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Metadata for text 212001
No. words in text117840
Title Bratach na Firinn
Author N/A (Edited work)
Editor MacNeill, Nigel
Date Of Edition 1872-1874
Date Of Language 19th c.
Publisher W. R. McPhun & Son; Maclachlan & Stewart and An Comunn Leabhar is Dhuilleagain
Place Published Glasgow and Edinburgh
Volume Vol. 1 of 2
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Various
Register Religion, Prose and Verse
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 21cm
Short Title Bratach na Firinn Vol 1
Reference Details NLS: Blair.33
Number Of Pages v, 197
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Bratach na Fìrinn was a Gaelic religious periodical published monthly between 1872 and 1874. Nigel MacNeill (Niall Mac Néill) edited the magazine ‘in his undergraduate days’ while a student at the University of Glasgow. His brother, John George MacNeill (Iain Seòras Mac Néill), ‘contributed a large proportion of the general contents of [the] two volumes’, including a serialised short story, ‘Tighnacloiche’ (MacNeill 1892: 340; 323). Besides the MacNeill brothers, there were contributions by fellow Islaymen Archibald Sinclair, and Hector MacLean, as well as by writers from elsewhere in the Highlands. Frequent references are made to the Gaelic communities of Glasgow, Govan and Greenock.
Bratach na Fìrinn appeared in a new period of Gaelic publishing: no periodicals were published between 1850 and 1871, when An Gaidheal was launched (lasting until 1877). Around the same time, Gaelic columns were a regular part of The Highlander (1873-82), edited by John Murdoch, and The Oban Times (1866-) (ibid.; Thomson 1994: 223). The magazine contains some articles on Gaelic and Highland themes as well as religion. Although not tied to a specific church, Bratach na Fìrinn was an evangelical Protestant publication, close to the Free Church of Scotland. However, Donald Meek comments: ‘Free-standing Gaelic religious journals, however, like their secular counterparts, tended to be short-lived, but had better success when they were allied specifically to the dominant evangelical cause and were denominationally focused. More “general” and less committed religious magazines were not patronised to the same extent. Bratach na Fìrinn (‘The Banner of Truth’), for example, lasted only one year [...] Its fortunes were not helped by its criticism of the social practices of the Glasgow Gaelic community’ (2007: 114).
Nigel MacNeill was born in Islay in 1853 and it was there that he spent his childhood. At that time, Islay was well known for its poets, scholars, and folklorists, such as John F. Campbell, Hector MacLean, William Livingston, and Thomas Pattison, and MacNeill grew up with an interest in Gaelic and in Highland life and literature.
MacNeill began his studies at Glasgow University in 1871, and proved himself to be an extremely capable student, particularly in literature and philosophy. He attended Dr. Cameron of Brodick’s class in Gaelic, where he won a class prize. MacNeill then spent three years in the Free Church College before deciding to become a minister in the Congregational Church. He travelled to London to complete his studies. On becoming a minister, he worked firstly in Caledonian Road in London, and later in Camden Town, Ilford, and in Westcliffe-on-Sea. In 1886 he stood unsuccessfully as Parliamentary Candidate for Bute and Arran, after having becoming involved in the movement to improve conditions in the Highlands and Islands.
MacNeill wrote in English and Gaelic, both prose (on Highland and Gaelic affairs) and poetry, and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws as a result of his prose writings. He published a volume of his own poetry, in Gaelic and English, in Cian-Dhain: Le Danaibh Eile–Nenia, with other poems, in 1872. As a student, he wrote Guide to Islay and edited Bratach na Firinn, a religious magazine which was published monthly between 1872 and 1874. In 1892, he published The Literature of the Highlanders, which was compiled from a series of articles originally published in the Glasgow Herald. It proved so popular that it was re-published in 1898 and again in 1929. In addition, MacNeill served as the Oban Times London Correspondent for almost thirty years, and he contributed a number of articles to the paper on Highland history and on Gaelic language and literature. He states in the Preface to this volume that he had always been interested in Highland Hymnology, and that he had written a number of articles about it. MacNeill died in 1910, at the age of 57.
Contents There are two volumes of the periodical. The first volume (‘LEABHAR I.’) contains ‘AN CLAR-INNSIDH’, with Gaelic and English articles, and twelve issues from ‘October, 1872’ to ‘Desember, 1873’. (There was no issue for January or February 1873; ‘PAIRT 3. December, 1872’ is followed by ‘PAIRT 4. Mairt, 1873’).
In the NLS copy consulted the second volume (‘LEABHAR II.’) is bound together with the first. It again contains ‘AN CLAR-INNSIDH’, with only Gaelic articles, and a further twelve issues from ‘Ianuari, 1874’ to ‘December, 1874’.
The first four issues of ‘LEABHAR I’ have a different number of pages from those that follow, and also include a short English supplement, ‘THE BANNER OF TRUTH’. For example, ‘PAIRT 1, October, 1872’ contains 12 Gaelic pages and 8 English pages. From ‘PAIRT 5., Giblean 1872’, the periodical usually contains 16 pages in Gaelic only.
A typical issue contains a mixture of religious articles, poetry, sermons and stories of conversion with information on news and events relevant to Highlanders. For example, in ‘PAIRT 7, Iulai, 1873’ in the first volume, we find: ‘CEIT MHOR’ (pp 105-108), a conversion story with illustrations based in Lochcarron; ‘TEAGASG NAN AITHRICHEAN’ (p. 108) by ‘Mr Mac-Adam’, a column giving religious instruction; ‘NA BRAITHREAN IS NA PEATHRAICHEAN’ (pp 108-109), a short essay by ‘IAR-EILEANACH’ on the temperance society, the Independent Order of the Good Templars; ‘AITHREACHAS. IV.’ (pp 109-111), the continuation of a sermon on repentance by ‘EACHUNN CAMARON’; ‘AN EAGLAIS’ (pp 111-112), a hymn by ‘U. Mac Gillebhrà’; ‘NA MORMONAICH AGUS AN CREUD’ (pp 112-115), an essay by ‘I. S. MAC-NEILL’ (i.e. Iain Seòras MacNèill) on Mormonism, one of several essays in comparative religion; ‘EARAIL’ (pp 115-116), a letter from ‘Uasail Shuairce’ in Islay (possibly Iain Seòras MacNèill again) with a translation of Rev. Thomas Chalmers’ advice to his daughter considering taking communion for the first time; ‘BREITHEANAS’ (p. 116), a spiritual poem by ‘D. MACPHAIL’; ‘SINE CHAIMBEUL. CAIBIDEAL IV.’ (pp 117-119); the fourth chapter of a fictional religious story by an unknown author; ‘FIOS COITCHEANN’ (p. 120), news of decisions at the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, and the Free Church, etc.; ‘GNOTHUICHEANN GÀILIG’ (p. 120), non-religious news relevant to the Gaelic community, including praise for John Murdoch’s newly-founded Highlander newspaper, and information on a ‘Class of Gaelic Language and Literature’ taught by the editor in Glasgow. Both this and the preceding section were likely written by the editor, Nigel MacNeill.
Language As a religious periodical, Bratach na Fìrinn often uses a solemn, formal style and higher-register linguistic forms influenced by the Gaelic Bible. There is variation within the magazine. At the more conservative end of the spectrum are the sermons and articles giving religious instruction, with technical vocabularly on religious doctrine. In the fictional stories, however, there is an attempt at more colloquial language, even if a sermonising style reoccurs.
The following quotations are from the first volume only.
Some examples of religious vocabulary and phrases include: fo fhrithealadh tròcair agus gràis air a ghairm gu cumhachdach le Dia (p. 42), tre aithreachas agus chreideamh an t-soisgeil (p. 42), air a philleadh o pheacadh gu fìrinteachd (p. 42), caoidh air son a pheacanna (p. 42), bhi ’tionndadh o aingidheachd gu Dia (p. 43), a bhi ’toirt a mach oibre iomchuidh an aithreachais (p. 43), bho na ceithir àrd ghràsaibh (p. 44), tre spiorad na fàidheadaireachd (p. 59), Is esan an t-Uan am meadhon na rìgh chaithreach (p. 60), is esan a tha ’gluasad cuibhlean an fhreasdail (p. 60).
More specifically, there are interesting phrases found in conversion narratives, e.g. ann an teinn spioradail anma (p. 122), dh’fhosgail Mr Mac Phàil dhi slighe na slàinte (p. 122), Nochd Criosd e-féin di; fhuair i fois ann (p. 122), gu’n d’fhuair i Criosd (p. 122), air an toirt fo ghluasad anma (p. 108), gu’n do thaisbean mòran diubh toraidhean na fìor dhiadhachd (p. 108).
There are several articles discussing non-Protestant Christian traditions, e.g. arguing against Catholicism, frequently using derogatory language: a’ Phàpanachd (p. 165), am Pàpa (p. 165), Tha buidheann anns an Eaglais Phàpanaich ris an abrar na Jesuits, o ainm Iosa—na h-Iesuich (p. 165), Is iad a thug air a bhlaothasdair bhochd teagasg na Neo-thuiteamachd a chur a mach ann an 1870 (p. 166), meur do’n Ana-Croisd (p. 166). Similarly, Mormonism is also discussed: na Mormonaich (p. 96), leabhar na Mormonachd (p. 97), ’S e ainm eile a thug na Mormonaich orra féin Naoimh nan Làithean Deireannach! (p. 114), B’ e Ioseph Mac-a-Ghobhainn an ceud Ceann-suidhe a bh’ aca. B’ e mar an ceudna, Fàidhe an Ierusalaim Nuaidh; Rìgh Bhaile nan Naomh [...] (p. 114).
The periodical also shows an interest in other world religions, especially Hinduism, e.g. na Hindùich (p. 5), Tha na sgrìobhaidhean Vedach air an roinn ’n an ceithir earrannaibh fo na h-ainmibh a leanas, 1. Chandos, 2. Bràhmána, 3. Màntra, 4. Sùtra (p. 5), na beanntan mòra Himàlàiach (p. 5), Vedachd, Hindùachd, agus Bùdachd nan Innseanach (p. 6). To a lesser extent, there are references to Islam, e.g. Coran nam Mahometanach (p. 61), eudmhor anns a’ chreideamh Mhahomedach (p. 137), thàinig e trasta air Tiomnadh Nuadh a leugh e gu dùrachdach, ’g a choimeas ris a’ Khoran, am Bìobull Mahomedach (p. 138), cha do dhealaich e tur o na Mahomedich (p. 139).
In fictional stories, such as ‘Tighnacloiche’ by Iain Seòras MacNèill, there are good examples of non-religious idiomatic language, e.g. fo bhòrlannachd do Fhear a Bhaile (p. 131), i.e required to carry out compulsory labour to landowner, “Thug mise sparradh teann do Phàraig seasamh tapaidh aig a’ chuidheil,” arsa am maighstir (p. 131), ’Nuair bha ’n tigh deas, airneisichte (p. 132). There is some interesting terminology in this story related to quarrying: a dhol a bhuidhinn chlach air son an tighe (p. 131), tollairean is fairicheannan (p. 131), Le tolladh, fùdar is teine sgàin iad an tiota an leacach chruaidh ’n a mìrean (p. 131), a’ cur spor is cruaidh air ghleus a los teine chur ris an fhùdar (p. 131), ’nuair a spraidh am fùdar, gu’n do leum clach mhòr (p. 132).
Dialectal language is more easily found in less formal settings, e.g. in a letter by ‘ISHMAEL IONMHUINN’ which mentions a familiarity with places in Lorne and Argyll, we find: a leanailt (p. 98), ag amharc ri (p. 98), tuille (p. 98). Again, in the story ‘Tighnacloiche’ by ‘S.L.’ – Iain Seòras MacNèill from Islay – the following examples may be representative of Islay Gaelic: gu pilltinn ri m’ sgeul (p. 143), cosmhuil ris (p. 144), luidh (p. 145), duit (p. 164), innseadh (p. 164), cuairt do Ile (p. 165), deireadh an fhogharaidh (p. 165), a’ ruigheachd (p. 171), sè-ràmhach (p. 171), do na balaich mhìobhail féin (p. 175), do’n lànain òg (p. 175), cha bhi moill ’s a’ chùis sin (p. 175), bolgag-losgann (p. 176).
The months of the year are given in the periodical as follows: Ianuari (Vol. 2, p. 1), Februari (Vol. 2. p. 17), Mairt (Vol. 1, p. 53), Giblean (p. 73), Maigh, Iune (p. 89), Iulai (p. 105), Ogust (p. 121), September (p. 137), October (p. 1), Nobhember (p. 169), Desember (p. 185) or December (p. 37).
Orthography The periodical’s orthography is in general characteristic of the late 19th century period.
(The following examples are from Vol. 1, pp. 99-100).
We find a’ Ghàilig and Ghàilig similar to other publications in the period – unlike earlier spellings, such as Gaelic. Similarly, cho is used rather than an earlier spelling of the adverb co, e.g. cho milis agus cho blasda, cho suarach.
Mid 19th century texts often give do (e.g. cearna don t-saoghal) for the preposition de commonly found in late 19th century texts. The sample text consulted shows an interesting alternative form du, e.g. cuid du na focail, cuid du na dàin, barrachd du spiorad, cuid du’r luchd-leughaidh.
Other features are found in both the mid and late 19th century periods.
Accents are frequently absent, e.g. a’ deanamh, a dheanadh, b’ fhearr. Apostrophes are present in conjunctions, e.g. gu’m bi, gu’m bheil, gu’n d’fhuair; and elsewhere, e.g. cha ’n ’eil, cha’n ann, nach ’eil, do’n, ’na mheadhon, etc. We find older spellings such as: dìchiollach, easbhuidhean, mi-nàdurra, treamusgal, shleamhuinn, tharruing.
The use of dative plurals is still present: do chluasaibh, air freumhaibh.
The noun focal is given, which may be less common in the late 19th century (in contrast to facal) but is also dialectal and influenced by the Bible, e.g. na Gnàth-Fhocail, Shean-Fhocail.
One editorial – ‘SGOILEARACHD GHÀILIG’ (pp 182-183) – replies to criticisms made of apparent mispellings and mistakes in the Gaelic of the periodical: ‘Ràinig gearan no dhà sinn a rìs agus a rìs air suaraichead Gàilig na Brataich. [...] Thuig sinn uatha gu’n robh iad a’ deanamh gàire fanoid air neo-chomasan Deasaiche is fir-sgrìobhaidh na Brataich. Cha robh àrach air; tric ’s mar a bha sinn a’ cluintinn fà-fhuaim nan geur-chuiseach. Bha sinn gun teagamh faireachdail air iomadh teachdgeàrr. Bha ar sùilean fosgailte do mhearachd clobhualaidh is litireachaidh nach bitheadh ri ’m faotainn na’m biodh ùine againn gach focal a rannsachadh leis féin, agus na’m biodh cainnt nam beann aig a’ chlobhualadair.’ (p. 182)
Edition First edition.
Further Reading MacNeill, Nigel, The Literature of the Highlanders: A History of Gaelic Literature from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (Inverness, 1892: John Noble).
Meek, Donald E., ‘Gaelic Printing and Publishing’, in Bill Bell, ed., The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland, Volume 3: Ambition and Industry 1800-1880 (Edinburgh, 2007: Edinburgh University Press), 107-122.
Thomson, Derick S., ed., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Glasgow, 1994: Gairm Publications), 188.
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