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Metadata for text 114
No. words in text775
Title Cumha do dh’Iain Domhnullach, fear a’ Gharbha-mhoir ann am Baideanach, a chaochail s a’ bhliadhna 1830
Author Mac-a-Phearsain, Caiptean
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1855
Date Of Language 1850-1899
Publisher A. Sinclair
Place Published Glasgow
Volume N/A
Location National and academic libraries
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Strathspey
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 18.3cm x 10.7cm
Short Title Cumha do dh'Iain Domhnullach
Reference Details EUL, Sp. Coll.: C.R.Box5.67
Number Of Pages 4 (including title page)
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context The author of this elegy was Captain Lachlan MacPherson, known in his latter days as ‘Old Biallid’ from his tenancy of Biallid Farm, between Newtonmore and Laggan. He was born in 1769 and died in 1858. In his younger days he had served in the British Army in the 52nd Regiment of Foot. He was widely respected as an authority on the history and lore of the Central Highlands. His account of ‘The old Deer-forests of Badenoch’ was printed, from his own MS, in Alexander MacPherson’s Glimpses of Church Life in the Highlands in Olden Times (Edinburgh, 1893). See also Rev. Thomas Sinton, The Poetry of Badenoch (Inverness, 1906), pp. 298-302.
 
The subject of this elegy was John MacDonald, tenant of Garvamore Farm near Laggan and on the old military road through the Corrieyairack Pass. He was known as Iain Bàn a’ Gharbh-àtha and came originally from Lochaber; see further Sinton, Poetry of Badenoch, pp. 105-07. Both poet and subject were members of the tacksman class, living in the same neighbourhood in the Parish of Kingussie.
Contents This elegy commemorates a personal friend of the poet. Like MacPherson, MacDonald was a keen sportsman and hunter, a generous host, tough when he needed to be, a pillar of support to his family. These qualities are celebrated in the successive stanzas of his elegy. Interestingly, there is no mention of his genealogy, though this would undoubtedly have been known, and would certainly have been touched on by a traditional bard.
Sources
Language This text shows awareness of the conventions of Gaelic elegy. The author has a fluent and expressive style, and the elegy contains many vivid images, as can be seen from the first stanza: ‘A Righ! gur diomain an saoghal, \ ’S ioma mealladh a’s faoineis a th’ann, \ Mar neul tana ’s e ’caochladh, \ Theid fhuadach ’s a sgaoileadh ’na dheann, \ Mar cheathach an aonaich \ Air a sgapadh le gaoith bharr nam beann; \ ’S ionann sin a’s clann daoine, \ Gun fhios thig an t-aog aig gach àm’ (p. 2).

The poet remembers his dead friend, utilising conventional panegyric comparisons and imagery. He also refers to MacDonald in non-formulaic terms, e.g. in stanza 3, where he claims that although he was a good man, he was strict when necessary: ‘Dhomhsa b’aithne do bheusan, \ Bha thu ciùin mar ghath greine tré cheò; \ Bha thu ascaoin na’m b’ fheudar, \ ’S ann a’d’ aodann a dh’eireadh an colg, \ ’S tu chaisgeadh an eucoir \ ’Sa sheasadh gu treun leis a’ chòir, \ A’s cha ghabhadh tu déis-laimh \ Bho fhear a thug ceum ann am bròig’ (pp. 2-3).

Amongst the dead man’s attributes the poet lays emphasis on his hunting skills in the fifth and sixth stanzas: ‘Bu tu sealgair a mhunaidh, \ ’S ro mhaith dhìreadh tu mullach nan sròn; \ Le do chuilbheir ’s maith cuma’, \ ’S tric a leag thu air uilinn fear-cròic’; \ ’S an àm dol air thuras, \ B’e do mhiann paidhir chuileanan borb; \ Bu tu’n t-iasgair air buinne, \ Le do mhorbha géur, guineach a’d’ dhorn. \\ Faodaidh ’n eilid ’s an ruadh-bhoc, \ ’S an damh mullaich, bhi uallach ’san fhrìth, \ Tha’m bradan tarra-gheal a’ cluaineis \ Feadh shruthaibh a’s chuartag gun sgìos; \ Tha do mhial-choin a’ bruadar \ Bhi sa’ gharbhlach a’ ruagadh an fhèidh, \ Tha na h-armaibh fo ruadh-mheirg, \ ’S lamh g’ an dearbhadh ’san uaigh ’o cheann tìom’ (p. 3).

In addition, MacPherson praises his generosity and kind-heartedness, e.g. ‘Bu tu deadh fhear-an-tighe, \ ’S ann a bhitheadh an caitheadh mu d’ bhòrd; \ Bu tu pòitear na dibhe, \ ’Nuair a thàrladh dhuit suidhe ’s tigh-òsd’. \ Bha thu fialaidh—’s bu dligheach, \ Bha thu shiolach nan cridheachan mòr, \ A’d’ cheann riaghailt air buidheann, \ ’S ann bha chiall ann am bruidhinn do bheòil’ (p. 3).

In the last two stanzas the author describes the sorrow that has been left by his passing: ‘Gur a cruaidh leam do chlann, a \ Bhi fo mhulad, fo champar, ’s fo bhròn; \ Dh’ fhalbh an taice ’s iad fann deth \ O’n chaireadh do cheann-sa fo’n fhòid. \ Nam biodh éiridh sa’ Cheapaich, \ ’S gun éighte na gaisgich fo’n t-sròl; \ Gu’n robh leus air a’ bhrataich \ Fear cho treun ’sa bha ac’ bhi fo’n fhòid. \\ Ach ’se tha mi ag acainn \ Thu bhi nis anns an Lagan a’ tàmh; \ Air do dhùnadh fo leacan, \ ’S nach dùisg thu ’s a’ mhaduin bho d’ phràmh. \ ’S e mo dhiubhail mar thachair \ Thu bhi ’san ùir an tasgaidh a’ cnàmh; \ Fhir mo rùin a bha smachdail, \ Nach do chuir cùl’aobh ri caraid no nàmh’ (p. 4).
Orthography The orthography is typical of the mid-nineteenth century. Linguistically, the poet displays a practised familiarity with the conventions of the panegyric mode, and does not set out to be ‘dialectal’ in this elegy. Nevertheless, forms like aog (st. 1), caitheadh (st. 4), morbha (st. 5), faoilte (st. 7) and cnacas (ibid.) perhaps exemplify aspects of MacPherson’s Badenoch Gaelic.
Edition First edition. The poem was re-printed with only minor spelling changes in Sinton, Poetry of Badenoch, pp. 299-302.
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