Gaelic Literature of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   

 

Traditional poets and songmakers:  MacM - MacN

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MACMHANNAIN, Calum Bàn  (1758-1829)

 

Calum Bàn MacMhannain was born in Sarsdal, Flodigarry.  Together with many others he emigrated from Skye to Canada in 1803.  They left Portree in the emigrant ship Polly in the summer and arrived in Prince Edward Island at the beginning of autumn.  He settled near Belfast, Prince Edward Island, where he died in 1829.

 

(Information from notes to the second and fourth versions of the song discussed below, and from p. 41 of the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s ‘Eilean a’ Phrionnsa’ (Gairm, 85:37-46).)

 

Imrich nan Eileanach

 

i     Mac-Talla (13th April 1895), p. 8

 

ii    Mac-Talla (14th November 1902), p. 79

 

iii   The Gaelic Bards from 1775 to 1825.  Edited by the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair.  Sydney, C.B: Mac-Talla, 1896, pp. 81-85.

 

iv   The Emigrant Experience.  Edited by Margaret MacDonell.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982, pp. 105-113, 215-216.

 

The poem begins with a description of the beginning of the voyage round the north coast of Skye.  A succession of landmarks and their associations with a golden past are named.  The poet then goes on to make it clear what had driven him to emigration: new masters and high rents.  He then turns his back on the hardships of the past and looks forward to his new life.

 

The four versions listed above are in fact one single version which was, according to a note to number two, taken down in 1883 from the singing of an old man who had learnt it from the poet himself in his youth.

 

There are ten twelve-line stanzas, beginning with ‘An àm togail dhuinn fhìn’.  The metre is very similar to the strophic metre of Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh’sCronan an Taibh’.

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MACMHAOILEAN, Domhnall  (19th Century)

 

Domhnall MacMhaoilean, known as the ‘Ogha Mór’, belonged to Breakish in Strath, Skye.  He was the father of another poet, Màrtainn MacMhaoilean (q.v.)

 

(Information from the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s introduction to the song noted below)

 

Domhnall MacMhaoiean.  ‘Ho mo Mhàiri Mhàrtainn’.  Gairm, 53 (An Samhradh 1965), 30-31.

 

From the Rev. Domhnallach’s article ‘Dioghlum bho Achaidhean na Bàrdachd: 3’ (Gairm, 53:29-42).  An amusing song, composed by Domhnall after a neighbour of his had bought an old and decrepit boat named ‘Màiri Màrtainn’.   There are

eight quatrains.

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MACMHAOILEAN, Màrtainn  (19th / 20th Century)

 

Màrtainn MacMhaoilean of Breakish in Strath, Skye, was the son of another poet, Domhnall MacMhaoilean.  In the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s opinion, the son was the better poet.

 

The greater part of Màrtainn MacMhaoilean’s working life was spent at sea, and he rose to become an officer on the old sailing ships.  He was responsible for the erection of a memorial stone over the grave of another Skye poet and sailor, Iain Dubh MacLeòid, in Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetary.  He himself died in Glasgow.

 

In his Strath: in Isle of Skye the Rev. D. Lamont notes that Captain MacMillan of Breakish was to publish a volume of his poetry (Lamont 1913:123).  I have been unable to trace any publication of Màrtainn MacMhaoilean’s work other than what is noted below.

 

(1)   Màrtainn MacMhaoilean.  Oran Aiseag’.  Gairm, 53 (An Geamhradh 1965), 31-33.

 

Begins as a song of praise to Saint Maol-ruadh’s Well, Tobar Maolruidh, in Aiseag, Strath.  It then goes on to describe the event which led to the saint’s bell, which had long rung of its own accord, falling silent.  The Rev.

Domhnallach gives an account of the background to the story; for a longer and slightly different account see the Rev. D. Lamont’s Strath: in Isle of Skye (Lamont 1913:33-37).

 

There are ten four-line stanzas, beginning ‘Aiseag mhath, ceann-feadhna chàich'.  The metre is rather irregular.

 

(2)   Màrtainn MacMhaoilean.  Nuair a mhol e Beinn nan Càrn’.  Gairm, 53 (An Geamhradh 1965), 33.

 

Composed in reply to a poet who had composed a song in praise of Beinn nan Càrn: a singularly inhospitable mountain by all accounts.  Eight lines in an irregular metre.

 

(3)   Màrtainn MacMhaoilean.  ‘Dh’ iarrainn an Sgiobair bhith bàite’.  Gairm, 53 (An Geamhradh 1965), 33-34.

 

Two quatrains, bitterly complaining about the conditions on a ship on which he was serving.

 

(4)   Màrtainn MacMhaoilean.  Oran na Corra-chritheach’.  Gairm, 53 (An Geamhradh 1965), 34.

 

Lighthearted song about a troublesome heron.  Four quatrains, beginning ‘A’ chorra-chritheach a mharbh Calum’.

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MACMHATHAIN, Aonghas (1877 – 19--?)

 

This poet was born in Stenscholl, Skye.  He spent some of his early years as a merchant seaman and also served in the Royal Navy during the First World War.  After leaving the sea he worked for forty years for Glasgow Corporation Transport.

 

(Information from introduction to Bàird a’ Chomuinn (MacFhionghuin 1953)

 

(1)  Aonghas MacMhathain.  Bodach an Stoirr’.  Bàird a’ Chomuinn.  Deasaichte le Lachlann MacFhionghuin.  Glaschu: An Comunn Gaidhealach, 1953, dd. 5-6.

 

Poem in the form of a dialogue between the port and the Old Man of Storr, a rock formation some miles to the north of Portree in Skye.  The poet asks the Old Man whether the Gaelic language and music will survive and receives assurances that they will.  Among precedents in Gaelic literature for this device of a dialogue between the poet and a natural object one might mention William Ross’s ‘Còmhradh eadar am Bàrd agus Blà-bheinn’ and Domhnall nan Oran’s addresses to the Sun and Moon.

 

There are seven eight-line stanzas, beginning ‘A churaidh nam beann’.  There are some irregularities, but the metre could be described as strophic.

 

(2)   Aonghas MacMhathain.  Tiugainn leam thar sàile’.  Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taibh nan Teud, 2001, p. 42

 

An attractive return-to-the-homeland song in which several Skye landmarks are named.  Five five-line verses and a refrain.  The words and tune (in staff notation) from Christeen Graham of Breakish, with the word of verses

4 and 5 from Calum Ross’s collection

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MACMHATHAIN, Gilleasbuig.  See GILLEASBUIG AOTROM

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MACMHATHAIN, Niall  (20th Century)

 

His parents were from Kilmuir and Staffin, although he spent the greater part of his life away from Skye.  He composed the English words to Catriona Dhùghlas’s ‘Morag à Dun Bheagain’.

 

(Information from Orain an Eilein (Mhàrtainn 2001:127).

 

Niall MacMhathain.  ‘Tàladh Thròndairnis’.  Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, 52.

 

A simple lullaby with three verses and a refrain.  The tune is in staff notation.

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MACMHATHAIN, Teàrlach  (19th / 20th Century)

 

Teàrlach MacMhathain, Teàrlach a’ Phosta, belonged to the Braes district in Skye where he succeeded his father as the district postman.  The Rev. Tormod Domhnallach writes that while most of Teàrlach’s songs poke fun at various people no one ever took offence, for it was known that no malice was intended.

(Information from notes to the two songs listed below)

 

(1)   Teàrlach MacMhathain.  ‘A’ bhanacheard a rug an gille’.  Gairm, 76  (Am Foghar 1971), 306-307).

 

From the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s article ‘Aoirean agus Luinneagan Eibhinn’ (Gairm, 76:299-319).  About a tinker woman who gave birth to a boy in one of the neighbourhood’s houses.  There are five stanzas and a refrain

in a strophic metre.

 

(2)   Teàrlach a’ Phosta.  Càit a bheil i, càit an deach i?’.  Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p. 35.

 

A young man’s lighthearted song.  Seven four-line verses.From Calum Ross’s collection with tune in staff notation from Eòin Domhnallach

 

(3)   Charles Matheson.  ‘Am faca sibh mo bhoneid ùr’.  Scottish Gaelic Studies, 11 (1966-1968), 41-42.

 

From Norman MacDonald (Rev. Tormod Domhnallach)’s article ‘Some Rare Hebridean Gaelic Words and Phrases’ (Scottish Gaelic Studies, 11:38-59).  Extempore composition in appreciation of a new bonnet presented to him by an admirer.  Eight lines are given, the original having been much longer.

 

(4)   Fliùr nan cailin’. 

 

i    An Gaidheal, 57 (1962), 78.

 

ii    Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p. 36.

 

Composed for a young girl the poet met in Liverpool during a spell as a sailor.  The first version has seven four-line verses and a three-line refrain and the tune is given in tonic sol-fa notation.  The second version has six verses and

a three-line refrain with the tune in staff notation.

 

(5)   Teàrlach a’ Phosta.  ‘Ho ho ro chailin’.  An Gaidheal, 57 (1962), 64.

 

A pleasant love song.  There are seven four-line stanzas in a metre very similar to that of ‘An Gille Dubh Ciardubh’.  The tune is given in tonic sol-fa notation.

 

(6)   Teàrlach a’ Phosta.  Oran Ghleann Bhargaill’.  Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2002, p. 34.

 

A pleasant, lighthearted song.  Five eight-line verses beginning ‘Fhir a shiùbhlas thar a’ mhonaidh.  From Calum Ross’s collection with tune in staff notation from Eòin Domhnallach

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MACMILLAN, Donald.  See MACMHAOIEAN, Domhnall.

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MACMILLAN, Martin.  See MACMHAOILEAN, Màrtainn

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MAC MUIREADHAIGH, Cathal.  See MACMHUIRICH, Cathal.

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MACMHUIRICH, Cathal  (17th Century)

 

Ronald Black discusses Cathal MacMhuirich’s life and work in his article ‘The Genius of Cathal MacMhuirich’ (TGSI, 50:327-366), which has a useful appendix listing both manuscript and printed sources for the poet’s work.  Derick Thomson also discusses Cathal’s work in ‘Three Seventeenth-Century Bardic Poets: Niall Mór, Cathal and Niall MacMhuirich  (Aitken, MacDiarmid and Thomson 1977:221-246).  References to Dr. Black’s and Prof. Thomson’s writings made here will relate to these articles unless otherwise indicated.

 

Ronald Black speculates that Cathal MacMhuirich may have been a son of Niall Mór but comments on how little we know of him apart from the fact that he lived through the first half of the seventeenth century.  Derick Thomson comments on the obscurity of Cathal’s exact position in the MacMhuirich dynasty (Thomson 1963:282-283).  Professor Thomson regards Cathal as the greatest of the MacMhuirich poets.

 

Cathal MacMhuirich was associated for some time with the Clanranald MacDonalds, although his relationship with Iain Muideartach appears to have been a difficult one.  Eventually he became attached to the court of Domhnall Gorm Og of Sleat, the court with which in Ronald Black’s view we must principally associate him (p. 332).  Domhnall Gorm Og succeeded his uncle Domhnall Gorm Mór in 1617 to become the eighth chief of the MacDonalds of Sleat.  He supported Charles I during the Civil War and was imprisoned for a short time as a result.  His wife was Janet, daughter of Lord MacKenzie of Kintail.

 

Some fourteen poems have been ascribed to Cathal and of these five are specifically related to his position at Domhnall Gorm Og’s court.  A further poem with a Skye connection is the elegy for MacLeod of Dunvegan.

 

(1)   Cathal Mac Muireadhaigh.  ‘Mo-chean do-chonnarc a-réir’.  Éigse: a Journal of Irish Studies, 11, Part 1 (Fomhar 1964), 1-6.

 

A poem about Domhnall Gorm Og returning home in splendour: in Angus Matheson’s ‘Poems from a Manuscript of Cathal Mac Muireadhaigh,  (Éigse, 11, Part 1:1-17).  Twenty-eight quatrains in rannaigheacht mhór, with an English prose translation.  Ronald Black has made an interesting analysis of the poem’s style and function (TGSI, 50:333).

 

(2)   Cathal Mac Muireadhaigh.  Leasg linn gabhail go Gearrloch’.  TGSI, 29 (1914-1919), 224-228.

 

A lament for Catriona, the daughter of Domhnall Gorm Og and wife of Kenneth MacKenzie of Gairloch: from William J. Watson’s ‘Classic Gaelic Poetry of Panegyric in Scotland’, (TGSI, 29:235).  Thirty-five quatrains in

deibhidhe metre.  Ronald Black describes this lament by a family poet as being a model of its kind (TGSI, 50:333-334).

 

(3)  Cathal Mac Muireadhaigh.  ‘A Sheónóid méadaigh neanma’. 

 

i     Éigse: a Journal of Irish Studies, 11, Part 1 (Fomhar 1964), 7-10.

 

ii    Gàir nan Clàrsach: the Harps’ Cry.  Edited by Colm Ó Baoill; translated by Meg Bateman.  Edinburgh: Birlinn, 1994, pp. 94-99.

 

An address of consolation composed to the mother of Catriona, in which he reminds her that her dead daughter now knows the happiness of heaven.  The first version listed is in Angus Matheson’s ‘Poems from a Manuscript of

Cathal Mac Muireadhaigh’, (Éigse, 11, Part 1:1-17).  This first version is the source of the second which has a parallel English translation.  There are sixteen quatrains in deibhidhe metre.

 

(4)   Cathal Mac Muireadhaigh.  Deimhin do shíol Adhaimh éag’.  Éigse: a Journal of Irish Studies, 11, Part 1 (Fomhar 1964), 10.

 

Words of comfort addressed to Catriona’s sister Mairghread, in which he reminds her of the transitory nature of this world.  Three quatrains in deibhidhe metre, with an English translation.  From Angus Matheson’s ‘Poems from a Manuscript of Cathal Mac Muireadhaigh,  (Éigse, 11, Part 1:1-17).

 

(5)   Cathal MacMhuirich.  Eireóchtar fós le cloinn gColla’.  TGSI, 50  (1976-1978),  335-337, 343.

 

Ronald Black describes this as Cathal’s principal Sleat poem.  He presents quatrains 12, 29 and 31 (with English translation) in his ‘The Genius of Cathal MacMhuirich’ (TGSI, 50:327-366).  In his discussion of the satirical

nature of this crósantacht  he notes that it is directed at both the poet’s own professional enemies and his patron’s political enemies. The full crósantacht, with its forty-eight quatrains and prose passages, is in Royal Irish Academy MS.A v2 (744).  Derick Thomson does not include this poem in the list of Cathal MacMhuirich’s works which is appended to his ‘Three Seventeenth Century Bardic Poets …’  (Aitken, MacDiarmid and Thomson 1977:221-246).

 

(6)   Cathal Mac Muireadhaigh.  ‘Do ísligh onóir Gaoidheal’.  Féill-sgríbhinn Eóin Mhic Néill.  Edited by the Rev. John Ryan.  Dublin: Sign of the Three Candles, 1940, pp. 167-179.

 

This poem was edited and translated by J. Carmichael Watson as his contribution to the Féill-sgríbhinn.  A lament for John MacLeod of Harris and Dunvegan, Iain Mór, who died in 1649.  It has forty-nine quatrains in deibhidhe

metre. In his introductory notes J.C. Watson draws attention to the friendship of the MacMhuirichs with the MacLeods of Dunvegan and offers this as an explanation for a MacDonald poet’s composing an elegy for a MacLeod chief.

 

In this poem the poet makes use of the ‘major analogue’ device, using the death of the Irish king Cormac Mac Áirt Aoinfhir as an analogue for the death of Iain Mór.  This device is discussed by Derick Thomson in ‘Three Seventeenth-Century Bardic Poets …  (Aitken, MacDiarmid and Thomson 1977:231-232).  In quatrains 41-44 there is what Ronald Black describes as an ‘astonishing apocalyptic imagery’ (TGSI, 50:339), in which the elements are used to express the grief of the loss of the chief.

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MACMHUIRICH, Dughall.  See MACPHERSON, Dughall

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MACMHUIRICH, Niall Mór  (16th / 17th Century)

 

Strictly speaking, Niall Mór should not qualify for inclusion in this bibliography, not having been connected to Skye by either birth or long residence.  However, this Clanranald poet composed one of the few extant bardic poems with a Skye theme, and it would be a pity to omit it from a bibliography of the island’s literature.

 

hoidhche dhamhsa san Dún

 

i      Reliquiae Celticae.  Alexander Cameron.  Vol. 1.  Inverness: Northern Counties, 1892, pp. 121-122.

 

ii     Reliquiae Celticae.  Alexander Cameron.  Vol. 2.  Inverness: Northern Counties, 1894, pp. 284-287.

 

iii    Mac-Talla nan Tùr.  Edited by the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair.  Sydney, C.B.: Mac-Talla Publishing Co., 1901, pp. 20-21.

 

iv     TGSI, 49 (1974-1976), 11-15.

 

v     Gàir nan Clàrsach.  Edited by Colm Ó Baoill; translations by Meg Bateman.  Edinburgh: Birlinn, 1994, pp. 64-67.

 

The second version is a transcription of the text in the Red Book of Clanranald (Folios 273-274).  The first is a transcription of the text in the National Library of Scotland’s MS 72.1.48: a copy which Derick Thomson notes has

several misreadings’ (TGSI, 49:11).  The third, modernised version Professor Thomson presumes to have been edited by the Rev. MacLean Sinclair from the two transcribed texts in Reliquiae Celticae (TGSI, 49:11).  The fourth version is in Professor Thomson’s ‘Niall Mór MacMhuirich’, (TGSI, 49:9-25) and has been edited from the first two texts with an English translation and notes.  This is also the source of the fifth version, which has a parallel English translation and is entitled ‘Do Ruaidhri Mòr, Mac Leòid’.

 

The poem, in strict rannaigheacht mhór, is an account of an extended drinking spree at Dunvegan.  Derick Thomson believes that the occasion of this is likely to have been the marriage of Clanranald’s heir with the daughter of Ruairi Mór of Dunvegan which took place in 1613.

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MACMHUIRICH, Ruaidhri.  See AN CLARSAIR DALL

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MACNAB, John.  See MAC-AN-ABA, Iain

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MACNAB, Neil.  See MAC-AN-ABA, Niall

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MACNEACAIL, Aonghas.  See: The New Poetry

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MACNEACAIL, Calum  (d. 1978)

 

Calum MacNeacail, Calum Ruadh, belonged to Camustianavaig, in the Braes district of Portree.  He was a crofter and a bard as well, inheriting his talent for poetry from both his father’s and his mother’s side of the family.  Calum Ruadh died on the 25th February 1978 at the age of seventy-six.

 

(Information from notes to ‘Fàilte na Bàn-righ’, (Gairm, 18:143), and from the sleeve of the record, Calum Ruadh: Bard of Skye noted below)

 

(1)  Calum MacNeacail.  Bàrdachd Chaluim Ruaidh.  Glaschu: Gairm, 1975.  62d., dealbh.

 

This collection contains forty-one poems, as well as a foreword written by Calum Ruadh himself.  In his review of the collection (Gairm, 93:93-96) Donald Meek draws attention to Calum’s respect, not only for traditional poetry, but for the traditional office of bard and sees a tension in the poems between the demands of tradition and the demands of the modern world.

 

The poems demonstrate different aspects of traditional bardic function: about fifteen are laments and there are also examples of the bard as an amused observer of the community in which he lives, with others in which he criticises

what he sees as failings within the community.

 

Professor Meek remarks that the one complaint which he would make about the book is the lack of notes which would give some background information about the subjects of some of the poems, particularly those relating to the poet’s home village.  This may be remedied to some extent by earlier publications of some of the poems, and by two published later in an anthology of Scottish Gaelic verse; here listed in the order in which they appear in the book:

 

i   Crìoch a’ Chogaidh’, pp. 23-24

 

Originally published as ‘Oran na Sìthe’ (An Gaidheal, 41:65) with an extra stanza and the information that it is composed upon the tune  Guma slàn a chì mi mo chailin dìleas donn.

 

ii   Cùmhnantan Sìthe Pharis’, pp. 24-25.

 

Included in An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Black 1999:240-245).  With parallel English translation and notes on the poet and the poem on pp. 754-755

 

iii   Blàr Chaol Acainn’, pp. 44-45.

 

Included in An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Black 1999:244-247).  With parallel English translation and notes on the poet and the poem on pp. 754-755

 

iv   Oran do Eoghainn Mac a’ Phì’, pp. 49

 

Originally published with two extra stanzas and a brief note (An Gaidheal, 60:63).

 

v   Poili Dhonn’, p. 52

 

Originally published as Oran do Pholly Irwin’ (An Gaidheal, 61:65),  with notes on its subject and the information that it is composed upon the tune of ‘Mhàili Dhonn’.

 

vi   Oran do ‘n Bhàn-righ’, pp. 57-58

 

Originally published as ‘Fàilte na Bàn-righ’ (Gairm, 18:143-145), with notes and a transcription of the tune, based upon that of ‘Blàr na h-Eiphit’.

 

vii  ‘Cumha Earchaidh’, pp. 59-60

 

A lament for his brother Archie, killed in Malaya in 1947.  Originally published as ‘Oran Caoidh’ (An Gaidheal, 44:95) with a note.

 

 

(2)   Calum Ruadh: Bard of Skye.  Scottish Tradition 7.  Edinburgh: School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, 1978.  22p., ill., music.

 

Issued as an accompaniment to the record produced by Tangent Records of London for the School of Scottish Studies (Mono TNGM 128).  The recording is also available in audiocassette form.

 

The material on the record represents the greater part of a seminar given in the School of Scottish Studies in 1968 by the Danish musicologist Thorkild Knudsen.  In conversation with Knudsen, Calum discusses in English his

life and poetry, his methods of composition and his cultural inheritance, as well as the subject matter of the songs which he sings in Gaelic.  These songs are: ‘Tha mi ‘n dùil’, ‘Ma thig maor oirnn à Phort-righ,  Oran an t-Sìdhiche’, ‘Song to the Children’ and ‘Cumha Arnheim’.  Oran an t-Sìdhiche’ is presented as a striking audio-montage of different recordings.  Two of these songs, ‘Tha mi ‘n dùil’ and ‘Song to the Children’  do not appear in Bàrdachd Chaluim Ruaidh.  A third, ‘Ma thig maor oirnn à Phort-righ’, is the composition of Neil MacPherson, Niall Ceannaiche.

 

The booklet is a transcription of the record, with the addition of three short passages from the original seminar which do not appear on the record, along with English translations of the Gaelic songs.

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MACNEACAIL, Dòmhnall  (of Duntulm)  (19th Century?)

 

Dòmhnall MacNeacail, an Saighdear Dòmhnall Iain Shomhairle, spent most of his life away from Skye, probably in Glasgow.  He composed a number of songs, most of which have been lost.

 

(Information from Orain an Eilein (Mhàrtainn 2001:47)

 

(1)  Dòmhnall MacNeacail.  ‘Mi ‘n seo air bòrd air long nan seòl’.  Orain an  Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p.47.

 

Appealing love song of an exile for Anna NicLeòid, the girl he left behind.  There are five four-line verses.  From Calum Ross’s collection with tune in staff notation from Eòin Dòmhnallach.

 

(2)  Dòmhnall MacNeacail.  Gruagach an Fhuilt Duinn’.  Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p.48.

 

Song of a soldier for the girl he left behind.  Five four-line verses beginning ‘ ‘S mi ‘n seo nam ònar’.  From Calum Ross’s collection with tune in staff notation from Eòin Dòmhnallach.

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MACNEACAIL, Domhnall  (of Braes) (20th Century)

 

Domhnall MacNeacail, Domhnall Sheumais, was born and brought up in Camustianavaig in the Braes district of Portree and came from a family interested in poetry and music.  He worked as a policeman in Liverpool for

twenty-five years before returning with his family to settle in his old home. 

(Information from biographical material in the article cited below)

 

Iain A MacDhomhnaill.  Bàird a’ Bhaile Againn: Domhnall MacNeacail’.  Gairm, 54 (An t-Earrach 1966), 114-119.

 

i     Nach truagh an sgeul a tha ‘n diugh ri innseadh’, pp. 115-116

 

About an ignominious defeat suffered by a Skye shinty team.  There are ten four-line stanzas.  The metre is similar to that of Donnchadh Bàn’s ‘Oran Coire a’ Cheathaich.

 

ii   ‘An cuala sibh fhéin e’, pp. 116-117

 

A light-hearted look at the Loch Ness Monster stories.  There are seven four-line stanzas, with the first two in a strophic measure, and a similar structure in a slower measure in each couplet of the remaining stanzas.

 

iii  Tha ‘n Samhradh Tighinn dlùth dhuinn’, pp. 117-118

 

Composed during his stay in Liverpool.  Typical of the nineteenth and twentieth century exile song genre.  There are four four-line stanzas in an amhran metre.

 

iv   ‘ ‘S muladach mi ‘n diugh ‘s mi ‘g éirigh’, pp. 118-119

 

Another song composed during his stay in Liverpool, in which he compares city life with the happy days spent shepherding at home.  There are six four-line stanzas and a refrain, in a strophic measure.

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MACNEACAIL, Iain  (1903 – 1999)

 

Iain MacNeacail, ‘An Sgiobair’, was born in Glenuig, Skye.  He worked for the Forestry Commission and lived in Cuidreach, near Uig.  For a biographical note of this poet see Tuil: Anthology of 20th  Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Black 1999:758-759)

 

(1)  Iain MacNeacail agus Aonghas Fleidsear.  Orain Aonghais agus An Sgiobair.  Deasaichte le Catriona NicGumaraid.  Dundéagh: Catriona NicGumaraid, 1980.  47 d.

 

Orain Aonghais

 

The fifteen songs by Aonghais are a good example of the village bard genre of Gaelic poetry.  Here we find reflected the events and personalities of the community in which he lived, described with a gentle humour.  However, this gentle humour is absent in ‘Oran Dotair Green’ (pp. 24-25) about an absentee landlord.  Perhaps the most memorable of Aonghais’ songs is ‘Old Folks Party’ which describes in an amusing and touching way the moment when he had to face the fact that he was no longer as young as he used to be.

 

Aonghas uses a variety of traditional metres, and frequently with considerable skill.  Nine of his songs are in strophic or strophic-type metres.  Three are amhran or cumha, and there is one example each of quatrain, limerick and waulking song metres.     

 

Orain an Sgiobair

 

Of An Sgiobair’s fourteen songs, six are love songs, including a memorable one ‘Bidh mi cuimhneachadh ‘s ag ionndrainn’ (p. 42): a graceful tribute to the girls left behind when he went to fight in the war.  The war features again in ‘Oran an Fhraing’ (pp. 44-45) and there are four songs, mostly humorous, about village life.  There is one example each of nature poetry and of elegy.

 

He uses strophic, quatrain and amhran / cumha metrical forms.  He is perhaps less skilled than Aonghas in his handling of metrical forms and more restricted in his range of topics.

 

Orain Aonghais agus an Sgiobair is accompanied by a audiocassette recording of both poets singing their songs.

 

(2)  MACKEAN, Thomas A.  Hebridean Song-maker: Iain MacNeacail of  the Isle of Skye.  Edinburgh: Polygon, 1997.

 

A study of the bard, his poetry and place in his community.  The book is accompanied by a CD of An Sgiobair reading some of his poems.(I have not had sight of this item)

 

(3)  BLACK, Ronald (ed.).  Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse.  Edinburgh: Polygon, 1999 (repr. 2002).

 

 i    Iain MacNeacail.  An t-Each Iarainn’, pp. 260-263.

 

ii    Iain MacNeacail.  Nochd gur luaineach mo chadal’, pp. 262-265.

 

iii   Iain MacNeacail.  Òran do Teonaidh Hellinga’, pp. 264-267.

 

All three songs have parallel English translations.

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MACNEACAIL, Niall  (19th / 20th Century?)

 

Niall MacNeacail, Niall Mhurchaidh Nèill, belonged to Brògaig, Staffin, in Trotternish. (Information from Orain an Eilein (Mhàrtainn 2001:121)

 

Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  Orain an Eilein.   An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p. 39.

 

This collection has five songs by Niall MacNeacail.

 

i   ‘A ghruagach air a bheil mi ‘n tòir’,  p. 39.

 

A song about the girl who was to become his wife.  Collected by Seonag NicDhòmhnaill of Bhaltos, great-niece of Niall.  The tune in staff notation from Eòin Domhnallach. Eight four-line verses.

 

ii   ro, Ruairidhic-a-phì’. p. 39.

 

Six four-line verses.  Collected by Seonag NicDhòmhnaill, with tune in staff notation from Eòin Domhnallach.

 

iii  ‘Ho air nighean donn nam meall-shùil’,  p. 40

 

Four four-line verses and a refrain.  Collected by Seonag NicDhòmhnaill, with tune in staff notation from Eòin Domhnallach.

 

iv  ‘Ho , nighean donn, hùg ò’,  p. 40

 

Four four-line verses and a refrain.  Collected by Seonag NicDhòmhnaill, with tune in staff notation from Eòin Domhnallach.

 

v   Tha mi gun aighear’,  p. 41

 

Five four-line verses.

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MACNEACAIL, Tormod  (Late 18th / early 19th Century)

 

One of the Nicolsons of Scorrybreck, Tormod was born about 1798.  Along with two of his brothers, he emigrated to New Brunswick in Canada before going to Australia.  He loved to hunt and fish.  He was a strong, vigorous man and an excellent swimmer, although he drowned in Australia.

 

(Information from the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair’s introductory notes to the second version of the song listed below)

 

‘ ‘S gann gu ‘n dìrich mi chaoidh

 

i     An t-Oranaiche.  Edited by Gilleasbuig Mac-na-Ceardadh.  Glasgow: Archibald Sinclair, 1879, pp. 491-493.

 

ii    The Gaelic Bards from 1825 to 1875.  Edited by the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair, .Sydney, C.B.: Mac-Talla Publishing Co., 1904, pp. 51-53.

 

iii   Skye: Iochdar-Trotternish and District.  William MacKenzie.  Glasgow: Alex. MacLaren and Sons, 1930, 83-85.

 

iv   Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2002, p. 37.

 

Tormod’s poaching activities came to an end when he received a warning letter from Edinburgh, and before leaving the country he composed this song.  In its nostalgic recollection of the pleasures of hunting it is reminiscent of many of the poems of Donnchadh Bàn.  Its continuing popularity within the oral tradition is demonstrated by the fact that in the sound archives of the School of Scottish Studies in the University of Edinburgh there are at least eleven versions recorded from Skye singers since the 1950’s.  Somhairle MacGill-Eain, describing it as ‘Norman Nicolson’s great song’, has incorporated some lines from it in his poem ‘An Cuilthionn’, (Lines Review, 7:7-10).

 

The first version has the refrain and fifteen verse-couplets, of which the eleventh does not appear in the other two versions.  The second version has the refrain and seventeen verse-couplets, of which the thirteenth to fifteenth do not appear in the other two versions.  The third version has the refrain and just eight verse-couplets, of which the seventh and eighth do not appear in the other two versions.  These two couplets are of particular interest because of their explicit anti-landlordism.  The fourth version has the refrain and eight verse-couplets with the tune in staff notation.

 

Another popular song, ‘Tha mi fo chùram’, has been attributed to Tormod’s sweetheart, Anna NicGhill’ Eathain (q.v.)

 

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MACNEILL, Domhnall  (19th / 20th Century)

 

This poet belonged to Earlish, near Uig in Skye. (Information from the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s account of the song noted below)

 

Domhnall MacNéill.  ‘Faire, faire, feadh a’ bhaile’.  Gairm, 52 (Am Foghar 1965), 322-323.

 

From the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s ‘Dioghlum bho Achaidhean na Bàrdachd (2)’ (Gairm, 52:316-323).  It is an amusing account of the first motor car seen in Trotternish, shortly after 1900.

 

There are eight four-line stanzas and a refrain.  The last two stanzas were added by Iain Mac-an-Aba of Kilmuir.  The metre might be described as amhran,  but rhyme is somewhat irregular.

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MACNEILL, Ruairidh  (early 20th Century)

 

Son of Domhnall MacNéill of Earlish (q.v.)

 

Ruairidh MacNéill.  Gur mistha gu duilich’.  Orain an Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, 55.

 

A robust poem about the poet’s experiences fighting in the Boer War.  Eight four-line stanzas.  The tune, in staff notation, is from Eòin Domhnallach.

 

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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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