Gaelic Literature of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   

 

Traditional poets and songmakers:  M - MacA

 

 

 

 

 

 

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M, D  of Staffin (20th Century)

 

(1)   D. M. (Stafainn).  ‘An Ad’.  An Gaidheal, 59 (1964), 29

 

An amusing account of a spectacular hat seen at a wedding..  Eight stanzas, beginning with ‘An latha phòs an Dotair Og’ in an amhran / cumha type metre.

 

(2)   D. M. (Staphainn).  ‘A Bhratach Shidh’.  Sruth (23rd January 1969), p. 3

 

Celebrates the Fairy Flag of the MacLeods.  There are seven stanzas, beginning with ‘Ann an talla nan tùr’, in an amhran / cumha type metre.

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MACAIDH, Domhnall  (20th Century)

 

Domhnall MacAidh.  ‘Eilean Eige’.  An Gaidheal, 36 (1940-1941), 11

 

A song in praise of Eigg.  There are eight four-line stanzas, beginning with ‘Seinnibh leam dàn do Eige mo ghràidh’.  Each couplet of a stanza has a strophic construction.

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MAC-A-LEOIR (18th Century)

 

In his edition of the songs of John MacCodrum the Rev. William Matheson tells of a Skye bard called Mac-a-Leoir who came to visit MacCodrum in North Uist and who addressed him with a quatrain beginning ‘Iain mhic Fhearchair Mhic Codrum nan ròn’.

 

The Rev. Matheson believed that the bard’s name may properly have been MacGille-dheoir. (Matheson 1938: xxi-xxxiv)

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MAC A’ LIGHICH.  See SHAW, Angus

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MAC-AN-ABA, Iain  (19th / 20th Century)

 

Iain Mac-an-Aba of Kilmuir in Trotternish was of the same family as the eighteenth century poet Niall Mac-an-Aba (q.v.), and was the father of Catriona Dhùghlas (q.v.).  Most of his life was spent as a schoolteacher in

his native district.  He composed many songs, most of which were never committed to writing; those which were being noted down by his daughter Catriona.  The greater part of the article by the Rev. Domhnall Buidse which is noted below is devoted to some of those songs, introduced with biographical notes and general comment.

 

I think Iain Mac-an-Aba was at his best as a composer of comic verse.

 

See also Iain Mac-an-Aba’s entry in the section for non-traditional creative prose.

 

(1)   An t-Urramach Domhnall Buidse.  Bàird an Eilean Sgiathanach: Clann-an-Aba, Thròdairnis’.  TGSI, 48 (1972-1974), 584-601.

 

i   Oran na Coise’,  pp.587-588

 

Song composed after the poet had broken his leg while climbing into a car.  There are seventeen verse-couplets with a refrain beginning ‘Gur e mise thanam éiginn’.

 

ii   Càit an d’ fhuair thu ‘n ad’,  pp. 589-590

 

A light hearted song.  There are eight nine-line stanzas with an eight-line refrain.  Although the rhyming system is traditional Gaelic, the rhythm is not.  It seems to be based on an English model, perhaps a music hall song

 

iii   Cogadh Africa’,  pp. 591-592

 

A lighthearted song composed as if it had been written by a young man who wanted to fight in the Boer War.  Strongly imperialist in tone.  There are seven four-line stanzas, beginning ‘Ochòin hi ri nach robh mi cho fulannach’ in a cumha type metre.

 

iv   Tuireadh an Rìgh’,  pp. 592

 

A lament for King Edward VII, who died in 1910.  Three stanzas and a four-line refrain beginning ‘Cha till, cha till, gu frith no munadh’.  Modelled upon ‘Cumha Mhic Cruimein’.

 

v    dhuan Calluinn’,  pp. 593-594

 

Two pleasant Hogmanay songs, each song starting with the same four lines beginning ‘Ho la ri ó’, and the remainder a series of couplets printed as a single stanza.

 

vi   Tighinn dachaidh buadhmhor nan Saighdearan Gàidhealach’, p. 594

 

A song of World War I, in which the poet lost two sons, although this is not mentioned in the song.  There are two eight-line stanzas beginning ‘Faic sibh an feachd a tha teachd thar nan cuantan’.  Metrically of the

amhran / cumha type with perhaps some English influence. 

 

vii  ‘A Greeting to a friend in Egypt’,  p. 595

 

A two-stanza letter-poem, beginning ‘Tha thus’ ann an Tìr na h-Eiphit’.  Metrically the same as the previous poem.

 

viii  ‘A New year Greeting to friends in New Zealand’,  p. 595

 

A single-stanza letter-poem, beginning ‘Ge fada sibh uainn thar chuain is fearainn’.  An amhran type metre.

 

ix  ‘Reply to a letter from Lady Macdonald of the Isles acknowledging a gift of a Book’,  pp. 595-596

 

Another letter-poem.  Twelve couplets printed as a single stanza.

 

(2)   J. M. (Peinora, Skye).  Spleucan Ruairidh’.  An Deò-Gréine, 17 (1921-1922), 91-92.

 

I am assuming the J.M. of Peinora was in fact John MacNab, Iain Mac-an-Aba.  The song is an amusing take on the tobacco shortage during the latter years of World War I.

 

There are twelve four-line stanzas, beginning ‘Le mo spleucan, o ’.  Quite a cleverly handled metrical structure with a suggestion of the influence of the old song metre with its single line verses and vocable refrain.

 

(3)   Iain Mac-an-Aba.  ‘Leannan-sìth’.  Gàilig (An Deò-Gréine), 18 (1922-1923), 90.

 

A beguiling song of a man whose peace of mind is forever lost through his love for a fairy woman.  Its affinity is perhaps more with English language ‘Celtic Twilight’ songs than with fairy songs in the Gaelic tradition itself.

 

Six six-line stanzas, beginning ‘Bha bean-shìth an ‘s a ghleannan’.  The metre does not appear to be a traditional one.

 

(4)   See the entry for a song ‘Faire, faire, feadh a’ bhaile’ composed by Domhnall MacNéill of Earlais.  The final two stanzas were added by Iain Mac-an-Aba.

 

(5)   Iain Mac-an-Aba.  ‘ ‘Ille dhuinn, chaidh tu ‘m dhìth’.  Gaelic Songs of Skye.  Cairistìona Mhàrtainn.  Taigh na Teud: An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, 2001, p. 93.

 

Song of a sweetheart left behind.  Four couplets and a refrain

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MAC-AN-ABA, Niall   (c. 1740-1818)

 

Niall Mac-an-Aba was the great-grandfather of Iain Mac-an-Aba (q.v.), and the great-great-grandfather of Catriona Dhùghlas.  Niall was born at Bayhead, Waternish, about 1740.  He was employed for a time by Fear a’Bhàighe, but left to go to Kilmuir after they quarrelled over a woman.  In Kilmuir he enjoyed the patronage of Martin Martin, Màrtainn Mór a’ Bhealaich, until the latter’s death.  Niall Mac-an-Aba married and settled on some land at Kilvaxter in the parish of Kilmuir.  He died about 1818.

 

(Information from Magnus MacLean’s ‘Skye Bards’ (Highland Monthly, 7:751-754)

 

(1)  Niall Mac-an-Aba.  ‘Mo chridhe trom ‘s duilich leam’.  Highland Monthly, 4 (1892-1893), 752.

 

Fragment of a love song whose subject may have been the woman over whom he quarrelled with Fear a’ Bhàighe.  There is a refrain and four stanzas in quatrain form.

 

(2)  Niall Mac-an-Aba.  ‘Cumha do Mhàrtainn Màrtainn, do ‘m bu cho-ainm Màrtainn Mór a’ Bhealaich’.  Mac-Talla  (23rd November 1900), p. 168.

 

This version was reprinted in the Rev. A. MacLean Sinclair’s Mac-Talla nan Tur (Sinclair 1901:54-58).  In his discussion of the lament Magnus MacLean (op. cit., 753-754) writes that it  ‘appeared in the Northern Chronicle eight or nine years ago’ and that it ‘consists of twenty verses of eight lines each’.  MacLean reproduces the Northern Chronicle introduction and three stanzas of the lament. I have not been able to trace this original Northern Chronicle publication.

 

The Mac-Talla version noted above has fifteen stanzas, beginning ‘Nam b’ fhear facail no dàin mi’.  Stanzas one, eleven and twelve correspond to the three stanzas given by Magnus MacLean (see above),  with textual variations.  In his article ‘Bàird an Eilean Sgiathanach: Clann-an-Aba, Thròdairnis’.  (TGSI, 48: 584-601) the Rev. Domhnall Buidse quotes the eleventh stanza with some textual variations.

 

 ‘Cumha do Mhàrtainn Màrtainn’ is a fine lament.  While it shows the influence of the traditional panegyric, it is more a personal than a formal lament.  The metre is cumha.

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MAC-AN-FHEOIR  (20th Century)

 

I have not been able to establish the identity of ‘Mac-an-Fheoir’.  He might possibly have been Domhnall Grannd (see entry for same): the style of the song noted below is very similar to his.

 

Mac-an-Fheoir.  Moladh Muinntir Cladach an t-Sratha’.  Gairm, 10 (An Geamhradh 1954), 163

 

Cladach an t-Sratha’ would appear to refer, not to a specific place in Strath, but to any place where there are dwellings on the shore.  The theme of this song is the extreme generosity of the people of Cladach an t-Sratha with

regard to their catches of fish.  In the fifth stanza mention is made of several district cognomens, e.g. Coinein Druim-fheàrna’.

 

There are five four-line stanzas, beginning with ‘ ‘S i Muinntir a’ Chladaich tha coir le ‘n cuid sgadan’, each followed by a four-line refrain.  The metre has a fast moving rhythm, rather like a jig.

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MAC AN TOISICH,  Alasdair  (19th Century)

 

Alasdair Mac an Tòisich, Alasdair Ruadh Mac Sheumais, belonged to Breacradh in East Trotternish.  He emigrated to Prince Edward Island and shortly before his departure from Skye composed the song noted below. In his introductory notes the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach writes that Alasdair composed a number of other good songs.

 

‘A nighean bhuidhe bhàn

 

i     Gairm, 53 (An Geamhradh 1965), 39-41.

 

ii    Orain en Eilein.  Cairistiona Mhàrtainn.  An t-Eilean Sgiatheanach: Taigh nan Teud, 2001, p. 46.

 

Although the refrain is like a love song, this song is in fact a bitter attack upon those who were driving the people out in order to make room for sheep.

 

The first version appears in the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s article ‘Dioghlum bho Achaidhean na Bàrdachd (3)’. There are eight four-line stanzas and a refrain, all strophic in type.  There is a marked rhythmical difference between the refrain and the stanzas, and there are some apparent irregularities within the stanzas themselves.  To appreciate this song properly, one would need to hear it sung by a good traditional singer.

 

The second version was collected by Seònag NicDhomhnaill and the tune,  in staff notation, is from Eòin Dòmhnallach. 

 

It appears likely that this song was composed upon an existing model.  What could be an original North Uist version of this model is to be found in Cochruinneacha Taoghta de Shaothair nam Bard Gaeleach (Stewart 1804: 147-148).  Another version of the same is in From the Farthest Hebrides (Fergusson 1978:133-135).

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MAC AN TOISICH, Fearchar  (20th Century)

 

Fearchar Mac an Tòisich was a member of Feachd Phort Righeadh when the poem noted below won for him first prise in a Comunn na h-Oigridh poetry competition.

 

Fearchar Mac an Tòisich.  An Geamhradh’.   An Gaidheal, 35 (1939-1940), 124.

 

A straightforward seasonal poem.  There are four eight-line stanzas, beginning ‘Tha làithean ait an t-Samhradh’.  The metre is similar to that of Niall MacLeòid’s ‘An gleann ‘s an robh mi òg‘, but there are irregularities of stress and rhyme.

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MAC AN T-SAOIR, Aonghas (19th / 20th Century?)

 

Although Aonghas Mac an t-Saoir was not a Skyeman, he belonged to Mallaig, I am including the item noted below in this bibliography, as Calum Camshron seems to believe that it was known only on Soay.

 

Aonghas Mac an t-Saoir.  Oran na Tunnag Fhirionn’.  An Gaidheal, 57 (1962), 77.

 

A single eight-line stanza, beginning ‘Chan’ eil an duine beannaicht’ ach’.  It appears in Calum Camshron’s article ‘Eilean Shòthaidh  (An Gaidheal, 57:75-77).

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MACAONGHAIS, Donnchadh.  See MACFHIONNLAIGH, Donnchadh

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MACAONGHAIS, Maolcalum.  See MACINNES, Malcolm

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MAC A’ PHEARSAIN, Aonghas  (20th Century)

 

Aonghas Mac a’ Phearsain, Aonghas Sheonaidh, was a native of  Linacro, Trotternish and latterly lived in Darvel in Ayrshire.  He died some time before 1970.

 

(1)  Aonghas Mac a’ Phearsain.  ‘Na Maighdeanan Mhara’.  Sruth (5th March 1970), p. 7.

 

An amusing account of an alcohol-induced vision of mermaids.  There are fifty lines, beginning ‘Threig an cadal mi ‘sa mhaduinn an , grouped in two stanzas of twenty-three and twenty-seven lines.  Most lines have four

stresses and there is variable grouping of end rhyme.

 

(2)  Aonghas Mac a’ Phearsain.  Theid mi dh’an Eilean’.  Sruth (5th March 1970), p. 7.

 

A standard exile song.  There are five four-line stanzas with irregular rhyme.

 

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MAC A’ PHEARSAIN, Dughall.  See MACPHERSON, Dugald 

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MAC A’ PHEARSAIN, Iain  (19th Century)

 

Iain Mac a’ Phearsain belonged to Fladda, in North-east Trotternish.  The first two songs listed below are from the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s article ‘Dioghlum bho Achaidhean na Bàrdachd’ and the third from his ‘Aoirean agus Luinneagan Eibhinn’.

 

(1)  Iain Mac a’ Phearsain.  Sann san Dig a ta na h-àrmuinn’.  Gairm, 51 (An Samhradh 1965), 271-272

 

One day the poet was with nine men from Digg, who challenged him to name them all in a single stanza, with a bottle of whisky as the prize if he succeeded.  He won his bottle of whisky right away with this stanza in an

amhran metre.

 

(2)  Iain Mac a’ Phearsian.  Flòdagaraidh ghaolach an diugh fo na caoraich’.  Gairm, 51 (An Samhradh 1965), 272

 

A moving statement of the desolation brought about by the introduction of sheep to Flodigarry.  There are eight stanzas in a strophic metre, composed upon the model of the love song ‘Hóro nighean bhòidheach nan gorm shùil meallach’.

 

(3) Iain Mac a’ Phearsain.  Gur moch a rinn mi dùsgadh’.  Gairm, 76 (Am Foghar 1971), 317-318)

 

A song about the miseries of tobacco deprivation, to be compared with Iain Mac-an-Aba’sSpleucan Ruairidh’ (q.v.).  There are nine quatrains, with a b a b end rhyme.

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MAC-A-PHI, Aonghas (19th Century).  See MACPHEE, Angus

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MAC A’ PHI, Aonghas  (1927 - 2011)

 

Aonghas Mac a’ Phi was born in Glasgow of Skye parents and the family returned to live in Harlosh in the west of Skye when he was still a boy.  He was head of the Art Department at Inverness High School until his retirement in 1986.  In 1982 he won An Comunn Gaidhealach’s Duais an Sgriobhaiche for his book Cunnartan Cuain: see his entry in the section for journalism and miscellaneous non-fiction.  In an interview published in Facal air an Fhacal  (An t-Earrach 1984: 32-35) he discusses his life and work.  Aonghas Mac a’ Phi was also a noted piper.  See also his entry in the section for non-traditional creative prose.

 

Angus MacPhee.  The Crunluath Collection: A Collection of Gaelic Songs Based on Highland Bagpipe Airs.  Inverness: Highland Council, 2006. 

 

A collection of fifty-two new Gaelic songs written and arranged by Angus and based upon traditional piping tunes.  The book is accompanied by a CD.  I have not had sight of this work.

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MAC-A-PHI, Domhnall  (19th Century)

 

Domhnall Mac-a-Phì, Domhnall Mhurchaidh of Elgol, lived towards the end of the nineteenth century and used to compose verse about events in the neighbourhood.  It is said that when he became religious he burnt all his written poetry and thus all that remains is what survived in the oral tradition.  The four songs listed below were collected in Strath and appear in Neil J. MacKinnon’s article ‘Strath, Skye – the End of the Nineteenth Century’ (TGSI, 52 (155-197).

       

(1)  Domhnall Mac-a-Phì.  ‘An fhéisd a thug Sir Uillam dhuinn’.  TGSI, 52 (1980-1982), 193-194

 

A song composed to commemorate a feast which Sir William MacKinnon gave to the people of Strathaird.  There are seven four-line stanzas in a strophic measure.

 

Sir William MacKinnon belonged to Campbelltown in Argyll and bought the Strathaird estate in the late 1880’s.

 

 (2)  Domhnall Mac-a-Phì.  Tha m’ inntinn trom, cha tog mi fonn’.  TGSI, 52 (1980-1982), 194-195

 

A song composed when the poet was in Bràighe na h-Airde during the lambing season.  As well as the three-line refrain there are six verse-couplets beginning ‘Is iomadh ceaird a dh’ fheuch mi riamh’.

 

(3)  Domhnall Mac-a-Phì.   ‘A’ chaora bhàn thug mi a Rùm’.  TGSI, 52 (1980-1982), 195-196

 

Composed when a sheep belonging to the bard fell down a cliff.  There are eight quatrains, with aicill and end rhyme between the final words of lines two and four which is carried throughout the song.

 

(4)  Domhnall Mac-a-Phì.  Horo nach robh mi ‘san aonach’.  TGSI, 52 (1980-1982), 196-197

 

A song composed when a boat which the poet and some other men were taking to Kintyre hit a rock.  There is a three-line refrain and six verse-couplets in a strophic measure, beginning ‘Air maduinn Di-Luain ‘s ann thug sinn ri cuan’.

 

(5)   These ten songs are in Neil J. MacKinnon’s ‘Strath Skye’.  TGSI (54:208-239).  The composer’s surname is given as Robasdan, but I think that they are by Domhnall Mac-a-Phì.  They are very akin to the four songs listed above and versions of nos. 9 and 10 were included in an exhibition on Sir William MacKinnon which took place in Campbelltown Library and Museum in 2003-04  where they were attributed to Domhnall Mac-a-Phì.  I am indebted to Prof. Colm Ó Baoill for information concerning this exhibition.

 

i     Turus do ‘n bhaillidh’, pp. 228-9

 

ii    Oran a’ chlò’, p. 229

 

iii   Cuachag nan gruaidhean tana’, pp. 229-30

 

iv   Oran an Loch Sgadain’, pp. 230-1

 

v     ‘Oran Mhic Coinnich’, p. 231

 

vi    Oran an t-seillean’, p. 232

 

vii   Oran a’ ghàirnaleir’, pp. 232-233

 

viii  ‘Na seòladairean urramach’, pp. 233-4

 

ix    Oran do Shir Uilleam’, pp. 234-5

 

x     Oran do bhean Shir Uilleam, p. 235

 

This song was composed at the time Lady MacKinnon left Skye, probably after Sir William’s death in 1893.

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MAC-A-PHI,  Lachuinn

 

This song by Lachuinn Mac-a-Phì, Lachuinn Thormaid, is in Neil J. MacKinnon’s ‘Strath, Skye’ (TGSI 54:208-239).

 

Lachuinn Mac-a-Phì.  Oran a’ mharaiche’.  TGSI, 54 (1984-1986), 236

 

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MACASKILL, Mrs. Calum.  See MACLEAN, Mary

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Poetry   

 

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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