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Title Na Baird Thirisdeach, Saothair Ar Co-luchd-duthcha aig an Tigh ’s Bho’n Tigh (The Tiree Bards, Being the Original Compositions of Natives of Tiree at Home and Abroad)
Author N/A (Anthology)
Editor Camshron, an t-Urr. Eachann
Date Of Edition 1932
Date Of Language Various
Publisher An Comunn Tirisdeach (The Tiree Association)
Place Published Tiree
Volume N/A
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins Tiree
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Rev. Hector Cameron
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 22.2cm x 14.5cm
Short Title Na Baird Thirisdeach
Reference Details EUL: PB1633 Bai
Number Of Pages xxiv, 438
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context This volume contains a collection of poetry from Tiree bards, at home and abroad, from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. It includes almost 250 poems by 49 poets, including the editor. In the Preface to this volume (pp. xxi-xxiv), the editor explains that he had been of the opinion for some time that a volume such as this should be compiled, particularly as songs were already being forgotten. The project was eventually approved by the Tiree Association and Camshron was appointed editor. Camshron picks out a few poets for particular praise, including John MacLean (Iain Mac Ailein, Bard Thighearna Chola), John MacLean of Balemartin, John MacPhail, and Mrs MacDonald. Only a selection of poems by Bard Thighearna Chola is reproduced here as they have all been published previously. The number of poems from the work of individual poets varies, some poets being represented by one or two poems and others by seven or more.
Contents This volume begins with a poem by the editor entitled Do Eilean Caomh Mo Dhuthcha (pp. ix-x). There follows a list of Contents (pp. xi-xx). The poets are listed here in order of appearance in the text. The poets seem to have been organized chronologically (as far as this was possible) beginning with the earliest. The first poem celebrates an event which took place in 1757. Under each poet’s name is a list of first lines of poems. In the Preface (pp. xxi-xxiv), the editor explains the background to this volume and mentions some of the poets included in it (see Social Context above).

The main body of this text contains nearly 250 poems by 49 poets (pp. 1-438). The poems are in Gaelic, with the exception of Sunny Tiree, written in 1900 by A. V. Christie, who was a visitor to Tiree, and Veni, Vidi, Vici written by Rev. John MacLean, D.D. from Cornaig in Tiree, both of which are in English. The works of many of the poets are introduced by a brief account of the poet. A number of the poems also have short introductions, explaining who the poem was written for, when it was written, or why it was written. There is no index or glossary.
Sources In the Preface, Camshron mentions a number of people who helped him gather the poems for this book. In particular he acknowledges the help of Miss Mary A. Maclaine, Netherlee, who gave him MS copies of the poems that her father had collected. He also mentions a number of other people who supplied him with poems in manuscript. The editor obtained some of the poems from Clarsach na Coille, edited by Alexander MacLean Sinclair in 1881 (see Edition below). The authoritative version of some of these poems has yet to be determined.
Language The poems cover a number of topics. There are a large number of elegies, including Archibald MacPhail’s Do Donnachadh agus do Alastair Caimbeul, clann Baillidh thireadh, a chaidh a mharbhadh anns an Spainn (pp. 13-15) and Iain Mac Ailein’s Marbh-Rann (pp. 80-85), and there are also a number of eulogies, such as Iain Mac Ailein’s Duanag do Chaileig Bhig (pp. 53-54). A number of poems were written by or to emigrants, e.g. Iain Mac Ailein’s A’ Choille Ghruamach (p. 74-78) and Neil MacLaine’s Oran do Niall Caimbeul Nuair a Sheol E do Africa (pp. 314-15). This volume also contains a number of love poems, e.g. Charles MacLean’s two poems entitled Oran Gaoil (pp. 114-15, 116-17) and Alexander Stewart’s Mo Nighean Donn Og (pp. 188-89), and a number of humorous poems, e.g. Rev. John Gregorson Campbell’s poem about a fellow clergyman’s attempts to administer to the medical problems of his flock (An t-Ollamh Mor, Mor, pp. 136-39), and John MacLean (Balemartin) has a series of verses about Calum Beag (e.g. pp. 143-49).

There are a number of poems in praise of Tiree, such as Neil MacLaine’s Eilean Mo Ghraidh (p. 337), and including a number of poems, by a variety of authors, with the title Moladh Thiriodh, such as John MacPhail’s poem on pp. 242-43. Some of the poems address war, such as Alexander MacDonald’s Cogadh a’ Chrimea (pp. 126-30) and Neil MacLaine’s Crioch Dheireannach A’ Chaiseir (p. 343). Other poems are concerned with the Gaelic language and the Gaels, such as Neil MacLaine’s Coir nan Gaidheal (pp. 322-23) and his Oran do Cheilidh nan Gaidheal (pp. 325-26). The land agitations of the 1880s are the focus of Colin MacDonald’s Oran nan Saighdearan (p. 357). The weather and the sea are the focus of some of Hector Cameron’s (i.e. the editor’s) poems. In particular, An Stoirm (pp. 408-09), An Cuan-Mor Fo Bhuaireas (pp. 426-27), and An Cuan Aig Sith (pp. 427-28). There are also a number of poems about Callainn, e.g. Rann Challuinn (pp. 421-22) but none of these are ‘traditional’ Callainn verses.

Many of the poems relate to specific incidents or specific people and are therefore a useful source of local and national history, and the editor’s notes on many of the poems provide us with more detailed information about the poems’ origins. For example, one of John MacPhail’s poems was written for Tiree schoolmaster, Domhnull MacFhionghain, after his pupils had won first prize at the Mod in Inverness (pp. 240-42). John MacLean’s Breacan Mairi Uisdein (pp. 155-58) celebrates the famous tartan designed by Mrs. MacLaren, Balemartin (see also MacPherson 1977 for another meaning of Breacan Mairi Uisdein and Sinclair 1968 for the relevant Tiree term). The editor’s Am Fasan Ur (pp. 418-20) bemoans the loss of am banalas and the new clothes that women had begun to wear. Angus MacKechnie’s Oran Do’n “Naval Reserve” reminds us of the importance of the Reserve as a source of income in Highland areas (pp. 363-64), and Archibald MacPhail’s Moladh Eoghain Mhun (pp. 199-202) tells of the keen herding skills of a local herdboy.

In the war poems we find such expressions as an ratreut (p. 126) and also Rinn cabhag gu ra-treuta (p. 140), o’n champ (p. 126), bho’n chomannd (p. 128), Bu roinneach geur-stailinn an lann (p. 128), an Coirneal (p. 134), Le’r crios, le’r puidse, le’r musg, le’r fudar (p. 134), am dol gu geard (p. 134), Air raoin a’ bhlair (p. 328), and reubail (p. 329).

Some of the poems contain boating and sailing terminology, for example John MacLean’s Calum Beag poems (e.g. pp. 143-49) and Donald MacKechnie’s Oran a’ Phrimrose (pp. 210-12). Examples include Bho ’guallan gu ’sliasaid bha cliathach a’ glaodhaich (p. 144), Bha fiodhaidh math ’s na saithean aic’, is darach anns an ruadh-bhord (p. 145), Nuair bhios i na h-uidheam, ullamh le cuid bhall (p. 210), and an caiptein (p. 355).

A number of the poems contain terminology relating to nature, e.g. Rev. John Gregorson Campbell’s Oran a’ Ghunna (pp. 139-41), where we find some terms for birds, e.g. de na lachaichean (p. 140), feadagan, guilbearnaich, and gudaboc (p. 141).

Other words and phrases of interest includes babhunn (p. 2), a’ mheadhair (p. 2), anns gach seileir (p. 2), aig na cuirt-fhearaibh (p. 3), ’s tigh-thairne (p. 4), botal and buideal (p. 4), fochair (p. 27), dol a chuiltearachd (p. 33), grudairean (p. 33), Ged a sheanachaisteadh mu ’n cuairt iad (p. 43), MacLeoid Dhuinmheangain (p. 45), do’n stiuramaich’ (p. 49), earraid (p. 77), ri beul reith-lice (p. 85), d’ bhriodal (p. 114), Mo mhaldag (p. 114), mar mhialchu (p. 135), farum (p. 151), mu’n tig an Fheill-Paruig (p. 204), and Iadh-mu-bhraighead (p. 258).

Some of the poems contain large strings of adjectives, particularly Archibald MacPhail’s poems, e.g. Do Chailein Mac Naoimhein, Fear-Ghrianail (pp. 4-5), and to a lesser extent Charles MacLean’s Oran Gaoil (p. 114-15). The second stanza of the former poem reads ‘Duin’ uasal, urramach, cliuteach, \ Measail, cosgail, le deadh-ghiulan, \ Faighid’neach, aighearrach, sunndach, \ Sonas leat ’s gach cuis mu’n teid thu’ (p. 4).

Also of interest are the terms used for the island of Tiree, e.g. air talamh Thirith’ (p. 137), ’S e nis is ainm Tir-I dha (p. 162), ’an Eilean Tir-fo-Thuinn (p. 240), and mu Thir-an-Eorna (p. 388). In addition, the forms of Gaelic surnames are also interesting. These appear in a number of poems, most notably in Neil MacLaine’s Cruinneachadh nan Tirisdeach (pp. 330-32), where we find, for example, Clann-na-Ceardaich, Artuirich, and Leathanaich (p. 332).

A number of poems use Gaelic words which have been borrowed from English, e.g. reusan (p. 77), luchd a’ bhosd (p. 77), an caiptein (p. 355), and feachd do phoilismein (p. 357). There are also a number of words that have not been Gaelicised, some of which would today be given a Gaelic orthography, e.g. Tea, siucar, is coffee, is dram (p. 137).
Orthography The Gaelic of Tiree, from the mid-eighteenth to the early twentieth century may be reflected in the form or use of a number of words and phrases, such as treis (p. 48), pilleadh (p. 259), turraman (p. 292), banalas (pp. 418), tha iad ’g raithinn (p. 5), anns na b’urrainn thu (p. 6), and do Alasdair (p. 13). Also of interest is the use of do mheomhair (p. 26), ’adsan (p. 27), ni ’s mo (p. 392), mo smaointinnean (p. 115), and the intrusive t in smaointich thu (p. 146) and miorbhuilteach (p. 356). We also find the following words and phrases: starum mo chinn (p. 137), feadh nam munaidhean (p. 139), anns a’ ghlomanaich (p. 141), ann an iomlaid seachduinne (p. 258), and a chluich air an dambrod (p. 310). Also of interest are the spellings of Ionairnis (p. 240) and Ionar-Lochaidh (p. 331). We also find the forms runnagan (p. 375) and a nios (p. 2), and the frequent use of aon in phrases such as gach aoin-duine (p. 2) and na saraich aon duin’ aca (p. 2).

In general, the orthography is that of the early-to-mid twentieth century. The editor notes in the Preface that he has not used any accents in the text as he believes them to be superfluous to ‘proficient readers’, particularly in a book of poetry ‘where they have the assistance of rhyme and assonance’ (p. xxii). Despite the editor’s efforts, the language has not been completely standardised, inasmuch as we find both bial-thaobh (p. 144) and air beulthaobh (p. 321), ratreut (p. 126) and gu ra-treuta (p. 140), darna (p. 225) and dara (p. 310), ga d’ ionndraichinn (p. 1) and Ri ionndrainn (p. 11), leam fhin (p. 4) and thu fein (p. 25), Cha robh sin duit (p. 25) and air dhuit (p. 88). Some of these inconsistencies appear in poems which are chronologically close together and they may therefore reflect authors’ dialects and language choices. Some of the poems contain noteworthy instances of syncopated vowels. For example, we find tigh’nn (e.g. p. 2), Comhl’ ri (p. 11), an t-uachd’ran (p. 39), nam Breat’nach (p. 113), and gu’m bith’mid (p. 343).
Edition First edition. A number of the poems in this volume had already been published elsewhere. In particular, some of them had appeared in Clarsach na Coille (1881), Na Baird Leathanach: The MacLean Bards, Vol. II (1900), and Filidh na Coille (1901). These three volumes were edited by Rev. Alexander MacLean Sinclair. It should be noted that Sinclair was in the habit of altering texts before publication, and therefore care should be taken when using his editions as source material.

The first poem in this volume, Do Shir Ailean Mac’Illeathain, agus do dh’ Eachunn Chola by Neil Lamont (pp. 1-3) was published in Clarsach na Coille in 1881. When comparing these two versions of Lamont’s poem, we find a number of differences. Firstly, the poem in this volume contains 15 stanzas, while the one in Clarsach na Coille has only 10 (pp. 234-35). There are also verbal differences within some of the shared stanzas, although the overall sense of the poem remains. For example, the second stanza in this volume reads ‘Gur bochd a dh’ fhag thu na dearbh chairdean, \ Bean is mathair gun fhiamh gaire, \ An deigh an sarach, ’s iad a ghnath ga d’ ionndraichinn’ (p. 1). The second stanza in Clarsach na Coille reads ‘’S bochd a dh’ fhàg thu na dearbh-chàirdean; \ Bean is màthair dubhach sàraicht’ \ Gun fhiamh gàire ’s iad a ghnàth gad ionndraichinn’ (p. 234). Given that the present version of the poem is fuller and, where the two versions can be compared, not inferior to MacLean Sinclair’s version, the question arises, whether the present volume represents a more authoritative rendering of the poem. For lexicographical purposes, however, MacLean Sinclair’s Clarsach na Coille version stands as a witness to the text of Do Shir Ailean Mac’Illeathain, and can be cited, e.g. for dubhach or sàraicht(e) (adjective) in the quoted example.

Editions of John MacLean’s Poems
A number of the poems by John MacLean that are published in this volume were published in Clarsach na Coille in 1881, in Filidh na Coille in 1901, and in Na Baird Leathanach: The MacLean Bards, Vol. II, in 1900. The differences between the versions published in this volume and those in the other volumes appear to be mainly orthographic. For example, in Bata Thighearna Chola (pp. 54-54 in this volume; pp. 25-29 in Filidh na Coille) this volume has Chan, ordugh, and acuinn, while Filidh na Coille has Cha’n, ordagh, and acfhuinn. However, the present volume has only 6 stanzas of this particular poem, while Filidh na Coille has 17. In this case, the version in Filidh na Coille should be used, albeit with care, and with careful checking of lines found in both versions. Again, Oran do Thighearna Chola (pp. 39-42) was published in Na Baird Leathanach (pp. 28-30). Here most of the differences appear to be orthographic and both versions have 12 stanzas. However, where this volume has Mar ri cuideachd shunndach, mhanranach, Na Baird Leathanach has Mar-ri cuideachd shunndaich mhànranaich. It is for a future editor to determine which of these readings has the best claim to represent what the poet composed. For the present-day lexicographer the Baird Leathanach reading is a late-nineteenth-century witness and the Baird Thirisdeach reading an early-twentieth-century witness to the form of the dat. sing. fem. adjective after mar ri.

In 1818, before emigrating to Canada, John MacLean published 20 of his own poems and a number of poems by other authors, in Òrain Nuadh Ghaedhlach. MacLean composed a number of other songs before, and after, emigrating. Some of these are recorded in the poet’s own MS (by his own hand and by the hand of his son Charles), which is now housed in the Public Archives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, along with Dr Hector MacLean’s MS of Gaelic poetry. Photocopies of these MSS are held in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow University Libraries. These MSS appear to contain around 15 more songs by MacLean, of which most, if not all, were composed after he had emigrated. In Clarsach na Coille (1881), Sinclair published 25 songs composed by MacLean while still in Scotland, and another 19 songs composed by him in Canada (a total of 44 poems). He also published a large number of songs by other poets, from the collections of John MacLean and Dr Hector MacLean, and from his own collection. In at least some cases, Na Baird Thirisdeach appears to have used texts which appeared in Clarsach na Coille.

Where Baird Thirisdeach songs are also found in John MacLean’s Òrain Nuadh Ghaedhlach or in the early 19th century MSS in Nova Scotia, the early sources should be treated as primary. Where Baird Thirisdeach songs are also found in MacLean Sinclair’s published volumes but not in the early 19th century sources, (i) where readings are the same, MacLean Sinclair’s texts should be treated as primary; (ii) where readings diverge, either may be cited as a witness to a meaning or form – MacLean Sinclair’s as ‘late 19c’ and Baird Thirisdeach as ‘early 20c’.
Other Sources
Further Reading Mac Illeain, Iain, Òrain Nuadh Ghaedhlach (Edinburgh, 1818: R. Meinnearach).
MacLean Sinclair, Rev. A., Clarsach na Coille (Glasgow, 1881: A. Sinclair).
MacLean Sinclair, Rev. A., Na Baird Leathanach: The MacLean Bards, Vol. II (Charlottetown, 1900: Haszard and Moore).
MacLean Sinclair, Rev. A., Filidh na Coille (Charlottetown, 1901: Examiner Publishing Company).
MacPherson, Roday, 1977 Scottish Life Archives, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (Audio Recording).
Sinclair, Donald, 1968 School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh (Audio Recording).
John and Hector MacLean MS, EUL Sp. Coll.: Phot 1130.
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