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Title Moch is Anmoch, the Gaelic poetry of Donald A. MacNeill and other Colonsay bards.
Author MacNeill, Donald A.
Editor Scouller, Alastair MacNeill
Date Of Edition 1998
Date Of Language 1950-1999
Publisher House of Lochar
Place Published Isle of Colonsay
Volume N/A
Location National, academic and local libraries
Geographical Origins Argyll
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 24cm x 17cm
Short Title Moch is Anmoch
Reference Details EUL, Celtic Library: LI G MacN
Number Of Pages 64
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Donald Archibald MacNeill was born in 1924 on the Isle of Oronsay, and grew up on his father’s farm with his brother, Neil, and sister, Flora. Like all Oronsay children, he went to school on Colonsay, boarding during the week with a local family. He then obtained a bursary to Keil School in Dumbarton where he began his secondary education, although when war broke out in 1939, the school was evacuated to Kintyre. After leaving school, Donald was called up to the RAF and he went to Canada for a time to train on Lancaster bombers, before serving for a while in the South of England. After the war, Donald went to agricultural college in Glasgow and it was during this time that he met his future wife, Joan Turnbull (otherwise known as Pony). They were married in 1947 and eventually returned to Colonsay to work Donald’s uncle’s croft at Drumclach in Kilchattan. In 1952 they took the tenancy of Garvard Farm, across the Strand from Oronsay, and from then on he became known as ‘Donald Garvard’ (he was previously known as ‘Donald Oronsay’ and later became known as ‘D.A.’).

Donald and Pony worked the farm at Garvard for thirty years and were both heavily involved in the community, from sheepdog trials to shooting matches to fund raising. Donald also became involved in the Crofters’ Union, becoming the Colonsay representative. Both Donald and Pony were musically gifted. Pony had been an opera singer when Donald met her, and being also talented with languages, she quickly learned Gaelic and tutored island residents to compete in the local and national mòds. Donald was also a singer and both he and Pony competed in the mòds themselves. Donald also submitted poetry for the prize of Bardic Crown, narrowly losing out to Norman MacLean with his entry of Mo Charaid Balbh. Their house at Garvard played host to many impromptu cèilidhs, hosting also, at one time, regular rock-and-roll sessions, and Donald loved to make up humorous verses on the spot.

Over the years, both Donald and Pony struggled with alcoholism and chronic depression. They retired in 1983, leaving the Garvard in the care of their son Pedie, while they moved back to the croft-house at Drumclach. Their health gradually declined from then on although Donald achieved his lifetime ambition to act when he was given the role of the Laird of Raasay in a television play of Johnson and Boswell’s tour of the Hebrides. Donald died in October 1995. His wife survived him until August 1996.
Contents This volume contains 7 poems by Donald A. MacNeill (pp. 38), 6 of which are in Gaelic with English translations. The last poem, The Puppy Dog and the Pussy Cat (p. 38), is in English only, and is a nursery rhyme which Donald wrote for his children, Kate and Pedie. The English translations are the editor’s own, and are intended to be fairly literal. There is a short biography of the author (pp. 10-12). There are also three poems by other Colonsay bards (pp. 42-47), one each by Folalie McNeil and Alexander Darroch, and one anonymous poem. There follow three pages containing musical notation for some of the poems, in the hand of Donald’s wife, Pony. Pp. 53-64 contain notes on each of the 10 poems in the volume, comprising an introduction to each poem, and notes on various local references mentioned in it.
Sources The poems were transcribed by the editor from the personal papers of Donald A. MacNeill, with help from the author’s daughter, Kate Bowman.
Language This volume contains nine poems in Gaelic, as follows:

’S Fhada Thall tha Mise (pp. 14-15): Presumably written while he was living on the mainland, or while he was abroad during the war, this poem expresses Donald’s desire to be back on the island of Oronsay with its sandy beaches, where he spent his youth, rather than in ‘tìr nan Gall’ where only English is spoken. It is a short poem containing four verses.

Làithean m Òige le m Athair (pp. 18-19): In this poem, Donald reminisces about his father, ‘duine bha coibhneal, suairc agus còir’ (p. 19), and recalls days spent with him fishing or gathering shellfish.

Mo Charaid Balbh (pp. 20-23): Donald entered this piece for the Bardic Crown at the National Mòd under the title Cù an t-Sealgair, and narrowly lost out to Norman MacLean. The poem is an ode to his elderly collie dog, Di, with whom he used to go walking and shooting. In it he describes some of the places they went to and he frequently comments on the beauty and splendour of nature. The last two stanzas discuss Di’s growing old, and the time when they will have to part: ‘An lagan uaine gun tagh mi uaigh dhuit, \ Far ’m bi thu suaimhneach fo sgàile sgéith’. Donald had two MSS of this poem in his collection, which differ slightly from each other. The version in this edition is almost identical to one of the MS versions, except that the editor has added an extra stanza (st. 4).

Sruthan Teampull a Ghlinne (pp. 26-29): In this poem Donald ponders the life of a small stream which lies within the boundary of Garvard Farm, and how life has changed over the years, from pre-Christian times to the present day, while the stream has remained relatively constant: ‘Tha a h-uile nì air atharrachadh, an seo is anns gach tìr, \ Cuid bheir math, cuid bheir dona — a bheil fios cò tha fìor? \ Chan eil mi nis cho aosda no cho òg ’s nach fhac’ mi fhéin \ Daoine bha cridheil toilicht’ le glè bheagan ach an gnìomh’ (p. 29).

An t-Iasgair (Togail nan Cliabh) (pp. 32-33): A happy evocation of fishing for lobsters in his adulthood, and recalling his childhood climbing the surrounding cliffs. Stanzas 2 and 6 echo stanzas 5 and 6 in the poem Làithean m Òige le m Athair, where he describes the wildlife to be seen while out in the boat, and his connection to the sea: ‘Ged a thig dubhadh air speuran le iomairt nan neòil, \ Is sioban thar thonnan a fhliuchas an seòl, \ Cha bhi mi fo chùram ma sheasas na ròp; \ ’Se coisir ’nam chluais a bhith ’g éisdeachd an ceòil’ (p. 33).

An Cèardaman (pp. 34-37): An exchange between Donald and his neighbour, and shooting rival, Hugh Brown. Hugh came back from a cattle sale in Uist with a dung-beetle and this poem follows an exchange between Donald, Hugh, and the beetle (written by Hugh Brown), with both Donald and Hugh convinced that they would win the next shooting tournament. The poem contains three instances of English words being used amidst the Gaelic text. In this instance, the English adds to the humour, as the writers use the words of legendary boxer Cassius Clay in their ‘discussion’ of the upcoming shooting tournament: ‘’S math dh’fhaodadh gu bheil thu de’n bharail \ Gur tusa an greatest fhathast. \ Ach éist rium, a charaid: \ Tha mise too beautiful to beat!’ (p. 35).

Murchadh Ruadh (Am Post) by Folalie McNeill (pp. 42-45): Dating to around the 1950s, this humorous poem was composed by Folalie McNeill with contributions from Ross Darroch, Flora MacNeill (Donald’s sister), and Margaret McNeill (Folalie’s mother). The poem traces the postman’s route through the township, mentioning by name some of the people he delivers to and the kind of things he might be delivering, e.g. ‘Bidh pige ann is dileagan / Gheibh ’m ministear a-null ann. / Bithidh snaoisean ann don mhaighstir-sgoil, / Is leggings do John Dhùghaill ann’ (p. 43). The use of English in this poem adds to the humour, particularly where it rhymes with the Gaelic, e.g. ‘Thig Màiri an Tàilleir a-mach ’s i glaodhadh, \ “An toir thu dhomh an stewpan? \ Bidh Calum dhachaidh airson a thea \ Mum faigh mi air na crùbain.”’ (p. 45).

An t-Slat-Iasgaich by Alexander Darroch (pp.46-47): A humorous song composed by a local worthy, probably in the mid-twentieth century, which mentions local people and places. The object of the poem is the wonderful fishing rod belonging to Sandy MacPhee and his wife (the author’s sister). Interestingly, the name Sandy is written as Sendy, to reflect the Colonsay pronunciation (which is found also in some other Argyllshire dialects, most notably in Islay Gaelic), of a as e when followed by /n/ or /m/.

An t-Achmhasan (author unknown) (pp. 48-49): A friendly song, dating probably from the early twentieth century, about the benefits of marrying a good wife who would cook and clean for you: ‘Dhèanadh i dhuit deasachadh, \ Is loisg i beagan mòine, \ Is bhiodh an dinnear deas aice \ ’S i feitheamh ort an còmhnuidh’ (p. 49).
Orthography This volume is an excellent example of early-to-mid-twentieth century Oronsay/Colonsay Gaelic. Much of Donald’s poetry is very descriptive, for example Làithean m’ Òige le m Athair, and Sruthan Teampull a Ghlinne, and contains local vocabulary for plants and, particularly, birds, for example, faoileann ‘white gull’, sgarbh dubh ‘black cormorant’, and sgàireag na creig’ ‘kittiwake’.

The volume contains good examples of Colonsay dialect in such words as fuasach ‘terribly/wonderfully’, deas ‘ready’, ònar ‘alone’, fantail ‘waiting’, drùinte instead of dùinte, bùcail ‘bulky’, asgaill ‘armpit’, fo phràmh ‘upset’, ladhran ‘toes’, fo ghiobarsaich ‘under weed/rough’, damhan-eallaich ‘spider’, the use of a chrìosdaidh to mean ‘my good fellow’, and the plural form of stuadh as stuadhantan.

In addition, some of the vocabulary borrowed from English has been written in a Gaelic orthography, for example, pac ‘pack/bag’, phónadh ‘phoning’, maitseachan ‘matches’, and panachan ‘pans’, which also helps to inform us of features of the Colonsay dialect, such as commonly used plural endings.

The orthography does not conform to GOC (1981): we find, for example, both acute and grave accents, and u in place of a in words such as còmhnuidh.
Edition First edition.
Other Sources
Further Reading MacPhee, John, The Crofter and the Laird (New York, 1970: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
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