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Wednesday 20 August 2014

An Ossianic Tale

One of the greatest storytellers that Calum Maclean ever encountered was Angus Barrach MacMillan who belonged to Griminish in Benbecula. With a phenomenal memory, MacMillan could recite one of the longest tales ever recorded in Western Europe. Such was his powerful memory he could with relative ease recite a tale after only one or two hearings. Here, for example, is a fairly well-known Ossianic tale, that Maclean recorded from MacMillan and later transcribed word for word on the 16th of June 1950.
The tale is usually referred to as Mu Shealg Dheireannach Oisein (‘Concerning Ossian’s Last Hunt’), or as Oisean an dèidh na Fèinne (‘Ossian After the Fingalians), giving rise to the proverbial meaning of the last survivor of the Fianna, and centres on Ossian’s hunting exploits. Briefly, the story relates that Ossian is invited to his son-in-law’s feast and seeing a deer-shank, Patrick asked whether he had ever seen one as large. Ossian, by now blind and infirm, fingered the shank and said he had once seen a blackbird’s shank far bigger. On hearing this, Ossian’s daughter, throws the book full of Fingalian lore, that Patrick had collected, into the fire. Ossian, in order to show that he was actually telling the truth, invited Patrick to follow him so that he could relate the events. After a few encounters, they rested on a hill for the night, and the next day Ossian raised the hunting hallo after the appearance of a Fenian hound, Biorach mac Buidheig, who pulled down seven full-grown stags. This hound was not sated by the hunt, and so went mad, and thus could not be restrained and was eventually killed by Ossian. Ossian then proceeded to eat his way through the caught venison, but his son-in-law drew away a shank, seeing that Ossian was unlikely to leave any remnant. Even after such a feast, Ossian’s hunger was not fully satisfied, and he resented his son-in-law who took away the shank (as the full amount would have restored Ossian to his former self). They set out to return home, whereupon his son-in-law, apparently on his mother’s advice, intended to kill Ossian by pushing him over a cliff. Ossian landed on a rock, found his lost fairy ring which restored his sight, after which he returned home triumphantly with the ‘lost’ shank which proved the truth of his tale. Though this summary does not do any justice to the tale, it reflects the importance of the hunt in narrative storytelling. Despite its mythological tone, it relates Ossian’s ‘Last Hunt’ in order for a feast of venison to restore Ossian to his former strength and powers. It is evident that this story was also known in Argyll. St Patrick castigated Ossian for exaggeration¾as the saint used to put Ossian’s descriptions of the Fianna into writing¾when he heard about the bone of a huge deer, in the marrow-hole of which the bone of an ordinary deer could turn, and thus he thought the old warrior’s stories were mere invention ‘and in his indignation he threw the writings into the fire.’ This tale may then represent the creative tension between the Christian belief of truth-telling, in contrast to the alleged Pagan practice of propounding lies using the hunt as a means of conveying this very message. And yet, if this is indeed the case, Ossian, and not St Patrick, triumphed in the end, at least, in this instance.
What is perhaps most striking about the follow narrative is how faithfully the story has survived the vagaries of oral transmission (although there are some variations as would be expected) and it gives much credit to the narrator who knew many more such stories and was ever willing and ready to be recorded because he knew well their intrinsic value:


Ach mu dheidhinn Oisean a bha seoach, b’ e seo Rìgh na Fìnneadh. Agus bha nighean aig Oisean agus phòs mac Rìgh Lochlann i. Well, b’ e Oisean an duine bu làidire a bh’ air an t-saoghal uile gu lèir. Cha robh duine ann cho làidir ris. Cha robh sìon a dh’fhios aig neach sam bith dè an neart a bh’ ann na cà robh an neart ann. Ach fhuair an nighean mun cuairt air co-dhiù gus an d’fhuair i a-mach cà robh an neart ann. Well, bha fhios aig an nighinn air agus theann Rìgh Lochlann air fhaighneachd dhan nighinn
an robh fhios aice cà robh an neart na h-athair, ann an Oisean, Rìgh na
Fìnneadh. Bha e airson cuir as dhan Fhinn agus fhad ’s a bhiodh Oisean beò, cha robh rathad air an Fhinn a chuir às.
“Tha fhìos agam-sa,” ors’ ise, “cà bheil,” ors’ ise, neart m’ athar,” ors’ ise, “ach
chan eil math dhomh innseadh gu bràth,” ors’ ise, “air neo ’s e sin a’ mhionaid
mu dheireadh dhe m’ shaoghal,” ors’ ise, “ma gheibh m’ athair a-mach e.”
“Bheir mi bòidean dhut,” ors’ esan, “nach fhaigh neach sam bith a-mach e,” ors’ esan, “bho m’ bhriathran-sa. Agus innis dhomh e.”
“Well, air na bòidean sin,” ors’ ise, “innsidh mi dhut càil neart m’ athar,” ors’ ise. “Tha neart m’ athar,” ors’ ise, “as a’ ghruaig aige mu chlipear m’ athair mar a
chlipear sìby-se ann a sheo, cha bhi e nas làidire na duine cumanta. Ach fhad
’s a bhios a’ ghruag air,” ors’ ise, “cho fad ’s a tha i,” ors’ ise. “chan eil air
an t-saoghal,” ors’ ise, “na nì an gnothach air.”
“Glè mhath,” ors’ esan, ”chan fhaigh duine eile a-mach sin,” ors’ esan, ”ach mise.”
Ach, co-dhiù, fhuaireadh Oisean dhan phailios aig Rìgh Lochlann agus bhathar gu
math coibhneil ris agus tha e coltach leam nach robh rathad air leagail le
deoch, gun òladh e a’ Chriosdachd. Theannadh air le deoch co-dhiù fad na h-oidhcheadh. Chuir an sineach, nuair a bha Rìgh Lochlainn a’ fàs stupid e
fhèin le deoch is e a’ cumail cuach air a’ chuaich ri Oisean, bha Oisean
cho fresh is a bha e riamh, chur e mu dheidhinn gu rachadh iad a laighe
agus gun caidleadh iad, chuir e na borbairean air ghleas nuair a gheibhte
Oisean na chadal sound, a’ ghruag a ghearradh dheth cho lom agus a dhèanadh
siosar e. Bha na borbairean air am bonn fad na h-oidhche gus an d’fhuaireadh
Oisean gu trom na chadal sound. Ghearradh dheth a’ ghruag agus leigeadh craiceann
a chinn ris agus cha robh sgeul air sa mhadainn. Nuair a dh’èirich Oisean
is a dhùisg e dh’fheuch e làmh air a cheann. Cha robh aige ach craiceann lom.
“Ah! well,” ors’ esan, “is bochd mar a dh’èirich dhomh,” ors’ esan. “’S e gnothach mo
nighinn a tha seo,” ors’ esan.
Cha robh fhios aig neach eile air ach i fhèin. Chan eil comas air. Thionndaidh an uair sin Rìgh Lochlann air an nighinn agus sgiùrsadh iad agus chuireadh dhan a h-uile h-àite bu mhiosa na chèile iad. Agus cha b’ fheàrr Oisean na fear eile aca.
“Well,” orsa Rìgh Lochlann, ors’ esan, “tha thu fo chommaunda a-nist,” ors’ esan.
“Tha deagh-sheansa gum bheil,” ors’ esan, “ach nam b’ e an-diugh an-dè,” ors’ esan,” cha bhithinn idir ann,” ors’ esan. “Ach tha mi a-niste ann. Rud sam bith a thogras
tu a dhèanamh,” ors’ esan, “faoda’ tu sin a dhèanamh,” ors’ esan. “Chan fhèarr mi,” ors’
esan, “na fear eile.”
“O! bidh thu air do dheagh-chumail agam-sa,” ors’ esan, “na dheaghaidh sin fhad ’s a
bhios tu beò,” ors’ esan.
Ach, co-dhiù, bha iad a’ cumail air an seo·ach a’ bruidhinn agus:
“Seadh, a-nist,” ors’ esan, “’s fhèarr dhut innseadh dhomh,” ors’ esan, “gu dè an t-euchd a rinn na Fianntaichean,” ors’ esan, “o bha thu nad Rìgh orra?”
“Mu dheidhinn an euchd a rinn na Fianntaichean,” ors’ esan, “tha e glè dhoirbh a
chreidsinn. Ach chan eil e doirbh idir a chreidsinn,” ors’ esanl, “ma thèid thu a-staigh
as an t-seanchas. Innsidh mise dhu’-sa,” ors’ esan, “mar a dh’èirich dha na Fianntaichean o chiad latha a theann iad,” ors’ esan, “gon an latha an-diugh.”
Theann e air innseadh mu na Fianntaichean agus an euchd a bha iad a’
dèanamh agus bha e a’ sìor-thoir’ dhà naidheachd a h-uile latha mun deidhinn, Oisean dhan Rìgh. Ach latha dhe na lathaichean agus thàinig Rìgh Lochlann a-staigh dhan rùm as an robh Oisean agus lurga mhòr daimh aige.
“Am faca tu,” ors’ esan, “cràimh riamh,” ors’ esan, “as an Fhinn,” ors’ esan. “bu mhutha,”
ors’ esan, “na an cràimh a tha sin.”
Bha Oisean dall ach cha robh e bodhar idir.
“Cia dhomh nam làimh e,” ors’ esan.
Dh’fheuch e e:’
“O!” ors’ esan, “chan eil nothing an seo,” ors’ esan. “Chunna mise lurga lon-dubh,” ors’ esan, “a rachadh an cnàimh sin a-staigh gun suathadh as a’ smior-chailleach aige,
a smior a bha sa chnàimh, rachadh e a-staigh,” ors’ esan, “gun suathadh ann.”
“Ha, ha,” ors’ esan, “chan eil mi a’ creidsinn,” ors’ esan, “as an fhìrinn idir,” ors’ esan. “Chan eil agad ach na tula-bhreugan as à h-uile sìon a dh’ innis thu dhomh riamh,” ors’ esan, “agus cha chreid mi idir, idir ann a shin,” ors’ esan, “gu fac’ thu lurga loin-duibh,” ors’ esan, “a rachadh an cnàimh mòr garbh a tha sin,” ors’ esan, “a-staigh,” ors’ esan, “dhan smior chailleach aige.”
Na rinn e suas dhe na leabhraichean a thaobh na Fìnneadh, ghabh e sìos agus
shrad e dhan teine iad as a’ chidsin as an robh e. Bha searbhanta as an taigh agus chunnaic i ’n tòrr phàipeirean a shrad an Rìgh dhan teine agus rug i air agus tharraing i a-mach e. Agus chaidh mòran, mòran a ghnothach na Finneadh na theine agus leugh ise pàirt dheth. Agus leis an tàmailt a chuir an Rìgh air Oisean agus gun robh e a’ smaointinn gun robh e breugach:
“An-dà, nam biodh mo fhradharc agam-sa,” ors’ esan, “dhèanainn fìrinn dhe m’ sheanchas,” ors’ esan. “Ach chan eil rathad agam air sin a dhèanamh dheth,” ors’ esan, “agus gun fradharc agam.”
Agus an latha sin chaidh e suas dhan bhedroom agus shìn e e fhèin as an leabaidh. Agus bha e ag ùrnaigh ri Chruthadair, ma falbhadh e far an t-saoghail gum faigheadh e iarratas agus gum b’ e sin an t-iarrtas a bha e ag iarraidh, gun dèanadh e fìrinn dhen t-seanchas a thuirt e ris an Rìgh. B’ e sin a thoir’ far an robh an lon-dubh a’ fantail fon chreig. Agus dh’iarr e air Dia am fear bu mhiosa bha san Fhinn a chuir ’uige aig meadhan-oidhche a-nochd agus an cù bu mhiosa agus gun toireadh iad sin far an iarradh esan an toirt. Chaidh iad a chadal an oidhche sin uile gu lèir agus chaidh iad far an robh Oisean airson a shuipearach a ghabhail.
“Cha ghabh mi idir i,” ors’ esan. “Tha mi air a leithid a thàmailt a ghabhail,” ors’ esan, “gun robh mi breugach aig an Rìgh agus gun aon fhacal breugadh agam ga ràdha ris. Chan eil mi a’ dol a ghabhail greim bidhidh an seo,” ors’ esan, “gus an dèan mi fìrinn dhe m’ sheanchas.”
Dh’fhalbh iad sìos agus chaidh iad a chadal uile gu lèir agus bha esan ag ùrnaigh ri Chruthadair am fear bu mhiosa a bha san Fhinn a thoir’ ’uige, gum b’ e sin Caoilte agus an cù bu mhiosa a bh’ aca gun dèanadh e fìrinn dha sheanchas a-màireach. An sin aig meadhan-oidhche dh’fhosgladh an rùm:
“Tha sinne air tighinn,” ors’ an cù.
“O! glè mhath,” ors’ esan. “Tha mi glè thoilichte,” ors’ Oisean. “Bidh mise a’ falbh còmh’
riubh. Cuiribh umaibh,” ors’ esan, ”agus,” ors’ esan, “bidh sinn a’ falbh.”
Chuir am fear sin uime agus dh’fhalbh iad
“Thèid sibh a-nist,” ors’ esan, “is cuma’ sibh,” ors’ esan, “gon a leithid seo a ghleann
agus bheir sibh gu a leithid seo a tholman mi.”
Dh’fhalbhadh leis. Rànaigeadh dìreach an gròban a thuirt e.
“Tha sinn aig an tolman,” ors’ am fear a thàinig còmhla ris:
“Glè mhath,” ors’ esan, “ma-thà,” ors’ esan. “Thalla sìbh-se a-nist,” ors’ esan, “agus cuiribh a-nuas na fèidh,” ors’ esan, “agus cuirbh sibh air an truck iad,” ors’ esan. “Cuiribh sibh naoidh naoidheannan,” ors’ esan, “taobh ri taobh,” ors’ esan, ”agus feucha’ mise an t-sleagh orra.”
Seo mar a bha.
Theann iad air. Dh’fhalbh an cù agus am fear bu mhiosa a bha san Fhinn agus chuir iad na naoidh naoidheannan air aghaidh ach ’s e h-ochd a bha sa rank mu dheireadh air am beulaibh:
“A bheil iad uileag ann?” ors’ esan.
”Tha,” orsa fear na Fìnneadh.
Chaith e an t-sleagh agus mharbh e na h-ochd.
“Mharbh sibh a h-ochd,” ors’ esan.
“Cà bheil an naoidheamh fear?” ors’ esan.
“O! cha robh e ann,” ors’ esan.
“Well,” ors’ esan, “bruichibh na h-ochd,” ors’ esan, “agus bheiribh dhomh-sa iad agus,” ors’ esan, “leigidh mise fhaicinn,” ors’ esan, “do Rìgh Lochlann a-màireach,” ors’ esan, “gun robh an fhìrinn agam.”
“Bheiribh ugam-s’,” ors’ esan. “Cuiribh mi,” ors’ esan, “gon an tolman glas a chì sibh ann a shin," ors’ esan.
Chuireadh a dh’ionnsaigh an tolmain a bha seo e:
“A bheil mi aige?” ors’ esan.
“Tha, ors’ am fear-frithealaidh.
Rug e air an tolmadan a bha sin agus thug e spìonadh air agus cha tàinig e idir. Rug e an sin a-rithist air agus cha mhòr nach tàinig e. Rug e air a-rithist agus spìon e as an
riamhaich e agus bha coire mòr, mòr ann a shin fon talamh deiseil airson rud a chur ann.
“Dè,” ors’ esan, “a tha gu h-ìseal as an toll?”
“Tha coire mòr,” ors’ esan.
“Glè mhath,” ors’ esan, ”ma-thà. Feannaibh na fèidh,” ors’ esan, “agus bheiribh dhomh-sa nam dhòrn iad,” ors’ esan, “agus cha bhi mi fada ga feannadh. Càiriibh dhan choire iad,” ors’ esan, “agus bheir sibh dhomh-sa uile gu lèir iad.”
Chàireadh dhan choire iad agus chuireadh teine mòr riutha agus a h-uile fear mar a bha bruich, bha Oisean ga ithe. Bha ochd dealgan as a’ mhionach aig Oisean. Nam faigheadh e a leòr, b’ e sin fiadh air a h-uile dealg, gheibheadh e a neart mar a bha e riamh. Cha robh air an t-saoghal uile gu lèir a dhèanadh an gnothach air. Chuireadh e leis fhèin fodha an saoghal gu lèir. Theann e air na fèidh agus dh’ith e seachd agus bha dealg eile às aonais:
“Càite,” ors’ esan, “a bheil am fiadh eile?” ors’ esan.
“O! dh’ith mi fhìn is an cù e,” orsa fear na Fìnneadh.
“O! dh’ith thu fhèin is an cù e,” ors’ esan.
“Ach nam biodh fhios agad,” ors’ esan, “gu dè bhiodh gu math dhut,” ors’ esan, “cha robh thu air beantail dha,” ors’ esan. “Cha robh còir agam-sa air innseadh dhut. Tha mise,” ors’ esan, “cho dona is a bha mi riamh. Ach chan eil comas air,” ors’ esan. “Cuiribh mise gon an tolpadan,” ors’ esan, “a thog mi far a’ choire chòir,” ors’ esan, “a rinn biadh dhuinn iomadh latha,” ors’ esan, “nach dèan dhuinn e gu bràth tuilleadh. Agus falbhaidh sibh leam,” ors’ esan, “gu dh’ ionnsaigh a leithid seo a chreigeadh,”  ors’ esan, “agus,” ors’ esan, “bheir sibh gon na creigeadh a tha sin mi aig a leithid seo a dh’àite.”
Dh’fhalbhadh le Oisean agus ràinigeadh a’ chreag mhòr a bha seo agus:
“Tha sinn air a ruighinn,” ors’ esan.
“Cò an taobh,” ors’ esan, “a tha thu air mo chur?”
Dh’innis e:
“O! tha thu air an taobh cheart,” ors’ esan.
Chuir e a làmh a-staigh fon chreig a bh’ ann a shin agus thug e lon-dubh a-mach às an sineach agus b’ e sin an lon-dubh a bha sgràthail. Dh’fhalbh e agus rug e air dhà chois
air agus spìon e às a chèile e:
“Thalla,” ors’ esan. “Nì seo fhèin an gnothach,” or’s esan. “Ithe sibh-se an còrr,” ors’ esan.
“Tha an Fhinn ullamh,” ors’ esan, “co-dhiù,” ors’ esan.
Dh’ith an cù agus an gille an còrr dhan lon-dubh agus:
“Falbhaidh sibh a-nist leam-sa,” ors’ esan, “agus cuiridh sibh mi,” ors’ esan, “gu crìochan,” ors’ esan, “Rìgh Lochlann,” ors’ esan, “agus bidh sinn suas,” ors’ esan, “eadar a naoidh is a deich a dh’uaireannan sa mhadainn.”
Dh’fhalbh iad leis agus bha an lurga aige na dhòrn.
“Tha sibh a-nist,” ors’ am fear-frithealaidh, “tha sibh,” ors’ esan, “air crìochan Rìgh
“Dè fhad ’s a tha mi a-staigh orra?”
“Tha sibh mu fhichead slat,” ors’ esan, “a-staigh orra.”
“O! glè mhath,” ors’ esan, “nì sin an gnothach,” ors’ esan.
“Thigibh a-nist a-null far a bheil mi,” ors’ esan, “agus gum pàigh mi sibh, thu fhèin,”
ors’ esan, “agus an cù agus beiribih air làimh orm.”
Thàinig iad a-nall le coibhneas far an robh e agus rug e air a’ chù air cùl na h-amhaich agus rug e air a’ ghille air cùl na h-amhaich.
“Well,” ors’ esan, “chan eil teagamh,” ors’ esan, “gum bidh mòran saoghail agam-sa an seo,” ors’ esan, “ach bidh sibh-se a’ falbh romham,” ors’ esan.
Rug e orra agus bhuail e na cinn aca ri chèile agus mharbh e as an t-seasamh bonn iad. Ach, co-dhiù, bha e a-nist ann a shin air na crìochan. Nuair a dh’èirich iad sa mhadainn, cha robh sgeul air Oisean. Agus thuig an nighean math gu leòr nach fhaighte a bheò na a mharbh ri mhaireann. Bha i anabarrach fhèin brònach, duilich agus bha an Rìgh e fhèin duilich.
“Well,” ors’ ise, “leis an tàmailt a ghabh e dhuibh-se,” ors’ ise, “’s e dh’fhàg seo mar
“A! well,” ors’ an Rìgh, ors’ esan, “am facal a thuirt e rium-sa bha e glè dhoirbh a
chreidsinn,” ors’ esan, “agus cha chreid mi fhathast e,” ors’ esan, “gu rachadh an
cràimh sin a-staigh ro smior an lon-dubh dhe na bha san Fhinn.”
“O!” ors’ ise, “mura biodh e cinnteach ann,” ors ise, “cha chanadh e e.”
“Well,” ors’ esan, “chan eil fhios ’m,” ors’ esan.
“Ach feumaidh sinn,” ors’ ise, “coimhead a-mach air a shon,” ors’ ise, “brith cà faigh sinn a bheò na a mharbh.”
Chuir iad mu dheidhinn gu rachte a dh’ iarraidh Oisean brith cà faigheadh
iad e co-dhiù a gheibhte a bheò na a mharbh. Ach bha an nighean fhèin a-muigh as an àm agus chuala i eugh agus b’ e sin an eugh:
“Well,” ors’ ise, “ma tha e air an t-saoghal uile gu lèir,” ors’ ise, “’s eugh m’ athar
a tha siud, Oisein.”
“Dè tha thu ag ràdha?” orsa Rìgh Lochlann.
“Tha eugh m’ athar an siud,” ors ise. “Tha e neònach leam,” ors’ ise, “nach cluinn sinn fhathast i. Nì e eugh trì uairean,” ors’ ise.
Chualas a-rithist e:
“Tha e ann cinnteach,” ors’ ise, “agus feuma’ sinn stràcadh,” ors’ ise, “air a rèir.”
Chuireadh air falbh daoine gu math luath le pònaidhean agus bha Rìgh Lochlann
agus an nighean air thoiseach. Ach chualas an sin a-rithist i an treas eugh:
“‘S e th’ ann cinnteach,” orsa Rìgh Lochlann.
“O! ’s e gu dearbha,” ors’ ise. “Dh’aithnich mi eugh,” ors’ ise, “a’ chiad uair a chuala
mi e.”
Ràinigeadh Oisean.
Bha an cù agus am fear bu mhiosa a bha san Fhinn air an t-eanchainn a
chuir asta air a bheulaibh agus lurg an lòin duibh aige na dhòrn:
“Tha thu ann a sheo,” ors’ esan, “brith ciamar a chaidh thu ann.”
“Tha fhios agam taghta math,” ors’ esan, “gu diamar a chaidh mi ann,” ors’ esan, “agus
an fheadainn a thug ann mi,” ors’ esan, “chan innis iad sgeul dhuibh-sa,” ors’ esan, “ri d’ mhaireann. Agus,” ors’ esan, “leis,” ors’ esan, “mar a chuir thu mun cuairt mi,” ors’
esan, “dèan an rud a thogras tu rium. Ach tha mi airson fìrinn a dhèanamh dha m’ sheanchas,” ors’ esan. Cha d’fhuair neach eile breug riamh orm,” ors’ esan.
“Seo dhut,” ors’ esan, “lurg an lòin duibh,” ors’ esan. “Tha an spòg air,” ors’ esan, “gus
an tuig thu,” ors’ esan, “gur h-e lurg an lòin duibh a th’ ann,” ors’ esan. “Faigh an cnàimh mòr,” ors’ esan, “a bha bòst agad às,” ors’ esan. “Thèid e a-staigh ’s a-mach,” ors’ esan, “as a’ smior-chailleach aige,” ors’ esan.
Fhuair Rìgh Lochlann an cnàimh. Chan fhaca e riamh a leithid. Chum e aige riamh e, gus an d’ràinig e am pàlas agus fhuair e lurg an daimh. Rachadh e a-staigh suas is sìos ann gun suathadh ann.
“Well, Oisean,” ors’ esan. “tha an fhìrinn agad,” ors’ esan, “agus tha mi glè dhuilich,” ors’
esan. “An fhìrinn a bha thu ag innseadh dhomh mu dheidhinn na Fìnneadh,” ors’ esan
“chaidh a losgadh,” ors’ esan. “ach ’s fhèarr dhuinn a-nist," ors’ esan, “teannadh as
Dh’innis Oisean dhut aon uair i. Chan eil e mar fhiachaibh air a h-innseadh an dala
“Chan eil agad,” ors’ esan, “ach cum romhad mar a bha thu,” ors’ esan, “ach tha Oisean fìor,” ors’ esan, “agus tha an Rìgh breugach.”
Agus dhealaich mise rithe.
Chan eil greim dhen Fhinn sin air faighinn ach na fhuair an t-searbhanta a thoir’ às
an teine. Sin na bheil ann mu dheidhinn na Fìnne agus dhealaich mise rithe.
Ach tha mi a’ smaointinn gun robh cus a bharrachd dhe siud aig m’ athair nuair
a bha e beò mu deidhinn agus bha mòran, mòran de ghnothach na Finneadh
aige. Ach cha robh diù sam bith agam-sa dhith as an àm sin. Nam biodh, bhiodh i agam uile gu lèir mar a bha i aige fhèin. Bha mise cho aotrom agus bha mi cearta-coma de ghnothaichean dhen t-seòrsa sin, ach sportaichean is dannsaichean is boireannaich is gnothach dhen t-seòrsa sin is dhealaich mise rithe.

And the translation goes something like the following:


Concerning Ossian – he was the King of the Fenians. He had a daughter and she was married to the King of Lochlann. Well, Ossian was the strongest man in the whole wide world. No one else was as strong as him. No one had any idea whatsoever why he was so strong. But his daughter found away around him and she found out where his strength came from. Well, his daughter now knew and the King of Lochlann turned to her and asked if she knew where her father’s strength came from, Ossian who was the King of the Fenians. He wanted to exterminate the Fenians and whilst Ossian was still alive there was no way to get rid of them.
“I know where my father’s strength comes from,” she said, “but wouldn’t do any good to ever tell for that would be the very last minute of my life if my father found out.”
“I vow to you,” he said, “that no one else will find out from me. Now tell me.”
“Well, by those vows,” she said, “I’ll tell you where my father’s strength come from. It comes from his hair and if my father cut it as you cut it here, he’ll be no stronger than an ordinary man. But as long as he has hair,” she said, “there’s no one in the world who could defeat him.”
“Very well,” he said, “No one else but me will found out about that.”
But, in any case, Ossian found the King of Lochlann’s palace and he was kind to him and it would appear to me that there was no other way but to ply him with drink, and he could drink like a Lord. The began drinking and it lasted all night. When the King of Lochlann was stupid with drink trying to keep up with Ossian cup for cup, and Ossian was just as fresh [i.e. sober] as he ever was, he suggested that they go to bed, so that the barbers would then find Ossian sound asleep and to cut his hair off so that it would leave him completely bald. The barbers waited all night long until Ossian fell sound asleep. They cut his hair off so that he was totally bald and there was no sign of his hair in the morning. When Ossian got up he felt this head. Only his bare skin was left.
“Oh! well,” he opined, “it’s a great pity this has happened to me. My daughter is at the bottom of this.”
No one else knew but her. It can’t be helped. The King of Lochlann then turned to Ossian’s daughter and they began quarrelling and they each in turn said things far worse than the other. But Ossian was completely indifferent to them.
“Well,” said the King of Lochlann, “you’re now in our power.”
“It is likely so,” he said, “but if today was yesterday I wouldn’t be at all. But I am now. Anything you might wish to do then you may do that. I’m no better off than any other man.”
“Oh, you’ll be well looked after,” he replied, “so long as you live.”
But at any rate they kept on talking and:
“So, now,” he asked, “you’d better tell me what exploits have the Fenians done since you became their King?”
“Regarding the deeds of the Fenians,” he replied, “it’s exteremly difficult to believe and in another it’s very easy to believe if you go into their history. And I’ll relatae to you what happened to the Fenians from their very first day until this very day.”
He began relating the deeds of the Fenians and he told many stories each each day about them as Ossian was their King. But one day the King of Lochlann entered the room where Ossian and he was holding a large deer shank.
“Have you ever seen,” he asked, “a bone of the Fenians bigger than this one?”
Although Ossian was blind he was not deaf.
“Place it in my hands,” he requested.
He felt it.
“Oh!” he said, “that’s nothing. I saw a blackbird’s shank that could be inserted without touching the marrow of it, the marrow that was in the bone would not be touched by it.”
“Ha, ha,” he laughed, “I don’t believe that’s the truth at all. You only telling me complete lies about everything you’ve said and I don’t belive one word of it that you saw a blackbird’s shank that be inserted into this big bone without touching its marrow.”
That which he could take hold of with regard to the Fenian books, he went down and threw them onto the kitchen fire. There was a servant present and when he saw the heaps of papers that the King had thrown onto the fire he grabbed and pulled them out. And much, much material about the exploits of the Fenians had been burnt but she could partially read them. And because of the way in which the King had made Ossian so ashamed as he though he was lying:
“Well, if I had my sight retunred,” he opined, “I would prove the truth of my tale,” he continued, “But I have not way of doing that as I am sightless.
And that day he went to the bedroom and stretched himself out on the bed. And he prayed to the Creator that before he left this world that he would get his wish and the very wish he wanted fulfilled was that he could proved the truth of his tale that he had told the King. That was to go to the where the black bird waited under a rock. And he requested that God that the worst one of the Fenians be sent to him at midnight that very night and the worst dog should also be taken to the place where he wished them to be. They all went to sleep that night and they went to the place where Ossian took his supper.
“I’ll not take any,” he said, “I’ve been feeling so ashamed as the King though that I was lying and I’ve not told him one word of a lie at all. I’m not even going to take a morsel of food,” he said, “until I prove the truth of my tale.”
They went down and they all went to sleep and he prayed to the Creator that the worst one of the Fenians should come to him and that was Caoilte and also the worst dog they had so that he could prove the truth of his tale on the morrow. At midnight the room was opened:
“We’ve arrived,” exclaimed the dog.
“Oh, very well,” he said, “I’m very pleased,” said Ossian. “I’ll accompany you. Keep going,” he said, “we’ll be off.”
The man mounted and they left.
“You’ll go now,” he said, “and you’ll keep to such and such a glean and you’ll take me to such and such a hillock.”
He set off and they reached a cleft as he had said.
“We’ve arrived at the hillock,” said the man that had accompanied him.
“Very well,” he said, “then be off with you, “I send up the deer and you’ll place them on the truck and you’ll set nine nines of them besides one another so that I can test my spear on them.”
That’s what happened.
They began their task. The dog and the worst man of the Fenians set off and they place the nine nines in front of him but it was only the eighth one in the last rank that happened to be at his front:
“Are they all there?” he asked.
“Yes,” said the Fenian man.
He cast his spear and killed all eight.
“You’ve slain eight,” he noted.
“Where’s the ninth one?” he asked.
“Oh, it wasn’t there,” he replied.
“Well,” he said, “boil the eight and give them to me so that I can show them to the King of Lochlann tomorrow to show him that I told the truth.”
“Lift me on and take me to the grey hillock that you can see there,” he ordered.
He was brought forth to the hillock.
“Am I there?” he asked
“Yes,” replied the attendant.
He took a grip on the hillock there and he gave a tug but nothing  came out at all. He took a grip again and it nearly gave way. One again he took a grip and he tugged it from its roots and there appeared a great, big underground cauldron ready for something to be placed in it.
“What,” he asked, “is down below in the hole?”
“A big cauldron,” he replied.
“Very well,” he said, “then. Skin the deer and place them in my hand and I’ll be not long skinning it. Place them in the corrie agus give them all to me.”
They were place in the cauldron and a great fire was set and everyone of them that was cooked Ossian ate. Ossian had eight skewers in his guts. If he could get enough, a deer for every skewer, then he was regain his strength as it had been before. There was nothing else in the whole, wide world that could do this. He could be himself submerge the world altogether. He began eating the deer and he ate the seventh and so only one more skewer was needed.
“Where,” he asked, “is the other deer?”
“Oh, I and the dog ate it,” answered the Fenian man.
“Oh, you and the god ate it,” he replied.
“If you knew,’ he said, “what was good for you then you wouldn’t have touched it. I’ve no right to tell you. I’m as bad as I ever was. But that can’t be helped. Place me over the lid and lift me from this wonderful cauldron that made food for us many a day that it will not now forever more do again. And you’ll carry me to such and such a rock and you’ll take me to that rock there at such and such a place.”
He set off with Ossian and this great rock was reached and:
“We’ve reached it,” he said.
“On which side,” he asked, “have you place me?”
He said:
“Oh, you’re in the right place.”
He place his hand underneath the rock there and he took out a blackbird and that was an terrible-looking blackbird. He set off and he grapped both its leg and he pulled it apart.
“Go now,” he said. “This will do the business. You eat the rest.”
“The Fenians are finished now anyway,” he said.
The dog and the servant ate the rest of the blackbird and:
“You’ll take me now,” he said, “and you’ll let me off at the borders of the King of Lochlann and we’ll be up between nine and ten o’clock in the morning.”
They set off with him and he had his shanks in his fist.
“You are now,” said the attendant, “you’re now at the King of Lochlann’s borders.”
“How far are we inside them?”
“You’re about twent yards inside of them.”
“Oh,very well,” he said, “that’ll do.”
“Come now over to where I am,” he said, “so that I can pay you and the dog and take hold of my hand.”
They courteously went over to where he was and he grapped the dog by the scruff of the neck and he also grapped the lad by the scruff of the neck.
“Well,” he said, “without a shadow of a doubt I’ll not have long to live here but you’ll not live to see another day.”
He grabbed them both and he banged their heads together and they were both killed on the spot. But, at any rate, he was not there at the borders. When the arose in the morning there was no sign of Ossian. The daughter understood well enough that she’d never ever find him alive or dead. She was very sorry and sad as well as the King himself.
“Well,” he said, “by the humiliation that he took from you that had left matters as they are.”
“Ah! well,” said the King, “the words he said to me were very hard to believe and still don’t believe him that bone could be insersted into blackbird’shank of one of the Fenians.”
“Oh!, she said, “if it were not true then he would not have said such a thing.”
“Well,” he said, “I don’t know.”
“But we must,” she said, “look out for him wherever we may find him dead or alive.”
They decided that they would to in search of Ossian wherever they might find him whether he might be dead or alive. The lassie was outside at the time and she heard a shout and the shout was:
“Well,” he said, “if ever there was such a thing in the whole wide world then that was my father Ossian shouting.”
“What are you saying,” asked the King of Lochlann.
“That was was father’s shout,” she said. “I’m surprised that we can’t still hear it. He shouted three times.”
It was heard again.
“He’s there for sure,” she said, “and we must strike out over in its direction.”
Men were sent out quite quickly on ponies and the King of Lochlann and his daughter were at the front. And it was heard again, the third shout:
“That’s him for sure,” said the King of Lochlann.
“Oh, indeed, indeed,” she said. “I knew his shout from the very first time I heard him.”
Ossian was reached.
The dog and the worst man of the Fenians had the brains smashed out in front of them and he held the blackbird’s shank in his fist:
“You’re there,” he said, “whoever you got here.”
“You know very well,” he said, “who I got here and the ones that took me there who no longer live to tell you the tale. And,” he continued, “the way in which have played me round and around than you do anything to me. But I wished to prove the truth of my tale. No-one else has ever heard a lie from me.”
“There you have,” he said, “the blackbird’s shank. There is a claw there so that you’ll recognise that it’s a blackbird’s shank. Get a big bone that you boasted about. It will go out and in of the marrow.”
The King of Lochlann got the bone. He had never seen anything the like. He kept it with him always until he reached the palace and he found the deer shank. It could be inserted in and out without touching the sides.
“Well, Ossian,” he said, “you’ve told the truth and I’m truly sorry. You’ve told me the truth about the Fenians that had been burnt [referring to the books] and it’s best for us now to make a new start.”
Ossian told it once again. It’s not worth retelling it a second time.
“You’ve only to keep going as you were,” he said, “that Ossian was telling the truth and the King was not.”
And I took my leave from it.
And there is no sing of the Fenians to be had apart from that which the servant took out of the fire. That’s all that is left of the Fenians and I took my leave from it.
But I think that my father had more than enough of this material when he was alive and he had knew much more about the exploits of the Fenians. But at that time I couldn’t have cared less. If I had, I would have them all just as he had them all. I was so giddy and I really couldn’t give a toss about such things for I was far too interested in sports, dances and women and all sorts of other things besides and I took my leave from it.

NFC 1182, pp. 167–83

Angus Barrach MacMillan, Griminish, Benbecula
Ossian End by Gerard Francois (1770–1837), oils on canvas

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