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Friday 4 January 2013

Cleachdadh Calluin – New Year Customs

John MacDonald of Highbridge
The following short anecdotes concerning New Year customs were recorded by Calum Maclean from John MacDonald of Highbridge and transcribed by him on 13 January 1951, the very day that marks New Year’s Day old style. It was probably the case that the Old New Year was still within living memory at this time for it used to be kept in some if not many parts of the Highlands. One of the last places where it was said to have been kept was in nearby Blarmacfoldach (or Blàr Mac Faoilteach), lying in the Mamore Hills just outside Fort William:

Seann-chleachdadh a bha ac(hc)a aig a’ Challainn, aig a’ Bhliadhna Ùr, mar a their iad. Bhiodh iad a’ dol a choimhead air a chéile, na coimhearsnaich, agas chan fhaigheadh duine a staigh do thaigh mur a gabhadh e rann aig an dorust. Bhiodh an duine air cùl an doruis agas theireadh e riutha: “Gabh do rann ma faigh thu a staigh” agas badan de chuileann aige. Is a chuile duine mar a bha a’ gabhail an rann is a’ dol a staigh, bha e ’ga bhualadh air ’s na luirignean. Agas mar a tigeadh fuil as theireadh iad:

“Cha bhidh an duine ad fada beò.”

Agas seo agat pàirst do na rannan a bhitheadh iad a’ gabhail:

“Gobhar mhór a bh’ againn Oidhche Choille
Chan fhàgadh i braighdean air gamhainn,
Chan fhàgadh i coinneal an coinnlear,
Is chan fhàgadh i broin an cailleach.
Chan ’eil gaol agam air ìm,
Is chan ’eil gràdh agam air càis,
Ach an rudan beag a tha ’s’ bhuideal
Tha mo shlugan air a thì.”

Seo fear eile dhiubh:

“Thaine mi a seo gun sireadh
Bho bhun an t-sreachda aig Beinn Nibheis –
Cuideachd òìgridh uallach, aoidheil, suairce
Aig am biodh na cruachan feòir ’s’ gheamhradh
Mar chruachan mòine a’s t-samhradh.
Siuthadaibh, illean, òlaibh uile,
’N uair a theirigeas seo, gheibh sinn tuillidh.
Tarrainn do bhogha fad’, fhìdlear,
Is dannsaidh sinn cho fad is a chì sinn.”

And the translation goes something like this:
An old custom they had at Hogmanay, at the New Year, as they’d say, they would go to visit one another, the neighbours and no one could gain entrance to a house if they didn’t recite a verse at the door. The man would stand behind the door and he’d say to them: “Recite your verse before you get in” and he had a bunch of holly in his hand. And everyone who who recited the verse as they went in would be struck on the calf and if no blood was drawn then they’d say:

“That man hasn’t long to live.”

And here you have part of a verse that they used to recite:

The big goat (i.e. wind?) we had on New Year’s Eve
It wouldn’t leave a stirk tethered
It wouldn’t leave the candle on a stick
It wouldn’t leave the old woman’s belly (perhaps a reference to the harvest maiden?)
I’ve no love for butter
I’ve no love for cheese
But a little bit from the cask
My throttle is in quest of.”

And there is another one of them:

“I came here without seeking
From the snowy base of Ben Nevis –
Young affable, kind, gallant company
Who would make haystacks in wintertime
Just like peat-hags in summer,
Go on lads, have a drink,
When this is finished, we’ll get more.
Draw your bow long, fiddler,
And we’ll dance as far as we can see.”

SSS NB 10, pp. 951–52

John MacDonald of Highbridge, courtesy of the School of Scottish Studies Archives.

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