Traditional Prose: collections and collectors
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DOMHNALLACH, Tormod (1904-1978)
Part 1: An Gaidheal 1946-1967
Tormod Domhnallach, Norman MacDonald, was born at Valtos, Staffin, on 15th August
1904. He was educated at
(Lamb 1961: 396; Tocher 30:406).
The Rev. Domhnallach (Norman MacDonald) recorded a
considerable volume of material for the
material may be accessed on the Tobar an Dualchais site.
As far as the Rev. Domhnallach’s own literary efforts are concerned, there can be little doubt that prose was his preferred form of expression. The volume of his published prose works is considerable, and whether he is telling a traditional story or relating biographical anecdotes, the influence upon him of the traditional Gaelic storytelling style is always obvious.
As far as the material noted and discussed below is concerned it is to be noted that much of it contains a wealth of information on place-name lore.
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Ulaidhean’. An Gaidheal, 42 (1946-1947), 83-84
Among these tales of buried treasure, there is one about a Stenscholl man who was told in a waking dream of treasure buried at Bealach Ollasgairte. Another tells of the Laird of Lonfearn dreaming of treasure on the top of Crannag an Lòn Fheàrna. This second tale also includes mention of Dùn Hasgaill on Rubha nam Bràithrean which is featured as ‘Dùn an Rubha’ in the Rev. Domhnallach’s ‘Sealladh o Mhullach Dùn Deirg’ (see below).
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Caoilte agus am Fuamhair’. An Gaidheal, 45 (1950), 24, 26, 42, 44.
A Fenian tale, set in Skye. The youth Caoilte is herdsman to the giant, Dearg Mac Draidheann of Dùn Deirg in Valtos. Caoilte’s secret ambition is to join the Fiann, but a crippled foot makes this impossible. One day he helps a wounded goose who is really the son of the King of Meangan. The king’s son cures Caoilte’s foot, gives him a magic whistle, Fideag Bhuidhe na h-Eiginn, whose help in battle against the giant Tosg is the means of Caoilte eventually joining the Fiann.
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Sgeirean, Bodhannan, agus Eileanan na Mara’. An Gaidheal Og, 7 (1955), 19-20.
Discusses the place of skerries, tidal rocks and islands in Gaelic lore and mythology. Includes a story heard in the writer’s native Skye where a girl is murdered by her jealous stepmother who lulls her to sleep on a tidal rock, then fastens the girl’s hair to the seaweed growing there before leaving her to drown. This is very similar to the story told by Kenneth MacLeod in his introduction to the song ‘Sea-Tangle’ (Kennedy-Fraser and MacLeod 1917: 55) which is a reworking of ‘A’ Bhean Eudach’.
There is also a tale about the ‘wise fool’, Goiridh an Lòn-fheàrna, who features in the Rev. Domhnallach’s ‘Ròlaistean’ (see below).
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Sealladh o Mhullach Dùn Deirg’. An Gaidheal, 52 (1957), 45-47
Dùn Deirg is
said to have once been the abode of Dearg Mac Droigheann, one of
This tale relates the rivalry between Dearg
and another hero of the Fiann, who dwelt in Dùn an Rubha on Rubha nam Bràithrean
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Iain Dubh a’ Gharaidh-fhada’. An Gaidheal, 52 (1957), 120-121.
Tale of a Trotternish man comdemned to hang, who escapes with the help of the Devil. In return he must promise to go off with the Devil after a year and a day, but in the end he escapes by tricking him into taking his shadow instead.
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Murchadh a’ Churraic Uaine’. An Gaidheal Og, 9 (1957), 1-2.
A tale which the Rev. Domhnallach
heard when very young in
upon a cottage with three old women in it.
He is treated hospitably and eventually falls asleep. He wakes up to see his hostesses don green
bonnets, utter the words ‘Is e Lunnainn mo cheann-uidhe an nochd’ (
J. N. M (John M. MacLeod?) has written a version of this tale entitled ‘Lunnain a Ris’, which does not have the ‘dream’ tailpiece (Guth na Bliadhna, 4:249-252). For a discussion of the ‘cap for travelling’ motif, see Vol. 1 of More West Highland Tales (MacKay 1940:205).
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘An Saor agus a’ Mhaighdean-mhara’. An Gaidheal Og, 9 (1957), 23.
Tale of a carpenter of Sanndaig in Glenelg and his encounter with a mermaid. He has left a newly-completed boat on the shore, but a plank is removed from it each night by a mermaid. He lies in wait with a copy of the
Bible and seizes the mermaid as she is about to remove the plank. In return for her freedom she grants his wish that no one will be drowned in any boat into which he or his descendants have driven a nail, provided that the work begins and ends with a blessing.
Another instance of the Bible being used as a protection against otherworld creatures is related in Vol. 2 of Popular Tales of the West Highlands (Campbell 2, 1890: 62).
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Eòin Shealbhach agus Mhi-shealbhach ann an Saobh-chrabhadh nan Gaidheal’. An Gaidheal, 56 (1961), 48-51.
A discussion of a variety of birds of good and bad omen in traditional Gaelic belief. There are few specific geographical references. A notable feature is the emphasis placed upon the notion that birds know the Gaelic language, a notion also expressed in J. G. MacKay’s ‘An Uair a bha Gàidhlig aig na h-Eòin’ (An Deò-Gréine, 15:11). In Vol. 4 of Carmina Gadelica (Watson 1941:20-31) there are several items purporting to represent the largely Gaelic speech of birds. See also Kenneth MacLeod’s ‘Là is Bliadhna leis na h-Eòin’ (MacLeod 1988: 39-49).
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Bu Tearc a Chaisgeadh Duaidh Gun Chasgradh’. An Gaidheal, 56 (1961), 91-92.
Relates how the cattle raids which the Lochaber men made into the south of Skye were finally stopped. Preceded by a discussion of linn nan Creach (The Age of Cattle Raids).
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Ulaidh a’ Chùirn Mhóir’. An Gaidheal, 57 (1962), 6-7.
Tale of how a poor widow found and lost, in the space of a single night, a crock of gold at An Càrn Mór, a place between Valtos and Port Earlish in Trotternish. Otta Swire has related two more Skye stories with the
‘crock of gold’ motif (Swire 1967:60, 205).
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘An Tarbh-uisge’. An Gaidheal, 57 (1962), 20-21.
Tales of three sightings in Skye of the water bull, which species of monster is said to have been very common on the island. Rev. Domhnallach also tells of his own sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Bodaich Ghleusda nan Laithean a dh’ Aom’. An Gaidheal, 57 (1962), 38-41, 50-52, 74.
Tales of quick wit and ingenuity. Material of specific Skye interest includes an account of how the writer’s uncle outwitted pursuing bailiffs during the land troubles in Skye (pp. 38-39); a brief account of Alasdair MacLeòid, An Dotair Bàn, of the family of Rigg (p. 39); Bonnie Prince Charlie in Skye (pp. 51-52); and how the illicit distillers of Pabbay outwitted the gaugers (p.74). For other tales similar to this last mentioned one see: An Cabairneach (An t-Og Mhios 1945:16-17) and Hugh MacKinnon’s ‘Niall Mac Lachlainn agus an Geidseir’.
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Taog Mór MacCuinn’. An Gaidheal, 57 (1962), 98-101.
Taog Mór, of the family of MacCuinn of Rigg, lived near Portree at about the beginning of the 18th Century and was famed for his wisdom and judgement in the settling of legal disputes. The Rev. Domhnallach relates two stories of how Taog was able to settle disputes when all others had failed. The same two stories are recounted in English in Alexander MacKenzie’s History of the MacLeods (MacKenzie 1889 :121-122), where Taog Mór is referred to as ‘Aodh or Hugh Macqueen’. In another Gaelic version of the stories, Alasdair MacNeacail’s ‘Comhairleach Sgiathanach’ the chief involved in the first story is MacDonald, Domhnall a’ Chogaidh, whereas in the MacKenzie and Domhnallach versions he is MacLeod of Dunvegan.
The Rev. Domhnallach relates a
third story of Taog Mór, involving an unusual test
of nobility. He also gives accounts of
other well known MacCuinns of Rigg,
including several clergymen. He
mistakenly attributes a lament for the Rev. Domhnall MacCuinn
of Kilmuir to Iain Lom. The lament in question is composed upon the
air of Iain Lom’s ‘
for anonymous poetry and song.
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘’Na Seann Mhinistearan Gaidhealach agus na Bodaich’. An Gaidheal, 58 (1963), 28-29, 38-40.
In this collection of anecdotes there are only two with a specific Skye connection; the first about Maighstir Iain, the first minister in Stenscholl (p. 29) and the second about a Staffin schoolmaster (p. 38).
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘A’ Mhuir ann an Saobh-chrabhadh nan Gaidheil’. An Gaidheal, 58 (1963), 99-101, 112, 127, 140-141; 59 (1964), 2-3.
Wide ranging lore and anecdote concerning the place of the sea in Gaelic belief and custom. Only the first part (58:99-101) contains specific references to Skye. There is a short account of Aonghas na Gaoithe, said
to be the progenitor of the Martins of Bealach. There is a brief notice of another famous seafaring son of Trotternish, Domhnall Dubh MacRuairidh, who used a deep cleft in Rudha nam Bràithrean as a safe deposit for his treasure. Finally, there is a tale told to the writer by an old fisherman of Valtos about his encounter with a supernatural being of the sea.
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Luchd Reubainn Math is Dona’. An Gaidheal, 59 (1964), 14-16, 26-28.
Among these tales of Robin Hoods
and such like is one about ‘Amadan MhicLeòid’ (MacLeod’s Fool), in which the Fool manages to
bring a large sum of money for the chief safely from
no one else had been able to do so. I. F. Grant quotes another version of this tale, and identifies the MacLeod chief in question as Iain Breac (Grant 1959:378). There is another Gaelic version of the tale in
An Cabairneach (An t-Og Mhios 1944: 9-10).
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Ròlaistean’. An Gaidheal, 60 (1965), 17, 20, 35-36, 50, 64, 78.
About tall tales and their tellers. On pp. 17, 20 there are anecdotes of two noted tellers of tall tales in the writer’s native parish: Goiridh an Lòn Fheàrna and Pàdruig a’ Chùirn. Goiridh is also featured in the writer’s ‘Sgeirean, Bodhannan agus Eileanan na Mara’ (see above). For another Skye tall tale, see Norman MacDonald of Strath’s ‘An Trosg a dh’ ith an amhag’.
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Tha Sealladh aig a’ Mharbh air a’ Bheò’. An Gaidheal, 61 (1966), 21, 26-27.
The first tale is from Skye and is based upon the belief that the dead are upset by excessive mourning for them. a mother’s grief is assuaged by the spirit of her dead two-year old son. The second tale tells of a dead
man’s ghost returning to tell his wife where she may find hidden money.
Tormod Domhnallach. ‘Taibhsean agus Samhlaidhean na Latha Ghil’. An Gaidheal, 62 (Jan. – Mar.1967), 2-3.
Two stories of ghostly apparitions in broad daylight, each involving people from the Staffin district. In the first, a young man walking home over Bealach Ollasgairt is joined by a ghostly companion and in the second, two
women walking to Portree encounter a ghostly carriage near Creag nam Meann.
Articles in: Gairm 1956-1980; Tocher 1978
© A Loughran, 2016