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Metadata for text 65
No. words in text109480
Title Rosg Gaidhlig (Specimens of Gaelic Prose)
Author N/A (Edited work)
Editor Watson, William J.
Date Of Edition 1915
Date Of Language Various
Publisher An Comunn Gaidhealach
Place Published Inverness
Volume N/A
Location National and academic libraries
Geographical Origins Various
Register Literature, Prose
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 19cm x 13cm
Short Title Rosg Gaidhlig
Reference Details EUL, Celtic Library: LIG WAT
Number Of Pages xi, 288
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context This volume comprises a selection of Gaelic prose from 12th century to 1915, edited by Prof. William J. Watson. It was intended to be of use to teachers and students and the title page states that it is ‘for use in schools and Gaelic classes’. In his Introduction (pp. v-vii), and in the main body of the text, Watson divides the examples of prose into three distinct time periods as follows:

Modern Scottish Gaelic, from 1700 to 1915 (pp. 1-141)

Early Modern Gaelic, from c. 1500-1700 (pp. 141-81): Watson mentions that the Gaelic of this time was the ‘traditional literary style which was common to Ireland and Scotland’ (p. vi). In order to illustrate this point, we may note that he has included a selection of texts from Dr. Geoffrey Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Eirinn, which was written in Classical Gaelic around the year 1634.

Middle Gaelic, from ‘circa 1000 to 1500’ (pp. 182-92): This last section contains ‘all there is of Middle Gaelic that may be termed Scottish, namely the Gaelic text of the Book of Deer, and the Macdonald Charter’ (p. vi).

This volume provides a perspective on the development of Scottish Gaelic from the 12th to the early 20th century.
Contents This volume begins with an Introduction (pp. v-vi) by the editor, followed by An Clar-Innsidh (pp. ix-x), and a single page of Corrections and Additions (p. xi). The main body of the text is presented in three sections as follows:

‘Modern Scottish Gaelic, from 1700 to 1915’ (pp. 1-141): The first section of the book contains 17 items, beginning with Sean-Sgoil by Professor Domhnall Mac Fhionghain, about schools in the Highlands after the Reformation (pp. 1-7). It includes Ainmean na h-Alba by Prof. W. J. Watson, about the origins of some types of Gaelic place-names (pp. 33-42); An Duine Caomhail (pp. 58-65) and An Duine Saoghalta (pp. 66-72) by Rev. Domhnall Mac Laomuinn – both Biblical tales; Iarla Mharr agus Fear na Briagaich, reprinted from Cuairtear nan Gleann, about the Earl of Mar and the Earl of Sutherland in one of the battles between the Scottish Crown and Clan Donald in the 15th century (pp. 99-102); Canada Uachdarach, also from Cuairtear nan Gleann, about the hard life of emigrants in Canada, including how they build their houses, (pp. 103-07); I Chalum-Chille, from Cuairtear nan Gleann, which describes some of the places of note in Iona and talks about their history (pp. 111-15); and Na Sean-Fhocail by Prof. Domhnall Mac Fhionghain, which considers the changing times and what they mean for our wellbeing, and also the history and importance of proverbs in society (pp. 120-32). There is no great diversity of theme or style in the Modern Gaelic texts. Five of the 17 texts were taken from Cuairtear nan Gleann: three are by Rev. Domhnall Mac Laomuinn, and two are by Prof. Domhnull Mac Fhionghain. It is not indicated whether the texts in this section are given in chronological order (from the present to the past), although that may be the case. Some of the texts are dated, others are not. The editor’s work appears as text number three.

‘Early Modern Gaelic, from c. 1500-1700’ (pp. 141-81): The second section of the book contains four items: Do’n Leaghthora, Sith agus Slainte, i.e. Robert Kirk’s introduction to his 1684 Psalma Dhaibhidh (pp. 141-43); Clann Dhomhnaill nan Eilean, from the so-called Red Book and Black Book of Clanranald, dating from the end of the seventeenth century (pp. 143-57); Eachdraidhean Eireannach, from Dr. Geoffrey Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Eirinn, written around 1634 (pp. 158-75); and Foirm nan Urnuigh, from John Carswell’s 1567 translation of John Knox’s Book of Common Order (pp. 176-81).

‘Middle Gaelic, from c. 1000-1500’ (pp. 182-92): The third section of the book contains two items: the Islay Charter, Còir-Fhearainn Bhriain Mhic Aoidh, from 1408 (pp. 182-83) and the complete Gaelic text of Leabhair Abaid Dheir, which Watson believed to have been composed between around 1000 and 1150 (p. 184-92). The Middle Gaelic text and a Modern Gaelic version of it are printed on facing pages. Some Latin and Old Gaelic material contained in the notes in the Book of Deer is also printed, in this case with an English translation on the facing page. No translations are given, in Gaelic or English, for any of the other items in this volume. Most of the texts in all three sections are preceded by a short introduction.

There follows a section of Notes (pp. 193-246), which are referenced by page number, and give explanations of difficult or noteworthy words in the text. There are three appendices, as follows: Appendix A: on the particle a (pp. 247-52), Appendix B: on eclipsis (pp. 252-54), and Appendix C: on the Irish Verb (pp. 54-58). These are followed by a list of Ainmean Daoine is Fhineachan (pp. 259-62) and the numbers of the pages on which they appear, and a list of Ainmean Aitean (pp. 263-74) with the number of the pages on which they occur and translations. The meaning of some of the names is explained. We are then given a list of Facail Iasaid (pp. 275-78) from the first section of the book, grouped by the language from which they were loaned: I. O’n Laidinn, II. O’n Bheurla Lochlannaich, and III. O’n Bheurla Shasunnaich, which includes Scots. These words are given in Gaelic and in the language from which they were borrowed.

At the end of this volume we find a Faclair (pp. 279-86), or glossary of words that appear in the texts, with meanings and the page numbers on which they appear. It is stated that words which ‘occur in Maceachen’s Gaelic-English Dictionary are, as a rule, not given in the glossary’ (p. 179). This is followed by an alphabetical list of Works referred to (p. 287-89).

Facsimiles of two pages of the Book of Deer are given between pages 286 and 287. They correspond to passages I and II as transcribed in this book. The text provided on pp. 184-86 is not an exact transcription of the original, as can be seen from comparison with pages 286-87.
Sources Generally, where a passage has been published previously, this information is given either in An Clar-Innsidh (pp. ix-x), as with a number of articles from Cuairtear nan Gleann, or in the introduction to the text, as with ‘Seann Sgoil’ (pp. 1-7). Editors should cite from the earliest published edition of each article, but be prepared to consult modern scholarly editions where these exist.
Language Watson states in his Introduction (pp. v-vii) that in the first section of the book (‘Modern Scottish Gaelic’), he has tried to make the spelling consistent, and that this has included extending contracted forms of words. In the second section (‘Early Modern Gaelic’), he explains that ‘Mac Vurich has been made on the whole consistent with itself, but I have not taken it upon me to make it consistent with Keating’ (p. vii). He also indicates that the main change in the extracts from Carswell has been ‘in separating words’. The original or first publication of all texts should be quoted, although modern scholarly editions should also be consulted, where these exist.

The linguistic usage and orthography of the pre-twentieth century texts will be touched on briefly here.

Modern Scottish Gaelic

Although the spelling has been standardised, certain dialectal and stylistic differences have been left unaltered. For example, we find gur i a’ ghrian ata toirt soluis (p. 8) and ata sgrìobhadh (p. 133), but also ma’s fiodh cruaidh a tha ann (p. 105). In Fianuis Huisdein Mhic Dhomhnaill (pp. 132-39), an extract from the Highland Society’s enquiry into the authenticity of James MacPherson’s ‘Ossian’, we find ata used at the beginning of sentences, e.g. Ata so co fìrinneach is (p. 133) and Ata Oisein ag ràdh (p. 133). The next text, Codach Lachlainn Mhic Mhuirich (pp. 139-41), is from the same source, but uses less conservative forms and gives a more contemporary impression. More generally, variation in style and orthography is to be expected in a section which covers three hundred years of Gaelic literature.

Early Modern Gaelic

This section contains three items of note. Keating’s text will not be discussed here.

‘Do’n Leaghthora, Sith agus Slainte’, Robert Kirk’s introduction to his 1684 translation of Sailm Dhaibhidh (pp. 141-43): The appearance of the Gaelic of this text is distinctly older than that of the Gaelic of the texts in the previous section. Only the acute accent is used. Atá is used in place of tha and a tha, both in the middle and at the beginning of sentences, e.g. Psalm-so Dhaibhioth, atá na liaghais air uile anshocair na n-anma. Atá an saoghal agus gach beó-chreatuir da bfuil ann, na chlársigh (p. 142). Eclipsis is rendered variously, e.g. na n-daoine (p. 142), na n-anma (p. 142), da bfuil (p. 142), na n-gcreidmheacha (p. 142), a m-briathraibh (p. 142), a bfeidir (p. 142), na nSalm (p. 143), and na n-gcorp (p. 143). Note that some occurrences of eclipsis are hyphenated. For information about this text, and other translations of the Psalms, see Text 188, Sailm Dhaibhidh.

‘Clann Dhomhnaill nan Eilean’, from the Red and Black books of Clanranald, dating from the end of the seventeenth century (pp. 143-57): This text is similar to the last text in that only the acute accent is used. This text uses not only atá, but also do bhí and other Classical Gaelic verb-forms. Eclipsis is normal. Of particular interest are the following words and phrases: Do ghluais (p. 144) and Do bhí sé (p. 144), na bhfearann soin a ccoilltibh (p. 144), do bhí mac maith ag Gille-Bríde ar teacht (p. 144), seacht (p. 145), is sí (p. 146), Tángadar teachda ó (p. 146), giodhedh nior phós sé ó altóir máthair na bhfer-sa (p. 147), the frequent use of .i. (e.g. 149), ag sesamh (p. 149), Acht nach sgríobhthar ann so acht na daoine do chonnaic mi féin (p. 152), cúig cét dég fer (p. 153), mu n-áma-sin (p. 154), and a n-uair táinic sgéla chuca go ttáinic MacCailín (p. 156).

‘Foirm nan Urnuigh’, from John Carswell’s 1567 translation of John Knox’s Book of Common Order (pp. 176-81): This text uses Classical Gaelic verb forms. The accent used is usually the acute accent, though grave and circumflex accents occur sporadically. Eclipsis is normal, as are Classical verb-forms. Words and phrases of interest include: aig na daoinibh (p. 177), ina ndiaidh (p. 177), Atáim-se (p. 177), agus ag a thuigsin (p. 177) and ag a rádha (p. 178), go bhfuil (p. 178), ler bh’ áil an soisgel naomhtha do chur ar gcúl (p. 178), and Achd cheana saoilim fós nach bfuil imarcaidh no easbhuidh andso acht mar tá sé a gcló na Laidne agus an Ghaill-berla, achd mura bfuil uireasbhuidh no iomarcaidh and do réir dheachtaidh no cheirt na bfileadh ar an nGaoidheilg (p. 180). Some sentences are extremely long, sustained by the repetition of agus (e.g. p. 179). This text is discussed further as Text 192.

Middle Gaelic

‘Còir-Fhearainn Bhriain Mhic Aoidh’, from 1408 (pp. 182-83): This text uses the acute accent, albeit sparingly. Eclipsis is common. The text begins: Atáimse Mac Domhnaill ag bronnagh 7 tabhairt én mhairg dég go leth dfearann uaim pfhéin agas om oighribh (p. 182). Note the spelling of agas. Other forms of linguistic interest, some for their relative modernity, include: chum mo thighe (p. 182), ar son na mbó (p. 182), Agas ar na habharuibh ccéadna atáimse (p. 182), agas as iad so na fearainn thugas dhó féin (p. 183), and agas an séiseamh lá do mís na bealtuine agas an bhliadhan so do bhreith Chríosta míle ceithre ced agas a hocht (p. 183).

‘Leabhair Abaid Dheir’, written between around 1000 and 1150 (p. 184-92): The linguistic forms and orthographical system found in this text show it to be considerably older than any of the other texts in this volume. The acute accent is used in a somewhat idiosyncratic way, partly as a mark of vowel length. Synthetic verb-forms are the norm, e.g. doratsator (= Modern Scottish Gaelic thug iad). Both the linguistic forms used by the scribes and the spellings with which they represent them show distinctive features and an unusual degree of variability. These characteristics have been ascribed variously to the location of Deer on the periphery of the Gaelic-speaking world, to a lack of writing practice on the part of the scribes, or to the presence of Scottish features in the scribes’ Gaelic. Examples include: Columcille 7 Drostán mac Cósgreg a dálta tangator á hI mar roalseg Día dóib goníc Abbordobóir (p. 184). Of interest for various reasons are the forms acus (p. 184), goníc (p. 184), tangator (p. 184), ar a gínn (p. 184), dorat (p. 186), cúit rííg (p. 186); go derad (p. 186), cec (p. 188) and cach (p. 190); tosech, táesec, and o thesseach (p. 188, 190); i gginn (p. 188), ar cach én ticfa ris (p. 190), and huli (p. 190). This text is discussed more fully as Text 195.


Religious terms and terminology are found in many of the texts, both early and late, e.g. Bho linn an Ath-leasachaidh (p. 1), Teampull na Trianaid (p. 19), Nì Maith (p. 19), Samaritanaich (p. 62), na Pharasaich (p. 63), an Sgriobtur (p. 71), and ann an Albainn (p. 73). In the Early Modern Gaelic texts we find Rí na nDúl agus na nárchaingeal (p. 180) and tré impidhe agus tré fhuraileamh Crísd ar dtighearna agus ar naon Tslanaighthoir agus ar naon aidhne agus ar naon teachtaire (p. 181).

Terms and terminology relating to housing also occur in some texts, e.g. ‘Gearraidh iad na craobhan a réir fad an tighe tha iad dol a thogail, eadar ceithir troighe deug is fichead troigh air fad. Tha iad ’g an rùsgadh, ’g an snaidheadh agus ’g an socrachadh air muin a chéile is ’g an ceangal r’ a chéile le tàirngean fiodha, no crannan daraich; agus eadar gach maide tha iad ag cur crè agus cóinnich air an oibreachadh am measg a chèile, mar gu’m biodh aol agus gainmheach’ (p. 103-04) and ‘tha iad an sin ag cur mullach air le taobhain is cabair, agus tàirngichidh iad bùird thana thairis air an iomlan an àite sglèata’ (p. 104).
Edition First edition. A second edition was published in 1929. In the Preface to the second edition (Also EUL, Celtic Library: LIG WAT), Professor Watson explained that ‘the text has been revised and the orthography made to agree with that of the series of Gaelic school-books published under my general editorship by Messrs. Blackie & Son. Some additions have been made to the Notes’ (p. viii). He also acknowledged the help of Mr Hector MacDougall ‘in revising the text of Scottish Gaelic part of the book’ (p. viii). The introductions to some of the texts had also been expanded, e.g. ‘Seann Sgoil’, p. 1.

This text should not be used for excerpting. Instead, editors should consult the earliest, or most authoritative, sources available; but modern scholarly editions should be used, where available, for help in determining meanings.
Other Sources
Further Reading Forsyth, Katherine, ed., Studies on the Book of Deer (Dublin, c2008: Four Courts Press).
Jackson, Kenneth, The Gaelic Notes in the Book of Deer (London, 1972: Cambridge University Press).
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