A nighean righ nan roiseal soluis’: pp. 230-231 (pp. 232-233 in 2nd ed). See individual entry for this poem.


viii  ‘Thug an dithis dh’ an ainnir gaol’:  pp. 269-270 (pp. 280-281 in 2nd ed).


Ossianic poem from Kenneth Morrison.  See: The Kenneth Morrison Collection.


ix    Fragment of Kenneth Morrison’s version of ‘The Lay of Fraoch’:  p. 276 (p. 289 in 2nd ed)..  See: The Kenneth Morrison Collection.


x    Tale of Dùn Gharsain, with poem ‘Tilg an dearg air Tarmaid Dubh’.  From Donald MacCuithean of Fernilea in Skye: pp. 308-309 (pp. 329-331 in 2nd ed).  See individual entry for this poem.


xi   Notes on the sacred qualities of the number seven, with an incantation from Kenneth Morrison of Trithion in Skye: pp. 322-323 (pp. 347-349 in 2nd ed).  See: The Kenneth Morrison Collection.




Carmina Gadelica.  Vol. 3.  Edited by James Carmichael Watson.  Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1940.  xxiv, 395p.


On p. 278 there is an account of superstitions connected with the moon from an old man of Eigg named Robertson.



Carmina Gadelica.  Vol. 4.  Edited by James Carmichael Watson.  Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1941.  xiv, 367p.


i     Incantation from the Rev. Kenneth MacLeod for the plucking of pearlwort: pp. 134-135.


ii    Account of Tobar na Cloinne, at Strolamus in Skye, with words of a Gaelic charm.  This well’s waters were said to cure infertility: p. 203.


iii   Giullan geal thu’, pp. 316-319.


Lullaby recorded from a Barra man.  Includes a reference to Blaaven in Skye (see individual entry).


iv   Thréig an cadal mi’, pp. 352-355.


Song from Eigg (see individual entry).


v    Guidhe nan Leòdach’, pp. 356-359.


See individual entry.


vi   ‘A Bhricein Bhallaich’, pp. 366-367.


See entry in the Kenneth MacLeod Collection.



Carmina Gadelica.  Vol. 5.  Edited by Angus Matheson.  Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1954.  xxiv, 403p.


i     ‘Seathan Mac Rìgh Eireann’, pp. 60-83.


From Janet MacLeod of Eigg and Jessie Matheson of Skye.  See individual entry for this poem.


ii    ‘Tàladh Mhic Leòid’, pp. 184-233.


Several versions.  See individual entry for this poem.


iii  ‘Mac Gille Chaluim Ratharsaidh’, pp. 300-304.


Account of the drowning of Iain Garbh Mac Ghille Chaluim in 1671, together with a version of the lament attributed to his sister.  See entry for Nighean Mhic Ghille Chaluim in the section for poetry and song of

known authorship.


iv   Fragment said to have been composed by Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh at the time of her sister’s funeral: p. 341.  See entry for Màiri in section for poetry and song of known authorship.






















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



Somhairle MacGill-Eain         The New Poetry



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



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