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Metadata for text 153
No. words in text40307
Title Orain Ghaidhealach, agus Bearla air an Eadar-Theangacha
Author Mac’Coinnich, Coinneach
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1792
Date Of Language 18th c.
Publisher NP
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume N/A
Location National and academic libraries
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Inverness
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Kenneth Mackenzie
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 17.3cm x 11.3cm
Short Title Orain Ghaidhealach
Reference Details EUL, Sp. Coll.: E.B. .891631Mack
Number Of Pages xii + 273
(NB This volume contains the following mistakes in pagination: pp. 125-30 are numbered 125, 125 [sic], 126, 127, 128, 130; pp. 185-8 are numbered 185, 181, 163, 188; pp. 229-36 are numbered 229, 230, 229 [sic], 232, 213, 234, 216, 236. Citations from wrongly numbered pages should be given in the form ‘p. 127 [wrongly numbered 128]’, etc.)
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Kenneth Mackenzie was born at Castle Leather (‘Caisteal-an-Lea’uir’ on the title page), near Inverness, in 1758. His parents were well enough off to give their son a good education, and when he was seventeen he became apprenticed as a sailor. When he left to go to sea, around 1775, he took with him a copy of the Bible given to him by his mother, and two volumes of Gaelic poetry – one by Mac Mhaighstir Alastair, and one by Donnchadh Ban. Mackenzie loved life as a sailor, as can be seen in a number of his songs, most of which were composed at sea. The influence of his reading material can also be seen in some of his songs, most particularly in his Òran don Luing ’s do dh’Fhear Obair a’ Chuain (pp. 125-40), which uses the pibroch-based metrical structure of Moladh Mòraig and Moladh Beinn Dòbhrain.

In 1789 Mackenzie returned home and began collecting subscriptions for a volume of his poetry. On one occasion, he was insulted by Alexander M‘Intosh, at whose house he had stopped to ask for a subscription. Mackenzie promptly composed Aoir do dh’ Alastar Mac’antoisich (pp. 174-81), a scathing attack on MacIntosh, who died in 1792, three days after coming into possession of the published work. Mackenzie was so distressed by this occurrence, that he recalled as many books from subscribers as he could, and burned them. John Mackenzie claims in Sar-Obair that shortly afterwards, through the influence of Lord Seaforth and the Earl of Buchan, Mackenzie obtained a commission as an officer in the 78th Highlanders. According to Hugh Barron, however, Mackenzie was by 1796 an Ensign in the 2nd Battalion of the Rothesay and Caithness Fencible Infantry Regiment (1981, pp. 306-07). When he left the army, Mackenzie became a Postmaster in Fermoy, in Co. Cork, in the south of Ireland.

On 2nd February 1799, Kenneth Mackenzie married Maria Shelton in Co. Limerick. They had two sons, John Campbell and Robert Shelton, and at least two daughters. Mackenzie’s eldest son, John Campbell, was born in 1804. He worked for over forty years at the English-Parisian newspaper Galignati, in Paris, before his death in 1879. Robert Shelton was born in 1809. He became a prominent literary figure in America and has an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography. He died in either 1880 or 1881. Little is known of Mackenzie’s daughters. Kenneth Mackenzie died in Ireland in 1819. The date of 1837, given in Sar-Obair, is incorrect (see Barron 1981, p. 308).

According to John Mackenzie (Sar-Obair, p. 271), ‘In personal appearance, Kenneth M‘Kenzie was tall, handsome, and strong-built; fond of a joke, and always the soul of any circle where he sat’. While John Mackenzie found ‘only four or five pieces’ of Mackenzie’s poetry, that ‘stepped beyond the confines of mediocrity’ (p. 270), Nigel MacNeill saw things differently; to him, Mackenzie’s poems were ‘of a high order, polished, smooth, and well-finished’ (1929, p. 407). He regarded Mackenzie’s Am Fèile Preasach as ‘a universal favourite’. More recently, Ronald Black has pointed out (2001, pp. 499-500) that there are differences, both in the titles and in the texts, of certain of Mackenzie’s songs, between this volume and Sar-Obair. Black regards these differences as ‘more than merely cosmetic’, pointing to stanzas omitted or appearing in a different order, and even the name of the song which is headed Òran don Luing ’s do dh’Fhear Obair a’ Chuain in the present work (p. 125), but Pìobaireachd na Luinge or Moladh na Luinge in Sar-Obair (pp. 270-1). Black suggests that John Mackenzie could have obtained a manuscript copy of Kenneth Mackenzie’s work. Alternatively, the differences could have arisen through drastic editing by John; or, conceivably, he could have been working from oral sources of Kenneth’s songs.

In his 1981 article, Hugh Barron published two letters written by Mackenzie to his brother Donald. They appear to have been written in 1818, and they contain two poems not previously published: Oran Moladh do Dhiuc Wellington and Do Chlann nan Gàidheal. The latter poem is termed ochd-shlisneach by the poet, because it is ‘on eight different subjects – in eight verses and eight lines in every verse’. According to Barron, ‘These poems and letters by Kenneth MacKenzie are part of MS 2140 (now MS 14883), 13 and 14 in the National Library, Edinburgh’ (p. 306). Barron points out that Mackenzie appears not to have written any poetry after the publication of this volume, until near the end of his life. This is supported by the introduction to Do Chlann nan Gàidheal, which begins: Dàn a’ bhaird as ùr làmh \ Bha ceithir bliadhna ’s fichead ’na thàmh (p. 311).
Contents This volume opens with a dedication ‘To the Right Honourable David Stewart Erskine, Earl of Buchan’. This is followed by An Clar Innseachd (pp. vii-ix).

The main body of the text, Orain Ghaidhealach (pp. 1-240), contains 55 original songs in Gaelic (pp. 1-220) and four songs translated from English (pp. 222-40): The Banks of the Dee/Bruachan Uisg’ a Dhee (pp. 222-29), Katharine Ogie/Caitrin Ogai (pp. 230-35), Bonny Peggy/Pegie Bhoidheach (pp. 236-69), and My Wish/Mo Dhurrachd (p. 240). The English and Gaelic versions are given on facing pages.

Some of the songs in this volume are dated, but most are not.
Language This collection begins with three poems on the Gaelic language: Moladh na Gailic (pp. 1-3), Tuirie na Gàilic (pp. 4-6), and Ath-Leasachadh na Gàilic (pp. 6-9). Tuirie na Gàilic (pp. 4-6) begins ‘N an deanadh sibh nise rium èisdeachd, \ Dh’ innsinn sgeulachd air a Ghàilic, \ Mar fhuair i cuaradh sa milleadh, \ Sa gluasad o ionad àrda: \ Bha i ri linn Righ Seumas, \ Gu misneachail treubhach càilear, \ Ach fhuair an Donas a thoil fhèin di, \ ’Nuair a dh’èirich i le T——h’ (p. 4). Mackenzie’s love of, and dedication to, Gaelic can be seen in many songs in this volume. The use of cryptic spellings like T——h (for Teàrlach), a common way of disguising obscene or politically sensitive terms in eighteenth-century texts, is fairly common in this volume.

This volume contains a large number of praise songs, many of which allude to war and fighting. They include Oran do Chaptain Seumas Friosal Chuldaothall (pp. 30-33), Oran do Mhac’ Leoid na h Earadh (pp. 186-90), and Oran do Choirneal Donnacha’ Mac’ Phearson (pp. 37-42), which includes the following verse: ‘Tha bonaid bhalla-bhreachdach bhàsach, \ ’S ibht an eoin air mar lea-trom, \ ’S cota dèarg mar bu chlèachdach, \ ’S cloidheamh geala-shlios fo’ achlais, \ ’S fir fo’n àrmachd ’s iad faisg air, \ Sud na dearganaich bhrais ann san strì’ (p. 38). Some songs are addressed to whole regiments rather than to their leaders, e.g.: Oran do ’n Chath-Bhuithinn Rioghail Ghai’leach (pp. 10-14), Oran do na Chath-Bhuithinn Cheudna (pp. 15-17), and Oran don Fhreiceadan Dubh (pp. 34-36). The first of these includes the following typical lines: ‘A chath-bhuithinn Rioghail threun-theasach, \ ’N da-dh’fhichead sa dhà dh’ èighte dhiu, \ Fir cholgail bharra-ghast èatrom \ Theid garbh fo’n airm neo-eisleineach; \ Cha b’ aithne dhomh co dheireadh riu, \ Na thairneadh stràbh roimh ’m feusagan, \ ’S nach beo an deicheamh Legion, \ A bh’aig Sesear an sa ’n Roimh’ (p. 11).

Other praise songs include Oran do Phadric Urachatan, who was a merchant in Badenoch (pp. 47-50), Luinneag do Dhuic Earr-Ghae’al (pp. 66-68), Oran do dh’fhear nan Earrachd (pp. 73-77), and Oran do dh’Uilleam Mac Ille-bhraigh (pp. 79-82). Oran do’n Earla Thuathach Triath Chlann Choinnich (pp. 59-65) is composed in the metre known as ochtfhoclach (‘eight-phrased’). It begins, ‘Do Bhràthain nan steud, ’s cathair mo cheum, \ M’-aigheir do’n treud chalg-bhiorach; \ Suaimhneas an fhèigh, fuasgailt gu feum; \ Mac’Coinnich nan sgeith bhalla-bhreachdach; \ Slàn iomradh dhuit fhein, sith dha do cheum, \ Siobhart on d’theid t-ainmeachadh; \ Bi’dh ceathairn le sùnt le àidheir is muirn, \ A’ caitheamh do chùirt, ana-barraich’ (p. 59).

There are a few songs in praise of groups of people, e.g. Oran do Ghillean Mhaoi’linn (pp. 141-43), which begins as follows: ‘Sud na fleasgaich nach ’eil mìothur, \ Trian don tlachd cha dean mi ìnnse, \ Criodhail, sgairteil, tatrach, cìnnteach, \ ’S iad nan linneigeadh don Ghàelic’ (p. 141). See also Oran do Theaghlach Choire-mhonaidh (pp. 149-54), where the influence of Mac Mhaighstir Alastair is clear: ‘An teaghlach rioghail, fior-ghlan, àilt’, \ Gu sgiamhach, pàirteach, aoidheachail, \ Gu miosail teisteil, seasmhach ard, \ Gu luthar, laider, uigheamhail, \ Gu surdail, muirneach, cuirteil tlà, \ Gu h iochdmhor, gràdhach, suigheachail, \ Gu faoilteach, caomhail, caoin ri càch, \ Gu sugach, làn, caomh-chridheachail’ (p. 152). Mackenzie spins out long strings of adjectives elsewhere in this volume, but nowhere as enthusiastically as in this song. There is also one elegy in this volume, Cumhadh do dh’ Aonghus Mac’ Ille’braigh (pp. 22-25).

Mackenzie was happy as a sailor, as can be seen in his two songs to ships: Oran don Luing is do dh’fhear Obair a Chuain (pp. 125-40) and Oran don Luing (pp. 170-73). The first of these is composed in the style of pìobaireachd, i.e. with the varying rhythms of ùrlar, siubhal and crùnluath. The eighth section (a re-statement of the ùrlar) begins as follows: ‘Na slatan le deagh chli, \ Air an ordachadh, \ Tarsuing ri na siantanan, \ Dolainneach; \ Gaoth ga’m flapadh sìos, \ Ri croinn fhada dhìon, \ Sa h acuinn a diosgail, \ Le mor fhullasg; \ …’ (p. 131). There are also two songs on the Highland dress: Oran do’n Eididh Ghae’leach (pp. 93-97) and Oran do’n Trubhais Fharsuing (pp. 191-95). The latter is a light-hearted, humorous treatment of a theme which had been very serious before the repeal of the Disclothing Acts.

Two of Mackenzie’s songs comment on the state of the Highlands at the time. In Oran do na Caoraich Mhoire (pp. 88-92), the poet makes the following declaration: ‘Se dh’fhag mulad air m’ ìnntin, \ Sa chuir mì-ghean orm le gruaim, \ Na daoin’ uaisle bhi co mìothur, \ ’S gun chuir iad na h ìslean uath, \ ’S gun chuir iad air falbh na daoine, \ Gus na Caoraich a thoirt suas, \ ’S ged’ a tha ìad pailt do dh’aodach, \ Tha’n cuid fearainn faoin gun tuath’ (p. 89). In Cumha ’n Taobh Tuath (pp. 103-09), which was composed in 1783, he makes the following, equally unequivocal statements: ‘Firinn is ceartas, \ Chaidh iad clì o cheann fhada san àite, \ Tha sannt agus mìorun, \ Co pailt s nach d’ theid di air gu brath, \ Dh’fhalbh gaol o gach duine, \ ’S bochd a ghaoir th’aig a chumant gach là, \ Tha na h uaislean gan spileadh, \ ’S iad ga mhùn ann an Lunnain an àigh’ (p. 104); ‘Tha iad co lùbach ’s co carach, \ S’ aobhair cùram don talamh an dràst, \ Gum bheil breitheanais Dhè oirn, \ Ge b’e b’urrainn a leubhadh le dàn, \ Tha mi faicinn ’sa lèirsin, \ Luchd sheasamh na clèire dol càm, \ ’S iad ’an aghaidh a cheile, \ Gam bu choir a bhi teumadh le gràdh’ (p. 105).

There are a number of love songs in this volume, including Oran don Nighean Dubh (pp. 18-22) and Oran Gaoil (pp. 43-46). The influence of Donnchadh Bàn’s Màiri Bhàn Òg can be seen in the following lines from Mairearad Mholach Mhìn (pp. 69-72): ‘Dheanainn cur a’s ar is buain dhi, \ ’S dheanainn cruach gun chiorram dhì, \ ’S bhèirinn siothann o uchd fuar-bheann, \ ’S bhèirinn ruaig air cuantaibh sgì’ (p. 71). Mackenzie repeats this first line in at least one other of his love poems: ‘Dheanainn cur agus buain dhi, \ ’S bheirinn tùras air chuantan; \ ’S cha bhiodh uaireasbhuidh uair orr’, \ Ge’d tha cuailean co dubh’ (p. 19). An echo of William Ross can be heard in the lines ‘Bannsa leam a bhi ga h-èisdeachd, \ Na smèorach sa chèiten shìl, \ Na cèol file nam binn theudan, \ ’S na tha chèol ’an Eirinn chrìdh’ (p. 71). There are two songs of a philosophical nature: Rann air Tiom (pp. 161-64), and Oran do na Bhàs (pp. 166-69).

There is one satire in this volume, Aoir do dh’ Alastar Mac’antoisich (pp. 174-81), which includes the following verse: ‘Ge d’ bu bhàs duit mar chriostaidh, \ Cha b ionan ’s mar dh’iarruinn duit, \ Ach eadar eachaibh do stiolladh, \ As bhiodh farum aig triall do chuirp. \ Do cheithreamh mionaich a spionadh, \ Is minic a lìon le glut, \ ’S do cheann a spadadh do d’ ghuaillibh, \ Mar chluais do chuilean na muìc’ (p. 177). Mackenzie’s familiarity with some Classical personages and locations can be seen in a number of songs, and particularly in this song, e.g.: ‘Ach on a tha thu’ ad’ phicear, \ ’S gun robh thu miothur don Bhàrd, \ Cha’n ’eil ceolraidh ’m Parnasas, \ Nach bi bagradh do chàll, \ ’S mo gheibh Nuptune [sic] air fairg’ thu, \ Ni e garbh i le stàirn, \ Is cuiridh Vulcan na theine, \ Cop-gheal deireadh gach steàll’ (p. 176). There is also satiric matter in Oran air Turas do’n Taobh Tuath, which includes mi-mholadh na banaraich a bha ann an Cumaraidh ’an strath-chonainn (pp. 204-07), and in a short untitled verse, which reads ‘B’fhearr leam dol an cuil le caileag, \ Na dol a throt ri sgùirsar caillich, \ Teangaidh bheumnach, gheur is i tana, \ Is pòinsean na beul mar ghath n’aithreach’ (p. 140).

A number of Mackenzie’s songs tell a story, some of them humorous, and others less so. Examples include Oran don Taileir (pp. 26-29), Oran do Chladh Dhun-leicheidi, agus do dh’acfuinn Mhic’Cullach (pp. 51-58), Oran do’n Tàileir ’s do na h Osanan (pp. 122-25), and Aisling a Chunna Mac’Cullach an Oidhche mun deach a’n Ath na Teine (pp. 155-60). There are quite a few short, light-hearted pieces, running to four or eight lines at most, and often headed Dùrachd or Beannachd. Examples include Durachd a Bhàird da dh’òg Nighinn Uàsail (p. 46), Beannachd Bàird do dh’fhear Choire-mhonaidh (p. 82), Rann do’n Chnu a Chaidh a Ghibht a ’n Ionnsaidh Marcus Fhunntainn (p. 83), and A Mhisg (p. 111).

Many of Mackenzie’s light-hearted songs relate to love and marriage, e.g. Oran leis an Ughdair air Dha bhi g’Amharc air Caileagan Lunnainn agus a Smuainteachadh air Caileagan Taobh Tuath (pp. 84-87) and Mar bu Mhath leam Bean Mhath (pp. 110-11). Alongside the eulogistic and positive songs to women one can also detect a misogynistic streak running through a number of his other songs. For example, in Oran do dh’ Uilleam Lòban agus do’n Tinneas Chritheanach (pp. 144-48) Mackenzie declares: ‘Fhad sa mhaireas dhomhsa stòras, \ Agus airgiod ann am phòca, \ ’S fhad sa d’fhanas mi gun phòsadh, \ Bi’dh mi’n còmhnaidh uaibhreach’ (p. 144). This negativity is especially evident in those songs in which Mackenzie offers advice, such as Comhairle do Ghill’ Òg (pp. 182-85), and Oran Sugraidh agus Comhairl do Ghillean Oga (pp. 117-21), which includes the lines ‘’Far am bi cearcan bi’dh gràchdan, \ ’S bithidh mnathan ri ràsan cumant, \ ’S bi’dh cuir sna caileagan òga, \ ’S cha bhi duine beò gun chunnart’ (p. 120). Other songs of advice include Comhairl Araidh (pp. 164-65) and Oran do Ghillean agus Nigheanan (pp. 196-203), in which Mackenzie expresses his anger at how both sexes misbehave on the Sabbath. But even here the focus of his wrath eventually settles on women and marriage: ‘Innsidh mi ògannaich, \ Dhuit mo bharail, \ Mas a math leat pòsadh, \ ’S gur è their d’aire, \ Fiosruich a nàduir, \ Co math ’s bu mhath dhuit, \ Mun tuit thu gun èiridh, \ Air bèist nan caileag’ (p. 201). Misogynistic verse is, of course, a common theme in Gaelic poetry through the centuries, and Mackenzie shows he is well aware of its conventions.
Orthography The orthography is typical of that of the late eighteenth century. The grave accent is used pretty regularly and competently to mark historically long and more recently lengthened vowels. There are a few printing errors. Mackenzie’s Gaelic is fairly literary and hence supra-dialectal, though his own Inverness-shire dialect may be reflected in such words as cuaradh (p. 4), stràbh (p. 11), cloidheamh geala (p. 38) and linneigeadh (p. 141).
Edition First edition. Five of Mackenzie’s poems were published in Sar-Obair in 1841. As noted above, the texts of the poems published in Sar-Obair differ, for whatever reason or reasons, from those found in this volume, which are the authoritative ones. Editors should take account of the two poems published by Barron in Scottish Gaelic Studies.
Other Sources
Further Reading Black, Ronald, An Lasair (Edinburgh, 2001: Birlinn).
Mackenzie, John, ed., Sar-Obair nam Bard Gaelach (Glasgow, 1841: MacGregor, Polson, &Co.).
MacNeill, Nigel, The Literature of the Highlanders, (Stirling, 1929: [n. pub.]).
Barron, Hugh, ‘Poems and Letters by Kenneth MacKenzie’, Scottish Gaelic Studies, 13 (1981), 306-14.
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