Gàidhlig / English
rionnag a’ dol air iomraich

rionnag a’ dol air iomraich

Posted by Alasdair on 27 July 2017
The DASG Fieldwork Archive contains several expressions relating to shooting stars.  For example, “rionnag ag atharrachadh”, literally ‘(a) star changing’, was recorded in Strontian.  “rionnag thuiteamach”, perhaps best translated as ‘(a) falling star’, was recorded in Achiltibuie and this can be closely compared to a phrase recorded in Embo in Sutherland: “Chunnaic mi runnag a’ tuiteam”.  This is translated in the fieldwork record as "I saw a shooting star"; literally translated it is ‘I saw a star falling’.
It was on the island of Coll that “rionnag a’ dol air iomraich”, the phrase which forms the title of this blog, was recorded and this is similar to the expression “rionnag air imrich”, recorded in Tobermory.  In Tiree, both “runnag air imrich” and “runnag a’ dol air imrich” (Barrapol) were recorded, as well as “runnag-le-earball”, literally ‘star-with-tail’.  This is closely comparable to “rionnag an earbaill”, '(the) star of the tail', recorded in Crowlista in Uig, Lewis.  While “rionnag an earbaill” and “rionnag-earbaill”, two expressions containing the ‘tail’ word, are found for ‘shooting star’ in the LearnGaelic dictionary, it is worth drawing attention to the similar “roinneag-an-earbaill” which applies to a comet rather than a shooting star in the fieldwork record for the aforementioned informant from Strontian.
Somewhat different expressions are recorded in Uist and Skye.  In South Uist, both “sgeith runnag” and “sgeith runnaig” were recorded with one informant explaining that a “sgeith runnaig” was a shooting star "indicating bad weather".  It could be seen in the late afternoon or at night and a shower of bright sparks would follow this star. “sgeth-rionnag” and “sgeth-rionnaig” were recorded in Harris and “sgeth-runnag” was recorded in Skye.
A different expression again is “salachar-rionnag”, recorded in Aultbea in Wester Ross.  ‘Salachar’, a noun which can be translated as ‘dirt, filth’ but also as ‘afterbirth’, seems to apply in this context to the trail left by the shooting star.  This may be comparable to use of the term ‘spùdadh’, more commonly now ‘spùtadh’, in “runnag spùdaidh”.  ‘Spùtadh’ is defined as ‘spouting, squirting, scouring’ and the expression was recorded in North Uist, where “sgiath-rionnaig” was also recorded.  For more on this topic and plenty others besides, visit the DASG website.
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