Reference Number231
TitleCeit mhòr: sgeul o Lochcaron
AuthorFraser, T. M.
Date Of Edition1879
Date Of Languagelate 19c
Date Of Language Ed19th c.
DateMacroLate 19th c.
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherAird & Coghill
Place PublishedGlasgow
LocationNational, academic, and local libraries
Geographical OriginsBadenoch
Geographical Origins EdBadenoch
GeoMacroE Inverness-shire
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterLiterature, Prose (Religious)
Register EdLiterature, Prose
Rev. Lachlan MacKenzie (1754-1819); Lochcarron; Rev. Thomas McKenzie Fraser (1822-1885); Rev. John Kennedy (1855-1910); Badenoch; repentance story; terms and phrases relating to evangelical Presbyterianism; English-Gaelic translation; higher-register language, influenced by the Gaelic Bible; late 19th century date of creation; mid 19th century period orthography.
Alternative Author NameN/A
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition30cm
Short TitleCeit Mhòr
Reference DetailsNLS: APS.1.85.158
Number Of Pages13
Gaelic Text ByRev. John Kennedy
Social ContextCeit Mhòr tells the story of an old woman and lifelong sinner from Lochcarron who cannot be persuaded to attend church or mend her ways. The local minister, the Rev. Lachlan MacKenzie — known in the text as ‘Mr. [i.e. Maighstir] Lachlann’ (p. 11) — eventually tries a new approach. He knows that Ceit Mhòr regularly attends cèilidhs, so he composes a song lambasting her sinning and teaches it secretly to some young people. When they sing it at a local cèilidh the message has a strong effect on Ceit Mhòr, and she begins a long period of anguish over her past. Spending much of her time in the wilderness, Ceit Mhòr wails and cries so much she loses her sight. Only after months and years of this torment is she finally persuaded by Maighstir Lachlann to take communion.  Unexpectedly, at an outdoor communion meeting she interrupts proceedings thinking she is too late. She is then welcomed to sit at the table herself, blind and over 80 years of age, and an extraordinary service takes place. Ceit Mhòr is thereafter an exemplary Christian till her death three years later.
This ‘tradition’ is both an extraordinary story of the repentance of one woman — used to inspire and teach a Christian audience — and one that speaks of the power of Maighstir Lachlann as a minister. He was held in great esteem by the people of his congregation and was even believed to have ‘some special gift or mode of prophecy’ (p. 5).
The Rev. Lachlan MacKenzie (1754-1819) was minister of the Parish of Lochcarron from 1782 until his death. His entry in Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae describes him as follows:
A man of sincere and deep piety, his manners were primitive, and his habits were often highly eccentric. He was one of the most widely followed preachers in the North. Dr John Kennedy of Dingwall said of him that “owing to his genius, his peculiar Christian experience, and his great acceptance as a preacher, he retained a firmer hold of the memories of the people than any other besides” (Scott 1928, p. 161; cf. Kennedy 1867, pp. 52-64).
The text itself was originally composed in English by the Rev. Thomas McKenzie Fraser (An t-Urramach T. M. Friseal, 1822-1885), from Inverness. He served as Free Church of Scotland minister in Yester, East Lothian, from 1845 to 1856, when he established a congregation in Singapore. ‘“Muckle Kate”: A Tradition of Lochcarron’, as it was called, first appeared in The Christian Treasury, a weekly evangelical periodical in 1847 (Fraser 1847 (a)).  The story may also have been published separately around the same year (see Fraser [1847] (b)).
The identity of the Gaelic translator is not immediately clear. The Preface only gives ‘JOHN KENNEDY’ at the location ‘LYNCHAT, KINGUSSIE’, in the year 1879 (p. 7).
The information available suggests that the translator is Rev. John Kennedy (1855-1910), rather than the more famous, aforementioned Rev. Dr. John Kennedy (1819-1884), Free Church minister of Dingwall, who had no connection to Lynchat (see Ewing 1914, p. 198; Anon. [n.d.]) The former, however, was born in Alvie parish in Badenoch, the parish of which Lynchat is a part (Ibid., p. 114). He wrote an elegy and interesting account of his grandfather, Kenneth MacDonald (1800-1878), an elder of Alvie Free Church who also latterly resided in Lynchat (Kennedy 1878, p. 30).
Kennedy studied at Glasgow University and then served as Free Church (later United Free Church) minister in Lenimore and Pirnmill parish, Isle of Arran, from 1884 till his death in 1910 (Ewing 1914, p. 114; Lamb 1956, p. 288). He edited and translated Three Gaelic Poems by Mrs. Clark, of Torra-Dhamh, Badenoch (Kennedy 1878), published several articles for the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness (e.g. Kennedy 1895), and was executor of the papers of Celtic scholar, Rev. Alexander Cameron (1827-1888). He gifted a significant amount of material, including the Fernaig Manuscript, and his own notes to the University of Glasgow (Thomson 1994, p. 71; Glasgow Univeristy Library: MS Gen 1708-1709).
In his Preface, Kennedy states that he translated the tradition of ‘Muckle Kate’ at the request of the West Coast Mission. In doing so, he ‘came across a Gaelic anonymous version of it, published fifteen years ago at Inverness’. He continues:
I find, on comparing them, that the latter, so far as it goes, looks very like a translation of the former [i.e. Fraser’s ‘Muckle Kate’]. Consequently I thought it best, as many must have perused the old translation, to follow it very closely, merely making such corrections as were grammatically necessary (p. 3).
This Inverness translation of Ceit Mhòr (c. 1864) has not been found. However, a similar, albeit shorter, Gaelic version was published in the religious periodical Bratach na Fìrinn (see Text 212), in 1873 (MacNeill 1873 (a), pp. 105-108). This was a separate translation of the Rev. T. M. Fraser’s original English story. The following issue of Bratach na Fìrinn contained a translation of another of his Highland conversion stories, ‘AN NIGHNEAG GHAIDHEALACH’ (MacNeill 1873 (b), pp. 121-122; cf. Fraser 1848). Finally, a slightly re-edited version of Kennedy’s translation was published in Ceit Mhòr agus Maighstir Lachlunn (Mac Cuis 1917).
ContentsThe Title Page of this work contains the full title and original author: ‘CEIT MHÒR / SGEUL O LOCHCARON, LEIS AN URRAMACH T. M. FRISEIL, Eaglais Shaor, Yester’. In italic font, the following information is given: ‘Eadar-theangaichte gu Gaidhlig airson Misi Taobh-an-Iar Alba’. (Misi is likely an error.)
On pages 3-7, there is a Preface in English by John Kennedy. The first paragraph remarks on the earlier anonymous Gaelic translation of ‘Muckle Kate’ found in Inverness. The rest of the Preface is taken up with a short biography of the Rev. Lachlan MacKenzie. Kennedy’s name in English is printed at the end with the location and date ‘LYNCHAT, KINGUSSIE, 9th September, 1879’.
A Gaelic ‘ROIMH-RÀDH’ appears on pages 8-9. This is a translation of a foreword the Rev. T. M. Fraser wrote in English for a stand-alone version of the story (see Fraser [1847] (b)), rather than the Christian Treasury version. Here, Fraser comments on the aim of publishing the story again in order to reach a wider audience. He also claims that its content is based on true events and writes that Maighstir Lachlann’s surviving sister and nephew read his account. The former was present at the communion described in the story and verifies its veracity. The author’s Gaelic name is printed below this: ‘T. M. FRISEIL. / MANSE SAOR IESTEIR, Am Magh, 1847’.
The story itself, ‘CEIT MHÒR’, appears in Gaelic only on pages 11-26. An additional comment by Fraser, still in Gaelic, is made on the difference between a sinner’s death and a Christian death. This  appears on pages 26-30.
LanguageThis is a reliable, if sometimes long-winded, translation of a religious narrative. The style of language is conservative, like its orthography, and influenced by the higher-register forms of the Gaelic Bible. Gaelic idioms and phrasing are used which allow the text to diverge somewhat from the original. However, there are cases where it is quite evident that the text is a translation. Sentences are occasionally too long with multiple clauses. This is arguably easier to read in the original English. The alternative Bratach na Fìrinn translation avoids this by removing some of the descriptive clutter and restructuring sentences where necessary.
The following extracts show a more straightforward example in the English original (1), as it appears in the translation in this text (2), as well as in a slightly different alternative translation (3).
1) Not far from the manse of Lochcarron, there lived a wicked old sinner, who was supposed to have been guilty of every crime forbidden in the decalogue, except murder. Owing to her masculine dimensions, this woman was commonly known by the name of “Muckle Kate.” “She was an ill-looking woman,” Mr. Lauchlan used to say, “without any beauty in the sight of God or man” (Fraser 1847 (a), p. 571).
2) Dlùth do thigh ministeir Lochcaroin bha seann bhean aingidh a chòmhnuidh, a bha air a meas ciontach do gach peacadh a tha air a thoirmeasg ann an clàraibh an lagha ach mort a mhàin. Do thaobh meudachd a pearsa ’s e Ceit Mhòr a thugadh mar ainm oirre. “Bha i ’na boirionnach grànda,” mar theireadh Mr. Lachlann, “gun mhaise ’sam bith an sealladh Dhia na dhaoine” (p. 12).
3) Fagus do thigh-tuineachaidh Mhr Lachunn, dh’fhan sean bhean aingidh, a bha a réir cùnntais ciontach do gach peacadh is olc a tha air an toirmeasg an lagh nan deich àithne, ach mort a mhàin. A thaobh cho fearail ’s a bha i ’n a gnè ’s ’na dòigh theirteadh “Ceit Mhor” rithe. “’Se boireannach grànnda a bh’innte,” theireadh Mr Lachunn, “gun mhaise an sealladh Dhia no dhaoine” (MacNeill 1873 (a), p. 105).
The text contains many examples of religious terms and phrases, especially relating to evangelical Presbyterianism. For example, agartas Cheit (p. 15) — i.e. ‘Kate’s conviction’ (Fraser 1847 (a), p. 572, hereafter ‘Fraser’), caoidh airson aon-ghin mic (p. 16), do dh’eas-creidmhich (18), Suipeir an Tighearn (p. 19), aig bòrd an Tighearn (p. 20), Sàbaid a’ chomanachaidh (p. 21), bòrd na Sacramaid (p. 22), chaidh na buird a sgaoileadh (shuidheachadh) anns a’ mhachair fhosgailte (p. 21) — i.e. ‘the tables were [...] spread [...] in the open air among the wild hills’ (Fraser, p. 573), comanaiche in aig nach do shuidhe ach a mhàin aon chomanaiche (p. 22), aon earrann do’n Sgriobtur (p. 24), airson na bana-pheacaich phillte (p. 17), gu cuimhne a chumail air gràdh Chriosd ’na bhàs (p. 21); samhlaidhean in Bha na bùird uile air an riarachadh, bha na samhlaidhean air an tabhairt air falbh (p. 22) — i.e. ‘The tables had all been served, the elements had been removed’ (Fraser, p. 573), cùram spioradail in dà cheud anam air an dùsgadh gu cùram spioradail leis an aon searmon ud (p. 25) — i.e. ‘by that single address no fewer than two hundred souls were awakened to spiritual concern’ (Fraser, p. 573), lean mòran dhiùbh air an adhart gu diadhachd dhomhain agus fhìrinnich (p. 25), caithe-beatha dlùth agus iriosal maille ri Dia (p. 26).
An example of a Gaelicised loan word, given in italics in the translation, is ‘dol do chitsin’ (p. 19) — i.e. ‘kitchen’. Similarly, English is used in brackets to clarify a term: phill am ministear do’n bhùth (tent) (p. 22) — ‘the minister had returned to “the tent”’ (Fraser, p.. 573), speaking of the communion tent. Note also the use of an additional Gaelic term in brackets in the example given previously: chaidh na buird a sgaoileadh (shuidheachadh) (p. 21), as though the initial translation follows the English ‘spread’ but perhaps suidheachadh would be more commonly used in such cases.
Some interesting examples of translation, similar to the original but diverging slightly, include: bean a teisteanais in nach deachaidh bean a teisteanais riamh a dh’ eaglais (p. 12) — ‘that such a character never entered a church’ (Fraser, p. 571), fhuair an t-saighead alt anns an lùirich (p. 15) — ‘the shaft had found the joint in the harness’ (Fraser, p. 572), shuidh an t-aon chreutair dall aonarranach ud (p. 23) — ‘there sat that one solitary blind being’ (Fraser, p. 573).
Dialect-specific language is not clearly identified in this text (see also Dialect under Orthography).
OrthographyThis text’s orthography is unusual and not in comformity with its date of creation. The translator’s Preface gives the date 1879 (p. 7), and so we can be reasonably certain that the translation belongs to the late 19th century period. However, the orthography exhibits more conservative and Bible-influenced features, and can be placed in the mid 19th century period.
Both grave accents and acute accents are used: beò-chuimhne (p. 11), làn (p. 11), àraidh (p. 11), fàile cùbhraidh (p. 11), e féin (p. 11), do thigh Dhé (p. 13), an déigh (p. 13). Occasionally, a grave accent is used where we would expect an acute accent: mòr (p. 11), mòr-aobhar (p. 18), CEIT MHÒR (p. 11). Note also in the last example that an accent is used for a capital letter. There are cases where no accents are used where they would be expected: comhla ri (p. 14), gle chruaidh (p. 16). Significantly, grave accents appear in the following dipthongs: air fònn (p. 14), fad-thònna (p. 15), gun bhònn (p. 28).
Apostrophes are found in prepositions and conjunctions: a thoirt suas do’n (p. 11), do’n dùthaich (p. 14), mu’m bheil (p. 13), ’s an Taobh-deas (p. 11), na’n deanadh (p. 11), gu’n d’ fhairtlich (p. 13), gu’m biodh (p. 13). They are also present: in the negative form of the verb ‘to be’ — Cha ’n eil (p. 11), Cha’n eil (p. 12), do nach ’eil (p. 13); in the abbreviated form of the conjunction agus ’us (p. 14), ’us mar a bha (p. 17), ’us i feitheamh (p. 19), ’us gu’n d’ iarr ’s gu’n (p. 9), goid ’s fanoid (p. 29); in prepositional possessive pronous — a bha ’na ’fhianuis (p. 12), a dheanamh ’na ghlòir (p. 12), ’na dhuais (p. 12), ag innseadh d’ a chéile (p. 13), ’ga sealltuinn (p. 13); to replace the masculine possessive pronoun when it follows or precedes another vowel — fàile cùbhraidh ’ainm[e-san] (p. 11); and in the adverb sam bithgun mhaise ’sam bith (p. 12), but not consistently: sam bith (p. 15). Sometimes, they are not present where they would be expected: air a bheul-aithris (p. 12).
We find a loss of a’/ag in verbal nouns following vowels: agus a tha ’cur (p. 13), tha i ’radh (p. 9), a tha ’g éiridh (p. 16). The article, relative pronoun, etc. is contracted where it follows a vowel: a bha ’n sluagh (p. 9), a ni ’thachair (p. 9), do nach ’eil e’n comas sgur (p. 13), ann an cridhe ’h-aon (p. 13). Spaces are not present in phrases with the verb bu: b’àbhaist (p. 14), a b’urrainn (p. 14).
Spelling forms
Examples of older spelling forms include: boirionnaich (p. 14), dhachaidh (p. 15), a bhi (p. 13), ni’ bu leòir (p. 12), ni’s mò (p. 18), tigh in do thigh Dhé (p. 13), tabhairt in tha mi tabhairt (p. 12), so in roimhe so (p. 16), da in a thoirt da (p. 14), air a chùlaobh (p. 16). We find the familiar older spelling pattern u < a in unstressed syllables: do’n ghnothuch (p. 12), le còmhnuidh (p. 12), beagan sheachduinean (p. 12).
It is difficult to disentangle dialect-specific orthography from one that is conservative and influenced by the Gaelic of the Bible. For example, the following spelling forms can be found in versions of the Bible, or may be indicative of dialect: Cha deachaidh (p. 14), fathast (p. 14), da-rìreadh (p. 15).
Orthographic phase
Some features stand out in marking the orthographic phase. Many of these are common in early-mid 19th century period texts influenced by the Gaelic translation of the Bible.
The old dative plural form is present: ann an criochaibh Rois-an-iar (p. 11), iomradh air a bhriathraibh (p. 11), air sgeulaibh (p. 12), ann an cearnaibh (p. 14), aig amanaibh (p. 14).
The preposition de tends to be spelled do: ciontach do gach peacadh (p. 12), aon fhairge neo-chriochnaich do fhraoch (p. 15), a ’bheag ’sam bith do dh’ eolas (p. 17).
Some spelling forms are particularly common in the early-mid 19th century period: dhoibh (p. 14), dhoibh-san (p. 17), feudaidh (p. 14), dh’ fheudadh (p. 17), sheargta (p. 15), os ceann (p. 18), Gaelig (p. 11).
Some nouns have plural forms ending in a vowel (mostly -a): am measg nam beannta (p. 11), uile pheacanna (p. 14), gu ionada sàmhach (p. 16).
The use of the genitive case is both more complicated — am measg Ghaidheal Rois (p. 11), rather than am measg Gàidheil Rois — and sometimes quite erratic: ainm Mhaighstir Lachluinn Mhic Choinnich, ministeir urramaich Loch-caroin (p. 11).
EditionFirst edition.
Other Sources
Further ReadingAnon., ‘Kennedy, John, D.D. (Supplementary Information)’, Ecclegen: Ministers of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843-1900.
Ewing, William, ed., Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843-1900 (Edinburgh, 1914: T. & T. Clark), 114, 198.
Fraser, T. M. (Rev.), ‘“Muckle Kate”: a tradition of Lochcarron’, The Christian Treasury (Edinburgh, 1847 (a): Johnstone & Hunter), 571-573.
Fraser, T. M. (Rev.), Muckle Kate: a tradition of Lochcarron (Edinburgh, [1847] (b): J. Johnstone).
Fraser, T. McKenzie (Rev.), ‘The Highland kitchen maid: An incident in the life of Mr. Hector McPhail’, The Christian Treasury (Edinburgh, 1848: Johnstone & Hunter), 469-471.
Glasgow University Library, ‘Papers of John Kennedy, 1688-1910’ (MS Gen 1708-1709) [n.d.].
Kennedy, John (Rev. Dr. [Dingwall]), The days of the fathers in Ross-shire, Fourth Edition (Edinburgh, 1867: John Maclaren), 52-64.
Kennedy, John, ed., Three Gaelic poems / by Mrs. Clark; translated into English; and an elegy (with short memoir) on Kenneth M‘Donald by John Kennedy (Edinburgh, 1878: Maclachlan and Stewart).
Kennedy, John (Rev.), ‘Arran Gaelic Dialect’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Vol. 20 (1894-1896), 126-141.
Mac Cuis, D. I., Ceit mhòr agus Maighstir Lachlunn (Loch-Caroin) : maille ri Trì naidheachdan uidhisteach (Dundee, 1917: M.C. Macleod).
Lamb, John Alexander, ed., The Fasti of the United Free Church of Scotland 1900-1929 (Edinburgh, 1956: Oliver and Boyd), 288.
MacNeill, Nigel, ed., ‘CEIT MHOR’, in Bratach na Fìrinn 1:7 (July 1873 (a)), 105-108.
MacNeill, Nigel, ed., ‘AN NIGHNEAG GHAIDHEALACH’, in Bratach na Fìrinn 1:8 (August 1873 (b)), 121-122.
Scott, Hew, ed., Fasti ecclesiae scoticanae : the succession of ministers in the Church of Scotland from the Reformation, Vol. 7 (Edinburgh, 1928: Oliver and Boyd), 161.
Thomson, Derick S., ed., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Glasgow, 1994: Gairm Publications), 71.
Link LabelDigital version created by National Library of Scotland
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