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Metadata for text 186
No. words in text131787
Title Orain Iain Luim/Songs of John MacDonald, Bard of Keppoch
Author MacDonald, John
Editor MacKenzie, Annie M.
Date Of Edition 1964
Date Of Language 18th c.
Publisher Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume 8 (Scottish Gaelic Texts Society)
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins Lochaber
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Iain Lom
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 21.5cm x 14cm
Short Title Orain Iain Luim
Reference Details EUL: PB1648.M223Macd
Number Of Pages xliii, 130
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Little concrete information is available about Iain Lom’s life. He seems to have been born sometime before 1624, and the last poem attributed to him was written about the Act of Union, and can therefore be dated to around 1707. The circumstances of his death are unclear.

There is still some dispute about the origin of the name Lom. Some believe it referred to the sharpness of his tongue (probably the most likely explanation), while others believe it was due to his lack of a beard. He was also known in his time as Iain Mabach (or Manntach), in recognition of a speech defect. Tradition tells that he began composing poetry at a very young age. Mackenzie reports that ‘There is a tradition that he was sent to the Catholic Seminary at Valladolid in Spain to receive his education at the hands of the priests, but having incurred the anger of his tutors by reason of some breach of discipline, he returned to Brae Lochaber’ (p. xxii). However, there is no direct evidence for this. Another source states that Iain Lom could neither read nor write, but had a wonderful memory and an accurate knowledge of the Scriptures. It is clear from his poetry that he was present at the Battle of Inverlochy, although he seems not to have taken an active part in the fighting. He certainly took a keen interest in national politics, particularly after the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. He was also a staunch Royalist. Mackenzie concludes that ‘Compromise was alien to his nature, and consequently those who were opposed to that cause were violently denounced and subjected to the scathing powers of his invective’ (pp. xxx-xxxi). His ‘victims’ are spared no mercy or pity in his verbal attacks on them, as can be seen in some of the quotations below. It is claimed that Iain Lom entered the service of Charles II as a kind of Scottish poet laureate, with a retainer of either £50 or £100 (p. xxxiv).
Contents This volume begins with the editor’s Preface (pp. v-vi) and a table of Contents (p. vii). We then find a list of Works Referred to in Introduction or Notes (pp. ix-xv), a section on Abbreviations and Sources (pp. xvi-xviii), and a section entitled Notes on Manuscript Sources (pp. xix-xx). This is followed by a Table of Sources (facing p. xx), by first line, listing the 41 poems by Iain Lom and the elegy made for him by Angus MacDonald.

In the Introduction (pp. xxi-xlv), the editor assesses the biographical information we have about Iain Lom, and discusses his poetry. We then find the Index of Poems (pp. xlvi-xlvii), listing the 41 poems by Gaelic title, and the poems themselves, Orain Iain Luim (pp. 1-229), presented in Gaelic and English on facing pages. The editor notes in the Preface that the poems have been arranged chronologically ‘as far as possible’ (p. vi). Notes (pp. 230-327) deal with subject matter, historical context, anecdotes, source material, and terminology, etc., and this is followed by sections on Variant Readings (pp. 328-75) and Metres and Airs (pp. 376-82).

There are 10 Appendices (pp. 383-415), which contain variant readings for ten poems from published and (mainly) MS sources. There are two indices: Index of National, Personal and Clan Names (pp. 416-21) and Index of Place-Names (pp. 422-25), and these are followed by a Glossary (pp. 426-39), which gives an English translation and the line in which the word appears in the text.

There is a map of the Keppoch area on the inside covers, both front and back.
Sources See the Table of Sources, facing p. xx. The editor notes in the Preface that ‘The text of each poem is based on the source which seemed to provide the soundest version – as a general rule the oldest source. This is often supplemented by readings from other sources. Few conjectures have been admitted and the fusion of different versions has been avoided’ (pp. v-vi). The editor also notes that ‘The songs of Iain Lom, …, are not readily accessible, as they are scattered for the most part throughout various collections, anthologies and periodicals, which are now out of print’ (p. v). Alexander MacLean Sinclair published an edition of Iain Lom’s poems in 1895, although, Mackenzie points out that ‘it is not always reliable, as the Editor did not hesitate on occasion to omit certain portions of the text, rewrite others and insert stanzas of his own composition’ (p. v).
Language In the Introduction to this volume, Mackenzie divides Iain Lom’s poetry into three primary subject headings, while recognising that they are not mutually exclusive: ‘Poems of historical and political interest’ (discussed on pp. xxx-xxxv), ‘Poems of clan interest’ (discussed on pp. xxxv-xxxvi), and ‘Elegies and Eulogies’ (discussed on pp. xxxvi-xli).

Iain Lom composed a number of poems of historical and political interest, such as Glacadh Morair Hunndaidh (pp. 44-47); Crunadh an Dara Righ Tearlach, which took place in 1661 (pp. 76-81); Murt Ghlinne Comhann (p. 198-201); and La Inbhir Lochaidh, (pp. 20-25), where we find ‘Alasdair mhic Cholla ghasda, \ Làmh dheas a sgoltadh nan caisteal, \ Chuir thu ’n ruaig air Ghallaibh glasa, \ ’S ma dh’òl iad càl chuir thu asd’ e. \ ’M b’aithne dhuibh-se ’n Goirtean Odhar? \ ’S math a bha e air a thodhar; \ Chan innear chaorach no ghobhar, \ Ach fuil Dhuibhneach an déidh reodhadh’ (p. 24).

Iain Lom composed at least two poems about the Battle of Killiecrankie: Oran air Feachd Righ Seumas (pp. 184-89), in which he describes the army’s preparations for battle, and Cath Raon Ruairidh (pp. 190-97), where we find ‘’S e Prionns Uilleam ’s a shluagh \ Dh’fhàg an dùthaich so truagh \ ’N uair a chuir iad thar cuan Rìgh Seumas uainn. \\ Guidheam sgrios agus bàs, \ Goirt is miosgainn is plàigh \ Air bhur sliochd, mar bh’air àl na h-Eiphite; \\ Gach aon latha dol sìos, \ Guin gach claidheimh ’nur bian, \ Coin ag caitheamh an dìol air sléibhte dhibh’ (p. 194).

Iain Lom’s feelings about Scotland’s relationship with England appear in a number of his poems, e.g. in Oran an Aghaidh an Aonaidh, in which he speaks out against the Act of Union which came into effect in 1707 (pp. 222-29). Prior to this, Iain Lom had shown his feelings about the new Royal family, in Oran air Righ Uilleam agus Banrigh Mairi, composed around 1692 (pp. 202-13). In this song the poet launches a scathing attack on William and Mary: ‘Ach buaidh an droch sgeòil sin \ Do Phrionns Orainns gun diadhachd! \ Ged a rachadh do bhàdhadh \ Cha b’ionann bàs duit ’s a dh’iarrainn; \ Ach na sùsain bhith t’fhaicinn \ Eadar eacha ’gad stialladh, \ Dol ad smàladh ’san adhar \ Mar luaith dhaithte ’ga criathradh’ (p. 208). In Cumha Mhontrois (pp. 56-59), Iain Lom is quite clear in his feelings about the situation that existed between Scotland and England: ‘Tha Alba dol fo chìoschain \ Aig farbhalaich gun fhìrinn, \ Bhàrr a’ chalpa dhìrich— \ ’S e cuid de m’ dhìobhail ghoirt. \\ Tha Sasannaich ’gar faireigneadh, \ ’Gar creach ’gar murt ’s ’gar marbhadh, \ Gun ghabh ar n-Athair fearg ruinn, \ Gur dearmad dhuinn ’s gur bochd’ (p. 56).

Iain Lom also composed a number of poems of clan interest, such as Murt na Ceapaich after the Chief of Keppoch and his brother were murdered in 1663 (pp. 82-93). The Keppoch murders appear in a number of Iain Lom’s poems, and Iain Lom himself was instrumental in having the murderers brought to justice. Other examples include Cumha do Mhac Mhic Raghnaill na Ceapaich agus a Bhrathair (pp. 108-13, and An Ciaran Mabach (pp. 128-31). A number of Iain Lom’s poems discuss the struggle between the MacLeans and Argyll. In Oran do Mhac Gille Eathain Dhubhaird (pp. 142-45), for example, we find ‘’S ann de dh’fhortan ur cùise, \ Mas e ’n torc th’oirbh a’ mùiseag, \ Gun téid stopadh na mùire ’na phòraibh. \\ Tha sgrìob ghiar nam peann gearra \ Cumail dìon air Mac Cailein, \ ’S e cho briathrach ri parraid ’na chòmhradh. \\ Thug sibh bhuainne le spleadhan— \ Gur h-i Ile ghlas laghach \ Is Cinn-tìre le maghannan gorma’ (p. 142).

A number of the elegies and eulogies in this volume also touch on clan affairs, such as Oran do Aonghas Og Morair Ghlinne Garaidh (pp. 94-101) and Oran do Mhorair Chlann Domhnaill (pp. 124-27), both referring to the situation of the Keppoch MacDonalds, which was precarious because they had no title deeds to the lands they claimed as their own: ‘Ged tha onair Shir Seumas \ Dhuit féin mar a ta e, \ B’ait leam Iarlachd Rìgh Fionnghall \ A chluinntinn mar b’àill leam; \ Bheirinn bliadhna dhe m’ shaoghal, \ ’S gach nì dh’fhaodainn a thàrsainn, \ Chionn do chòir a bhith sgrìobhte \ Fo làimh an Rìgh gun dad fàillinn’ (p. 98). The poet alludes to his own exile in Iorram do Shiol Dughaill (pp. 114-21), where we find ‘Bith ’gam stiùireadh gu Crachaig \ ’S i gun mhànas no aitreabh, \ ’S nach e màl a bha fairtleachdainn oirnn. \\ ’Gam chur a m’ fhearann gun adhbhar, \ ’S nach do shalaich mo shadhbhaidh, \ Mar mhadadh-allaidh is caonnag ’na thòin’ (p. 114).

A few of Iain Lom’s poems are more satirical in nature, such as Brian agus Iain Lom (pp. 60-63) and Domhnall Gruamach agus Iain Lom (pp. 64-67) - in which Iain Lom exchanges words (and wit) with two other poets.

Iain Lom composed a number of elegies, such as Cumha Aonghais Mhic Raghnaill Oig na Ceapaich (pp. 10-13), Cumha Alasdair Mhic Cholla (pp. 34-39), Cumha Morair Hunndaidh (pp. 48-55), Marbhrann do Shir Seumas Mac Dhomhnaill (pp. 136-41), and Cumha do Shir Domhnall Shleite (pp. 214-21). In many of these the images owe their strength to the panegyric code. In this last poem, for example, we find ‘Leómhann fireachail àrd \ Mùinte spioradail garg \ Umhail iriosal feardha treubhach, \\ Leug nan arm is nan each, \ Réimeil airceil gun airc, \ Dh’eug thu ’n Armadail glas nan déideag’ (p. 216).

He also composed a number of eulogies, whose images likewise invoke the panegyric code. Examples include Oran do Dhomhnall Gorm Og (pp. 14-19), Oran do Alasdair Mac Cholla (pp. 26-27), Do Mhac Fhionghuin an t-Sratha (pp. 72-75), Oran do Shir Domhnall Shleite (pp. 146-51), Cumha do Ghill-Easbuig na Ceapaich (pp. 164-65), Tuirneal a’ Chnatain for Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel (pp. 178-83), and Oran do Mhorair Ghlinne Garaidh (pp. 132-35), where we find ‘Mach o Mhormhair nan steud, \ Nan organ ’s nan teud, \ ’S tu b’fhoirmeile beus tràth-nòin. \\ Théid eich sheanga ’nan leum, \ Dol ’deannaibh ’san réis, \ Fhir a theannaicheadh sréin mu’m beòil. \\ B’fhearail t’fhaicinn air sràid \ Le d’ chiabhfhalt cleachdach gu làr, \ Urla mhaisich ’s neo-thàireil oirnn’ (pp. 132-34).

In a small number of Iain Lom’s poems, we find references to sailing, for example, in Iorram do Shiol Dughaill (pp. 114-21) and in Iorram do Bhata Mhic Dhomhnaill (pp. 102-07). In Oran do Shir Domhnall Shleite (pp. 146-51), we find ‘An uair a chàirte fo luchd i, \ Bhiodh tarraing suas air a cupaill, \ Bòrd a fuaraidh ’s ruith chuip air, \ Snaidhm air fuaigheal a fliuchbhuird, \ Sruth mu guaillibh ’s i suchta le gaoith. \\ An uair a chàirte fo seòl i \ Le crainn ghasda ’s le còrcaich, \ Ag iomairt cleasan ’s ga seòladh, \ Aig a’ chòmhlan bu chòidhche, \ Seal mun togt’ oirr’ a ròiseoil o thìr’ (p. 148).

Mackenzie suggests that Iain Lom’s poems are ‘those of a self-trained bard, and his poems are all composed in stressed metre, though this does not always preclude irregularity of stress, as for example in “Là Inbhir Lòchaidh”. Little or no freedom is taken with metrical form and he follows his formula closely’ (p. xxxviii). He frequently uses the so-called strophic metres.
Orthography The orthography is that of the mid-twentieth century.
Edition First edition. Editors should use the earliest version of each of the poems in this text, where appropriate. Sources are given in the table facing p. xx. See Sources above.
Other Sources
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