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Friday 11 January 2013

Curing a Sore Stomach

One of Maclean’s first informants that he met with in Lochaber was Allan MacDonald or MacDonell. From a diary entry of 13 February 1951, Maclean describes a visit to see Allan then staying in Inverlochy, near Fort William. The diary entry, originally written in Scottish Gaelic, is here given in translation:

After dinner time today, I went back again to Inverlochy village and I went to Allan MacDonald’s house. It was Allan himself who came to answer the door. He must have known that I was coming. It had been told that my like was around. Allan is a tall, well-built fellow. He stands around five foot and ten inches tall. He is accordingly stout and he is just about straight standing as he ever was even though he’ll soon be eighty-two. He was a gardener all his working life, or else this was his latter occupation in any case. He was shepherding and droving also when he was young. Allan was born in Inverroy in Brae Lochaber and was raised there. He heard stories and historical legends from the old people when he was young. It was the fashion then to go house visiting just as it was in other places. He told me a story about a man called John Dun Campbell, a once famous hero in Brae Lochaber. I listened to this story. Allan has a good style of telling stories. Although the story he told wasn’t long it was enjoyable. He also told me another story about a battle that was called the Battle of Boloinn. I also listened to this story. I’ll record these two stories on Ediphone this coming week. I wrote down another story about a witch who delayed a woman giving birth. I wrote down a few other things as well but I didn’t wish to trouble him further as this was the first time that I had met him. I promised to come back this Tuesday coming. “And will you bring the music?” Allan said. “Yes,” I said.

Perhaps Maclean’s memory was slightly remiss here for he dated a transcription of a folk cure taken down from Allan MacDonald on 16 January 1951. According to MacDonald, the following cure was said to have worked wonders for those suffering from stomach pains. Perhaps the sugary substance gave relief to acid reflux or ulcers.

Bha bràthair seanamhar dhomh fhìn, Domhnall Mac Eoghain a chanadh iad ris. Bhiodh e a deanamh rud ris an canadh iad an Cuman Gorm. Na pigeachan luaidhe a bhiodh ac(hc)a bho shean, b e sin an cuman. Bhiodh e a cur an urad seo de luibhean ann, ìm ùr, siùc(hc)ar canndaidh. An fheadhainn aig a robh droch-stamag, bhiodh iad ga ghabhail sin le spàin, ga thoirst as a chroca a chuile maduinn.

Bha mo sheanamhair dhèanadh i fhéin uamhas dheth. ’N uair a rachadh cearc a mharbhadh bha reamhrad na circe ’ga chur an crocan. Nam bitheadh gàgan air duine na teas air aodann, bha iad a’ ‘rubadh’ seo ris. Bha e sònruite math.

And the translation is the following:
My grandfather’s brother [i.e. grand-uncle] was called Donald MacEwen. He used to do a thing [make a cure] called the Cuman Gorm [the blue cogue]. The lead pitchers they use to have of old, that was the pail. He would put a certain amount of plants or herbs in, freshly-made butter, and sugar candy. Those who were suffering from a sore stomach would take it with a spoon, taking it from the tin every morning.

My own grandmother made lots of it. When a hen was slaughtered the chicken fat was put into a tin. If someone had hacks or hot flushes to the face, they used to rub this in. It was very efficacious.

SSS NB 1, 12–13

Mortar and Pestle

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