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Metadata for text 198
No. words in text29130
Title An t-Aonaran
Author Mac a’ Ghobhainn, Iain
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1976
Date Of Language 1950-1999
Publisher Glasgow University
Place Published Glasgow
Volume N/A
Location National, academic, and some local libraries
Geographical Origins Lewis
Register Literature, Prose
Alternative Author Name Iain Crichton Smith
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 18cm x 12cm
Short Title An t-Aonaran
Reference Details NLS: HP1.76.922
Number Of Pages 80
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Iain Crichton Smith (known in Gaelic as Iain Mac a’ Ghobhainn) was born in Glasgow in 1928. His parents were both from Lewis, but had left the island in order to find work. They returned to Lewis in 1930 and the three boys (of whom Iain was the second) were brought up in Upper Bayble on the Point peninsula, about seven miles east of Stornoway. Their father died from tuberculosis when Iain was just three years old, leaving his mother to bring up the children alone.

Smith spoke Gaelic at home, learning English when he went to primary school in Bayble. He studied at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, where he became interested in English poetry. He graduated with a degree in English from the University of Aberdeen in 1949, and then gained a teaching qualification at Jordanhill College in Glasgow. He began his teaching career in Clydebank, in 1952, and taught for many years at Oban High School. He retired from teaching in 1977 in order to concentrate on writing. In that same year, he married Donalda Gillies Logan, and became stepfather to her two sons. After suffering a breakdown in 1982, he continued writing both in Gaelic and in English. He died of cancer at his home in Taynuilt in October 1998.

Smith was a prolific writer of both poetry and prose in English and in Gaelic. Smith’s first book of poetry, The Long River, was published in 1955. His best known work in English is his novel Consider the Lilies, which tells of an old woman’s struggle during the Highland Clearances. His first collection of Gaelic poems and short stories, Bùrn is Aran, was published in 1960. He went on to publish a number of volumes of short stories, including An Dubh is an Gorm (1963), An t-Adhar Ameireaganach (1973) and Na Guthan (1991). He also published a number of short novels, including An t-Aonaran (1976) and Na Speuclairean Dubha (1989), and a number of poetry collections, including Eadar Fealla-Dhà is Glaschu (1974) and Na h-Eilthirich (1983). Smith also wrote plays and translated Gaelic poetry (e.g. Sorley MacLean’s Dain do Eimhir) into English. Recurring themes in Smith’s writing include religion, exile, alienation, island life and identity, and language.
Contents A short novella comprising 17 untitled chapters. This is the best known of Smith’s Gaelic novels. The story is told in the first person, through the person of a retired schoolteacher, who has been living alone since the death of his wife five years previously. The story tells of a hermit who comes to live in a small township. The hermit appears to be content in his solitude, but his unwillingness to become part of the community makes many members of the community uneasy. Charles, the schoolteacher, is initially accepting of the hermit, while others, such as his friend Dougie, are not. Their attitudes change during the course of the book, however, as Dougie begins to accept the hermit, while Charles begins to blame him for the community’s discontent. The hermit is finally driven out of the township by Charles. As a consequence of this, Charles finds himself rejected by most of the community, most notably by his friend Dougie.
Language The story is told in the first person, in an informal register. For example, the novel begins with the narrator talking to the reader, Aon latha, thàinig aonaran a dh’fhuireach do’n bhail’ againn, uill, cha b’ann buileach do’n bhaile ach pìos beag air a thaobh a-muigh aig ceann an rathaid (p. 1).

The text includes sequences of direct speech between members of the community. This is fairly informal, but not particularly dialectal. E.g. “Dé tha thu fhéin a’ dol a dhèanamh an diugh?” ars esan. “O tha litir no dhà agam ri sgrìobhadh,” arsa mise. “Is gnothach no dhà eile.” “Uh huh,” arsa Murchadh. “Uill, tha a dhreuchd fhéin aig a h-uile duine.” (p. 30)

The text is descriptive in places and Smith makes good use of imagery and symbolism, e.g. “O chan eil mi smaoineachadh gun tachair sin,” arsa mise, ’s mi ’g éisdeachd ri crònan na mara a chluinneas duine cho soilleir ri càil fad an latha anns a’ bhaile. Dé dhèanadh sinn ás aonais a’ chuain le a dhathan caochlaideach, le òran aosda, le aonaranachd cheòlmhor (p. 8).
Orthography The language is not particularly dialectal, although the omission of final vowels before words starting with a vowel, e.g. do’n bhail’ againn (p. 1) is clearly intended to reflect natural speech rhythms.

The orthography is that of the mid to late 20th century. Both accents are used.
Edition First edition. A second edition was published in 1991. This appears to be a reprint of the 1976 edition.
Other Sources
Further Reading Thomson, Derick S., ed., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Glasgow, 1994: Gairm).
Watson, Moray, A’ Bhàrdachd Gàidhlig / Iain Mac a’ Ghobhainn (Stornoway, 2013: Acair).
ODNB article on Smith:
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