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|Metadata for text 73|
|No. words in text||33630|
|Title||Eilein na h-Òige, The Poems of Fr Allan McDonald|
|Author||McDonald, Fr Allan|
|Date Of Edition||2002|
|Date Of Language||1850-1899|
|Location||National, academic, and local libraries|
|Alternative Author Name||N/A|
|Manuscript Or Edition||Ed.|
|Size And Condition||21.5 cm x 13.8 cm|
|Short Title||Eilein na h-Òige|
|Reference Details||EUL, Celtic Library: LI G McD|
|Number Of Pages||xvi, 527|
|Gaelic Text By||N/A|
|Social Context||Fr. Allan McDonald was born in Fort William in 1859. His father’s people were of the Keppoch MacDonalds from Brae Lochaber and his mother’s people were Badenoch MacPhersons. He may have been of Sliochd an Taighe (i.e. the Keppoch chiefly line) through the MacDonalds of Bohuntin in Glen Roy, although this has not been confirmed. For more information on his family see the Introduction (pp. 1-10). Fr. Allan was the oldest of four children. His parents were innkeepers and the family lived together in whichever inn his parents managed.
In 1871, Fr. Allan entered Blairs College in Aberdeenshire where he was encouraged by one of his teachers, Fr. James A. Smith (later Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh), in the study of philology and languages. Gaelic was not a taught subject at Blairs; Gaelic speakers were simply encouraged to study the language in their own time. It was not a particularly happy time for Fr. Allan as the work was hard and the accommodation spartan, and during his time at Blairs he lost both of his parents. After finishing at Blairs College, Fr. Allan studied at the Scots College at Valladolid, in Spain, where he was greatly influenced by the Rector, Monsignor David Macdonald. As a number of Highlanders were studying there, they produced a Gaelic magazine, to which Fr. Allan appears to have contributed. Fr. Allan returned to Scotland in 1882, and was ordained at Glasgow Cathedral. He declined the offer of a teaching post at Blairs and was then sent to Oban. There was only one Catholic family living in Oban at that time – that of Donald McLeod from Eigg, and Fr. Allan learned some traditional hymns from him. This marked the beginning of Fr. Allan’s interest in collecting folklore.
In 1884, Fr. Allan was sent to Daliburgh in South Uist. When he arrived, he found there the largest and the poorest population in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles. Most of the good agricultural land had been taken from the people over previous generations and converted into sheep farms, leaving the tenants to eke out a living from the remainder of the land and from the sea. In 1883 the Crofters’ Commission had collected evidence of the various hardships endured by the tenants in South Uist and the land agitations were at their height. The tenants had no security of tenure and were afraid of being seen to be openly defying the proprietor. In addition, although 80% of the tenants in South Uist were Catholic, the owner of the island at that time, Lady Gordon Cathcart, was not, and she allowed them no representation on the School Board – it was not until 1888 that the Catholic majority won this basic right. In these difficult times, Fr. Allan and his fellow priests informed the people of South Uist of their rights and encouraged them to stand up for themselves, despite the threat of eviction. Fr. Allan’s work in Uist was difficult. The population was scattered and he was kept busy not only on a Sunday but during the week, visiting the sick as far away as Eriskay, repairing the church, and teaching the young children.
Fr. Allan had been sent to South Uist to replace Fr. Alexander Campbell, a native of the island. Fr. Campbell lived out his retirement in the presbytery at Daliburgh with Fr. Allan. He knew much of the folklore and traditions of South Uist and it is likely that it was from him that Fr. Allan developed a keen interest in collecting the traditions of South Uist and Eriskay. From 1887 onwards, Fr. Allan kept a series of notebooks containing information he had collected from the local inhabitants. In 1889 he printed a booklet containing the words of the sung Gaelic Mass and this was reprinted in 1893 to include a number of Gaelic hymns, some of which appear to be his own compositions or translations.
After ten years in Uist, however, Fr. Allan’s workload was taking its toll and he fell ill. After much rest, he was eventually transferred to Eriskay, where he spent the last twelve years of his life. Much of his collecting was done during this time. In 1894 he befriended Miss Goodrich Freer, who had come to the island on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research to collect information about the second sight. She encouraged Fr. Allan to write down more of his knowledge of folklore. Sadly, Miss Goodrich Freer later used a large amount of Fr. Allan’s material in lectures and articles and in her book, Outer Isles, without giving Fr. Allan due acknowledgement as the collector. This breach of confidence angered many of Fr Allan’s friends, including Alexander Carmichael, and Fr. Allan himself did little collecting betwen1889 and 1905. In 1905, three ladies, two from America, arrived in search of folksongs. Among them was Miss Amy Murray, author of Father Allan’s Island (1936), who was a gifted transcriber of Gaelic airs. She recorded 100 tunes in Eriskay, most of which are now lost. Among Fr. Allan’s other collections was a vocabulary of South Uist and Eriskay Gaelic which was edited by John Lorne Campbell and published in 1958 as Gaelic Words and Expressions from South Uist and Eriskay.
Fr. Allan was very happy on Eriskay. The inhabitants were all Catholic and as they were all fishermen, the land agitations were much less acute there than in South Uist. Fr. Allan helped build a new church there, which was opened in 1903, raising money from within and outwith the island, and he was granted permission from Rome to say mass on one of the fishing boats every May for five years. He did much for the islanders, encouraging them to improve their houses and petitioning the Congested Districts Board to extend the telegraph service to the island. Fr. Allan died in 1905 at the age of 46, having contracted a severe cold which turned into pneumonia.
|Contents||This volume begins with a Preface (pp. xi-xiv) by the editor and a short Roimh-Ràdha (pp. xv-xvi) by Rev. Calum MacillFhialain. These are followed by:
Introduction (pp. 1-48): by the editor, which deals with Fr. Allan’s family and life, before considering his poetry and the editorial principles adopted for this volume. This section also contains a list of Gaelic terms for the Devil (pp. 16-17) and for God (pp. 17-19), including those used by Fr. Allan.
Four Tributes to Fr Allan (pp. 49-61): by Fr. Ellis P. Rogan (pp. 49-50), Rev. Dr George Henderson (pp. 50-51), Gilleasbaig mac Dhòmhnaill mhic Eóghainn (pp. 51-56), and Neil Munro (pp. 56-61).
Biography (pp. 63-73): by John Lorne Campbell, previously published by Campbell in a pamphlet entitled Fr Allan McDonald of Eriskay, 1859-1905: Priest, Poet and Folklorist (2nd ed.1956).
Photographs (pp. 74-88): Photographs of Fr. Allan and some of his colleagues.
Poems by Fr Allan (pp. 90-301): 45 poems covering a number of subjects. Black explains in his Introduction that he first arranged the secular poems chronologically (as far as this was possible), and then inserted sacred poems amongst the secular poems. The six Christmas poems were spread evenly throughout the book. The poems include the following:
Hymns and prayers: e.g. Laoidh air son Là Nollaig (p. 90); Laoidh do Mhoire, an Òigh gun Choimeas (pp. 168-73); and An Aifreann, which starts with Roimhn Aifrinn, and goes through 13 intermediate stages, including Aig an Tairgse ’s an ‘Lavabo’ and Aig a’ Choisrigeadh, before finishing with Gnìomh Buidheachais (pp. 90-101).
Biblical history and teachings: e.g. Eachdraidh Chrìosta, from the Conception to the Ascension (pp. 110-25); Fàithntean na h-Eaglaise, which includes the fast days in the Catholic calendar (pp. 148-51); and Na Sàcramaidean, which deals with each of the seven sacraments individually – Am Baisteadh, Dol-fo-Làimh Easbaig, Corp Chrìosta, Faoisid, Ola ro Bhàs, Òrdugh Naomh, and Pòsadh (pp. 150-55).
Death: e.g. Am Bàs, which warns how death may come upon us at any time, describing it as a path to God (pp. 290-93); Smaointean air Là mu Dheireadh na Bliadhna 1892, in which Fr. Allan looks back upon the year and at the people who have died during its course, naming three young men in particular towards the end of the poem (pp. 216-23); and Cumha do Mhaighstir Seòras for Fr. George Rigg (pp. 228-35).
Personal: e.g. Ceum nam Mìltean (pp. 288-89), in which Fr. Allan recounts his feelings at knowing that so men many were fighting in the war and would not return; Rannan don Chuilein, containing three four-line stanzas in praise of his puppy (pp. 212-15); and An t-Eòintein (pp. 102-07), comprising thirteen 8-line stanzas describing the daisy and its Creator – as Black puts it, ‘blending secular and sacred to express the love of God in incisive metaphors’ (p. 36).
Ethnographic: such as Eilein na h-Oige, in praise of South Uist, focusing particularly on its landscape, its nature, its people, and its lifestyle (pp. 172-85); and Éirisgeigh Mhic Iain ’Ic Sheumais, in praise of Eriskay (pp. 126-29).
Satires: e.g. Pàrlamaid nan Cailleach (1) and (2), in which Fr Allan targets a group of women chatting and gossiping, particularly about men (pp. 132-35 and pp. 142-49); An Luideach air Tòir Mnatha, a comic sketch about a man going to a house to request the daughter’s hand in marriage (pp. 154-65); and two relatively outspoken satires: Banais nan Caimbeulach, written as a wedding speech, in which Fr. Allan strongly criticises the Campbells, (1) for their latest deed, inasmuch as one of them has married his housekeeper and left Fr. Allan without help, and (2) for their numerous past atrocities (pp. 234-43); and one of two poems to his friend Dùbhghall mac Thormoid, Luinneag an Amadain bhig, in which he satirises Dùbhghall as being so tiny that he can fit into a bottle (pp. 274-83).
At the end of this volume, we find the following sections:
Translations by Fr Allan (pp. 304-25): Translations into Gaelic of ten hymns and prayers by Fr. Allan. Note also the two hymns Laoidh roimh Chomainn (pp. 328-29) and Laoidh an déidh Dhol-fo-Làimh Easbaig (pp. 330-33), which seem to have been translated into Gaelic by Fr. Allan.
Elegies by other Poets for Fr George Rigg (pp. 336-49): The editor explains in the Introduction that these elegies have been added because Fr. Rigg replaced Fr. Allan as parish priest in Daliburgh and died a young man in 1897, having contracted a fever from one of his parishioners – an old woman whose family and neighbours were too afraid of catching the disease to attend to her themselves.
Notes on the Poems (pp. 351-447): Information on the content of each poem and the sources used.
Canna and John Lorne Campbell (pp. 449-50): A short essay by Hugh Cheape.
Fr Allan’s Poetry Manuscripts (pp. 451-80): A detailed catalogue of Fr. Allan’s manuscripts.
Ethnography (pp. 481-86): An explanation of the editor’s seven categories of ethnographic material which may be found in Gaelic poetry, as it relates to the poems in this volume.
Music (pp. 487-502): Musical scores are given for seventeen of Fr. Allan’s poems.
Bibliography of Fr Allan (pp. 503-12): This includes original works and translations, in Gaelic and English, and a list of Material Collected by Fr Allan and Utilised by Other Writers (pp. 506-11). This is followed by a list of Abbreviations (pp. 513-15), First Lines of Poems (pp. 517-18), and a Glossarial Index (pp. 519-27).
|Sources||The sources for each poem are given in Notes on the Poems (pp. 351-447) and a full list of the poetry MSS is given in Fr Allan’s Poetry Manuscripts (pp. 451-80).|
|Language||This text contains a large amount of Catholic religious phraseology. For example, poem 2, An Aifreann, begins ‘A Dhia, thoir dhuinn na gràsan \ Bhith cuimhneach có tha ’làth’r, \ Bith cuimhneach air an Ìobairt \ A thairg thu uair do Bhàis. \ S ionann là a’ cheusaidh \ Is Aifreann naomh an àigh, \ S ionann Uan nan Ìobairt \ Mac Mhoire mhìn nan gràs’ (p. 90). Other examples include Messia (p. 90), air an Altair (p. 94), anns a’ chailis (p. 94), ’Thighearna Dhia nan Slògh (p. 94), Sàlem (p. 114), do Mhaois (p. 128), na h-Ostail (p. 130), and an Spiorad Naomh (p. 150) to name but a few. Black also notes Fr. Allan’s use of droighean for ‘crown of thorns’ (e.g. p. 118, 196, 252). See pp. 16-17 for a list of Gaelic terms for the Devil, and pp. 17-19 for a list of Gaelic terms for God.
A number of made-up proper names appear throughout the text, e.g. Lurag (p. 236, 276), do Ghòraig (p. 276), Muisean (p. 276), and Fear-gun-Nàire (p. 266). Also of interest is Fr. Allan’s partiality for noun-phrases consisting of head-noun and attributive genitive listed by Black on pp. 23-25. Most of these involve religious entities, e.g. Righ nan Ainglean (p. 90), Creag na dìlinn (p. 126), Òigh nan Seud (p. 168), Mac Athair na Cathrach (p. 226), and Crann-ceusaidh na nàire (p. 284), but we also find Eòintein beag nan iomall eagach (p. 104). The texts also contain 19 phrases with the shape ‘noun + copula + adjective + noun in apposition’, which are listed by Black on p. 28. Examples include An t-Sàcramaid as uailse urram (p. 152) and claidheamh as geur ’fhaobh’r (p. 315).
Some of the poems contain vocabulary relating to life in South Uist and Eriskay. In Eilein na h-Oige (pp. 172-85) we find, e.g., ‘Fuaim nam feadan feadh nan creagan, \ Leinibh bheaga dannsa, \ Luchd na mara a’ sàr tharraing \ Canabhas ri cranntaibh; \ Éibh nan gillean shìos mun linnidh \ Iad ag iomairt trang ann — \ Tràigh as gile, cnuic as grinne, \ Ragha suidhe samhraidh’ (p. 174) and ‘’N àm na Callainn’ feadh nan carraig \ Bhiodh na feara greòd dhiubh: \ Là gun dad aca gan ragach’, \ ’S latha sgaid gu leòir ann; \ Fear a’ pronnadh, ’s fear a’ solladh, \ Tional poball ghòrag — \ Tàbh ga thomadh thun an todhair \ ’N-sin ga thogail fòpa!’ (p. 178). In Éirisgeigh Mhic Iain ’Ic Sheumais (pp. 126-29) we find ‘Is ann a gheibhte na fir threuna \ Nach gabh giorag ’s muir ag éirigh, \ Mnathan còire, fonnmhor, feumail, \ Gruagaichean a luaidheas eudach \ Sheinneas binn seach ianlaith géige’ (p. 126).
In a number of poems, Fr. Allan uses direct speech, giving us a valuable insight into certain aspects of the spoken language of the people in the late nineteenth century. Many of the exclamations are of a confrontational nature. Examples include: Dian orra shocair, òinsich (p. 154), Thoir thus’ an taigh ort ma thogras (p. 156), Cuist, a ghalghad! Siud e tighinn (p. 156), Och is och, tha ’n dunaidh diante (p. 160), Ach éistibh sibhse, fhir an taighe (p. 160), A bhean gun allas gun nàire (p. 162), Dùin do bhial, a bhradag bhriagach (p. 142), and ’N ainm an Àigh nach sguir sibh! (p. 146).
|Orthography||For a collection of explicitly dialectal words and phrases, see Fr. Allan’s Gaelic Words and Expressions from South Uist and Eriskay (1958). Words and expressions like the following examples from his poems may also reflect dialectal usage: Slàn’ear (p. 114), Ma dh’fhalbhas ese nochd (p. 146), “Fàilt’ ort, fhir mhóir,” osa mise (p. 256), Leis mar tha a chuile mì-thapadh (p. 156), m’ fhocal (p. 156), Am beil (e.g. p. 158, 264), Mun téid (p. 160), sib’ fhéin (p. 162), mo thigh’ fhìn (p. 162), and An aona chùis (p. 222).
The orthography has been consistently modernised to a 21st-century standard not quite identical with the GOC recommendations. Apostrophes are usually omitted, e.g. gan (p. 202), and the copula is represented as Se (e.g. p. 156), Si (e.g. p. 114), and Sann (e.g. p. 146). Both da and dha are used, e.g. A’ dòrtadh mach a gaoil da (p. 202) but ’S gun taisich sibh le bàidh dha (p. 206); and t is preferred to d in éistibh (p. 160) and An dràst’ (p. 202). The spelling ia is often preferred to ea and eu, e.g. dianamh (p. 154), Fiach (p. 158), and diag (p. 114). The editor does not explain the principles upon which he has modernised Fr. Allan’s orthography, other than to say that he has kept Fr Allan’s -ein (as opposed to -ean) endings, and that he has capitalised names according to Fr. Allan’s MSS, e.g. Mac Athair na Cathrach (p. 226).
|Further Reading||Black, Ronald, An Tuil (Edinburgh, 1999: Polygon).|