Gaelic Literature  of the Isle of Skye: an annotated  bibliography   


Traditional Prose: single items




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ALASDAIR MOR.  See: MacLeòid, Iain N.



‘DAILEACH’.  See: The Daileach Collection



DOMHNALLACH, Eoin  (20th Century)


This writer belonged to Kilmuir in Skye.


Eòin Domhnallach.  Pìobairean an Eilein’.  Gairm, 31 (An t-Earrach 1960), 223-227.


This article is mainly concerned with historical and genealogical information on the MacCrimmon family and to some extent, the MacArthur family.  It also includes some legends of these famous piping families.  There are two versions of the ‘Silver Chanter’ legend, featuring Pàdruig Mór MacCruimein. 


A third legend concerns Pàdruig Mór and his pupil, Teàrlach MacArtuir.  Apparently Pàdruig Mór owed his piping ability to his exclusive knowledge of a magical tune.  One night he was whistling the tune while tapping out the rhythm on the apparently sleeping Teàrlach’s chest.  Teàrlach, in reality awake, learnt the tune and his master’s piping ability passed to him.  Fred T. MacLeod gives an English language version of this legend, which he calls ‘The Stolen Tune’ (MacLeod 1933:71-72).  A friend of mine, a native of Glendale, told me a very similar story about Domhnall an Dannsair, a famous piper of the district, who died in the early 20th Century.  In this instance, the little lad who learnt the tune was the piper’s unacknowledged son.  The event prompted his father to

acknowledge paternity, exclaiming “ ‘S ann leam a tha thu, ceart dha-rìreadh! “ (You are mine, right enough!).



DOMHNALLACH, Iain  (20th Century)


Iain Domhnallach.  An Balbhan’.  Gairm, 33 (Am Foghar 1960), 27-28)


Tale of a young Skye lad who used to act as ghillie to visiting English sportsmen.  Worried by his lack of English, he borrowed an English dictionary, learnt its contents off by heart and embarrassed everyone by quoting long, meaningless strings of English words.  Some local lads then tricked him by arranging for him to go fishing with a visiting Englishman after assuring each of the pair that the other was dumb.



DOMHNALLACH, Tormod.  See: Tormod Domhnallach Collection  I  &  II



DOMHNALL DONN (Rev.  T. M. Murchison / T. M. MacCalmain). 






Domhnall Gorm Mór, eighth chief of the MacDonalds of Sleat.  For verse traditionally attributed to him, see his entry in the section for poetry and song of known authorship.


William Matheson.  ‘The Cliar Sheanchain’.  Tocher, 14 (Summer 1974), 235-238.


A contest of wit between Domhnall and a band of Lochaber bards on a visit to Skye.  Copied by the Rev. William Matheson from the MSS of Donald Nicolson, parochial schoolmaster, Kilmuir, Skye.  With translation of verse, dialogue and notes by the Rev. Matheson.


For a brief discussion of the rise and decline of the Cliar Sheanchain, see ‘Gearradh Cainnte’ by ‘Daileach’ (An Deò-Gréine, 14:75)



GILLEASBUIG AOTROM.  See: The Gilleasbuig Aotrom Collection



GILLIES, John  (20th Century)


John Gillies.  [‘Geasag na h-iasgaireachd’].  Tocher, 19 (Autumn 1975), 116-117.


Transcription of a recording made from the recitation of John Gillies of Raasay by John MacInnes, on School of Scottish Studies recording SA 1953/172/1.  It concerns a fishing superstition.  According to this, if two boats were moored together before going out on a fishing trip and the owner of one wished to leave ahead of the other, he had to push off his boat from the pier and go round the stern of the other one.  If this procedure was not bserved, it was believed that the other man’s fishing would be spoilt.  There is a parallel English translation.



GRAHAM, Anne.  See: The Anna Ghreum Collection.



GRANND, Seumas. 


Seumas Grannd.  Carn a’ Ghille’.  Gairm, 151 (Samhradh 1990), 236-237.


A Skye tale transcribed from the telling of Murchadh MacLeòid.



MACAOIDH, I. D.  See: The J. G. MacKay Collection



MACAONGHAIS, Iain.  See: The Iain MacAonghais Collection



MACAONGHAIS, Padruig  (19th / 20th Century)


Padruig MacAonghais.  An Chrosda’.  Celtic Annual: Yearbook of the Dundee Highland Society, (1916), 67.


Tale of the drastic means taken by a young Skyeman to tame an ill-tempered wife.



MAC A’ PHEARSAIN, Coinneach  (20th Century)


A native of Kilmuir, Skye.


Coinneach Mac a’ Phearsain.  Dòmhnall Mhogastad agus Seasaidh Bhaile Raghnaill’.  Gairm, 31 (An t-Earrach 1960), 210-212.


Story of a famous 19th Century elopement.  Both lovers were MacDonalds: Domhnall, of the family of Monkstadt in Skye, and Seasaidh (Jessie) of the MacDonalds of North Uist. 


Niall MacLeòid has composed a lengthy account of the affair which is noted in the section for non-traditional creative prose.  The Rev. Donald Budge has published an English account (Budge 1961).


The affair has also been celebrated in song.  See in the section for anonymous poetry and song: Fàilte dhuit, deagh shlàinte leat;  Nuair fhuair an “Eliza” / Mo Shesie air bòrd;   ‘ ‘S ùr a’ choill bho ‘n d’ rinn i fàs’.



MAC A’ PHI, Domhnall.  See: The Daileach Collection



MAC A’ PHI, Aonghas.  See: The Aonghas Mac a’ Phi Collection.





Aonghas Mac Bhatair.  An cuala tu seinn nan ròn’.   Gairm, 151 (Samhradh 1990), dd. 266-267.


A personal experience of the seal-woman legend.



MACCOMHGHAIN, Ruairidh  (19th / 20th Century)


Ruairidh MacCòmhghain, the Rev. Roderick MacCowan, was a native of Skye and a minister of the Free Church.  He was the author of The Men of Skye (MacCowan 1902), a collection of biographical sketches of Skyemen prominent in the 19th Century Evangelical movement on the island.  This book also includes

a selection of Evangelical poetry composed by Skyemen: see entries for Donald MacDonald of Earlish and Donald MacInnes of Duirinish in the section for poetry and song of known authorship.


‘Domhnall Donn’ (Rev. T. M. Murchison).  Còmhradh Cagailte’.  Stornaway Gazette (7th October 1972), p. 4.


Includes ‘Amadain Ghlice an Eilein Sgitheanaich’ from a manuscript of the Rev. MacCòmhghain, then in the possession of the Rev. Murchison.  There are accounts of four of Skye’s ‘Wise Fools’: Iain Dubh mac ‘Ic Ailein, Alasdair MacGuirmein, Gilleasbuig Aotrom and Lachlann na Ciste.  These include some anecdotes which I have not seen in print elsewhere.



MACCOWAN, Roderick.  See: MACCOMHGHAIN,  Ruairidh



MACCUIDHEAN / MACCUITHEIN, Domhnall.  See: The Domhnall MacCuithein Collection



MACDONALD, John.  See: Eòin Domhnallach and Iain Domhnallach.



MACDONALD, Norman (1)


A native of Strath in Skye.


Norman MacDonald.  [‘An trosg a dh’ ith an amhag’]  Tocher 11 (Autumn 1973), 82-85.


Amusing tall story from Skye, one of a group under the heading ‘Ones They got Away With’.  A monstrously large cod swallows a little terrier bitch.  Next year, the terrier’s owner catches the same cod and upon slitting it open finds his little terrier and three puppies alive and well!  Recorded from Norman MacDonald by John MacInnes in 1953.  Transcribed from School of Scottish Studies recording SA 1953/168/6b.


For other tall tales, see the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s ‘Ròlaistean.



MACDONALD, Norman (2).  See: DOMHNALLACH, Tormod



MACFHIONGHUINN, Eoghainn.  See: The Hugh MacKinnon Collection



MACGILLEATHAIN, Calum.  See: The Calum I. MacLean Collection






MACGILLEATHAIN, Niall  (19th / 20th Century)


Niall MacGilleathain.  ‘Calum Seòladair’.  Celtic Annual: Yearbook of  the Dundee Highland Society, (1916), 97.


Story of a Skye sailor and his encounter with the Devil in human form.  Similar to the Rev. Tormod Domhnallach’s stories in ‘An Droch Spiorad ann an  Saobh-chrabhadh nan Gaidheal’.



MACGREGOR, Alexander  (1808-1881)


The Rev. Alexander MacGregor was the son of the Rev. Robert MacGregor, a native of Perthshire.  At the early age of twelve he entered King’s College, Aberdeen, where he made the acquaintance of the Gaelic poet and scholar Ewan MacLachlan.  When he was fourteen his father was called to the parish

of Kilmuir in Skye, and in 1844 Alexander was ordained as colleague and successor to his father.  After several years in Kilmuir the Rev. Alexander MacGregor accepted a call to the Gaelic Church, Edinburgh and in 1853 he became minister of the West Kirk, Inverness.  He remained in Inverness until his death in 1881.


The Rev. Alexander MacGregor was a prolific writer in both Gaelic and English.  He contributed the account of Kilmuir to the New Statistical Account of  Scotland, 14 (1845:237-287).  At the request of Prince Louis Bonaparte, he translated the Apocrypha into Gaelic, copies of which are now very rare

(MacLean 1915: 6).  He contributed numerous essays, tales etc. to various periodicals, both Gaelic and English.  Discussing the Rev. Alexander MacGregor’s prose style, Dr. Donald John MacLeod comments upon its directness combined with formality, occasionally enlightened with a striking flight of the imagination (MacLeod 1976:207).


When writing, the Rev. Alexander MacGregor frequently used pseudonyms such as ‘Sgiathanach’ and ‘Alasdair Ruadh


(Information from two obituary notices of the Rev. MacGregor in The Highlander (1:185-186) and Celtic Magazine (7:92-99).)


‘Sgiathanach’ [Rev. Alexander MacGregor].  ‘Air Seana Chleachd Sgiathanach’.  Cuairtear nan Gleann, 3 (1842-1843), 156-158.


The custom whereby a laird was entitled upon the death of a tenant to his best horse is attested by Martin Martin (Martin 1934:175).  The Rev. MacGregor here relates how this custom was finally banished from Skye when a young man, a MacKinnon, avenged a bailiff’s attack on his widowed mother when he was a baby.  The revenge was a bloody one, involving beheading the bailiff and washing the severed head in a well.  For a similar story, see J. G. MacKay’s ‘An t-Each Ursainn’ in the J. G. MacKay Collection.


The subject matter of this story is traditional, but the Rev. MacGregor’s style is far from traditional.  He finishes with an earnest homily in which he reminds his readers of the undesirability of such direct action to counter injustice and with unconscious irony assures them that such injustice in their own time is now quite banished.


The ‘head in the well’ motif, which is featured in this story, is discussed by Dr. Anne Ross in ‘Severed Heads in Wells: an Aspect of the Well Cult’ (Scottish Studies, 6: 31-48).  On pages 43-46 Dr. Ross cites several incidents

of the motif still current in Skye oral tradition in 1961.  Among these is a version of the Rev. MacGregor’s story.



MACINNES, John.  See: The Iain MacAonghais Collection






MACISAAC, Samuel.  See: MACISAAC, Somhairle



MACISAAC, Somhairle  (20th Century)


A native of Canna in the Small Isles.


Somhairle MacIsaac.  Canaidh, Eige is Ruma’.  Am Measg nan Bodach.  Glaschu: An Comunn Gaidhealach, 1938, dd. 74-81.


Mainly concerned with tales and lore from the writer’s native Canna.



MACKAY, J. G.  See: The J. G. MacKay Collection



MACKINNON, Hugh.  See: The Hugh MacKinnon Collection



MACLEAN, Calum I.  See: The Calum I. MacLean Collection



MACLEAN, John  (20th Century)


A native of Raasay and brother of Sorley and Calum I. MacLean.  John’s version of ‘Oran Mor Sgoirebreac’ was recorded by Calum and a transcript published in Tocher 39 (Spring 1985), 104-107.


Iain Mac ‘Illeathain.  ‘Ratharsair’.  Am Measg nan Bodach.  Glaschu: An Comunn Gaidhealach, 1938, dd. 82-87.


This short account of stories and folklore from Raasay concentrates for the most part on stories about Calum MacLeòid, nephew of the eighth MacLeod of Raasay.  Both uncle and nephew were Jacobite supporters during the Forty-Five.  There are numerous references to Calum MacLeòid, Captain Malcolm MacLeod of Braes, in Alexander Nicolson’s History of Skye (Nicolson 1930).









MACLEOD, Malcolm.  See MACLEOID, Calum



MACLEOD, Kenneth.  See: The Kenneth MacLeod Collection



MACLEOD, Neil.  See: The Niall MacLeòid Collection



MACLEOID, Calum  (died c. 1987)


A native of Raasay.  See also his entry in the section for Journalism and Miscellaneous prose.


i    Calum MacLeòid.  Màiri Mhór nan Oran agus an Ceannaiche’.  Gairm, 114 (An t-Earrach 1981), 122-123.


A few years after the Second World War Calum MacLeòid met an elderly woman outside Donald Stewart’s shop in Portree.  In her youth she had known Màiri Mhór and she related to Calum this tale of the poetess’s

encounter with Donald Stewart when the shopkeeper came off very much the worse!


ii   Calum MacLeòid.  Doigh air Leigheas At-amhaich’.  Gairm, 142 (An t-Earrach 1988), 170.


Tale of an encounter between an old woman and her doctor in pre-National Health Service time, published shortly after Calum MacLeòid’s death.



MACLEOID, Coinneach.  See: The Kenneth MacLeod Collection



MACLEOID, Iain N (1880-1954)


Born and brought up in Skye, Iain N MacLeòid was for a time a schoolmaster in Bernera.  Under the pseudonym ‘Alasdair Mór’ he contributed a column, ‘Litir a Beàrnaraigh’ to the Stornaway Gazette from 1917 to 1954.  A selection of these letters was published as Litrichean Alasdair Mhóir (MacLeòid 1932). 

He edited Bàrdachd Leòdhais, a collection of Lewis poetry and song (MacLeòid 1916), and contributed many articles to Gaelic periodicals.  On balance, it could be argued that his literary interests show a leaning towards Bernera and Lewis, rather than to his native Skye.  Listed below, and in the section for journalism and miscellaneous prose, are those of his writings which are of specific Skye interest.


(Information from: MacLeod 1976:212-214;  MacLeod 1980:130-131;  Thomson 1983: 3)


i    J. N. M.  Seann Sgeul: Mar a dh-Aithicheadh h-Iort’.  Guth na Bliadhna, 5 (1908), 58-63.


See notes to item listed below.


ii   Iain N. MacLeòid (Alasdair Mór).  Mèirlich Dhun Bheagain’.  Gairm, 111/112 (Samhradh / Foghar 1980), 257-259.


This story and the one listed above are actually two different versions of the same story.  Both versions are almost identical as far as details of plot are concerned.  There is some variation in language, with perhaps the later version veering a little more towards the colloquial.


Two plots are incorporated into the one tale.  The principle one concerns a servant of MacLeod of Dunvegan who accidentally discovers that some of his neighbours have been cattle-thieving.  The thieves are eventually

captured and sent to St. Kilda.  The second plot concerns a wicked St. Kildan who burns to death all the other inhabitants of the island, except one old woman.  He is captured by the crew of the boat which brings the

cattle-thieves to the island and is left on a tidal rock to drown.



MACLEOID, Murchadh.  See: GRANND, Seumas



MACLEOID, Niall.  See: The Niall MacLeòid Collection



MACNEACAIL, Alasdair.  See: The Alasdair MacNeacail Collection



MACPHERSON, Kenneth.  See: MAC A’ PHEARSAIN, Coinneach.



MACPHIE, Angus.  See: The Aonghas Mac a’ Phi Collection



MACPHIE, Donald.  See: The Daileach Collection



MACQUEEN, Donald.  See: The Domhnall MacCuithein Collection



MACRAE, Donald  (20th Century)


A native of Clach Ard, Tote, Isle of Skye.


Donald MacRae.  ‘[Lòn an Eireannaich’].  Tocher 9 (Spring 1973), 32-33


Lòn an Eireannaich is a burn which flows into the Snizort River near Skeabost Bridge.  Donald MacRae relates the tragi-comic tale of how it got its name when an Irishman drowned in it.  Text from PN 1973/10 in the School of Scottish Studies Archive; transcribed and translated by Ian Fraser.  For a further note, see Tocher 26 (Autumn 1977), 120-122.  For another version of this tale, see An Cabairneach (An Céitean 1962), 2-3.



MACRAE, Hugh.  See: The Eoghainn MacRath Collection



MACRAE, William  (20th Century)


A native of Raasay.


William MacRae.  [‘A chiad lof a thàinig go ruige ‘n eilein’].  Tocher 15 (Autumn 1974), 244-245.


How the first loaf of bread came to Raasay.  Recorded in 1953 by John MacInnes.  Text from School of Scottish Studies recording SA 1953/176/8, with parallel English translation.



MACRATH, Eoghainn.  See: The Eoghainn MacRath Collection



NICOLSON, Angus.  See: MACNEACAIL, Aonghas



ROBERTSON  (19th Century)


An old man of Eigg.


… Robertson.  Geaslanachd na Gealaich’.  Carmina Gadelica.  Vol. 3.  Edited by James Carmichael Watson.  Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1940, pp. 278-279.


Relates traditional beliefs concerning the waning of the moon and the full moon, where the former is paralleled by a waning of the vitality of nature and the latter by a resurgence of that vitality.  There is an English translation and notes.



ROS, Niall  (1873-1943)


A native of Glendale, Skye, Niall Ros was ordained a minister of the Church of Scotland in 1907 and served in a number of parishes.


A prominent member of An Comunn Gaidhealach, he edited that body’s periodical An Gaidheal from 1923 until 1936.  He edited for the SGTS Heroic Poetry from the Book of the Dean of Lismore (Edinburgh:

Oliver & Boyd, 1939).


Upon his death in 1943 several tributes to Niall Ros in both English and Gaelic were published in An Gaidheal (39:49-52).  His nephew, Coinneach Ros, gives a penetrating analysis of his personality in Aitealan Dlù is Cian (Ros 1972: 21-22).


See also entries for Niall Ross in the sections for poetry and song of known authorship, journalism and miscellaneous prose and non-traditional creative  prose.


Niall Ros.  An t-Eilean Sgitheanach’.  Am Measg nan Bodach.  Glaschu: An Comunn Gaidhealach, 1938, dd. 67-73.


The Rev. Ros recalls some of the stories which he heard in his youth in Skye, as well as the seanchaidhean who told them.



ROSS, James.  See: The Somhairle Thorburn Collection



ROSS, Neil.  See: ROS, Niall






THORBURN, Samuel.  See: The Somhairle Thorburn Collection



WATSON, Angus.  See: MAC BHATAIR, Aonghas.












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













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