Gaelic Literature of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   


Traditional poets and songmakers: A - C







This page is best viewed on a desktop or laptop PC




An Aigeannach Nighean Domhnaill Ghuirm.  Oran do Lachlann og Mac Ionmhuinn’.  A Collection of Ancient and Modern Gaelic Poems and Songs.  Edited by John Gillies.  Perth: Printed for John Gillies, 1786, pp.128-132.


In his ‘Some Notes on “An Aigeannach” ‘(Scottish Gaelic Studies, 13, Pt.1:103-111) Professor Colm Ó Baoill demonstrates that there is in fact no extant poetry which is unquestionably the work of this poetess.  He suggests that this poem may be addressed to a MacLean chief and that its author may have been Tearlach Og Mac Fhionghain, father of the poet Lachlann Mac Thearlaich Oig.











According to one tradition recounted by William MacKenzie (1930:121), Aonghas was the sixteenth century progenitor of the Martins of Bealach.  However, the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach points out that there is an earlier Martin on record in Trotternish, Màrtainn Mac Ille Mhàrtainn (An Gaidheal, 58:99).


Aonghas was brother-in-law to his chief, Domhnall Mac Dhomhnaill Ghuirm (d. 1573) and composed some very abusive satires upon Domhnall’s wife, a MacLean of Duart.  However, he seemed to get off comparatively lightly for this offence (MacKenzie 1930 : 121-123).


MacKenzie, William.  Skye: Iochdar-Trotternish and District.  Glasgow: Alex. MacLaren and Sons, 1930, pp. 121-123.


i.   Gheall thu nach gabhadh tu fearg’

Four lines of Aonghas’s first satire upon MacDonald’s wife, with an English translation.


ii   ‘Gall bhodaich o ‘n Bhalgnaich Shlignich / Clann Albannaich idir iad!

Fragment of some abusive verses, with an English translation.


iii   Leagaidh mi clachsa chàrn

Four lines from the second satire on MacDonald’s wife, with an English translation



BATEMAN, Meg.  See: The New Poetry



BEATHAG MHOR  (17th / 18th century)


Beathag Mhór lived in Trotternish in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth Century.  She worked as a milkmaid for the Martins of Bealach and her doomed love-affair with Màrtainn Og, son of Domhnall Màrtainn, is reflected in each of her surviving published songs.


The most substantial published source of information is the article by the Rev. Domhnull Buidse, ‘Beathag Mhór, Bana Bhàrd Sgiathanach’ (TGSI, 48: 371-381).  In addition to an account of Beathag’s life he gives the text of four of her songs, collected by Catriona Dhùghlas.


Part of a letter from Magnus MacLean to the editor of the Celtic Monthly (1: 79) gives information he received from John MacNab (Iain Mac-an-Aba) of Trotternish concerning several fiddle tunes attributed to Beathag in Kilmuir. 


(1)   Beathag Mhór  ‘An Cùl Bachlach


i    Gairm,  9 (Am Foghar 1954),  47-49


ii   TGSI,  48 (1972-1974), 376-379.


A love song to Màrtainn Og.  It was frequently to be heard at waulkings in Trotternish.


The first version appears to be a composite one from four different people in Skye.  There are fourteen verse-couplets with a three-line refrain.  The tune is given in staff notation.


The second version is from the Rev. Buidse’s article and was taken down from the singing of Peigi Nic Mhaoilean of Kilmuir.  It has seventeen verse-couplets, as well as the refrain.


(2)  Beathag Mhór  ‘Port Beathag Mhór’ (Gur h-e mo ghaol am fireannach)


 i    Gairm,  25 (Am Foghar, 1958),  47-49


 ii   TGSI, 48 (1972-1974), 374-376


Beathag celebrates the ring she got from her lover as well as telling her child of the humiliation she suffered at the hands of his father’s family.


The first version was from Annie Arnott of Kilmuir.  There are two four-line stanzas with a four-line refrain.  The tune, in reel time, is given in staff notation.


The second version was from Anna Dhomhnullach, a schoolteacher of Kilmuir.  It is in the form of two stanzas, one of eight lines and the other of seven lines.


(3)  Beathag Mhór Ruidhle Beathaig’.  TGSI, 48 (1972-1974), 379-381


Composed after Beathag met her son, now a young man, for the first time since he was a baby.  It begins ‘Nuair a bha mi ‘n cùl a’ Bhealaich, b’aigeannach mo lòn’.


There are two stanzas, one of eight lines and the other seven lines, in reel time.


(4)  Beathag Mhór   Tha fonn gun bhith trom’.  TGSI, 48 (1972-1974), 373- 374


Commemorates an incident when Beathag was at the shieling.  The last two couplets are addressed to her lover.


There are five verse-couplets, with a refrain of mixed vocables and text.  The tune is given as No. 40 in the Rev. Patrick McDonald’s Collection (McDonald 1784:7).  There is a song with a similar refrain in An Gaidheal, 23 (1927-1928), 120.



BEATON, Angus.  See PEUTAN, Aonghas



BEATON, John.  See PEUTAN, Iain



BEATON, Neil.  See PEUTAN, Niall



BEATON, William.  See PEUTON, Uilleam



CAIMBEUL, Aonghas Padraig.  See: The New Poetry



CAIMBEUL, Domhnall,  of Dunvegan


Dòmhnall Caimbeul.   ‘Is ann ta ‘n clog nach caill a’ mhionaid / Air an spiris againn fhìn!’.  Gairm, 53 (An Geamhradh 1965), 30.


From a poem composed to a cock.  Quoted by the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach in ‘Dioghlum bho Achaidhean na Bàrdachd (3)’ (Gairm, 53: 29-42)



CAIMBEUL, Domhnall Ruadh  (c. 1860-1936)


From Roisgeil in Skye.  He spent his early life as a sailor before returning to Roisgeil to earn his living fishing. The text of the three songs listed below were collected by Seumas Grannd from the oral tradition. The first two are humorous and the third a love poem.


Domhnall Ruadh Caimbeul.  Orain Dhomhnaill Ruaidh’ bho Sheumas Grannd.  Gairm, 149 (Geamhradh 1989-90), 43-47.


i     Oran a’ Christmas Tree

Eight eight-line stanzas beginning ‘ ‘S olc mar dh’ èirich dhuinn a Nèill


ii    Oran a’ choilich

Seven eight-line stanzas beginning ‘Hi ho- mo leann dubh


iii   Cnoc nan Craobh

Four four-line stanzas and refrain beginning ‘Eirich ‘s  tiugainn leam mo chailin.



CAIMBEUL, Gilleasbuig  (19th Century)


Gilleasbuig was born in Skye and died in Strathlorne, Cape Breton, about 1867.


Gilleasbuig Caimbeul.  Oran Ionndrainn’.  Fear na Ceilidh, I, No. 1 (March 1928), 8.


This song, beginning ‘Ochoin, tha mi muladach’, was composed when the poet was in his old age and his family scattered.  It includes mention of Alasdair, who was Member of Parliament for Inverness and Eoghan, a minister of the Church of Scotland in Lewis.  There are seven four-line stanzas and a two-line refrain.  The metre is strophic, with some irregularities.



CAIMBEUL, Iain  (20th Century)


Iain Caimbeul, Seonaidh Mòr ‘Ain Chaimbeil, was from Uig in Skye.  He fought in the First World War and later emigrated to Australia.  (Information from Orain an Eilein (Mhàrtainn 2001:130).)


(1)  Seonaidh Mòr ‘Ain Chaimbeil.  Illean, na Biodh Oirbhse Smalan’.  Orain an Eilein.    

Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p.54.


An interesting little song which gently reproves those who criticise the returning soldiers for letting off steam.  Five four-line verses and a refrain.  From Calum Ross; tune, in staff notation, from Eòin Dòmhnallach.


(2)  Iain Caimbeul.  Ruidhleadh an nighean donn’.  Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn. 

An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p.54.


Five verses of port-a-beul.  From Calum Ross; tune, in staff notation, from Eòin Dòmhnallach.


(3)  Iain Caimbeul.  Soraidh bhuam gu Tìr a’ Cheò’.  Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.

 An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p.56


Song of a disillusioned soldier, composed in Salonika.  Seven four-line verses, composed on the tune of ‘Duanag an t-Seòladair’.




CAIMBEUL, Maoilios.  See: The New Poetry



CAIMBEUL, Murchadh  (20th Century)


Probably belonged to West Skye


Murchadh Caimbeul.  Caoidh nan Tunnagan’.  Gailig (An Deò-Gréine), 18 (1922-1923), 180.


Amusing tale of the mysterious disappearance of two ducks in West Skye.  An example of one of the most popular types of village bard verse.


Six four-line stanzas and a refrain, beginning with ‘Mo thruaighe mar tha mi ‘n diugh’, in a strophic metre.



CAIMBEUL, Murchadh  (20th Century)


Was a member of Comunn na h-Oigridh’s Portree branch when this poem was published.


Murchadh Caimbeul.  Cliù nan Armunn’.  An Gaidheal, 39 (1943-1944), 127-128.


In praise of the Highland soldiers fighting in the Second World War, this poem won a prize in a Comunn na h-Oigridh poetry competition.  It was also published in An Cabairneach, (An t-Og Mhios 1944), 12.


Six four-line stanzas, beginning with ‘ ‘S iad gillean treubhach an éididh ghrinn’.




CAMERON, Donald  (19th Century)


Belonged to Tokavaig, in the parish of Sleat.


(1)  Donald Cameron.  ‘O, Spalderdash air Lassie Nic Iain Bhàin’.  The Gesto Collection of Highland Music.  Compiled by Keith Norman MacDonald.  Leipzig: For the Compiler, 1895, p.20


The tune only is given.  Apparently Dr. MacDonald thought the words too coarse to print!


(2) Donald Cameron.  Sproileag’.  Puirt-a-Beul – Mouth Tunes.  Compiled by Keith Norman MacDonald.  Glasgow: Alex. MacLaren and Sons, 1901, p. 24.


Sproileag’ means an untidy witch.  Dr. MacDonald noted that there had been several verses, but that the one beginning ‘Tha sproileag, tha sproileag’ which he printed was the only one then procurable.


The tune, originally printed in The Gesto Collection (MacDonald 1895 : 145) is in strathspey time.



CAMPBELL, Angus Peter.  See: The New Poetry



CAMPBELL, Archibald.  See CAIMBEUL , Gilleasbuig



CAMPBELL, Donald, of Dunvegan.  See CAIMBEUL, Domhnall



CAMPBELL, Donald of Roisgeil.  See CAIMBEUL, Domhnall Ruadh






CAMPBELL, Murdo.  See CAIMBEUL, Murchadh



CAMPBELL, Myles.  See: The New Poetry



CAMPBELL, Roderick  (early 19th Century)


Roderick Campbell, Ruairidh Mac Chaluim Mhic an t-Saoir, was a tailor and crofter of Colbost, Skye. 


Roderick Campbell.  Mochsa mhaduinn Di-haoine’.  Highland Monthly, 4 (1892-1893),  757-758


Three of the original sixteen stanzas of an elegy for the evangelist Malcolm MacInnes, Calum Mac Aonghais, a carpenter in Glendale.  Composed upon the model of ‘Mo rùn geal òg’.



AN CIARAN MABACH  (17th Century)


Gilleasbuig Ruadh MacDhomhnaill, otherwise known as An Ciaran Mabach, was son to Domhnall Gorm Og, ninth Chief of Sleat, and brother to Sir James MacDonald, Seumas Mór, the tenth chief.  According to John MacKenzie he was a natural son of Domhnall Gorm Og (MacKenzie 1872 : 53), but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to support this claim.  The epithets ‘ruadh’ and ‘dubh’ have both been applied to him and this has been discussed by Dr. Annie MacKenzie (1964: 287).


When the Lochaber poet, Iain Lom, appealed to Sir James MacDonald for help in avenging the murder of the young Keppoch chief and his brother, Sir James entrusted the task to his brother.  Iain Lom expressed his appreciation in a poem ‘An Ciaran Mabach’ (MacKenzie 1964: 128-131, 286-287).


(1)   ‘B’ annsa cadal air fraoch


I      Cochruinneacha Taoghta de Shaothair nam Bard Gaelach.  Edited by Alexander and Donald Stewart.  Duneidin: T. Stiuart, 1804, pp. 485-487.


ii    Sàr-Obair nam Bàrd Gaelach.  Edited by John MacKenzie.  Edinburgh: Maclachlan and Stewart, 1873 (1st edition 1841), pp. 53-54


iii   A Treatise on the Language, Poetry, and Music of the Highland Clans.  Donald Campbell.  Edinburgh: D.R. Collie and Son, 1862, pp. 172-175.


iv  The Gaelic Bards from 1411 to [1715].  Edited by the Rev. A. Maclean Sinclair.  Charlottetown: Haszard and Moore, 1890, pp.65-67.


v    An Gaidheal, 38 (1942-1943), 42-43


This poem is said to have been composed during a stay in Edinburgh, when the poet was receiving treatment for a foot injury.  It is at the same time an expression of longing for his native place and a celebration of the joys of nature and the outdoor life.  Alexander Nicolson writes that it reveals too some interesting facts about customs of his day (Nicolson 1930: 146, 148).


vi   Gàir nan Clàrsach: the Harps’ Cry.  Edited by Colm Ó Baoill.  Edibnurgh: Birlinn, 1994, pp. 176-181


The second and fourth versions listed above appear to derive from the first, that in the Stewart Collection.  The third version appears to be an independent one. 


The fifth version is a transcript of the MacLagan MS version.  Professor Colm O Baoill has informed me that this poem is now missing from the MacLagan MS, so it is fortuitous that the Rev. MacDonald made his transcript and had it published. 


The sixth version is from the Stewart Collection with the editor also making use of a version from the Rev. William Matheson (Ó Baoill 1994:232). 


There are seven verses in Donald Campbell’s version, the third listed above, all the other versions have eight.  The metre is a four-stressed cumha.   The tune is to be found in the appendix to the Gesto Collection (MacDonald 1895 : App. p. 18).


(2)  ‘An Nollaig ‘m bu ghreadhnach fìon’.


i     Comh-Chruinneachidh Oranaigh Gaidhealach,  le Raonuill Macdomhnuill [The Eigg Collection].  Duneidiunn: Walter Ruddiman, 1776, dd. 21-23.


ii    Comhchruinneachadh Ghlinn-a-Bhàird: The Glenbard Collection of Gaelic Poetry.  Edited by the Rev. A. Maclean Sinclair.  Charlottetown, P.E. Island: Haszard, 1890, pp. 158-160.


iii   Mac-Talla nan Tur.  Edited by the Rev. A. Maclean Sinclair.  Sydney, C.B.: Mac-Talla Publishing Co., 1901, pp.30-32.


iv   Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig : Specimens of Gaelic Poetry 1550-1900.  Edited by William J. Watson.  2nd.ed.  Stirling: A. Learmonth and Son, 1932, pp. 179-181.


An elegy for the poet’s brother, Sir James MacDonald, who died in 1678.  Composed in a bardic metre, it incorporates some of the notions of classical panegyric as well as a sense of genuine grief.


All the subsequent printed versions derive from the first version listed here, that in the Eigg Collection, which has the heading ‘Marbhrann do Shir Sèumas mac Mac Dhomhnull Triath Shlèibht’, le Gilleaspaig dubh Mac Mhic Dhònaill’.


There are fifteen quatrains in rannaigheacht mhór, although not according to strict dàn dìreach requirements.  The language is vernacular Scottish Gaelic, with a few classicisms.


(3)   Marbhrann do Shir Seumas Mac Dhonuill


i      Comhruinneacha do dh’ Orain Taghta GhaidhealachEdited by Paruig Mac-an-Tuairneir.  Duneidionn: T. Stiubhard, 1813, pp. 130-135.


ii     Sàr-Obair nam Bàrd Gaelach.  Edited by John MacKenzie.  Edinburgh: MacLachlan and Stewart, 1872 (1st. ed. 1841), pp. 54-56.


This is a personal lament in which the grief sensed in the formal lament is given full expression.


The Sàr-Obair text shows a number of variations from that of the Turner version, the first listed above.  I think these are probably due to MacKenzie’s editing.


There are eighteen stanzas, beginning ‘B’ fhearr am mor olc a chluinntinn’.  The metre is a four-stressed cumha.



AN CLARSAIR DALL  (c. 1656-1713/14)


An Clàrsair Dall (The Blind Harper : Roderick Morison) was the son of John Morison of Bragar, Lewis.  Iain Breac MacLeòid, John MacLeod, of Dunvegan became his patron and settled him on the farm of Claggan, near Dunvegan.  MacLeod and the Harper became estranged, and he left Skye. Eventually he appears to have returned to Dunvegan and was buried there.  The Rev. William Matheson has written that An Clàrsair Dall may be regarded as “Gaelic Scotland’s last minstrel” (The Companion to Gaelic Scotland

(Thomson 1983 : 44)


Mac Mhathain, Uilleam (fear-deasachaidh).  An Clàrsair Dall: Orain Ruaidhri Mhic Mhuirich agus a Chuid Ciùil.  Dùn-éideann: Comunn Litreachas Gàidhlig na h-Alba, 1970.


Matheson, William (editor).  The Blind Harper: the songs of Roderick Morison and his music.  Edinburgh: Scottish Gaelic Texts Society, 1970.


In addition to details of the tunes and metres of the songs there are (pp. 169-174) transcriptions of four pieces of instrumental music composed by An Clàrsair Dall.  The appendices (pp. 175-254) contain a considerable amount of genealogical material concerning his family.  There are parallel English translations of each song.


On pp. liii-lvi there are details of an encounter between An Clàrsair Dall and Clanranald’s poet, Domhnall MacMhuirich.  The account includes the fullest published version of the resulting ex tempore poetic dialogue.


i    Oran do Iain Breac Mac Leòid / A Song to John MacLeod of Dunvegan’, pp. 4-11


ii   Féill nan Crann / Harp-Key Fair’, pp. 12-19


iii   Oran mu Oifigich Araid / A Song About Certain Officers’, pp. 20-31


iv   A’Cheud Di-luain de ‘n Ràithe / The First Monday of the Quarter’,  pp. 32-45,


v   Creach na Ciadaoin / Wednesday’s Bereavement’, pp. 46-57 A lament for his patron, Iain Breac, who died on the Wednesday of Easter Week, 1683.


vi   Oran do Mac Leòid Dhùn Bheagain / A Song to MacLeod of Dunvegan’, pp. 58-73


The poet castigates his patron Iain Breac’s successor, Ruaidhri, for his spendthrift habits and lack of chiefly virtues.  Another edition of this song is to be found in Gàir nan Clàrsach: the Harps’ Cry (Ó Baoill 1994:198-207, 235).


vii  ‘Cumha do Fhear Thalasgair / Lament for the Goodman of Talisker’, pp.74-79


A lament for the son of Sir Roderick MacLeod of Talisker in Skye.





















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



Contact us







Prose: homepage


Bibliography: homepage


© Sabhal Mòr Ostaig 2018