Metadata for texts common to Corpas na Gàidhlig and Faclair na Gàidhlig have been provided by the Faclair na Gàidhlig project. We are very happy to acknowledge here Dr Catriona Mackie’s sterling work in producing this data; the University of Edinburgh for giving us permission to use and publish the data; and the Leverhulme Trust whose financial support enabled the production of the metadata in the first place. The metadata is provided here in draft form as a useful resource for users of Corpas na Gàidhlig. The data is currently being edited and will be updated in due course.

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Metadata for text 10
No. words in text3180
Title Coimhead air an Taigh-dubh ann an Arnol
Author Anon.
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1994
Date Of Language 1950-1999
Publisher Historic Scotland, Museum nan Eilean
Place Published Stornoway and Edinburgh
Volume N/A
Location NLS, Arnol Blackhouse Museum
Geographical Origins Lewis
Register Education, Prose
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 29.5cm x 20.9cm
Short Title Taigh-dubh
Reference Details CM personal copy
Number Of Pages 8
Gaelic Text By MacIlleathain, Ruairidh
Illustrator N/A
Social Context This booklet was produced, along with an English language booklet, as an explanatory text for the Arnol Blackhouse Museum in Lewis. The house was taken over by Historic Scotland in 1965 and transformed into a museum, preserving the original features of the house where possible, such as the central hearth, and the byre in the lower end of the house. This booklet seems to be geared towards children in an educational environment and there are questions throughout the text, asking, for example, ‘Dè tha ann am fiodh-cladaich?’ (p. 2).
Contents The first page introduces the term ‘black-house’, the township of Arnol, and the house at 42 Arnol. Pages 2-7 comprise sections of text and sketches under the following headings:

An Àrainneachd: This section explains the nature of the local environment which had an abundance of stone but very little timber except for driftwood washed up on the shore. It also explains that peat was used for fuel and introduces the types of crops grown in the township, i.e. còirce, eòrna and, later on, buntàta and snèipean.

Croitearachd: This section explains the crofting system which was introduced in the late eighteenth century. It also mentions the summer shielings, the seasonal herring fishing, and the autumn croft work of harvesting, peat cutting, and re-thatching.

Plana: This short section shows a plan of the house at 42 Arnol, noting that the floor sloped down towards the byre end, and explaining that part of the original barn was destroyed by a mine during World War II.

Am Balla: This section looks at the wall construction of a ‘black-house’ and contains a labelled diagram showing a cross-section through a wall. It explains that the doors were kept small to reduce the amount of heat lost from the house, and that there was a stone stair on the outside of the wall to help the men during thatching.

Am Mullach: This section looks at the roof construction and contains a labelled diagram showing the names of different parts of the roof. It also discusses the manner in which the thatch was secured by ropes.

An Stairseach: This short section describes the smoky atmosphere in the house and the smell of peat, and directs the reader to look at the inner roof construction which shows strands of turf hanging through the roof timbers.

Aig an Teine: This section looks at the central hearth around which the family and guests would sit at night. It looks at food (such as bonnaich and aran-coirce), at cooking implements (such as the greideal and the prais), at furniture (such as the being and the dreasair), and at household implements (such as the iarann).

Solas: This section explains the development from cruisie lamps (crùisgeinean), which used oil, to the Tilley lamps which used paraffin (paireafain).

Cuimhneachain: This section explains that people often brought back mementos from their travels, which the people at home treasured. The pictures show a clock which was made in the U.S.A., and a wally-dug, which was a common ornament in the 1800s.

Uachdar an Taighe: This section looks at the upper end of the house, the ‘bedroom’, and describes the box-beds (leapannan-dùinte) and chests (cisteachan) for storing clothes.

A’ Bhàthach: This section looks at the layout of the byre. It explains that in the older houses there was no partition wall between the living area and the byre, and that at one time the manure was kept in the byre over the winter. It also mentions the byre drain, which has been altered to prevent visitors falling into it due to the subdued lighting. In addition, this section talks about the hens’ roost (spiris), which was in the byre, and looks at various croft implements, such as the butter churn, sheep shears, and scythe.

An Sabhal: This section explains that there were two parts to the barn, with the largest part being used to store grain, potatoes, and equipment, and the smaller part to shelter lambing sheep. It also explains the process of winnowing, introducing the flail (sùist) and the winnowing hole (toll-fasgnaidh). It mentions, too, that food (e.g. sgadan saillte and min) was generally stored in barrels.

An Iodhlann: This section explains that the iodhlann was where grass and corn were stacked after being dried in the field. It also talks briefly about peat stacks, saying that after the peat had been dried, it was stacked at the end of every house.
Language This booklet contains good examples of basic crofting and housing terminology. It covers words for roof and wall construction (e.g. spàrr, ceangail, glutadh, tallan, and acair), winnowing (e.g. sùist, toll-fasgnaidh), butter churning (e.g. biota, slaman, and miùg), crofting implements (e.g. speal, corran, and deamhais), parts of the house (e.g. aig an teine, a’ bhàthach, spiris, and buabhal na bà), cooking implements (e.g. greideal and prais), food (e.g. bonnach, aran neo-ghoirtichte ‘unleavened bread’, and ùrachd-na-bà ‘dairy food’), furniture (e.g. dreasair, being, preas, and cuidhle-shnìomha), crops (e.g. eòrna and arbhar), and animal husbandry (e.g. fodar, meaning both ‘fodder’ and ‘straw’).

There are some notable omissions, however, for example slabhraidh and tobhta. It is possible that as there are no commonly used English language equivalents, these terms were not included in the English language version, and were therefore also left out of the Gaelic version of the booklet. It would be worth consulting Fenton’s The Island Blackhouse for more detailed terminology, particularly relating to house layout and construction. Some other sources of crofting and housing terminology are listed below.

This booklet is also a very useful source of other terminology, containing words and phrases relating to different subjects, such as publication details (e.g. còirichean gleidhte aig ‘copyright owned by’, and dealbhaichte ‘produced’), diagrams (e.g. tar-dhealbh ‘cross-section’ and puingte ‘dotted’), and history and archaeology (e.g. àireamh-sluaigh ‘population’, Linn an Iarainn ‘Iron Age’, and càrn seòmarach ‘chambered cairn’).
Orthography The Gaelic generally follows modern orthographic conventions, having only one accent, and using the final vowel a rather than u in words such as solas and doras. There are no accents on capital letters although ‘Arainneachd’ (p. 2) is the only word that this affects. Common phrases containing words which are run together in speech are usually written out in full; for example a tha ann rather than a th' ann. This text is also a useful source of verbs in the passive voice (e.g. bhathar, fhuaradh, and thogadh). It is worth noting that the word for ‘wheel’ is spelt with a dh rather than a bh (cuidhle), and that shieling huts are called taighean-àirigh rather than bothain àirigh.
Edition This is a first edition of the booklet and it is likely that it is a translation of the English language version, published at the same time. The English and Gaelic versions differ slightly (e.g. ‘What makes these clippers open?’ becomes ‘Dè tha ann an ‘deamhais’?’). The text is large and well laid out and the pictures can be helpful at times. (A labelled diagram of the butter churn would also have been useful.) It is well written and easy to read and contains much useful terminology.
Other Sources
Further Reading Look at the Blackhouse in Arnol (Doncaster, 1994: Bessacarr).

Other Sources of Housing and Crofting Terminology
Fenton, Alexander, The Island Blackhouse (Edinburgh, 1978: H.M.S.O.).
Mackie, C., ‘Taighean Tughaidh nan Eilean Siar’, unpublished MSc thesis, University of Edinburgh, Celtic and Scottish Studies, 2000, containing a glossary of Gaelic housing terminology.
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