Reference Number50
TitleAn Neamhnaid Luachmhor
AuthorMacFhionghain, Eachann
Date Of Edition1990
Date Of Languageearly to mid 20c
Date Of Language Ed1900-1949
DateMacroMid 20th c.
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherStornoway Religious Bookshop
Place PublishedStornoway
LocationNational, academic, and local libraries
Geographical OriginsBernera, Harris
Geographical Origins EdHarris
GeoMacroHarris and N Uist
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterReligion, Verse
Register EdReligion, Verse
98 religious poems.
Poems include elegies, eulogies, poems on Biblical themes, poems about specific occasions, and poems about the First World War, all on religious themes.
The style style echoes that of preaching.
The text contains names and words found in the Bible, including Biblical names, a number of which have been Gaelicised.
This text also contains a number of synonyms for God and Jesus.
The Bernera dialect is not overly apparent in the poems.
Alternative Author NameN/A
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition21cm x 14.5cm
Short TitleAn Neamhnaid Luachmhor
Reference DetailsEUL: PB1648.M247Macf
Number Of Pagesx, 246
Gaelic Text ByN/A
Social ContextEachann MacFhionghain was born in Bernera, Harris in 1886. He spent most of his life on the island, with the exception of the First World War. He and two of his brothers were in the Navy during the War and both of his brothers lost their lives. It was his experiences during the War, particularly when his ship, HMS Ermine, was sunk in the Dardanelles, that brought about his religious conversion. After returning from the War, MacFhionghain worked as a postman on Bernera, and he continued in this job until his retirement in 1951. In 1921 he married Ceit NicLeòid and they had four children. After his conversion, MacFhionghain became a church elder and a lay preacher and he was highly respected and well-liked in his community. He also had the gift of prophecy – a gift that is said to have been common in spiritual preachers such as MacFhionghain.

There seems to have been a history of poetry in the family. MacFhionghain’s father, Fionnlagh MacFhionghain, was from Dervaig in Mull, and was related to Tiree Poet John MacLean (Bàrd Thighearna Chola). MacFhionghain’s mother, Màiri NicLeòid, was from Bernera and may have been related to Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh. Although MacFhionghain had composed a number of non-spiritual songs before his conversion, afterwards he restricted himself to spiritual verse. He always composed his songs to well-known Gaelic tunes and a number of his hymns have become very popular. MacFhionghain died in 1954, at the age of 67.
ContentsThis volume begins with a Clàr-Innse (pp. v-vii) and a Facal-Toisich by Rev. Aonghas MacPhàrlain (pp. ix-x). The main body of the text contains 98 poems. These include:

21 elegies, including Marbhrann do dh’Alasdair MacLeòid (Alasdair Dhòmhnaill Oig) (pp. 80-83) as if written by the dead man’s mother, and Marbhrann dhan Urr. Iain Moireasdan (Seonaidh a’ Mhinisteir) (pp. 85-87).

5 eulogies, including Cliù an Urr. Murchadh Moireasdan (pp. 87-89) and Laoidh dhan Urr. Tormod Moireasdan (Ministear a’ Mhachaire) (pp. 93-94).

5 elegies by other poets from Berneray and Scalpay, including his brother, composed in honour of MacFhionghain, e.g. Ionndrain (pp. 236-39) by Murchadh MacSuain, and Marbhrann do dh’Eachann (pp. 240-42) by Dòmhnall Màrtainn.

All of the poems in this volume are spiritual, and many are based on biblical themes, e.g. Iasgairean Ghalile (Èòin XXI) (pp. 27-29), Adhamh sa Ghàrradh (pp. 59-61), and Tìr Imànueil (1932) (pp. 162-64). A number of the poems were written about specific occasions, particularly prayer meetings, e.g. Comanachadh Bheàrnaraigh (8: 7: 28) (pp. 112-14) and Coinneamh am Bàgh a’ Chàise (27: 6: 30) (pp. 138-39). Bàthadh Bheàrnaraigh (1929) (pp. 129-31) mourns the loss of three boys from the island. The First World War appears in Laoidh dhan Chogadh Mhòr, 1914-18 (pp. 83-85) although this is a mainly spiritual poem and does not describe specific events that took place during the war. There is also one poem about Hitler, Rann do Hitler (7: 3: 40) (pp. 194-96), which again is mostly spiritual. One of the elegies, Marbhrann do dh’Ailean MacAsgaill (Ailean Dhonnchaidh) — 1951 (pp. 215-16) also touches on war.
SourcesThe sources of the poems are not stated, although thanks are given to the poet’s family and to Seonaidh MacPhilip, a Church of Scotland Elder, for their help, and to Oighrig NicGuaire who prepared the poems for publication. P. 155 contains a copy of two verses in the bard’s own handwriting, suggesting that the editor had access to a MS source of at least some of the poems. There is no mention of any of the songs having been published previously.
LanguageThis volume is a good source of religious terminology as commonly used by preachers. The poems contain a number of synonyms for an Slànaighear and Crìosda (p. 27), including Ard-Bhuachaille nan caorach (p. 16), len Gràdh-Fhear (p. 23), do Cheannard nan Dùl (p. 23) and Rìgh nan Dùil (p. 44), Ard-Rìgh na glòir (p. 23), Uan na Rèite (p. 27), an Tì (p. 27), Mhic a’ Ghràidh (p. 56), Ughdar nan Nèamhan (p. 64), Ard-Bhuachaille (p. 69), Rìgh na Sìthe (pp. 101-05), and Mac Dhè, an dara Pearsa (p. 207).

The poems include other biblical names and terms, such as an Triùir (p. 24), gu Pàrras (p. 24), an Ros o Shàron (p. 24), an Crann-ceusaidh (p. 27), slòigh nam Flaitheas sa Chùirt (p. 30), taigh Dhè (p. 30), An gàrradh Edein le Adhamh ’s Eubha (p. 36), am Mac Stròdhail (p. 48), do Thìr a’ Ghràidh (p. 56), and ’m Facal Fhèin (p. 79), and a number of Biblical names are given in Gaelic, for example Imànueil (p. 63), Ìordan (p. 78), Iehòbhah (p. 172-73), Calbhari (p. 183), Rut is Naòmi (p. 221), and Muire is Marta (p. 224).

Other commonly-used religious vocabulary includes, san àireamh (p. 23), dhan choinneamh-ùrnaigh (p. 26), peacadh (p. 135), San fhàsach ruith na rèis (p. 135), san t-sìorraidheachd thall (p. 226), an t-Ordugh (p. 227), Am pailliun crè (p. 231), and gu bràth (p. 231). It is worth noting that the poet uses Di-dòmhnaich rather than Latha na Sàbaid (e.g. p. 112).

A good example of MacFhionghain’s style of spiritual composition can be found in Ionndrain (8: 2: 30) (pp. 135-37). The second stanza reads ‘Gun annam a thaobh nàduir \ Na dh’àrdaicheas Thu Fhèin, \ Mur tig an driùchd cho gràsmhor \ Le frasan blàth bho Nèamh; \ Mar droigheann agus cluaran, \ Gun sùgh mun cuairt dhen fhreumh — \ Nach analaich Thu nuas oirnn \ On stòr tha shuas gun èis’ (p. 135). A good example of his Biblical writing can be found in Adhamh sa Ghàrradh (pp. 59-61). For example, the fourth stanza reads ‘’S e “Càit a bheil thu, m’Adhamh-sa?” \ An guth a ràinig e — \ “’N do dh’ith thu dhe na dh’àithn mi dhut \ Gun a chàradh na do bheul? \ ’N do chaill thu deagh-ghean m’fhàbhair-sa \ ’S mo làthaireachd gu lèir? \ ’N do dh’fhàg an sionnach luideach thu \ ’S tu rùisgte measg nan geug?”’ (p. 59). In regard to MacFhionghain’s war poems, Rann do Hitler (7: 3: 40) (pp. 194-96) begins ‘O Hitler thruaigh a ghluais na cinnich \ Gu buaireadh ’s cogadh às ùr, \ Nan toireadh tu buaidh bu truagh bhiodh sinne, \ Fo shluagh nas miosa na bhrùid, \ Le ceannardan cruaidh, gun truas, gun chanas, \ Gun bhàidh ri fhaicinn nan gnùis, \ Ach danarra, gruamach, uaibhreach, fearail — \ Na Nàsaich, fine gun diù’ (p. 194).
OrthographyThe Bernera dialect is not particularly evident in the text, although a number of orthographic points are noteworthy. Vowels have often been left out in the middle of words, e.g. ath’rrachadh (p. 51), dhan t-saogh’l (p. 198), A’ cuart’chadh (p. 202), làth’ir (p. 216), and ùghd’rras (p. 219). These spellings may indicate pronunciations dictated by the tunes to which the poems were set. The following forms are also used: ’N dara h-uair (p. 77), a-rìs (p. 12),  (p. 17), nas mò (p. 129), and dhar n-ionnsaigh (p. 140).

The orthography is generally that of the late twentieth century. There are no accents on capital letters, and only the grave accent has been used throughout the text.
EditionFirst edition. There is no mention in this volume of any of the songs having been published previously.
Other Sources
Further ReadingBlack, Ronald, An Tuil (Edinburgh, 1999: Polygon), 738-39.
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