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Wednesday 28 August 2013

MacGregors in Tirandrish

Legion are the stories about the MacGregors especially once their very name had been proscribed. The story of how this came about is too long to give here other than to say that it came about in the aftermath of the Battle of Glenfruin fought in 1603. The MacGregors had already earned themselves an unenviable reputation even before that when they were accused of the murder of John Drummond of Drummond-Ernoch. The actual murder had been committed in 1589 as an act of vengeance by some of the MacDonalds of Glencoe. The personal affront to King James earned the MacGregors, who, it would seem, were found guilty by association—and on whom the blame for the murder was firmly pinned, despite the fact that they had not taken any part in it—the extreme displeasure of the Privy Council:
The Lordis of Secrete Counsaill being credibillie informeit of the cruell and mischievous procedings of the wicked Clan Gregour, sa lang continewing in blude, slauchtaris, heirshippis, manifest reiffis and stouthis, commit upoun his Hienes peceable and gude subjectis inhabiting the cuntreyis ewest the Brayis of the Hielandis…
Indeed, ‘the wicked Clan Gregour’, following the Battle of Glenfruin, suffered a political disaster: not only were they outlawed, but their name very name was proscribed and under such conditions they became a broken clan, many of whom were reduced to being caterans. This brief historical sketch provides a bit of context for the following short historical anecdote which was taken down by Calum Maclean from the recitation of John MacDonald, Highbridge, Brae Lochaber, on the 20th of January 1951:
A’s an àm san robh Cloinn ’ic Griogair air an ruaig, thàinig seachdnar aca a dh’ ionnsaigh àite ris an abair iad Tìr an Dris ann an Loch Abar. Chum am fear a bha an Tìr an Dris iad. ’S e Dòmhnallach a b’ ainm dhà. Chum e ann an uamhaidh bheag iad air cùl an taighe fad seachd bliadhna. Is ’n uair a bha na seachd bliadhna suas, dh’fhàs na Griogaraich car ladarna dhiubh fhèin. Agus bha e coltach gum biodh an t-àite aca dhaibh fhèin. Dè bh’ ann ach gun do dh’fhalbh am bodach agus gun do bhrath e iad, an Dòmhnallach. Agus thàinig feadhainn air adhart agus chaidh am marbhadh. Agus tha iad air an tìodhlacadh beagan bhon taigh air Tìr an Dris gus an latha an-diugh, an seachdnar dhiubh. Agus tha suaicheantas aca anns a’ chladh bheag a tha seo, an giuthas. Mar sin tha gràinne mhòr bhliadhnaichean bhuaith agus bha an uair seo am bodach a’ faicinn samhladh a’ tighinn a-staigh dhan taigh. Bha e a’ gabhail iongantas dè an samhladh a bha seo a bha a’ tighinn a-staigh. Agus bha an ceann dheth agus bhiodh fèileadh air. Agus bha an t-ath-shealladh aige agus bha fhios aige air duine anns an àite aig an robh an t-ath-shealladh na b’ fheàrr na e fhèin. Dh’innis e dha an rud a bha e a’ faicinn a’ tighinn a-staigh dhan taigh, an samhladh a bha seo:
“An tig thu còmh’ rium a-nochd?”
“Thig,” thuirt e.
Dh’fhuirich iad is aig an aon àm sònraichte a bha seo, thàinig an samhladh a bha sin a-staigh. Agus bha iad a’ coimhead air. Thuirt Fear Tìr an Dris ris a’ choigreach eile:
“A bheil thu ga aithneachdainn?”
Dh’fhuirich e sàmhach na thosd:
“Innis cò th’ ann,” thuirt e, “ged a b’ e mi fhìn a bhiodh ann.”
“Is tu fhèin a th’ ann,” thuirt e. “Agus bi air do shìor-fhaiceall,” thuirt e. “’S ann o thaobh do chùil a thèid an ceann a thoirt dhìot.”
Agus dh’fhuirich iad sàmhach. Agus beagan an deaghaidh sin, theagamh sia miosan, thàinig daoine an rathad, coltas daoine eireachdail, uasal, bàidheil orra. Agus ghabh am bodach aoibh riutha agus thug e don taigh iad. Is dh’fhuirich iad leis fad na h-oidhche. Is leis cho coibhneil is a bha e dh’fhalbh e sa mhadainn, mar a bha e na chleachdadh anns an dùthaich seo am measg nan Gàidheal gu rachadh iad ceum leis a’ choigreach. Agus dh’fhuirich fear dhiubh air deireadh mar gum biodh e a’ dol a dhùnadh a bhròg. Agus thàinig e air adhart agus càch a’ cumail bruidhinn ris agus chuir e an ceann don bhodach leis a’ chlaidheamh. Bha iad a’ gabhail iongantais aig an taigh nach robh an duine a’ tighinn. Is dh’fhalbh iad. Fhuair iad marbh e mu leth-mhìle seachad air an taigh. Chaidh càrn a thogail ann. Agus tha e ann gus an latha an-diugh. Ach tha e furasda gu leòr an uaigh aig na Griogaraich fhaicinn. Anns a’ chladh bheag a tha sin.
And the translation goes something like this:
At the time when the MacGregors were on the run, seven of them came to  a place called Tirandrish in Lochaber. The tacksman of Tirandrish looked after them. He was a MacDonald. He kept them in a small cave at the back of the house for seven years. And when the seven years had passed, the MacGregors had become rather impudent. It looked as if they would get the place to themselves. It so happened that that old man set out and he betrayed them. A posse came and killed them. And they are buried not far from Tirandrish house where they remain to this very day, the seven of them. And they have their emblem – the pine – to mark their graves in the small cemetery. Many years afterward the old man saw a ghost entering his house. It was headless and was wearing a kilt. He possessed the second-sight but he knew another man in the district who had the second-sight even better than himself. He told him the thing that he saw entering his house, this ghost:
“Will you accompany me tonight?”
“Yes,” he said.
They stayed in and at the appointed time, the ghost entered. They looked at it. The Tirandrish man said to the other stranger:
“Do you recognise him?”
He remained quiet contemplating:
“Tell me who it is,” he asked, “even if it’s myself.”
“It’s you,” he answered. “And you’ll have to be very much on your guard,” he said, “for your heard will be cut off from behind.”
And they remained silent. A short time afterwards, perhaps six months or so, a few men came by the way who were handsome, noble and kindly. And the old man made them welcome and took them back to his house. They stayed with him overnight. Seeing that they were so kindly he accompanied them in the morning, following a Highland habit to walk part of the way with a stranger. And one of them lurked behind pretending to tie his shoelaces. He came forward and whilst the others kept him talking he cut off the old man’s heard with the blow of his sword. They were worried back at the house that the old man had not returned. They set off. They found him dead about half-a-mile from the house. They built a cairn where he remains to this day. But it is easy to make out the MacGregor graves in the small cemetery.
Writing in his book The Highlands (1959), Calum Maclean gives a brief mention of the story which in all likelihood stems from the above source: “A wealth of tradition has sprung up around the unfortunate Clan Gregor. MacDonell of Tirandrish in Lochaber sheltered seven MacGregors for many years. Finally he became so afraid of incurring the ire of the authorities and a ruinous fine that he had them dispatched. In a spot about a mile east of Spean Bridge and right on the banks of the river there are, or were, seven pine trees to mark the graves of the MacGregors. Some of the trees were recently cut down, much to the annoyance of the older people in the area.” Another and a fuller version of the story was printed some forty years previously in a book entitled Glen-Albyn or Tales and Truths of the Central Highlands and is here reproduced in full:
One well-known tale which brings the Macgregors before us in a very honourable light may be worth recording here. The son of Macgregor of Glen Strae out hunting one day fell in with the young laird of Lamont and a companion travelling towards Inverlochy. They passed the day together and in the evening sat down to dinner. During the course of the meal a quarrel arose, dirks were drawn, and young Macgregor was slain. Lamont at once leapt out of the room and fled, closely pursued by some of the slain man’s retainers. Fleet of foot he outstripped his foes, and by chance ran for protection to the very house of Glen Strae where young Macgregor’s father dwelt. Without stating whom he had slain, Lamont implored Glen Strae’s assistance. At once the old chief passed his word to protect him as far as in him lay. Almost directly after up rushed the members of the clan in hot pursuit, and angrily cried out for the murderer to be delivered up to them in atonement for the blood he had shed. But the brave old chief on learning whom he had captured, cried out, “Not a hair of his head shall be touched while he is under my roof-tree. Glen Strae has pledged his honour, and never shall it be said that a Macgregor went back on his word.” Later the chief himself secretly escorted the youth out of the Macgregor country to his own land, and bidding him farewell said, “Lamont, you are safe now upon your own ground. I cannot and will not protect you any further. Keep away from my people, and may God forgive you for what you have done!” Lamont was not ungrateful, and shortly afterwards when Glen Strae with his family was proscribed, destitute, and a wanderer, the young man received them into his house and for a time protected them from their enemies. But the Philistines were too strong, and the honest old chief was treacherously “done to death” by Argyle, and hanged at the Market Cross in Edinburgh.
The little band who had fled to Lochaber, and who had for a time eluded the pursuit by drowning the dogs…lived in a cave at the back of Tir na Dris, about a mile from Spean Bridge. They were finally hunted down by relentless foes, and a clump of trees marks the spot where the three made their last gallant stand. Some years ago a gentleman of the district, anxious to prove the truth of the tradition, dug up the grave and found three skeletons. He then removed them to the banks of the burn on the east side of Tir na Dris, about a hundred yards below where the bridge on the high road crosses the stream. Three fir trees – the badge of the clan – mark the spot where they now lie buried.
A few months later John MacDonald showed Calum Maclean the very place in which the MacGregors were said to have been buried, as related in the following diary entry:
Didòmhnaich, 13 A’ Chèitean 1951
Chaidh mi dhan Aifreann tràth sa mhadainn an-diugh agus ghabh mi air mo shocair a’ chuid eile den latha gus an tàinig Iain MacDhòmhnaill a-nuas mu chòig uairean. Thug sinn uair na dhà air na naidheachdan an uair sin agus chuir e an àireamh suas gu ceithir cheud is a deich air fhichead. Bha feasgar brèagha ann agus chòisich Iain agus mi fhìn a-mach air sràid. Chaidh sinn suas gu Tìr na Drise a choimhead air an àite anns an deach na Griogaraich a thìodhlacadh. Bha seachdnar dhiubh ann agus iad air fògradh. Chum Fear Thìr na Dris iad fad sheachd bliadhna ann an uamhaidh. Bhràth e mu dheireadh iad. Chaidh am marbhadh agus an cur còmhla an cladh beag shìos ri taobh na h-aibhne. Dh’fhàs craobhan giuthais, suaicheantas nan Griogarach air an uaigh. Chaidh trì dhe na craobhan a ghearradh am bliadhna. Thill sinn air ais a Dhrochaid Aonachain agus thug sinn greis eile a’ còmhradh mun deach sinn dhachaigh.
Sunday, 13 May 1951
I attended Mass early this morning and was at my leisure for the remaining part of the day until John MacDonald arrived at five o’ clock. We spent an hour or two on the stories then and made the running total up to four hundred and thirty. It was a beautiful evening when John and I went out to take a walk. We went up to Tirandrish to take a look at the place where the MacGregors were buried. Seven of them were on the run and MacDonald of Tirandrish kept them hidden for seven years in a cave. He eventually betrayed them. They were murdered and placed in a little cemetery beside the river. Pine trees, the symbol of the MacGregors, grew on their grave. Three of the trees were cut down this year. We returned to Spean Bridge and we spent a while conversing before we went home.
SSS NB 1, pp. 55–57
Andrew J. Macdonald, Glen-Albyn or Tales and Truths of the Central Highlands (Fort Augustus: The Abbey Press, 1920), pp. 4–5
Calum I. Maclean, The Highlands (London: Batsford, 1959)
Pine trees, a MacGregor symbol

Friday 23 August 2013

Hugh MacKinnon of Eigg

One of the last great tradition bearers from the isle of Eigg was undoubtedly Hugh MacKinnon (1894–1972), a crofter and postman, who could trace his lineage back several generations to families such as the MacQuarries and MacCormicks. MacKinnon married Mary MacDonald and had issue, two sons called Angus and Archibald, and two daughters called Christina and Peggy. All of them were brought up on the croft, situated in Cleadale to the north of the island, which had been in the possession of the family since the mid-nineteenth century. 
Calum Maclean (1915–1960) visited the Small Isles in 1946 and still found a great deal of songs and stories to record and transcribe, especially on the isle of Eigg. His initial regret though was that he arrived too late to take anything down from old Duncan MacLellan, a renowned tradition bearer who had scores and scores of songs and stories but who had, unfortunately, passed on a year before. What Maclean may have lost with the passing of this storyteller was probably more than made up by Hugh MacKinnon. 
In Eigg I stayed with my writer friend, George Scott-Moncrieff. Our nearest neighbour was Hugh MacKinnon, postman of the island, and one of the most charming characters I have met on this sojourn in the Isles. With him I spent most of my time in Eigg. Every evening for a month I carried my Ediphone on my shoulders across the fields to his house and set it down on his table. Every story he knew, every scrap of local and historical tradition, every song he remembered was sung or spoken into that machine. 
Maclean even wrote a three-page account of his collecting in Eigg for an Irish periodical Comhar which appeared in the December issue of 1946. Elsewhere, Maclean was clearly impressed with MacKinnon’s poetic ability and also with his linguistic skills:
He himself was the bard of the island. He could compose songs almost extempore, and every event of local interest occasioned a new song. Hugh MacKinnon was a very facile speaker both in Gaelic and English. For a man who did not have more than a primary school education he had a surprising command of English. He could name every field, stream, rock, and hillock, on the island.
During his stay on Eigg, Maclean found that the weather was rather inclement but when the sun decided to show herself then who better to show him round the island as a guide than MacKinnon:
It rained incessantly during my stay in Eigg. One weekend the sun did show itself. With Hugh MacKinnon I climbed the cliffs that overlook the township of Cleadale. From there I could see Skye and the Cuillins to the north-east. That was the first time I had seen the Cuillins from that direction. In my boyhood I had been used to looking at them from the east. Away to the west was Barra. On fine evenings the islands of Barra could be seen looming on the western horizon. Sometimes one island only was visible, at other times several. But they begun to intrigue me. I decided to go to Barra.
Fr. Anthony Ross, who also had the pleasure of knowing MacKinnon, writes a fitting tribute to the storyteller’s diction and style:
He was an eloquent man. His words were carefully chosen for accuracy of meaning and for beauty of rhythm and sound, pondered and uttered without haste. Not only was his voice eloquent. All who knew him will remember an astonishing mobility of facial and bodily gesture, the movement of his eyes, the lift of an eyebrow or shoulder which gave emphasis to his words. The whole man communicated, alert always to the response of his listeners.
MacKinnon had an intimate knowledge of the island’s tradition, such as genealogy, place-names, historical lore as well as songs:
He loved Eigg and its traditions passionately, but jealously guarding his community against scorn or disrespect from the outside world. He had to be sure of those he was speaking to before opening the treasure-house.
In conversation with the late Donald Archie MacDonald, MacKinnon said that he got most of his lore from his maternal uncle, Angus MacCormick, styled Aonghas Fhionnlaigh, who died in 1927 when Hugh himself would have been in his mid-twenties. Perhaps Fr. Ross put it best when he wrote of MacKinnon’s deep knowledge of his native island and the many traditions which had come down to him from his maternal uncle as well as others who had told him of Eigg’s history and people:
His mind moved freely in time, in a way that was disconcerting at first to those who did not know him. It was as though he lived in the whole tradition of the community as his immediate experience, referring to three hundred years ago as easily as to the events of the previous year, talking about people from the past with the warmth given to personal friends or acquaintances, and often with well-phrased humour.
Hugh passed not a few of his traditions onto his son Angus, styled Aonghas a’ Charaidh, who, after retiring as an army engineer, returned to the family croft in Eigg. With the passing of Hugh in 1972 and Angus, at the age of seventy-three in 2000, a long line of Eigg tradition bearers came to an end and their lore would have gone to their graves if it were not for dedication and effort of a number of fieldworkers from the Irish Folklore Commission and the School of Scottish Studies.
Tocher, vol. 10 (1973) [volume dedicated to Hugh MacKinnon]
The photograph of Hugh MacKinnon weeding potatoes in June 1963 was taken by Edinburgh-born author Alasdair Alpin MacGregor (1899–1970)

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Gàidheil Èireann agus am Beul-aithris

Ged nach do nochd an t-uamhas ann an clò le Calum an Tàilleir, tha na sgrìobh e aig àrd ìre agus tha na beachdan a chuir e an cèill daonnan inntinneach. Chaidh am pìos seo a chlò-bhualadh anns an iris air an robh Alba: A Scottish Miscellany in English and Gaelic. Airson adhbhar air choreigin, cha do mhair an iris seo fada idir ach thàinig Gairm na h-àite beagan bhliadhnaichean as a deaghaidh. ’S e cuspair glè fhaisg air a chridhe a bh’ ann am beul-aithris agus anns an robh e mion-eòlach. Chuir e seachad seachd bliadhna ann an Èirinn eadar an costa an iar agus Baile Átha Cliath cho math ris na h-àiteachan eile eatarra air an robh e eòlach. Anns an artaigil ghoirid seo, thug Calum an Tàilleir sùil air ais ann an eachdraidh na beul-aithris ann an Èirinn agus ann an Alba agus na cothroman a dh’fhaodadh a bhith ann gus spionnadh a thoirt air a’ ghnothaich ann an Alba. Chaidh seo a sgrìobhadh ceithir bliadhna bhon a chaidh Sgoil Eòlais na h-Alba a chur air bhonn aig Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann ann an 1951:
Ma chuireas sinn saothair nan Gàidheal an Albainn is an Èirinn air sgàth an cànaine is air sgàth an litreachais, a tha air a sgrìobhadh le làimh no air aithris le beul, an coimeas ri chèile, cha ghann nach tig rud neònach am follais.
Ma thèid sinn air ais don bhliadhna 1889, bha sinne an Albainn air aon dòigh air thoiseach air na h-Èireannaich. Bha Iain Òg Ìle againn. Bha an Dr Alasdair MacGilleMhìcheil is an t-Urr. Iain MacGriogair Caimbeul an dèidh sgeulachdan a chruinneachadh is a chur an clò ann an leabhraichean Comann Gàidhlig Inbhir Nis. Bha daoine eile ann cuideachd a chruinnich is a chuir sgeulachdan an clò anns a’ Ghàidheal (1871–1877).
An uair sin thàinig leabhraichean beul-aithris bhon Mhorair Gilleasbuig Caimbeul (1889), an Urr. D. MacAonghais (1890), an Urr. Seumas MacDhùghaill (1891), is an Urr. Iain MacGriogair Caimbeul (1891 is 1895). Anns a’ bhliadhna 1889, chuir an Dr Dubhghlas de h-Ídhe a Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta a-mach an Èirinn. Eadar sin is a’ bhliadhna 1916, chuir e ceithir leabhraichean beul-aithris eile ann an clò. Ach ma rinn e sin cha robh e na aonar. Bha daoine eile ann cuideachd a chruinnich is a dh’fhoillsich beul-aithris na h-Èireann. Bha chionn còrr is leth-cheud bliadhna—bhon uair a thàinig linn a’ Chomainn Ghàidhealaich an Albainn is Connradh na Gaedhlige an Èirinn—is e glè bheag de bheul-aithris a chaidh an clò an Albainn.
Ma bha e na stèidh-teagaisg aig a’ Chomann Ghàidhealach an Albainn ùidh a chur an litreachas beòil nan daoine, chan fhaodar a ràdh gum bheil an toradh follaiseach. Ge brith dè rinn ath-bheothachadh na Gàidhlige an Èirinn gus nach d’rinn, thuig iad gun robh rud luachmhor air choreigin an oideas-beòil an t-sluaigh agus rinn daoine an dìcheall a shàbhaladh. Ach chan eil an sin ach aon bheachd air a’ chùis. Co-dhiù, chna fhaodar an Comann Gàidhealach an Albainn a chur an coimeas ri Connradh na Gaedhilge an Èirinn air aon dòigh eile.
Bha cumhachd, neart is buaidh aig Connradh na Gaedhilge. An Albainn cha d’rinn an Comann Gàidhealach sìon a dh’atharrachadh. Cha deacha cùis na Gaidhlige an Albainn riamh nas fhaide air adhart na bha i anns a’ bhliadhna 1872. Chan ionghnadh, uime sin, an uair a chuireas sinn saothair an dà dhream an coimeas, gur follaiseach gum bheil a’ mheidh a’ dol gu trom air taobh nan Gàidheal Èireannach.
Dh’fhaodte aideachadh gun robh cùisean a’ cuideachadh leotha-san. Bha an riaghladh fhèin aca bhon bhliadhna 1922. Bha ceann-uidhe Chonnartha na Gaedhilige air a ruigheachd; bha buaidh aig an t-soisgeul a theagaisg iad air inntinn nan daoine. Bha sgoileirean uidheamaichte, ainmeil aca nach robh againne. Bha an dream a b’ fheàrr intleachd san tìr a’ cur na Gàidhlige air adhart. Ach cha robh am bàrr a bha aig luchd beul-aithris sìon na b’ fheàrr an Èirinn na bha e againne: ach bhuain iadsan is leig sinne leis a’ chuid a b’ fheàrr den bhàrr a dhol a dholaidh. Tha cladhan is rèiligean na Gàidhealtachd an Albainn saidhbhir le beul-aithris nam marbh. Tha na bilean a’ sgaip an saidhbhreas sin a bha aig na Gàidheil bho chian nan cian nan tosd gu bràth. Chan fhada tuilleadh gun dèan iad an imrich dheireannach. Ma dh’fhalbhas iad is gun tabhair iad gach bloigh beul-aithris dam bheil aca leotha don uaigh, cha ruig sinne a leas a bhith cosg aimsire le Comann Gàidhealach no le comainn sam bith eile, oir tha ar coinnlean air am mùchach agus tha ar latha mar chinneach seachad.
Ach b’ fheàrr dhuinn sealladh a thabhairt air na h-Èireannaich feuch am faic sinn dè rinn iadsan. Anns a’ bhliadhna 1927, thuig iad nach robh sìon de mhath dhaibh daoine a bhith a’ cruinneachadh beul-aithris nan aonar thall is a-bhos. Chunnaic iad gu feumadh iad a dhol còmhla an aodann na h-oibre. Uime sin bhunaich iad an Cumann le Béaloideas Éireann. Tha còrr is mìle ball anns a’ Chomann seo an-diugh. Tha iad a’ cur a-mach leabhair, Béaloideas, dà uair gach bliadhna. A ghnàth cha bhi anns an leabhar seo ach nithean a chaidh an tabhairt bho luchd sgeòil is seanchais.
Anns a’ bhliadhna 1930, thug Luchd-riaghlaidh na h-Èireann suim airgid do chomhairle a thagh Acadaimh Ríoghamhail na h-Éireann is an Cumann le Béaloideas. Mar sin chruthaicheadh Institituit Béaloideasa Éireann. Fhuair an dream seo cuideachadh airgid bhon Rochefeller Foundation a bharrachd air sin agus chaidh aca air ceud uimhir de làmh-sgrìobhaidhean beul-aithris a chuir cruinn. Mun bhliadhna 1932 bha 2,000 sgeul aca anns na làmh-sgrìobhaidhean. (Fhuair Iain Òg Ìle 665 sgeul an Albainn). Thug aon sgeulaiche as Gaillaimh ceud gu leth sgeul (märchen) dhaibh. Ach bha an t-umhas ri dhèanamh fhathast. Bha barrachd airgid a dhìth orra is barrachd luchd cruinneachaidh mun cinnicheadh an obair leotha idir.
Anns a’ bhliadhna 1935, bha an sgoilear ainmeil Suaineach, an Dr C. W. von Sydow as Oilthigh Lund, an Èirinn, agus chomhairlich e don Uachdaran, Eámon de Valera, buidheann na bu mhotha a chur air bonn. An uair sin chaidh Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann a bhunachadh. Thug an Luchd-riaghlaidh dhaibh £3,250 sa bhliadhna. Chaidh àrdachadh gu £4,250 anns a’ bhliadhna 1938. Chuir an Coimisiún dithis den luchd-oibre, Seán Ó Súilleabháin agus Máire Nic Néill, thairis don t-Suain gun ionnsaicheadh iad am modh clàrachaidh a chuir sgoileirean beul-aithris am feum anns an t-Suain. An-diugh tha ceangal dlùth eadar Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann is an Landsmaalsartkiv aig na Suainaich a bharrachd air gach dream aig a bheil ùidh am beul-aithris ansn an Iorbhaidh, san Danmharg, san Fhionnlainn, san Eastòin, agus anns a’ Ghearmailt.
As t-samhradh sa bhliadhna 1935 dh’fhiadhaich Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann dithis eòlaiche Suaineach, an Dr Åke Caimbeul as Uppsala agus Herr Albert Nilsson as Lund, a-null a dh’Èirinn a dhèanamh rannsachaidh air thaighean tughaidh, air achadhnan àiteachaidh, agus air innleachdan tuathanais air feadh na tìre. Rannsaich iad na nithean sin ann an dà shiorramachd dheug de Èirinn agus dh’fhoillsich iad toradh an cuid oibre aig taisbeanadh am Baile Àtha Cliath as t-samhradh sa bhliadhna 1937. Bu chòir eòlas a bhith aig muinntir Leòdhais air an Dr Åke Caimbeul, oir thug e ùine a’ rannsachadh sheann taighean anns an eilean sin.
Tha Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann còrr is deich bliadhna a dh’aois a-nis. An deich bliadhna chuir iad cruinn a’ chnuasachd de litreachas beòil is beul-aithris as motha a tha an-diugh san Roinn-Eòrpa no air an t-saoghal fhèin. Tha cha mhòr mìle imleabhar làmh-sgrìobhte de bheul-aithris aca agus tha sia ceud duilleag anns gach leabhar dhiubh sin. Ach chan eil an obair ach a’ tòiseachadh. Anns a’ bhliadhna 1937 bha 1,500 òrain air an cruinneachadh aca. Anns a’ bhliadhna 1940 fhuair fear-ciùil a bha ag obair dhaibh 300 òrain. Anns an Cárna an Gaillimh fhuair Séumas Óg Mac Aonghusa 400 fuinn is òrain. Fhuair e ceud gu leth òran bho aon duine.
Anns a’ bhliadhna 1937–38 thòisich an Coimisiún a’ cruinneachadh beul-aithris tro na sgoiltean nàiseanta. Fhuair pàisdean-sgoile is luchd-teasgaisg leabhraichean agus lìon iad iad le sgeulachdan, seanchas, òrain, sean-fhacail, agus gach rud a gheibheadh iad bho sheann daoine nan sgìrean fhèin. Fhuair an Coimisiún 4,574 leabhraichean beul-aithris air an dòigh seo.
Tha e na chleachdadh aca cuideachd a bhith cur a-mach cheistiúchán—an fragalista aig na Suainaich—sreath cheist mun chuspair àraidh: an seòrsa tughaidh a thèid air thaighean air feadh na tìre no ceistean mu dhaoine no rudan an eachdraidh na h-Èireann. Tha trì ceud duine aca a fhreagras na ceistean sin agus air an dòigh sin gheibh iad eòlas air cuspair sam bith as gach ceàrn den tìr.
Tha an obair seo uile a’ dol air adhart gun sgur an Èirinn. Tha Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann glè shealbhach gum bheil dithis dhaoine aca a tha air leth comasach, Séamus Ó Duilearga agus Seán Ó Súilleabháin. Bho chionn còrr is fichead bliadhna chaidh Séamas Ó Duillearga sìos gu Gàidhealtachd Chiarraighe is thachair e ri Seán Ó Connail, sgeulaiche as Baile an Sceilg. Riamh bhon uair sin tha Séamus Ó Duilearga ag obair gun tàmh airson beul-aithris na h-Èireann, a’ bruidhinn, a’ sgrìobhadh, agus a’ brosnachadh. Bhon bhliadhna 1927 tha e na fhear-eagair air Béaloideas, agus choisinn e meas is urram mar sgoilear beul-aithris. Anns a’ bhliadhna 1928 chaidh e thairis don t-Suain agus chunnaic e am modh oibre a bha aig sgoileiriean buel-aithris an sin. Shiubhail e an Roinn-Eòrpa is America cuideachd a’ tabhairt òraidean mu bheul-aithris a thìre. Bho chionn còrr is còig bliadhna chuir Seán Ó Súilleabháin làmh-leabhar de bheul-aithris na h-Èireann an clò. Tha an leabhar seo air a bhunachadh air a’ chlàr Shuaineach. Tha 700 duilleag ann agus cha mhòr dà cheud ceist air gach duilleig. Chan eil ceist ann nach eil air a bunachadh air eòlas cinnteach a thàinig bho na làmh-sgrìobhaidhean beul-aithris a chuireadh cruinn bho chionn deich bliadhna.
Ach cha mhòr a bhiodh ann mura b’e na seann daoine uaisle thall is a-bhos air feadh na h-Èireann, na daoine a chuimhnich, a chùm, is a dh’innis. Mar a theireadh an ceàrd, Iain MacDhòmhnaill, a thug sgeulachdan do Iain Òg Ìle, “Bha rìgh ann uair, mar a tha is mar a bha is mar a bhios, mar a dh’fhàsas an t-iubhar, cuid dheth cam is cuid dheth dìreach, agus ’s e Rìgh na h-Èireann a bh’ ann.” Is iomadh rìgh a tha an Èirinn, ach gheibhear iad air chagailtean nam bochd is nam iriosal.
Calum I. MacGhill’Eathain, ‘Gàidheil Èireann agus am Beul-Aithris’, ann am Malcolm Maclean agus T. M. Murchison (deas.), Alba: A Scottish Miscellany in English and Gaelic (Glaschu: An Comunn Gàidhealach, 1948), tdd. 44–47.
Calum an Tàilleir ann am Baile Átha Cliatha, 1955. Taing do Chailean Maclean, ogha Chaluim, gus an dealbh seo a chur gu feum.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Bonnie Prince Charlie – A Case of Mistaken Identity

Many if not the vast majority of Jacobites were fiercely loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie even when a reward of £30,000 – an astronomical sum in those days – was set upon his head by the Hanoverian Government. The following is a short historical anecdote recorded by Calum Maclean on the 8th of September 1952 from the recitation of James Warren, then aged sixty who was a farmer from Dalcreichart, Glenmoriston, about a merchant named MacKenzie who was mistaken for the Prince.
Bha e ’na oidhichear ann an arm a’ Phrionns’ agus bha e a’ dul mu’n cuairst ’na cheanniche mus faigheadh iad greim air. Ach co dhiubh fhuair iad greim air faisg air Ceanna Chroc(hc). Agus bha e uamhasach colta’ ris a’ Phrionns’, dìreach anabharrach colt’ ris a’ Phrionns’. Agus chuir iad as dà, ach dìreach dar a bha e a’ dul as an t-saoghal thuirt e, “A shlaoightearan,” ors’ eis’, “mhara si’ am Prionns’. Mhara si’ am Prionns’.”
Well, an t-am sin cha robh tréinichean, cha robh nicheann eile ann. Mus d’ ràinig e, chaidh an ceann a chur a Dhùn Èideann. Bha iad an dùil gun robh am Prionns’ ac(hc)a agus thug sin cothrom dha’n a’ Phrionns’ teicheadh(g). Bha am Prionns’, bha iad ann an uamhaidh shuas an seo ann an Ceanna Chroc(hc). Bha e a’ fuireach ann an sin is bha seachd dhaoine o Gleanna Moireasdainn còmhla ris. Agus thog iad taigh air agus bha iad ’ga bhiadhadh is a chuile nì eile fad na h-ùine an sin. Is dar a ghabh iad beannachd leis bha fear dhiubh nach tug e a làimh sin dha duine tuillidh an deaghaidh sin. Cha tug e dha duine tuillidh an deaghaidh sin an deaghaidh a toir dha’n a’ Phrionns’. Well, bha poit aige ann an sin. A’ phoit a bh’ aca bha i ann an Achadh na Conbhairean – seo àit’ beag am bràigh Inbhir Mhoireasdainn beagan bhliadhnaichean air ais chaidh i dha’na’ Mhuseum a dh’Inbhir Nis agus am a’ chogaidh chaidh a tiligeil a-mach airson scrap. Cha deach i ach a lendadh, cha deach i ach a toir’ dhai’ airson uìne, dìreach air son uìne. Chaill iad a’ phoit mar sin. Well, thug sin cothrom dha teicheadh(g) as an àit. Tha cuimhneachan ann am sin, monument aig tao’ urad an rathaid ag innse airson a’ Phrionns’ agus tha an uaigh aige a-rithist fo’n rathad. Agus a chionn gràinne bhliadhnaichean air ais fhuair iad gunna an sin, seann-mhusgaid. C’iu ’s e a’ mhusguid aige-se a bh’ ann as nach robh. Bidh e colt’ nach robh musguid aige dar a bha e ’na cheannaiche. Ach fhuair iad a’ mhusgaid anns an allt dìreach, alltan beag a’ dul seachad far a bheil e air a thìodhlacadh.
And the translation goes something like this:
He was an officer in the Prince’s army and he was wandering around as a merchant before they arrested him. But, at any rate, the arrested him near Ceannacnoc. He had a close resemblance to the Prince, he was very like the Prince in appearance. And the executed him and just as he was dying he exclaimed, “You scoundrels,” he said, “you’ve killed the Prince. You’ve killed the Prince.”
Well, at that time there were no trains or anything like that. Before it came, his head was taken to Edinburgh. They thought that they had the Prince and this gave the [real] Prince an opportunity to escape. The Prince along with others stayed up in a cave at Ceannacroc. He stayed there along with seven men from Glenmoriston. They build a shelter there and they fed him along with everything else for a while there. And when they bade farewell to him there was one of them who never offered a handshake to anyone else after that. He never gave his hand to anyone else after offering it to the Prince. Well, he had a pot there; they had a pot in Achadh na Conbhairean – that is a wee place in the Braes of Invermoriston and a few years ago it was taken to the Museum in Inverness and during the war it was thrown out for scrap. It was only lent out and it was only given to them for a short spell. That’s the way they lost the pot. Well, that gave him an opportunity to escape from the place. There is a monument by the roadside saying that he was [in support] of the Prince and his grave is below the road. And a few years ago, they found a gun there, an old musket; whether it belonged to him or not. It appears that he did not own a musket when he was a merchant. But they found the musket just in a wee burn that goes by the place in which he is buried.
Roderick MacKenzie was the son of an Edinburgh goldsmith who fought as an officer in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army. It was often commented that MacKenzie bore an uncanny likeness to the Prince. In the summer of 1746, after the defeat at Culloden, government soldiers cornered a group of Jacobites, including the Prince and MacKenzie, in Glenmoriston. A local historian and author, William Mackay, continues the story:
But the most tragic event that happened in Glenmoriston was the death of Roderick Mackenzie. This young man was a native of Edinburgh, and probably a son of Colin Mackenzie, jeweller in that city, who interested himself in the cause of the Stewarts in The Fifteen. Roderick, who followed Colin’s politics as well as his trade, joined Prince Charles, to whom he bore some personal resemblance, and became one of his body-guard. After Culloden, he wandered through the Highlands, and happened to be in our Parish when it became known that Charles had escaped from the Western Isles, and was lurking among the mountains of the mainland of Inverness-shire. Unfortunately, a party of the King’s soldiers, who were eager to win the £30,000 placed on the Prince's head, came upon him in Glenmoriston, and, taking him for the royal fugitive, endeavoured to seize him. He made no attempt to undeceive them, but, drawing his sword, refused to be taken alive. They thereupon riddled him with bullets, and he expired with the words on his lips—“You have murdered your Prince."
The head of the hero was carried in triumph to Fort- Augustus, where Macdonald of Kingsburgh was questioned as to its identity. His evidence was unsatisfactory, and when Cumberland left for England, he took the head with him to be submitted to other witnesses. Richard Morison, who had been the Prince’s valet, and now lay under sentence of death at Carlisle, was summoned to London to identify the head; but he was delayed through illness, and before he arrived it was beyond recognition. The Government were, however, soon satisfied that Charles was still alive; but Mackenzie's self-sacrifice slackened for a time the exertions of the troops, and probably saved the Prince. It certainly saved his valet, who was granted a pardon and allowed to cross to France.
In a footnote, Mackay also subjoins a piece of poetry composed by Dugald Graham, the rhyming historian of The Forty-Five:
Rod’rick Mackenzie, a merchant-man.
At Ed’nburgh town had join’d the Clan,
Had in the expedition been.
And at this time durst not be seen.
Being skulking in Glen-Morriston,
Him the soldiers lighted on.
Near about the Prince’s age and size,
Genteely drest, in no disguise.
In ev’ry feature, for’s very face
Might well be taken in any case.
And lest he’d like a dog be hang’d.
He chose to die with sword in hand.
And round him like a madman struck.
Vowing alive he’d ne’er be took.
Deep wounds he got, and wounds he gave;
At last a shot he did receive.
And as he fell, them to convince,
Cry’d, Ah! Alas! You’ve killed your Prince;
Ye murderers and bloody crew,
You had no orders thus to do.
Writing in The Highlands (1959), Calum Maclean himself gives his own rendition of the story:
The saddest and noblest figure in the history of Glenmoriston during the ‘Forty-five was the travelling merchant Roderick MacKenzie. He had been out and wandered over the Highlands after Culloden. He was a very handsome man and bore a very close resemblance to Prince Charles. According to the tradition of Glenmoriston and Lochaber, the merchant’s resemblance to the Prince was used to set the Hanoverians on the wrong trail and while they pursued MacKenzie in one direction the Prince went off in the other. Roderick MacKenzie was in Glenmoriston when it was heard that Prince Charles had made his escape from Benbecula and was among the mountains of the western mainland. A party of Hanoverian soldiers came upon MacKenzie on the highway at Ceannacroc in the glen, and, thinking he was the Prince, they tried to capture him. MacKenzie drew his sword and defended himself. The soldiers then riddled his body with bullets. MacKenzie fell and in his dying breath exclaimed:
“You have killed your Prince at last!”
The head was severed from the dead body and brought to Cumberland at Fort Augustus. The Duke brought the head to London but it was beyond recognition before reliable witnesses arrived on the spot to identify it. In the meantime the Prince was safe and sound, but the self-sacrifice of Roderick MacKenzie had saved his life quite as truly as the efforts of Flora MacDonald and others. MacKenzie’s headless body was buried near the roadway beside a little stream that to this day bears the name of Caochan a’ Cheannaich—the Merchant’s Stream. A cairn marked the spot where he fell.
The memorial cairn to Roderick MacKenzie can be found by the side of the A887 that goes through Glenmoriston. His grave, on the other side of the road, on the banks of the Moriston, has been made accessible by the work of local historic societies and the Clan MacKenzie. The inscription on the plaque reads as follows:
At this spot in 1746 died Roderick Mackenzie an Officer in the Army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart of the same size and similar resemblance to his Royal Prince when surrounded and overpowered by the troops of the Duke of Cumberland gallantly died in attempting to save his fugitive leader from further pursuit.
SSS NB 18, pp. 1555–57
William MacKay, Urquhart and Glenmoriston: Olden Times in a Highland Parish (Inverness: Northern Counties Publishing Co., 1893)
Calum Maclean, The Highlands (London: Batsford, 1959)
Memorial Cairn to Roderick MacKenzie, Glenmoriston

Friday 16 August 2013

Calum I. Maclean: An Appreciation

Fifty-three years ago to this very day, Calum Maclean lost his long struggle with cancer and passed away on his adopted isle of South Uist. Here is an obituary notice reproduced in full from The Oban Times submitted by John Lorne Campbell of Canna, a close friend and colleague. The slightly older Campbell had known Maclean since the latter’s return from Ireland at the end of the Second World War and they assisted one another in the collecting of oral traditions particularly in the Southern Hebrides:
The passing of Calum Maclean at the early age of 45 has deprived the Highlands and Islands of a much loved personality. Calum Maclean had dedicated himself to the work of the preservation of the oral tradition of his country. In this field, he had achieved a unique position. It was a field of research that was, until recently, grossly neglected by official Scottish academic authorities, though its interest was better recognised abroad. Lovers of traditional Gaelic song and story and folklore saw with relief, when the Irish Folklore commission sent Calum Maclean to the Hebrides with an Ediphone in 1946, that at least one serious attempt would be made at the scientific preservation of this material before the last Gaelic storytellers and folksingers who had escaped the net of the 1872 Education Act has passed away.
Calum Maclean was the first person who undertook the systematic collection of old Gaelic songs and stories and tradition in the Highlands and Islands with modern recording apparatus. Therein lay the importance of his work. A good deal had been done previously in the way of collecting old stories in the Highlands by J. F. Campbell of Islay and his collectors, but lacking any means of making mechanical recordings, their task of writing down such tales from dictation was a very laborious one, and J. F. Campbell himself admitted that his collection in no way exhausted the stories current in the Highlands “whole districts as yet untried, and whole classes of stories, such as popular history and robber stories, have yet been untouched.
In the field of folksong things were worse. If it is difficult enough to take down a long Gaelic story in writing from dictation, it is ten times more difficult to write down traditional tunes in unfamiliar modes and varies with each repetition. J. F. Campbell’s “Popular Tales of the West Highlands” are authentic, but subject to the drawback that a storyteller who is dictating to someone writing down is always apt to shorten his sentences and reduce dialogue to indirect speech. “Songs of the Hebrides” are not authentic, and the establishment of the songs, both tunes and words, as actually sung, is a matter of great importance to students of folksong the world over.
More and more scholars are recognising that the Gaelic language, and geographically the Outer Hebrides, constitute the most interesting repository of oral tradition in Western Europe. It is not only what has been preserved of local origin that is of interest, but what has come from outside and then been forgotten elsewhere, in the way, for instance, that traditional songs that originated on the mainland are now only remembered in the Isles. Thanks to Calum Maclean, the amount of material now available for the study of folktale and of popular tradition in the Highlands and Islands has been enormously increased, the words of hundreds of old songs have been preserved in their authentic form, and their tunes have been made available for transcription from the recordings by first rate musicians skilled in the idiom of folk music.
In 1951, Calum Maclean transferred from the Irish Folklore Commission to the School of Scottish Studies, where he became a Senior Research Fellow. The scope and extent of his work in the field will not be properly appreciated until his notebooks have been catalogued and indexed, including the material he collected for the Irish Folklore Commission, of which a microfilm has been presented by the Commission to Edinburgh University. Many person acquainted with the Hebrides will be well aware of the singers and storytellers who were discovered by Calum Maclean, in many cases only just in time. All with regret most deeply that he did not live to catalogue his collections and print a substantial part of them.
Like Fr Allan Macdonald and Dr George Henderson, who collected Gaelic tales and folklore in South Uist between sixty and seventy years ago, Calum Maclean has passed away in his prime. In the years that are to come, the value and extent of his work are likely to be more and more realised. Calum Maclean was to have received, in September of this year, form the University of St. Francis Xavier at Antigonish, Nova Scotia – an institution with very strong Highland associations – the honorary degree of LL.D. for his work for the preservation of the Gaelic oral tradition. No much honour was ever more merited.
                                                                                      John Lorne Campbell
Some months passed and in December an elegy was also published in The Oban Times composed by Iain Ruadh MacLeòid (John MacLeod):
Fhuair sinn naidheachd an dè
chuir saigheadean geur nar crìdh,
’s gun robh ’n dùthaich gu lèir
fo phràmh ann an dèidh na tìm,
o na chualas mu d’ bhàs,
a Chaluim, air clàr gun chlì,
’s cha bhi ’n dùthaich gu bràth
mar bhà i is tu ga dìth.
Siud a’ cholann bha stuam’,
bha aoibhneas is uails’ nad ghnùis,
bha do ghiùlan gun uaill,
bha thu iriosal, suairc, is ciùin,
’s aig cruinneachadh sluaigh
thug thu iomadach buaidh is cliù,
’s bochd dhuinne san uair
nach cluinne sinne fuaim do chiùil.
Gun robh foghlam nach gann
nad cheann agus t’ aois glè òg,
’s thug thu dearbhadh gach àm
le d’ chainnt an ionadan mòr,
fhuair thu tàlant bho Dhia
’s thug thu riarachadh seachad is còrr,
’s cha do dh’àicheidh thu riamh
do dhleasnas do d’ Dhia ’s co d’ chòir.
O ’s buidhe don àl
Fhuair blasad de d’ mhànran maoth,
’s a bhlais air na bàird
tron spàirn a thug thu le d’ ghaol;
gun chuir thu air clàr
iomadh eachdraidh is àilleachd chiùil,
’s bidh sinne nad dhèidh
gad mholadh ’s tu fhèin san ùir.
We got news yesterday
which pierced our hearts with sharp arrows,
and the whole land
was overcast from that time;
for we heard you lay dead,
Calum, strengthless on boards,
and never again will the land
be the same as before it lost you.
That was a body always well-controlled,
cheerful and noble was your face,
your bearing was without arrogance,
you were modest, courteous, and gentle;
and in gatherings of people
you made an impact won much fame—
how much poorer are we now
that we cannot hear the sound of your music!
A wealth of learning
filled your mind from your earliest years,
you proved it time upon time
in the great place in which your spoke:
you got a talent from God
and you gave good measure and more
and you never denied
your duties to your God and to your own standards.
How happy the young
who savoured the sweetness of your talk
and tasted the bards
through your devoted hard work!
You put down on record
many a story and beautiful tune,
and we, now you have left us,
will go on praising you in your grave.
John Lorne Campbell, ‘Calum I. Maclean: An Appreciation’, The Oban Times (6 September 1960)
John MacLeod, ‘Do Calum Ia[I]n MacGhilleathain’, The Oban Times (3 December 1960)
Calum I. Maclean from the late 1950s