Reference Number56
TitleBaird Chill-Chomain. Orain agus Dain le Donnchadh agus Tearlach Mac Nimhein Ile (The Kilchoman Bards. The Songs and Poems of Duncan and Charles MacNiven Islay)
AuthorMacNìmhein, Donnchadh & Tearlach
EditorMac Dhughaill, Eachann
Date Of Edition1936
Date Of Languageearly 20c
Date Of Language Ed1900-1949
DateMacroEarly 20th c.
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherAlex. MacLaren & Sons
Place PublishedGlasgow
LocationNational, academic and Highland libraries
Geographical OriginsKilchoman, Islay
Geographical Origins EdIslay
GeoMacroIslay, Jura, Kintyre and Arran
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterLiterature, Verse
Register EdLiterature, Prose and Verse
MediumProse & Verse
96 songs and 1 short story in Islay Gaelic, with a short prose introduction, also in Islay Gaelic.
Topics include love, religion, nature, praise of people and place, old age, and local and national events.
The text reveals an element of orthographic and morphological variety.
Alternative Author NameDuncan & Charles MacNiven
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition18.9cm x 13cm
Short TitleBàird Chill-Chomain
Reference DetailsEUL: .891631 MacN
Number Of Pages159
Gaelic Text ByN/A
Social ContextDonnchadh and Tearlach MacNìmhein were brothers from Kilchoman in Islay. Donnchadh was born in 1883, and Tearlach was born around 1885. Their father, Gilleasbuig MacNìmhein, was the school-master at Scoraig in Ross-shire and he too was a poet. His poem Och! ’S Mis’ Tha Cianail, Fàillinneach, written after the death of his brother Alasdair, in Demerara, was published in An t-Oranaiche in 1879 (see Text 95). The introduction to this volume was written by Niall Mac Gille Sheathanaich. Mac Gille Sheathanaich was born in Duntroon in Argyllshire but was brought up in Jura. He came to know the poets when he was a boy and was taught by their uncle. In the introduction, he states that Donnchadh won a number of prizes at various Mods for his poems and songs, such as Duan do’n Ghaol which won first prize at the Mod in 1910, and Bruadar an t-Saighdeir which won first prize at the Mod in 1932 (the prizes awarded are mentioned in the text under the titles of the relevant poems). He also informs us that Tearlach used to present his work in the local Islay Mod. As well as the positive influences of their parents, the two brothers were also influenced by Skye poet Neil MacLeod, who encouraged them in their youth. This volume was put together at the request of some of the poets’ friends.

For information on the editor, Hector MacDougall, see A’ Bhraisd Lathurnach (Text 66).
ContentsThis volume begins with a Roimh-Radh (pp. 6-7) by Niall Mac Gille Sheathanaich from Duntroon in Argyllshire. There follows a Clar-Amais (pp. 8-10). The songs and poems are numbered 1 to 100 in the list of contents. The English language translations of two of the Gaelic poems are also given numbers and are therefore included in the 100. The songs and poems are not numbered in the text.

This volume contains 80 songs and poems and 1 short story by Donnchadh MacNìmhein (pp. 11-137), all in Gaelic. A translation is provided for one of the poems, Mar Chuimhneachan air Ealasaid Nic Dhomhnuill (pp. 125-28). The volume also contains 16 songs and poems by Tearlach MacNìmhein (pp. 139-59), one of which, Seinnibh Leam an Duan. Do’n Uasal, Iain Mac Ghille-Mhoire, Ile (pp. 152-54) is also translated. The last song, Cuimhneachan air Eoghan Mac Nimhein (p. 158-59) was written by Niall MacPhail for the poets’ brother who was a schoolmaster in Jura and who died young.
SourcesBoth poets were still alive at the time of publication. Although the collection was ‘edited’ (‘fo laimh’) by Eachann Mac Dhughaill, presumably the poems were collected from, and approved in print by the poets themselves.
LanguageThe songs and poems in this volume cover a range of topics including love, e.g. Morag (p. 12) and Oran Gaoil (pp. 77-78); the Gaelic language, e.g. Mìle Fàilt (pp. 24-25); and praise of Islay, e.g. Eilean Mo Luaidh (pp. 25-26). There are also a number of eulogies, e.g. Do An Lighiche Caimbeul Mac an t-Saoir Ann am Beul-an-Ath (p. 32-33) and Oran Molaidh (pp. 71-72), and a number of elegies, such as Alasdair Foster (pp. 33-35) and Mo Chuilean Beag (p. 43). There are a number of songs about local and international happenings, e.g. Tuireadh, Do Dhithis Bhraithrean a Chaidh a Bhathadh an Ile (pp. 81-83) and Blar Waterloo (pp. 74-77), and there are also some humorous poems, such as Oran Ait (pp. 67-70) and Iain Grumlaidh (pp. 85-86, a translation of the Scots poem John Grumlie).

There are a number of poems on the theme of old age and death. For example, in A’ Ghrian we find ‘Tha mise nis ’s mo cheann cho liath \ Is bidh mi triall gun dàil’ (p. 18). In Comhairle Duine Aosda, the poet is over eighty years old and is giving advice to the younger generation. Donnchadh’s poems are often written in the first person and frequently address the reader, for example with the use of the word Seadh at the beginning of a line, e.g. in A’ Ghrian (pp. 17-19) which won second prize at the Mod in 1930. Donnchadh’s work also includes one humorous short story, Iain agus an t-Uircean (pp. 26-27).

Religious sentiments sometimes appear in the poems. For example, in A’ Ghrian (pp. 17-19) we find the lines Toirt Dhàsan moladh agus cliù (p. 18) and Oir tha mi dhlùth do cheann mo réis (p. 19). Laoidh (pp. 65-67) is a song in praise of Righ nam Buadh (p. 65).

Tearlach’s poems and songs cover similar topics. His humorous poems and songs include Oran na Basgaid (p. 139) and Coileach Iain Chiobair (pp. 139-40). His more serious poems and songs include Cumha an Eilthirich (pp. 140-41), Moladh Ile (p. 143), Oran Gaoil (p. 148), Seinnibh Leam an Duan. Do’n Uasal, Iain Mac Ghille-Mhoire, Ile (pp. 152-53), and Oran (pp. 151-52) about the wreck of the Otranto.

Donnchadh’s poems and songs contain numerous references to nature, e.g. in Morag (p. 12) and in Maduinn Cheit (pp. 14-16), which won second prize at the Mod in 1932. The fourth stanza of Maduinn Cheit begins ‘Is leum an smeorach air a ghéig \ Is ghleus i ribheid féin le fonn \ An lòn-dubh ann an cùil dha féin \ Mar b’ann le eud ’ga freagairt thall’ (p. 15). Donnchadh’s work also shows the influence of earlier poets, for example in his use of Gur muladach a tà mi as the first line in two poems (p. 106, p. 125), and similarities to the work of William Ross can be seen in some of the love poetry, particularly in the fifth stanza of O, ’S Cianal M’ Aigne (pp. 13-14), which begins ‘O b’fhearr dhomh féin gun d’rugadh dall \ Mi féin ’s gun chainnt gun léirsinn \ Mu’n d’dhearc mo shùil riamh air do ghnùis, \ Na’n robh iad dùint’ gun fheum dhomh’ (p. 14).
OrthographyAmongst points of linguistic interest, echoes of Islay Gaelic are present in both Donnchadh’s and Tearlach’s work. These include the use of terms such as ioma (p. 11), riu (p. 12), Chéit (p. 14), Cha mhò (p. 24), ag gleusadh ceòil (p. 15), Smaointich (p. 26), ma dheireadh (p. 27), Nuair philleas (p. 35), ma’ rium (p. 44), ag ràitinn (p. 119), and thun na banais (p. 146). Féin is preferred to fhéin in most instances, e.g. Chan iarrainn fein (p. 11), Ged shiùbhlainn féin (p. 11), and leat féin (p. 32), with the exception of the phrase ’n diugh fhéin (p. 26) found in the short story Iain agus an t-Uircean (pp. 26-27). The lenition in this instance may reflect colloquial usage in a standard phrase.

Also of interest are the following words and phrases: Chum bhi ’g éirigh (p. 19), a thaobh ’s gu bheil (p. 26), air neo-ni (p. 26), coslas math air a’ bhuntàta (p. 26), aig muc-àil (p. 26), Toilich thu fein (p. 26), gu’m b’fheairrd e làn na cuaiche (p. 27), ’S an tigh-leanna (p. 67) and ’s an tigh-thàirne (p. 67), Cha robh goinnead ’san stòpa (p. 67), deagh cheòl anns an t-siunsair (p. 68), Gur tric a thog thu mise nios (p. 111), dùnan (p. 120), Chuala mi a rithist e, gun facal idir bòilich (p. 139), Pàruig (p. 140), and los gu’n dùisgear (p. 152). Donnchadh frequently uses the form glacaibh, e.g. Dhol an glacaibh (p. 23) and Thu teann ann am ghlacaibh (p. 61).

Donnchadh’s use of pronominals varies from poem to poem, e.g. Ciod e do bheachd (p. 26) and Dé do bharail-sa (p. 36); De mar tha h-uile duine (p. 35) and Cia mar tha thu’n diugh (p. 35); c’àit’ an robh (p. 17), Cia àite ’gam bi thù (p. 33), and Is cia b’e àit ’s am bi ar cuairt (p. 24). Donnchadh uses a rìs (e.g. p. 19) while Tearlach has rithist (p. 139). Also of interest is the use of am rather than a at the beginning of ’M bheil iad uile ’nan slàint (p. 35), and the use of both maith and math, e.g. Chan ’eil maith a bhi gearan (p. 68) but Mo chaileag mhath (p. 68) and ’S i uile math (p. 68). Some words are shortened in the poems, e.g. an làth’r (p. 25), uachd’ran (p. 28), tigh’nn (p. 37). This shortening could reflect spoken speech patterns, but may also be conditioned by metre. We also find  preferred to latha (e.g. p. 13, 24), where the contrast between and latha is clearly marked in Islay Gaelic by the glottal stop in the disyllabic form.

The orthography used is generally that of the early twentieth century. Verbal nouns beginning with c or g are preceeded by ag rather than a’, e.g. ag cromadh (p. 12) and ag gleusadh (p. 15). The second person singular pronoun is realised as t before vowels and d before consonants, e.g. t’iomhaigh, as t’aonais (p. 13), t’altrum (p. 19), and as t’aonais (p. 59), but Thug thu le d’ dheòin, bho d’bheul (p. 13), d’dhorus (p. 31), and ri d’thaobh (p. 47). Ta replaces tha for stylistic reasons in some well-established phrases, e.g. Ach, O, Thusa ta shuas (p. 23), an righ ta air a’ chrùn (p. 29), and Gur muladach a tà mi (p. 106, 125). The orthography of phrases involving prepositions plus possessives is inconsistent. For example, we find ’ga m’ phianadh (p. 13) and ’g am iarraidh (p. 13), g’ad (p. 20) and ’gad dhion (p. 26). Both grave and accute accents are used throughout the text. There are no accents on capital letters.
EditionFirst Edition.
Other Sources
Further ReadingSinclair, A. (ed.), An t-Òranaiche (Glasgow, 1879: Sinclair).
Thomson, Derick S. (ed.), The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Glasgow, 1994: Gairm).
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