Gaelic Literature  of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   


Traditional Prose: collections and collectors




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DOMHNALLACH, Tormod  (1904-1978)


Part 2:  Gairm 1956-1980; Tocher 1978


For introduction, see Part 1.



Tormod Domhnallach.  Sìd is Aimsirean’.  Gairm, 18 (An Geamhradh 1956), 157-161.


Weather lore in the old Gaidhealtachd.  Of general reference, but includes one rhyme, beginning ‘Mìos Faoilleach …’ which the author specifically states that he learnt in Skye.



Tormod Domhnallach.  Biast na h-Aon Chois’.  Gairm, 51 (An Samhradh 1965), 239-241.


Tale of an encounter which two Staffin had with a one-legged beast.  The writer introduces the tale by a discussion of this particular species of monster, which apparently has only been sighted on Jura and Skye.



Tormod Domhnallach.  Dioghlum bho Achaidhean na Bàrdachd’. 

 Gairm,  51 (An Samhradh 1965), 270-278;

52 (An Geamhradh 1965), 316-323;

53 (An Geamhradh 1965), 29-42.


Tormod Domhnallach.  Aoirean agus Luinneagan Eibhinn’.  Gairm, 76 (Am Foghar 1971), 299-319.


Both this and the previous article are primarily collections of songs, and as such are dealt with in the section for collections of traditional poetry and song.  However, they also contain a considerable amount of lore and

anecdote in a style akin to that of traditional Gaelic storytelling, as is indeed the case with much of the Rev. Domhnallach’s other prose writing.



Tormod Domhnallach.  ‘Na Buidschichean : 1’.  Gairm, 55 (An Samhradh 1966), 203-209.


i     Banachaig Dubh [sic] Oscaig’, dd. 203-204.


Tale told by an old friend to Tormod Domhnallach when he was a youth in Skye.  It relates how the original version of the song upon which Lady D’Oyly’s ‘Thàinig an Gille Dubh’ was modelled came to be

composed.  Its author is said to have been a rejected wife, whose husband’s milkmaid enticed him away from her by witchcraft.  This story appears to have some basis in historical fact.  Dr. John MacInnes has told me that the man involved was an 18th Century MacLeod of Raasay (Mac Ghille Chaluim).  According to the account which Dr. MacInnes learnt from his father, the affair began accidentally and

there is no mention of witchcraft.  Mac Ghille Chaluim kept both wife and mistress.  Among the descendants of his union with the latter was the Rev. Roderick MacLeod, Maighstir Ruaraidh, probably the most famous of Skye’s 19th Century ministers.


ii    ‘Na Trì Cait Ghlas’, dd. 204-206.


Story of a young Dunvegan boy who, having taken shelter from a storm in an isolated bothy, finds himself confronted with three fearsome cats.  These turn out to be three local witches who make him swear under penalty of death never to reveal their secret.  Years later he grows careless and tells his mother, who confronts the surviving witch.  Soon afterwards the boy’s mangled body is found near Beul Atha nan Trì Allt (Fairy Bridge), where a cairn, Càrn a’ Ghille, is erected to his memory.  Patricia Campbell gives a short version of this tale in the Portree High School Magazine (1968-9:85).  Otta Swire gives an English language version in Skye: the Island and its Legends (Swire 1967:95-97).  The Rev. Iain MacAonghais offers a natural explanation for the tale in ‘Buidseachd is Diomhaireachdan Eile’ (Gairm, 87:258-259).


iii   ‘An Comhlan Pòsaidh Mi-rathail’, dd. 206-207.


Story of the tragedy which befell a wedding party returning from Snizort to East Trotternish, which resulted in the death of the bridegroom and of Lachlann Màrtainn of Marishader.  The events are said to have been caused by a local girl who, being in love with the bridegroom, resorted to witchcraft in order to stop the wedding.  William MacKenzie gives an English language version of the same story, but without any mention of witchcraft (MacKenzie 1930:54-56).


iv    Tuarasdal an Droch-Fhear’, dd. 207-208.


Tale of three young people making their way home to Staffin from Portree.  They take shelter for the night with a weaveress and the boy discovers that their hostess is planning to deliver one of the girls to the devil, from which fate he manages to save her.



Tormod Domhnallach.  ‘Na Buidseachean; 2’.  Gairm, 56 (Am Foghar 1966), 350-356.


i     Leigheas a’ Chrudha’, d. 350.


A tale from Tiree.


ii    ‘An Chaidh ‘na Fitheach’, dd. 350-351.


Tale of a young girl coming across a witch making a clay figure.  The witch threatens to injure her should she tell anyone what she has seen.  The girl does tell someone and is punished by a raven’s pulling out all her hair.  One presumes that the raven is in fact the offended witch.  No specific location is given.


iii   ‘An Luch Thaiteach’, d. 351.


Two anecdotes of witches assuming the form of mice.  From Eilean na Gréine.


iv    Làir Ghlas Eire’, dd. 351-352.


Another shape-shifting anecdote, in which a witch from East Trotternish assumes the shape of a mare in order to wreak havoc among the cornfields of Eyre by Snizort.


v     Feithidh tu Riumsa’,  d. 352.


Tale from the time of the great emigrations to America.  An emigrant ship waiting to sail from the Sound of Sleat is held up by the magical powers of a tardy passenger.


vi    ‘An Corp Cré’, dd. 353-354.


Two tales of the use of clay images in witchcraft.  The first concerns the foiling of a plot against Fear a’ Choire.  The second is from the Rev. Domhnallach’s home district and involves a local seer discovering

the person responsible for the drying up of a cow’s milk by witchcraft.


vii   ‘Na Maraichean agus Cailleach nan Sop’,  dd. 354-356.


A witch tale from Mull.



Tormod Domhnallach.  Taibhsearachd’.  Gairm. 60 (Am foghar 1967), 317-319.


Anecdotes of ghostly manifestations, including three instances of the foretelling of death in Skye.  In one, a guest at a wedding in Trotternish foresees the death of the bride; in another, a tinker foresees the deaths of

two children in Valtos; and in the third, several people in Staffin foresee a fatal air crash on Beinn Edra during the Second World War.



Tormod Domhnallach.  An Droch Spiorad ann an Saobh-chrabhadh nan Gaidheal’.  Gairm, 63 (An Samhradh 1968), 229-236.


The majority of these tales of diabolical manifestation are from Skye and many of them were related to Tormod Domhnallach by the people who had experienced the events which they describe.


I was struck by the similarity between these Scottish tales and the tales about the Devil which I used to hear in my native Ireland.  Among features common to both places are instances of the Devil appearing in the form of various animals as well as in the form of a man whose true identity could be recognised from his cloven hooves.  Another common feature is of the Devil appearing in human form among a group of people engaged in card playing, or some other frowned-upon occupation.  The Rev. Domhnallach attributes the development of this type of tale in Scotland to the influence of Calvinism upon the minds of the people in days gone by.  It would appear that in days gone by Scottish Calvinism and Irish Catholicism had more in common than might have been thought.


For a further discussion of this type of tale, see the Rev. Iain MacAonghais’ Buidseachd is Diomhaireachdan Eile’.



Tormod Domhnallach.  ‘Na h-0nrachdain’.  Gairm, 75 (An Samhradh 1971), 225-240.


A guide to the variety of supernatural ‘loners’ which people the world of Gaelic folklore.  There are few specific geographical locations given, the exceptions being the last sighting of the Gruagach in Skye (p. 226), how the wailing of the Caoineag in the environs of Portree foretold the First World War (p. 228) and ‘Colann gun Cheann’ (pp. 231-233).



Tormod Domhnallach.  ‘Mar a Bhàthadh Iain Garbh Mac-Ille-Chaluim’.  Gairm, 79 (An Samhradh 1972), 214-217.


Account of the drowning of Iain Garbh Mac Ghille Chaluim of Raasay in 1681. A traditional account, in which the drowning is said to have been caused by a witch of Trodday who had been Iain Garbh’s nurse in his infancy.  For a different interpretation of this tradition, see the Rev. Iain MacAonghais’ Buidseachd is Diomhaireachdan Eile.  See also ‘Cumha  Iain Ghairbh  by Nighean Mhic Ghille Chaluim listed in the section for poetry and song of known authorship.



Tormod Domhnallach.  Facal na Comhairle’.  Gairm, 89 (An Geamhradh 1974-5), 34-41.


Tale with a ‘Dick Whittington’ theme about a young lad from the Western Isles.



Tormod Domhnallach.  Tha Sealladh aig a’ Bheò air a’ Mharbh’.  Gairm, 105 (An Geamhradh 1978-9), 35-39.


A collection of ghost stories.  All except the first three are located in Skye.  There is one tale from pre-Reformation days in Trotternish.  It tells of a pact made between the parish priest of Steinshcoll and the parish priest of Kilmuir that whoever died first would come back and tell the other about the Hereafter.  Another tale tells of a minister of Staffin who came back to see his flocks of animals, of whom had had been exceedingly fond.  There are three tales of ghostly manifestations at Airigh an Easain, an isolated spot on the road between Uig and East Trotternish.  Finally, there is a tale of a young Trotternish lad who had died of the fever after returning home from working on the mainland and whose ghost came back to tell his family of money which he had left in his work clothes. 



Tormod Domhnallach.  ‘Na Sìthichean’.  Gairm, 110 (An t-Earrach 1980), 164-170.


i     A short discussion of fairies and belief in them in Gaelic and other traditional societies, pp. 164-5.


ii    ‘Am MacCruimein a b’ òige’.  dd. 165-167.


A version of one of the most popular of the MacCrimmon legends, that of the Silver Chanter.  The youngest of the large MacCrimmon family is but a poor performer on the pipes, until one day he is visited by a fairy who gives him a silver chanter and with it the gift of music.  For other versions of this tale see: MacCrimmons of Skye (MacLeod 1933:70-71); Skye: the Island and its Legends (Swire 1967:134-135); Eòin Domhnallach’s ‘Piobairean an Eilein’ (Gairm, 31:223-227); ‘Siùnnsear-sìthe Mhic-Cruimein’ by Beinn an Fhraoich [Niall Ros]  (An Deò-Gréine, 12:181-182).


iii   Obair! Obair!’, d. 167.


Tale of a Skye man being continually plagued by the fairies looking for work.  No sooner does he set them a task than it is done and they are back looking for more.  Finally he gets some respite when he asks them to go and make a rope of sand.  The Rev. J. A. MacCulloch mentions a similar tale (MacCulloch 1905: 240-241), as does J. F. Campbell (Campbell 2, 1890: 62-65).


iv    ‘A’ Bhanachaig Chòir’, dd. 167-168.


Tale of two Skye men working at the digging and, having grown hot and thirsty, being offered a drink of buttermilk by a fairy woman.  One refuses it and becomes temporarily ill; the other accepts and immediately feels rejuvenated.


v     ‘An Cèilidh Fada Goirid’, dd. 168-169.


The well known theme of a man being enticed into a fairy mound to join the dancing and being unaware of the passing of time.  J. F. Campbell has noted this type of story (Campbell 2, 1890: 61-62).


vi    ‘An Bha Fuine aig na Sìthichean’, dd. 169-170).


Tale of a Uist girl kidnapped by the fairies so that she might bake for them.



Tormod Domhnallach.  ‘Na Sìthichean’.  Gairm, 111/112 (Samhradh / Foghar 1980), 266-277).


i     ‘Na Bodaich Chrotach’, dd. 266-276.


Two related tales of Cnoc Preasach, a fairy mound in East Trotternish. In each, the fairies magically remove a hunchback’s hump as a reward for good humour and add more in the case of ill-humour.  The greater part is taken up with the longer and more elaborate tale, which involves two hunchbacks from the mound’s home district and six others from all over Skye.  They are invited one by one into Cnoc Preasach in order to complete the fairies’ song ‘Di-luain, Di-mairt’.  It is one of the two local men who turns out to be the ill-humoured one and who is left with all eight humps.


For an Argyllshire version of this story, see Folktales and Fairy Lore in Gaelic and English (MacDougall 1910: 204-213), and for a Perthshire version see ‘Sìthichean Cnuic-an-Tiobairt’ (TGSI, 25: 142-145).  This type of story (Aarne-Thompson 503) is very common in Ireland: see The Types of the Irish Folktale (Ó Suilleabhain and Christiansen 1963: 101-103).


ii    ‘Mar a dh’ éirich na Sìthichean’, dd. 276-277.


The Rev. Domhnallach recounts the story of the fairies’ origin which he heard in his home village.  It is a variant of the widely held belief that they are some of the fallen angels.


‘Na Sìthichean’ originally appeared, with a longer introduction and conclusion, in Sruth (11 Jan. 1968), p. 7; (25 Jan. 1968), p. 11; (8 Feb. 1968), p. 3; (22 Feb. 1968), p. 4; (21 March 1968), p. 5;

(4 April 1968), p. 6; (18 April 1968), p. 7.



Tormod Domhnallach.  Dallaran na h-Athadh’; ‘Dòrnan Agam’.  Tocher, 28 (Spring-Summer 1978), 244-247.


Account of two children’s games remembered from childhood.  Recorded from the Rev. Domhnallach by Calum I. MacLean in 1953.  Transcription of School of Scottish Studies recording SA 1953/22/B8, with parallel English translation.












Single items




An Cabairneach


Tormod Domhnallach I

Tormod Domhnallach II

Anna Ghreum

Gilleasbuig Aotrom

Iain MacAonghais

Aonghas Mac a’ Phi

Domhnall MacCuithein

J. G. MacKay

Hugh MacKinnon

Calum I. MacLean

Kenneth MacLeod

Niall MacLeòid

Alasdair MacNeacail

Eoghainn MacRath

Somhairle Thorburn




A-C,  An Cabairneach,

D-M,  N-Z,

Eilidh Watt


Journalism and


A-MacF,   MacG-Z













Poetry: homepage     


    Bibliography: homepage


© A Loughran, 2016