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Metadata for text 34
No. words in textN/A
Title Fo Sgail A’ Swastika
Author MacDhòmhnaill, Dòmhnull Iain
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1974
Date Of Language 1950-1999
Publisher Club Leabhar
Place Published Inverness
Volume N/A
Location National, academic and local libraries
Geographical Origins South Uist
Register Literature, Prose
Alternative Author Name Dòmhnall Iain mac Dhòmhnaill ’ic Dhonnchaidh
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 18.3cm x 12cm
Short Title Fo Sgail A' Swastika
Reference Details NLS QPI.205.7587L
Number Of Pages 76
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Donald John MacDonald was born in Peninerine in 1919, the second youngest in a family of four. There were poets in his family on both his mother’s and his father’s side. His mother, Margaret, was Dòmhnall Ruadh Phàislig’s sister and his father, Duncan (Donnchadh Clachair, or Donnchadh Mac Dhòmhnaill ’ac Dhonnchaidh as he was known locally) was a storyteller who claimed his ancestry from the MacRuairidh bards of Clan Donald. Donald John was very close to his younger sister Ann, and as their father (a stonemason) was often away from home, partly due to his storytelling commitments, it was their uncle, Neil (a joiner, with whom they shared the house), who had the greatest influence on Donald John and his younger sister Ann as they were growing up.

Donald John first heard English at school in Howmore. He did not like school at all, and was happy to leave at the age of 14 to work on the croft. His older brother, Donald Eòin, who had gone on to further education in Fort William, unfortunately died of TB at the age of 21, before Donald John had left school. At this point, there was no pressure for Donald John to leave the island and further his education. He therefore opted to stay at home on the croft, where he learned from his uncle Neil about the folklore and songs of the island, and about the literary poetry of the 17th and 18th centuries. The work of the eighteenth century North Uist bard, John MacCodrum, greatly influenced him and he would frequently have heard MacCodrum’s works sung by his father and his uncle.

At the age of 18, Donald John and his friends joined the Militia, just two years before the outbreak of war. When war broke out, he found himself in the Highland Division and, after being taken prisoner in 1940, he spent five years in a prison camp in Germany. His recollections from this time are published in this volume.

After the war, Donald John returned to Peninerine and in 1948, aged 29, won the Bardic Crown (including the Ailsa Trophy) at the Glasgow Mod for his poem Moladh Uibhist (pp. 20-31). In the following years, Donald John struck up an acquaintance with Grimsay bard Mary MacLean and for a time they became romantically involved. Mary broke off the engagement, however, partly due to social pressure because Donald John was a Catholic, and partly to retain her independence. Donald John eventually married his next door neighbour’s niece Nellie (Neilina) MacNeil in 1954, and in 1955 their daughter Margaret was born.

Donald John remained at the croft in Peninerine until his death in 1986. During his lifetime, as well as writing poetry and prose, he collected folklore from the area for the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh and became quite well known as a folklorist. Of his published work, Sguaban Eòrna, published in 1973, was his first book of poetry. After Fo Sgail a’ Swastika came Uibhist a Deas, published in 1981, on the history and traditions of South Uist. In addition, some of his poetry was published in the Stornoway Gazette and in Gairm. Donald John also wrote a number of hymns which were published in the 1986 hymnal Seinnibh dhan Tighearna. He was introduced to the idea of writing hymns by Ishabel T. MacDonald who, in the late 1970s, showed him some of Seán Ó Riada’s work in Irish. Ishabel herself set many of his hymns to music, as did Fr. Roderick MacNeil, and the hymns became some of Donald John’s most popular works. Donald John also did some translation work, completing a translation of Gray’s Elegy in the late 1940s, and in the 1980s he completed translations of a number of well known classical arias, one of which, Nìghneagan Oga (a translation of Voi Che Sapete from The Marriage of Figaro) was sung by Mary Sandeman in front of an audience of over 5000 people at the Albert Hall in London. In 1998, a collection of his poetry was published under the title Chì Mi (see Text 21). A second edition was published in 2001. In September 2004, Fo Sgail a Swastika was voted the best Gaelic book in a BBC radio and television poll.
Contents The book is divided into ten chapters as follows: 1 St Valery (pp. 7-11), 2 A choiseachd mhór (pp. 12-17), 3 Am barge (pp. 18-21), 4 A’ cheud champa (pp. 22-34), 5 Erfurt (pp. 35-39), 6 Mühlhausen agus Alabàma (pp. 40-44), 7 A cheud mhein shaluinn (pp. 45-56), 8 An darna meinn shaluinn (pp. 57-62), 9 Saorsa (pp. 63-70), 10 Air an t-slighe air ais (pp. 71-76).

The text details the author’s time as a prisoner of war, beginning with his troop’s surrender at St Valery, the long walk to Germany and the four-day journey by barge up the Rhine, and his time in various prisoner-camps in different parts of Germany. He describes the hard life quarrying stone and working in salt mines and in seed factories, his numerous attempts to escape, his narrow escape from the Gestapo, and his 21 days in solitary confinement on bread and water. The last two chapters describe the end of the war, the liberation of the author’s troop by the Americans, and the journey home.
Sources
Language This volume contains much terminology relating to war, the army, and to the conditions and lives of the prisioners of war. Examples include, An Dibhision (p. 7), àrd-thoirm nan gunnachan-móra (p. 7), òrdan (p. 7), Chaidh ar loinigeadh suas (p. 8), fear dhe na h’oifigich (p. 8), Màidsear (p. 8), uidheam-batail (p. 8), na peilearan (p. 8), cogadh ann no as (p. 9), Nuair a shocraich an dusd sìos (p. 9), an nàimhid a chur an comhair an cùil (p. 9), thàinig balbhadh ’s an stoirm (p. 10), tancaichean móra ìaruinn (p. 10), sgealban nan sligean (p. 10), air sgàth casgradh marbhteach a sheachnadh (p. 10), Bha am blàr air a chur ’s bha ’m blàr air a chall (p. 10), le fras pheileirean bho charbad iaruinn (p. 12), bha urchraichean ga losgadh (p. 14), a mach a fianuis sùilean geàird (p. 14), brodadh na beuglaidh (p. 15), air a phlàigheadh le mialan (p. 17), làn trì no ceithir do bhàrges do phriosanaich-cogaidh air an t-slighe chruaidh-chasach gu braighdeanas cuingeil Hitler (p. 18), sgaoileadh-mionaich (p. 20), gus a’ robh sinn buidheach (p. 20), cha robh fios no forfhais againne (p. 21), cheud blasad air neo-thruaichantas ar luchd-fòirneart (p. 21), mór-sgrios na coluinn (p. 22), cuairridh chlach (p. 24) and also cuaraidh (p. 32), càblaichean crochte (p. 31), Pàipearean aithnichidh (p. 31), culaidh-oillt (p. 32), campa-gleidhidh (p. 31), campaichean-oibreach (p. 32), luchd-ceasnaichaidh (p. 34), luchd-teichidh (p. 34), factoraidh sìl (p. 34), gàirneilearachd-Margaidh (p. 35), fear freicadan-oidhche (p. 37), Barrags (p. 40), parsalean na crois-dheirg (p. 40), pàirti-oibreach (p. 44), fo dhòrn iaruinn riaghlaidh na Nazi’s (p. 44), bomadh trom (p. 45), pleinaichean Ameriganach (p. 45) and also pléinaichean (p. 45), dha na fasgaidhean fo’n talamh (p. 45), cho oillteil (p. 45), chaidh iad air a chaoch (p. 45), Rinn iad oirnn gus ar stialladh as a cheile (p. 45), a stiùradh nan gunnachan riutha (p. 45), baidean an déidh baidean dhiubh (p. 46), meinn-shaluinn (p. 46), comhairle-cogaidh (p. 46), ’S ann a cath an aghaidh uachdaranachd ar naimhdean bu mhotha bha sinn, uachdaranachd a bha an cunnart toil-saorsa a mhùchadh an inntinnean ’s an cridheachan mar a cogadh duine gu làidir na aghaidh (p. 47), dhà no trì do ghunnaichean stiùrte ruinn (p. 48), bràiste-suaicheantais na Nazi’s (p. 49), bha sinn an cunnart ar beatha (p. 49), gum biodh an dochainn ann (p. 49), fath-uamhais is eagal (p. 51), dòruinn-chràidh (p. 51), air reir leighe-sios lagh Geneva (p. 51), droch ghiollachd (p. 51), dioghladh-fiach (p. 52), scuair a phrìosain (p. 53), am braighdeanas (p. 54), saor bh’on daorsa aigne-chuingte seo (p. 55), bualadh-tire (p. 55), sumanadh (p. 58), gu robh mi ann an teine-teth (p. 58-59), binn (p. 59), toilbheum (p. 59), Seardsean-Màidsear (p. 59), fuaim is turtar nan gunnachean (p. 60), coig bliadhna anns na dh’fhiosraich mi fior ghràinne-mullaich na h’uaisle anns a nàduir dhaontach, ach air a laimh eile bruidealachd is fior cheann-iosal na droch-bheairt ann an deiligeadh mhic an duine ri a chò-chréutair (p. 64-65), bha a Roinn-Eòrpa gu leir glaìst’ ann an glamaradh iaruinn na Nazi’s (p. 70), dòighean tusaideach an t-saoghail (p. 74), and gach seorsa gné uilc is mi-dhaonntachd (p. 74).

The author’s style of writing is quite poetic and extremely descriptive in places. For example, we find ‘an baile ’s an deach dòchas na sprùilleach, agus a chuir iomadh gille làidir, tapaidh ann an ùr-earrach na h’òige na shìneadh fuar reot’ ann an ùir choimheach’ (p. 8), ‘Do neach ’s am bith aig a’ bheil sùil do dh’ fhior-bhoidhchead dùthchadh, ’s a ghabhas tlachd ann a maise nàduir, tha seallaidhean nach gabh di-chuimhnachadh a tighinn mion air mhion fo chòmhair a shùilean air a thuras a seòladh suas an Abhainn Rhine … chan e sùil na trom dhaorsa nach urrainn tlachd fhaotainn a boidhchead eadhon aig a làn mhaise’ (p. 18), ‘Be a Fraing a ghlas a bha ri ’fosgladh, ’s bha an iuchair a nis an greim gu daingeann innte le meòirean greimeil, cumhachdach ga sior thionndadh’ (p. 55), and ‘dh’fhiosraich mi àrd-ghrìnneas nàdur daonnda ann an cruaidh-chas na h’eiginn. Dh’fhiosraich mi dlùth-chompanas agus gaol-ceartais ann an cridheachean, a sheasadh gun a laigse a b’fhaoine ri doruinn-chraidh, seadh ’s ri eadhon bàs brùideil, air sgàth chompanach is dùthchadh. Fhuair mi eòlas, air a laimh eile air an doimhneachd dhuibh dha an crom cridheachean is inntinnean cuid dheth ’n t-sluagh nuair a dhiobras iad bàigh is tròcair chriosdail, gan isleachadh fhein an cruth ’s an gniomhan co-ionnan ri dubh-ainglean an dorchadais' (p. 75).

Also of interest are the Gaelicised English terms pacaichte (p. 19), pucaidean (p. 20), dà phola (p. 31), rollair (p. 31), dasc (p. 31), profaid (p. 44), bighsigal (p. 48), and mómaint (p. 75). The author also frequently uses genitives ending in -(e)adh, although not always, for example, air bataichean ar dùthchadh (p. 7), dubhar na h’oidhcheadh (p. 9) but also dubhar na h-oidhche (p. 37), os cionn na h’aibhneadh (p. 31), air mullach beinneadh (p. 32), and gach seòrsa curachd (p. 35).
Orthography The author’s South Uist usage may be represented in the use of such words and phrases as sàmhchain (p. 7), bhriagha (p. 7), nach b’ urrainn miontraigeadh na b’ fhaisg air a chladach (p. 7), le an aiseag (p. 7), aithghiorr (p. 7), cho goirid dhuinn, ach aig a cheart am, cho fior fada bhuainn (p. 7), deagh chùnntuis mhiltean (p. 8), Cha robh a bheag no mhór do dh’fhios againne gu de ceart a bha tachairt (p. 8), le pearsa dhìreach, dheanta, chumadail (p. 8), tha mi ’m beachd (p. 8), còrsa (p. 8), fad fiaraidh latha samhraidh (p. 8), liùnn (p. 9), Cha robh fios no fath aig duine (p. 10), Nan deaghaidh (p. 11) and nar deoghaidh (p. 13), tromasanaich inntinn is cuirp a bh’ air ar siubhal (p. 12), a sior tharruinn a mach (p. 13), eadhon (p. 14), Mu rachadh (p. 14), troimh-a-cheile (p. 14), eideadh-uachdair (p. 15), cadal caran corrach (p. 15), siathnar (p. 16), Tim dhubh ga-rìribh (p. 16), na bu ghoimheile (p. 16-17), dol-air-aghart (p. 17), beairt-gearraidh gruaige (p. 22), Ge be dé bh’ann (p. 23), Stiùir e ’chorrag ris (p. 32), bara and barachean (p. 32), chan urrainn mi dheanamh (p. 33), gun iomrallaicheadh neach (p. 34), crios-gluasadach ‘conveyor belt’ (p. 35), Thuit i ann am paiseanadh (p. 36), Leis an turtar a bh’ aig mo chridhe bualadh (p. 38), Cha robh cothrom air (p. 39), dhol dheth fhein a gàireachdaich (p. 42), an car a thoirt as na dotairean (p. 43), dragh is trinnleach (p. 43), an deanadh iad iomlaid airson (p. 44) and an iomlaid cairteal na mionaid (p. 60), fhuair sinn ann an caraibh (p. 44), a g’ uisneachadh na fhear-meadhoin (p. 44), bha sinn pàighte gu leòr (p. 44), os cionn na h-uile (p. 47), ghluais sinn gu furachail, fàillidh troimhe (p. 48), car-mu-chnoc (p. 48), Thionndaidh an gàire ceìlgeadh gu greann ghràineil (p. 51), ugainn (p. 51), beithir lasrach (p. 55), bha fiosam (p. 59), còmh rium (p. 65), sibh pein (p. 66), bha e doirbh a chreidsin gu robh an aisnis a thug iad dhuinn air fior (p. 69), and cho dàna ’s cho dalma iomadh uair gus dearbh aghaidh a thoirt air (p. 70).

The orthography is generally that of the mid-to-late twentieth century. However, the text is full of irregularities in spelling and typing errors which makes it difficult, on occasion, to determine the dialectal Gaelic from the errors, and sometimes to determine the meaning of the text. The ‘broad to broad, slender to slender’ spelling rule is almost completely ignored throughout the text, with spellings such as saighdearean (p. 13) and peilaichean (p. 15). We find both ’s an bith (e.g. p. 36) and sam bith (e.g. p. 53), ghuìdhealach instead of Gàidhealach (p. 7), throgail instead of thogail (p. 14), and na gearmailich instead of na Gearmailtich (p. 17). Accents are frequently misplaced, e.g. buntatà (p. 14). Note also that conditional forms of the verb are frequently given in the form bhiodh mid (p. 41), and verbal nouns beginning with consonants are presented without an apostrophe, e.g. a ceileiradh (p. 7). Editors should use the second edition, published in 2000 (see Edition below), in conjunction with this edition.
Edition First edition. A second edition of this text was published by Acair in 2000. The new volume is edited by Bill Innes, and includes a facing English translation, an introduction, notes, an appendix on ‘The Military Background’, and four of the author’s poems about the war, which were published in Chì Mi. Seventeen chapters were constructed out of the original ten.

The Gaelic text has been edited for this new edition, and the orthography has been modernised, making it less representative of the author’s South Uist dialect. For example where this text has smaointich (e.g. p. 14), the new edition has smaoinich. Likewise, where this edition uses mu instead of ma (e.g. p. 19), the new edition uses ma, and where this edition uses both na and no to mean ‘or’, the new edition uses only no. This edition has rifle whereas the new edition has raidhfil, loinigeadh whereas the new edition has loidhnigeadh, laìre-mhaìreach rather than làrna-mhàireach, and apostrophes are used in this edition in situations such as na h’oifigich (p. 8) whereas hyphens are used in the new edition. This edition has Maduinn (p. 8), so (p. 7) and sud (p. 8), while the new edition has Madainn, seo and siud. Both grave and acute accents are used throughout the text in this edition.

Both editions of this text should be used together. The orthography of the first edition often reflects the author’s South Uist Gaelic. However, where there are typing errors, or where words are spelt unusually, these should be compared with the text of the later edition.
Other Sources
Further Reading MacDhòmhnaill, Dòmhnall Iain, Sguaban Eòrna (Inverness, 1973: Club Leabhar).
MacDhòmhnaill, Dòmhnall Iain, Uibhist a Deas (Stornoway, 1981: Acair).
MacDhòmhnaill, Dòmhnall Iain, Chì Mi: The Gaelic Poetry of Donald John MacDonald, ed. by Bill Innes (Edinburgh, 1998 and 2001: Birlinn).
MacDhòmhnaill, Dòmhnall Iain, Fo Sgail A’ Swastika, ed. by Bill Innes (Stornoway, [2000]: Acair).
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