Gaelic Literature of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   


Traditional poets and songmakers:  R - Z







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R., A. M.


A. M. R.  ‘A lament for Donald MacLeod of Kingsburgh’.  The Highlander (5th May 1877), p. 3.



ROBASDAN, Domhnall


There are ten songs listed in Neil J. MacKinnon’s ‘Strath, Skye’  (TGSI 54:208-239).  Although listed under the surname Robasdan, they are so akin to the songs by Domhnall Mac-a-Phì (Domhnall Mhurchaidh) listed in Dr. MacKinnon’s ‘Strath, Skye – the End of the Nineteenth Century’ (TGSI, 52:155-197) that I have listed them under the entry for Domhnall Mac-a-Phì.



ROBASDAN, Eoghan  (1842-1895)


From Tongue, in Skye.


Cùl mo làimh ri bàt’ is lion’.  Gairm, 143 (An Samhradh 1988), 211-212



ROBERTSON, Angus  (1871-1948)


Angus Robertson was born in Skye and came to Glasgow as a young man, later going live in London from 1927-1945.  By 1907 he had founded the weekly illustrated paper St. Mungo in which a story, ‘Black Alpin’, later to be

developed as the Gaelic novel An t-Ogha Mór, first appeared.  He served for a time as president of An Comunn Gàidhealach.  When in London he published Children of the Foreworld (1933), a book of essays on well-known

Gaels.  This was followed by Orain na Céilidh and Cnoc an Fhradhairc (1940).


(Information from The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Thomson 1983:250).)


Details of Angus Robertson ‘s novel An t-Ogha Mór will be found in the section for non-traditional creative prose.


(1)  Angus Robertson.  Orain na Céilidh: Songs of the Ceilidh.  Arranged by Duncan Morrison.  Foreword by D. J. MacLeod.  London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen: Paterson’s Publications Ltd., [1938].  [3], 34p.


There are nine Gaelic songs in all, with one English language song.  The Gaelic texts are followed by the composer’s English language versions, which usually duplicate the metrical patterns of the originals.


Love is his most favoured subject and there is also some nature poetry and a song of encouragement to speakers of Gaelic.  His songs are pleasant enough, but not very inspired.


The melodies are given in staff notation.  Five are original compositions, with four based upon existing tunes: ‘Aig an Airidh (pp. 6-9), ‘Alasdair an Dùin’ (pp. 10-19), ‘Leannan an t-Saighdeir’ (pp. 17-19) and ‘A’ Bheinn as àird air Chùl’ (pp. 26-29).


(2) Angus Robertson.  Cnoc an Fhradhairc.  Glasgow: Alex. MacLaren and Sons, 1940.  xxiii, 94p.


On pp. 48-94 there are twenty-eight poems and songs, including the eight songs of Orain na Céilidh, along with fourteen English-language versions  The first half of the book, pp. 1-47 is taken up with the title poem; a long poem described by Derick Thomson as a philosophical pastoral.


In his foreword to Cnoc an Fhradhairc Alexander Nicolson is fulsome and uncritical in his praise.  Derick Thomson gives a more balanced view; pointing out the work’s literary flaws as well as its good points (Thomson 1977:264). 


Two poems from Cnoc an Fhradhairc are included with parallel English translations in An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Black 1999:48-51): they are ‘An Latha’ and ‘Maorach is Feannag’.


(3) Aonghas MacDhonnchaidh.  Ceann-aghairt a’ Chomunn’.  An Gaidheal, 36 (1940-1941), 154.


An anthem to celebrate An Comunn Gaidhealach’s fiftieth anniversary.  Two eight-line stanzas and two four-line refrains.


(4)  Aonghas MacDhonnchaidh.  An Sgaradh’.  An Gaidheal, 37 (1941-1942), 116.


A lament for his son, Weston James Robertson, killed in France in 1942.   There are two eight-line stanzas, beginning with ‘Og-mhic nam buadh …’,  and a four-line stanza.


(5) Aonghas MacDhonnchaidh.  Mòrag a’ Ghlinne’.  An Gaidheal, 38 (1942-1943), 11.


A graceful reply in verse to a letter from a young student, Mòrag Cameron.  Four four-line stanzas and a refrain beginning ‘Nan robh agam òigh nan caidir’.




ROBERTSON, Donald.  See ROBASDAN, Domhnall









ROS, Alasdair  (d. 1949)


A native of Glendale, Skye, and brother of the Rev. Niall Ros (q.v.).  The Rev. Alasdair Ros served as an army chaplain in India.  For an obituary written by his former schoolmate, see Life and Work: Na Duilleagan Gàidhlig

(1949: Aireamh 10), 7-8.


(1)  Alasdair Ros.  Naidheachd na Sobhraig’.  An Gaidheal, 40 (1944-1945), 95


Song of welcome to the primrose, which the poet sees as a symbol of  freedom and victory against Germany in the war.  Four six-line stanzas; modelled upon Dr. John MacLachlan of Rahoy’s ‘Do ‘n Chuthaig’.


(2)  Alasdair Ros.  Miann an Fhogarraich do ‘n Eilean Sgiathanach’.  An Gaidheal, 41 (1945-1946), 14.


An exile poem of six eight-line stanzas, beginning Ged ‘s tric a bhuaileas siantanna’.  The metre is similar to that of

Robert Burns’ ‘My love is like a red, red rose’.



ROS, Coinneach  (1914-1990)


A native of Glendale in Skye, after service in the Royal Air Force he attended Edinburgh University and then trained as a teacher.  In 1957 he was ordained as a minister of the Church of Scotland.  He was a noted essayist, see entry for his Aitealan Dlù is Cian in the section ‘Journalism and Miscellaneous Prose’, and he also composed poetry.  Aitealan Dlù is Cian includes an essay on the poetry of Ruairidh MacThómais and Domhnall MacAmhlaigh.


(Biographical information from Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticane, Vol. 10 (MacDonald 1981:363).)


(1)  Coinneach Ros.  ‘O a Ghaidhealtachd till’.  Gairm, 51 (An Samhradh 1965), 268.


A plea to Gaels for renewal and a return to their land and culture.  Four quatrains, beginning ‘Am bi daoine a chaoidh ‘na do ghlinn’.  Included, with parallel English translation in An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Black 1999:342-345).


(2)  Coinneach Ros.  Farmad’.  Gairm, 56 (Am Foghar 1966), 314.


A most effective modern poem of twelve lines, beginning ‘O sguiribh an t-òran’.  The last few lines seem to me to show the influence of ‘Valentín Brún’ by the Irish poet Aodhagan Ó Rathaille.  Included, with parallel English translation in An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Black 1999:344-345).


(3) Coinneach Ros.  Fògradh-cogaidh sna h-Innsean’.  Gairm, 51 (Am Foghar 1966), 314.


An expression of the experience of exile, powerful in its simplicity and brevity.  A modern poem, with different traditional metrical influences.  Ten lines, beginning with ‘Cha do sheac a’ ghrian ud’.  Included, with parallel English translation in An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Black 1999:342-343).


(4) Coinneach Ros.  Neamhaid gheal thu air clàr cuain’.  Aitealan Dlù is Cian.  Glaschu: Gairm, 1972, pp. 34-36.


A satire of twelve quatrains, composed when he was minister of Gigha. 



ROS, Ealasaid.  See LADY D’OYLY



ROS, Niall  (1873-1943)


A native of Glendale, Skye, Niall Ros was ordained a minister of the Church of Scotland in 1907 and served in a number of parishes.


A prominent member of An Comunn Gaidhealach, he edited that body’s periodical An Gaidheal from 1923 until 1936.  He edited for the SGTS Heroic Poetry from the Book of the Dean of Lismore (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1939).


Upon the occasion of his death in 1943 several tributes to Niall Ros in both English and Gaelic were published in An Gaidheal (39:49-52).  His nephew, Coinneach Ros, gives a penetrating analysis of his personality in Aitealan Dlù is Cian (Ros 1972:21-22).


While his poetry does not leave any very deep impression, Niall Ros was possessed of reasonable technical skill, handling competently a variety of metres, traditional Gaelic and others, and dealing with a wide range of subjects. 


See also the entries for Niall Ros in the sections for: non-traditional creative prose and journalism and miscellaneous prose.


(1)  Neil Ross.  An Samhradh ‘an Eilean-c-Cheò’.  Celtic Monthly, 1 (1892-1893), 192.


A song with a fine, swinging rhythm.  Four eight-line verses.


(2)  Neil Ross.  Aingeal an Dòchais’.  Celtic Monthly, 2  (1893-1894), 24.


This poem is reminiscent of the aisling or vision theme as used by Dùghall Bochanan.  It won for its composer first prize at the Oban Mod of 1893.  There are ten stanzas. Beginning with ‘A’ Ghrian gu glòrmhor anns an iar’.  The metre bears some resemblance to that of the metrical psalms, although the stanzas are of six lines each.


(3) ‘Sgéir-an-Oir (Neil Ross, Glendale).  Maise nam Buadh’.  Celtic Monthly, 6 (1897-1898), 25


On the perishability of the beauties of creation in contrast to the enduring beauty of dleasdanas (duty).  This poem won second prize at the 1897 Mod.  There are eleven stanzas, beginning with ‘Cha ‘n ann a mhàin an gnùis nan òigh’.  The metre is similar to that of ‘Aingeal an Dòchais’.


(4)  Neil Ross.  Tìr nan Og’.  Celtic Monthly, 8 (1899-1900), 23


This poem won first prize at the Edinburgh Mod of 1899 and was reprinted in An Deò-Gréine (12:149).  There are four eight-line stanzas, beginning with ‘O c’àiteil aoibhneas Tìr nan Og’.  It is composed upon the tune of Robert Burns’ ‘My love is like a red, red rose’.


(5)  Neil Ross.  ‘Maduinn Earraich’.  Celtic Monthly, 10 (1901-1902), 3


This poem won first prize in a competition promoted by the Glasgow Sutherlandshire Association.  It was reprinted in An Deò-Gréine (12:21).  There are twelve six-line stanzas, beginning with ‘Nach aoidheil tiorail fuaim nam fras’.  The metre is similar to that of the first two poems listed above.


(6)  Neil Ross.  ‘A’ Phiob-Mhór.  Celtic Monthly, 11 (1902-1903), 39


This poem in praise of the bagpipes won first prize at the Dundee Mod of 1902 and was reprinted in An Deò-Gréine (11:27-28).  There are eleven six-line stanzas and a refrain beginning with ‘ ‘S iphiob-chogaidh a bhann’.  It is composed upon the tune of Alexander MacKinnon’s ‘An Dubh-ghleannach.


(7)  Neil Ross.  ‘Air fal al al ò’.  Songs of the Highlands.  Arranged by Malcolm MacFarlane.  Inverness: Logan and Co., [1902], 184-186


A conventional sailor’s love song.  Three stanzas in an amhran metre with a vocable refrain.  The tune is given in both staff and tonic sol-fa notation and there is an English translation by Malcolm MacFarlane.


 (8)  Niall Ros.  Cuairt do ‘n Ghaidhealtachd’.  Guth na Bliadhna, 11 (1914), 379-384;  12 (1915), 1-6, 117-122


Account of a trip by sea from the Clyde, past the Inner and Outer Hebrides, which reaches its climax in the Isle of Skye.  There are vivid descriptions of the natural beauties of the various places passed, with numerous historical and literary allusions.  Strangely though, there are no references at all to the Clearances and the suffering they caused.   There are four hundred and sixty-seven lines divided into blank verse-paragraphs of irregular length.  The poem was originally delivered as a lecture to a meeting of the Celtic Union of Edinburgh on the 14th March 1911 (Bassin 1977:119).


(9)  Niall Ros.  ‘An Oidhche’.  An Deò-Gréine, 11 (1915-1916), 141


Here night is depicted as both bringing welcome relief from the cares of the day and as a symbol of the darkness always battling against light and goodness.  There are forty-eight lines, beginning with ‘Ghluais righ mór an àigh troimh gheatachan dealrach an fheasgair’.  The metre is based upon that of Homer’s Iliad.


(10)   Niall Ros.  Oran Tionail’.  An Gaidheal, 26 (1930-1931), 162


A rallying song for An Comunn Gaidhealach, composed upon the model of Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair’s ‘O i ri tha e ‘tighinn’.  There are four four-line stanzas and a refrain, beginning ‘O hi ri , fàilt’ is furan’.  The metre is almost perfect séadna.


(11)  Niall Ros.  ‘Ag cuimhneachadh ‘s ag ionndrainn’.  An Gaidheal, 39 (1943-1944), 52


Four lines from this poem quoted in an account of his internment.


(12)  Neil Ross.  Armageddon: a fragment.  Edinburgh: Printed by James Wilson, 1950.  147p.


Armageddon was intended to be part of a much longer epic, but the poet died before it could be completed and this was published posthumously published by his widow.  There is a parallel English translation.


Armageddon has as its theme the Second World War. Its celebration of the British Empire is in contrast to the more radical political attitudes of some of the poets of his own time and the poets of a later generation.  Coinneach Ros gives a frank assessment of his uncle’s work, commenting that while Armageddon has skill in versification it lacks the “substance of true poetry (Ros 1972:21).


There are two hundred and eighty-eight four-line stanzas in dactylic hexameters: a metre used in classical Greek literature for epic, didactic, philosophical and pastoral poetry.  It has also been used by several classical Latin poets.



ROSS, Alasdair.  See ROS, Alasdair



ROSS, Elizabeth.  See LADY D’OYLY



ROSS, Kenneth.  See ROS, Coinneach



ROSS, Neil.  See ROSS, Niall



RUNRIG.    See:  DOMHNALLACH, Calum and Ruairidh, in section ‘The New Poetry’












SHAW, Angus.  See SHAW, Aonghas



SHAW, Aonghas  (18th/19th Century)


Aonghas Shaw, Aonghas mac an Lighiche, was a native of Lyndale in Skye.  He served as a soldier during the Peninsular War and after leaving the army went to live in Glasgow.  He composed several songs and had them

committed to writing but his wife sold the manuscript for five pounds.


(Information from the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair (Sinclair 1896:111-112) ).


(1)  Aonghas Shaw.  Marbhrann do Bhean Liandail ‘s an Eilein Sgidheanach a dh’ eug ‘s a’ bhliadhna 1818’.  The MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry.  Edited by the Revs. A. and A. MacDonald.  Inverness: Northern Counties, 1911, pp. 117-119.


An elegy for Jane Craigdallie, wife of Colonel Alexander MacDonald of Lynedale and Balranald, who died in 1818.  There are seven sixteen-line stanzas, beginning with ‘Tha naigheachd chianail / An diugh ‘s na criochan’.  The metre is similar to that of Donnchadh Bàn’s ‘Oran Coire a’ Cheathaich’.


(2)  Aonghas Shaw.  Oran a’ Ghunna’.  TGSI, 21 (1896-1897), 185-186


From Neil MacLeod’s article, ‘Beagan Dhuilleag bho Sheann Bhàrdachd Eilean-a-Cheò (TGSI, 21:171-186).  A light-hearted poem in which the poet, as a young soldier, addresses his gun as a spouse.  One of the best-known

examples of this genre is Donnchadh Bàn’sOran do ‘n Mhusg’.


There are six eight-line stanzas, beginning with ‘Tha ‘n oidhche ‘n nochd gle fhuar’.  The metre is amhran; similar to that of ‘Oran do ‘n Mhusg’.


(3)   Oran Bhoniparte


i     Highland Monthly, 4 (1893-1894), 756-757


ii    Mac-Talla (8th December 1894), p. 8


iii   TGSI, 21 (1896-1897), 182-185


iv   The Gaelic Bards from 1775 to 1825.  Edited by the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair.  Sydney, C.B.: Mac-Talla, 1896, pp. 111-117


Composed at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.  The poet castigates Napoleon with a vigour somewhat reminiscent of Iain Lom, but politically the two poets are very different.  Aonghas Shaw’s song has no real sense of a Scottish or Gaelic identity.


The first version is from Magnus MacLean’s ‘Skye Bards’  (Highland Monthly, 4:745-760).  Magnus MacLean notes that it “appeared in one of the Highland papers some years ago”.  There are five stanzas, beginning with ‘ ‘Na ‘m b’fhear-focail bhidh giar mi gun lochd na mo bhriathran’.


The second version was sent to Mac-Talla by Domhnull Domhnullach,  Domhnull Mac Phadruigic Alasdair, a native of Uig in Skye who had emigrated to Prince Edward Island at the age of thirty-five.  He had learnt the song as a young boy in Skye and was unaware of its ever having been in print before.  There are eight stanzas, beginning with ‘ ‘N ‘m fhear focail bhiodh giar mi / Gun lochd bhi ‘na m’ bhriathran’.


The fourth version, has nine stanzas, beginning with ‘ ‘Nam b’ fhear facail bhiodh giar mi / Gun aon lochd ann am bhriathran’.


The metre is similar to that of the poet’s ‘Marbhrann do Bhean Liandail’.


(4)  Mac-a-Lighich.  Oran Gaoil’.  The MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry.  Edited by the Revs. A. and A. MacDonald.  Inverness: Northern Counties, 1911, pp. 218-219


A love song for Màiri Bhàn NicLeòid which has many echoes of the classical dánta grá tradition.  There are seven eight-line stanzas, beginning with ‘Na faighinn gille gun dàil’, in an amhran metre. 


(5)  [Aonghas Shaw].  Oran mu ‘n Uisge-bheatha’.  The MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry.  Edited by the Revs. A. and A. MacDonald.  Inverness: Northern Counties, 1911, pp. 346-347


A lively song, in which the personification of whisky boasts of his influence over people.  In a note (pp. lviii-lix) the editors express some doubt concerning the song’s authorship.


There are seven eight-line stanzas, beginning with Moch ‘s mi ‘g éirigh air bheag éislein’.  The first four lines of each stanza have a quatrain structure with the second four lines having a strophic structure.  This device of using different metrical forms within one stanza is a common one in European song: see pp. 212 ff. of W. P. Ker’s Form and Style in Poetry (London, 1928).


(6)  Aonghas Shaw.  Tha ‘m bard Connanach gu tinn’.  TGSI, 21 (1896-1897), 181-182


From Neil MacLeod’s article, ‘Beagan Dhuilleag bho Sheann Bhàrdachd Eilean-a-Cheò (TGSI, 21:171-186).  A quatrain said to have been composed to a drunken fellow poet in an inn in Dunvegan.  Other versions of this quatrain, and the story associated with it, are associated with An Clàrsair Dall (Matheson 1970: liii-lvi).









SHUTHARLAN, Ealasaid  (20th Century)


From Portnalong in Skye and latterly Inverness.


‘A’ cuimhneachadh an Eilein Sgiathanaich: tri orain’.  Gairm, 150 (An t-Earrach 1990), 121-124.


The three songs are: ‘Is mise nochd a’ mhiannaicheadh’, ‘An raoir a bhruadair mi gur eun mi’ and ‘Chuala sibh mar mheall iad Adhamh’.



SUTHERLAND, Elizabeth.  See SHUTHARLAN, Ealasaid






TORMOD SAIGHDEAR.  See MACLEOD, Norman (1773-1858)






















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


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A-B      C-D      E-K      L-N       O       P-Z     


Traditional: collections

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