Gaelic Literature of the
Traditional poets and songmakers: MacO - MacZ
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MACPHARLAIN, Calum (d. 1992)
Calum MacPhàrlain, Calum Sheumais, was a stonemason who belonged to Edinbane in Skye. He composed many songs, of which ‘An t-Aodann Bàn’ is the most famous.
Calum MacPhàrlain. ‘An
A poignant song in praise of Edinbane and Skye: reminiscent of ‘An gleann ‘s an robh mi òg’. Five eight-line verses, from Art MacCormaig.
MACPHEE, Angus (19th Century)
Magnus MacLean writes that “Angus Macphee,
[Angus MacPhee]. ‘Bàta
An t-Oranaiche. Edited by Gilleasbuig Mac-na-Ceardadh.
It is to be noted that this song
is presented anonymously in An t-Oranaiche. A
song of the genre describing the bewildered Highlander’s experiences in the
with the pain of displacement by making of it an amusing experience or whether they are pandering to the image of the stage Highlander.
There are eight four-line stanzas and a four-line refrain composed mainly of vocables, beginning ‘Ho ró hug i ó, hal dal ó halo i’.
MACPHEE, Angus (b. 1927). See: MAC A’ PHI, Aonghas
MACPHEE, Donald. See MAC-A-PHI, Domhnall
MACPHERSON, Dugald (c. 1700)
What little information we have about this poet is to be gleaned from notes and ascriptions to manuscript and printed versions of the hymn noted and discussed below. From these one might construct this brief outline: Dùghall Mac a’ Phearsain or MacMhuirich, otherwise Dugald MacPherson; lived in Trotternish, Skye, late seventeenth or early eighteenth century; occupation, gardener and also perhaps tailor; composed at least two hymns, one of which was published.
‘Laoidh mu ‘n Bhàs’
i Comh-chruinneachidh Orannaigh Gaidhealach.
Le Raonull MacDomhnuill. [Eigg Collection]. Duneidiunn:
Walter Ruddiman, 1776, dd. 310-315.
ii An Gaidheal, 6 (1877), 79-80.
The first version, entitled ‘Laoidh air a Bhais’, is ascribed to ‘Dùghal Mac Pherson’ of Trotternish; the second version repeats the ascription, using the alternative form of ‘MacMhuirich’. This second version derives from the first.
The hymn’s account of the final Day of Judgement follows the Gospel account fairly closely. It is interesting to compare this hymn with Dùghall Bochanan’s ‘Là a’ Bhreithanais’. Bochanan’s poem is of course very much longer and he is by far the greater poet, but the most striking difference which the two poems reveal is that of temperament. MacPherson’s is more quiet and easeful and, while displaying a firm faith in the idea of a final Judgement, he does not seem to be compelled, as Bochanan is, to expand upon the Gospel account in such vivid detail.
There are thirty-six quatrains in a syllabic metre, an irregular rannaigheacht bheag mhór.
There are four manuscript versions listed in John MacKechnie’s Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts (MacKechnie 973:419, 466, 473); two in Edinburgh University Library’s Carmichael-Watson MS Collection (CW 61, 87) and one in Glasgow University Library’s MacLagan MS Collection (MacLagan 48). The two Carmichael-Watson versions are ascribed to ‘Dùghall Liosadair’. The MacLagan version is unascribed, but it is coupled with another hymn, ascribed to ‘Dughal Macaphearsain ‘san Eilein Sgiathanach’. MacKechnie quotes the opening quatrain of this MacLagan version and it corresponds fairly closely to the opening quatrains of the two printed versions discussed above.
In Carmina Gadelica, Vol. 6, where the hymn is described as ‘Laoidh Dhùghaill Thàilleir, no Liosadair’, one quatrain is quoted (Matheson 1971:91).
As far as the poet’s dates are concerned: Magnus MacLean refers to him as ‘Dugald Macpherson, or Dughall Mac-Mhuirich’ and gives the date 1700. Whether this is conjecture, or whether MacLean had some other source of
information, is unclear.
MACPHERSON, John (of Trotternish). See MAC A’ PHEARSAIN, Iain
MACPHERSON, John (19th Century?)
The only information I have been able to trace concerning this poet is that quoted below.
John MacPherson. ‘Caisteal
Mór Allt Mhaodail’. Place-names
of Skye and
Alexander Forbes writes that the burn Allt Mhaodail was made famous locally by “Iain-Mor-Buachaill … a Macpherson, who composed a song called ironically ‘Caisteal Mor Allt Mhaodail’ … “. Apparently one Tearlach Mor na Cròige had built himself a hut near the burn and the poet made fun of it in this poem.
Forbes quotes just four lines of the poem, beginning ‘’S ann aig Tearlach caol tha ionghnadh nan Eileanan’.
MACPHERSON, Neil (c. 1834 – 1924)
Neil MacPherson, Niall Ceannaiche, belonged to the Braes district of Portree. The poet Calum MacNeacail, Calum Ruadh, knew him well in his youth (MacNeacail 1975:5) and is the source of the song noted and discussed below.
‘Ma thig maor oirnn à Port-righ’
i TGSI, 49 (1974-1976), 343-344.
ii Calum Ruadh:
Bard of Skye. Scottish Tradition
iii Tuath is Tighearna: Tenants and Landlords. Edited by Donald E. Meek.
A song composed by Niall in the
aftermath of the
The first version, in Donald E. Meek’s ‘Gaelic Poets of the Land Agitation’ (TGSI, 49:309-375), is a transcription of the recording made by Miss Jo MacDonald from the recitation of Calum Ruadh. The second version is a transcription of the recording made by the Danish musicologist Thorkild Knudsen from the recitation of Calum Ruadh at a seminar in 1968. The third version is also a transcription of this recording.
In his notes to the third version Professor Meek tells us that the three stanzas were composed as part of a longer poem. He also gives a transcription of part of a further verse recorded by Jo MacDonald from William MacDonald
of Braes in 1972-73.
MACPHILIP, Domhnall (20th Century)
This poet came from Beàraraigh na Hearadh, but his wife was from Waternish in Skye.
(Information from Orain an Eilein (Mhàrtainn 2001:131).
(1) ‘Coille an Fhàsaich’.
i Gairm, 95 (An Samhradh 1976), 231-232.
ii Orain an Eilein. Cairistìona Mhàrtainn. An t-Eilean Sgitheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, 66.
A recurring theme in nineteenth and twentieth century Gaelic song and poetry: a loved place and its memories of friends and happiness long gone. This time the place is Fasach on the Waternish peninsula in Skye.
There are six verses, beginning ‘Ri taobh Coille an Fhàsaich’. Domhnall MacPhilip also composed the music for the song, which has been recorded by Christine Primrose on her record ‘Aite mo Ghaoil’ (Temple Records, 1981: CTP006 and 1993: COMD 1006).
For an earlier song about the same
area of Waternish, see Murdoch MacLean’s ‘Song on
the View from
(2) Domhnall MacPhilip. ‘Tilleadh’. Gairm, 100 (Am Foghar 1977), 327-328.
The same theme as ‘Coille an Fhàsaich’, but with a quite different treatment. It has a strange, esoteric quality.
There are nine four-line stanzas, beginning ‘Air taobh an fhuaraidh theann e dlùth’. The metre is reminiscent of amhran.
MACQUARRIE, Donald. See MACGUAIRE, Domhnall
MACQUEEN, Donald. See MACGUTHAIN, Domhnall
MACRAE, Catherine. See NICRATH, Catriona
MACRAE, Malcolm. See MACRATH, Calum
MACRAILD, Donald (19th Century)
Dr. Donald MacRaild of
Donald MacRaild. ‘Thoughts on Sgia, or the
MACRAOIRIDH, Donnchadh (17th Century)
The four poems noted below are in the Fernaig MS, compiled between 1688 and 1693 by Duncan MacRae of Inverinate. The identity of the composer of the poems in question is unclear and any connection with Skye is hypothetical. The following is an attempt to draw together suggestions and assumptions by others and is not intended to present any firm conclusions on my part.
In the course of a testimony published in the appendix to the Highland Society’s report on the poems of Ossian, Hugh MacDoanld of Killpheder, South Uist, states that ‘Donnacha MacRuari’ had held the hereditary office of bard to MacDonald of Sleat, and in virtue of that office held land, Achadh Nam Bàrd, in Trotternish, Skye. As official bard, Donnchadh had been a predecessor of John MacCodrum (Highland Society 1805:App., 40).
In his ‘Skye Bards: Part 4’, (Highland Monthly, 5:92-101), Magnus MacLean reports (p. 101) that Professor MacKinnon had notified him of this reference to Donnchadh MacRuairi of Trotternish. There follows a statement that in the Fernaig Ms “four short pieces are credited to a Donochig M’ Ryrie, who looks very like the same person’. Whether this last is part of Professor MacKinnon’s note, or whether it is Magnus MacLean’s own statement, is unclear. William Matheson, in his introduction to the Songs of John MacCodrum, suggests that MacRuairi, or another member of the same family, may have been the author of the four poems in the Fernaig Ms (Matheson 1938: xxiv). Ronald Black, in a letter to me dated 25th June 1984, agrees with the assumption that the author of these poems was of the same family as that described in the 1805 Ossian Report as poets to the MacDonalds of Sleat.
However, the situation is further complicated by an
etymological problem, whether MacRuairi / MacRuari / MacRury and M’Ryrie can be said to be the same name. Malcolm MacFarlane, editor of the Fernaig MS, regularises M’Ryrie
as MacRiridh, and notes that “it is doubtful
whether Ryrie is meant for Riridh, Raoiridh or Ruaraidh: Mac Creery is a north of
MacRaoiridh (op. cit., xxiv). Dr. Ronald Black has told me that he thinks the variation in the name from MacRuairidh – MacRury – MacRaoiridh – MacRyrie can be explained by reference to an eponymous Rudhraidhe rather than Ruaidhri, and outlined an identification of the MacRyries with the name Ó Fearghail. He believes that an early seventeenth century scribe, Fearghus mac Rudhraidhe, otherwise Ó Fearghail, otherwise Ó Albain, can be identified with the Fergus MacRourie mentioned by the Rev. John MacRa as a historian and genealogist in his genealogy of the MacRas (MacPhail 1914:198-199). The Rev. John MacRa was the brother of Duncan MacRae of Inverinate, Donnchadh nam Pìos, compiler of the Fernaig MS. Dr. Black believes that his thesis can be tied in with William Matheson’s account of the MacRurys of North Uist (TGSI, 52:330-333).
William Matheson’s account of the MacRurys of North Uist occurs in his ‘Notes on North Uist Families (TGSI, 52:318-372) and traces a descent for the MacRurys of North Uist from a sixteenth or seventeenth century
immigrant from Skye, a member of the family who were hereditary smiths and armourers to the MacDonalds in Skye: a branch of which became official seanachies and bards to the MacDonalds. The last of this Skye family
holding office as bard being Duncan MacRury, who flourished in the second half of the seventeenth century.
It will have been noted that a possible connection
between the MacRyries and
evidence is from Breandan
Ó Conchúir’s Scríobhaithe
Chorcaí 1700-1850, (Baile
Atha Cliath, 1982),
where on pp. 28-29 he mentions two eighteenth century
Cameron. Reliquiae Celticae.
i ‘Rijn di reinig lea donochig mc ryrie er lebbi I vaijs’, pp. 74-75.
ii ‘4 rein di reinig lesh, la î deig shea’
‘Ceithir rainn do rinneadh leis an lá air an d’ eug e’, pp. 75-76.
iii ‘5 rein di reinig leish î Donochigs er bais vick-vighk Kennich’, p. 76.
iv ‘Ryn di reinig leish no hain oise’, p. 77.
J. Watson (editor). Bàrdachd
Ghàidhlig. Second edition.
i ‘Fada atà mise an déidh chàich’. Donnchadh MacRaoiridh, obit. c. 1630. pp. 234-235; notes, pp. 325-326.
ii ‘Beir mise leat’. Rǎinn a rinneadh le Donnchadh MacRaoiridh an là dh’eug e. p. 236.
MacFarlane (editor). The Fernaig
i ‘Rijn di reinig lea Donochig mc ryrie er lebbi ī vaijs’ ‘Roinn do rinneadh le Donnchadh Mac Riridh* air leabaidh a bhàis’, pp. 136-137.
ii ‘4 rein di reinig lesh, la ī deig shea’
‘Ceithir roinn do rinneadh leis, an là a d’ *eug se’, pp. 138-139.
iii ‘5 rein di reinig leish ī Donochigs er bais vick-vighk Kennich’
‘Cùig roinn do rinneadh leis an Donnchadh-s’ air bàs
Mhic-Mhic Coinnich’, pp. 138-141.
iv ‘Ryn di reinig leish no hain oise’
‘Roinn do rinneadh leis ‘na shean aois’, pp. 140-143.
Textual notes for all four poems are on p. 313.
(4) Colm Ó Baoill (editor). Gàir nan Clàrsach:
the Harps’ Cry. Translated by Meg
i ‘Air Leabaidh a Bhàis’, pp. 84-85; notes: p. 222.
ii ‘Ceithir rainn do rinneadh leis an la a d’eug se’, pp. 82-83; notes: p.222.
iii ‘Air Bàs mhic Mhic Coinnich’, pp. 76-79; notes: 221.
iv ‘Rainn do rinneadh leis na shean aois’, pp. 78-83; notes: 221.
The source used for all four is MacFarlane’s transcriptions of the Fernaig MS. There is a parallel English verse translation by Meg Bateman for each poem.
The first lines quoted in the notes below are given in Malcolm MacFarlane’s transliterations in his edition of The Fernaig Manuscript.
i ‘Thàinig fàth bròin air ar crìdh’
This deathbed composition is in an irregular deibhidhe. There are some variations in Cameron’s and MacFarlane’s transcriptions.
ii ‘Beir mise leat, a Mhic Dhé’
A simple and moving poem. Four quatrains of rannaigheacht mhór. There are some variations in Cameron’s and MacFarlane’s transcriptions from the Fernaig MS. Of the four poems, this is the only one for which Cameron has given a transliteration; along with Watson’s and MacFarlane’s making three in all, with variations between each.
iii ‘Treun am mac a thug ar leòn’
An elegy for the son of the MacKenzie chief, in rannaigheacht mhór metre. There are a few variations between Cameron’s and MacFarlane’s transcriptions.
iv ‘Is fada ta mis’ an déidh chàich’
There are some variations between Cameron’s and MacFarlane’s transcriptions and significant variations between MacFarlane’s and Watson’s transliterations. Watson’s notes are very useful in that they identify people and places named in the poem, indicating a strong connection between the poet and the MacKenzie chiefs and giving the date of the poem’s composition as being sometime between 1626 and 1633. The metre is rannaigheacht mhór.
MACRATH, Calum (1882 – 1938)
Calum MacRath was born in Tote, near Skeabost in Skye.
There were a number of bards in his family and he himself began to
compose poetry when very young. He went
Most of Calum MacRath’s poems are nature poems and his work belongs very much to the Niall MacLeòid school of poetry, with its romanticised vision of the homeland as an ideal world, particularly in days gone by. Taken within these terms, his verse is pleasant and enjoyable.
(Biographical information from foreword to Bàird a’ Chomuinn (MacFhionghuin 1953).)
(1) Calum MacRath. ‘Aisling’. An Ròsarnach, 2 (1918), 206-207.
An exile poem, in which the poet dreams of his home in all its natural beauty. There are seven eight-line stanzas, beginning with ‘Bruadair mise bhò-raoir’. There is aicill, but stress and end rhyme are irregular.
(2) Calum MacRath. ‘Caoidh nan Gaidheal’. An Deò-Gréine, 14 (1918-1919), 141-142.
A lament for the
(3) Calum MacRath. ‘An t-Eilean Sgiathanach’. Guth na Bliadhna, 16 (1919), 270-271.
The exile’s longing for his native island is awakened by the approach of summer and he visualises the island in its summer glory. There are seven eight-line stanzas, beginning with ‘Tha m’ inntinn daonnan luaineach’. The metre is similar to that of Lachlann Mac Theàrlaich Oig’s ‘Latha siubhal Sléibhe’.
(4) Calum MacRath. ‘Feasgar ‘s a’ Ghleann’. An Deò-Gréine, 16 (1920-1921), 13.
An attractive nature poem, somewhat spoiled by the synthetic sentiment at the end. There are six eight-line stanzas, beginning with ‘Feasgar an de ‘s mi dol ceum troimh ‘n ghleannan’. Composed upon the tune of Donnchadh Bàn’s ‘Màiri bhàn òg’. This poem won for Calum first prize at the 1920 Mod.
(5) Calum MacRath. ‘Cumha an t-Seana Ghaidheil’. An Gaidheal, 25 (1929-1930), 150.
Very similar in theme and sentiment to Niall MacLeòid’s poem of the same name. The aged Gael, alone in the glen, mourns the golden past. There are eight eight-line stanzas, beginning with ‘An diugh ‘sa ghleann ‘nam aonaran’. The metre is somewhat irregular.
(6) Calum MacRath. ‘Cuairt Mhaidne a’ Bhuachaille’. Bàird a’ Chomuinn. Deasaichte le Lachlann MacFhionghuin. Glaschu: An Comunn Gaidhealach, 1953, dd. 71-73.
This poem is a pleasant pastorale and it won for its composer the Bardic Crown at the National Mod of 1926. There are ten eight-line stanzas, beginning ‘Anns a’ mhaidainn di-ciadain’. The metre is similar to amhran, but I would hesitate to classify it as such, because of the irregularity of the rhyme.
(7) Calum MacRath. ‘Eilean Uaine fo Cheò’. Orain an Eilein. Cairistiona Mhàrtainn. An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p. 61
MACRATH, Domhnall (19th / 20th Century)
This poet was the brother of Calum MacRath (q.v.) and belonged to Skeabost. He was killed in the First World War (Mhàrtainn 2001:121). He might possibly be the same person as the Domhnall MacRath noted below.
Dòmhnall MacRath. ‘Air m’ uilinn ‘s mi nam ònar’. Orain an Eilein. Cairistiona Mhàrtainn. An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, 63.
Song of a lovesick poet. Four eight-line stanzas. Catriona Dhùghlas collected the words.
MACRATH, Domhnall (19th / 20th Century)
This poet may be the same Domhnall MacRath listed
above. The ascription for the poem
noted below is ‘Domhnull MacRath, nach maireann’. Reference in the poem to a steamboat
leaving Portree for
composed some time between 1840 and 1920. The style of the poem suggests an earlier rather than a later date, so I would assume that Domhnall MacRath may have been born in Skye some time about the middle of the
nineteenth century or later.
Domhnull MacRath. ‘Fàgail Eilean a’ Cheò’. An Ròsarnach, 3 (1921), 33-34.
An exile song, typical of the genre in its expressions of longing for the people and scenes of home, and the poet’s sense of alienation from the strangers among whom he finds himself.
There are eight four-line stanzas,
beginning with ‘Tha mi gun aighear, gun sùgradh air m’ aire’. The metre is similar, although not
identical, to that of Màiri Mhór nan
MACRUAIRI, Donnchadh. See MACRAOIRIDH, Donnchadh
MACRUAIRIDH, Iain. See MACRUIRIDH, Iain.
MACRUIRIDH, Iain (1843 - 1907)
I am indebted to Dr. Ronald Black for drawing my attention to the Rev. John MacRury, who he describes as “probably the most prolific Gaelic writer who ever lived and also a very gifted one”. He was born in Benbecula and was ordained to the ministry of the Church of Scotland. From 1886 until his death in 1907 he was parish minister of Snizort in Skye.
The Rev. MacRury was a poet and a prose-writer, and he edited the Church of Scotland’s Life and Work: Na Duilleagan Gàidhlig during his twenty years in Snizort. For a brief biography of him see Ronald Black’s edition of
John Gregorson Campbell’s The Gaelic Otherworld (Black 2005: 647).
MACRURY, John. See MACRUIRIDH, Iain.
MCRYRIE, Donochig. See MACRAOIRIDH, Donnchadh
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