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Metadata for text 122
No. words in text2549
Title Marbh-rann air Daonaibh Chaidh Dhith, air Bord Soitheach Briste a Chaidh mach air Cladach Chatboil, aig Toiseach na Bliadhna 1843
Author Ross, Artar
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1843?
Date Of Language 1800-1849
Publisher Printed for Miss Maggie Mitchell, Rockfield Village, Portmahomack, by the Northern Counties Newspaper and Printing and Publishing Company, Limited
Place Published Inverness
Volume N/A
Location National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Easter Ross
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Ross, Arthur
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 16.8xm x 10.3cm Photocopy of the original, bound in cream card
Short Title Marbh-rann
Reference Details NLS: A.P.S. 1.77.112
Number Of Pages 8
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context The information in this section is taken from Watson (2002). This poem was written after seven local men, from the villages of Balintore and Hilton, were drowned while trying to salvage a ship which had been driven onto the rocks below Cadboll House. Watson records that ‘The poet of whose work the song on the Linnet appears to be the only extant composition is recalled as having belonged to a family which lived in the Loans of Hilton and one informant recalls a tradition describing his brother, David, as an outstanding elder in the local congregation. The tradition in question is supported by the census records of 1851 which show the latter, aged 55 as a farmer with 20 acres in the Loans. He is head of a household comprising, among others, sister Elspet aged 57, and their brother Arthur, aged 53’ (p. 55).

With regard to the poem, Watson suggests that ‘The Linnet probably circulated in written form – and to some degree orally – until a woman from the neighbouring village of Rockfield (Tarail Bheag) had a printing done [n.d.] by the Northern Counties Newspaper and Printing and Publishing Company of Inverness, possibly around the middle of the last century. Certainly, copies had become sufficiently scarce by the time the Gaelic scholar, the Rev. Thomas M. Murchison, demonstrated interest in the song in 1962, for him laboriously to type out a copy of the whole song, with multiple carbon copies, from this source and insert accents afterwards in ink. … The fact that Arthur Ross named in the song five local males who perished will have ensured, in the context of the wide-ranging kinship ties within the villages, that, for as long as Gaelic speech flourished here, the tradition of singing it would continue; and this appears to have lasted until about the period of Murchison’s typescript’ (p. 55).
Contents The Marbh-Rann runs to 56 quatrains over 7 pages (pp. 2-8).
Sources
Language With regard to the content of the poem, Watson states that ‘The song was composed in the manner of hymns by Peter Grant or Dugald Buchanan, a religious genre which appears to have been popular in the villages at one time. The Linnet is, moreover, believed locally to have been sung to the same tune as Buchanan’s Là a’ Bhreitheanais, and the latter’s meter would, indeed, accord with this … As a work, the Linnet intersperses an account of how the tragic happenings unfolded with reflections on the themes of divine judgement and mercy as well as the celestial reward in store for those whose lot was Christian salvation’ (p. 52). For example, stanzas 2 to 5 introduce the concept of untimely death, and set the scene for the tragedy that follows: ‘Tha ’n duine truagh gach uile la \ A’ dol air thuras dh’ ionnsaidh bhais, \ ’S gun fhios an t-àm an teid e’n sàs— \ Tha uair a bhais am folach air. \\ Ach tinn na slan, ’n tra thig an uair, \ Theid e dh’ ionnsaidh ’n dachaidh bhuain, \ ’S mar sin a tha gach neach do’n t-sluagh, \ Air thuras luath gu bith-bhuantachd. \\ ’N “LINNET” mor bha siubhal a chuain, \ Thainig i steach ri oidhche fo ghruaim, \ Is chaidh iomrall anns an dorch, \ Is thilg an storm i ’CATABOL; \\ Is dh’ fhan i sin re uin’ gun ghluas’d, \ Na soitheach brist’ ’sna cragaibh cruaidh; \ Is cuid a dh’ fheuch ri ’togail suas, \ Is cuir air a chuan ’s bhi ’g obair letha’ (p. 2).

The poem continues, interspersing thoughts on death with the tragedy that occurred: ‘’Is ge d’ bha aireamh mhor air bord, \ Ga tarruing suas gu BALINTORE, \ Dh’ fhalbh i uath gun stiur gun seòl, \ Is cha bu dheoin leath’ furach doibh. \\ Oir cheadaich DIA, ’san fhreusdal chruaidh, \ Dhi dol san turas ud gu luath, \ Oir ruith an in’ is than’ an uair, \ ’S bu sheasadh cruaidh gun teagamh e. \\ Do ’n t-seachdnar a bha air bòrd, \ ’S bh’air am fagail sud gun treòr, \ Is gun dol as ac’ o na bhàs \ ’B ’fhaid na barr na’n crannagan. \\ Is iad gun suil a ghabhadh truas, \ Na stùir a thionndadh i m’an cuairt, \ Ach ruith a cuirs’ le doirionn tuadh, \ Leo dh’ ionnsaidh ’n uair ’sna choidil iad’ (pp. 2-3).

On a number of occasions the poet addresses Death directly: ‘Och, a Bhais! b’ an-iochdmhor cruaidh \ Thu ann an sud measg thonnaibh ’chuan, \ ’N trath chuir thu ort do chlogaid cruaidh, \ Is thilg gun truas do shaighead annt’. \\ Co e a theicheas as uait fein? \ Oir ’s tu oglach ’s teachdar Dhe; \ ’S ’n trath thig an t-àm a dhorduich e, \ Do chlaidheamh geur ort crioslaichidh. \\ Is theid thu sud a mach nan déigh, \ ’S bheir thu mar eun iad ’bhar an t-sléibh, \ ’S duine cha lamhaich as do dheigh, \ ’N tra bheir thu dhachaidh ’m foghar leat’ (pp. 3-4).

About half way through the poem, the poet addresses five of the men who perished. (It is possible that he did not know the other two men.) One of these is Finlay Skinner: ‘Fhionnlaidh Thalaich, dhuine shuairc! \ Is duilich leam gu’n deach thu uainn: \ Co theireadh ’measg an t-sluaigh, \ Gun robh an uair cho fogus dhuit? \\ Duine tapaidh, sultmhor, tréun; \ Le d’ chaithe-beatha glan ’s deadh bhéus; \ ’S na coimhearsnaich ga chuir an céil, \ Deigh dhol dhuit fein san turas ud’ (p. 4). Another was Ally Mackenzie: ‘Alidh Mhorair, meangan òg! \ O ghlun do mhathair fein gu bòrd, \ Bha thus maraon gun spot ’n do chot \ Trath chaidh thu leos an turus ud’ (p. 5).

The poet then proceeds to describe the heavenly bliss awaiting those who die while in God’s favour: ‘Is sona dhoibhs’, aig uair a bhais, \ Do ’m […] Criosd na bhunait slaint’; \ ’S beannaicht’, uime sin, gu brath, \ Na gheibh am bas sa charaig ud. \ … \ ’S ged fheud na cathain ud bhi cruaidh, \ N tra chuid’cheas Gaisgeach treun nam buadh, \ Bheir e mach dhoibh sud a bhuaidh, \ Mar fhuar E fein na fhulangas. \\ ’S bheir E dhoibh bhi seinn na buaidh, \ ’N tìr na fireantachd thu shuas, \ Air clarsaich ghrinn, ’s gun bhriseadh teud, \ ’S gach deur o’n suil’ ni ghlanadh leis’ (p. 6). Those who are not in God’s favour, however, do not fare so well: ‘’S lionmhor trioblaid clann nan gras, \ O la an ath-bhreith dh’ionnsaidh ’m bais; \ Ach asd air fad ni Dia nan gras \ Gu sabhailt ’n stiuradh dhachaidh leis. \\ Ach cia truagh tha neach gun Chriosd! \ Ann an glacaibh bhais ’s don uaigh dol sios, \ Gu dearbh ’an tuil nan uisgibh mòr \ Cha ruig fa dheoigh e ’n caladh ud. \\ Oir ’s uisge domhain sud is dorch, \ Sruthaibh Iordan atmhor, borb, \ ’An la n fhoghar ’g eiridh garbh, \ ’S an t-iosg’ marbh cha shnamh se thairis air; \ Ach ’s ann a bheir an sruth e sios \ Gu cuan na siorruitheachd, gun chrioch, \ ’S a dh’ionnsaidh chnuimh bhiths dhas’ mar phian \ ’S fo thuiltibh dian na corruich ud’ (p. 7).

Towards the end of the poem the poet considers the effect this tragedy has had on the families of those who died: ‘’S na parantan o’n deach an clann, \ Bu ghoirt dhuibh ’n dealachadh a bh’ ann; \ An sud a còaineadh [sic] ur cuid mairbh, \ A dh’ fhalbh uaibh an turus ud. \\ Gun d’ thugadh e dhuibhs’ gu leir ri gh’radh \ Mar thubhairt Iob ’an la a chraidh, \ “An Tighearn’ a thug, sa ghabh air falbh, \ ’S ainm’san gun robh beannaichte.” \\ Gun seas e dhuibhs ’n ait’ na dh’ fhalbh, \ ’S gun dean e suas dhuibh sud a bheairn \ A rinneadh anns an Fhreasdal shearbh, \ ’N uair a dh’ fhalbh a chobhar uaibh. \\ A chobhar ud cha phill gu brath, \ Oir chaidh gu leir iad dh’ionnsuidh ’nait— \ Gu bith-bhuanntachd a ghabhail tamh, \ ’N trath thug am bas dhoibh sumanadh’ (p. 8).

Also of interest in this text, is the author’s use of local ‘surnames’, such as Morair – a name associated with the Mackenzies, Tarail – a name associated with the MacDonalds, and Tàlach – a name associated with the surname ‘Skinner’ (see Watson, pp. 55-56).
Orthography For a fairly extensive analysis of the language of this text, see Watson (2002). Watson introduces his linguistic analysis as follows: ‘The song, in addition to its value as local socio-historical document, is an illuminating linguistic source also. There is no doubt that the Gaelic work most read in the villages in Ross’s time, apart from the devotional hymns already referred to and other prose items of a spiritual nature, would have been the Gaelic Bible, and the literary influence of such works is clearly visible in the poem at a number of levels. In the orthography forms such as choidil 38; and fein 107 and feud 38, 197 surface; while in the substantive morphology we note the historical genitive Dhe 63 as against Dhia 189, together with plural forms in -a: tonna 50, ceuma 100; and, following the preposition an, instances of dative plurals in -ibh: cragaibh 17; piantaibh 38; tuiltibh 121; aimh’ntibh 166, as well as air daonaibh in the title of the work. Similarly affected is pronominal morphology where we note cha shnamh se 184; as well as two singular prepositional forms in -it: dhuit 78, 84; uait 63. The third person plural form dhoibh 21, 50, 121 is likewise notable, as are the first person plural possessive adjective ar (doigh) 1, the dissyllabic future dependent form d’thabhair 160 and items of vocabulary such as pill 78 (‘return’), cia 38 (‘although’) and, possibly suas 78, in the sense of ‘up’ and siubhal 13 meaning ‘travel’. With regard to those traits which betray local speech, though one cannot, of course, be absolutely certain that all of those now presented would have been features of the dialect of Hilton village a few generations earlier than the period of my own investigation, there are a number of linguistic items characteristic of the latter which are clearly represented in our printed version of the mid-nineteenth century text. This is confirmed either by the orthography, which is – thankfully – extremely liberal in its use of the apostrophe, or else by the meter of the song where we have end-rhyme between a and b, as well as aicill between c and d’ (pp. 56-57).

Watson also examines instances of final apocope, aphaeresis, elision in interconsonantal position of schwa, internal syncope, epenthetic vowels, palatalised /r'/, lenited palatalised and non-palatalised n, vocalisation of final -adh, rounding of high back vowels, verbal morphology, and the loss of genitive forms (pp. 56-58). He concludes his analysis as follows: ‘In general, therefore, while the poet has striven, as far as possible, to adhere to literary norms insofar as they were known to him – to which the multitude of historical genitive forms and other traditional morphological features found throughout the text amply testify – he appears to have been willing to adopt features of his own dialect when these proved useful to metrical ends. Other strategies also are employed for this purpose, such as the familiar inversion of subject and object or other adverbial phrase, e.g. cha ruig fa dheoigh e 180 and chaidh gu leir iad 127, 222. One case in which such a procedure seems to have come unstuck is Do’m Criosd na bhunait slaint’ 142 which appears to be an inversion of d’am bunait’ slàinte Crìosd into which has been inserted ’na from the alternative substantive verb phrase with bha. viz. d’an robh C. na bhunait slaint’, while ged air bith might, in view of the use of cia for ged noted above, be the result of some type of hypercorrection. The substitution of ump’ for dhoibh in the phrase nach b’urrt’ ump’ uil’ 125 is one problem to which I currently have no solution’ (pp. 58-59).

Regarding lexis and loanwords, Watson remarks: ‘As far as vocabulary is concerned, the text, disappointingly, if understandably enough, demonstrates no instances of that rich and varied category, namely loan-words from Scots, with which the Gaelic of the area stood at a fascinating interface, and which looms so large in the speech of my modern informants, cf. coup ‘mud’, lorne ‘shoe’, slope ‘shirt’, peadaran ‘sweet’, stob ‘stick’, tobha ‘rope’ tommy ‘loaf’, and so on. All I can cite here is a mere reproduction of the biblical calque toirt air falbh (cf. John 1: 29) ‘take away’: An Tighearn’ a thug, sa ghabh air falbh 215’ (p. 59).
Edition First edition. The copies housed in the National Library of Scotland are photocopies of the original edition, which was in the possession of Mrs Margaret MacLaren of Blair Athol.
Other Sources
Further Reading Watson, Seosamh, ‘’N Linnet Mór: a window on language and community in 19th century Easter Ross’, Scottish Language 21 (2002), 43-59. (An earlier version of this article can be found at http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/scotlit/asls/Seosamh_Watson.html.)
Watson, Seòsamh, Saoghal Bana-Mharaiche, 2007 (Text 197).
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