Gàidhlig / English
speil

speil

Posted by Alasdair on 16 November 2017
There are several homographs recorded under this headword in the Faclan bhon t-Sluagh archive.  For starters, “a spell” is the English definition recorded for speil in a record from Barvas in Lewis.  This can be compared to speil “taking a turn at anything”, recorded on a wordlist from South Uist produced by the Rev. Angus MacDonald D.D.  A different application of speil was recorded in the Northern Chronicle in 1928.  On this record, speil is identified as a variant of 'spealg' and defined as “thin cut of wood”.  The wordlist on which speil appears in this instance was produced by Sheriff J. MacMaster Campbell who gave his name to a trophy awarded to rural choirs at the National Mòd.  The word speil can also be found in the name of a game recorded in Uig in Lewis.  According to this record, dogan speil is an outdoor game played with a caman and ball.
 
I have a particular interest in the fifth result generated by speil in the Fieldwork Archive.  This speil is defined as “flock of birds” and was recorded by Alex O’Henley in South Lochboisdale.  This sense of speil appears to have deep roots, given that speil “cattle, flock, herd” is recorded in Old Gaelic (dil.ie/38590).  This word is rarely found in Irish, according to T. F. O’Rahilly in the article referred to under the headword speil in eDIL, but I suspect that speil in one of these senses lies at the heart of a loch-name in Mull.  The name of this loch, a name which I analysed closely here at the University of Glasgow recently, can be found in Corpas na Gàidhlig. “Lochspeilbh” is the form recorded by Mull writer John MacFadyen in his collection of original songs, poems and readings first published in 1890 entitled An t-Eileanach.
 
Do you use the word speil in a sense recorded in Faclan bhon t-Sluagh or otherwise?  If so, we’d love to hear from you on Facebook or Twitter.
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