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|Metadata for text 204|
|No. words in text||24727|
|Title||Bùrn is Aran|
|Author||Mac a’ Ghobhainn, Iain|
|Date Of Edition||1960|
|Date Of Language||1950-1999|
|Location||National and academic libraries|
|Register||Literature, Prose and Verse|
|Alternative Author Name||Iain Crichton Smith|
|Manuscript Or Edition||Ed.|
|Size And Condition||22cm x 14cm|
|Short Title||Bùrn is Aran|
|Reference Details||NLS: NE.731.d.11|
|Number Of Pages||71|
|Gaelic Text By||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||This volume begins with a short Roimh-ràdh (p. 5) by the author, followed by a Clàr-Innsidh (p. 7). The text contains nine short stories as follows: Turus Dhachaidh I (pp. 9-12), An Coigreach (pp. 13-18), An Fhidheall (pp. 19-24), Briseadh Cridhe (pp. 25-31), Bùrn (pp. 32-36), Clachan Chalanais (pp. 37-42), Turus Dhachaidh II (pp. 43-47), An Duine Dubh (pp. 48-49); Am Bàrd (pp. 50-55). There follows a section of Bardachd, which contains 20 poems on a variety of subjects.
The nine short stories in this volume cover a variety of topics, and touch on themes such as loneliness and alienation. They are excellent examples of the short story genre. The stories are generally told in the third person, and frequently we are given insights into the thoughts and feelings of the primary character. Each story takes place over a short period of time, though we are sometimes given flashbacks that put the current situation into context.
An Duine Dubh tells of an old woman, living alone in a city, who receives a visit from a foreign travelling salesman. Through their interaction, we learn of their loneliness and their longing for their own homes, and we are given glimpses into the old woman’s past.
Bùrn tells of two soldiers during the second world war – one British and one German – as they struggle to understand the war that they are fighting, as well as each other, as they share no common language. The British soldier eventually shoots the German soldier, who he feared was going to kill him. In fact, the German soldier was only going to offer him a drink of his water.
Turus Dhachaidh II tells of a young man’s return to his native island, and to his father’s house. During the course of the story, we learn something of his travels, and of his decision to leave his home.
Briseadh Cridhe is a murder mystery, in which a policeman finds out the truth about the apparently accidental death of an elderly man.
Mac a’ Ghobhainn makes good use of imagery and symbolism in his work, frequently using colours and seasons to great effect. In An Duine Dubh, for example, we find Bha a gàire mar earrach fo’n chlogaid shneachd (p. 49). In Clachan Chalanais, we find ghnog e air an dorus mar pholas (p. 39), Bha a h-aodann buidhe leis an t-solus (p. 37), and Shaoil e gu robh sgian ’na guth (p. 37). Mac a’ Ghobhainn’s stories are also a good source of adjectives and descriptive terms, e.g. luaisgeanach (p. 16), coibhneil (p. 16), truagh meata (p. 26), tiugh deargh (p. 26), cho làidir ris an each (p. 26), and na léine ghuirm (p. 26).
The vocabulary is wide-ranging, and includes crodh-bainne a cheannachd (p. 27), tinneas-cridhe (p. 27), Abair amaideas (p. 30), ceannaiche-siubhail (p. 47), gealtaire (p. 54), cansar (p. 55). We also find idiomatic phrases such as chan e gu robh càil seach-an-rathad ann (p. 26), air ceann a dhà stocainn (p. 27), and Dé tha tighinn rithe? (p. 55).
The poems in this volume cover a variety of subjects, touching on love, old age, youth, homecoming, and world events (e.g. the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima). The poems include some of his best known works, e.g. Tha thu air Aigeann m’Inntinn, A’ Dol Dhachaidh, A’ Chailleach, Aig a’ Chladh, and A Nighean Og. His verse is verbally simple, and he uses a variety of verse forms. Aig Clachan Chalanais reads ‘Aig clachan Chalanais an dé \ Chuala mi té ag ràdh ri t’éile: \ “So far na loisg iad clann o shean.” \ Chan fhaca mi druidhean anns na reultan \ no grian na gùn: ach chunna mi \ ball brèagha gorm mar nèamh a’ sgàineadh \ is clann le craiceann slaodadh riutha \ mar a’ bhratach sna dh’ìobradh Nagasàki.’ (p. 64).
|Orthography||The language used of this text is not strongly dialectal. The orthography is that of the mid-20th century. Both accents are used.|
|Edition||First edition. This volume was reprinted, without the verse, in 1974 and again in 1987. The orthography appears to be the same in these editions, although the typeface was updated.|
|Further Reading||Thomson, Derick S., ed., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Glasgow, 1994: Gairm).
ODNB article on Smith: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/71190