Gaelic Literature of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   


Traditional poets and songmakers:  H – L







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IAIN DUBH MAC IAIN ‘IC AILEIN  (17th / 18th Century)


Iain Dubh Mac Iain ‘Ic Ailein, John MacDonald, appears to have belonged to the Morar branch of Clanranald.  He lived in Gruilean in Eigg and, according to the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair, may have been a Roman Catholic. 


Biographical references:


i     Revs. A. and A. MacDonald.  Clan Donald.  Vol. 3  (MacDonald and MacDonald 1904:575


ii    John MacKenzie.  Sàr-Obair nam Bàrd Gaelach  (MacKenzie 1872:68)


iii   Rev. William Matheson.  (TGSI, 38:528 ;  TGSI, 41:14)


iv   Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair.  Comhchruinneachadh Ghlinn-a’-Bhàird (Sinclair 1890:42)


v   J. L. Campbell.  Canna (Campbell 1984:201-202.


Professor Derick Thomson has described Iain Dubh as “a competent poet “, one of the aos-dàna.  Prof. Thomson points out that most of Iain Dubh’s extant poems are dated to the years before and after Sheriffmuir (1715) and that two of the poems attributed to Iain Dubh in John MacKenzie’s Sàr-Obair nam Bàrd Gaelach

are in fact by Iain MacAilein (Thomson 1977:148, 313).  The poems in question are ‘Marbhrann do Shir Iain Mac-Illeain’ and ‘Crosdhanachd Fhir nan Druimnean’ (MacKenzie 1872: 70-72, 74-75).


Poems by Iain Dubh have been included in a number of anthologies and in 1994 an edition of the ten poems attributable to him was published.  In 2001 three were included in an anthology of 18th Century Scottish Gaelic verse (see below).




(1)  Colm Ó Baoill (fear-deas.).  Iain Dubh: Orain a rinn Iain Dubh mac Iain mhic Ailein.  Obar-dheathan: An Clò Gaidhealach, 1994.  90 dd.


Editions of the ten songs attributable to Iain Dubh, along with notes on their texts, metres and tunes.  I have not had sight of this book.  Reviewed by Coinneach D. MacDhòmhnaill in Gairm (172:378-379).


(2)  Ronald Black (editor).  An Lasair: anthology of 18th Century Scottish Gaelic verse.  Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2001.


Includes texts of three poems by Iain Dubh, along with parallel English translations and notes by the editor: ‘Òran nam Fineachan’ (pp. 38-47, 379-382), ‘Marbhrann do dh’Ailean Dearg’ (pp. 54-59, 387-388),  Òran do Raghnall Mac Mhic Ailein’ (pp. 72-77, 393-396).  The texts of the poems are from Colm Ó Baoill’s edition (see above).









Lachlan MacKinnon, Lachlann Mac Theàrlaich Oig, was born in Strath, Skye.  He was one of the sons of Charles MacKinnon, Teàrlach Og Mac Theàrlaich,  of the family of MacKinnon of Strath.


Lachlan showed a talent for verse from an early age and that, coupled with an amiable disposition, made him very popular at social gatherings.  He lost his first wife, to whom he was devoted, when she was young and left Skye with his little daughter to live for a time on the mainland before returning to Skye to live on the farm of Breakish.


In spite of an unhappy second marriage, the poet was still renowned for his hospitality and friendship.  He was a good huntsman and also an excellent fiddler.  His songs and witty sayings remained long within oral tradition.


Lachlann Mac Theàrlaich Oig died in 1734 at the age of sixty-nine and was buried in Kilchrist.  His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Skye.


The above information came from two accounts of the life of the poet: one by the Rev. Alexander MacGregor in both Gaelic and English (An Gaidheal, 3:120-121, 145-148;  Celtic Magazine, 1:91-94) and one by the Rev. D. Lamont in his account of Strath (Lamont 1913:112-119).  While each account contains some material not

found in the other they are fairly compatible. A third account, from John MacKenzie, relates an incident concerning the birth of Lachlan’s daughter which does not fit in with either of the other two accounts (MacKenzie 1872: 80).


(1)   Bhiodag thubaisteach


i      Comhchruinneacha do dh’ Orain Taghta Ghaidhealach.  Deasaichte le Paruig Mac-an-Tuairneir.  Duneidionn: T. Stiubhard, 1813, dd. 339-342.


ii     r-Obair nam Bàrd Gaelach.  Edited by John MacKenzie.  Edinburgh: MacLachlan and Stewart, 1872 (1st edition 1841), pp. 83-84


iii    An Lasair: anthology of 18th Century Scottish Gaelic verse. Edited by Ronald Black.  Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2001.  pp. 12-19, 367-371.


The first version appears anonymously, but the second version, entitled ‘Sgian dubh an sprògain chain’, is attributed to Lachlann Mac Theàrlaich Oig.  There are sufficient differences between the two versions to allow for the possibility that MacKenzie had a source other than Mac-an-Tuairneir’s collection.  The third version is entitled ‘Sgian dubh an sprògain chaim’ and has a parallel English translation by the editor with extensive notes.


There are twelve stanzas, beginning ‘Dh’ innsinn sgeul mu ‘n mhalairt duibh’.  The metrical pattern is the same as that of the poet’s ‘Latha siubhal sléibhe’.  It seems likely that these two songs, so different in mood and theme, were composed upon the same tune.


(2)   Lachunn Mac Theàrlaich.  Cùram nam Bantraichean’.   Sàr-Obair nam Bàrd Gaelach.  Edited by John MacKenzie.  Edinburgh: MacLachlan and Stewart, 1872 (1st edition 1841), p. 84


John MacKenzie notes that this song was composed by the poet upon hearing that a friend of his was about to marry a rich old widow.  No doubt his own unfortunate second marriage had something to do with the views expressed in the song.


There are eight verse-couplets and a four-line refrain: ‘Hug hoireann ho-ro hura-bho / Bi’dh cùram air na bantraichean’.


(3)   ‘Cumha Mhic Leòid


i     Cochruinneacha Taoghta de Shaothair nam Bard Gaeleach.  Edited by Alexander and Donald Stewart.  Duneidin: T. Stiuart, 1804, pp. 411-415


ii    The Gaelic Bards from 1411 to 1715.  Edited by the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair.  Charlottetown: Haszard and Moore, 1890, pp. 162-165


iii   The MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry.  Edited by the Revs. A. and A. MacDonald.  Inverness: Northern Counties, 1911, pp. 148-149


A lament for John MacLeod of Talisker, son of Sir Roderick MacLeod of Talisker, who died in 1700.  This John MacLeod is also the subject of a lament by An Clàrsair Dall (Matheson 1970:74-79, 146-148).


While being within the tradition of Gaelic elegy, this lament is less formal in style than some similar compositions by Lachlan’s contemporary, Iain Dubh Mac Iain ‘ic Ailein.  As with An Clàrsair Dall’s lament there is a real sense of personal grief






















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



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