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Metadata for text 1
No. words in text11873
Title Somhairle MacGill-Eain: Dàin do Eimhir
Author MacGill-Eain, Somhairle
Editor Whyte, Christopher
Date Of Edition 2002
Date Of Language 1900-1949
Publisher Association for Scottish Literary Studies
Place Published Glasgow
Volume 31 (Association for Scottish Literary Studies)
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins Raasay
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Sorley MacLean
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition

21cm x 14cm

Short Title Dàin do Eimhir
Reference Details EUL: PB1648.M328Macl
Number Of Pages

vii, 295 pages

Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context

Sorley MacLean was born on the island of Raasay in 1911 into a family with a strong tradition of music, poetry and song. He spoke no English until he went to school where it was the language of the classroom. English and Scots were used in the playground due to the influx of labour from the Scottish Lowlands to work the local mine. From 1929 to 1933, he attended Edinburgh University and studied English Language and Literature. The early poems in this sequence date from this period of his life. He then qualified as a teacher at Moray House College of Education and began his career at Portree High School. He continued his career in Mull, then Edinburgh. Briefly, in 1939-40, he taught evacuees in Hawick. The sequence of poems was completed by September 1941 before he left for active service in North Africa.

For more information about MacLean, see the Sorley MacLean Trust website, Somhairle MacGill-Eain Air-loidhne, at


The sequence contains sixty love poems written to four different women between 1931 and 1941. The first is referred to in I, the second, a Skye girl, in III, the third, an Irish woman, in more than half of the poems from IV-XXII and the fourth, a Scottish woman, first appears in V. Poem VII has not been located. An ‘extra poem’, discovered recently and clearly belonging with the sequence, was published in C. Whyte and E. Dymock, Sorley MacLean: Collected Poems, Birlinn/Polygon 2011, pp. 148-9.

The poems exhibit a range of moods and echoes of the European and Classical traditions. In the edition, the Gaelic text is presented with facing English translations.

The edition contains a full introduction describing the background to the poems, including references to the work by the poet in personal letters, and to the writings of other scholars on MacLean’s work. The complex publishing history of the sequence is also outlined. All but one of the poems in the sequence (no. vii has not been located) are included. Some of the poems appear in print for the first time in this edition.

The List of Titles shows the titles of the sequence which appeared in the 1943 volume Dàin do Eimhir agus Dàin Eile, in the 1977 volume Reothairt is Contraigh / Spring tide and Neap tide and in the 1989 volume, the first edition of O Choille gu Bearradh / From Wood to Ridge.

Excerpts from correspondence from MacLean to Douglas Young are included in Dating Letter and Autobiographical Sketch. These date the composition of the poems and give valuable background information on the poet’s life.

The Commentary gives explanatory notes about the people and places in the poems, including the girls referred to as Eimhear, giving the reader an overview of the whole sequence as well as explaining references in individual poems. Metrical practice is also looked at.

There is an extensive Bibliography of unpublished sources, works by Sorley MacLean, works about Sorley MacLean and other works.

Finally, there is an Index of names, topics and significant Gaelic terms from the Introduction, Dating Letter, Autobiographical Sketch and the Commentary.


The language of the sequence presents a spectrum of the registers of literary Gaelic. Structurally, the poems range from very simple to very complex. In general, when MacLean is describing straightforward physical subjects, such as a boat sailing, the language is simple and direct. For example, in poem xlix, p 103: Bha ’m bàt’ agam fo sheòl ’s a’ Chlàrach \ a’ gàireachdaich fo sròin, \ mo làmh cheàrr air falmadair \ ’s an tèile ’n suaineadh sgòid. \ Air dara tobhta ’n fhuaraidh \ shuidh thu, luaidh, ’nam chòir \ agus do ròp laist’ cuailein \ mum chrìdh ’na shuaineadh òir. At the opposite end of the spectrum, when MacLean is expressing metaphysical and philosophical concepts, the language is more abstruse. For example in poem lvii, p 117: Dè ’n t-sùil a nì am faicinn \ no chluas a nì an claisteachd \ ’s iad air turas faondraidh \ bharr smaointean aigne? \ Ciod e an ceathramh seòl-tomhais \ a bheir an àilleachd seo fa chomhair \ sùla, reusain no aon chàileachd \ thar fàsaichean glomhair?


The text of this edition has been modified in the direction of the currently accepted form of Gaelic spelling. Acute accents have been eliminated. Short vowels in unstressed syllables are written with -a- rather than -u-. Personal forms of the preposition ann have initial apostrophe, e.g. ’nam, ’nad, but not those of aig, e.g. gam, gad. The poet’s distinction between -ia- and -eu- spellings of the same word has been preserved. Direct speech is represented by a colon followed by a capital. Capital letters bear accents as appropriate. The forms ’s e and ’s ann are used rather than se and sann. The spelling (-)st(-) is generally preferred to (-)sd(-). Such modifications have been made with the utmost respect for the phonetic and phonological particularities of MacLean’s originals.


First edition. The Gaelic and English texts were largely reproduced from the 1999 corrected edition of O Choille gu Bearradh / From Wood to Ridge, supplemented as necessary from manuscript sources, the 1943 volume, and by the editor’s own translations. Six of the poems in this text have not been published previously. Significant variant readings and differences in punctuation are given from other editions than the present one. The variant readings and, where appropriate, MacLean’s original publications, should be checked by editors.

Editors should use the 2nd edition (corrected), Edinburgh, 2009: Birlinn/Polygon.  

Further Reading

MacLean, S., Dàin do Eimhir agus Dàin eile (Glasgow, 1943: W. MacLellan).
MacLean, S., Ris a’ Bhruthaich: The Criticism and Prose Writings of Sorley MacLean, ed. William Gillies, (Stornoway, 1985: Acair).
MacLean, S., O Choille gu Bearradh: Dàin Chruinnichte / From Wood to Ridge: Collected Poems (Manchester/Edinburgh, 1999: Carcanet/Birlinn).
Ross, R. and Hendry, J., Sorley MacLean: Critical Essays (Edinburgh, 1986: Edinburgh Scottish Academic Press).
Whyte, C. and Dymock, E., Sorley MacLean: Collected Poems (Edinburgh, 2011: Polygon).

The Sorley MacLean Trust, Somhairle MacGill-Eain Air-loidhne: A large number of Somhairle’s poems are available on this web-site. The orthography has been modernised. Some of the poems come with commentary.

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