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Metadata for text 191
No. words in text118185
Title Eachann Bacach and other MacLean Poets
Author (Ó Baoill)
Editor Ó Baoill, Colm
Date Of Edition 1979
Date Of Language 17th c.
Publisher The Scottish Academic Press for the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume 14 (Scottish Gaelic Texts Society)
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins Various
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name MacLean, Eachann
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 22cm x 14cm
Short Title Eachann Bacach
Reference Details EUL: .891631 Eac
Number Of Pages lxxxiii, 322
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context This volume is a collection of poems by a number of Maclean poets. The editor explains in the Preface, that ‘the intention which gave rise to the present collection was to get the poems of Eachann Bacach into Print. But since I have found only seven poems which are usually ascribed to him, it was decided to expand the collection to include some other Maclean poets of the 17th and early 18th centuries, whose extant work is so small as to make it unlikely that any of them would have his work published separately’ (p. vii). The volume contains 20 poems, 7 by Eachann Bacach, and the rest by four or five other poets – the ambiguity arises from the fact that there may be two poets called Lachlann Maclean (see Introduction, pp. l-lii). There are 2 poems by ‘Lachlann Maclean’ in this volume. In addition, there are five poems by Anndra Mac an Easbuig, one poem by Dòmhnall Bàn, and five poems by Maighstir Seathan. A few brief notes about the poets will suffice here. Editors are directed to the Introduction for more information on each of these poets.

Eachann Bacach: Eachann Bacach seems to have been a ‘semi-official poet’ to Sir Lachlan Maclean of Duart in Mull (Thomson 1994, p. 68), and he is referred to in the Eigg Collection (p. 85) by the term Aosdana. (See MacMhathain’s article in Gairm 8 for a discussion on the meaning of this term.) We know from the internal evidence of his poems that he flourished around 1650, but the dates of his birth and death are unknown. Ó Baoill points out that poem no. 5 may in fact not have been composed by him (see Notes), and that the poem given in Appendix I may have been composed by him.

Lachlann Maclean: Two poems in this volume are attributed to Lachlann Maclean. In the Introduction, Ó Baoill examines the evidence for the existence of two poets by this name, but concludes that ‘Nothing seems to be known about the life of (either) Lachlann’ (p. li).

Anndra Mac an Easbuig: There are five poems by Anndra Mac an Easbuig of Knock in Morvern. He was the eldest son of Hector MacLean, the minister of Morvern and, later, Bishop of Argyll. His poems are from the period 1680-1718, and he himself seems to hae lived from around 1635 to around 1720.

Dòmhnall Bàn: Very little is known about Dòmhnall Bàn, who has one poem in this volume. He may have been from Mull, but this is not certain, and there is no concrete evidence even to suggest that he was a MacLean. Ó Baoill points out that ‘there was at least one other poet called Dòmhnall Bàn alive about the same time’ (p. lxi).

Maighstir Seathan: Maighstir Seathan (c.1680-1756), also known as Rev. John MacLean, was a poet and genealogist from Mull. He became minister of Kilninian in Mull in 1702. He contributed a poem to Edward Lhuyd’s Archaeologia Britannica (1707), given here as no. 17, and he may have been one of Lhuyd’s informants. Maighstir Seathan was chosen by the Presbytery of Lorne to compile a Gaelic to English vocabulary for the SSPCK. It is not clear how much, if any, of this work was undertaken by Maighstir Seathan. The mooted vocabulary was eventually published in 1741, compiled by Alastair Mac Mhaighstir Alastair.
Contents This volume begins with a Preface by the editor, explaining how the volume came about and the editorial principles employed (pp. vii-x). We then find a list of Contents (p. xi), a Bibliography of books and manuscripts (pp. xiii-xxviii), and a list of Abbreviations and Sources (pp. xxix-xxxiii). There is also a Table of Primary Sources and Index of first Lines (p. xxxiv), which shows that eight of the poems were taken from the MS of Dr Hector MacLean of Grulin. We then find The Pedigree of The MacLean Chiefs 1400-1750 (p. xxxv), which shows the genealogy of the MacLean Chiefs based on a chapter in Alexander MacLean Sinclair’s The Clan Gillean.

The Introduction (pp. xxxvii-lxxxii) looks at Dol Sios Chloinn Ghill-Eathain before discussing each of the six poets in turn. We then find Index of Poems (p. lxxxiii), listing all 20 poems. Poems are given in Gaelic and English on facing pages in Text and Translation (pp. 1-121). There follow sections on Sources and Readings, which gives variant readings (pp. 123-52); Notes on the poems, containing extensive notes on subject matter and interpretation (pp. 153-274); and notes on Metres and Tunes (pp. 275-99). There are five Appendices (pp. 301-16), each of which contains another song. There are two indices: an Index of Names (pp. 317-18) and a Glossarial Index (pp. 319-22).
Sources See Abbreviations and Sources (pp. xxix-xxxiii), Table of Primary Sources and Index of first Lines (p. xxxiv), and Sources and Readings (pp. 123-52). Sixteen of the poems had only one primary version. The following six sources are listed in the Sources and Readings as primary sources: Lhuyd’s Archaeologia Britannica (1707), Hector MacLean’s MS (c.1750), the MacNicol MSS (c.1775), the Eigg Collection (1776), John MacLean’s MS (c.1815), and A. and D. Stewart’s Collection (1804).
Language The majority of the poems in this volume are elegies or eulogies. Eulogies include Eachann Bacach’s ’S ann Di-Ciadain an Là (pp. 2-5), Iorram do Shir Lachann (pp. 6-9), and Òran do Lachann (pp. 26-33). These tend to use the standard forms of panegyric motif. In the first of these, for example, we find ‘Shir Lachainn nam bàrc, \ Chuireadh luingis air sàil, \ Leis an taghar an càbhlach acfhuinneach’ (p. 2) and ‘Nuair a nochdadh sibh sròil \ Ris na caol-chrannaibh stòir, \ ’S mairg a thachradh d’a dheòin roimh’n lasan sin’ (p. 2).

There are three love poems in this volume, one by Anndra Mac an Easbuig and two by Maighstir Seathan. The first two of these, Oran do Bharbra Nighean Easbuig Fullarton (pp. 78-81) by Mac an Easbuig, and Òran d’a Leannan (pp. 104-11) by Maighstir Seathan are as much eulogies as they are love songs, and may even have been composed as such, with a purely conventional devotion to their subjects. For example, in the first song we find ‘Gu maiseach mìn-gheal tàbhachdach, \ Anns gach gnaoi neo-fhàileasach, \ Aigne sèimh neo-àrdanach, \ Gun fhàillinne fo’n ghréin’ (p. 78). The third song, Maighstir Seathan’s Òran Gaoil d’a Leannan agus i pòsadh ri fear eile (pp. 112-17) is very different, and, as Ó Baoill estimates, contains none of the ‘parental tone’ of his other love song (p. 271), but instead expresses the author’s love of the woman, and his despair at her marrying someone else. Ó Baoill also considers evidence which suggests that this poem may have been written by another author (p. 271).

This volume also contains a number of elegies, including Eachann Bacach’s A’ Chnò Shamhna (pp. 14-25), Lachlann Maclean’s Òran do Lachann, triath Cholla (pp. 48-53), Mac an Easbuig’s Òran do dh’Alasdair Mac an Easbuig (pp. 68-71) and his Iorram for his brother (pp. 72-75), and Maighstir Seathan’s Marbhrann d’a mhnaoi, Isibeal Nic Gill-Eòin (pp. 118-21). A number of these include motifs, e.g. ‘Thriall bhur bunadh gu Phàro; \ Có b’urrainn d’a sheanchas \ Ach Mac Mhuirich, Mac Fhearghais? \ Craobh a thuinich ré aimsir, \ Fhreumhaich bun ann an Albainn’ in the first song (p. 14) and ‘Cha bhi mi teachd air do bheus \ O nach gnìomhan balaich iad; \ Cha robh thu taisgeil air séid, \ ’S thug luchd teud an aire dhuit’ in the second (p. 48).

A number of these elegies also touch on religion, particularly Maighstir Seathan’s elegy for his wife, in which he expresses his sadness at her death, but acceptance that it had to happen and that it was for the best. For example, we find ‘Tha do chadal sàmhach buan, \ Gu aiseirigh ’n t-sluaigh o’n bhàs; \ ’S àghmhor a’ chabair a rug ort \ O anacair ghoirt ’s o chràdh. \ Tha mo dhòchas ann an Crìosd, \ ’N Tì dhìol air son peacadh chàich, \ Thé as tric riaraich am bochd, \ Gu bheil t’anam nochd ’na bhlàths’ (p. 120).

Some of the poems in this volume touch on the social affairs of the time, such as Maighstir Seathan’s Ge grianach an latha (pp. 90-99), in which he laments the state of the Clan in the current social and political climate, and his Rainn (pp. 100-03), composed in praise of the Gaelic language and its speakers and lamenting its decline. In Mac an Easbuig’s Uam-s’ tha Ràitinn (pp. 60-67), we find ‘Ged thà ar fearann \ ’N dràsd fo’r gearradh, \ Chan e bhur ceannas \ Bhuin dhinn le lannaibh còir e. \\ Bu bhuan strì dhuinn \ Ri sluaigh rìoghachd; \ Cha tuath chrìon seo \ Fhuair dhinn strìocadh còmhluath’ (p. 64). The poem is transliterated in the Text and Translations, but a transcription of the original text, as it appeared in Hector MacLean’s MS, is given in Sources and Readings (pp. 141-44). Ó Baoill notes that it was written using an ‘unusually “phonetic” spelling’ (p. 229).

A number of the poems refer to battles and fighting, whether specific or in general, sometimes embedded in a panegyric motif, for example Eachann Bacach’s Oran do Shir Eachann (pp. 34-43) and Is beag aobhar mo shùgraidh (pp. 10-13), where we find ‘Togail suas am bragàda \ Bu neo-sgàthach air each thu. \ Ge b’e chitheadh do dhaoine, \ Rìgh, bu ghreadhnach am faicinn, \ Le musgacha dubh-ghorm \ ’S iad gun sùith orr’ gun deatach. \ Donn-ghràbhailte shoilleir \ Nach bu doilleir r’a faicinn’. In Dòmhnall Bàn’s elegy Òran do Dhòmhnall, Fear Bhròlais (pp. 82-89), we find ‘Sliabh an t-Siorraim gun stàth \ Chòmhdaich sinne measg chàich \ Le làn togar gun sgàth gun chùram, \ Mar bu chubhaidh ’s bu dual \ Ann an toiseach an t-sluaigh \ ’N déis an t-òrdugh thoirt uad dod’ mhuinntir’ (p. 82).

Other poems of note are Lachlann Maclean’s dispraise of the pipes, Ascaoin Molaidh na Pìoba (pp. 54-59), and Mac an Easbuig’s eight-line Aindra Mc Ghiléoin Fear an Cnuic, an tirídhe mac Easbuig Earraghaoidhil cc (pp. 76-77), which was published in the Preface to Lhuyd’s Archaeologia Britannica of 1707. It is printed in this volume as it was first published. It reads ‘O rdheirc an gniomh saor bhur comhluinn \ Clíu do fhoghlum beirid uáinn: \ Ti do chur do na thuit or sinnsreadh \ Cus do sgeimh bhur linn a mfuaim. \ Molfid Mc Liath na Sheanchas, \ Ochd mhacigh’achd do leanmhuinn oirinn, \ Brathreachus Gaoidhil Fear Shaxan, \ Thabhart nar ccuimhne ceart na loirg’ (p. 76).

The Notes to the poems contain much information on the meanings of words used in these poems, with references to verbal parallels, to other uses of particular terms, and to sources of further information on certain terms.
Orthography The orthography has been modernised to a large extent. The editor states: ‘In the case of nos. 13 and 17, which were printed during their authors’ lifetimes, I have reproduced the poems exactly as they first appeared in 1707: some argument in defence of this procedure is given in the Notes to no. 13. All the other poems I have attempted to present in an acceptable modern spelling. This means rejecting local dialect forms and archaic forms (like chuaidh, go bhfuil) present in the sources, except where they are clearly part of the rhyme or metrical system, and it also means making more or less arbitrary decisions on the spelling of certain common unstressed words (e.g. so/seo, o/bho): this can be justified by the fact that such forms in the sources are likely to reflect the spelling or pronunciation systems of scribes or their oral sources rather than those of the poet concerned. All significant divergences from normal modern spelling are given under Sources and Readings’ (p. viii). The editor also reveals that some unstressed syllables have been restored, ‘where required by the metrical patterns of the poems’ (p. viii).
Edition First edition. Editors should use the earliest source of each poem where possible. See Abbreviations and Sources (pp. xxix-xxxiii), Table of Primary Sources and Index of first Lines (p. xxxiv), and Sources and Readings (pp. 123-52).
Other Sources
Further Reading MacMhathain, Aonghas, ‘Aos Dàna’, Gairm 8, 1954, pp. 343-47.
Thomson, Derick S. (ed.), The Companion to Gaelic Scotland, 1994.
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