Reference Number242
TitleOrain Ghaidhlig le Seonaidh Caimbeul
AuthorCaimbeul, Seonaidh
EditorCaimbeul, Iain Latharna
Date Of Edition1936
Date Of Languagemid to late 19c
Date Of Language Ed1850-1899
DateMacroLate 19th c.
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherI. B. MacAoidh agus a Chuideachd
Place PublishedDun Pharlain
LocationNational and academic libraries
Geographical OriginsSouth Lochboisdale, South Uist
Geographical Origins EdSouth Uist
GeoMacroBenbecula, S Uist and Barra
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterLiterature, Verse
Register EdLiterature, Verse
RatingB (TBC)
A collection of songs from the South Lochboisdale area of South Uist.
The songs cover a traditional range of subjects such as fishing, crofting, local and national events, illness, elegies, warfare and religion.
A good example of Uist Gaelic from the mid to the late nineteenth century.
Alternative Author NameSeonaidh mac Dhòmhnaill ’ic Iain Bhàin
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition18.2cm x 12cm
Short TitleOrain Ghàidhlig le Seonaidh Caimbeul
Reference DetailsNLS: 5.2392
Number Of Pagesxvii, 130
Gaelic Text ByN/A
Social ContextSeonaidh Caimbeul (1859-1947) was born in South Lochboisdale on the 8 June 1859 fourth child to Donald Campbell (Dòmhnall mac Iain Bhàin, 1821-1894) and Mary Gillies (Màiri nighean Iain Fhionnlaigh, 1831-1866). His father was a cottar and stonemason. Caimbeul took up herding at a young age. He picked up his love of language from his immediate family and also house-visiting. Although Caimbeul attended school, beginning at the late age of nine or ten, he resisted being educated in the traditional sense, and left without any formal qualifications. He then took up various occupations mainly as a fisherman, crofter and during the winter months was employed in Glasgow shipyards. Caimbeul fished all over the Minch and the Moray Firth, where he had met Gaelic speakers from all over the Highlands and Islands and learned to understand their dialects. With the help of a schoolmaster in Canna, Caimbeul became literate in Gaelic. It was around this time that he began to compose poetry. With a retentive memory and because of his own poetic flair, Caimbeul could recite the poetry of Alexander MacDonald, Duncan Bàn Macintyre and, his favourite, John MacCodrum.
The first to have written down Caimbeul’s poetry was Fr Allan McDonald and then Dr George Henderson. Malcolm MacPhee, a schoolmaster, also made a sporadic effort but such work was left unfinished until John MacInnes (Iain Pheadair) took up the task in 1934. It was only during the task of transcribing Caimbeul’s poetry that MacInnes became more aware of its intrinsic value and recommended them to John Lorne Campbell. Having met Caimbeul, Campbell arranged for him to be recorded for the BBC in Glasgow, the first of its type. Campbell also recorded some of Caimbeul’s storytelling repertoire. In 1892 Caimbeul married Margaret MacFarlane (Peigi Aonghais ’ic Phàrlain, 1864-1947) but without issue. After publication of the text, Caimbeul continued now and again to compose new material. Around half of his repertoire remains in manuscript. At an advanced age, Caimbeul died on 8 February 1947, and is buried in Hallin Cemetery, South Uist.
The editor acknowledges the assistance of Annie Johnston and Neil Sinclair in seeing the book through the press (p. xiii).
For biographical information about John Lorne Campbell, see Text 46.
John MacInnes (Iain Pheadair mhic Iain ’ic Sheumais, 1907-1991) was born and brought up in South Lochboisdale, South Uist. He came from a large family of fifteen consisting of nine boys and six girls. He later attended St Mungo’s in Glasgow and graduated from the University of Glasgow. MacInnes was an accomplished singer and was also renowned for his remarkable knowledge of Gaelic song. He collected a great deal of songs from John Campbell, also from South Lochboisdale, who was known locally as a poet and seanchaidh. These were later edited and published by John Lorne Campbell in 1936. The collection was entitled Òrain Ghàidhlig le Seonaidh Caimbeul, the Gaelic Songs of Shony Campbell, the South Lochboisdale Bard. Transcribed by John MacInnes MBE. Due to demand for the short-run of the first edition, a revised reprint was published in 1937. MacInnes also assisted Margaret Fay Shaw with her splendid book Folk-songs and Folklore of South Uist (see Text 49), first published in 1955 and has since been reprinted on various occasions. Before taking up his post as a district clerk for South Uist, he worked as a fisherman with his father. He married Mary MacMillan (1913-1994) and they were together for nearly fifty years. He is buried in Hallin Cemetery, Daliburgh, South Uist.
ContentsThe volume begins with a short biography ‘Beatha Sheonaidh’ by Iain MacAonghuis (pp. vi-ix) followed by a short introduction ‘Cànail Sheonaidh Agus Obair an Deasachaidh’ by Iain L. Caimbeul (pp. xi-xiv), where the editor of the volume regrets that space precludes him to detail the Gaelic dialect of Seonaidh Caimbeul and how it should be represented in print. There follows ‘An Clar Innseach’ (pp. xv-xvii), and then the main text ‘Na h-Orain’ (pp. 1-127), and finally ‘Faclair’ (pp. 130). ‘Na h-Orain’, the main text, is divided into seven sections: ‘Orain Iasgaich’ consisting of six items (pp. 2-14); ‘Oran an Fhearainn’ consisting of fifteen items (pp. 17-45); ‘Orain na Dùthcha’ consisting of fourteen items (pp. 49-79); ‘Tinneas’ consisting of three items (pp. 82-88); ‘Marbhrainn’ consisting of four items (pp. 91-99); ‘Oran a’ Chogaidh Mhóir’ consisting of three items (pp. 103-13); and ‘Oran Cràbhach’ consisting of three items (pp. 117-25).
There is also at the very beginning of the volume a photographic portrait of Seonaidh Caimbeul with a cas-chrom taken by Margaret Fay Shaw.
SourcesThe text was transcribed from around 4,500 lines taken down by John MacInnes and John Lorne Campbell from the recitation of Seonaidh Caimbeul. 44 of the best items of around 100 were selected for inclusion in the text.
LanguageThe language is very much traditional and is a good example of what is sometimes referred to as village poetry. The language is lyrical, free-flowing and often as not realistic and direct. It is also musical and the title of each poem is introduced by the name of tune to which it is sung. It does not often lapse into sentimentalism but often retains an immediate realism as for example, ‘Tha mo bhasan ’s mo mheoirean / ’S iad ’nam builgeinean air tòcradh / Urad ri uibhean na smeoraich’ (p. 2).
Idiomatic usage such as ’S thànaig car ’na cheann an lath’ ud (p. 5) which are sometimes glossed.
Some songs recount local events and are often humorous such as ‘Oran Bó Alasdair ’ic Dhubhghaill an Lath Dh’ich I an Ad ’s an Léine Ghorm Orm’ (p. 17) There is even one about midgies ‘Na Meanbh-Chuileagan’(p. 24), whereas others complain about the toil of hard labour ‘Oran na Buachailleachd’ (pp. 34-35) and ‘Oran an Inneariadh ’s an Ràcaidh’ (pp. 35-36). There is also a song concerning the social impact of the state pension ‘Oran a’ Phension’ (pp. 75-79), songs about toothache and influenza (pp. 82-88) and about warfare (pp. 103-13).
Of note is his poem about the Passion entitled ‘A’ Phàis’ (pp. 118-23) which he relates in a simple and dignified fashion the betrayal, trial and the Crucifixion.
Also useful for material culture, e.g., ‘Oran na Coise Cruime’ (pp. 40-41) with terminology such as, ceapa leathan, sgonnan and calpa.
Use of accents is sometimes inconsistent, e.g., sonraichte (p. vi), b’eolaiche (p. vi), leor (p. vii), Domhnallach (p. vii).
Older spellings appear throughout the text, e.g., a stigh (p. 4), airgiod (p. 5), Air son (p. 5), siod (p. 6), briagha (p. 20), c’ar son (p. 22), ciod uige (p. 22), dh’ar n-ionnsaigh (p. 23).
Acute accents occasionally appear instead of graves, e.g., párantan (p. 22), dh’fhág (p. 22).
Sometimes no attempt has been made to Gaelicise English loan-words which are given in italics, e.g., oilskin (p. 6), foresail (p. 8), shop (p. 9), tummers (p. 12), claim (p. 26), taxes (p. 39), wreck (p. 42), spree (p. 54), hawser (p. 66) steamboat (p. 72), whereas others have been, e.g., chìurair (p. 11), chuarraidh (p. 39), screwichean (p. 70), cuarraidh (p. 75), influens (p. 86).
Use of contraction a’s for anns (p. 84) or agus (p. 103).
The copula is realised as follows: ’S (p. 35), Is e (p. 38), ’S ann (p. 57), B’e (p. 62), Gur h-e (p. 93).
Although the editor was at pains to point out that it was difficult to represent the poet’s Gaelic dialect there are many examples that appear throughout the text, e.g., déid (p. ix), dràsd (p. ix), miog (p. ix), feodhainn (p. ix), ch-uile (p. viii), cha n-urrainn (p. xi), Cha n-fhiach (p. 6), fantail (p. 43), leantail (p. 54), dugadh (p. 54), cantail (p. 55), na bùthadh (p. 55); nàdorra (p. 125), gheobh (p. 104) but also gheibh (p. 124), cànail (p., 106), péin (p. 85), nìchean (p. 94), fulag (p. 85), gh-ràdha (p. 84), libh (p. 84), reimhid (p. 83), ich (p. 82), na’s mù (p. 92), t’fheòil (p. 71), gat’ ionndrainn (p. 93), mhì’dachd (p. 72), batal (p. 103), dhìochainnich (p. 103), ad inntinne (p. 97), bràch (p. 9).
At times it is difficult if not impossible to distinguished genuine typographical error with dialect presentation, e.g., leath (p. v), bhichte (p. vi), sìnn (p. 92), irìseil (p. 124).
There is occasional use of passive voice, e.g., dh’fhalbhte (p. 9), gheallte (p. 18), urrainnear (p. 124).
Contractions are sparingly used, e.g., ’s g’eil (p. 7).
There is a sparing use of hyphens in a few instances, e.g., iardheas (p. 4), athuair (p. 18), amhàin (p. 37), aoinfhear (p. 44), mórbheann (p. 113), stucbheann (p. 124).
Prepositions are realised as follows: dha’n (p. v), g’an (p. vi), ’gan deanamh (p. v), ’ga mhios (p. xi), ’na onair (p. xi).
Preference is given to the ia diphthong rather than the eu diphthong e.g., sgialaiche (p. xi).
It may be of interest to note that borrowings taken from English, more apparent in the poems about fishing, e.g., fo’n fhoremast (p. 4), mizzen a low’radh, (p. 4).
Rare or unusual words are glossed in the Faclair (as noted above), e.g., mhìobadh (p. 2), muirtiachd (p. 10), gnògain (p. 10), fardhruim (p. 14).
[Note: the editor is of the opinion that due to his residence in Golspie, and having learned Sutherland Gaelic fluently, its influence is discernible in Caimbeul’s own dialect (p. xii).]

The text may reflect South Uist Gaelic but it was a matter of regret for the editor as he admits that he had to compromise so that the text could be better understood by all Gaelic readers.
The Faclair already referred to contains explanations of unusual vocabulary used in the text.
OrthographyThe orthography conforms to the mid-twentieth century whereby the grave and acute are retained. No accents are shown on capital letters.
EditionFirst edition. A further (corrected) edition was published in 1937. Editors should use both for comparative purposes when undertaking extraction of words.
Other Sources
Further ReadingAnon., ‘An Aithne Dhuibh…? (25. Iain MacAonghais), Gairm, vol. 25 (Autumn, 1958), 26-27.
Black, Ronald I. M. (ed.), An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Edinburgh, 2002: Birlinn), 22-29, 717-18.
Caimbeul, Seonaidh, ‘An t-Uachdaran, a’ Sagart, Agus an t-Amadan’, Outlook, vol. 1, no. 1 (April, 1936), 103-06.
Caimbeul, Seonaidh, ‘Tòmas Reumhair, Mac Na Mnatha Muirbhe’, Outlook, vol. 1, no. 3 (June, 1936), 101-04.
Caimbeul, Seonaidh, ‘Mac an Amharuis’, Outlook, vol. 1, no. 4 (July, 1936), 104-06.
Caimbeul, Seonaidh, ‘Bean A’ Chiobair’, Outlook, vol. 1, no. 6 (September, 1936), 104-06.
Caimbeul, Seonaidh, ‘Mac a’ Ghréidheir’, Outlook, vol. 1, no. 8 (November, 1936), 97-102.
Campbell, John Lorne (ed.), Sia Sgialachdan a chruinnich ’s a dheasaich Iain Latharna Caimbeul ann am Barraidh ’s an Uidhist a Deas / Six Gaelic Tales from Barra and South Uist (Edinburgh, 1939: Privately printed by T. & A. Constable).
Shaw, Margaret Fay, Folksongs and Folklore (Oxford, 1955: Oxford University Press), 10-17, 26-28, 269.
Shaw, Margaret Fay, ‘Portrait of a Bard’, The Scots Magazine, vol. LVIII, no. 1 (October, 1952), 1-5:
Shaw, Margaret Fay, ‘Duan na Caisg’, Scottish Gaelic Studies, vol. IV, pt. II (1935), 150-52.
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