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Friday, 8 November 2013

Traditions of John MacCodrum – IV

Anecdotes about John MacCodrum, styled Iain mac Fhearchair ’ic Codruim, especially those that contain pithy witticisms, spread far and wide throughout the Highlands and Islands. Here, for example, is quite a well known one taken down on the 17th of August 1946  by Calum Maclean from the recitation of Angus MacDonald, then aged eighty-three, who has been described by John Lorne Campbell (known as Fear Chanaigh as the last storyteller or seanchaidh of Canna:
 
Bha MacCodrum (Iain MacCodrum) a’ dol le sgothaich às Uibhist a dh’Ghlasacho, agus thadhaill iad aig Tobar Mhuire. Ann an sin thàinig fear a-nuas agus dh’fhaighneachd e cò an comaundair a bh’ air a’ luing.  
“Tha a’ stiùir,” orsa MacCodrum. 
“A! chan e sin a tha mi a’ ciallachdh idir, ach cò a’ sgiobair a th’ oirre?”  
“Tha an crann,” ors’ esan. 
“Cò às a thug sibh an t-iomradh?”  
“Às ar gàirdeannan,” orsa MacCodrum. 
Thubhairst a’ fear eile ann an sin: 
“An ann fo thuath a thàinig sibh?” 
“Pàirst fo thuath is pàirst fo thighearnan,” thubhairst MacCodrum.
 
And the translation goes something like the following:
 
John MacCodrum was going by boat from Uist to Glasgow and they stopped over in Tobermory. There a man came down agus asked who was the commander of the boat. 
“The rudder,” replied MacCodrum. 
“Ah! that wasn’t what I meant at all but rather who is her skipper?” 
“The mast,” he said. 
“From where did you row?” 
“From our shoulders,” replied MacCodrum. 
The other man then asked: 
“Was is from the north you came?” 
“Some of us are commoners and some of us are nobles,” answered MacCodrum.
 
References:
NFC MS 1028: 184–85
William Matheson (ed.), The Songs of John MacCodrum: Bard to Sir James MacDonald of Sleat (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1938)
 
Image:
Angus MacDonald (1865–1949), styled Aonghas Eachainn, by courtesy of Canna House Archives (National Trust for Scotland)

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