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Metadata for text 94
No. words in text49204
Title Poems and Songs: Gaelic and English
Author MacKellar, Mary
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1880
Date Of Language 1850-1899
Publisher Maclachlan & Stewart (Edinburgh), John Noble (Inverness), J. W. Miller (Oban)
Place Published Edinburgh, Inverness, and Oban
Volume N/A
Location National and academic libraries
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Fort William
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 19.4cm x 13.5cm
Short Title Poems and Songs
Reference Details EUL: .891631Mack
Number Of Pages vii, 140
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Mary Cameron was born in Fort William in 1836. She married John MacKellar, who was the captain and part-owner of a coasting vessel. Mary visited many European countries with him. In 1876, she became the second Bard of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, and she published a number of poems, songs, and essays in in the Society’s Transactions (TGSI). She remained the Society’s Bard until her death in 1890.

Mary MacKellar spent two years translating Queen Victoria’s Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands into Gaelic, for which she was awarded the sum of £50. From a review of her life and work in The Celtic Monthly (1893), it appears as if she was short of money in later life, and was not awarded a pension, despite her services to the Queen. Instead, she was offered two small grants from the Treasury. Mary lived in Edinburgh for a time, in a small flat at 10 South Clerk Street. She was an extremely popular and generous woman, and she welcomed all sorts of people into her home. Her frequent visitors called her flat the ‘Ben Nevis Observatory’.
Contents P. iii contains a note from the author which reads: ‘Le a chead sònraichte fhéin, tha mi ’cur nan duanagan so a mach fo sgàile sgiath chaoimhneil caraide dìleas agus fear-tagraidh mo dhùthcha, mo shluaigh, agus mo chànain, Professor Blackie’. There follows a list of Contents (pp. v-vii).

Gaelic and English Poems (pp. 1-140) includes over seventy poems, 33 of them in Gaelic. Three of the Gaelic poems have English translations. The last four Gaelic poems are under the heading Translations, three of which are sub-titled ‘le Professor Blackie’. (This presumably means ‘translated from English poems by Blackie’.) The last poem in this section is entitled Luinneag: Thìll, gu’n do thìll thu, ’Bhlackie (pp. 139-40). This poem seems to be an original composition by Mary herself. This volume therefore seems to contain thirty original and three translated Gaelic poems by Mary MacKellar.

At the end of the book, we find four pages of advertisement for Highland and Gaelic books published by Maclachlan & Stewart.
Sources A number of MacKellar’s poems had been published previously, e.g. in TGSI.
Language Mary MacKellar’s poems touch on a number of subjects, such as praise, nature, clanship, love, war, elegy, religion, and politics.

While most of MacKellar’s poems speak to us with the author’s voice, some introduce other voices, e.g. Oran Do Thobar A Chunnaic Mi Ann An Traigh Loch Eribol (pp. 81-83), which begins with 10 stanzas by the poet and ends with 10 stanzas by the ‘Tobar’; and Comhradh, written ‘eadar am bard ’s a’ chlarsach air a sgriobhadh air son Commun Gaidhlig Inbhernis’ (pp. 96-100), in which the author praises the Society and some of its members.

MacKellar’s praise poetry includes Oran Do Bhan-Righ Victoria, written after MacKellar had read the Queen’s book (pp. 1-3); Oran Do Chaiptein Siosal, Fear Allt Na Glaislig (pp. 114-17) and Failte Do Lochial Agus D’A Mhnaoi Oig Do Lochabar (pp. 103-05), where we find ‘Gur tu iasgair a’ bhradain sealgair ro mhath nan ian, \ ’S eutrom dhireadh tu’n leacainn gu creachunn nam fiadh; \ Le d’ghillean, ’s le d’ghunna, ’s le d’chuileanan dian, \ ’S ’n uair a theid thu na d’eideadh gur e ’m feileadh do mhiann’ (p. 104).

Clanship and genealogy often appear in MacKellar’s praise poems. For example, in Oran Do Bhan-Righ Victoria (pp. 1-3) we find ‘A shliochd nan leòmhann ’bha greadhnach lùchairteach, \ ’S beag an t-ioghnadh ged ’tha thu còrr, \ ’S fuil nan Stiùbhartach rìoghail cùirteachail \ ’G éirigh lùthchleasach ann ’ad phòr’ (p. 1), and in Failte Do Lochial Agus D’A Mhnaoi Oig Do Lochabar (pp. 103-05) we find ‘O Dhomhnuill nan Domhnull g’am bu chòireach deagh bhéus, \ Sliochd nan cuiridhnean gasda, sliochd nan lasgairean tréun’ (p. 103), and ‘Gu ma buan bhios am fàinne, ’s gu’m bu slan bhios an leug, \ Gathan oir o na h-àrdaibh, a bhi gach la mu air ceum; \ Gum bu duilleach an Darag lan de shnothach ’s gach geug, \ Cnothach meanganach laidir ’s i gun fhaillinn na ’freumh’ (p. 105). In Failte Do Mharcus Latharna ’s Do ’Mhnaoi Oig Rioghail (pp. 45-48), MacKellar praises Lord Lorne and his young wife and describes their welcome: ‘Chualas iolach ann an Alba, \ Caismeachd-buaidh’ air feadh nan garbh-chrìoch, \ Pìob gu tartarach anns na gleannaibh, \ Teintean-éibhneis air na beannaibh, \ Srannraich bhratach air na gaothaibh, \ Caithream aig Mac-talla aosda’ (p. 45).

A number of MacKellar’s poems touch on war, particularly Oran, written ‘air an 42nd air dhoibh bhi buadhar an cogadh Ashantee’ (pp. 67-69) in praise of ‘Luchd nu’m breacan, gorm, is uaine, \ A chleachd buaidh-chaithream, ’s na blàran’ (p. 67). In this poem, we find ‘Mìle fàilt ’an diugh do'n chommun [sic], \ Luchd nam boinead ’s nan coc-àrda, \ Luchd nam breacan greadhnach rìoghail, \ Dàn ceol nuallan pìob ’s na blàraibh’ (p. 69). In Failte Do Lochial Agus D’A Mhnaoi Oig Do Lochabar (pp. 103-05), we find ‘’S tric a chriothnuich fir Shasunn roimh ur caisimeachd gharbh, \ ’N uair a chluinnte’ ur slogan bhiodh an cogadh dhoibh searbh; \ ’S ged a thogadh iad creach uaibh bhiodh ’ur n-aicheamhail garg, \ ’S ioma mìli bhiodh reubte ’s bhiodh na ceudan dhiubh marbh’ (p. 104).

A number of MacKellar’s elegies and laments also touch on war, such as Cumha Le Lochiall, written as if spoken by Locheil ‘an uair a chunnaic e a chaisteal air a losgadh leis na Saighdearan-Dearga, “Bliadhna Theàrlaich”’ (pp. 12-13). Locheil also reflects on past times, e.g. ‘’An Dùitsich no’n Guelphich an d’fhuair \ Tròcair no truacantas tàmh?— \ Na d’ollainnich fhuiltich bho’n uaigh, \ ’Ghlinn-Comhann, luaidh dhuinn sgéul do chràidh’ (p. 11) and ‘’Us éireadh sìbhs’, a laocha mór \ A thuit ’an “Cuil-fhodair” nan créuchd; \ ’Us ìnnsibh ’n uair a laidh sibh leòint’, \ Mar rinn an “Cù” ur feòil a réub’ (p. 11). MacKellar also wrote a Marbhrann, for her youngest brother (pp. 21-22).

MacKellar wrote a number of love poems, such as Mo Ghràdh Geal ’S Mo Rùn (pp. 6-7); No Nighneag Gheal Og (pp. 121-2), where we find ‘’S i’n ur-shlat ’s a’ choill thu, mo mhaighdean deas donn, \ Gun choire ri luaidh ort o d’chuailean gu d’bhonn, \ Mar ubhal tha d’anail, blas meal’ air do phoig, \ ’S do bhriathran lan millseachd, mo nighneag gheal òg’ (p. 121); Oran Gaoil (pp. 128-29); and Mo Run An T-Oigfhear (pp. 130-31) about love lost. In Am Maraiche ’S A Leannan (pp. 41-43) we find ‘A rìmhinn òg dh’an d’thug mi gaol, \ B’e ’bhi ri d’thaobh mo mhiann, \ Bho’n chiad là riabh thug mi dhut spéis, \ Bu tù mo réul ’s mo ghrian, \ Ach taobh ri taobh, a luaidh ri d’ghaol, \ Tha m’aigne ’g aomadh riabh. \ Gu marcachd nan tonn dùbhghorm \ A dh-aindeoin dùdlachd shian’ (p. 42). This poem also appears in Henry Whyte’s Leabhar na Ceilidh (Text 77).

Many of MacKellar’s poems contain references to nature. For example in Luinneag, written after she had a ‘deoch de dhroch uisge ’an Hanòbher’ (pp. 25-26), MacKellar praises the clear, clean waters of her native Highlands. In Oran Mu Challart (pp, 39-41), she writes ‘’S gur bliochdor, laoghmhor, torrach, \ Do mhonaidhean sgiamhach, \ Féurach fuaranach gach coire, \ ’S am faighteadh am fiadhach, \ Tarmachain nan creachann fuara, \ An coileach-ruadh, ’s an liath-chearc, \ ’S air do shealgair dol ri d’gharbhlach \ Cha Bhiodh ’fhalbhan dìomhain’ (p. 40). In Cronan An Latha Dhorch (pp. 60-61) we find ‘Cha’n fhaod sinn caoidh, no gal, an diugh, \ Ged nach ’eil grian a’ dèarrsadh; \ Tha ’n t-uisge ’biathadh a’ mhaoth-ròis, \ Gu tartmhor chrom na flùir an cinn, \ Ach ùraichidh an àilleachd; \ ’S gur maiseach bhios iad, ’n uair ’thig grian \ A ris le gathan àigh’ (p. 60). Lochaber (pp. 14-16), begins ‘O, ’s àrd a thà do bheanntaichean, \ ’S gur bòidheach fiamh do ghleanntaichean, \ ’S iad sgeadaichte na’n greannoiread \ ’Nuair ’thig an Samhradh òirnn’ followed by ‘Gur fraochach, féurach, blàth-mhaiseach, \ Do thulaichean ’us d’àileinean, \ ’S ’am measg do fhlùrain àireamhear \ An lili bàn ’s an ròs’ (p. 14).

Towards the end of Lochaber (pp. 14-16), MacKellar turns to the political issues that were taking hold in the Highlands at the time. Such sentiments also appear in her Duan Gàirdeachais, written to the Gaelic Society of Inverness (pp. 106-08). In this poem, we find ‘Ach mar dhuilleach nan craobh no moll air ghaoith, \ Chaidh muinntir mo ghaoil fhogradh; \ ’S gheobhar ar sluagh, deas agus tuath, \ Gu iomall nan cuan bocach. \ ’N ait uaislean mo ghaoil a bha daimheil ri’n daoin, \ Thainig Goill le’n cuid chaorach mora, \ Agus Sasunnaich chiar a shealgach nam fiadh, \ Feadh gharbhlach nan sliabh snodhar. \ Cuid mhor dhuibh gun fhiu, gun eachdraidh, gun chliu \ Ach gu’n d’rinn aon duibh orach’ (p. 107) and ‘’S iad a’ labhairt le fuath mu theanga nann [sic] buadh, \ Ceol is binne na fuaim orgain. \ Mar fhlur ann an gleann, le cion driuchd a bhios fann, \ Chrom a’ Ghaidhlig a ceann boidheach’ (p. 107).

MacKellar’s religious faith appears in a few of her poems. For example, in Gearan An Anma, we find creideamh saying, ‘’Anma bhochd, ged ’thà thu truagh dheth \ Bho’n thàinig Geamhradh na gruaim’ ort; \ Eiridh fhathast grian nam buadh ort, \ ’S thig ort driùchd a nuas bho Fhlaitheas’ (p. 20), and in the elegy she wrote for her brother, we find ‘Ach ge mòr sinn ga d’chaoidh, och, cha’n fhaod sinn ’bhi’n gruaim, \ Bho’n ’s i toil an Athar naoimh rinn, a ghaoil, do thoirt bhuainn, \ ’S sinn ’an dùil gu’beil thù ’s an Ierùsaleim nuaidh, \ Trid na buaidh’ tha’m fuil luachmhor ’n Fhir-shaoraidh’ (p. 22). We also find some religious terminology in Air Latha Orduigh Dhuneideann (pp. 51-52), e.g. ‘Ged ’s ciatach leam searmoin nan garbh-thonnan mòr \ Mu uamhas Iehóbhah, mu mhórachd ’s mu ghlòir; \ Cha chluinnear a’ luaidh iad air Uan Chalbharì, \ ’S a chaoidh cha toir cùnntas mu Chùmhnant na Sìth’ (p. 52).

There are a few light-hearted poems in this volume, such as Duanag, written at the request of her brother, who caught her at home sewing, when he thought it would be better for her to get outside and ‘’bhi ’g obair air a’ bhuntàta’ (pp. 4-5), and Oran, written ‘do dhuin’-uasal a bha ’dol a phòsadh te nach robh taitneach le ’chàirdean’ (pp. 17-19).

As regards language, the poems contain a number of first-person imperative forms, for example ‘Mo chruit-sa, gléusam a nis do théudan’ (p. 1), ‘Crocham clàrsach nan téud nis air géugan a’ bhròin’ (p. 22) and ‘Seinneam neo-throm failt’ agus fonn’ (p. 106).

Only a few of the poems are dated, such as Cumha Le Lochial (pp. 10-11), which is dated 1860, and Luinneag (pp. 25-26), which is dated 1866.
Orthography
Edition First edition. Given that MacKellar herself oversaw the publication of this edition, it may be taken as the authoritative edition for editors to excerpt from.
Other Sources
Further Reading Macdonald, Mairi A., ‘History of the Gaelic Society of Inverness from 1871-1971’, TGSI 46, 1969-70, pp. 1-26.
Mackay, Annie, ‘Mary Mackellar, Poetess and Novelist’, The Celtic Monthly 1, no. 8, 1893, pp. 117-18.
Thomson, Derick S. (ed.), The Companion to Gaelic Scotland, 1994.
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