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Metadata for text 46
No. words in text135920
Title Saoghal an Treobhaiche
Author MacLellan, Angus
Editor Campbell, John Lorne
Date Of Edition 1972
Date Of Language 1950-1999
Publisher Club Leabhar
Place Published Inverness
Volume N/A
Location National and local (reference) libraries
Geographical Origins South Uist
Register Literature, Prose
Alternative Author Name Aonghas Mac ’Ill’ Fhialain (‘Aonghas Beag’)
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 22.9cm x 14.9cm
Short Title Saoghal an Treobhaiche
Reference Details NLS: 1973.73
Number Of Pages [10], 234
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Angus MacLellan was born in 1869 at Poll Torain, Loch Eynort, in South Uist. He had three older brothers and four sisters. His mother, Catherine Wilson, was from Benbecula, but his father’s side of the family had always lived in South Uist, around Loch Eynort and Benmore. His father was a landless cottar on land belonging to the farmer who owned Bornish. He was allowed to cultivate what land he could with a spade (he was not allowed to keep a horse) and had to pay rent for every cow he kept. MacLellan had little formal education, spending just over two years at school until he fell ill at the age of seven.

In 1889, MacLellan joined the Militia (the Second Battalion of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders) at Muir of Ord, and when he had served his time, he spent two and a half years working as a ploughman for a farmer at Tirinie, Perthshire. He spent most of his working life as a ploughman, doing various other jobs in between times. When he left Tirinie, MacLellan spent a year working at Borenich on Loch Tummel-side, nearly two and a half years at Rowardennan on Loch Lomond-side, and around three years at the Dalmally Hotel. In 1907, MacLellan returned to Uist to help with his father’s newly acquired croft at Loch Eynort. After the death of his parents, MacLellan moved to Frobost, a few miles away, to stay with relatives. He stayed there until his death in 1966, at the age of 97.

Campbell describes MacLellan as ‘one of the last great Gaelic storytellers’, who included in his repertoire ‘all classes of the oral tradition’ (p. 1), including folktales, ballads, and songs, as well as anecdotes and stories about his own life. He was recorded extensively by both Campbell and the School of Scottish Studies, and 42 of the folktales and stories recorded by Campbell were published, in translation, in Stories from South Uist, in 1961. Campbell describes the present volume as ‘the first autobiography of a Hebridean crofter, told in his everyday colloquial Gaelic, ever to have been composed’ (p. 1). Campbell recorded MacLellan talking about his life between January 1960 and April 1961. These recordings were transcribed and then translated, and were published in 1962 as The Furrow Behind Me. Two further incidents were recorded in 1964 and have been included in the Gaelic version which was published in Norway in 1965, and in Scotland in 1972. Campbell comments that the language used by MacLellan in his reminiscences ‘differed considerably’ from that used in his traditional folktales and ballads. The language he used when reciting tales from the oral tradition can be judged from, for example, his version of the story of Conall Gulbann, printed in TGSI 44 (1967, pp. 163-76). In 1965, MacLellan was awarded an M.B.E. for his services to the Gaelic language. MacLellan’s sister, Mrs Campbell (Bean Nìll) also had a reputation in folklore circles and was particularly well known for her repertoire of waulking songs.

John Lorne Campbell was born in Edinburgh in 1906. He was the eldest son of Colonel Duncan Campbell, the laird of Inverneill in Argyll, and of Ethel Harriet from New Jersey in America. On leaving school, Campbell studied rural economy at Oxford and graduated in 1929. In 1930, he was awarded a diploma, also in rural economy. In addition to rural economy, Campbell studied Gaelic at Oxford with John Fraser, the Professor of Celtic at Jesus College. Campbell had first become interested in Gaelic, through hearing it spoken in Oban during his teenage years. In 1933, Campbell published his Highland Songs of the Forty-Five. In that same year, he travelled to Barra where he met Compton Mackenzie, and the two men set up the Sea League which campaigned for local fishermen’s rights. Their paper The Sea Leaguer included some Gaelic articles. The two men also worked together on The Book of Barra (published in 1936), which was intended to raise money for the Sea League. It was during the preparation of this book that Campbell met Margaret Fay Shaw (see Text 49), who was then living in South Uist. They met in 1934 and married the next year in Glasgow. They then spent three years in Barra, before moving to the island of Canna, which Campbell bought in 1938. They were based in Canna for the rest of their lives, farming and encouraging the community there. Their home at Canna House became an archive of books, sound recordings, and photographs, relating to Gaelic and to Highland life and culture. They had no children, but travelled widely. Both Campbell and Shaw visited Nova Scotia, and collected songs from the Gaelic communities there. Campbell’s Songs Remembered in Exile was published in 1990. They visited North America and the continent regularly, but most of their research was centred around South Uist, Barra, Eriskay, and Canna.

Campbell’s publications covered a variety of topics related to Gaelic and to Highland life, and include Gaelic in Scottish Education (1950), Father Allan McDonald of Eriskay, 1859-1905 (1954), Edward Lhuyd in the Scottish Highlands (1963), Strange Things: the Enquiry by the Society for Psychical Research into Second Sight in the Scottish Highlands (1968), A Collection of Highland Rites and Customs (1975), and Canna: the Story of a Hebridean Island (1984). Of particular note are the three volumes of Hebridean Folksongs, edited by Campbell and Francis Collinson (1969, 1977, and 1981). Campbell was interested in Highland development and conservation, and in environmental issues, and in 1939 he produced Act Now for the Highlands and Islands, a survey of the report of the Scottish Economic Committee, with Sir Alexander MacEwen. Campbell was also interested in all aspects of natural history, and in 1970 he published Macro-lepidoptera cannae: butterflies and moths of the Isle of Canna, Inner Hebrides. In 1981, Campbell gifted the island to the National Trust for Scotland, but Margaret and he continued to live on the island at Canna House. Campbell died in Italy on 25th April 1996, while he and his wife were on holiday. His wife died in 2004, at the age of 101. For information on Margaret Fay Shaw, see Text 49.
Contents This volume begins with an Introduction (pp. 1-3) in English by John Lorne Campbell, dated 10th November 1967. There follows a section noting the different Signs Used (p. 4). This short section explains that the symbol * is used throughout the text, in place of [sic], to denote that the word or words have been transcribed as they were pronounced, although their meaning may be questioned. Three dots (…) are used to represent inaudible words, † is used to denote uncertain words or phrases, and square brackets are used to denote words that do not appear on the tape but which were added later.

The main body of the text is presented in seven chapters, each comprising a number of stories. The stories are numbered 1-72 throughout the text. The chapters are as follows:

I. Uibhist a Deas (pp. 5-20), which covers MacLellan’s boyhood on South Uist.

II. Am Milisi (pp. 21-29), which covers MacLellan’s time in the Militia.

III. Taigh Rìnidh (pp. 30-65), which covers the two and a half years MacLellan spent working as a ploughman for Mr Robert Menzies at Tirinie, between 1889 and 1892 or 1893.

IV. Both Rainich (pp. 66-84), which covers the year MacLellan spent working for Mr Tommy MacDonald at Borenich on Loch Tummel-side.

V. Rowardennan (pp. 85-164), which covers the two and a half years MacLellan spent working for Mr Edward Kane at Rowardennan on Loch Lomand-side.

VI. Dail-Mhàilidh (pp. 165-88), which covers the three years MacLellan spent working as a ploughman at the Dalmally Hotel.

VII. Uibhist a rithist (pp. 189-208), which documents MacLellan’s return to Uist and his various exploits there, including topics such as fishing, hunting, and croftwork.

There follows a section of Notes (pp. 209-23), containing information on the people and places mentioned in the stories, information about when the recordings were made, and, more specifically, information on the language used – both vocabulary and pronunciation.

This volume ends with a Bibliography of other useful texts relating to the Uist dialect (pp. 224-25), and a Glossarial Index (pp. 226-34) containing terms not found in Dwelly’s Illustrated Gaelic to English Dictionary and terms that can be found in Dwelly’s dictionary, but only with a different meaning. It also contains dialectal forms of words.
Sources Interviews were conducted with MacLellan between January 1960 and April 1961. Additional recordings were made in 1964.
Language The text provides many glimpses of colloquial South Uist Gaelic from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. The transcriptions closely reflect the language of the recordings, both in word-forms and pronunciation, and the glossary at the back of the book lists the most distinctively South Uist words and phrases.

As mentioned above, the chapters focus on MacLellan’s boyhood in South Uist, his time in the militia, the years he spent as a ploughman on the mainland, and his return to Uist as an adult. The stories told in each chapter are presented in an informal, semi-storytelling register, as can be seen from the following excerpt: ‘Dhia, chunna sinn an seo speil lachain a’ tighinn, agus, o! laigh iad shìos dìreach aig bun na Ròdha as an uisge. ’S e sinn a bha air ar dòigh, ach dé na truaighe, thug sinn a’ seo an aire do dhithis ag ialadh sìos as a’ chladach air an taobh thall dha’n uisge, agus na coin ag ialadh as an deoghaidh. A Dhia, ’s e na geamciobairs a bha an seo; agu gu dé mar a gheobh sinn air falbh? no teicheadh?’ (p. 194).

As each chapter comprises a number of stories relating to a particular period in MacLellan’s life, rather than simply describing his experiences, we tend not to find thematically related vocabulary. For example, his stories entitled An t-Iasgach (pp. 189-94) and Sealgaireachd (pp. 194-95) contain very little Gaelic terminology relating specifically to fishing and hunting. There are some terms, such as air son nan liabag and air son nan langan ’s an truisg (p. 192), but much of the terminology is either non-specific, or consists of Gaelicised English words, such as na geamciobairean (p. 195) and na geamciobairs (p. 195).

MacLellan frequently used Scots and English loanwords and occasionally whole sentences in Scots or English. This was sometimes done for effect, but often occurred when there was no readily available Gaelic equivalent for a particular term. The editor has made no attempt to Gaelicise the spelling of such words and most of the loanwords have been italicised in the text, except where they have been ‘assimilated into the phonetic structure of Gaelic’ (p. 3). The editor admits, however, that it is often difficult to know ‘where to draw the line’. Loanwords appearing without italicisation in the text include many which are well established in Gaelic, e.g.: clìoradh (p. 9), ’n seachdamh peice diag (p. 11), ann an cùl an t-sead (p. 43), Thug am fear sin loinne dha dha’n drugaisd air son iodain (p. 73), an corc (p. 75), ann an tumalair (p. 75), clann nan geamciobairs ’s nam forastairs a’ poitseadh (p. 101-02), a theans (p. 103), trip (p. 131), ’gam bharganachadh (p. 131), as an hàl a’ siod and air a hàlmaid ‘hall-maid’ (p. 166), as an t-seop (p. 176), ’na huragain (p 189), oillsgins (p. 191), a’ flanainn (p. 191), and dithist gu math handaidh (p. 192).

There is also a lot of direct speech in the text, including a number of exclamations and asseverations. Examples include A Dhia m’ anam (p. 11), Da (p. 73), O, chreutair thruaigh (p. 73), o, chlann an deomhain! (p. 102), Hod, a Dhia (p. 132), O, hala ’s bheir an droch-àite ort, thu fhéin ’s do chuiseans! (p. 133), Cà robh thu an diu? (p. 152) and Cà’il (p. 153), A leabhar (p. 152), Dé rud tha thu ’g ràdh? (p. 153), Nuas do thruinnseir, a Chaluim (p. 167), Hùidseadh ort (p. 201), Mac an diabhoil (p. 206), Deara fhéin (p. 206). Such exclamations also appear, as narratorial interjections, in the body of the text, e.g.: ach a Dhia mhóir! (p. 73) and ach a Mhuire Mhàthair (p. 75).
Orthography The South Uist dialect may be reflected in the following forms and terms: bhuatha rather than bhuaithe (p. 5), cruit rather than croit (p. 5), na bu mhutha (p. 5), fuathasach (e.g. p. 5), urad, rather than uiread (e.g. p. 6), aon meaning ‘about, roughly’ e.g. bha i aon cheithir chiad slat (p. 6), reimhe (e.g. p. 7) beside roimhe (p. 154), iasgaidh rather than èasgaidh (p. 7), àsan rather than iadsan (p. 7), a’ coimhearspa ‘[not] waiting for the other man to do it first’ (p. 7), miadhain an taighe (p. 8), a’ toir’ a staigh an talmhana (p. 8), ’na dheoghaidh sin (p. 9), Biurla (p. 5), a’ dol air aghaidh (p. 9), riu rather than riutha (p. 10), na biodh sian a dh’eagal ort (p. 12), a’ deanamh na h-imprig a’ dol a null (p. 12), beagan bhliadhnachan (p. 13), searbhana (p. 13), rinn e taght’ oirbh (p. 72), Bha mi gus a dhol as mo rian (p. 73), inntse (p. 75), stoirm meaning ‘noise’ (p. 75), a nist (p. 102), cha n-urrainn e (p. 103) and cha n-urra mi a thoir’ dhut (p. 153), ga brì (p. 103), ’sa bith (p. 132), rointeach rather than raineach (p. 152), oirbh péin (p. 153), An dithist againn (p. 165) but also do dhithis (p. 194), ann an iomlaid cóig mionaidean (p. 169), collas (p. 176), and gu deara (p. 200). Also of interest is the use of mac and màthair in a h-uile mac oidhche (p. 72) and cha robh stiall mhàthar aodaich air (p. 83); the use of the short verbal forms, thàna (p. 153), cho math ’s a chunna mi riamh (p. 168), and Nuair a ràna sinn (p. 194); and the use of Thànaig' rather than Thàinig (p. 103). MacLellan uses a number of genitive forms ending in -(e)adh and -ach e.g. air feadh na h-oidhcheadh (p. 13), le na cairtean guail chon na h-àthadh suas (p. 42), and Nuair a bha mi dìreach na staighreadh (p. 176), and dative forms ending in -idh e.g. dha’n àthaidh (p. 43).

The Glossarial Index (pp. 226-34) includes ‘fleug, pl. fleugachan, fleugs, a hurdle’ (p. 230), ‘lit’ Innseineach, porridge made of maize meal’ (p. 231), and ‘straointe fosgailte, ajar (of a door)’ (p. 234).

The orthography is that of the mid-twentieth century. Of interest is the editor’s use of amm rather than àm (e.g. p. 6) and Hala rather than Thalla (p. 100); such spellings as fad an fhoghmhair (p. 131), iothlann (p. 194), and aointé (p. 205); his treatment of compound words such as a’ chiadfhear (p. 11), an ath-leithbhliadhna (p. 153), and deagh-thuarasdal (p. 103). Athoich and ath-oidhche are both used (p. 100), depending on where the stress falls. The editor notes that where -ea- is pronounced with an o-sound in South Uist, he writes -eo-, e.g.: leoghadh rather than leaghadh (p. 10). The verb dèan is frequently, but not always, spelt with an ia diphthong e.g. dhianainn-sa (p. 151).
Edition First published in Norway in 1965.
Other Sources
Further Reading Dwelly, Edward, Illustrated Gaelic to English Dictionary (Glasgow, 1973: Gairm).
MacLellan, Angus, The Furrow Behind Me, ed. by John Lorne Campbell (Edinburgh, 1997: Birlinn).
MacLellan, Angus, Stories from South Uist, ed. by John Lorne Campbell (Edinburgh, 1997: Birlinn).
MacLellan, Angus, ‘Conall Gulbann’, ed. John Lorne Campbell, TGSI, 44 (1967), 163-76.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
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