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Metadata for text 333
No. words in textN/A
Title Steall à Iomadh Lòn
Author Mac a’ Phearsain, Seonaidh Ailig
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 2011
Date Of Language 2000-
Publisher CLÀR
Place Published Inverness
Volume N/A
Geographical Origins North Uist
Register Literature, Prose
Alternative Author Name John Alick
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 20cm x 14.1cm
Short Title Steall à Iomadh Lòn
Reference Details NLS: PB5.212.232/14
Number Of Pages vi, 398
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Seonaidh Ailig Mac a’ Phearsain (John Alick MacPherson), (1938-2017) was born in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, to Archie MacPherson (Gilleasbuig Sheonaidh Ghobha), merchant seaman and crofter from Hougharry, North Uist and Chirsty MacLennan (Ciorstaidh Anna Aonghais Dhòmhnaill), a weaver from Scalpay, Harris. The family stayed in Leverburgh, Harris before moving to Goular, North Uist. After being educated locally, MacPherson then attended Portree High School, after which he attended the University of Edinburgh and graduated in Celtic Studies.
After teacher training at Jordanhill College, he taught at Paible School, North Uist, before joining the BBC in 1964. MacPherson was one of an outstanding group to develop Gaelic broadcasting from the 1960s to its current status, with a dedicated radio station and television channel firmly embedded within the output of the BBC. In 1961 MacPherson was crowned Bàrd of An Comann Gàidhealach at the Annual Mod in Stirling for a metaphor on Gaelic’s struggle called An t-Slabhraidh (pp. 367-72). He contributed to many other Gaelic initiatives and also pursued an entirely separate career within the Canadian civil nuclear industry when he moved there in 1972.
He was never long out of touch with the Gaelic community at home and, on returning in 1997, became deputy director of Comataidh Craolaidh Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee) at a crucial stage in its evolution as forerunner of a Gaelic television channel. He was also instrumental in compiling the MacPherson Report, which led to the establishment of Bòrd na Gàidhlig as a government agency charged with pursuing measures to stabilise, and then increase, the number of Gaelic speakers. This was eventually followed by the Gaelic Language Act of 2005, which gave official status to Gaelic for the first time.
Among his other appointments, he served on the boards of Caledonian MacBrayne, the publishers Acair, the Celtic Media Festival, Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (Gaelic Books Council) and Assynt Film. He was appointed to the UK Atomic Energy Authority board in 2002. After nine years, he returned to Cape Breton and settled near Mira River, a district where many residents are descended from pioneers cleared from North Uist. He continued the commitment to his native language through board membership of the Gaelic College at St Anne’s, also taking a deep interest in the Beaton Archives at Cape Breton University which preserve the cultural heritage of the island. He sang in the Mira Gaelic Choir, taught Gaelic in the local church hall and was a hands-on president of the Atlantic Gaelic Academy, which provides online courses to learners in many countries.
A great story-teller, his memoir, Steall à Iomadh Lòn (2011), is regarded as a classic of modern Gaelic writing. He collaborated with Michael Linkletter of St Francis Xavier University to produce Fògradh, Fàisneachd, Filidheachd (Parting, Prophecy, Poetry), which received good reviews. His final work was a translation of Gaelic letters sent to the Cape Breton newspaper Mac-Talla by John Munro after he left Canada to live in Waipu, New Zealand, around the turn of the last century.
MacPherson passed away, aged 79, in Cape Breton.
Contents The volume opens with a brief biography (p. i) which is followed by the title (p. iii) after which appears the contents list (pp. v-vi), acknowledgements (pp. 7-8) and then an introduction (pp. 9-12). The main text then follows, divided into 10 chapters. There then follows ‘Dèidh-ràdh’ ‘Afterwords’ (pp. 361-98) which is divided into 5 sections.
Language The text follows a chronological order, but it may not be considered a conventional autobiography, in that the author in the earlier chapters has a tendency to delve into historical narratives, and taps into the rich vein of Gaelic story-telling; thus there is the clear influence of a story-telling register. The text is written in flowing, natural and idiomatic style, with touches of humour in which the richness of Gaelic phrasing is clearly present such as: Siubhal nan Seachd Sitigean (p. 9), steall à iomadh lòn (p. 10), cluinnidh mi air a’ chluais as buidhre e (p. 10).
There are also quite a few examples of proverbial phrases scattered throughout the text, and proverbial sayings make a fairly regular occurrence, such as: Cha chumar taigh le beul dùinte (p. 10), an rud nach buin dhut na buin dha (p. 11), an rud a chluinneas na big ’s e chanas na big (p. 26), B’ annsa leam ministear-maide na madadh-ministeir (p. 36), Mas breug bhuam e ’s breug thugam e (p. 317).
Usually an intrusive a is retained in such phrases as dhan a’ chraidhneach (p. 9).
Occasional English words, e.g.: feldspar (p. 19), strap (p. 198). Some Gaelicised words, e.g.: organaiceach (p. 65), purgaid (p. 117), greàta (p. 121), teileagram (p. 126), reactar niùclasach (p. 268).
Also of note is technical vocabulary for weaving: slinn, slinn-chlàr, garmain-uchd, spàl, iomlannan, bioranaichean, casachain, lianradh, fuaintean, rollagan, fuigheagan (p. 64).
Unusual words which may reflect the Gaelic dialect of North Uist include: gu h-àraidh (p. 8), a’ sainnseagraich (p. 20), sniodhan (p. 21), raspars (p. 25).
Also of note is a translation of Robert Burns’s Holy Willie’s Prayer (pp. 363-66) and MacPherson’s own composition, An t-Slabhraidh (pp. 367-72), with which he won An Comann Gàidhealach’s Bardic Crown.

The language reflects the Gaelic dialect of North Uist and is replete with words and phrases from that island.
Orthography The orthography conforms to the early twenty-first century. Only grave accent is used.
Edition First edition.
Further Reading MacIllinnein, Ùisdean, ‘Mo charaid—Seonaidh Mac a’ Phearsain—taistealaiche air allban’, West Highland Free Press, no. 2367 (8 September 2017), 14.
Wilson, Brian, ‘Obituary: Seonaidh Mac A’ Phearsain: Broadcaster who played a big part in Gaelic gaining official status’, The Scotsman (6 September 2017), 35.
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