Gàidhlig / English
Cachaileith / Cachalaidh

Cachaileith / Cachalaidh

Posted by Ruaraidh on 19th November 2014

This week’s word is ‘cachaileith’ (also spelled 'cach(a)laidh', ‘cachaileadh’, ‘cachaileigh’ or ‘cachaillaidh’), which means a gate, especially in a cattlefold, or between the township and the machair. (Dwelly: “cachaileith -e, -ean, sf Gate, rustic gate. 2 Temporary breach made in a park wall as a thoroughfare for carts or cattle. 3 Hurdle. 4 Sticks or bars individually moveable to close a breach.”)

As collected in DASG's Fieldwork Archive, a cachaillaidh was a portion knocked out (or left out) of a wall to allow cattle to pass through, with a maide cachaillaidh, or a stick which could be placed across the gap.

Also, the phrase fear-cachalaidh, or gate-keeper, was collected in North Uist, meaning someone who stayed close to the township gate to make sure the cattle were in the correct place.

The word was then used to refer to any gate, and we see records of this from the 19th Century on. Norman MacLeod (Caraid nan Gàidheal) used ‘cachaileadh mhòr na cìs’ to refer to a turnpike or toll-gate in his translation of the humorous English ballad ‘John Gilpin’ by William Cowper:

’S a rithist dh’ fhosgail e gu luath

Cachaileadh mhòr na cìs’;

Oir shaoil na daoine, mar air tùs,

Gun robh e ruith na réis.

And now the turnpike gates again

Flew open in short space;

The toll-men thinking, as before,

That Gilpin rode a race.

The word may originate from cacha leith (of each half/side), as discussed by Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh in the article ‘Gaelic Gach Uile / A h-Uile and the Genitive of Time’ in Éigse: A Journal of Irish Studies 38 (2013), p. 49.

‘Cach(a)laidh’ / ‘cachaileith’ can be seen today in place-names across the Highlands, including ‘Cachlaidh Mhòr’ in Islay,  ‘Cachlaidh Ruadh’ in Muck,  ‘Loch na Cachlaidh’ in Harris, 'Allt na Cachaileith' in Perthshire, and ‘Cachaileith Airidh Shomhairle’ in Sleat.

Have you heard any other uses of the word ‘cachaileith’? Let us know at @DASG_Glaschu / facebook.com/DasgGlaschu.

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