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Metadata for text 77
No. words in text89265
Title Leabhar na Ceilidh: Sgeulachdan Ait agus Dain Aighearach
Author Whyte, Henry, and others
Editor Whyte, Henry
Date Of Edition 1898
Date Of Language 1850-1899
Publisher Archibald Sinclair
Place Published Glasgow
Volume N/A
Location National, academic, and local libraries (Inverness)
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Various
Register Literature, Prose and Verse
Alternative Author Name Fionn
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 18.3cm x 13.1cm
Short Title Leabhar na Ceilidh
Reference Details NLS: H.M.106
Number Of Pages xi, 240
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Henry Whyte was born in Easdale in Argyll in 1852, but moved to Glasgow when he was young. He wrote under the name of ‘Fionn’, composing songs, stories, and essays. He came from a family of writers: his father, John Whyte, wrote for The Gael; his uncle, Robert Whyte, published a poem, An t-Earrach, in An Teachdaire Gàidhealach; and his brother, also named John Whyte, wrote under the pen-names ‘I.B.O.’ and ‘Mac Mharcuis’. A number of John’s stories appear in this volume.

In the 1880s and 1890s, Henry Whyte published The Celtic Lyre, a four-part collection of over fifty Gaelic songs with music and translations into English. According to his obituarist, ‘M. M.’, these ‘gave an impetus to the popular study of Gaelic Music’ (1913-14, 332). He also published an article in The People’s Friend on ‘Gaelic Songs of Love and Labour’. Whyte himself wrote a number of Gaelic songs, some of which became very popular in their day, such as Ochoin a Righ si mo ribhinn donn and Dhealaich mise nochd ri m’ leannan. He also wrote essays on folklore, history, and Gaelic poetry and song, and had articles published in numerous newspapers and magazines.

In 1881, Whyte published The Celtic Garland, a collection of Gaelic stories and songs, including translations from other languages. Whyte was extremely adept at translation from Gaelic to English, and he translated a number of Gaelic songs. He was also adept at translating from English to Gaelic, and it was he who translated the Crofters Act into Gaelic. His brother, John was also adept at translation, and made Gaelic versions of many of the hymns in Thomas Kelly’s Collection of Psalms and Hymns.

Henry Whyte was very interested in politics in his early years, and was sympathetic to the ‘national aspirations of the Irish’ (‘M. M.’, 1913-14, 334). In later years, he undertook only journalistic work, as Glasgow correspondent of the Oban Times, and writing weekly articles for other newspapers. He was also President of the Gaelic Society of Glasgow and an active member of various territorially based Highland Associations in Glasgow. Whyte had an ‘excellent command of expressive and idiomatic Gaelic’ (‘M. M.’, 1913-14, 334), and his stories, particularly his later ones, were often full of humour. Both Henry and his brother were awarded civil list pensions for their services to Gaelic literature. They both died in 1913.

In the introduction to this volume, Whyte states that he had told the people that if they bought enough copies of The Celtic Garland, he would publish another collection of stories and poetry. The Celtic Garland went through two editions and this led him to begin collecting texts for this volume. The English title page of this volume reads ‘Gaelic Readings in Prose and Verse. Suitable for Public Entertainments’.
Contents This volume begins with An Roimh-Radh by the author (pp. vii-viii). This is followed by An Clar-Innsidh (pp. ix-xi), which is presented in two sections: ‘Sgeulachdan’ and ‘Bardachd’.

This volume contains 39 stories and 16 poems in Gaelic. These include various different types of stories. Most of them are humorous, to varying degrees. Some involve the narrator, while others are about ‘someone in the village’ or someone the narrator has simply ‘heard of’. There are a few more serious stories, however, including Long Mhor nan Eilthireach (pp. 165-75) by Rev. Dr. Norman MacLeod. A selection of the stories is given below.


Domhnull Ruadh Sgalag (pp. 1-3) by Fionn (Henry Whyte): in which a hired-hand, Domhnull, who had always been very happy with his employer, suddenly decides to find work elsewhere. When asked why, he explains that various animals belonging to his employer have died in succession, have been salted and eaten, and when the last one was almost finished his employer’s grandmother died. Domhnull is then asked to pick up some more salt when he goes to town (do ’n chlachan, p. 3). Thinking he would be given the mother to eat next, he goes straight to the fair to find another employer.

Ruairidh Mor air Taghadh Luchd-Parlamaid (pp. 21-24) by Iain MacCormaig: a very comic sketch, in which Ruairidh discusses the fact that crofters are now able to vote, and talks us through his first ever voting day. Ruairidh goes to the polling station, picks up his card, and goes behind the curtain, but cannot make up his mind on such an important decision. A succession of people, including the Siorram, come in to try and get him to hurry up, but to little avail, as Ruairidh is now convinced that he is just as important as the next man and must be given time to make his choice. In the end, he ticks two boxes, unable to decide between two of the candidates. In the end, the Siorram puts the ballot paper in his pocket, rather than in the box.

Drobhaireachd Dhomhnuill-nam-Pratan (pp. 59-65) by Aonghas Mac Eanraig (first published in Mac-Talla): in which Domhnull-nam-pratan decides to sell a very old cow at the market, and is determined to get such a good price for her that he can afford to buy a young cow with the money. To this end, he alters the cow’s appearance by various means, to make her appear younger than she is. He manages to sell her as a young cow to a man who did not know much about cows. He then manages to buy a young cow and her calf from the minister, because the boy that was selling them did not know much about cows and Domhnull managed to convince him that as one of the cows had no upper teeth, there was something wrong with her.

An Taillear agus na Buidsichean (pp. 82-87) by Mac-Mharcuis (John Whyte): in which the tailor and his young assistant are called to do some work for someone who lived in a place that was renowned for being haunted. While this does not bother the tailor, his assistant is terrified and so the tailor, who was well known for making fun of his assistant, tells the manager of the inn they are staying in to hide under their bed and to move the bed up and down a few times once they had almost fallen asleep. The assistant jumps out of bed thinking it was witches’ work, but finally gets the joke.

Comhradh, Am Maighstir-Sgoil agus Calum Posta (pp. 111-21) by Rev. Norman MacLeod (Caraid nan Gaidheal): in which Calum and the schoolmaster meet on the street and talk about the cost of postage going up. Calum complains at the amount of English now being used in addresses, to the extent that he sometimes doesn’t know who the letters are addressed to, when the Gaelic place-names have been translated into English and the recipients’ names are given in English. They also encounter Eachann, who collects a letter from his brother, which the schoolmaster reads for him.

An Sionnach (pp. 148-49) by Glasrach (author unknown, possibly John Whyte?): a short story in which a sly fox tries to convince various animals in the forest that he is their friend, in order to tempt them to come close enough for him to catch and eat them.

Long Mhor nan Eilthireach (pp. 165-75) by Rev. Dr. Norman MacLeod (Caraid nan Gaidheal): in which the author is travelling home by boat after a trip to Iona. When they get near to Mull, they see a large ship there. It turns out to be an emigrant ship, containing Gaels from all over the Highlands who are about to emigrate. He goes on board the ship, and overhears a number of interactions between those that were leaving and those that were staying behind. In the first instance, he sees a blind old man bemoaning that fact that the rest of his family are leaving him to go abroad, while his family try to console him. In the second instance, he sees a group of people overjoyed when they see their minister come on board. He spends some time lifting their spirits, telling them that God is with them and that they should sing His praises and worship wherever they can when they reach their destination.

Iain Ban agus Bord na Sgoile (pp. 197-201) by Aonghas MacEanruig: the story of Iain Ban, a bachelor of about 40, who has been on the School Board for years. He finds out that this year a number of new people want to join the Board, and he worries about losing his place. He decides to go round all the houses in the village to drum up support for himself. This goes very well, until he comes to the last house, that of Seonaid ni ’n Dòmhnuill. Iain and Seonaid used to be very good friends and Iain had always hoped to marry her, until they had a falling out about twenty years ago. The meeting begins well with some general talk about the village. However, when Iain begins to talk about the reason for his visit, Seonaid assumes that he is finally going to ask her to marry him, and throws herself at him. Not wanting to disappoint her, Iain says nothing about the School Board, and eventually they get married.

Calum Bodhar ’s an t-Uircean (pp. 215-19) by Fionn (Henry Whyte): this story is about Calum Bodhar, who some people claim not to be as deaf as he claims to be, suggesting rather that he has selective hearing. As it happens, B’e Calum a b’aon ghille-gnothaich eadar Baile-nan-leac agus an t-Oban Lathurnach (p. 215). Whenever Calum travels to Oban to go shopping, he fills up the sack on his back with various things for various people, but always refuses to tell anyone or show anyone what he has bought. One day, he goes to buy a piglet. He puts the piglet in his sack and as he gets onto the boat to go back, he leaves the sack on the pier. Quickly, someone switches the piglet for a large black cat, which Calum unsuspectingly takes home with him. When he arrives home he is furious to find the black cat, and has to travel back the next day to get his piglet.

Cailleach nan Cno agus Taillear nan Clar (pp. 229-33) le Niall MacLeoid: about an old woman, believed to be a witch, who loves eating nuts. As she is dying, she tells the people in the community that her bag of nuts must be buried with her. This being done, a young lad decides to dig them up one night rather than let them go to waste. He meets a known thief on the way and they decide to split the nuts and the sheep the thief is going to kill. A number of men from the village pass by and hear the cracking of nuts from the graveside and believe the witch has returned.

Am Buachaille-Laogh agus am Ministeir (pp. 238-39) by I. B. O. (John Whyte): a short story in which a shepherd boy who is always being taunted by the minister gets his own back by some witty responses to the minister in front of his gille (p. 239).


The 16 poems differ widely in theme and style, including romantic balladry, e.g. Nighean Thriath Uilinn translated by Fionn from Thomas Campbell’s Lord Ullin’s Daughter (pp. 3-5); hunting, e.g. Seacharan Seilg by Domhnull Mac Eacharn (p. 10-12); war, e.g. Blar Allt-A’-Bhonnaich by Iain Mac Phaidein (pp. 25-30); nature, e.g. An t-Earrach by R. Mac ’Ille-Bhain (pp. 65-67); sailing, e.g. Iul an Eileanaich by Rev. Dr. Iain Mac Leoid (pp. 73-75) and Am Maraiche ’s a Leannan by Mairi Nic Ealair (pp. 193-96); and life and God, e.g. Tha M’ Athair aig an Stiuir (pp. 181-82) and Laoidh na Beatha (pp. 234-35), both of which were translated from English. There is also one comic poem, Turas Dhomhnuill do Chaisteal na Ban-Righ by Iain Mac Phaidein (pp. 99-103). Six of the poems are translations. Where this is the case, the name of the translator and sometimes the name of the author is given, but not the original title..
Sources Many of the stories and poems in this volume were new, but a number had been published previously in periodicals. Those that have been published previously have the name of the journal in which they were first published at the end of the story or poem, but not the date or the volume in which they appeared. Whyte also notes in the Roimh-ràdh, that some of the stories were drawn from Lowland Scottish sources.
Language Sgeulachdan

The stories contain a wide range of vocabulary and are an excellent source of ‘expressive and idiomatic Gaelic’. Amongst much else, there are strong echoes of the language of traditional tales. A number of Gaelic proverbs and made-up proverbial sayings are scattered throughout the stories. For example, in Domhnull Ruadh Sgalag, we find Am fear a dh’ìtheas feòil a seanmhar, faodaidh e ’h-eanraich òl (p. 1), and in An Taillear agus na Buidsichean we find Ciad taillear gun bhi sunndach (p. 82) and An uair a bhios Murchadh ’n a thamh bidh e ’ruamhar (pp. 83-84). We also find ach faodaidh an cat amharc air an righ (p. 112) in Comhradh, and cho bodhar ri gobhar ’s an fhoghar (p. 216) in Calum Bodhar ’s an t-Uircean.

The stories contain a wide variety of idiomatic usages, turns of phrase and interesting words and forms. For example we find Cha d’rinn mi riamh talach air (p. 2), chuir an fheoil shaillte eadar-sinn (p. 2), an robh thu air do storradh leatha (p. 2), thug mi a chuilidh orm (p. 22), le da sgrioch de ’n pheann (p. 22), a turrachadal a stigh a sin (p. 23), Bha mòran ùp àp aig an dorus (p. 24), cha ’n fhaigh thu na bheir builionn g’ ad chù oirr uile gu léir (p. 59), ’s e tachas a chinn, ’s a dlùth-amharc air an làr (p. 61), le ròiseid (p. 61), Chinn e mar a chunnaic Nì-math iomchuidh (pp. 62-63), nach tu ’bh’ air do bhreathas a dhol ’an caramh a leithid se de mhàrt òg breagha (p. 64), a’ ghiutaireachd a rinn e (p. 65), a’ toirt nan sìnteag ’s nan surdag as thar an reidhlein (p. 83), fad fin-foineach an latha (p. 83), air amhuiltearachd a’s a’ h-uile gne fhearas-chuideachd (p. 84), Bha iomradh am fad ’s am farsuingeachd feadh na duthcha gu ’n robh buidseachas air an tigh (p. 84), aite uaigealta, fàsail, air a chuairteachadh le boglaichean ’s le criathraichean ris an deanadh cridhe nan doideagan ’s nan glaistigean teòisinn (p. 85), freagarrach air son an ubagan ’s an iopannan a chur an gniomh (p. 85), chaidh e air a mhàgan fo ’n leabaidh (p. 85), gu ’n robh e ann an geàrr chunnart, ’s gu ’m feumadh e a bhogha ’s a bhalg a chur air (p. 197), Dh’éirich i do sheotal na ciste (p. 199), guanagan (p. 216), an deannadh-nam-bonn (p. 218), a shluasaid (p. 230), oidhche dhe na h-oidhcheannan (p. 230), and Thuit gu ’n robh (p. 238). Phrases which evoke a story-telling milieu, such as ach is sgeul eile sin (p. 2), agus a’ chur an sgeòil an giorrad (p. 64), and m’ an abradh tu “Seachd,” (p. 83) also occur throughout the texts.

Much of the information contained in the stories is interesting from the point of view of social and cultural history, e.g. when Domhnall goes to the faidhir (p. 1) in Domhnull Ruadh Sgalag he had sop ’n a bheul mar chomharradh gu’n robh toil aige dol air fasdadh le cuideigin (p. 1). Other words and phrases relating to rural life include air a’ bharaille fheola (p. 1), deanamh deas a dhol an cheàrdaich a chur tarruing ann an crubh an eich dhuinn (p. 3), am mart cutach (p. 59), fhuair mi fhéin mar thochar i (p. 59), ’s i ’n a gamhainn (p. 59), an crùisgean (p. 60), do’n bhàthigh (p. 60), mar a’s sine mart gur ’h-ann a’s mutha ’bhios de dh’eagan ’n a h-adhaircean (p. 60), beagan de dh’ùilleadh ròin (p. 60), deamhas (p. 61), le atharla òg (p. 63), ann an tilgeil a’ chabair no na cloiche-neirt (p. 83), and a ghoid moilt (p. 230).

Some religious phraseology can be found in Long Mhor nan Eilthireach, e.g. cuiribh ur n-earbsa ann an Dia (p. 171) and Iarramaid beannachd Dhe; deanamaid urnaigh (p. 173); and words and phrases relating to parliament and the state can be found in Ruairidh Mor air Taghadh Luchd-Parlamaid, e.g. a’ taghadh buill ùra a dhol do ’n Phàrlamaid (p. 21), luchd-fearainn mhòra (p. 21), gu ’n robh mi murrach air Fear-Pàrlamaid a thaghadh (p. 21), do ’n bhothan-thaghaidh mar a their iad ris (p. 22), an Siorram (p. 22), seirbheiseach paighte na Stàid (p. 22).

The texts also contain a considerable proportion of direct speech, both in reported conversations and in authorial exclamations addressed to the reader. Examples include A mhic an fhir nach abair mi (p. 3), ach a nis, a mhic chridhe (p. 21), Nach iongantach an gnothach (p. 22), Cuimhnich ’ille mhath (p. 23), Coma leat-sa sin (p. 59), Ubh, ùbh! (p. 59), ’ghaolaich (p. 60), a laochain (p. 64), O, dhuine gun chiall (p. 64), Ni-math g’ar teasraiginn (p. 86), Fhir mo chridhe (p. 116), mo chreach ’s mo leireadh (p. 120), Mo thruaighe (p. 166-67), Dia ’chuideachadh leam! (p. 169), Dia ’bhi maille ruibh (p. 170), Ni Maith ’g ar dìon! (p. 217), Ho ló! (p. 230), C’ àit an ainm an Aidh a’ bheil thu dol (p. 230), gu’n robh am bàs oirre (p. 230), “Pù,” arsa fear thall, ’s fear a bhos (p. 232).

The text also contains a number of phrases that may have come from English. These include Cha bhiodh gin de na dròbhairean a’ draghachadh rithe (p. 64), c’ iamar air an t-saoghal (p. 65), a tha air a chubadh a suas ann an tigh (p. 83), Cha d’ fhuair e os a chionn gus an latha ’n diugh (p. 85), eadhon ann an geal an la sholuis (p. 85), and bha e dà fhichead bliadhna dh’aois m’ a bha e latha (p. 197).


As noted above, the 16 poems cover a wide variety of subjects, including balladry, hunting, war, nature, sailing, and life and God.

Vocabulary of note from the poems includes, inter aliahunting terms in Seacharan Seilg, e.g. ‘Dà shùil lasrach an clàr aodainn, \ Nach robh ’choimeas farasd fhaotainn; \ Sròn cho fada ris an taobhan, \ ’S paidhir adhaircean air a cheann: \ Dh’ éirich mi gu grad air m’ uilinn, \ ’S thug mi ionnsuigh air a’ ghunna, \ Ach cha d’ thug e suim no umhail, \ Mar gu ’m b’ iomhaigh umha bh’ ann.’ (p. 11); and sailing terms, e.g. in Am Maraiche ’s a Leannan: ‘I ’g éirigh éutrom air an t-snàmh, \ Mar eala bhàin ’s a’ chaol; \ Gach sgòd aice a mach gu ’cheann, \ ’S gach seòl a’ tarrainn gaoith’; \ I ’falbh le cuinnein fiadhta \ Thair tuinn a b’ fhiadhaich gaoir, \ Mar steud-each cruidheach, uaibhreach, \ A thug mu ’chluas an taod.’ (p. 194-95).

Also of interest is the following nature description from Beannachd Dheireannach an Eilthirich by Eobhan Mac Colla (pp. 33-37), in which the author describes the country being left behind: ‘’Thìr steallaireach, alltach, \ Ard-choillteach, thiugh-spréigheach— \ ’Thìr àirdheach, fhraoch-shliosach, \ Ghorm-lochach, àrd; \ ’Thìr bhreacanach, cheòlraideach, \ Oranach, aoidheach, \ Bu tu tìr nan sgeul— \ Dachaidh ghreadhnach nam Bàrd!’ (p. 35).
Orthography The orthography of the texts has not been standardised and we therefore find different systems in use in the volume. While the principles vary between texts, the systems are all typical of the late nineteenth century. Of interest, perhaps, is the spelling of ciod é as ’d é (as opposed to the standard reduction to ), which occurs in a number of texts (e.g. pp. 60, 115).
Edition First edition.
Other Sources
Further Reading M.M. (1913-14), ‘Henry Whyte – “Fionn”’, The Celtic Review 9, pp. 332-36.
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