Gaelic Literature of the
Traditional poets and songmakers: MacLeòid: A - H
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MAC LEOID, Domhnall (1698 – 1759)
Domhnall MacLeòid was the son of the tacksman of Greshornish in Skye. He was ordained to the ministry of the Church of Scotland in 1725. After a period in the Uists he moved to Duirinish in Skye, where he received the
renewal of his father’s tack of Greshornish. Much esteemed for his personal qualities as well as his literary ones, he died in 1759, fifteen days after it is said that his death was foretold by a woman seer. Domhnall MacLeòid
composed many Gaelic poems, most of which have been lost.
(Information from The MacLeods: the Genealogy of a Clan: Section 2 MacKinnon and Morrison 1969:120-121).)
(1) ‘Beannachadh Bàird’
i An Gaidheal, 2 (1873), 63-64
of the MacLeods.
iv The Gaelic Bards from 1715 to 1765.
by the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair.
of Skye. Vol. 2. Alexander Nicolson.
vi Carmina Gadelica.
2. Edited by Alexander
I have not here followed my usual practice of listing versions of a poem in chronological order of publication. As I believe the versions which I have numbered one to five to be closely related to each other and the sixth version to be an independent one, it seemed useful in this case to vary the sequence slightly.
Apparently it had been an old
custom in the
The first version listed here was given in manuscript form to the Rev. Mr. Stewart, ‘Nether-Lochaber’. There are twenty-four lines, beginning ‘Mile failte dhuit le d’ bhreid’, printed as a single stanza, and with an English version by ‘Nether-Lochaber’. The second version shows a few textual variations from the first and it is accompanied by the Rev. James Sutor’s English language version. The third version, in Magnus MacLean’s ‘Skye Bards’, reproduces the text of the first, but printed as six quatrains, along with ‘Nether-Lochaber’s English version. The fourth version is arranged in six quatrains and appears to be based upon both the first and second versions, with a new variation in the second quatrain. The fifth version is textually identical to the second, but arranged in six quatrains.
The notes to the first version indicate that two lines in the manuscript were illegible and could not be reproduced. Inclusion of these lines would of course preclude the quatrain form, which Sinclair and MacLean evidently believed to be the poem’s proper form. The quatrain form is quite convincing in terms of the twenty-four lines given and it is possible that the illegible two lines were in fact four. Even though the syllable count is not totally regular I would describe the metre as a loose form of rannaigheacht mhór.
The sixth version, in Carmina Gadelica
is an independent one. Alexander
Carmichael noted down the song in South Uist from
the singing of a Skye woman, who had learnt it from the singing of a grandson
of a MacLeod of Raasay. He had
originally heard it in childhood before learning it as an adult from a
Highland soldier in
There are seven stanzas. It is not ascribed to the Rev. Domhanll MacLeòid in this volume of Carmina Gadelica, but it is ascribed to him in Angus Matheson’s indexes to the series in Vol. 6 (Matheson 1971).
The Rev. Canon R.C. MacLeod
presents an English version of this poem and attributes the original to
Donald MacLeod of Bernera, who is said to have
presented it to each of his three wives.
See The MacLeods:
their history and traditions (
Mac Leòid. ‘An Dealachadh’. The
Gaelic Bards from 1715 to 1765. Edited
by the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair.
This poem is headed ‘Le Mr Domhnall Mac-Leoid, Ministir an Uibhist a’ Chinn-a-Tuath’. As the Rev. Domhnall was minister in North Uist from 1736 to 1754 the poem could be dated to any time during that period. It was composed for a group of people going to Skye and the sixth stanza contains some puzzling allusions to the religious persuasion of the group.
There are eleven quatrains, beginning ‘Ge subhach comunn nan cairdean’. As with ‘Beannachadh Bàird’, I would describe the metre as rannaigheacht mhór, even though there are irregularities in the syllable count.
MACLEOID, Domhnall (1787 – 1873)
Domhnall MacLeòid, Domhnall nan
In 1811, at the age of twenty-three, Domhnall MacLeòid published a collection of Gaelic poems, many of which were his own composition. Unfortunately the book has many errors, but R.C. MacDiarmid believes that this was due to poor editing and the poet was not altogether responsible for them. Eventually a representative selection of works from this 1811 collection were edited by Meg Bateman and published in an anthology of works by
Domhnall and his two sons, Niall and Iain Dubh (Bateman and Loughran 2014). John MacKenzie tells us of Domhnall’s unsuccessful attempt in 1829 to raise funds
for the publication of a book on Calum-Cille and a
number of other Gaelic historical figures (MacKenzie 1872:352). Eventually Domhnall emigrated
Domhnall’s poetic gifts were
inherited by at least three of his other children, apart from Niall and
Iain. A son Fionnlagh
(Finlay) is named as a bard in a Macleod genealogy (Morrison 1976:50). This was confirmed to me by a friend who
was a native of
In 1871 a second, smaller, collection of Domhnall
many of them were then in the
possession of the poet’s widow in the family home in
R. C. MacDiarmid has given a vivid account of
Sources of information on the life and work of Domhnall MacLeòid:
Sàr-Obair nam Bàrd Gaelach (MacKenzie 1872:351-352);
‘Donald MacLeod, the Skye Bard – His Life and Songs’ by Dr. R.C. MacDiarmid (TGSG, 1:18-33);
‘Bàird an Eilean Sgiathanaich: Domhnull
MacLeòid, ‘Domhnull nan
The MacLeods – the Genealogy of a Clan: Section 5 (Morrison 1976:17-51).
(1) Domhnul MacLeòid. Orain Nuadh Ghaelach: maille ri beagain do cho-chruinneachadh urramach na ‘n aireamh. Le Domhnul MacLeòid, ann an Durinish, sa ‘n Eilan Sciatheanach. Inbhirnis: Eoin Young, 1811. viii, 271d.
Of the sixty poems in this collection, twenty are of
Eulogy and Elegy:
The largest category, with eight poems in all. It is useful to bear in mind here Dr. John MacInnes’ comment that the poet saw himself in the role of Clan MacLeod bard (Thomson 1983: 64).
Composed upon the occasion of the return of the young chief, John Norman, XXIV MacLeod of MacLeod, in 1809. Most of the motifs of the traditional praise poem are to be found here.
ii ‘Marbhrann do Dhomhnul Domhnulach, an Grishernish, ann sa Bhliadhna 1808’, pp. 31-35.
A traditional elegy with a strong emphasis on the subject as protector of his people.
iii ‘Oran Nuadh air Reismeid Mhic-Shimi’, pp. 61-65
Also published in Sàr-Obair nam Bàrd Gaelach, where MacKenzie declares his editorial work on it (MacKenzie 1872: 352-354).
iv ‘Marbhrann do Chaiptean Alastair MacLeòid, ann a Bhattuin’, pp. 107-112
Celebrates in particular Captain
MacLeod’s military exploits in
v ‘Cumha do Theaghlach Ois’, pp. 112-116
Mourns the deaths of several members of the Ose family.
vii ‘Smeòrach na Leòdach’, pp. 127-133
Takes up a convention first used by Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair and John MacCodrum. There is an abbreviated version in Sàr-Obair nam Bàrd Gaelach with some textual variations (MacKenzie 1872:
354-355). There is a version in The Gaelic Bards from 1775 to 1825 which is only a fragment of the original and whose refrain shows variations in the vocables (Sinclair 1896:145-146).
viii ‘Cumha Shiorram Farluin’, pp. 239-241
Satire and Comedy:
Satire on a Church elder’s herdsman. Revealing of the attitude towards anyone who tries to act ‘above his station’.
ii ‘Rann Molaidh do Sheann Bhàta’, pp. 151-155
‘Rann Firinn do n’ Bhàta Cheudna’, pp. 156-158
Among the most accomplished and amusing of Domhnall nan
iii ‘Rann Mollaidh do Thigh Uir’, pp. 175-176
A satire upon the pretensions of
one Ruairidh Mac Néill, a
merchant of Stein, in which the fifteen-year old poet makes fun of his fine, new house with extravagant overpraise. It has
also been published in Guth na Bliadhna, 15
(1918), 68-71. A version from the oral
tradition, sent from
iv ‘Duan calluin’, pp. 177-178
Two songs composed to the daughter of Stewart of Borrodale, both with the dánta grá theme of love as a fatal sickness. The first is modelled upon the popular song ‘O ‘s tu ‘s gur a tu th’ air m’ aire’.
ii ‘Litir Ghaoil ga Freagairt’, pp. 144-147
Reminiscent in metre, and in its
use of the dialogue form, of ‘Úr-Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte’ by the
eighteenth century Irish poet Peadar Ó Doirnín. In my opinion, one of the best of Domhnall
iii ‘Luinneag Gaol’, pp. 222-224
It is not clear whether this was composed to Stewart of Borrodale’s daughter.
iv ‘Oran Sugraidh mar Chomhairle do Ghillean Oga’, pp. 248-252
Didactic and Social Comment:
Of considerable social interest, composed when the potato already formed a substantial part of the Highlanders’ diet and before the disastrous potato blight of the mid-nineteenth century.
ii ‘Rann … air dha Samhla fhaicinn’, pp. 186-194
Takes the form of an encounter between the poet and the spirit of a long dead Viking who lectures him on the meaning of life, spiritual values and kindred matters. Echoes of Dùghall Bochanan, but lacks his power and intensity.
Domhnall MacLeòid uses a variety of traditional stressed metres in this 1811 collection, In at least two instances he uses a syllabic metre: ‘Rann Molaidh do Sheann Bhàta’ and ‘Rann Firinn do n’ Bhàta Cheudna’ are in snéadhbhairdne.
(2) Domhnull MacLeòid. Dàin agus Orain. Glascho: G. Mac-na-Ceardadh, 1871, 20d.
One would need to be cautious when
making comparisons between this collection and Domhnall nan
i ‘Rann do dh’ Eildeirean an Loin Mhóir’, pp. 3-6
Otherwise known as ‘Eildeirean Dubha an Loinmhoir’ (TGSI. 47:400), this is probably the
best known of Domhnall nan
by the Lonmore church elders. They may have rued the day they did so, for Domhnall turned on them with this stinging satire in which he displays his own knowledge of Scripture.
It was again published in An Deò-Gréine (12:7-8) in a version almost identical to that in the poet’s collection. A noticeably different version is given by the Rev. Domhnull Budge (TGSI, 47:400-403). This
version probably came from oral tradition and in addition to the fourteen stanzas of the previous ones has an extra stanza in which favourable mention is made of Tormod Mac Mhurchaidh Shaoir. Tormod was the maternal grandfather of the Rev. Coinneach Ros: see his Aitealan Dlù is Cian (Ros 1972: 23-24)
ii ‘Dan do ‘n Ghréin’, pp. 6-9. ‘Dan d ‘n Ghealaich’, pp. 9-11
The poet discusses religious and
moral issues with the sun and moon. A
similar device as in ‘Rann … air dha Samhla fhaicinn’
in his earlier collection, although in that case the dialogue is with another
human, albeit a long dead one. The
question of influences arises.
The poem to the sun is, with some variations, also in An Deò-Gréine (12:61-62).
iii ‘Dàn a’ Bhreithanais’, pp. 11-14
There is little description of the actual Day of Judgement and the poet concentrates on warning men of the wages of sin, etc. It is rather pedestrian, but occasionally lightened by some vivid imagery. There are also references to the sun and the moon in the same role assigned to them in the previous two poems.
iv ‘Dàn do ‘n uaigh’, pp. 14-16
Another dialogue poem, this time with the grave. The predominant theme is that of Christ conquering death.
A delightful poem, strongly reminiscent of eighteenth century nature poetry. It has also been published in An Deò-Gréine (12:172-173).
Similar in spirit and content to the previous poem.
There is not the same variety of metres as in the 1811 collection; not surprisingly, considering the much smaller number of poems. The most favoured forms are different types of cumha and amhran.
(3) Domhnull MacLeòid. ‘Oran Molaidh do Dhomhnull
MacLeoid, Fear a’ Chlaiginn’. The
MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry.
Edited by the Revs. A. and A. MacDonald.
According to the editors’ note (p. xxxiii), the subject of this eulogy is Donald MacLeod, tacksman of Claggan on the MacLeod Estate in Skye and afterwards of Kingsburgh and then Coulmore, where he died in 1877.
There are many of the elements of the traditional praise poem, although the mood is pleasantly informal. There are six stanzas, beginning with ‘Moch ‘s mi ‘g eiridh ‘s a’ mhaduinn’. It is modelled upon ‘Mo Rùn geal òg’.
Bateman and Anne Loughran (eds). Bàird Ghleann Dail: theGlendale Bards.
This work brought together the
work of Domhnall nan
MACLEOID, Gilleasbuig (19th / 20th Century)
Gilleasbuig MacLeòid belonged to Grealin
(Information from Old Skye Tales (MacKenzie 1934: 97).)
(1) Archibald MacLeod. ‘
Composed during the First World
War, which the poet sees in terms of a struggle between Good (Britannia) and
Evil (Kaiser Wilhelm). There is no
sense of a distinct Scottish or
There are ten stanzas, beginning ‘ ‘S goirt an sgeul a dh’ iomadh creutair’, in an amhran metre.
(2) Gilleasbuig MacLeòid. ‘Aig sruthan coimheach Bhabilon. Gairm, 53 (An Geamhradh 1965), 29
Composed during the time the poet
One eight-line stanza is given. The metre is similar to that of the metrical Psalms.
(3) ‘Mo rùn an ainnir’
i Gairm, 53 (An Geamhradh 1965), 29-30
ii Orain an Eilein. Cairistiona Mhàrtainn. An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p. 37
Composed to Màiri Nic-an-toisich, a teacher in the school at Valtos who died young. The first version is entitled ‘Mo rùn an ainnir’ and is from the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s article ‘Dioghlum bho Achaidhean na Bàrdachd (3)’ (Gairm, 53:29-42. Just five lines of the song are given. The second version has four six-line verses and the tune, from Eòin Domhnallach, in staff notation.
(4) Gilleasbuig MacLeòid. ‘Dh’éirich Tormod Og is Màrtainn’. Gairm, 76 (Am Foghar 1971), 307-308
A song about the land agitation in Valtos: from the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s article ‘Aoirean agus Luinneagan Eibhinn’ (Gairm, 76:299-319). The Tormod Og mentioned was the Rev. Domhnallach’s grandfather. Four lines only are given.
(5) Gilleasbuig MacLeòid. ‘A chruinneag dhonn, ‘s toigh leam thu’. Orain an Eilein. Cairistiona Mhàrtainn. An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p. 38.
A pleasant love song. Four four-line verses and a refrain. The tune, from Eòin Domhnallach, is given in staff notation.
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
© A. Loughran, 2016