Reference Number186
TitleOrain Iain Luim. Songs of John MacDonald, Bard of Keppoch
AuthorMacDonald, John
EditorMacKenzie, Annie M.
Date Of Edition1964
Date Of Languagelate 17c – early 18c
Date Of Language Ed17th c.
DateMacro17th c.
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherScottish Gaelic Texts Society
Place PublishedEdinburgh
LocationNational, academic, and local libraries
Geographical OriginsKeppoch
Geographical Origins EdLochaber
GeoMacroW Inverness-shire
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterLiterature, Verse
Register EdLiterature, Verse
41 poems by Iain Lom and an elegy composed for him by Angus MacDonald.
The poems may be loosely categorised as follows: ‘Poems of historical and political interest’; ‘Poems of clan interest’; and ‘Elegies and Eulogies’, which show familiarity with the conventions of the panegyric code. There are also a few satirical songs.
The orthography has been modernised for this edition. Variant readings are given.
Alternative Author NameIain Lom
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition21.5cm x 14cm
Short TitleOrain Iain Luim
Reference DetailsEUL: PB1648.M223Macd
Number Of Pagesxlvii, 439
Gaelic Text ByN/A
Social ContextThere is little concrete information about Iain Lom’s life. He seems to have been born sometime before 1624, and the last poem attributed to him was about the Act of Union, and can therefore be dated to around 1707. The circumstances of his death are unclear.

There is also some doubt about the significance of the name Lom. Some believe it referred to the sharpness of his tongue (probably the most likely explanation), while others believe it was due to his lack of a beard. He was also known in his time as Iain Mabach (or Manntach), which, if taken literally, would seem to indicate a speech defect. Tradition tells that he began composing poetry at a very young age. Mackenzie reports ‘a tradition that he was sent to the Catholic Seminary at Valladolid in Spain to receive his education at the hands of the priests, but having incurred the anger of his tutors by reason of some breach of discipline, he returned to Brae Lochaber’ (p. xxii). However, there is no positive corroboration for this. Another source states that Iain Lom could neither read nor write, but had a wonderful memory and an accurate knowledge of the Scriptures. It is clear from his poem on the subject that he was present at the Battle of Inverlochy, although he seems not to have taken an active part in the fighting. He certainly took a keen interest in national politics, particularly after the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. He was also a staunch Royalist. According to Mackenzie, ‘Compromise was alien to his nature, and consequently those who were opposed to that cause were violently denounced and subjected to the scathing powers of his invective’ (pp. xxx-xxxi). His ‘victims’ receive no mercy or pity in his poems on them, as can be seen in some of the quotations given below. It has been suggested that he was made a Gaelic ‘poet laureate’ to King Charles II after the Restoration, receiving a stipend of either £50 or £100 (p. xxxiv).
ContentsThis volume contains an Editor’s Preface (pp. v-vi), a Table of Contents (p. vii), a list of the works referred to in the Introduction or Notes (pp. ix-xv), a catalogue of Abbreviations and Sources (pp. xvi-xviii), and a section entitled Notes on Manuscript Sources (pp. xix-xx). A Table of Sources, tipped in between p. xx and p. xxi, gives the location of each of Iain Lom’s 41 poems, and of Angus MacDonald’s elegy for him, in each of the sources.

The Introduction which follows (pp. xxi-xlv) reviews the evidence for Iain Lom’s life and assesses his achievement as a poet. An Index of Poems listing the 41 poems by Gaelic title concludes the introductory material (pp. xlvi-xlvii). The poems themselves are presented on pp. 1-229, with Gaelic and English appearing on facing pages. The editor explains that the poems have been arranged chronologically ‘as far as possible’ (p. vi). This edition also contains Notes on subject-matter, historical background, traditional accounts, sources and vocabulary (pp. 230-327), together with Variant Readings (pp. 328-75) and Metres and Airs (pp. 376-82).

There are ten Appendices (pp. 383-415), which contain divergent versions, from published and (more usually) MS sources, of ten of Iain Lom’s poems. The volume is completed by an  Index of National, Personal and Clan Names (pp. 416-21), an Index of Place-Names (pp. 422-25), and a Glossary of noteworthy words and meanings with English equivalents and line references (pp. 426-39).

There is a map of the Keppoch area on the inside covers, both front and back.
SourcesAccording to the editor, ‘The text of each poem is based on the source which seemed to provide the soundest version – as a general rule the oldest source. This is often supplemented by readings from other sources. Few conjectures have been admitted and the fusion of different versions has been avoided’ (pp. v-vi). Additionally, ‘The songs of Iain Lom … are not readily accessible, as they are scattered for the most part throughout various collections, anthologies and periodicals, which are now out of print’ (p. v). Regarding Alexander Maclean Sinclair’s edition of Iain Lom’s poems, published in 1895, Mackenzie issues the following warning: ‘It is not always reliable, as the Editor did not hesitate on occasion to omit certain portions of the text, rewrite others and insert stanzas of his own composition’ (ibid.).
LanguageThe editor divides Iain Lom’s poetry into three primary subject headings, acknowledging that they are not mutually exclusive: ‘Poems of historical and political interest’ (discussed on pp. xxx-xxxv), ‘Poems of clan interest’ (discussed on pp. xxxv-xxxvi), and ‘Elegies and Eulogies’ (discussed on pp. xxxvi-xli).

Iain Lom composed a number of poems of historical and political interest, including Glacadh Morair Hunndaidh (pp. 44-47); Crunadh an Dara Righ Tearlach (pp. 76-81); Murt Ghlinne Comhann (p. 198-201); and La Inbhir Lòchaidh, (pp. 20-25). The last mentioned poem contains the following lines: ‘Alasdair mhic Cholla ghasda, \ Làmh dheas a sgoltadh nan caisteal, \ Chuir thu ’n ruaig air Ghallaibh glasa, \ ’S ma dh’òl iad càl chuir thu asd’ e. \\ ’M b’aithne dhuibh-se ’n Goirtean Odhar? \ ’S math a bha e air a thodhar; \ Chan innear chaorach no ghobhar, \ Ach fuil Dhuibhneach an déidh reodhadh’ (p. 24).

Iain Lom composed at least two poems about the Battle of Killiecrankie: Oran air Feachd Rìgh Seumas (pp. 184-89), on the Royalist army’s preparations for battle, and Cath Raon Ruairidh (pp. 190-97), on the battle itself: ‘’S e Prionns Uilleam ’s a shluagh \ Dh’fhàg an dùthaich so truagh \ ’N uair a chuir iad thar cuan Rìgh Seumas uainn. \\ Guidheam sgrios agus bàs, \ Goirt is miosgainn is plàigh \ Air bhur sliochd, mar bh’air àl na h-Eiphite; \\ Gach aon latha dol sìos, \ Guin gach claidheimh ’nur bian, \ Coin ag caitheamh an dìol air sléibhte dhibh’ (p. 194).

Iain Lom’s feelings about Scotland’s relationship with England appear in a number of his poems, e.g. in Oran an Aghaidh an Aonaidh, in which he criticises the 1707 Treaty of Union (pp. 222-29). Prior to this, he had shown his feelings about the new Royal family, in Oran air Righ Uilleam agus Banrigh Mairi, composed around 1692 (pp. 202-13). In this song the poet launches a scathing attack on William and Mary: ‘Ach buaidh an droch sgeòil sin \ Do Phrionns Orainns gun diadhachd! \ Ged a rachadh do bhàdhadh \ Cha b’ionann bàs duit ’s a dh’iarrainn; \ Ach na sùsain bhith t’fhaicinn \ Eadar eacha ’gad stialladh, \ Dol ad smàladh ’san adhar \ Mar luaith dhaithte ’ga criathradh’ (p. 208). In Cumha Mhontrois (pp. 56-59), Iain Lom’s feelings about the relationship between Scotland and England are unequivocal: ‘Tha Alba dol fo chìoschain \ Aig farbhalaich gun fhìrinn, \ Bhàrr a’ chalpa dhìrich— \ ’S e cuid de m’ dhìobhail ghoirt. \\ Tha Sasannaich ’gar faireigneadh, \ ’Gar creach ’gar murt ’s ’gar marbhadh, \ Gun ghabh ar n-Athair fearg ruinn, \ Gur dearmad dhuinn ’s gur bochd’ (p. 56).

Iain Lom also composed a number of poems of clan interest, including Murt na Ceapaich after the Chief of Keppoch and his brother were murdered in 1663 (pp. 82-93). The Keppoch murders appear in a number of Iain Lom’s poems, and Iain Lom himself was instrumental in having the murderers brought to justice. Other poems on the same theme include Cumha do Mhac Mhic Raghnaill na Ceapaich agus a Bhrathair (pp. 108-13), and An Ciaran Mabach (pp. 128-31). A number of Iain Lom’s poems contain commentary on the struggle between the Macleans and the Campbells. The following passage from  Oran do Mhac Gille Eathain Dhubhaird (pp. 142-45) is typical: ‘’S ann de dh’fhortan ur cùise, \ Mas e ’n torc th’oirbh a’ mùiseag, \ Gun téid stopadh na mùire ’na phòraibh. \\ Tha sgrìob ghiar nam peann gearra \ Cumail dìon air Mac Cailein, \ ’S e cho briathrach ri parraid ’na chòmhradh. \\ Thug sibh bhuainne le spleadhan— \ Gur h-i Ile ghlas laghach \ Is Cinn-tìre le maghannan gorma’ (p. 142).

A number of the elegies and eulogies in this volume also touch on clan affairs. Examples include Oran do Aonghas Og Morair Ghlinne Garaidh (pp. 94-101) and Oran do Mhorair Chlann Domhnaill (pp. 124-27), both referring to the situation of the Keppoch MacDonalds, which was precarious because they had no title deeds to the lands they claimed as their own: ‘Ged tha onair Shir Seumas \ Dhuit féin mar a ta e, \ B’ait leam Iarlachd Rìgh Fionnghall \ A chluinntinn mar b’àill leam; \ Bheirinn bliadhna dhe m’ shaoghal, \ ’S gach nì dh’fhaodainn a thàrsainn, \ Chionn do chòir a bhith sgrìobhte \ Fo làimh an Rìgh gun dad fàillinn’ (p. 98). The poet alludes to his expulsion from Lochaber in Iorram do Shiol Dughaill (pp. 114-21): ‘Bhith ’gam stiùireadh gu Crachaig \ ’S i gun mhànas no aitreabh, \ ’S nach e màl a bha fairtleachdainn oirnn. \\ ’Gam chur a m’ fhearann gun adhbhar, \ ’S nach do shalaich mo shadhbhaidh, \ Mar mhadadh-allaidh is caonnag ’na thòin’ (p. 114).

A few of Iain Lom’s poems are satirical skirmishes or flytings. Examples are Brian agus Iain Lom (pp. 60-63) and Domhnall Gruamach agus Iain Lom (pp. 64-67).

Iain Lom composed a number of elegies, including Cumha Aonghais Mhic Raghnaill Oig na Ceapaich (pp. 10-13), Cumha Alasdair Mhic Cholla (pp. 34-39), Cumha Morair Hunndaidh (pp. 48-55), Marbhrann do Shir Seumas Mac Dhomhnaill (pp. 136-41), and Cumha do Shir Domhnall Shleite (pp. 214-21). In these the poet uses images that express the values of the panegyric code, e.g.: ‘Leómhann fireachail àrd \ Mùinte spioradail garg \ Umhail iriosal feardha treubhach, \\ Leug nan arm is nan each, \ Réimeil airceil gun airc, \ Dh’eug thu ’n Armadail glas nan déideag’ (p. 216).

He also composed a number of eulogies, which, like the elegies, are full of images expressing the values of the panegyric. Examples include Oran do Dhomhnall Gorm Og (pp. 14-19), Oran do Alasdair Mac Cholla (pp. 26-27), Do Mhac Fhionghuin an t-Sratha (pp. 72-75), Oran do Shir Domhnall Shleite (pp. 146-51), Cumha do Ghill-Easbuig na Ceapaich (pp. 164-65), Tuirneal a’ Chnatain for Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel (pp. 178-83), and Oran do Mhorair Ghlinne Garaidh (pp. 132-35). In the last of these the following verses occur: ‘Mach o Mhormhair nan steud, \ Nan organ ’s nan teud, \ ’S tu b’fhoirmeile beus tràth-nòin. \\ Théid eich sheanga ’nan leum, \ Dol ’deannaibh ’san réis, \ Fhir a theannaicheadh sréin mu’m beòil. \\ B’fhearail t’fhaicinn air sràid \ Le d’ chiabhfhalt cleachdach gu làr, \ Urla mhaisich ’s neo-thàireil oirnn’ (pp. 132-34).

In a small number of Iain Lom’s poems, we find references to sailing, e.g.: Iorram do Shiol Dughaill (pp. 114-21) and Iorram do Bhata Mhic Dhomhnaill (pp. 102-07). In Oran do Shir Domhnall Shleite (pp. 146-51), the following verses occur: ‘An uair a chàirte fo luchd i, \ Bhiodh tarraing suas air a cupaill, \ Bòrd a fuaraidh ’s ruith chuip air, \ Snaidhm air fuaigheal a fliuchbhuird, \ Sruth mu guaillibh ’s i suchta le gaoith. \\ An uair a chàirte fo seòl i \ Le crainn ghasda ’s le còrcaich, \ Ag iomairt chleasan ’s ga seòladh, \ Aig a’ chòmhlan bu bhòidhche, \ Seal mun togt’ oirr’ a ròiseoil o thìr’ (p. 148).

As regards metre, Mackenzie suggests that Iain Lom’s poems are ‘those of a self-trained bard, and his poems are all composed in stressed metre, though this does not always preclude irregularity of stress, as for example in “Là Inbhir Lòchaidh”. Little or no freedom is taken with metrical form and he follows his formula closely’ (p. xxxviii). As to metrical types, Iain Lom is particularly fond of the so-called strophic metres.
OrthographyThe orthography of the edition has been modernised to a mid-twentieth-century standard. The variant readings reported on pp. 328-75 are, of course, in their original form.
EditionThe majority of these poems had appeared in A. Maclean Sinclair’s 1895 edition of Iain Lom’s works, referred to above. The texts in that volume are unreliable and should not be used by editors in preference to the present volume. Editors should in general cite from the earliest version of each of the poems in this text, wherever possible; the Variant Readings section in this volume may be helpful in alerting editors to significant alternative readings. The table of sources between p. xx and p. xxi may be used to identify the early sources for individual poems.
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