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Metadata for text 25
No. words in text58518
Title Collected Poems and Songs of George Campbell Hay (Deòrsa Mac Iain Dheòrsa)
Author Hay, George Campbell
Editor Byrne, Michel
Date Of Edition 2003
Date Of Language 1950-1999
Publisher Edinburgh University Press
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume N/A
Location National, academic and local libraries
Geographical Origins Argyll
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Deòrsa Mac Iain Dheòrsa
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 23.3cm x 15.4cm
Short Title Collected Poems
Reference Details EUL: PB1648.H39
Number Of Pages xxxii, 713
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context George Campbell Hay was born in Renfrewshire in 1915. His father was from Islay and was himself a writer, as well as a Free Church minister. He published his first novel, Gillespie, the year before George was born. When George was four years old his father died and he, his older sister, and his mother returned to her mother’s home town of Tarbert, Loch Fyne. George lived there until he was ten years old, and it was during these formative years that he became interested in Gaelic. His mother’s aunts lived nearby and both were Gaelic speakers although English was the language of the house. George’s mother also knew a few words of Gaelic and he would hear it sometimes from the fishermen as he sat with them at the pier near his great-aunts’ house. He began to pick up the language quickly and learned to read it through the Bible and through Gaelic sermons which his great-aunts owned. At the age of ten he was awarded a scholarship (as the son of a deceased minister) to John Watson’s School in Edinburgh. In 1929, on receipt of another scholarship, he moved to Fettes College. George Campbell Hay had a talent for learning languages and studied Latin and Greek at Fettes, and later at Oxford. About the age of 16, while he was at Fettes, he started writing seriously, and some of his work (both poetry and prose) was published in The Fettesian, the Fettes College magazine.

Over the next fifteen years Hay became proficient in a number of other languages, including Old Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian, French, Italian, and Arabic. His family had moved to Edinburgh when he started attending school there. However they returned to Tarbert during the holidays and, at the age of sixteen, Hay began fishing with one of the crews from Tarbert during the summer. While at Oxford, Hay became very friendly with Douglas Young and his interest in politics and Scottish nationalism was fuelled. In 1938, he joined Comunn airson Saorsa na h-Alba (League for the Independence of Scotland). In that same year, he sought advice from Rev. Kenneth MacLeod as to the standard of his Gaelic poetry. MacLeod was encouraging and, by the end of that year, Hay’s poetry had begun to be published in various periodicals, including An Gàidheal and The Scots Magazine. Some of his work was also set to music, through Hay’s acquaintance with the composer Francis George Scott.

In 1939 Hay enrolled at Moray House College to train as a Classics teacher. However war had broken out and George found himself in front of a tribunal in 1940 to explain his anti-conscription stance. In July 1940 he took up duty with the Local Defence Volunteers at Holyrood Palace. In October of that year, however, he left Edinburgh for Argyll where he stayed until his arrest in May 1941, after which he spent a few days in Saughton Prison. He finally joined the army in June of that year and at the end of 1942 was sent to North Africa. Hay liked Africa and the people he met there. He was, at this time, in correspondence with his mother, Douglas Young, and the Rev. John Mackechnie, all of whom were working towards publishing a collection of his poems. In June 1944 Hay’s unit moved to Italy, and the next eighteen months proved to be some of the most productive of his career. It was during this time that he started his magnum opus Mochtàr is Dùghall (pp. 105-61), which, although unfinished, was published in 1982. Hay also undertook the translation of Tunisian proverbs and modern Croatian poetry.

In 1945 Hay decided to focus his efforts on the Gaelic language rather than directly on politics, stating, ‘Would my energies not be better concentrated on Gaelic, which is Scotland’s most obvious mark of individuality and one of the hottest red embers under our heap of cinders?’ (quoted in this volume, p. 481). Around this time, Hay was promoted to the position of corporal, and later to sergeant. Shortly afterward he was sent to Greece. Hay got on well with the locals, but these were troubled times politically and, through his association with the working class and his left-wing tendencies, he was labelled a communist by right-wingers and narrowly avoided being killed. In May or June of 1945 he was sent home with ‘nervous trouble’ and spent some time in Carstairs Military Hospital.

On his release from Carstairs, Hay returned to Tarbert, having gained a teaching qualification. He also continued writing and planning further publications. However, by November 1946 he was back in hospital, this time in Lochgilphead. His first collection, Fuaran Slèibh, was finally published in March 1948. In that same month he was transferred from Lochgilphead Hospital to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital where he remained for twelve years. Wind on Loch Fyne, his second collection of poetry, this time in Scots and English, was published in September 1948 and received good reviews, being described by Hugh MacDiarmid as ‘the most distinguished volume of Scottish poems that has appeared for a quarter of a century’ (quoted in this volume, p. 486). In 1952 his second collection of Gaelic poetry, O na Ceithir Àirdean, was published. All three collections contained original poetry as well as translations of poems, into Gaelic, Scots or English, from a variety of languages including Greek, Italian, and Irish. In the mid-to-late 1950s, some of Hay’s poems were also published in the newly-established Gaelic periodical, Gairm. Hay was released from hospital in 1960, at which time he took up an informal post at the National Library of Scotland. Although he was writing successfully in 1960-61, and publishing in periodicals such as Gairm and the Scots Independent, he disappeared in May 1961 and was eventually re-admitted to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, where he remained until May 1963. Hay was in and out of hospital throughout the mid-to-late sixties but was quite active in the late 1960s in the Edinburgh nationalist political scene. He also attended literary sessions at Milne’s Bar in Edinburgh during this time. In the late 1960s his work was brought to the attention of the Edinburgh publisher Gordon Wright, who included Hay’s work in his Scottish anthology Four Points of a Saltire (1970), along with the work of Sorley MacLean, William Neill, and Stuart MacGregor. In 1969, Hay became friendly with Elizabeth Kirk, whom he had met at the hospital day centre, and they remained in touch for around ten years. His romantic feelings towards her came to the fore in three of his poems from around this time, Rann Fìrinneach (p. 299), Sreathan Sìmplidh (p. 300), and Rannghail Leth-èibhinn do dh’Ealasaid (pp. 301-04). After a quiet spell in the early 1970s, Hay produced a substantial amount of work from 1975 until his death in 1984. As a poet, George Campbell Hay was respected not only by Hugh MacDiarmid, but also by fellow Gaelic poets, Sorley MacLean, Iain Crichton Smith, and Donald MacAulay.
Contents This volume begins with a table of Contents (pp. xii-xviii), a Preface (pp. xix-xxi), and Acknowledgements (pp. xxii-xxiv). There follows a section on Editorial Principles (pp. xxv-xxxii), which contains information about the sources used and the editors choice of texts. It also contains notes on the Gaelic and Scots orthography used in the text, and notes on punctuation, the translations, poem titles, and the dating of poems.

The main body of the text comprises 387 poems in Gaelic, Scots, English, French, Italian, and Norwegian. English translations are given at the bottom of each page. The poems are presented in 12 chapters as follows: Poems 1932-1938 (pp. 3-42), Poems 1938-1940 (pp. 43-77), Poems 1942-1944 (pp. 78-104), Poems 1944-1946 (i) (pp. 105-161), Poems 1944-1946 (ii) (pp. 162-215), Poems 1946-1958 (pp. 216-260), Poems 1960-1961 (pp. 261-291), Poems 1964-1973 (pp. 292-311), Poems 1975-1977 (pp. 312-346), Poems 1978-1979 (pp. 347-369), Poems 1980-1982 (pp. 370-411), Poems 1983 (pp. 412-444).

After the poems we find George Campbell Hay: A Review (pp. 445-540), comprising A Short Biography (pp. 445-500), Aspects of Form and Language (pp. 501-17), and Recurrent Themes in Hay’s Poetry (pp. 519-38). This last section is presended under the headings Voyage (pp. 519-26), Scotland (pp. 526-31), War (pp. 532-34), and Kintyre (pp. 534-38). The section on Voyage deals with Hay’s maritime and philosophical poetry in turn.

Towards the end of this volume we find the following three sections: Commentary to the Poems (pp. 541-674), which includes details of where the poems have been previously published, notes as to language and dialect, and lines or stanzas not included in this version of the poem; Appendices (pp. 675-692), which contains a list of sources, a glossary of Lochfyneside place-names, the music to which seven of Hay’s compositions were set, and a bibliography; and Indexes (pp. 693-713), comprising indices of titles, first lines, place names, and personal names.
Sources The editor explains that Hay’s manuscript and typescript copies of poems were used as source material, as were a number of previously published texts, such as Fuaran Slèibh and O na Ceithir Àirdean (see pp. xxv-xxvi).
Language Hay’s poetry covers a number of topics, the most notable of which are: boats and fishing, e.g. Siubhal a’ Choire (pp. 7-8), An t-Iasgair (p. 216), and Miannan an Tairbeartaich (mar gum b’ann le iasgair) (p. 262); Scottish nationalism and Gaelic, e.g. Fhearaibh ’s a Mhnài na h-Albann (p. 95), An Ceangal (p. 104), and Alba Ghaoil Ò (p. 68); the natural world, particularly with reference to Kintyre and to the weather, e.g. Cinntìre (pp. 24-26), An Gleannan (p. 9), Ceithir Gaothan na h-Albann (p. 60), Mìos a’ Ghearrain (p. 414-15), and Tlachd is Misneachd (p. 218); and war, e.g. An t-Òigear a’ Bruidhinn on Ùir (pp. 191-92), Bisearta (pp. 176-77), and parts of Mochtàr is Dùghall (pp. 105-61).

Hay also wrote some more philosophical poems such as Atman (pp. 162-64), Prìosan Da Fhèin an Duine? (pp. 174-76), and Is E Crìoch Àraidh (pp. 184-86). Hay also re-worked a number of old songs, e.g. Nighneag a’ Chùil Duinn, Nach Fhan Thu? (p. 408), and some of the material presented in this volume comprises old songs which Hay has expanded, e.g. Am Bàta Dubh (p. 412-14). It should also be noted that Hay gave some of his Scots and English poems Gaelic titles, e.g. Còmhradh nan Rubha (pp. 70-71) and Mi ’Fàgail na Tìre (p. 17).
Orthography Hay’s earlier Gaelic poems (pre-1960), and many of his later works, were written in ‘modern literary’ Gaelic. They show his extensive knowledge of the language and provide us with excellent examples of early-to-mid twentieth century literary Gaelic, together with echoes of earlier Gaelic poetry and song from the sixteenth to nineteenth century.

It was not until 1960 that Hay began to use the Tarbert dialect in his poetry. It had been his belief that poetry should be written in a literary Gaelic that all speakers would be able to understand, and when Hay finally did begin to use colloquial Gaelic, it was always carefully annotated and explained. For example, a series of poems under the heading Dain is Rainn an Gaidhlig Tairbeart Loch Fine were published in Gairm 34 (1960), in which Hay provided a glossary, in Gaelic, of certain colloquial terms that he had included in the selected poems. This glossary has been reproduced and translated in the ‘Commentary’ for this text. The poems included in this selection were An t-Anmoch air a’ Mhonadh (p. 262), Miannan an Tairbeartaich (mar gum b’ann le iasgair) (p. 262), Is Aoibhinn Leam na Diugh na Chi (p. 263), and five four-line poems entitled, Dà Thaobh na Maoile, An Tìde Abhaisteach, Sreathan Mearachdach, Cnapadal is Tìrean Ciana Eile, and Bòd Uile (pp. 263-64). Miannan an Tairbeartaich and Sreathan Mearachdach are the two most important poems of this series in respect to the amount of colloquial Gaelic they contain, giving us words such as steòrnamh, solas-lìn, pùt, and steall. For example, in Miannan an Tairbeartaich we find ‘Gheobh mi rian mar rainn òrain \ air steórnamh an t-saoghail; \ an t-amhsan ’s an losgamh, \ is coltas maraon iad; \ a’ mhuc mhara mun Choileach, \ is an goireachan fhaoileag, \ is coltas sin uile \ a chuir an Cruithear ar taobh-ne’ (p. 262).

Other poems in this volume which contain good examples of the Tarbert dialect are An Druim-àrcan ’s an t-Ìochdar and Gàidhlig is Gèidhlig mu seach. Both are annotated in the ‘Commentary’; in the ‘Commentary’ on the latter the editor quotes Hay on some other examples of the Tarbert dialect (pp. 622-623). In his PhD thesis on Hay (1992, p. 118-19), which formed the basis for this volume, Byrne gives a summary of the phonetic and lexical components of the Tarbert dialect, and notes the poems in which these features can be found. Phonetic differences include the use of an -amh ending in place of an -adh ending (e.g. losgamh and a cheumamh), the use of an -igh ending in place of an -ich ending (e.g. a bhalaigh and caraigh), and the pronunciation of /a/ and /a:/ as /e/ and /e:/ (e.g. amèireach and meadainn). Lexical differences include terminology such as amhsan, drumach, and goireachan. Byrne’s thesis (1992, p. 119) also includes a list of Tarbert fishing terminology, such as ceannair, coltas, and ringeadh, which can be gleaned from poems such as Miannan an Tairbeartaich, An Druim-àrcan ’s an t-Ìochdar, and Muir is Tìr, no Deireadh Oidhche ri Cladach (p. 370-73). A wealth of Gaelic names for places in and around Tarbert can also be seen in poems such as Luinneag (pp. 14-15).

In addition, a number of Hay’s poems in the Tarbert dialect of Scots (mainly from 1960 onwards), include some of those Gaelic words which had become common in Tarbert English. A list of 37 Gaelic words commonly used in Tarbert English, compiled by Hay, can be found in NLS MS 26747, 1-3. A list of further words has unfortunately been lost.

The orthography is generally that of the late twentieth/early twenty-first century. See Edition below.
Edition This collection was originally published in hardback 2000. It comprised two volumes, Vol. 1 containing the poems, and Vol. 2 containing the commentary and indices. This new edition includes an ‘Index of Titles’, ‘Index of First Lines’, and ‘Index of Place-Names’, which were not included in the first edition. The ‘Index of Personal Names’ was revised for this new edition.

The section on ‘Editorial Principles’ (pp. xxv-xxxii) explains the editor’s selection of poems, the sources from which they were taken, and the orthography used in this volume. Byrne explains that the orthography has been standardised for this volume except where it would compromise the meaning or rhyming of the poem. There are therefore some orthographic differences between the poems presented in this text and those poems that have been previously published.

In Fuaran Slèibh, for example, an older orthographical system had been used, which favoured such forms as cha n-fhaigh, c’uim, aosd’, and ma ’s. In this volume these have been modernised to chan fhaigh, cuim, aost’, and mas. This volume has also used taobhgheal, where Fuaran Slèibh used taobh-gheal, and aigeinn where Fuaran Slèibh had aigein. Fuaran Slèibh uses both the acute and grave accents where this collection uses only the grave accent.

Similar orthographic differences occur in the poem Mochtàr is Dùghall, which was published in its own right in 1982. The differences here are fewer, however, and involve the replacement of d with t (e.g. this volume has èisteachd where the 1982 edition had èisdeachd), and the reduction of prepositions followed by pronouns (e.g. fo d’ becomes fod). Similar orthographic differences can be seen between those poems published in Gairm and Four Points of a Saltire, and those published in this volume. The 1982 version of Mochtàr is Dùghall also differs slightly from the version printed in this volume. This volume lacks 16 lines at the end of the section entitled A’ Bhean A’ Bruidhinn, but adds a further 21 line segment at the end, entitled Dùnadh: An Duine agus An Cogadh.

Differences between those poems published first in O na Ceithir Àirdean (1952) are also orthographic, with O na Ceithir Àirdean having, for example, s, clachtharruing, taisdealach, and gu’n, while this volume has ’s, clach tharraing, taistealach and gun. Likewise, among those poems published in Nua-bhàrdachd Ghàidhlig (first published in 1976), we find aosda and dlùthshreathan, where this volume has aosta and dlùth shreathan.
Other Sources
Further Reading Byrne, Michel, ‘Bàrdachd Mhic Iain Dheòrsa, The Original Poems of George Campbell Hay (an annotated edition)’, unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1992.
Hay, George Campbell, Fuaran Slèibh (Glasgow, [1948]: [n. pub.]).
Hay, George Campbell, Wind on Loch Fyne (Edinburgh, 1948: [n. pub.]).
Hay, George Campbell, O na Ceithir Àirdean (Edinburgh, 1952: Oliver and Boyd).
Hay, George Campbell, Mochtàr is Dùghall (Glasgow, 1982: University of Glasgow, Department of Celtic Languages).
MacLean, Sorley; Hay, George Campbell; Neill, William; and MacGregor, Stuart, Four Points of a Saltire (Edinburgh, 1970: Reprographia).
Martin, Angus, Kintyre: The Hidden Past (Edinburgh, 1984: J. Donald).
Thompson, Derick S., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Glasgow, 1994: Gairm).
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