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Tuesday 29 October 2019

Local Hero: Big Young Donald MacMartin-Cameron

Almost everywhere in the Highlands and Islands there used to be what may be termed a local hero or, perhaps more precisely, local heroes. These were celebrities of their day who won renown through their various talents, or brave deeds and, on the reverse side of the coin, there were also anti-heroes who gained notoriety for vile or cowardly behaviour. Various heroes of different cultures can be identified throughout human history and literature and one such study, which remains a classic, is Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, first published to critical acclaim in 1949, which uses comparative methodology to closely analyse the archetypal hero found throughout world mythology.
Keeping with a Gaelic perspective, in many ways an heroic ideal chimes with one aspect of a binary division which runs in parallel with the so-called panegyric code. It is a a deeply held perception (or conviction) of how, in many respects, the Gaelic world was (and still is to some extent) perceived or viewed, perhaps through its (seemingly all) pervasive use by poets, song-writers and storytellers. In simplistic terms it may be split between praise (moladh) and dispraise (di-moladh) and it seems that not many people or objects were not beneath the attention of a skilled (or even an unskilled) bard. Witness, for example, many people or things that have attracted disproportionate praise or stinging satire. These include but are not limited to such subject-matter as bagpipes, whisky, wine, tobacco, hunters, tea, women, horses, rats, mice, cows, sheep, sexual parts, ships, mountains, islands, clergymen, poets, factors, chieftains and the list goes on and on. Indeed it would be far easier to produce a list based on one of exclusion rather than inclusion. Such creative output could be scathing, witty, scatological, biting, beautiful or moving. Clearly such productions were aimed to get an audience to react emotively whether that be in a positive or a negative manner. It was and is powerful stuff.
One such local hero from Brae Lochaber was evidently a man known as Dòmhnall Mòr Òg (‘Big Young Donald’), a MacMartin-Cameron from Leac Ruaidh, Glenroy, right in the heart of MacDonald territory. Many stories were related about him; some of which may be true but others would seem to have been attached to his personality. John MacDonald of Highbridge, Brae Lochabrer, alone had nearly a dozen anecdotes about him. During the tenureship of the Gordons over Brae Lochaber, Big Young Donald was a factor for the estate. This indicates that he had some formal education and, that being the case, was literate in English and perhaps even in Gaelic. He flourished during the first half of the eighteenth century and was considered to be a great hunter, far superior to his contemporaries. A dialogue song between him and a deer is also said to have been composed by him. He was clearly a popular personality for, on his death, an elegy was composed for him and ascribed (probably incorrectly) to Alasdair MacKinnon by the Rev. Alexander Maclean Sinclair (1840–1924). The elegy has been printed on a number of occasions for which see Anon., 1895, p. 8; Broadwood et al. 1931, pp. 280–303, where the air is given and a translation provided by Frances Tolmie; Carmichael (1928–71), v, pp. 174–77; Ailean Dughalach (1829), pp. 127–31; Sinclair (1890), pp. 37–39; and Mac-an-Tuairneir (1813), pp. 372–74. It also continued in oral tradition and was recorded from John MacDonald of Highbridge, wnho may be heard relating a similar anecdote and singing the elegy:; as well as
Indeed, such a figure clearly made an impression on Maclean for he wrote in The Highlands (1959) about him most of which was gleaned from John MacDonald, previously mentioned:

About the most noted of Lochaber’s local heroes was Donald Cameron who was factor to the Huntly and Gordon estates in Lochaber during the early part of last century. In tradition he is known as Dòmhnall Mòr Òg (Big Young Donald). He was a powerful figure and an unsurpassed marksman. Many stories are told about him, some of them quite remarkable. A very fine elegy was composed on his death. It ran into sixteen stanzas, and was very popular with old Lochaber singers. One man came into possession of a copy of several stanzas of the song, which were written down in Cape Breton from a descendant of Lochaber stock and mailed across the Atlantic. He was extremely proud of his acquisition and showed the copy of the song to everyone he met. Then one day he met John MacDonald of Highbridge. They met half-way across the bridge at Spean. The copy of the song was produced and the old man read through the five or six stanzas. The other listened with interest and patience. When he finished, John was asked if he knew the song. He did.
“Sing it then,” said the other.
John put his back to the parapet and went through sixteen verses. The other crumpled the paper he held into a ball and threw it into the Spean.
“To the house of the bitch with it!” said he. “That is only half the song.”
The old man was illiterate according to modern standards, yet one song meant as much to him as a herd of prize cattle. So much for the barbarism of the Highlanders!
A story goes that a spirit used to meet Dòmhnall Mòr Òg and it told him when he would die.
“The wife will tell you,” said the spirit. “She will let you know when you are going to die, for you will ask for something and will not get it.”
“In that case, I shall take good note of it,” said Donald. “The wife never refused me anything, but was always good and kind to me.”
“Oh!” said the spirit, “put not your trust in a broken sword. Do you not know that it was the woman who was fanning the fire with her apron when Christ was being crucified so that the smith should make the nails to go in His hands and feet?” The smith said:
“I am afraid that we have not enough fire for four nails.”
“Oh!” said she, “what need have we of four nails?”
“Yes,” said he, “we need four.”
“Put one foot on top of the other and drive the nail through the two and that will secure them,” said she. “You need no more than three nails.”
“Oh! woman,” said he, “in every difficulty in which you ever were there was always a tongue in your mouth to get you out of it. It will be so. There will be only three nails.”
And to this day women are forbidden to fan the fire with their aprons, and they will on no account do it. They all know about this.
The legend about the nails in the Cross is known in many European countries, but the number of nails varies. In Gaelic tradition the woman is invariably master of every situation. “Why is a woman like an echo?” asks the Gaelic riddle. “She will have the last word in spite of you.”
It appears that Dòmhnall Mòr Òg was very fond of the fair sex and his reputation lived long after him. Fifty years after his death and burial in the churchyard of Mucomer, a crofter in the neighbourhood had a very troublesome ram which always chased women, never men. The ram’s behaviour seemed inexplicable until one of the local characters ventured a serious and plausible suggestion.
“Perhaps,” said he, “the ram is really Dòmhnall Mòr Òg.”
The belief that spirits of the dead return in animal form is widespread; it is by no means Highland or Lochaber superstition. Actually there is surprisingly little of what may be termed as superstition in Lochaber. There is very much more among the fishing communities on the east coast of Scotland.
I regret that lamentably little of the fine traditions of Lochaber are being passed on to the younger generations. Men like John MacDonald of Highbridge, Archie Maclnnes of Achaluachrach and the late Allan MacDonell of Inverlochy could stand anywhere on the highway between Fort William and Roy Bridge and name every valley, every stream, every copse and every peak in an absolute sea of mountains as far as the human eye could reach. Their knowledge did not, however, stop at mere names. They knew the why and wherefore of them all.

Apart from updating the orthography, these anecdotes about Dòmhnall Mòr Òg can be given in the transcribed original, followed by translations:

Bha fear ann am Bràigh Inbhir Ruaidh gu h-àrd agus ’s e Dòmhnall Mòr Òg Mac Mhàrtainn a bh’ air. Agus bha an corp aige tighinn a-staigh Gleann na Fionntaig. Dh’òrdaich e a’ cheathrar bu treusa a bhith fon ghiùlan aig Allt nan Reithe. Chaidh a thìodhlacadh ann am Magh Comair, an Geàrr Lòchaidh. ’S e Camshronach a bh’ ann.

There was a man in up in Brae Inveroy called Big Young Donald MacMartin [Cameron]. His corpse was taken from Glenfintag. He requested that the four strongest men should carry him over Allt nan Reithe [Rams’ Burn]. He was buried at Mucomir, Gairlochy. He was a Cameron.

Bha duine anns an dùthaich seo ris an abradh iad Dòmhnall Mòr Òg de dhuine làidir, comasach. Bha e a’ fuireach san Leac Ruaidh gu h-àrd am Bràigh Ghleann Ruaidh anns a’ chrìoch eadar Bàideanach agus Gleann Ruaidh. Agus cò thachair tighinn don àite ach duine foghainteach, sagart anabharrach foghainteach. Agus bha iad airson gu feuchadh Dòmhnall Mòr Òg an deaghaidh dhà a bhith gràinne bhliadhnaichean an sin, gu feuchadh e fhèin agus an sagart car gleachd. Chan fheuchadh Dòmhnall Mòr Òg e, agus bhiodh e ga fheuchainn. Dh’fhalbh an sagart. Dar a dh’fhalbh an sagart, thuirt iad ri Dòmhnall Mòr Òg, carson nach d’fheuch thu car gleachd seo?”
“An-dà,” thuirt e, “bha an t-eagal orm gum biodh e gu h-àrd agus bha dìreach den olc annam nach b’ urrainn domh bràthair mo sheanar a chumail bhuaidh.”
B’ e sin a’ bhiodag. Ach cha d’fheuch iad car gleachd riamh. Agus a dh’innseadh gun robh an sagart foghainteach: bha gille a’ falbh leis agus nam biodh aige ris an abhainn a dhol seachad air Ruaidh an àite cumhang, freagarrach dha fhèin, bheireadh e roid bheag às agus dh’iarradh e air a’ ghille nan dèanadh e sin fuireach aig taobh na h-abhna. Agus anns an roid san dol seachad bheireadh e air a’ ghille na achlais agus leumadh e a-nunn air taobh thall an uisge agus an gille aige na achlais. Tha mi a’ smaoineachdainn an t-ainm a bh’ air an t-sagart a bha sin gur h-e Burns a bh’ air. Agus bhiodh e a’ fuireachd an Gleann Turraid. Agus tha mi a’ creidsinn gu faod sibh a’ dol air ais dà cheud bhon àm sin.

There was a man in this country called Big Young Donald Cameron, who was a strong capable man. He stayed in Lecroy up in the Braes of Glenroy in the borders between in Badenoch and Glenroy. And who happened to come to this place but a strong man, a priest who was extremely strong. They wanted him to challenged Big Young Donald after he had been there many years, that he and the priest should have a wrestling match. But Big Young Donald wouldn’t challenge him although the priest was willing to try. The priest set off and as he did, they asked Big Young Donald why he didn’t challenge him to wrestle?”
“Well,” he replied, “I’m afraid that if he got the upper hand then and that I’d have such a bad wont then even my brother’s grandfather couldn’t be kept away.”
That was the name of the dagger. They never challenged one another to a wrestling match again. And to say how strong the priest was: a lad would travel with him and if he had to cross a river such as the River Roy at a narrow place that would be suitable he’d take a small run and he’d get the lad to stay beside the river. And when he took a run as he went by he’d grab the lad and put him under his armpit and he’d jump over the water with the lad still held in his armpit. I think that the priest’s name was Burns. And he stayed in Glen Turret. I believe it’s around two hundred years ago when this is said to have happened.

Nuair a chaochail Dòmhnall Mòr Òg, duine ainmeil a bha gu h-àrd an Gleann Ruaidh, chaidh fear de na gillean aige fhàgail na àite na rùnair’ aig a’ Ghòrdanach. Agus bha gamhlas aig càch ris gun d’fhuair e an t-àite seo agus ’s ann a chaidh ceathrar an àirde feuch an gabhaidh iad air, agus nam b’ urrainn daibh, a mharbhadh agus gum faigheadh iad fhèin an t-àite aige. Ach bha an duine foghainteach agus dh’aithnich e gur h-e a’ chomhstrì agus an aimhreit a bh’ ann. Agus chaidh iad an grèim ri chèile. Agus chuir e a chùlaibh ris an tallan aige agus ghabh e orra agus chuir e creachdan air an cinn a bha truagh. Thàinig iad a-nuas agus rinn iad a’ chasaid ris a’ mhinistear a bha san àite, duine còir, am ministear Ross. Chaochail e ann an 1822. Ach, co-dhiù:
“Feumaidh mise dà thaobh na naidheachd fhaotainn,” thuirt e.
Chaidh e an àirde a dh’fhaicinn an duine a bha an Gleann Ruaidh. Agus dh’innis e dhà mar a thachair, gun deach iad an àirde ga fhògairt agus a’ feuchainn ri mhilleadh agus an t-àite aige fhaotainn dhaibh fhèin.
“Rinn thu uamhasach math orra,” thuirt e, “is uair sam bith a thèid iad an àirde agus iad ann an coltas comhstrì na aimhreit, na caon am bata orra, ged a dh’fhàgadh tu nan laighe ann an sin iad le ’n cuid fala.”

When Big Young Donald MacMartin-Cameron died, a famous man up in Glenroy, one of his lads took his place as the Gordon’s secretary. The rest were envious of him for getting this position and so four went up to threaten him, and if they could, to murder him so that they could get his position. But he was a powerful man and he knew that there was going to be a struggle and fight. And so they grappled with one another. And he put his back to the wall and he attacked them and gave them head wounds that were most wretched. They came down and complained to the local minister, a kind man called Minister Ross. He died in 1822. But anyway:
“I’ll have to hear both sides of the story,” he said.
He went up to see the other man in Glenroy. He told him what had happened – that they had gone up to evict him and to try and destroy him in order to get his place for themselves.
“You did terribly well with them,” he said, “and anytime they go up and it appears there’s going to be a fight or struggle, then don’t spare the stick, even if you leave them lying there bleeding.”

Bha reithe shìos air Magh Comair air an tuathanas. Agus bha an reithe a bha seo crosda agus bhiodh e as deaghaidh duine sam bith a rachadh ron raon thar an robh e. Dh’fheumadh iad a dhol air taobh na fence, mòran dhiubh. Agus bha e tur dona as deaghaidh nam boireannach. Chan fhaodadh boireannach a dhol mar astar dhan raon air neo bhiodh e as an deaghaidh. Tha e coltach gun robh Dòmhnall Mòr Òg car mar sin nuair a bha e òg cuideachd. Bha sinn ag innseadh na naidheachd, is sinn nar suidhe aig taobh an teine mun dol air adhart a bh’ aig an reithe.
“Ma-tà,” thuirt am bodach a bha a-staigh san oisinn – seann duine. Bhiodh e an uair sin a’ dol suas ri ceithir fichead – “tha mise a’ tuigsinn glè mhath cò fear a th’ ann na dè th’ ann. Chan e reithe ceart a th’ ann idir. ’S e th’ ann Dòmhnall Mòr Òg, am fear a bha gu h-àrd an Gleann Ruaidh. Bha am fasan sin aige riamh. Cha do sguir e dheth fhathast. Is tha e air a thìodhlaiceadh am Magh Comair,” thuirt e, “bho chionn ceud bliadhna ach tha an t-àm aige stad dheth a-nise.”

There was a ram over by Mucomir on a farm. And this ram was hot-tempered and it would chase after anyone who went into the field where it was. They would have to keep to the other side of the fence, many of them. And he was especially terrible for chasing after women. No woman could go anywhere near the field or else he he’d chase them. It would appear that Big Young Donald Cameron-MacMartin was quite like that when he was young. We were listening to the story sitting by the fireside and hearing about the ram’s behaviour.
“Well,” said the old man sitting in the corner who would’ve been up to eighty years of age – “I understand very well who that man is or what it is. He’s not a proper ram at all but rather Big Young Donald Cameron-MacMartin, the man who was upon in Glenroy. He always had that habit. He hasn’t stopped yet. And he was buried in Mucomir,” he said, “a hundred years ago but it’s high time that he stopped it now.”

The elegy or lament mentioned above as well as some background information may now be given:

Bha duine a’ fuireach ann an Gleann Ruaidh ris an abradh iad Dòmhnall Mòr Òg. Agus mar a fhuair e an t-ainm aige, Dòmhnall Mòr Òg, bha dà Dhòmhnall san teaghlach. ’S e seo am fear a b’ òige bha dà Dhòmhnall san teaghlach. ’S e seo am fear a b’ òige agus ’s e Dòmhnall Ruadh Beag a theireadh iad ris an fhear bu shine. Bha Dòmhnall Mòr Òg na dhuine gu math làidir foghainteach, cho làidir ’s a bha an Loch Abar. Bha e a’ fuireach am Bràigh Ruaidh, àite ris an abradh iad Leac Ruaidh. Air turas dhà a’ dol suas rathad Bhàideanach, e fhèi’ agus coimhearsnach dhà, thadhail iad a-staigh aig àite ris an abair iad Siorra Mòr agus chuir iad seachad an oidhche ann an sin. Na bu dè an deasbad a thàinig eatarra anns a’ mhadainn, na feadh na h-oidhche, bha an fheadhainn a bha a-staigh san taigh a’ gabhail iongantas nach tàinig iad a-nuas a ghabhail an biadh-maidne. Chaidh iad an àirde. Fhuair iad a’ chompach mharbh anns an leabaidh agus an uinneag fosgailte agus Dòmhnall Mòr Òg air adhart. Cha robh iad cinnteach ciamar a bha cùisean a’ dol is cha robh cùisean a’ dol ro-mhath do Dhòmhnall Mòr Òg an deaghaidh sin. Tha iad a’ smaoineach’ gun do thachair an spiorad aig an duine seo air bliadhnaichean an deaghaidh sin agus dh’innis e dhà cùine a chaochaileadh e, agus nuair a thigeadh deireadh a lathainnean. Is suarach a bha e ga chreidsinn. Ach thuirt e ris:
“Ceithir uaire fichead mun caochail thu, iarra tu rud air a’ mhnaoi is cha toir i dhut e. ’S e sin crioman ìm,” thuirt e agus:
“O, bha a bhean agam-sa math riamh. Cha dhiùltadh i idir mi.”
“Na cuir thusa earbadh uair sam bith an claidheamh brist na am boireannach. Mar a tha fhios agad, is diugha den teine feàrna ùr, is diugha den digh fìon sean is diugha den domhain an droch-bhean.”
Mar sin dh’aithnich e gun robh na lathainnean aige a’ tighinn gu deireadh. Chuir e fios air coimhearsnach agus thuirt e ris agus thug e làn-earail dha iad a bhith furachail nuair a bhiodh iad ga ghiùlan à Bràigh Ruaidh sìos gu cladh a tha shìos aig Magh Comair ris an abair iad Achadh nan Aibhnichean, iad a bhith furachail a’ dol seachad aig Gleann na Fionntaig air Eas nan Cuilean, gun tigeadh aon spionadh air a’ chiste is air a’ charbad, na daoine bu treasa an Loch Abar a bhith fon ghiùlan. Agus ’s ann mar seo a bha. Dh’fhalbh iad leis. Agus bha e fhèin gu math cinnteach as a’ ghnothach. Bha fiodh, carbad na ciste agus a h-uile dad dhe seo aige air an fharaidh fad seachd bliadhna. Mar a thuirt b’ fhìor. Dar a bha iad a’ dol seachad air an àite a bha seo, thàinig aon spionadh air a’ chiste. Is leig a h-uile nì a bha an ceangal rithe sgreuch mhòr às. Shaoil leotha gun robh e air adhart anns an eas. Chaidh daoine eile gan cuideachadh. Mar sin fhuair iad dhachaigh sàbhailte e chun a chill. Agus tha e na laighe ann an sin gus an latha an-diugh. Agus chaochail e ann an 1775. Chaidh marbhrann a dhèanadh dhà agus bheir mi dhuibh facal na dhà dheth agus ’s ann mar seo a tha e a’ dol:

Is goirt an naidheachd a chualas à Bràigh Uisge Ruaidh:
Chaill sliochd Iain ’ic Mhàrtainn guala làidir nam buadh.
’S lìonmhor h-aon a tha cràiteach ri linn do chàradh san uaigh:
’S beag an t-iongnadh do chàirdean bhith an dràsta fo ghruaim.

’S e bhith gad iargain, a Dhòmhnaill, a dh’fhàg brònach an sluagh:
Is lìonmhor maighdeann is bean òg a chìt’ le deòir ’ruith len gruaidh,
Bhon a chaidh do chòmhdach fon fhòd anns an uaigh,
An ciste ghiuthais nam bòrd nach duisg ceòl gu Latha Luain.

Làmh a losgadh an fhùdair an àird nan stùc-bheanna fuar,
’S e bhith gad thogail air ghiùlan dh’fhàg do mhuinntir fo ghruaim.
Is lèir am blàr ann an dùthaich an deachaidh an ùir ort cho luath,
Gum b’ e fear comhairle is rùn thu, a bh’ aig an Diùc san Taobh Tuath.

Is bha thu iriseil, càirdeil, dèirceach, pàirteach ri bochd,
Uasal companta, bràithreil, ge b’ e càs thigeadh ort:
Bu trom torradh do làimhe an uair a thàrradh tu n trod –
Bhiodh mòr-fheum aig do nàmhaid air lighich gu càradh an lot.

Is ro-mhath a laigheadh an armachd air slios dealbhaidh an laoich:
Paidhir dhag nam ball airgid ’s iad gun chearb air do thaobh,
Biodag ghlas nan cas charraigneach, bannach, airgeadach, daor –
An àm an ceannach bhon mhargadh cha bhiodh tairgse dhiubh saor.

Thig fèileadh is sàr-bhreacan ort am pleatadh gu dlùth,
Boineid ghorm anns an fhasan air chùl bachlach nan lùb,
Osan geàrr an deagh chadaidh, paidhir ghartan bhon bhùth
Air do chalapannan gasda siubhal ghlac agus chùirn.

Sàr-bhiataiche rathaid air an tathaicheadh sluagh,
Gheibhte saor bho do làmhan gach aon latha a’ toirt bhuat:
Nuair a shuidheadh tu ’d chathair, a ghnùis bu fhlathaile snuadh,
Gheibhte sùgradh is aighear an cùirt do thaighe gun ghruaim.

Sàr-bhiadhtaiche dighe ’n àm suidhe ’s taigh-òsd’,
Leat bu shuarach am botal bhith ga chosd aig a’ bhòrd:
Chan fhòghnadh an seipean, leat bu bheag e ri òl,
Ach na tungaichean lìonte air an dìoladh tu n t-òr.

Teanga mhaith-chainnteach, chinnteach, tha blasd gu innseadh gach sgeòil;
Deud shnaighte mar ìobhraidh sa bheul is sìobhalta glòir;
Sùil ghorm is glan lìonte, mar dhriùichd sa mhìn mhadainn cheò,
D’ fhuil mhòrdhalach phrìseil nad ghruaidh air sìoladh mar ròs.

Fear cuirp a b’ fheàrr cumadh bho chrùn do mhullaich gu d’ bhonn,
A’ phreasa ghasda, dheas, dhìreach a dh’fhàs gu mìleant trom:
N àm an creachan a dhìreadh am fear a b’ inntinnich a nì fonn –
Cò bhuinnigeadh gèill strì ort a’ siubhal frìth nan damh donn?

Is tric a laigh thu air d’ uilinn am Munadh Dhruiminn san fhraoch,
Cuilean seang aig do chasan ’s do chuilbhir snaidhte ri d’ thaobh,
A’ gabhail beachd air an adhar ciod b’ e an rathad bha a’ ghaoth,
Ag iarraidh fàth air na daimh ’s do shùil is d’ amharc glè chaol.

Cò an sealgair a thug bàrr ort am bun na ’m bràighe nan gleann,
Eadar crìoch Earra-Ghàidheal agus Bàideanach thall?
Be do roghainn is d’ àbhachd bhith siubhal fàsach nan gleann,
’S ann an deaghaidh do làimhe gheibhte an cnàimh nach biodh gann.

Nuair a sgaoileadh tu an fhaghaid air madainn foghair is dealt’,
Bhiodh do mhial-choin gan taghadh co-meud is do raghainn thoirt leat:
Nuair a leagadh tu an làn-damh ann am fàsach na ’n glaic,
Bhiodh a sgòrnan ga riasladh ann am beul do choin ghlais.

Bu tu nàmhaid a’ choilich is moiche ghoireas air chraobh,
Agus gìomanach eala ’s am faoillinn earraich ri gaoth:
Nuair a thàirneadh tu an acfhainn bhiodh luaidh Shasannach ri taobh,
Is i gun chomas gun astar gu dol dachaigh thar chaol.

’S ann na laighe am Magh Comair a tha an laoch bu shomalta dreach,
A dh’fhàs gu dìreach, deas, loinneil ’s an taobh bha soilleir na bheachd.
Fear a sheasadh am pàirt nam biodh do chàirdean an glais;
Bu tu an cuireach neò-sgàthach gan toirt sàbhailte a-mach.

Ceist nam ban bhon tìr Abrach bho Dhoch an Fhasaidh an fheòir,
Leitir Fhionnlaigh nam badan far an stadadh an slògh,
Bho thaobh Lòchaidh nam bradan ’s bho thaobh Loch Airceig nam bò,
Slàn-ghaisgeach Chloinn Chamshroin laoch dam ainm Dòmhnall Òg.

A man called Dòmhnall Mòr Òg [Big Young Donald] stayed in Glenroy. And this is how he got his name Dòmhnall Mòr Òg: there were two Donalds in the family and he was the youngest; the eldest was Dòmhnall Ruadh Beag [Wee Red-haired Donald]. Dòmhnall Mòr Òg was a man who was quite strong, and hardy, as strong as any in Lochaber. He stayed in place in Braeroy, a place they called Leac Ruaidh [Lecroy]. One time, he and a compantion travelled over to Badenoch and visited place called Siorra Mòr and they spent the night there. Whatever argument that came between them either that morning or during the night those in the house were wondering why they hadn’t made an appearance for their breakfast. They went up to take a look and his companion was found dead in the bed and the window was open but Dòmhnall Mòr Òg had gone. They werent quite sure what to make of this but things weren’t going too well for Dòmhnall Mòr Òg after that. They reckon that he met his companion’s spirit many years later who told him when he was going to die, and when he was nearing the end of his days. It was with difficuly that he believed but he said to him:
“Twenty-four hours before you die, you will ask your wife for something and she’ll refuse to give it to you. It’ll be a bit of butter,” and he replied:
“Oh, my wife was always good to me and she’d not refuse me anything.”
“Don’t put your trust at any time in a broken sword or a woman. As you know, a fire is worse off with new alder, good wine is worse off when mixed with old and worse than the devil is a bad wife.”
And thus he knew that he days were coming to an end. He sent for a neighbour and spoke with him and gave him a stern warning that they had to be careful when they were carrying him from Braeroy down to the cemetry down at Mucomer at a place they called Achadh nan Aibhnichean, as they had to be careful going by Gleann na Fionntaig at Eas nan Cuilean, that there would be one pull on the coffin bier and so the strongest men in Lochaber would have to carry it. And this is how things turned out. They set off with him. And he himself was quite sure about these matters. The wood, the bier of the coffin and everything else had been ready for the wake for the past seven years. It was true that which was said. When they were going by this place, there was a pull on the coffin and all the things that tied it together gave out a great screech. They thought that he was ahead of them in the waterfall. Other men went over to help them. And so they got him home safe to the churchyard. And he lies there to this very day. He died in 1775. An elegy was composed for him and I’ll give you one or two words of it and it goes like this:

Sore is the news that has come upon us from the head of the River Roy:
The line of Iain MacMartin has lost a strong and oustanding support.
Many a one is grief-stricken since you were laid in the grave:
Small wonder that your friends should be mourning at this time.

It is grief for you, Donald, that has left the folk all sorrowful:
Many a maiden and young woman have tears running down their cheeks
Since the day you were covered by the turf of your grave
In the coffin of pine boards which music will not rouse till Doomsday.

Expert hand at firing powder on the cold craggy mountain peaks,
Raising you on the bier has left your kin all wretched:
There’s an obvious gap in our country since the earth closed so soon over you.
Counsellor and confidant to the Duke [of Gordon] in the North.

You were modest and kindly, charitable and generous to the needy,
Noble, friendly and brotherly in every trouble you faced:
Heavy the harvest of your band when you joined the fray –
Your enemy would have a great need of a surgeon to treat his wounds.

Well would the weapons suit the warrior’s shapely flank:
A pair of pistols trimmed with silver in good order by your side,
A steely dirk with gnarled haft, banded, silver-cast, costly –
Buying these at market their price would not be cheap.

Well would you carry the kilt of a fine plaid closely pleated,
A fashionable blue bonnet on your curling wavy locks,
Short-hose of fine cloth, a pair of shop-bought garters,
On your shapely calves, ranging over hollows and cairns.

Most generous of hosts to wayfarers, to whom the crowds flocked,
Gladly given from your hand your daily largesse:
When you sat in your high seat, most princely of countenance,
Joy and merriment would fill the courts of your happy house.

Most generous with drink, when sitting in the tavern,
You would think it mean to put down a bottle on the board:
The quart would not do, you could call it short measure,
You would rather full turns that you paid for in gold.

A gentle assured tongue to give grace to every tale,
Shapely teeth like ivory in the most elegantly-spoken mouth,
A blue eye full and sparkling like a dewdrop on a fine misty morning,
Your proud high-born blood blooming on your cheeks like a rose.

Man of the most perfect form from the hair of your head to the sole of your foot,
A fine, handsome, straight body, soldierly and mighty:
When climbing the steep slopes most keen-spirited –
Who would outplace you ranging the haunts of the red deer?

Many a time you lay on your elbow among the heather on Drummond Moor,
A lithe young hound at your feet, your graven culiver by your side,
Studying the sky for the direction of the wind,
Taking note of the stags, your eye watching them closely.

Where was there a hunter to beat you, high or low in the glens,
Between the bounds of Argyll and Badenoch yonder?
It was your wish and your delight to roam the wild hills:
When you shot was fired the spoils would be rich.

When you set out for the hunt on a dewy Autumn morning
You would pick as many of your hounds as you chose to bring:
When you brought down the great stag in the wilds of the hollows,
Its throat would be mauled by your greyhound’s jaws.

You were the foe of the moorcock that calls earliest from a branch,
And the stalker of the swan on a raised beach in spring:
When you pulled the trigger English lead would pierce her side,
Leaving her feeble and powerless to go home over the narrows.

In Mucomir lies the warrior of shapeliest form,
Who grew upright, fine, comely, a hero whose views were clear,
One who would stand up for your friends if they were in distress:
You were the fearless hero to bring them out safe.

Darling of the women of Lochaber, from Dochanassie of the meadows,
From Letterfinlay of the thickets where many would call,
From the banks of the Lochy of the salmon to the side of Loch Arkaig of the cattle,
Perfect hero of Clan Cameron, a warrior whose name was Young Donald.

And for the sake of comparision, the version as printed in Ailean Dugalach’s book may be reprinted as given from that source:

Cumha do Dhomhnull Camshron, a dh’eug ann an Lichd-ruaidh, an Lochabar, do’n gairmte gu cumanata Domhnull mor òg.
AIR FONN― “’S tearc an diugh mo chuis ghaìre,”

’S GOIRT an naidheachd so thainig
Oirnn bho bhraigh uisge Ruaidh,
Chaill sliochd Iein-ic-Mhartuinn
Guala laidir nam buadh:
’S lionmhor neach a bha craiteach
Ri linn do chàradh ’s an uaigh,
’S beag an t-ioghnadh do chairdean
A bhi ’n drasda fo ghruaim.

’S e bhi t-iarguinn a Dhomhnuill,
A dh’fhag brònach an sluagh,
’S lionmhor maighdean, ’s bean òg,
A chite deoir air an gruaidh,
An latha chàireadh fo ’n fhod
An t-saoidh mhor bha ’n Lichd-ruaidh,
An ciste ghiubhais nam bord,
’S nach duisg le ceol gu la-luain.

Lamh a losgadh an fhùdair
’N ard na’n stuchd-bheannaibh fuar,
’S e do thogail air ghiulan
A dh’ fhag do mhuinntir cho truagh;
’S lear a bhlà air do dhuthaich
Gu ’n deach’ an ùir ort co luath,
’S gu ’m b’ fhear comhairle ’s rùin thu,
Aig an Diuchd ’s an taobh-tuath.

Bha thu iriosail, cairdeil,
Déirceach, puirteach, ri bochd,
Uasal, combanda, braithreil,
Nam b’e sid càs an d’thigt’ ort;
’S bu trom toradh do laimhe,
’N uair a tharladh tu ’n trod,
’S bhiodh mor fheum aig do namhaid
Air leigh gu càradh a lot.

’S ro mhath laidheadh an armachd
Air slios dealbhach an laoich,
Paidhir dhag nam ball airgid;
’S iad gun chearb air do thaobh,
Biodag ghlas a’s cas chairgneach,
Bhannach, airgiodach, dhaor,
’S an àm an ceannach bho ’n mhargadh,
Cha bhiodh tairgse dhiubh saor.

Thigeadh féileadh sàr-bhreachdain
Ort am pleatadh gu dlù,
Boineid ghorm ann san fhasan,
Air chul-bachlach nan lùb,
’S osain ghearr an deagh-chadaidh,
’S paidhir ghartan bho ’n bhùth,
Air do chalpanan gasda,
Shiubhladh glachdan a’s cuirnn.

Sàr bhiatach an rathaid
Air an tadhaicheadh sluagh,
Gheibhte sonas a d’ lamhaibh,
’S gach aon latha toirt uait’;
’N uair a shuidheadh tu d’ chathair,
A ghnuis bu fhlathala snuadh,
Gheibhte sùgradh a’s aidhear,
An cuirt do thighe gun ghruaim.

Sàr bhiatach na dìbhe
An àm suidhe ’s tigh-òsd’,
Ort bu shuarach ani botull,
A bhi ga chosd air a’ bhord;
Cha ’n fhoghnadh a’ seipean,
Leat bu bheag e ri òl,
Ach na tunnachan lionta
Air an diòladh tu an t-òr.

Teanga mhacanta chinnteach,
Bu bhlasd’ dh’innseadh gach sgeòil,
Do dheud shnaighte mar ibhri’,
’S a bheul bu shiobhalta gloir;
Suil ghorm bu ghlan lionadh,
Mar dhriuchd ’sa mhin mhaduinn cheo;
’S an fhuil mhoralachd, phriseil,
Na d’ ghruaidh air sioghladh mat ros.

Fhir a chuirp a b’ fhearr cuma',
Bho chrun do mhullaich gu d’ bhonn,
Pearsa ghasda dheas dhireach,
Dh’ fhas gu mìleanta, trom,
’N àm an creachunn a dhireadh,
Fhir a b’ inntinneach fonn,
Co bhuidhneadh geall stri ort,
A’ siubhal frith na ’n damh-donn.

Co sealgair thug bàr ort,
Am bun, no ’m braigh na’n gleann,
Eadar crioch Arraghaidheal,
Agus Baideanach thall?
B’e do roghuinn a’s t-ailgheas
Bhi ’siubhal fasaich a’s bheann,
’S ann an deoighidh do laimhe,
Gheibhte ’n cnaimh nach biodh gann.

Nuair a sgaoileadh tu ’n fhaoghaid
’S a mhaduinn fhoghair ri dealt,
Bhiodh do mhiol-choin ’g an taghadh
Gu d’ mhiann ’s do roighinn thoirt leat:
Nuair a leagadh tu ’n lan-damh,
Am fasach na ’n glachd,
Bhiodh a scornan ’g a riosladh
Ann am bial do choin ghlais.

’S tric a laidh thu air t-uilinn,
A’ monadh Dhrumainn ’s an fhraoch,
Cuilein seang aig do chasaibh,
’S do chuilbheir snaighte ri d’ thaobh,
Aig gabhail beachd air an adhar,
Ciod e bu rathad do ’n ghaoith’,
Ag iarraidh fàth air na damhaibh,
’S do shuil ’san amharc gu caol.

Bu tu namhaidh a’ choilich
Is moch a ghoireadh ’s a chraoidh,
Agus giomanach, eala,
’S an Fhaoileach earraich ri gaoith’;
Nuair a thairneadh tu ’n acfhuinn
Bhiodh luaidhe Shas’nach na taobh,
’S i gun chomas, gun astar,
Gu dol dhachaìdh thair caol.

’S ann na laidhe ’m Muccomair,
Tha ’n laoch bu shomalta dreach,
Dh’ fhas gu h-aillidh deas foinnidh,
’S an t-saoidh bha soilleir na bheachd;
Fhìr a sheasadh am pairt,
Nam biodh do chairdean an glais,
’S bu tu ’n curaidh neo-sgathach,
Gu ’n toirt sabhailte mach.

Ceisd nam ban bho ’n tir Abraich,
Bho Dhoch-an-asaich an fheoir,
Bho Leitir Fhionlaidh na ’m badan,
Far a stadadh na sloigh,
Bho Lòdhchaidh na’m bradan,
’S bho Loch-airceig na’m bo,
Làn-ghaisgeach chloinn-Chamshroin,
An laoch da ’m b’ ainm Domhnull òg.

So there we have some interesting traditions about a local hero and also an extremely good exmaple of an elegy woven together with skill and apposite imagery that had been the stock in trade for Gaelic bards over the centuries.

Anon., “Sealgair agus am Fiadh”, Mac-Talla vol. III, no. 30 (26 January 1895), p. 8
Lucy E. Broadwood, Frank Howes, A. G. Gilchrist and A. Martin Freeman, “Twenty Gaelic Songs”, Journal of the Folk-Song Society, vol. 8, no. 35 (December 1931), pp. 280–303 [where the air is given and a translation provided by Frances Tolmie]
Alexander Carmichael (coll.) (1928–71). Carmina Gadelica [Ortha nan Gàidheal]: Hymns and Cantations, James Carmichael Watson and Angus Matheson (eds.). 6 vols. (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd (vols. 1–5); Scottish Academic Press (vol. 6), 2nd ed.), vol. 5 (1958), pp. 174–77
Ailean Dughalach, Orain, Marbhannan agus Duanagan Ghaidhealach (Inbheirnis: Alastair Mac-an-Toisich, 1829), pp. 127–131
John MacDonald (Highbridge, Brae Lochaber), “Dòmhnall Mór Òg”, Tocher, no. 39 (Spring 1985), pp. 162–68
Paruig Mac-an-Tuairneir, Comhchruinneacha do dh’òrain taghta Ghàidhealach (Duneidionn: T. Stiubhard, 1813), pp. 372–74].
Calum I. Maclean, The Highlands (Inbhirnis: Club Leabhar, 1975), pp. 35–36
Alasdair Maclean Sinclair (ed.), Comhchruinneachadh Ghlinn-a-Bhaird: The Glenbard Collection of Gaelic Poetry (Charlottetown, P. E. Island: G. Herbert Haszard; Montreal: William Drysale & Co.; Edinburgh: James Thin, 1890), pp. 37–39
NB SSS 1, pp. 12
NB SSS 3, pp. 271–79
NB SSS 4, pp. 271–79
NB SSS 4, pp. 473–74
NB SSS 8, pp. 709–10

Glenroy, Brae Lochaber

1 comment:

  1. Do you think this is the same D. Mor Og as in MacDougall & Calder’s (1910) tale of D. Mor Og and the Glaistig na Buidheinnich?