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Metadata for text 170
No. words in text85628
Title Comh-chruinneachidh Orannaigh Gaidhealach
Author N/A (Edited work)
Editor MacDomhnuill, Raonuill
Date Of Edition 1776
Date Of Language Various
Publisher Walter Ruddiman
Place Published Edinburgh (Duneidiunn)
Volume Vol. I (There were no further volumes.)
Location National and academic libraries
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Various
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Ronald MacDonald (Raghnall Dubh)
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 17.5cm x 11cm
Short Title Comh-chruinneachidh Orannaigh Gaidhealach
Reference Details NLS: ABS.1.86.153
Number Of Pages xviii, 373
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Ronald MacDonald was the son of Alexander MacDonald, better known as Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair. He was born around 1728. In 1744 he briefly replaced his father as the school-master in Ardnamurchan. The Eigg Collection was so named because at that time, MacDonald was living on the farm of Laig on the Island of Eigg. His was the first collection of older Gaelic poetry to appear after the publication of the poems of Ossian in the 1760s, and it set the tone for later collections, such as those of John Gillies (1786), Alexander and Donald Stewart (1804) and Patrick Turner (1813). Ronald’s collection was in all likelihood based on collections of poetry made by his father, and Ronald may also have drawn on the manuscript collection of Hector Maclean of Grulin (see Sources below). Although this edition is entitled Vol. I, and although MacDonald alludes to a second volume in his Preface, claiming that it ‘will consist of poems of a much older date’, no second volume was forthcoming.
Contents The volume opens with a dedication by the editor to ‘James Grant, younger, of Coriemony, Esq; Advocate’ (pp. iii-iv). There follows a Preface (pp. v-xii), which opens with a short history of the decline of the Gaelic language, in which it is suggested that the publication of the English translations of the poems of Ossian revived the nation’s love of Gaelic. ‘The Editor, moved by these considerations, and desirous to preserve his mother tongue, has bestowed much labour and expense, during the course of two years, in collecting the poems now offered to the public. Most of the pieces in the first volume have been composed within the last two hundred years’ (p. vii). He explains, perhaps in an attempt to pre-empt criticism, that because the songs in the present volume were composed relatively recently, some English words appear in them. However, ‘excepting words introduced in this manner, and which could not be altered without doing violence to the meaning of the author, no expression has been admitted into the present collection but what is pure Gaelic, and no pieces have been received but those of approved merit’ (p. ix). MacDonald also points out that all of the poems in this volume are ‘set to music’ (p. ix).

The Introductory section continues with Instructions for Reading the Gaelic Language (pp. xiii-xiv), and An Clar-Inniseach (pp. xv-xviii), in which the songs are listed by Gaelic title, in the order presented in the book.

The collection itself, with the new title Co-chruinneachadh de dh’ Orain Gaedhelich, follows on pp. 1-358. It consists of 105 songs by various poets, including Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh (e.g. Fuaim an Taif, pp. 27-31), Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair (e.g. Failt na Mor Thìr, pp.118-21), Iain Lom (e.g. Oran do Shir Seumas, pp. 197-205), Sìleas na Ceapaich (e.g. Oran dh’ Alastair Ghlean-garradh, pp. 286-88), and John MacCodrum (e.g. Com-radh, mar go b ann eidir Caraid agus Namhaid an Uisgebheatha, pp. 213-19). The first song is Miann a Bhaird a fhuair Aois (pp. 1-5), and this is followed by the well-known Prosnuchadh-Catha, attributed to Lachlann Mor Mac Mhuirich (pp. 5-6). These are followed by Oran na Comhachaig (pp. 7-16), and Oran cumhadh Choire-’n Eas-a by Am Pìobaire Dall (pp. 16-20). The placement of the first three items at the head of the collection was probably intended as a mark of their venerability; other than that, however, the songs are not placed in any obvious order, chronological or otherwise.

Translations of some of the Foregoing Poems (pp. 359-373) contains English versions of six of the songs, including Miann a Bhaird a fhuair Aois, which also has a short introduction.
Sources Professor Ó Baoill has stated (1976, 209) that ‘no detailed study has yet been made of the sources used by Raonuill Macdomhnuill (Raghnall Dubh) for his Comh-chruinneachidh Orannaigh Gaidhealach. However, he gives reason to believe that five of the songs in this volume may have been copied from Dr. Hector MacLean’s manuscript, which is now housed in the Public Archives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The manuscript was taken to Nova Scotia by John MacLean, the Tiree Bard, and later came into the hands of Alexander MacLean Sinclair, whose mother was a daughter of John Maclean. Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow University Libraries hold photocopies of this MS.
Language There are a large number of eulogies and elegies in this volume. Examples include Marbh-rann do Shir Seumas Domhnullach by Gilleaspaig Dubh Mac Mhic Dhònail (pp. 21-23); Marbhrann Domhnuill Ghuirm Oig by Murchadh Mor Mac Mhic Mhurchaidh, fear Eichildi (pp. 23-25); Oran do Shir Lachluin Mac Ghilleoin triath Dhubhairt by Eachann Bacach, a song which is better known today as A’ Chnò Shamhna (pp. 85-89); and Marbhrann do mhac mhic Ailein (pp. 67-69) and Oran do Mhac Shimidh by Iain Dubh mac Iain Mhic Ailein (pp. 49-52), which contains the following lines: ‘Tha fuil phriosoil Iarla Sìofort, \ Air a sìoladh ad bhallabh Rioghail; \ Glac nach crìn ma n òr. \ Càirdis fal u ’mhac mhic Ailein \ Dà uair daingeann ri Gleann-garadh, \ Car u mhic Ghilleòin’ (p. 50). Cumha do Mhac Leòid, by Ruairidh Mac Mhuirich, i.e. Roderick Morison, An Clàrsair Dall, (pp. 53-57), ends with the following verse: ‘Maide dh’ fhàs na chraoibh thoraidh, \ Fuidh bhlàth onorach àluinn, \ Ann an lios na’n crann èachdach, \ Bha tlachd na’n cèud ann ’s gach ait’air, \ Lean an dut[h]chas ba chathair, \ A mhic an Athair a chràidh sinn, \ Na biodh ad chrìnich gun duillich. \ Ann ’san ionad ’n do thàmh u’ (p. 57). Cumhadh do Ghileaspaic Caimbeul Iarl’ Earra-ghaidhil, by ‘an [t-]Aos-dana Mac Ithich’, contains these verses: ‘Iarla duais-mhor earraghaidhil, \ Garg an Leoghan, \ Ba mhor an croidhe dh’ fhearabh Albann, \ Fhuil a dhortadh. \\ Dhaoine ge do fhuair sibh àite, \ Os ceann Cùirte, \ ’S olc a chuir sibh gliochdas Alba, \ Gu sùrd mhillte’ (p. 139).

There are also a number of love songs, which frequently employ the tone and language of praise poetry. Examples include Oran by Alastair Mac Choinnich (pp. 45-46), Oran by Iain Beton (pp. 46-48), Sean Oran a roinn Bana-chombhunich do Dhonil gorm Mac Ranuil mhic Ailen a Lennan (pp. 166-67), and Oran by Issachari M‘Aulay (pp. 220-23). In Oran by William Mac Choinnich (p. 42-44), we find ‘Ciochan corrach, lìnnte soluis, \ Air do bhroilleach rèth ghlan; \ Do sheang-shlios fallain mar an eala, \ No mar chanach slèibhe; \ Bas ionmhiuinn chaoin na’n geal mhear caol, \ A’ dealbh na’n craobh air pèurlainn, \ ’S tu fialaigh glic ’s do chiall gun tig, \ Air diamhaireachd na rèultan’ (p. 43).

While most of the songs of praise in this volume are elegies, a small number are not. These eulogies include Eachann Bacach’s Oran do Lach’unn mor Mac Gill-eòin, triath Dhubhairt (pp. 89-93) and Mairi Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh’s Luinneag Mhic-Leòid (pp. 107-10). There are also three songs in praise of clans: Moladh an Leoghuinn (pp. 78-84) and Smeorich Clann Doibhnil (pp. 257-60) by Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, and Smeoràch Chlann-Raoinuill by John MacCodrum (pp. 246-50). On these songs see further Text 165 (MacCodrum) and Text 171 (Mac Mhaighstir Alastair).

A number of the songs in this volume contain elements of social and political commentary. Examples include Oran do dh’ Eoin breac Mac Leòid no Hearadh by An Clàrsair Dall (pp. 103-06), and Oran Rinnruari by Inis M’ Alasdair Ruaidh (pp. 188-93), which includes the following comment on the changing nature of warfare: ‘’S cha n ann leis na claidhin, \ Fhuair ar daoin-ina an leonadh, \ Ach nach d’ fhuair iad riamh fuirich, \ An lathair cumasg ri còmhraig, \ ’S mairg a chunnaic na sùighin, \ An tùs irraghail na doirin, \ Bhi gan spadagh le luaithe, \ ’S gun tilgidh buachaille bho i’ (p. 190). In Oran na Fineacha Gaidhealach by Ioin dubh mac Ioin mhic Aillein (pp. 227-31), the poet imagines the whole of the Highlands mobilising in favour of King James: ‘Thig Gordanich ’s Gremich, \ Grad gleusda as gach tìr, \ An cogadh Riogh Thiarllais, \ Gu’m bfheumail dha sibh; \ Griogaraich nan geur-lann, \ Dream speisoil nam pios, \ H’ar lium gu ’m bi ’n ea-coir, \ Nuar dh’ eighidh sibh sios’ (p. 231).

There are a few nature songs, or songs in praise of place, including Failte na moirthir (pp. 118-21) and Oran a Gheamhraidh (pp. 334-39) by Mac Mhaighstir Alastair, Iumairidh Alaistir as Eignaig do dh Ioibhir-aoidh (pp. 143-46), and Oran a rinneadh do bhail’ arrait ann an Ardnamorchuan (pp. 205-12). Oran cumhadh Choire-’n Eas-a, by Am Pìobaire Dall (pp. 16-20), contains examples of the technique of ‘adjective packing’, as in the following verses: ‘Siumragach, sealbhagach, duilleach, \ Min-leachdach gorm-shlèiteach gleannach, \ Biadhchair, riabhach, riasgach, luideach, \ Le ’n dìlte cuideachd gun cheannach. \\ ’S cruiteoil leam gabhail do bhràighe, \ Biolaire ’t uisge ma t innsibh, \ Mìodar maghach, cnochdach càthair, \ Gu breac blàthoir ann uchd mìn fheoir’ (p. 19).

There are also one or two songs of a more light-hearted nature, including Luinneag by Callum a Ghlinne (pp. 111-12), Comh-radh, mar go b’ ann eidir Caraid agus Namhaid an Uisgebheatha anonymous here, but known to be by John MacCodrum (pp. 213-19), and Oran ’do throid nu bain Eiggach by Iain Mac Iain Mhic Ailein (pp. 293-95).

There are occasional footnotes explaining references or the meanings of words, e.g.: Clar-sgithe is explained as ‘A name for the Isle of Sky’ (p. 53); and earrlaid is glossed as earsba (p. 72).
Orthography The orthography is that of the mid-eighteenth century. Consonants are often doubled unhistorically, as in eggull, cheddachadh, and merricaishach (p. 176). There are very numerous orthographic inconsistencies, e.g. Domhnuill (p. 343) and Doibhnil (p. 257). Professor Ó Baoill has suggested (1976) that the editor used various manuscript sources with varying spelling practices, which he did not standardise.
Edition First edition. According to MacLean (1915), the first edition did not sell as well as expected. In order to sell the remaining copies, certain booksellers reprinted the title-page in 1782 with the date altered, in the hope that customers would think they were buying a new volume. This new edition was published by John Gillies in Edinburgh. The 1782 edition, therefore, is exactly the same as the first edition, except for the title page. MacLean also refers to the later edition which was published by Patrick Turner in 1809. Editors should be aware that certain poems in this volume constitute the earliest appearances of poems usually associated with later collections.
Other Sources
Further Reading Cheape, Hugh, ‘The Gaelic Book – The Printed Book in Scottish Gaelic’, retrieved from
MacLean, Donald, Typographia Scoto-Gadelica (Edinburgh, 1915: J. Grant).
Ó Baoill, Colm, ‘Raghnall Dubh and Hector MacLean’, SGS, 12 (1976), 209-19.
Thomson, Derick S., ed., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Glasgow, 1994: Gairm).
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