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Metadata for text 57
No. words in text120804
Title Litrichean Alasdair Mhoir
Author Macleoid, Iain N.
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1932
Date Of Language 1900-1949
Publisher Cuairtear Steornabhaigh (Stornoway Gazette)
Place Published Stornoway
Volume N/A
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins Lewis
Register Literature, Prose
Alternative Author Name Alasdair Mor
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 18.5cm x 12.5cm
Short Title Litrichean Alasdair Mhoir
Reference Details EUL: .891636
Number Of Pages xvi, 392
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Under the pseudonym Alasdair Mor, Iain N. Macleoid wrote a weekly column for the Stornoway Gazette (Cuairtear Steornabhaigh, p. vii) entitled Litir a Bearnaraigh. The column ran between 1917 and 1954. Originally from Skye, Macleoid was a schoolmaster in Bernera, Lewis for a time. The letters covered various local and Gaelic topics and many of the people in his letters were based on ‘characters’ he knew in Bernera and elsewhere. Many of the letters are based in Bernera and a cast of local people, including Calum Sheorais, Scottie, Bean Bhill, and his wife Sine appear frequently. Most of the letters in this volume were published in 1917 and in 1925. Macleoid also edited Bardachd Leodhais, which was published in 1916.
Contents This volume begins with a Roimh-radh (pp. v-vii) by the author, ‘Alasdair Mor’. He explains that he had been writing these letters for over fifteen years and that most of them were ‘ag aithris mu nithean a thachair, no a dh’ fhaodadh tachairt, an eilean Bhearnaraidh’ (p. v). He notes that much of the contents were based on ‘seanachais, nuadh agus sean, air am biodh na seann daoine toirt tarruing ’s an tigh-cheilidh’ (p. v). He also states that the letters have been reproduced in this volume as they were published in the Gazette, but that most of the accents have been omitted for ease of printing. He thanks Dr. Domhnull S. Mac Leoid for reading over his letters before publication. There follows a Sanas (pp. ix-xi) by Dr. Domhnull S. Mac Leoid, in which he explains that this publication came about after requests from readers, particularly from abroad, to have the letters bound together in one volume.

The main body of the text contains 100 letters, mostly of around 3 or 4 pages each. Some of the letters are in a series, e.g. there are 14 letters entitled Bodach Bharraidh, and five letters entitled Mod Steornabhaigh. Only one of the letters is dated: Coinneamh Bhliadhnail Comunn Leodhais Agus Na H-Earadh (1925) (pp. 230-34).
Sources The letters were originally published in the Stornoway Gazette between 1917 and 1932.
Language The letters in this volume cover a number of topics, including the First World War (e.g. Am Biadh Againn Fhein, pp. 7-9, and Fois na Sabaid, pp. 19-22), Gaelic and the Mod (e.g. A’ Ghaidhlig anns na Sgoiltean, pp. 13-15, and a set of five letters about Mod Steornabhaigh, pp. 166-86), emigration (An Imrich Chuain, pp. 218-21), and innovations such as the introduction of a new type of lamp (Turus-Cuain “Reult na Mara”—II, pp. 239-41) and the first carbad-oladh in Bernera (Carbad-Oladh Neill Alasdair, pp. 375-79). Some of the letters are very informative with regard to local customs and history. For example, there are eight letters about the life of St. Columba (pp. 186-217).

There are twenty six letters entitled Turus-Cuain “Reult na Mara” about a boat trip round the islands that Alasdair and his wife, Sine, along with some of their neighbours, took with Mac Neill from Barra, when he came to Bernera to collect his new boat, Reult na Mara. In this series, Alasdair gives us a little bit of history about many of the places he visited, and he also mentions some of the local customs. For example, in the twenty-fifth letter (pp. 337-41), Alasdair talks about Prince Charlie landing on Eriskay. In Am Morair Leverhulme (pp. 351-54) Alasdair writes about Leverhulme’s background before he came to Lewis.

Most of the letters are, to some extent, humorous. For example, in Tea gun Siucar (pp. 76-79) Alasdair goes to see a doctor about his siataig (e.g. p. 80) and is told to stop drinking strong tea and to cut out sugar. There are also thirteen letters about a trip Alasdair took to Aberdeen to get his eyes tested, which detail all the humorous incidents that happened along the way (Sgriob bho’n Tigh pp. 28-72).

Religion comes into the letters frequently, either as the main focus of the letter, e.g. in Fois na Sabaid (pp. 19-21) and Aonadh nan Eaglaisean (pp. 346-50), or as an aside, e.g. in Bodach Bharraidh—XIV (pp. 159-62). A number of religious terms occur throughout the text. Examples include deaconan (p. 3), na searmnan (p. 5), iodhal-aoraidh (p. 159), Tha am Papa dol a chur suas Aifrinn (p. 347), Sgriobtuireil (e.g. p. 347), and na h-Ard-Shionaidhean (p. 348).

The texts also contain vocabulary relating to machines and to technology that was new at the time. Examples include innleachdan iutharnail (p. 7), cagar-athair (p. 17), bata-smuide (p. 40), air an ionad-charbad (p. 40), anns a’ charbad-iaruinn (p. 40), carbad-oladh (p. 237), asuinn-tharruing (engine) (p. 243), and cairt-phostail (p. 384). Examples of sailing terminology are scattered throughout the texts, e.g. Tha tri siuil rithe, seol-mor, seol-toisich, agus seol-spreoid (p. 243). Other words and phrases of interest include luath-sgial air a’ chogadh (p. 19), braisiche de bhodach (p. 103), slachdadaich (p. 174), drip an earraich (p. 186), tigh-réidh (p. 296), anns an aigeal (p. 347), srathair (p. 351), a’ deanamh dath guirmean anns an amar dhatha (p. 102), and gur h-ann gu math brògach a bhios i ’g amharc (p. 356).

The texts also contain a number of expressions which may show the influence of English, such as Cuir a sud i, laochain,” ars’ am Barrach,” [sic] ’s e toirt an crathadh laimhe suigeartach sin dhomh (p. 104), creideadh sibh-se mise gu bheil fadachd mhor orm fhein (p. 186), and a’ cur suas leis (p. 324).

One of the strengths of this volume is the author’s use of idiom and his general turn of phrase. Examples of interest include eadar da chlar a’ phaipeir (pp. 4-5), gun a dhol air an t-seacharan (p. 5), Chrom mi sios gu taigh Aonghais Ruaidh (p. 8), chuireadh e suilean air (p. 9), an car a thoirt asda (p. 9), nach bu tric leamsa bhi (p. 38), agus mar a thuirt b’ fhior (p. 40), an clar an aodainn (p. 80), le eitig ’n a cnamhan (p. 80), cho luath ri gille-mirean (p. 101), agus mu’n tarradh tu sealltuinn uat ’s ’g ad ionnsuidh (p. 101), air urlar a’ bhaile againn fhein (p. 104), ach airson mo mhathar dheth (p. 159), ’s fhada an t-saoghail nach do leugh mi cunntas cho taitneach (p. 187) and ’s fhada ’n t-saoghail bho nach do bhuail (p. 243), agus a dhol gu uchd an dichill (p. 218), an uair a thig sineadh sam bith anns an oidhche (p. 218), an deidh ’s gu leir (e.g. p. 221), Fhuair Scottie a mholadh gu bhrogan airson obrach (p. 344), ’S math leam-sa boiseag a chur air m’ aodann (p. 356), toirt sgollaidh air an aodann aice (p. 356), fad finn foinneach an latha ’n diugh (p. 356), gu math trath de’n latha (p. 375), and cha chluinnear guth no gabadh mu’n chuis (p. 383).

The author often quotes proverbs, usually towards the beginning of the letter, in order to illustrate a point he is making, e.g. Cha threabh gach bliadhna dha cheile (p. 79). The texts also contain a number of examples of ways in which to end a letter, e.g. Mise agaibh (e.g. p. 162), Mise, le meas mor (p. 165), Mise agaibh, gu dileas (p. 125), Air ’ur slainte (p. 359), and Mise, le muirn (p. 384).
Orthography A number of the terms used may reflect the author’s own dialect (Skye) or that of the area in which his character is based (Bernera, Lewis). For example, we find tha mi call an radhairc (p. 5), ’s docha nach b’ urrainn sibh a leasachadh (p. 5), and air uairibh (p. 40). We also find the terms ach gu dearbh fheine (e.g. p. 8), siol-cura (p. 29), inntinn shuspainneach (p. 159), Reult (p. 243), and dara (p. 349). The author frequently uses the words dripeil (e.g. p. 41), ciatach (e.g. p. 101), and ro e.g. tha sibh ro cheart (p. 237) and Tha mi-fhein ro thoilichte (p. 347).

The orthography is that of the early-to-mid-twentieth century. The following points may be of interest: a number of svarabhakti vowels are represented in writing, e.g. seacharan (p. 5), treamasgal (p. 8). There are a number of examples of distinctive dative endings, e.g. dat. pl. anns na laithibh so (p. 19) and dat. sing. air a teangaidh (p. 345). The genitive case is used after verbal nouns, even when there is no definite article, e.g. a’ cur ionghnaidh (p. 387). The genitive of Nollaig is realised as Nollag (p. 99), and the genitive of buidheann as buidhinn (e.g. p. 160). We also find the form bruidheann (p. 104).
Edition First edition.
Other Sources
Further Reading MacLeoid, Iain N. (ed.), Bàrdachd Leodhais, 1916.
Thomson, Derick S. (ed.), The Companion to Gaelic Scotland, 1994.
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