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Metadata for text 47
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Title Sporan Dhòmhnaill (Gaelic Poems and Songs by the late Donald MacIntyre, the Paisley Bard)
Author MacIntyre, Donald
Editor MacMillan, Somerled
Date Of Edition 1968
Date Of Language 1900-1949
Publisher Oliver and Boyd for the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume 10 (Scottish Gaelic Texts Society)
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins South Uist
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Dòmhnall Ruadh Phàislig
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 22.7cm x 14.8cm
Short Title Sporan Dhòmhnaill
Reference Details Edinburgh Central Library, Scottish Lending: PB 1648.231
Number Of Pages xxx, 418
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Donald MacIntyre, also known as Dòmhnall Ruadh Phàislig, was born in Snishival, in South Uist, in 1889. His father was a crofter who had a good knowledge of both Gaelic and English, and his mother was ‘richly endowed with the songs and poems and proverbial sayings of her island home’ (p. xvi). They had a large family, with eight children who survived into adulthood. Dòmhnall Ruadh was the youngest boy in the family, there being a younger sister, Catherine. As well as his talent as a bard, Dòmhnall Ruadh was also an excellent piper and Highland dancer, winning prizes in both these arts. He was not, however, a particularly good singer.

Dòmhnall Ruadh went to school in South Uist. When he left, aged 14, it is believed that he had some tuition in stonemasonry and began his trade in Harris. Another view is that his skills were learned watching others build dry-stone dykes. Dòmhnall Ruadh joined the 3rd Battalion, the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, before the First World War, and became Lochiel’s piper. During the war, he served in the 5th Battalion as the regimental piper. After the war, with his period of service over, Dòmhnall Ruadh returned to South Uist, to Kildonan, where his father was now living. He spent a while lobster fishing before looking elsewhere for work during the Depression. He spent time in Lochaber (as a telephone linesman) and Perthshire, Greenock and Glasgow (as a labourer and bricklayer), before finally settling in Paisley. Dòmhnall Ruadh married Mary MacLellan from South Uist in 1930. He had a happy married life and he and his wife had four children, Morag, Angus, Catherine, and Anne. Dòmhnall Ruadh was ill for some time before he died and, at one point, becoming disillusioned about people’s opinion of his poetry, had to be prevented from burning his life’s work by his daughter, Morag. In January 1964, Dòmhnall Ruadh took a turn and fractured his skull as he fell. He died in hospital less than a week later, and was buried in Hawkhead Cemetery, Paisley.

Dòmhnall Ruadh gained much of his knowledge of the language and songs of South Uist from his mother and from others in the community. He learned a number of waulking songs from Finlay MacCormick, which he then passed on to Màiri nighean Alasdair ’ic Dhomhnaill, from whom the songs were collected and published as Òrain Luaidh Màiri Nighean Alasdair, in 1949. Dòmhnall Ruadh had a wonderful memory and could recite poems by a number of composers, such as John MacCodrum and Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alastair, by heart. He also had an extensive knowledge of island history and folklore, some of which he may have gained from his brother-in-law, Duncan MacDonald (Donnchadh Clachair or Donnchadh Mac Dhòmhnaill ’ac Dhonnchaidh) in Peninerine. Much of this lore was collected by the School of Scottish Studies.

The editor claims in the Introduction that the long literary tradition in South Uist, particularly that of MacMhuirich bards, contributed to the richness of the Gaelic spoken in the island. He also speculates that the influence of two Irish missionaries in the early seventeenth century, and their successful attempts to counter the Reformation in the island, may have influenced the South Uist dialect – ‘on their thought and modes of speech’ (p. xxiv) – pointing to words of Irish origin which can be found scattered through Dòmhnall Ruadh’s extensive vocabulary. Dòmhnall Ruadh was also familiar with Greek mythology (as can be seen in his magnum opus Aeòlas agus am Balg, pp. 61-83) and was keenly interested in current affairs. He was also familiar with the works of such English and Scots language poets as Gray and Burns. In the Introduction, the editor quotes Derick S. Thomson on the bard’s breadth of vision and linguistic virtuosity: ‘In one sense it is as though one of the eighteenth-century poets had been alive in our midst in the twentieth century. Here we find the same teeming vocabulary, the same fluency in using Gaelic, the same mastery of metre. Yet in another sense the poetry is undeniably of our time, in its subject-matter and in its attitudes. … The poetry has tremendous verve, wit and humour, and a richness of linguistic texture which is probably unequalled in this century’ (pp. xxv-xxvi).

One of Dòmhnall Ruadh’s earliest compositions seems to have been Cùirt nan Con (pp. 278-81), which was shortly followed by Triall gu Cùirt nan Con (pp. 282-83). These songs arose when the owner of Benbecula, South Uist and Barra, Lady Gordon Cathcart, decided to prohibit crofters on these islands from keeping dogs, unless they had a licence. The crofters complained. Although Dòmhnall Ruadh was only around 24 at the time, he was chosen to represent the township at a specially constituted Court to make a decision on the matter. The decision went with the crofters. In 1938, Dòmhnall Ruadh was awarded the Bardic Crown at the National Mod in Glasgow for Aeòlas agus am Balg (pp. 61-83).
Contents This volume begins with a short Preface by the editor (pp. 5-6), Acknowledgements (p.6), a table of Contents (pp. vii-ix), an Index of First Lines (pp. x-xii), a list of Text Books Consulted (p. xiii), and a list of Abbreviations (p. xiv). There follows an Introduction (pp. xv-xxx) which contains sections entitled ‘Genealogical and Biographical’, ‘Literary Background’, and ‘Sources of the Text and Editorial Policy’.

The main body of the text is presented in Sporan Dhomhnaill (pp. 1-341), which contains 84 poems, including two translations from Scots (Tómas Seanntair, pp. 315-26, and An Dà Chù, pp. 327-38) and one translation from English (Loch nan Geàrr, pp. 339-41). This is followed by a section of Notes (pp. 342-82), which includes information on the people and places mentioned in the poems and on language and orthography, and details of where poems have been published previously.

At the end of the volume we find an Index of Persons, etc. (pp. 383-85), an Index of Places (pp. 386-88), and a Glossary (pp. 389-418) of Gaelic terms from South Uist which are used in the poems. The editor acknowledges, in the Preface, the help of Mr John MacMillan from Bornish, Mr Donald John MacDonald from Peninerine, and Mr John MacInnes from Daliburgh, in regard to matters of South Uist vocabulary and usage.
Sources The songs in this edition come from three main sources: (1) Dòmhnall Ruadh’s own manuscripts containing fifty-five compositions including Aeòlas agus am Balg; (2) Manuscripts in the possession of Mr MacMillan, Bornish, which contain twelve compositions; and (3) Captain Donald Joseph MacKinnon’s notebooks, which contain around twelve compositions. A further three songs were collected from Domhnall Ruadh’s sister, Mrs Hugh MacColl, and from Mr John MacInnes, Daliburgh.
Language The editor explains in the Introduction that in the source manuscripts ‘[s]pelling on the whole is very good, but punctuation is practically non-existent’ (p. xxviii). The editor has therefore added punctuation where necessary. He has retained, as far as possible, the orthography used by the bard, and has consulted with a number of people from South Uist as to dialectal forms of words. For example, where Dòmhnall Ruadh uses a double l in words that are usually spelt with a single l, the editor was informed that the words were pronounced as if with a double l in South Uist. Interestingly, the editor comments that some common South Uist word forms were not used by Dòmhnall Ruadh. For example, while the word lig is often used in preference to leig in South Uist, it was not used by the bard; likewise the bard preferred the forms culaidh-ghràin and culaidh-sgràth to cula-ghràin' and cula-sgràth which seem to have been more common in South Uist.

Dòmhnall Ruadh’s songs cover a variety of topics, including South Uist (e.g. Moladh Uibhist, pp. 3-7 and Uibhist Uain’ An Eòrna, pp. 10-13) and the South Uist poets (Moladh Nam Bàrd Uibhisteach, pp. 23-24), the First and Second World Wars (e.g. Naomh Bhalaraidh agus Dun-Circe, pp. 43-46, and Òran nam Beairtean Adhair, pp. 243-45), and local and current affairs. His nationalist sympathies can be seen from the songs Òran na Cloiche (pp. 147-52) and Nuair a chaidh a’ Chlach a thilleadh (pp. 153-55). A number of his songs are humorous, such as Duan na h-Àirigh no Aoir nan Rodan (pp. 28-30), Bùth Dhomhnaill ’Ic Leòid (pp. 160-63), and An Coileach a chaidh air chall ’s a’ phosta (pp. 198-202), and he was well known for his often lengthy satirical poems, for example, Aoir an Luchd-riaghlaidh (pp. 266-77), and A******r S**r*ch (pp. 175-84).

Dòmhnall Ruadh did not write much about love, with the exception of Fhir, a Dhìreas am Bealach (pp. 84-87) which he composed for his wife. Nor did he write much about religion, although religion appears in Cuir romhad Bliadhn’ Ùr (pp. 189-92), Fàilte an Diabhuil Do’n Droch Dhuine (pp. 193-97), and in a humorous poem Ma B’Fhìor Gun Do Thionndaidh Bean Eòin (pp. 240-42) about a Catholic man marrying a Protestant woman. There are also two songs in this collection about Gaelic: Fàilt air na Gàidheil (p. 132-43) and Òran air Cor na Gàidhlig (pp. 141-43). There are only three elegies in this collection, one that Dòmhnall Ruadh composed for his brother (Cumha Bràthar, pp. 248-52), and two that he composed for King George VI (Marbhrann Do’n Rìgh, pp. 253-55, and Marbhrann Eile Do’n Rìgh, pp. 256-57). He also composed two songs in praise of Queen Elizabeth (Crùnadh Ealasaid, p. 258, and Òran Do’n Bhàn-Righ Ealasaid, pp. 259-61).

Around the time of the Second World War and thereafter, Domhnall Ruadh composed a number of songs relating to world events and their local impact. These include Aoir Mhussolìnidh (pp. 262-65), Aoir an Luchd-Riaghlaidh (pp. 266-77), O, Faighibh Suas An Cogadh (pp. 291-92), and Na Rocaidean (pp. 293-294), about the Rocket Range that was built in Uist. In his later years, Domhnall Ruadh composed a number of songs about illness and old age after he had fallen ill with influenza, from which he never really recovered: Òran a’ Chnatain Mhóir (pp. 302-06), So A’ Bhliadhn’ Thug A-Nuas Mi (pp. 307-08), ’S e Mo Chaochladh Mór a Thàinig (pp. 309-10) and Caochladh nam Fonn (pp. 311-13).

In particular, this text contains words and expressions descriptive of bad weather, e.g. in An Turus Cuain (pp. 53-55), Giomadairean Àird-Mhaoile (pp. 56-58), Gaoth an Iar (pp. 203-04), and Aeòlas agus am Balg (pp. 61-83). For example, in An Turus Cuain we find ‘Gun cocadh i ri cuantannan, \ ’S gum plocadh i fo guaillean iad \ Le bòc-thonnan cho cruaidh-bhuilleach \ Ri bualadair an eòrna’ (p. 55), and in Aeòlas agus am Balg, we find ‘Iorghuill uamhasach nan tonn \ Le’m bilean crom a-steach gu tràigh, \ Osnaich balg-séididh Aeòluis \ ’Gan toirt beò gu ceòthach bàn. \ Dh’éirich suas gach sìlean gainmhich, \ Rùisg a’ mhealbhach chun nan cnàmh, \ Caorann is caol-dubh ’gan spìonadh \ Is an fhreumhaichean an sàs’ (p. 71).

The songs also contain quite a lot of terms descriptive of houses and housing. This can be found in various songs, including Duan na h-Àirigh no Aoir nan Rodan (pp. 28-30), Aeòlas agus am Balg (pp. 61-83), and MacPhàil is MacThómais no Òran an Leisgeadair (pp. 102-23). In Nuair a Thàinig Am Buroo Do Dhùthaich nam Beann (pp. 211-15) we find ‘’S ioma fàrdach gun loinn \ Air bheag àirneis ’na broinn \ Bha eadar Arainn is Beinn Charbhaig, \ Far am biodh an sparr-ghaoith \ A’ cur thairis le sùith, \ ’S nach do ghlanadh bho linn Charmaig i; \ Gum b’e ’n t-ùrlar am poll \ Air a stampadh fo’m bonn, \ Ach gun crathadh iad tonn ghainmhich air, \ Agus fraighnigh ’na sruth \ Leis na ballachan dubh’, \ An rud’s lugha orra ’n diugh ainmeachadh’ (pp. 214-15).

This text also contains a number of terms which have been adopted from English, including, nach ùisinnich (p. 22), mòilsgein (p. 230), geangbhuidh ‘gangway’ (p. 239), geigeil ‘giggle’ (p. 321), and obalodhaidh ‘hullabaloo’ (p. 337).
Orthography The strength of this collection lies in the author’s total mastery of spoken and literary Gaelic and in the virtuosity with which he uses the language to construct his verses. A number of terms taken from the Notes and from the Glossary indicate the wealth of vocabulary to be found in this text: ceapaire na h-òrdaig ‘bread that was buttered using the thumb and covered with cheese’ (p. 36), an-uair ‘bad weather, a storm’ (p. 67), beumal ‘sarcastic’ (p. 92), deàrrsach meaning ‘heavy rain’ (p. 99), torrag ‘flue of a kiln’ (p. 111), aradh ‘a hen roost or receptacle for lumber overhead’ (p. 116), bùilleasg ‘pot-hook’ (p. 171), clais-ghual ‘charcoal from the embers of a peat fire’ (p. 182), ceamhraig is the same as Fr. Allan’s ceanraig ‘difficult to bring to reason’ (p. 196), A’ dol ’s an deachamh ‘gradually dying out’ (p. 208), leugan do chalpa ‘a ‘smasher’ of a leg!’ (p. 209), aolach ‘manure’ (p. 284), eadar-dhà-lùnn ‘between sinking and swimming, floundering’ (p. 304), and Fear-nach-can ‘the devil’ (p. 316). In addition, the poet uses ruinn rather than rainn (e.g. p.101), duathar rather than dubhar (p. 180), and meoghlan rather than meanglan (p. 195). The word orra is used in place of air do (p. 199), blioghadh is used for milking (p. 317), and ioma is used rather than iomadh (e.g p. 214).

The orthography is that of the late 20th century before GOC.
Edition A number of the poems had been published previously in Gairm. In some cases, the version in Gairm differs slightly from the version in this edition. For example Gairm 17 (1956) begins Sporan Dhòmhnaill: ‘An uair a bha mi sìngilte / Gum biodh mo phòca glìongadaich’ (p. 47), whereas this volume has ‘Nuair a bha mi sìngilte, \ ’S a bha mo phòca gliongadaich’ (p. 164). The editor of this volume states that the songs published here were taken directly from manuscript sources. This raises the possibility that these changes were introduced by Dòmhnall Ruadh himself.

The text in this volume differs in numerous minor ways from that published in Gairm. For example, when comparing the two versions of Òran na Cloiche (pp. 147-52), it can be seen that Gairm 3 has a mach, dh’an, uabhar, and thainig i a Eireann, while this volume has a-mach, dha ’n, uamhar, and thàinig i á Éireann. A number of the songs in this volume have since been published in An Tuil. In An Tuil, the orthography has been modernised to an extent, e.g. ’S e becomes Se, and only one accent is used.
Other Sources
Further Reading Black, Ronald, An Tuil (Edinburgh, 1999: Polygon), 742-46.
Craig, K. C., Òrain Luaidh Màiri Nighean Alasdair (Glasgow, [1949]: A. Matheson).
Mac-an-t-Saoir, Domhnull, ‘Oran na Cloiche’, Gairm, 3 (1953), 62-63.
MacIntyre, Donald, ‘Sporan Dhomhnaill’, Gairm, 17 (1956), 47-50.
McDonald, Fr. Allan, Gaelic Words and Expressions from South Uist and Eriskay (Dublin, 1958: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies).
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