Traditional Prose: collections and collectors
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MACLEAN, Calum I. (1915-1960)
A native of Raasay and brother of the
poet Sorley MacLean
(Somhairle MacGill-Eain), Calum I. MacLean was a distinguished collector of
both Irish and Scottish Gaelic oral literature. He started his career with the Irish
Folklore Commission, collecting, recording and cataloguing, and then in 1951
he joined the staff of the
Upon the twenty-fifth anniversary of Calum MacLean’s death, the School of Scottish Studies published a commemorative issue of its periodical Tocher(39: Spring 1985), with memoirs from his brothers Alasdair and Sorley and several friends and colleagues, as well as transcriptions of a selection of the material in the School’s Sound Archives which had been recorded by him.
Details of poetry and song collected by Calum MacLean in his native Raasay and in Skye will be found in the Calum I. MacLean Collection. Listed below is prose material from Raasay, Skye and Canna which has been collected by him. A considerable amount of material recorded by him in other parts of the
Gaidhealtachd has been published, and much more is
to be found in the archives of the Irish Folklore Commission and the
Gilleathain. ‘Sgéalta an Albain’. Béaloideas:
the Journal of the Folklore of
Four tales noted by Calum MacLean from his aunt, Peggie MacLean, who had learnt them from Caitriona Uilleim of Raasay. The introductory note is in Irish Gaelic (p. 227), the texts of the tales are in Scottish Gaelic (pp. 237-244), and summaries and notes are in English (pp. 244-246).
i ‘Conall Ulaban, Mac Righ Cruachan’, pp. 237-242.
A romantic folktale which includes aspects of the heroic tales and tales of magic. Conall is lost in a magic mist through the machinations of his jealous stepmother. His adventures start with the rescue of a woman and a child from a man-eating giant. After many more adventures he comes before the king, who turns out to be the child whom he rescued long ago and all ends happily.
The tale has several verse ‘runs’ and fragments of these are given by Calum’s brother Sorley on pp. 393-395 of his ‘Some Raasay Traditions’ (TGSI, 49:377-397). These fragments amount to just under half of the total
‘runs’ in Peggie MacLean’s version of ‘Conall’. There are textual variations as well, although Sorley’s source was Caitriona Uilleim, who had also been Peggie MacLean’s source.
See also ‘Latha dhomh air Sliabh an Deirg an Erinn’ in the section for anonymous poetry and song.
ii ‘Uilleam Bi ‘d Shuidhe’, pp. 242-243.
Uilleam, by means of trickery and quick wit, gets the better of a mean old woman. For another version of this tale, see ‘Cas Shiubhail an t-Sléibhe’ noted below. J. G. MacKay discusses the variety of Scottish and Irish
versions of this tale in ‘Comh-Abartachd Eadar Cas-Shiubhal-an-t-Sléibhe agus a’ Chailleach Bheurr’ (Scottish Gaelic Studies 3:10-51).
iii ‘Sgrìob Liath an Earraich’, pp. 243-244.
A foolish woman is tricked into giving the family store of food to a man who claims to be ‘Sgrìob Liath an Earraich’.
iv ‘Na Sìthichean agus an Coire’, p. 244.
Tale of a woman whose cauldron is borrowed every day by a fairy woman and returned each evening with meat in it.
A version of ‘Uilleam Bi ‘d Shuidhe’ noted above. An old woman’s long lost son returns and, before revealing his identity, engages in a contest of wit with his mother.
Calum MacLean noted this tale from
the recitation of Aonghus MacDhomhnaill, who had been born and brought up in
Kilmuir, Skye and had spent all his working life in
To the list of published versions of this tale which Calum MacLean gives in his notes, may be added one from Berneray, Harris (An Gaidheal Og, 11:9-10).
Account of two children’s games, recorded from the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach. See the Tormod Domhnallach Collection.
Mac ‘Ill’ Eathain. ‘Clann ‘ic Nìll
an Canaidh’. Canna: the Story of a
An account of the MacNeills of Canna. Recorded by Calum MacLean from Angus MacDonald, Aonghus Eachainn, with English translation by J. L. Campbell.
© A Loughran, 2016