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Metadata for text 147
No. words in text3949
Title Cunntas mu Iain Cobhey, Seoladair, a bh’ air am Venerable, a Fhuair a Dha Chois a Sgathadh dheth ann an Cath Champer Down, October 11th, 1797.
Author N/A (Translated work)
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1813
Date Of Language 1800-1849
Publisher J. Hay & Co.
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume N/A
Location National and academic libraries
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Unknown
Register Religion, Prose
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 17.5cm x 11cm
Short Title Cunntas mu Iain Cobhey
Reference Details NLS: KK.8/2.42(4)
Number Of Pages 7
Gaelic Text By Anon.
Illustrator N/A
Social Context This text tells the story of John (or James) Covey, a sailor in the British Navy who converted to a Christian life after losing both his legs in the Battle of Camperdown in 1797. The episode of Covey’s part in the battle itself was recounted by the ship’s surgeon, Dr Duncan, to Samuel Jackson Pratt, who reported it in his Gleanings. Covey’s subsequent conversion, which was triggered by a dream prefiguring the loss of his limbs and associating the loss with his dissolute ways, was witnessed and recorded by Rev. John Griffin, minister of the Congregational Church at Portsea, Portsmouth. Griffin wrote up his experience of Covey’s conversion and last years. On the basis of Griffin’s and Pratt’s accounts, Covey’s story was worked up as an exemplary tale by an author or authors unknown, to form a religious tract that circulated widely in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. It was reprinted several times, and translated into Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Manx. See also below, s.v. Edition.
Contents Covey is introduced as a good seaman, but a sinner. It appears that he had a dream some time before the battle, in which he dreamt that both of his legs were shot off. After this, Covey began to reflect on his life but ‘not liking to retain God in his thoughts, he endeavoured, by drinking and blasphemous intercourse with the ships company, to obliterate the impressions from his memory’ (1812, pp. 2-3). We are then told of the battle itself and the circumstances in which Covey lost both of his legs. Upon leaving hospital, Covey attended a service at Orange Street Chapel in Portsea. He was astonished to find that the minister’s sermon was directly relevant to his own life, and just as astonished to find that the minister (John Griffin) did not in fact know of his own circumstances. Covey became a member of the church a year later, having shown himself to be a true Christian. Towards the end of the story (and the end of Covey’s life), we are told, in Covey’s own words, how his faith in God has grown. Throughout the text, there are lines and paragraphs which desert the narrative to elaborate on questions of divinity and faith in general; and this is also how the Gaelic text ends.
Sources
Language This work, in its Gaelic version, is basically a religious text, and most of the terms and expressions relate to religion. The following passage is typical of the sermonising parts: ‘Tha mor chumhachd Iosa, air fhoillseachadh na mhinistreileachd fein, agus ann an ceud shearmonachadh an t-soisgeil leis na h-abstoil,—a’ toirt buaidh ann am focal na firinn. Tha ioma neach aig a bheil dreuchd fheumail san ám ann an Sion, a bha aon uair co’-ionnan ris na daoine bu truaillidh’ (p. 4). Note also: ‘Ion-samhuil a bhràthar bu shineadh ann an samhladh a Mhic Stróghail, air a sheide suas le uaill as a mhaitheas agus as aithrighead fein, bithidh cuid fo mhi-ghean, agus cha ghabh iad co’-pairt de’n chuirm a dheasaicheadh arson a pheacaich a phille ri Dia’ (p. 4). The same tone is woven into the narrative parts of the text, e.g.: ‘Le lamha togta agus glaiste na chéile, agus a shúilean a’ dealradh le fior-dhurachd troi na deoir a bha sruthadh uatha, thuirt e, “O fhir-theagaisg ionmhuinn, guidheam.ort, ’n uair a thèid mis eug, searmonaich searmoin adhlaic do sheoladair bochd; agus innis do chàch; gu h-araidh do na maraichibh, a tha co aineolach agus co malluichte sa bha mise, gun d’fhuair Cobhey bochd trocair o Dhia, tre chreidimh, ann am fuil Criosd! …”’ (p. 6).

The text also contains passages describing the Battle of Camperdown and to the loss of Covey’s legs, e.g.: ‘’Nuair bha’n dà chabhlach a’ teachd ’an gara ga cheile thug an sàr Cheann-feadhnadh a bh’ aguinn, àithne ga chuid sluaigh iad gan leige fein nan sìneadh air clàr nan soithichean. gus am biodh iad dlù air an nàmhuid, ’s gur ann bu mhò a dheanadh an teine do dholaidh dhoibh. Bha na soithichean Dùitseach air tòiseacha ri losgadh air an Venerable, an àm dhi bhi dol sios r’ an taobh gu ’n cuir as an òrdugh’ (pp. 2-3). The moment when Covey was hit is also described: ‘’Sa cheart àm san robh e ’g éiridh sguab peileir an leth-chas agus a chuid bu phailte de ’n te eile dheth; ach bha ’n gniomh co obann, ged a mhothaich e ’n goirteas, ’s nach d’ thug e ’n aire gun do chàill e na cosan gus ’n do thuit e sios’ (p. 3). His discharge from hospital was as follows: ‘’An ceann aimsir an diaigh sin, thainig e mach a tigh-eiridinn Haslair, ’s e na urrainn caileigin de ghluasad a dheanamh air dà luirg, agus air cosaibh maide’ (p. 3).
Orthography The orthography is characteristic of the early nineteenth century. There are a few printing errors, including the occasional use of full stops where none are required (e.g. guidheam.ort, p. 6).
Edition First edition (?). Another version, undated, entitled Life of John Covey. Seoladair, air bord am Venerable, etc. is also listed in the NLS Catalogue. It is labelled ‘[Religious Tract] No. 5’ (p. 1). This text is substantially the same as the 1813 text, though there are some minor differences in spelling, e.g. 1813 has a bh’air (title), ǔr-sgeul (p. 1) and aithrigh air (p. 6) where the undated version has air bord, ur-sgeul and airidh air. Most importantly, both versions contain the same interpolated passages of moralizing and exegesis, which are present in the 1812 English version of Covey’s story, but not in Griffin’s and Pratt’s original reports of it. A further Gaelic printing appeared in 1823; its title includes the phrase air bord am Venerable, which suggests a link with the undated Gaelic text rather than the 1813 edition, which has a bh’air am Venerable.
Other Sources
Further Reading Griffin, John, An account of the bravery and happy death of James Covey (London, [ca. 1820?]: A. Applegath).
Griffin, John, The brave British tar: or, The true history of a sailor who had both his legs shot off in Lord Duncan's victory; with an account of his extraordinary dream, and how remarkably it was fulfilled (London, [ca. 1820]: A. Applegath and E. Cowper).
Pratt, [Samuel Jackson], Gleanings in England; descriptive of the countenance, mind and character of the country, vol. 2 (London, 1801: Longman), Letter XXXI.
Account of John Covey, a seaman on board the Venerable, who had both his legs shot off, in the memorable action off Camperdown, October 11, 1797 (Edinburgh, 1812: Edinburgh Religious Tracts Society, no 64).
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