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Metadata for text 168
No. words in text123501
Title The Songs of Duncan Ban Macintyre
Author Macintyre, Duncan Ban
Editor MacLeod, Angus
Date Of Edition 1978
Date Of Language 18th c.
Publisher Scottish Academic Press for the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume 4 (Scottish Gaelic Texts Society)
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins Argyll
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Mac an t-Saoir, Donnchadh Bàn
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 22cm x 14cm
Short Title Songs of Duncan Ban
Reference Details EUL, Celtic Library: LIG MACI
Number Of Pages xlvii, 581
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Duncan Macintyre was born in Druim Liaghairt, on the southern shore of Loch Tulla in Glen Orchy, on 20th March 1724. He joined the Militia and fought in the Battle of Falkirk on the side of the Hanoverians. Despite this, Macintyre seems to have had some Jacobite sympathies, at least after the battle, to judge from such songs as Oran don Bhriogais (pp. 8-15). Macintyre did not fight at Culloden, although it is not clear why he did not. He later became a forester to the Earl of Breadalbane in Glen Lochay, Ben Doran, and Glen Etive. It is unclear exactly when he took up these posts, but MacLeod estimates that he was employed as a forester from about 1746 to about 1766. At some point Duncan married Mary Macintyre (Màiri Bhàn Òg), with whom he had a family of three sons and more than two daughters (the exact numbers are unknown).

On moving to Edinburgh, Macintyre enrolled in the City Guard, which provided stable employment although the pay was meagre. The first edition of Macintyre’s poems was published in 1768 and was well received. Macintyre continued composing poetry while in Edinburgh, and between 1781 and 1789 he produced six poems in praise of Gaelic and the bagpipes, as submissions for the Highland Society of London’s annual poetry prize. In addition, at least seven poems of his were published individually in leaflet form between 1768 and 1790 (see MacLeod, p. xv; MacLean 1915, p. 232; Scottish Gaelic Union Catalogue). One of these songs, Oran do na h oighreachan a fhuair air ais an cuid fearainn le reachd na mor-dhail san bliadhna 1784, is said in the Union Catalogue to exist in a single copy in the General Register Office. Its relationship, if any, to Òran nam Fineachan a fhuair am Fearann air ais (MacLeod, pp. 244-53) needs to be investigated.

Macintyre narrowly failed to be appointed to a post as the Highland Society’s bard (the post was offered instead to one Donald Shaw), but he was commended by the Society, and awarded a grant of 100 merks. At one point, Macintyre was brought to court on a charge of making and selling illicit whisky (apparently his wife was an expert distiller, and she had a small shop in the Lawnmarket area of the city); but the case was dismissed. It is unclear whether Macintyre spent the whole period from c. 1766 to 1793 as a member of the City Guard. He certainly made some journeys to the Highlands during this time, particularly when collecting subscriptions for the second edition of his poems. He seems to have been generally well respected and well liked wherever he went. MacLeod suggests that by 1790, when the second edition was published, ‘Macintyre either obtained indefinite leave or had retired from the Guard’ (p. xxxiii). Macintyre also made trips north to obtain subscriptions for the third edition of his poems, which was published in 1804. His wife went with him on at least some of these trips.

Between 1793 and 1799, Macintyre was enrolled in the Breadalbane Fencibles. It is unclear whether he returned to the City Guards after the Breadalbane regiment was disbanded. Macintyre died in 1812, and is buried, alongside his wife (who died in 1824) and some of his children, in Greyfriars churchyard in Edinburgh. A monument now marks the spot. A number of editions of his poetry were published after his death. MacLeod observes that ‘No other Gaelic poet has had so many editions of his poems published, and he is certainly the best known of the eighteenth-century group’ (p. xl).
Contents This volume begins with the editor’s Preface (p. v) and a list of Works Referred To (pp. iv-xii). At the end of this, the editor lists the six previous editions of Macintyre’s songs which he used or consulted for this edition (those published in 1768, 1790, 1804, 1834, 1848, and 1912). This is followed by a table listing the Titles of Songs (pp. xiii-xiv), and indicating which of the six editions they appear in. The fifth edition, published in 1848 by MacLachlan and Stewart, is the first edition to contain the complete canon recognised by MacLeod.

The Introduction (pp. xv-xlvii) is in three sections, namely Texts and Biographies (pp. xv-xvii), Historical and Critical (xvii-xliv), and Linguistic (pp. xliv-xlvii). The first section surveys the earlier editions of Macintyre’s poetry. The second section deals with social conditions in the Highlands in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It looks briefly at the way of life in the Highlands at that time and discusses what we know of Macintyre’s life. The third section looks at the language of the poems, and discusses orthography and dialect.

Text and Translation (pp. 2-419) contains 63 poems and songs, with Gaelic and English on facing pages. This is followed by Notes (pp. 421-557), covering aspects of subject matter, metre, and interpretation, and noting variance between the editions in regard to text, titles and tunes. These are followed by two Maps (p. 558) – one of Glen Etive and one of Ben Dobhrain.

There are three indices: an Index of Place-Names (pp. 559-61), an Index of National, Personal, and Clan Names (pp. 563-64), and a Glossarial Index (pp. 565-81).
Sources MacLeod has used the six editions of Macintyre’s poems containing primary material as the basis of his edition. See further below, under Edition, for comment on his editorial methods.
Language Macintyre’s songs cover a number of topics and are composed in a variety of metres. He is perhaps most famous for his descriptive nature poems, which include Oran Coire a’ Cheathaich (pp. 164-73), Oran an t-Samhraidh (pp. 184-95), and Moladh Beinn Dobhrain (pp. 196-225), which includes the following typical lines: ‘Tha ’n eilid anns an fhrìth \ Mar bu chòir dhi bhith, \ Far am faigh i mìlteach \ Glan-feòirneanach; \ Bruchorachd is cìob, \ Lusan am bi brìgh, \ Chuireadh sult is ìth, \ Air a lòineanaibh’ (p. 204).

In Cumha Coire a’ Cheathaich (pp. 174-83) and in Cead Deireannach nam Beann (pp. 386-91), Macintyre refers to changes that are taking place or have taken place in these areas during his lifetime; the former poem contains the following personalised comment on the changes: ‘’S e mùthadh air an t-saoghal \ An coire laghach gaolach \ A dhol a nis air faondradh, \ ’S am maor a theachd ann; \ ’S gur h-e bu chleachdainn riamh dha \ Bhith trusadh nan cearc biadhta, \ Gur tric a rinn iad sianail \ Le pianadh do làmh’ (p. 176).

A number of Macintyre’s songs touch on the political climate and national events. These include his two songs about the Battle of Falkirk, Oran do Bhlar na h-Eaglaise Brice (pp. 2-7) and Oran Eile air Blar na h-Eaglaise Brice (pp. 408-17). Explicit political comment occurs also in Oran do ’n Bhriogais (pp. 8-15), Oran do ’n Eideadh Ghaidhealach (pp. 238-43), Oran nam Fineachan a Fhuair am Fearann air ais (pp. 244-53) and Oran nam Balgairean (pp. 346-49). In the last-mentioned song Macintyre’s anger is palpable: ‘Mo bheannachd aig na balgairean, \ A chionn bhith sealg nan caorach. \ An iad na caoraich cheannriabhach \ Rinn aimhreit feadh an t-saoghail; \ Am fearann a chur fàs oirnn, \ ’S am màl a chur an daoiread? \ Chan ’eil àit aig tuathanach, \ Tha bhuannachd-san air claonadh; \ Is éigin dhà bhith fàgail \ An àit anns an robh dhaoine’ (p. 346).

Macintyre composed a number of praise songs, which contain incidental references to political events and social conditions. Their panegyric motifs are expressed in images of manly pursuits such as fighting and hunting. Examples include Oran do ’n Righ (pp. 26-33), Oran do Iain Caimbeul a’ Bhanca (pp. 46-57), Oran do Chaiptean Donnchadh Caimbeul an Geard Dhun Eideann (pp. 58-67), and Oran do Iarla Bhraghaid Albann (pp. 366-373), which provides the following lines: ‘Na h-Urchaich eireachdail \ Le ’n urchair sgalanta, \ Cur suas nam peileirean \ Nach cualas mearachdach; \ ’S iad buadhmhor iomairteach \ ’S cha dualchas giorag dhaibh, \ ’San ruaig cha tilleadh iad, \ ’S gur cruaidh le ’n lannan iad’ (p. 370).

Macintyre composed a number of songs in praise of particular regiments, including Oran do ’n t-Seann Fhreiceadan Ghaidhealach (pp. 254-63), Oran do Reisimeid Earra-Ghaidheal (pp. 264-69), and Oran do Reisimeid Bhraghaid Albann (pp. 374-77), in which the following lines occur: ‘’S ann fhuair e na fiùrain \ ’Na dhùthchannaibh féin, \ Tha cruaidh an am rùsgaidh \ Air chùl nan arm geur; \ ’S le ’n gunnachan dùbhghorm \ Is spuir ùra ’nan gleus: \ An am losgadh an fhùdair \ Cha diùltadh aon té’ (p. 374). Macintyre also composed Rainn Claidhimh (pp. 362-65), in praise of a sword he was given, and a number of songs about hunting, in which his gun, nicknamed Nic Còiseam, figures prominently: Oran do ’n Mhusg (pp. 16-19), Oran do Thailbert a Fhuaradh o Bhanrigh Mairi (pp. 20-25), Oran Seachran Seilge (pp. 156-59), and Oran do Ghunna dh’ an Ainm Nic Coiseim (pp. 226-29).

Macintyre composed six songs in praise of Gaelic and of the pipes, each of which is entitled Rann do ’n Ghaidhlig ’s do ’n Phiob-mhoir (pp. 270-99), and a few love songs, including Oran Sugraidh (pp. 102-07), Oran Gaoil (pp. 108-13), and the well-known Oran d’ a Cheile Nuadh-Phosda (pp. 114-23). He also composed a number of satires or songs of a satirical nature, including Oran do Charaid Tailleir air son Cuairt Shuirghe (pp. 86-89), Oran do ’n Taillear (pp. 90-101), Aoir Uisdein (pp. 316-21), Aoir Anna (pp. 322-25), Oran do ’n Inbhir (pp. 350-57), and Oran Iain Faochag (pp. 396-405), which includes the following lines: ‘Chan iongnadh leam thu bhith ’d bhalach \ Is bhith salach ann ad nàdur, \ On a lean thu ris an dùthchas \ Bh’ aig na sgiùrsairean o ’n tàin’ thu; \ ’S tu ’n t-isean a fhuair an t-ùmaidh \ Ris an t-siùrsaich air na sràidean; \ ’S i ’n drochbheart a thog ad chloinn thu, \ ’S ann ad shlaidhtire chaidh t’ àrach’ (p. 398).

Macintyre composed a handful of elegies and laments, including Cumha Chailein Ghlinn Iubhair (pp. 68-77), Cumha Ghill-easbuig Ach-chaladair (pp. 78-85), and Cumha Iarla Bhraghaid-Albann (pp. 326-31). He also composed some songs addressed to animals: Marbhrann do Chu a chaidh troimh ’n Eigh (pp. 406-07), Marbhrann Coilich (pp. 150-55), and Oran do Chaora (pp. 132-45). The first of these animal songs is an apparently serious elegy; the second is a mock-heroic account of the death of a cockerel; and the third is an extravagant elegy for a sheep killed by a fox, leading the poet to imagine the thigging for wool which he will now have to do and the process of making cloth from the wool. It is in the form of a waulking song. Oran Luaidh (pp. 146-49) also describes the waulking process, and celebrates the waulking process, the waulking women and the tweed they produce. Macintyre also composed three convivial drinking songs: Rainn do ’n Phadhadh (pp. 300-01), Oran a’ Bhranndaidh (pp. 302-05), and Oran a’ Bhotail (pp. 306-11).

Religion does not figure largely or seriously in Macintyre’s songs, though a pious thought is contained in Rainn I Chaluim Chille (pp. 332-35), which commemorates a sermon heard by the bard. In Rainn Comh-dhunaidh (pp. 336-39) Macintyre meditates on the inevitability of death, even for poets. Rainn do ’n Cheud Cheaird (pp. 358-61) is a light-hearted poem in praise of tailoring, which Macintyre sets in the Garden of Eden. In Marbhrann an Ughdair Dha Fein (pp. 392-95) he imagines himself speaking from the grave, warning his audience to be prepared for death: ‘Fhir tha ’d sheasamh air mo lic \ Bha mise mar tha thu ’n dràsd; \ ’S i mo leaba ’n diugh an uaigh, \ Chan ’eil smior no smuais am chnàimh; \ Ged tha thusa làidir òg, \ Cha mhair thu beò, ged fhuair thu dàil; \ Gabh mo chomhairle ’s bi glic, \ Cuimhnich tric gun tig am bàs’ (p. 392).
Orthography MacLeod raises a number of points relating to orthography and dialect. He begins by stressing that, although the first three editions of Macintyre’s poetry were published during the author’s lifetime, because Macintyre was illiterate ‘he had no control over the written form of his verse’ (p. xliv). Forms such as nois, raibh and croidhe might, but equally might not be, indicative of the poet’s speech. In some cases Macintyre’s editors demonstrably did violence to his language: ‘Metrical requirements were overlooked when feudainn (instead of faodainn) was written to rhyme with daonnan; and the poet clearly used both -ia- and -eu- forms as rhyme demands, e.g. both ciataichead and ceutach’ (p. xliv). Later editions eliminate some possible archaisms: e.g. in the first edition ‘the future tense has shed the characteristic f in the active – cuiridh (not cuirfidh); but f is occasionally retained in the future passive, e.g. brisfior’ (p. xliv). Another problematic area concerns the various forms written ga or ’ga in the early editions. These spellings do duty for (1) ’ga (ag a), (2) g’ a (gu a) and (3) dh’ a, where dh’ represents the lenited d of do or de’ (p. xliv). But it is quite uncertain whether these spellings go back to the poet or were introduced by the editors. Again, ‘The texts show uncertainty and inconsistency in the genitive case of nouns having an unstressed final syllable in -ea-. Thus we find éibhneis and éibhnis for genitive of éibhneas’ (p. xlv). Additionally, MacLeod highlights a number of other inconsistencies between the early editions, such as the use of cho, co, and comh, which sometimes lenite the following adjective and sometimes do not; the use of uaisle in the first two editions, but uailse in the third edition; and the use of both (a) h-uile and na h-uile. He concludes ruefully that ‘rhyme sometimes guides us to the poet’s word, but this check is not always applicable’ (p. xlv).

Regarding dialectal forms that could plausibly be associated with Macintyre, MacLeod suggests that ‘local usage appears in the preposition roimh for troimh’ (p. xliv) and that ‘Perthshire influence appears in the vocabulary and in the rounded sound of a which rhyms ard with bann, not with bàn’ (p. xliv).
Edition The first edition of Macintyre’s poems having been published in 1768, two further editions were published during the poet’s lifetime, each adding a number of fresh poems to the canon. The occurrence of each poem is conveniently displayed in the table on pp. xiii-xiv of the present volume, and the Notes record significant variations between the editions. The first edition is the primary source for the first 26 poems in this volume. The second edition, published in 1790, is the primary source for the 23 new poems it contains. The third edition, published in 1804, is the primary source for a further eleven poems. The 1834 edition adds two more poems and the 1848 edition another one poem. Editors should refer back to the primary sources and quote from them wherever appropriate. It should be noted that the second edition omitted two poems that had been published in the first edition (Oran do ’n bhriogais and Oran do charaid tàilleir air son cuairt shuirghe), presumably on grounds of decency; the latter poem did not re-enter the canon till 1848. It should also be noted that the second edition introduced ‘considerable changes’ into Moladh Beinn Dóbhrain (MacLeod, p. xvi), and that the unmodified English spellings of some loanwords found in the first edition of Macintyre’s poems were altered by native English wordings in the second edition: e.g. dress > dreas, charged > shears.

The third edition, published in 1804, contained eleven new poems.Oran Iain Faochag was published as a leaflet in 1768, but was not included in the first three editions. However, it found its way into the fourth edition, which was published in 1834. The other new song which appeared in the fourth edition was Marbhrann do chù a chaidh troimh’n eigh.

The fifth edition, published in 1848 by MacLachlan and Stewart (Oran agus Dana Gaidhealach), appears to be the earliest edition in which all of Macintyre’s poems were published, with the possible exception of Oran do na h oighreachan, on which see Social Context above.
Other Sources
Further Reading MacLean, Donald, Typographia Scoto-Gadelica, 1915.
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