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Title Sgeulachdan Dhòmhnaill Alasdair
Author Dòmhnallach, Dòmhnall Alasdair
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 2001
Date Of Language 2000-2049
Publisher Acair
Place Published Stornoway
Volume N/A
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins Lewis
Register Literature, Prose
Alternative Author Name MacDonald, Donald Alasdair
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 19.3cm x 12.7cm
Short Title Sgeulachdan
Reference Details EUL, Celtic: LI G Dho.
Number Of Pages 126
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Dòmhnall Alasdair Dòmhnallach was born in 1919 in Garrabost, in the district of Point in Lewis. Second oldest in a family of four children, he grew up listening to his father telling stories and to his mother singing. They lived in a ‘blackhouse’ and he gained his pre-school ‘education’ next door in the taigh-cèilidh. He spoke no English before he went to school but quickly learned the language. He developed an interest in Gaelic poetry from one of his secondary-school teachers, the Gaelic scholar and poet, Seumas MacThòmais, although he received no education in the language and left school unable to read or write in Gaelic. He left school early, due to the expense involved in attending the secondary-school in Stornoway, and took up croft-work and peat-cutting to earn some money to pay for a distance learning course, through which he spent three years studying English, history, geography, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. He also developed an interest in English poetry, after his brother gave him The English Parnassus, which comprised poetry from Chaucer to Fitzgerald. He then began writing verses in English, receiving encouragement from a national paper to which he had submitted his first poem.

Shortly before the Second World War he joined the RAF and spent the duration of the war in bomber aircraft where he quickly rose to the rank of officer. After the war, he remained with the RAF for fifteen years, teaching and rising to the rank of Flight-Lieutenant, after which he retired with a pension. He loved being in the air and much preferred this to his later duties as a Flight-Lieutenant, where he spent much of his time in an office. When he left the RAF he returned to Lewis, built a house in Garrabost, and began studying for a qualification in teaching the blind. He worked with the blind in the Western Isles for 27 years. During this time he travelled widely in the islands, and became acquainted with the Gaelic poets Murchadh MacPhàrlain in Lewis and Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna in North Uist. Rather than talking poetry, however, they discussed the First and Second World Wars. It was not until he was in his sixties that he began learning to read and write in Gaelic, and shortly afterwards he began writing Gaelic poetry, some of which was published in the Stornoway Gazette. After writing an article in Gaelic for Gairm about his experiences in the RAF, he was encouraged by its publisher, Derick Thomson, to write short stories for the journal. A collection of the author’s poetry, Bàrdachd Dhòmhnaill Alasdair, was published in 1999. Dòmhnall Alasdair Dòmhnallach died in 2003.
Contents 24 short stories. The shortest is 4 pages, the longest is 9 pages. The stories in this volume are probably all fictional, although the writer often refers to his involvement in the story and the stories are frequently about people he ‘knows’ or ‘used to know’. The stories are set in the present, but often refer to things that happened in the past, from the late 1920s onwards. For example, Droch Bhliadhna sa Sgoil (pp. 69-72) refers to events which supposedly happened to the author in 1929, when he was ten years old. The subjects covered vary, from lobster fishing (e.g. Iasgach nan Giomach, pp. 94-97) to murder and drug smuggling (e.g. Saighead an Tighearna, pp. 116-22 and Pòsadh ‘Smart Ailig’, pp. 103-11). There is a moral to every story and many of them contain a twist in the tail.
Language The language is informal and colloquial and there are some examples of direct speech. A wide variety of topics is covered in the book, providing a wide range of vocabulary.  As the topics are often set in the present day, and are not confined to rural Lewis, some less traditional subjects are covered (e.g. drugs), although not in great depth.  Thus, the vocabulary extends beyond that of every-day conversation and provides the reader with words such as drochaid-togalach ‘drawbridge’ and steallairean ‘syringes’.

The author uses many words that have been borrowed from English, some of which are in common every-day usage (e.g. rùm, seada), and others which are less so (e.g. taidhcùn, toirpìodo, hearoan, lioftanant, an dòil).

The author uses or creates Gaelic words and phrases for which there is no historical Gaelic precedent, where other authors might import English terms. For example, he uses words such as geòla rubair ‘dinghy’, and renders ‘Addiction Research Council’ as Comhairle Rannsachaidh Tràilleachd. A more complex example of borrowing and adaptation is motair-rothair ‘motor-bicycle’.

There are also examples of English idioms that have been adopted in Gaelic (e.g. a’ chiad rong air an fhàradh, bha e ag adhradh dhan talamh air an robh i a’ coiseachd).
Orthography The Lewis dialect is apparent in words such as eadhan and cionnas, and also the shortening of the past-tense preverb gus an do to gus na (e.g. gus na thòisich).

When the author uses words freshly borrowed from English, he generally writes them in a Gaelicised form, and this book hence provides a useful source for Gaelic versions of English words such as heroin and tycoon (see above).

The Gaelic of these stories is good, well-written, fluent mid-twentieth century Lewis Gaelic. It is contemporary in its outlook, not being confined solely to traditional Gaelic topics. It therefore provides a wide range of more modern Gaelic vocabulary, including Gaelicised spellings for English borrowings.
Edition First edition of this collection. The 24 stories in this volume are well presented and easy to read, although there are a number of obvious typing errors e.g. thgam for thugam, call-airm for ball-airm, and ruahag, possibly for rugadh.
Other Sources
Further Reading Dòmhnallach, Dòmhnall, Alasdair Bàrdachd Dhòmhnaill Alasdair, 1999.
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