Reference Number199
TitleAm Fear-Ciuil. Dain, Orain, Oraidean, is Sgeulachdan.
AuthorMacEacharn, Domhnull
EditorMac Fhionghain, Domhnall
Date Of Edition1910
Date Of Languagelate 19c – early 20c
Date Of Language Ed1900-1949
DateMacroEarly 20th c.
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherJohn Grant
Place PublishedEdinburgh
LocationNational and academic libraries
Geographical OriginsJura
Geographical Origins EdJura
GeoMacroIslay, Jura, Kintyre and Arran
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterLiterature, Prose and Verse
Register EdLiterature, Prose and Verse
MediumProse & Verse
A selection of poems, songs and stories by Dòmhnall MacEacharn (Donald MacKechnie).
The strengths of this volume lie in the prose writings, which are rich with humour and full of Gaelic idiom.
The prose writings also contain traces of the Gaelic dialect of Jura.
The verse is not particularly rich in its language.
Alternative Author NameDonald MacKechnie
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition20cm x 14cm
Short TitleAm Fear-Ciùil
Reference DetailsEUL, Scottish Studies Library: G4(G)MacK
Number Of Pagesxvi, 336
Gaelic Text ByN/A
Social ContextDonald MacKechnie was born in Glengarisdale, on the shore opposite Corryvreckan in the north of Jura on 25th December 1838. There was no school nearby, but Donald was taught to read and write at a school near where his maternal grandfather lived. He had an active life as a boy, spending much time outdoors, shooting and fishing. MacKechnie moved to Glasgow while a young man. He attended evening classes to improve his education, and began to read widely, particularly English literature. He eventually made his home in Edinburgh, marrying Elizabeth Jane Sutherland there on 5th June 1868. They had seven children. Living in Edinburgh, MacKechnie was part of the Gaelic literary set which, at that time, included Alexander Carmichael, Donald MacKinnon, and Sheriff Nicolson. MacKechnie refers to the social gatherings of this set in his song A’ Chéilidh (pp. 93-97). MacKechnie was troubled by illness throughout his adult life. He died in Edinburgh in May, 1908.

MacKechnie wrote both poetry and prose, and he contributed a number of works to An Gàidheal, and other journals, under the name ‘Am Bard Luideagach’. MacKechnie won a number of prizes at the National Mòd, including first prize for his poem Am Fear-Ciùil at the Oban Mòd (in 1892?). He also translated a number of poems and songs into Gaelic, including verse from Omar Khayyám’s Rubaiyat. However, MacKechnie is best known for his prose writings, and particularly for those essays in which he discusses man’s relationship with animals. In his obituary in The Celtic Review, Donald MacKinnon noted that while MacKechnie’s poetry was perhaps not quite as good as that of some of his contemporaries, ‘I do not know that any Gaelic writer, of modern times at any rate, excels him in prose. … Here the highly trained intellect of a very capable man gives his own views of men and things, with a probing and questioning almost Socratic in its patience and persistence, and with a terseness and crispness of phrase more akin to French than to Gaelic prose’ (MacKinnon, p. 94).
ContentsThe preliminaries in this volume consist of Clar-Innsidh (pp. ix-xi), the author’s address Do’n Leughadair (pp. xii-xiv) and An Roimh-radh (pp. xv-xvi), which is in verse form. There is a photograph of the author opposite the Gaelic title page. This is the second, enlarged edition of MacKechnie’s poems. It contains thirteen poems, eighteen songs, six translations and nineteen prose items.

The poems and songs are on a variety of subjects, and are all fairly light-hearted in nature. They are rooted in their age, but a few of them are still popular in the Mòd repertoire. Nature poems include Guth a’ chuain (pp. 9-11) and Seachran Seilg (pp. 26-28), both of which also contain religious sentiments. Love figures in An Ribhinn Òg D’an D’thug Mi Gràdh (p. 74) and Bean a’ Chòtain Ruaidh (pp. 81-82). War is the theme of the four poems that make up An Cogadh an Africa-mu-dheas (pp. 61-66). Sense of place is a prominent element in such poems as Chunnaic mi na Gruagaichean (pp. 67-68), Cuairt ’san Fhrìdh (pp. 75-76), and Am Bothan Beag (pp. 79-80), which also touch on the changes that have taken place in the Highlands during the author’s lifetime. His awareness of world history and geography is apparent in Impireachd Bhreatuinn (pp. 54-58) which takes the form of a dialogue between the Poet (Am Bard) and the Sun (A’ Ghrian).

The translations include an English translation of MacKechnie’s Am Fear-Ciùil; and translations into Gaelic of Thomas Campbell’s The Soldier’s Dream, Robert Burns’s My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, and verses from Omar Khayyám’s Rubaiyat.

As regards his prose writings, Mackechnie is particularly well known for his humorous stories about his relationship with various animals. In these stories, MacKechnie ruminates on what it means to be human, and ponders whether the animals he writes about are any different from us in the way they behave.

Many of these stories feature his cat (Tómas) and his dog (Yarrow), each of which is the subject of a story (see An Cat, pp. 126-34, and An Cù, pp. 135-41). The best known of these works is probably Am Fiadh (pp. 292-319), which first appeared in print in the present edition. MacKechnie’s stories are generally written in the first person, as the tale is about something that happened to the author. His wife occasionally makes an appearance in the stories, usually in an antagonistic role, e.g. in Ath-leasachadh (pp. 155-63) and at the beginning of An Seangan (p. 149-54). MacKechnie also frequently makes use of the contrast between the ordinary people (such as himself) and the upper classes, as in Am Fiadh, in which the new laird’s wife is terrified by the deer which the young MacKechnie has been charged with looking after, and in An Seangan, in which a young upper-class lady witnesses with astonishment the author being assailed by a colony of ants on Salisbury Crags.

MacKechnie’s prose writings also include the text of a talk on Carmina Gadelica (pp. 164-86) which he had read to the Jura Association in Glasgow, and an essay on Omar Khayyám (pp. 200-16), which included translations of some verses of the Rubaiyat. Comhradh (pp. 187-91) consists of a dialogue between Eoghann Og agus Eachann Ruadh, on the subject of the two men’s command of the English language. Two of the essays are written in the form of letters: Tannaisg nan Laithean a dh’Fhalbh (pp. 252-60) and Litir thun an “Deo-Greine” (pp. 320-27). Tannaisg nan Laithean a dh’Fhalbh (pp. 252-60) and Gaisgeach na Sgeithe Deirge (pp. 261-82) discuss legends and folktales.
LanguageThe strengths of this volume lie in MacKechnie’s prose writings. The author has a wonderful turn of phrase and uses rich idiomatic Gaelic. This can be seen, for example, at the beginning of his essay An Cat: Theirinn ri caraid no bana-charaid ’s am bith a thig trasd air an duilleig so gun mhor-shuim a ghabhail dhi, nach ’eil dad innte ’s fhiach a leughadh. Cha ’n ’eil mi, mar gu ’m b’ eadh, ach ’g am thoileachadh fhein, ’s an uair a tha duine ’g a thoileachadh fein faodaidh e bhi cinnteach nach ’eil e toileachadh muinntir eile (p. 126). MacKechnie goes on to give us an example of this in relation to his cat.

There is much of linguistic interest in MacKechnie’s prose writings, particularly with regard to the author’s turn of phrase. Examples include: gu robh an tigh r’a theinidh (p. 132), biomaid a’ bogadh nan gad (p. 233), leumadh mo chridhe-sa as a chochull (p. 238), a’ toirt sràid do ’n chuilein mhadaidh agam (p. 188), Mo ghille geal! (p. 189), ann am chnap-starra (p. 189), maol-cheannach (p. 189), ’san odhar-dhorcha (p. 255), eadar fheala-dhà ’s da-rìreadh (p. 283).

Tannaisg nan Laithean a dh’Fhalbh (pp. 252-60) and Gaisgeach na Sgeithe Deirge (pp. 261-82) contain some names and terms familiar from legends and folktales, e.g.: Mac an Earraidh Uaine, no Chochaill Uaine (p. 280), Gruagach nan Cumha (p. 280), Ridir a’ Chuirn agus Ridir a’ Chlaidhimh (p 280), Buidseach Endor, ’s … Tàillear na Manachainn (p. 253), Lachlann Mor ’s Dubh-sìth (p. 253), Aoradh Aithrichean, no Aoradh Thannasg (p. 258).

The vocabulary of MacKechnie’s verse is pretty conventional.
OrthographyA number of common Argyllshire words and phrases, some of which may have been characteristic of Jura Gaelic, are in evidence, e.g.: gabhail iolla riù (An Cat, p. 117), air t’ aghairt (An Cat, p. 120), thun (An Cat, p. 120), ruais (p. 221), ciogailteach (Còmhradh, p. 175), and trasd air (Còmhradh, p. 175). The orthography of this edition, having been revised by Professor Donald Mackinnon, is a good example of early twentieth century standards.
EditionThe first edition was published in Glasgow by Archibald Sinclair (Celtic Press) in 1904, under the title Am Fear-Ciuil. Dain agus Orain, &c. The present volume is the second edition, which was published in Edinburgh in 1910. It contains two songs, one translation and seven prose items which were not in the 1904 edition. A third edition was published in 1940. Misprints were removed and spellings were revised for the 1910 edition, as Domhnall Mac Fhionghain explains in a prefatory note (p. ii): ‘Dh’ ullaich an t-Ughdar caomh an dara clo-bhualadh de’n “Fhear-Chiuil” goirid mu ’n d’thainig a’ chrioch air. Tha an leabhar air a chur a mach mar dh’fhag e e, ach a mhain gu bheil, a nis ’s a rithist, beagan atharrachaidh ’s an litreachadh, agus roinn de mhearachdan a’ chlò air an ceartachadh.’ Examples of the sorts of changes imposed include the following: gu’n robh ’n tigh r’a theine (1904, p. 119) becomes gu robh an tigh r’a theinidh (1910, p. 132); chnapstarra (1904, p. 176) becomes chnap-starra (1910, p. 189). Editors should be prepared to check the form in the 1904 edition when quoting from this text.
Other Sources
Further ReadingMacKinnon, Donald, ‘The Late Mr. Donald MacKechnie’, The Celtic Review, 5 (1908-09), 92-96.
Link LabelDigital version created by National Library of Scotland
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