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Metadata for text 311
No. words in text28261
Title Uibhist a Deas: beagan mu eachdraidh is mu bheul-aithris an eilein
Author MacDhòmhnaill, Dòmhnall Iain
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1981
Date Of Language 1950-1999
Publisher Acair
Place Published Stornoway
Volume N/A
Geographical Origins South Uist
Register Education, Prose
Alternative Author Name Donald John MacDonald; Dòmhnall Iain Dhonnchaidh
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 21cm x 15.7cm
Short Title Uibhist a Deas
Reference Details NLS HP2.82.1023
Number Of Pages iv, 64
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator Anndra MacMhoirein
Social Context Donald John MacDonald (Dòmhnall Iain Dhonnchaidh) was born in Peninerine, South Uist, in 1919, the second youngest in a family of four. There were poets in his family on both his mother’s and father’s sides. His mother, Margaret Macintyre (Mairead nighean Aonghais Ruaidh ’ic Nìll ’ic Dhòmhnaill ’ic Dhòmhnaill ’ic Iain, 1880-1952), was Dòmhnall Ruadh Phàislig’s sister, and his father, Duncan MacDonald (Donnchadh Clachair, or Donnchadh mac Dhòmhnaill ’ic Dhonnchaidh, 1882-1954, as he was known locally) was a storyteller who claimed his ancestry from the MacRuairidh bards of Clan Donald. Donald John was very close to his younger sister Ann, and as their father (a stonemason) was often away from home, partly due to his storytelling commitments, it was their uncle, Neil (a joiner, with whom they shared the house), who had the greatest influence on Donald John and his younger sister Ann as they were growing up.
 
Donald John first heard English at school in Howmore. He did not like school at all, and was happy to leave at the age of 14 to work on the croft. His older brother, Donald Eòin, who had gone on to further education in Fort William, died of TB at the age of 21, before Donald John had left school. At this point, there was no pressure for Donald John to leave the island and further his education. He therefore opted to stay at home on the croft, where he learned from his uncle Neil about the folklore and poetry of the island, and about the rhyming schemes of the 17th and 18th centuries. The work of eighteenth-century North Uist bard John MacCodrum greatly influenced him, and he frequently heard MacCodrum’s work sung by his father and his uncle.
 
At the age of 18, Donald John and his friends joined the Militia. When war broke out he found himself in the Highland Division and, after being taken prisoner in 1940, he spent five years interned in a camp in Germany. His recollections from this time have been published in Fo Sgail a’ Swastika (1974 and 2000, see Text 34).
 
After the war, Donald John returned to Peninerine and in 1948, aged 29, won the Bardic Crown (including the Ailsa Trophy) at the Glasgow Mod for his poem Moladh Uibhist. In the following years, Donald John struck up an acquaintance with Grimsay bard Mary MacLean and for a time they became romantically involved. Mary broke off the engagement, however, partly due to social pressure because Donald John was a Catholic, and partly to retain her independence. Donald John eventually married his next door neighbour’s niece Nellie (Neilina) MacNeil in 1954, and in 1955 their daughter Margaret was born.
 
Donald John remained at the croft in Peninerine until his death in 1986. During his lifetime, as well as writing poetry and prose, he collected folklore from the area for the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh and became quite well known as a folklorist. Of his published work, Sguaban Eòrna (1973) was his first book of poetry. After Fo Sgail a’ Swastika came Uibhist a Deas (1981) on the history and traditions of South Uist. In addition, some of his poetry was published in the Stornoway Gazette and in Gairm. Donald John also wrote a number of hymns which were published in the 1986 hymnal Seinnibh dhan Tighearna. He was introduced to the idea of writing hymns by Ishabel T. MacDonald in the late 1970s, who showed him some of Seán Ó Riada’s work in Irish. Ishabel herself set many of his hymns to music, as did Fr. Roderick MacNeil, and the hymns became some of Donald John’s most popular works. Donald John also did some translation work, completing a translation of Gray’s Elegy in the late 1940s and in the 1980s, he completed translations of a number of well known classical arias.
Contents The volume begins with a Foreword (p. 5) in which the author concedes that the book is not intended as a conventional or indeed a definitive history of South Uist. Rather it is a social history based upon oral materials/narratives, and primarily focuses upon island life from the nineteenth century onwards, and the many changes that subsequently occurred. Then follows original poetry composed by the author: ‘A’ Bhliadhna Uibhisteach’ (p. 6). Themes include: myth, land use, crofting, clearance, militarisation, fishing, population, diet, milling, health, education, Catholicism, employment, pastimes, the ceilidh house, supernatural tales, and ‘tall tales’. The volume is divided into seven sections: 1. ‘Iomradh goirid air eachdraidh an eilein’ (pp. 7-13); 2. ‘Na Fuadaichean’ (pp. 14-17), 3; ‘Dòigh-beatha agus teachd-an-tìr’ (pp. 18-26); 4. ‘Gnìomhachas agus cur seachad ùine’ (pp. 27-31); 5. ‘Beul-aithris’ (pp. 32-48) which is further subdivided into five sections: ‘Clann ’ic Ailein’ (pp. 32-39), ‘Clann ’ic Mhuirich’ (pp. 39-43), ‘A’ Mhaighdeann-mhara’ (pp. 43-44), ‘Na Sìthichean’ (pp. 44-45), ‘Taibhsean is manaidhean’ (pp. 45-48); 6. ‘A-measg nam Bodach’ (pp. 49-57); 7. ‘A’ Chrìochnachadh’ (pp. 58-60). This is followed by Appendix 1: ‘Dòmhnallaich Chlann Raghnaill’ (pp. 61-64) and Appendix 2: ‘Aireamh sluagh Uibhist a Deas bho 1801 gu 1971’ (p. 64).
Language In general the language is written in a clear, laconic fashion which is easy to comprehend. The narrative tends to flow in a chronological fashion, reflecting the social changes that took place before and during the author’s own lifetime. The author’s charm and thoughtful reflections on his island upbringing are complemented by his authoritative and wide-ranging knowledge of South Uist history and oral tradition. Perhaps at that time no-one was better placed than Donald John to write such a volume. Direct speech is used in the sections concerning oral tradition (see above) and may be described as being in a story-telling register, where occasionally the author gives his own personal view of things.
 
Very occasionally words are glossed, e.g., na h-ionadan-claidh no hatcheries (p. 28), simid (p. 40).
 
The text appears to be free of typographical errors.

Some of the spellings and phrases reflect the use of a South Uist dialect, e.g.: ’na dheaghaidh seo (p. 10), air an dà eaglais mhóir (p. 12), gan leantail (p. 14), ’Na mo bheachd-sa (p. 17), gu ìre bhig (p. 21), los gu fanadh (p. 27), gun e (p. 49) rather than gur h-e/gur e, a’ smaointinn (p. 52).
Orthography The spelling conforms generally to the orthography of the late twentieth century, with the exception that the acute and grave accents have been retained. No accents appear upon capital letters.
Edition First edition.
Further Reading Black, Ronald I. M. (ed.), An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Edinburgh, 2002: Birlinn), 779-81.
MacDhòmhnaill, Domhnull Iain, Fo Sgail a’ Swastika (Inbhirnis, 1974: Club Leabhar).
MacDhòmhnaill, Domhnull Iain, Sguaban Eòrna (Inbhirnis, 1973: Club Leabhar).
MacDhòmhnaill, Domhnull Iain, ‘Dorlach Dhan’, Gairm, vol. 127 (1984), 262-66.
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