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Title Sgrìobhaidhean Choinnich MhicLeòid (The Gaelic Prose of Kenneth MacLeod)
Author MacLeod, Kenneth
Editor Murchison, Thomas Moffatt
Date Of Edition 1988
Date Of Language 1900-1949
Publisher The Scottish Academic Press for the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume 16 (Scottish Gaelic Texts Society)
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins Eigg
Register Literature, Prose and Verse
Alternative Author Name MacLeòid, Coinneach
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 22.1cm x 14.1cm
Short Title Sgrìobhaidhean Choinnich MhicLeòid
Reference Details EUL, Celtic Library: LIG MACL
Number Of Pages xlv, 186
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Kenneth MacLeod was born at the schoolhouse in Sanndabheag, in Eigg, in 1871. His father, Donald MacLeod, was from Uig in Skye and was the schoolmaster for the Small Isles. He had previously taught in Sutherland at Assynt and Tongue. His mother, Jessie Humphrey, was the daughter of a farmer in Assynt. MacLeod had an older brother, David (born in 1869), and six sisters, two of whom died in infancy. Their mother died when MacLeod was only six, after which their father’s sister, Janet MacLeod, came to live with the family. She also taught sewing at the school. When MacLeod’s father retired (around 1887 or 1888), he stayed for a while in Oban, before moving to Taynuilt, possibly because he had relatives there. He died in 1893.

Donald MacLeod’s father descended from the MacLeods of Fàsach in Waternish, Skye, and Kenneth MacLeod was very proud of his ancestry. He was a member of the Clan MacLeod Society and was particularly interested in Clan poetry and music. Although much Clan lore had been lost in the early nineteenth century as the family began to disperse, MacLeod’s grandfather held much of the tradition and he passed this knowledge on to his children. His daughter Janet in particular learnt much Clan lore from her father, and this she passed on to MacLeod as he was growing up in Eigg. MacLeod was brought up in Clanranald territory, where folklore and traditions were still in abundance, and cèilidhs and waulking the tweed were still common. MacLeod learnt much from the people who lived there, particularly from Vincent MacEachain from Arisaig, who was living in Eigg at the time. The population of Eigg when MacLeod was born was around 282.

When he was fourteen, MacLeod attended Raining’s School in Inverness where he stayed for three years. Here, he was greatly influenced by Dr. Alexander MacBain, a philologist and Celtic scholar. MacBain encouraged MacLeod to make a trip to collect folklore in Skye and Uist, and some of this material was published in the Celtic Magazine, which was edited by MacBain. After leaving Rainings, MacLeod studied Classics, Philosophy, Mathematics, and English Literature at Glasgow University, returning to Oban during the holidays. He enjoyed his time in Oban during this period (from the ages of 17 to 20) and had a close-knit group of friends there. In particular, a group of old men would gather together every day by the quay for an ‘open-air ceilidh’, at which all types of folklore and songs could be heard. These cèilidhean were attended by many collectors at the time, including Dr Alexander Carmichael and the young MacLeod. MacLeod also learned a lot of songs from an eighty-year-old woman from Knoydart, who was living in Oban at the time.

Unfortunately, MacLeod’s health failed before he was able to graduate from University. During his time in Glasgow, however, MacLeod was extremely active in the Glasgow University Ossianic Society and attended St. Columba’s Gaelic Church. As part of his recovery to health, MacLeod undertook a voyage to Australia, which seems to have had a profound effect on him and his decision, eventually, to enter the ministry. In 1897, MacLeod began work as a full-time lay missionary in the Church of Scotland, a post that he was to keep for twenty years. He served in Uist, Kintyre, Skye, Mallaig, and Invernesshire, among other places. He also began collecting and publishing folklore in earnest, particularly after seeing Fr. Allan MacDonald’s collection of folklore, and through his travels in the Highlands as a missionary he familiarised himself with many traditions and Gaelic dialects. During this time, he studied for at least a year (1902-03) under Professor Donald MacKinnon in the Celtic Class at Edinburgh University. When the Celtic Review was established in 1904, MacLeod was a regular contributor.

Marjory Kennedy Fraser began collecting music for her Songs of the Hebrides in 1905, and for a period of about twenty years she and MacLeod (who had been recommended to her as the ideal person to work with because of his knowledge of Gaelic) worked together on the collection. In 1917, due to the shortage of ordained ministers during the First World War, MacLeod was accepted into the church as an ordained minister, on the basis of his training as a lay missionary and his scholarly publications in folklore. He was appointed to the parish of Colonsay and Oronsay, and later to Gigha and Cara, where he remained until his retirement in 1947, at the age of 76. In 1932 he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by St. Andrews University. MacLeod moved to Edinburgh on his retirement, where he kept himself busy giving talks, making programmes for radio, and socialising. He died in Edinburgh in 1955, at the age of 84.
Contents This volume begins with a Preface by the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society explaining that when the Very Rev. Dr. T. M. Murchison died in 1984, he left the manuscript for this book. It was later decided to go ahead with the publication. There follows an extensive Introduction (pp. i-xlv) which looks at the author’s life and his family background, and includes a section at the end on ‘Kenneth MacLeod’s Language Usages’. MacLeod’s writings are presented in eight chapters, each of which comprise a number of stories.

The stories are numbered 1 to 33 throughout the text. The chapters are as follows:

I An Cuan (pp. 1-21): This chapter contains a story entitled An Cuan Siar, and an essay containing prose and verse entitled Duatharachd na Mara. Both look at the call of the sea and what it means to those brought up with it in their lives and in their heritage. The essay looks at how the sea, as opposed to the mountain, is represented in beul-aithris and in làmh-aithris (i.e. ‘na bàird sin a fhuair an cuid bàrdachd air a sgrìobhadh ’s air a clò-bhualadh fo an ainm is ’nan latha fhèin’, p. 7).

II Eachdraidh agus Mac-meanmna (pp. 22-37): This chapter contains two stories. The first one, An Clachan a bha Ann, looks at the history of the clachan through the ages. It includes the author’s reminiscences and descriptions of some of the folklore of the people. The second story, Far an Robh Naomh, looks at the history of I Chalum-chille, particularly during the time of the Lochlannaich.

III Mac-meanmna agus Eòin na h-Ealtainn (pp. 38-49): This chapter contains one story, Là is Bliadhna leis na h-Eòin, in which we find tales about various birds, including An Dreathann agus an Iolair (p. 42).

IV A’ Ghàidhlig (pp. 50-59): This chapter contains three essays about Gaelic: Oraid Bheag mun Ghàidhlig, O Leanabas gu Fearalas, and Earail do Bhuill a’ Chomuinn.

V Daoine (pp. 59-80): This chapter comprises five stories or essays about people the author knew or about whom he had heard stories: Gàidheil A B’aithne Dhomh, Litir gu Caraid, Iain Og Morragh, An Ceàrd Mòr, and Maighistir Dòmhnall. An Ceàrd Mòr discusses na ceàrdan and the languages they used, including Shelta or an Laideann Eireannach.

VI Searmonan (pp. 81-114): This chapter contains sermons on eleven psalms. A short extract from a psalm is given at the beginning of each section, and is then discussed in the searmon. The sermons include Bheir an talamh a thoradh; gum beannaicheadh Dia, ar Dia-ne, sinn! — Salm 67:6 and Agus ’s e an oidhche a bh’ann. — Eòin 13:30.

VII Sgeulachdan (pp. 114-47): This chapter contains seven stories on a variety of subjects. The stories include Craobh-òir agus Craobh-airgid and An Ridire Cam.

VIII Sgeulachdan Leasaichte (pp. 147-65): This chapter contains two tales: Oisean an dèidh na Fèinne, and Gaisgeach na Sgèithe Deirge.

There follows a Glossary (pp. 166-79) of Gaelic words found in the text as a whole, focusing on unusual words or words with unusual meanings, and two indices: Index to Introduction (pp. 180-83) and Index to Text (pp. 183-86).
Sources Prepared from the MS of T. M. Murchison. The editor makes no mention of whether, or where, the various writings in this volume had been published previously. Some were certainly published in the Celtic Review, e.g. Oisean an dèidh na Fèinne, which appeared in the first issue, in 1904.
Language The editor comments in the Introduction that MacLeod’s language was ‘less literary than that of most of the leading Gaelic prose-writers and it bears the strong impress of Common Speech and of his local dialect’ (p. xlii). He continues, ‘by the use of archaic forms, certain forms of the plural noun and adjective, and much use of impersonal forms of the verb, he developed a style reminiscent of the old traditional tales’ (p. xlii).

The author’s style of writing is fairly descriptive and very flowing. For example, the first sentence of Chapter I reads: ‘Bha Binne-bheul fad air a h-aineol an tìr an eòrna, ’s latha de na làithean thuirt i gum bu mhithich di nis dol dhachaigh da flaitheas fèin, far nach laigheadh grian ’s far nach èireadh gaoth ’s far nach sguireadh ceòl’ (p. 1).

Much of the text might be said to be written in a storytelling register, and the text contains many words and expressions used in reciting narratives, such as mo thruaighe (p. 4), Theagamh gu bheil (p. 7), Mu choinneamh sin, is fheudar a ràdh (p. 11), Anns a’ cheart uair (p. 24), Latha de na làithean (p. 35), och nan och (p. 36), iongantas nan iongantas (p. 35), Sgeul air an sgeul (p. 36), A-mach uaithe sin (p. 38), Eadar-dhà-sgeul (p. 17), and innseam-sa (p. 29). It also contains characters that are often found in fairytales, such as am prionnsa (p. 115), boc-goibhre (p. 115), na famhairean (p. 119), an uamh, (p. 119), an seann duine (p. 122), culaidh-nàire (p. 126), triùir fhleasgach (p. 127), ’na sheirbhiseach (p. 132), a sheòid (p. 135), an rìgh (p. 135), ridire (p. 136), and Cha ghaisgeach mise (p. 154).

Religious terminology also appears throughout the text. For example, we find am Freasdal (p. 1), Fèill-Brìghde (p. 2), Rìgh nan Dùl (p. 3), A Thì Mhòir nan Gràs! (p. 31), Nì maith (p. 38), Salm an Tràth an Salm Mòr (p. 36), Sailm nan Ceum (p. 36), Crois Chrìosda (p. 37), an Salmadair (p. 81), bàs an t-Slànaigheir (p. 82), Iosa Crìosd, an dè, an diugh, agus gu sìorraidh, an tì ceudna (p. 85), Calbhairi (p. 92), leabhar Gnìomharan nan Abstol (p. 94), Leabhar an Taisbeanaidh (p. 107), Ri Bòrd Comanachaidh (p. 109), and Di-dòmhnaich na Càisg (p. 147).

Chapter III contains terminology relating to birds, such as, an Calman (p. 39), a’ Chailleach-oidhche (p. 39), a dà ghlog-shùil (p. 39), air an Fheannaig (p. 39), an Dreathann and an Dreathann-donn (p. 40), am Fitheach (p. 40), a’ Chuthag (p. 40), and air an Smeòrach is air an Uiseig (p. 41). There is not much by way of animal sounds, with the exception of Glug-glog, glog-glug (p. 49).

A number of place-names are also mentioned in the text, such as na h-Eileanan Beaga (p. 50), Blàr-an-gobhraidh (p. 50), o Bhlàr-an-athall (p. 50), an Albainn (p. 53), Gleann-Eite (p. 55), Dùthaich Mhic ’ic Ailein (p. 68), and Eilean a’ Cheò (p. 68).

Some of the stories are interspersed with lines of verse, particularly those in Chapters I and II. For example, in An Clachan a Bha Ann, Chapter II, we find ‘A chraobh-dharaich eunach aosach, \ Dean-sa t’fhaosaid mar bu mhithich, \ An diugh, an uraidh, chuile latha, chuile h-oidhche, \ Soills’ is doillse, \ ’S a chraobh-dharaich eunach aosach, \ Cagar beag is sgeul am chluais: \ Fìth, fàth, fatham, fios an fhithich!’ (p. 22).

The following selection of words from the Glossary show the range of vocabulary used by the author: cridheag ‘affectionate term for a girl’ (p. 29), atharnach ‘second crop, harvest’ (p. 5), bòrd-uisge ‘keelboard of a boat’ (p. 19), ceòban uisge ‘smirr of rain’ (p. 34), faol-mhara ‘sea-wolf’ (p. 14), stururaich-stararaich ‘clatter’ (p. 141), and sturn-starn ‘din’ (p. 141).
Orthography To a large extent, the orthography is that of MacLeod. The editor has detailed in the Introduction the Gaelic forms used by MacLeod. He mentions a number of dialectal and orthographic traits and these can be summarised as follows:

The prepositional forms used are d’an, dh’an, and do’n; dheth and deth; ’nam and am.

MacLeod uses ur rather than bhur, ciod e rather than (gu) déco-dhiù rather than co-dhiubh, and co mhiad rather than cia mheud.

MacLeod uses itheadh and innseadh rather than ithe and innse.

MacLeod uses a number of alternative spellings, such as ar leam and air leam, ceud and ciad, da rìreadh and dà rìribh, Glascho and Glaschu, math and maith, rìs, rithisd, and rithist, tuille and tuilleadh, and tùrsach and tùirseach.

MacLeod lenites crodh-mhara but not leaba-bàis and writes both a dheanamh dheth and a dheanamh deth. There is no accent on dean.

Elision often occurs, e.g. bh’ann, far a(n) luaidhear and gu(m) freagair.

MacLeod uses h- in a h-uile h-aon, le h-eagal, gur h-urrainn, and mur h-eil, and there is no lenition of dentals, liquids or s after n, e.g. nach urrainn domh.

MacLeod writes a number of epenthetic vowels, e.g. in seanachas and in aona chuid. He inserts an intrusive t in smaointich, strath and bhrist.

MacLeod palatalises the vocative singular of some feminine nouns, e.g. a chaillich dhàna and a chraoibh-òir, and uses such dative singular forms as air aodainn, anns an teangaidh bhailbh, and ’do’n choillidh.

MacLeod uses the following plural forms of nouns and adjectives: reamhra, sligean failmhe, facail mhatha, dùthchanna-cèine, na h-uisgeacha fuara, sgeula nodha, ionada and alltha.

MacLeod frequently uses the dative plural ending -ibh.

With regard to the verb bi, tha was often written ata, but the editor states that he has changed this to a ta.

The verbal noun and infinitive are realised as either a bhi or bhith e.g. a bhi togail and faodaidh e bhith. Passive forms include thathas, bhathas, gu bheileas, gu robhas, and chan ’eilear.

The following irregular verb forms are found: chìtear, chunnacas, faicear, and chan fhacas; gheobh, gheabh, gheobhadh, gheibh, and gheibheadh; gabhar; rachar and nan d’rachadh; thigear; and thugar.

Impersonal verb forms in -ar, -as and -adar are found. These include cuirear, falbhar, innsear, iarrar, gabhadar, fuaradar, do rinneadar, and fhuaireas.

The a’ of the verbal noun is always omitted when following a word ending in a vowel, e.g. tha mi deanamh and ag is usually omitted before ràdh, e.g. bha thu ràdh.

After verbal nouns, MacLeod uses either the genitive or the accusative case e.g. toirt iomradh but a’ cur dleasdanais.

MacLeod uses the accusative rather than the genitive after thar and thun e.g. thar a’ chaolas and thun an tràigh.

The editor notes that a mach and a muigh, a steach and a staigh are used interchangeably, regardless of whether motion occurs.

MacLeod uses  rather than dithis when talking about two people, e.g. dà dhuine and dà fhoghlumach.

The editor also points out his use of feuchainn g’a chur air falbh and cha b’urrainn iad ’ga dheanamh.

MacLeod uses a number of English words with a Gaelic orthography, such as fasan, gibht, and portair, and the occasional English idiom which has become established in Gaelic, such as rinn e suas inntinn, and rinn iad suas eatorra gu.

In addition to those features mentioned in the Introduction, we also find the following forms: rud-eigin (p. 7) and uair-eigin (p. 33), on (p. 1) and o (p. 5), uam (p. 40), an dara uair (p. 23) but Gach dàrnacha latha (p. 35) and an dàrna bean (p. 116), an deachaidh (p. 5), chon as well as thun (p. 6), duatharachd rather than dubharachd (p. 7), mar gum b’eadh (p. 7), bhiomaid (p. 38), and gum bìteadh (p. 33), air nach faicteadh (p. 34), ma dheighinn (p. 85), t’ fhacail (p. 40), sè-mìle-deug (p. 50), ged nach d’fhosgail (p. 24), thugar ceum air n-adhart (p. 149), mo chridhe fèin (p. 33), ag itheadh troileis (p. 38).
Edition First edition.
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