Reference Number74001
TitleHebridean Folksongs. A Collection of Waulking Songs by Donald MacCormick in Kilphedir in South Uist in the year 1893 (Vol. I); Hebridean Folksongs II. Waulking Songs from Barra, South, Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula (Vol. II); Hebridean folksongs III. Waulking songs from Vatersay, Barra, Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula (Vol. III)
AuthorN/A (Edited work)
EditorCampbell, John Lorne (texts), and Collinson, Francis (musical transcriptions)
Date Of Edition1969 (Vol. I), 1977 (Vol. II), 1981 (Vol. III)
Date Of Language17c – 19c. Vol. I, nos 1-37 were collected from oral tradition by Donald MacCormick in or before 1893; nos 38-40 by Fr Allan McDonald in 1893; all texts in vols II and III by the editors of these volumes between the 1930s and 1960s. Readings from other ve
Date Of Language Ed1900-1949
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherCaledonian Press
Place PublishedOxford
VolumeVol. 1 of 3
LocationNational, academic, and local libraries (Edinburgh and Highland)
Geographical OriginsOuter Hebrides, especially South Uist and Barra
Geographical Origins EdWestern Isles
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterLiterature, Verse (Folksongs)
Register EdLiterature, Verse
135 waulking songs from the Hebrides.
Variety of subjects, including love songs and laments.
Includes references to war, attributes of the clans.
Alternative Author NameIain L. Caimbeul (editor)
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition22.2cm x 14.6cm
Short TitleHebridean Folksongs
Reference DetailsNLS: NG.1366/7.f.3 (Vol. I), NLS: ILS:[14-0] (Vol. II), NLS: ILS:[15-9] (Vol. III)
Number Of Pagesxv, 375
Gaelic Text ByN/A
Social ContextVol. I comprises the 37 waulking songs from the collection made by Donald MacCormick in South Uist in 1893, and 3 waulking songs collected by Fr. Allan McDonald. Vols II and III, published in 1977 and 1981 respectively, comprise a further 95 waulking songs collected by John Lorne Campbell and his collaborators in South Uist, Barra, and the surrounding islands, between 1938 and 1965, giving a total of 135 waulking songs. The songs are numbered consecutively from I to CXXXV over the three volumes. Variant versions are given for a number of the songs, giving 225 in total. The variant versions are not numbered. The Introduction to Vol. III states that the songs in these volumes have been collected from 42 women and 8 men: 15 women and 4 men from Barra, 15 women and 4 men from South Uist, 6 women from Benbecula, 3 women from Eriskay, 2 women from Vatersay, and 1 woman from Cape Breton. The three volumes are said to contain songs that are very well-known, songs that are rare, and songs that ‘we can fairly claim to have rescued from oblivion’ (Vol. III, p. 14).

Donald MacCormick was the Compulsory Officer for schools in South Uist. He was an educated man, who wrote, read, and spoke both Gaelic and English. Fr. Allan McDonald’s notebooks contain a number of proverbs contributed by MacCormick and MacCormick was also a poet: he wrote an elegy for Fr. George Rigg, which was published in Eilein na h-Òige (Text 73), and three of his hymns were published in Fr. Allan McDonald’s Catholic Gaelic Hymnal, published in Oban in 1893. Although there were references to MacCormick’s collection in Fr. Allan’s notebooks, John Lorne Campbell spent a long time looking for it. It was finally given to him by Mr. Hector MacLean who was given it by Fr. Allan’s niece, Miss Margaret MacInnes. It comprises an octavo notebook bearing the title Cochruinneachadh Do Dhorain Lùaidh le Domhnull M’Càrmaic N, Cillpheadair N. Ceann a Deas, Uist. It is dated 1893, and Fr. Allan has written next to it in pencil that MacCormaic was aged 56 at that time. It is therefore likely that he was born about 1837. The notebook contains the texts of 36 waulking songs and a love song. Two more waulking songs and an elegy to Fr. George Rigg were inserted on a loose leaf sheet of paper taken from another notebook. MacCormick notes how the songs should be sung – e.g. stating whether lines should be repeated – but makes no mention of who sung them. It is suggested that the songs were transcribed from his mother and sister.
ContentsVol. I
This volume begins with a Foreword (pp. ix-xi) by J. L. Campbell, a short list of Corrigenda (p. xii), a table of Contents (pp. xiii-xiv), and a List of Illustrations (p. xv). The main body of the text is divided into three sections as follows:

I Hebridean Waulking Songs, by J. L. Campbell (pp. 1-37): This section contains The Waulking Described (pp. 3-16), The Subjects of the Songs (pp. 17-23), The Waulking Song in Eighteenth-Century Printed Gaelic Literature (pp. 24-26), Art Versions of Waulking Songs (pp. 27-30), and The Donald MacCormick Collection (pp. 31-37).

II The MacCormick Collection of Waulking Songs (pp. 39-201): This section contains an Index of First Lines (pp. 41-42), the Text with Translations (pp. 43-159), Notes on the Text (pp. 160-94), Notes on the Singers (pp. 195-98), and Notes on the Metres, the Metrical Structures of Waulking Songs by Francis Collinson (pp. 199-201). The Notes on the Text (pp. 160-94) contain information about the songs and singers, references to other versions of the text and tune of the song, notes on textual and linguistic points, and references to existing recordings of the song. There is also a short section entitled Notes on MacCormick’s Text (pp. 60-61), which contains information about MacCormick’s orthography (see Language below). The English versions of most of the songs in this volume are the work of Fr. Allan McDonald; the rest were translated by J. L. Campbell in the same style.

III The Musicology of Waulking Songs, by Francis Collinson (pp. 203-37): This section contains The Scales of the Tunes (pp. 205-13), The Form of the Tunes (pp. 214-19), The Waulking Pulse (pp. 220-22), Musical Variation in the Tunes (pp. 223-25), Characteristic Rhythms (p. 226), and The Meaningless Refrain Syllables and their Significance by J. L. Campbell and Francis Collinson (pp. 227-37).

There follow further sections on Musical Transcriptions by Francis Collinson (pp. 239-344), a Bibliography (pp. 345-49), a Glossarial Index (pp. 351-72), and an Index of Persons and Places (pp. 373-75). The Glossarial Index (pp. 351-72) comprises an extensive glossary which includes some commonly used words, such as molt and Moire, alongside rarer words, such as òircheard and snap. English definitions are provided, with line references to significant occurrences of the word in question, and indications of principal variants and interesting usages, e.g. ‘ceum, step, 109; c. astair, 622; fois orra ch., 339; c. mo choise, 858; c. stòlda, 930’ (p. 355).

Vol. II
This Volume begins with a list of Contents (p. ix), an Introduction by J. L. Campbell (pp. 1-5), a chapter on The Singers (pp. 6-12), and a List of First Lines (pp. 13-14).

The songs are presented in three sections as follows: Songs probably not originally composed as waulking songs (pp. 16-37), Songs of single-line ‘verses’ of the metrical form 8² or 8¹ (pp. 39-121), and Songs of single-line ‘verses’ of four syllables each (8² divided) (pp. 122-85).

There follows a section entitled Notes on the Text (pp. 186-254) by J. L. Campbell, and sections entitled Musicological Notes (pp. 255-68) and Musical Transcriptions (pp. 269-358), both by Francis Collinson. This volume ends with a Glossarial Index (pp. 359-64) and an Index of Persons and Places (pp. 365-67). The Glossarial Index in this volume is not as extensive as that in Vol. I, being confined to the more unusual words.

The songs in Vols. II and III were collected by Campbell and Collinson between 1937 and 1965.

Vol. III
This Volume begins with a table of Contents (p. ix), a List of Plates (p. xi), and an Introduction by J. L. Campbell, dated 1977 (pp. 1-17), which includes a section on The Singers (pp. 10-13). This is followed by Some Motifs and Formulas of the Older Waulking Songs (pp. 18-33) and a List of First Lines (pp. 34-35).

The Text and Translations of the songs (pp. 37-207) are divided by metrical structure and sung tempo, beginning with Songs of Single-line ‘Verses’ of Less than Eight Syllables (pp. 38-77) and concluding with Clapping or Pairing-off Songs (pp. 187-207). An Appendix (pp. 209-31) contains ‘three little-known songs in 8² metre that were recovered too late for inclusion in Vol. II; and the texts, with translations, of Barra versions of numbers XXXII and XXXIII of Vol. I, these differing considerably from the Uist versions printed here, and being of some historical and literary interest’ (p. 209). This is followed by: Notes on the Text (pp. 232-306); Musical Notes (pp. 307-17); The Refrain Syllables of Waulking Songs: Some Further Observations (pp. 318-23); Hebridean Folksongs and Songs of the Hebrides (pp. 324-36), in which J. L. Campbell and Francis Collinson note which songs from Hebridean Folksongs can be found in Songs of the Hebrides; Musical Transcriptions (pp. 337-421); and Additions to Bibliography (pp. 423-24).

This volume ends with a Glossarial Index (pp. 425-28) and an Index of Persons and Places (pp. 429-32). The Glossarial Index in this volume is not as detailed as that in Vol. I; like that in Vol. II, it is confined to the more unusual words.

The English translations of the songs in Vols II and III are the work of J. L. Campbell. They are in a more contemporary style than those of Fr Allan McDonald in Vol. I.
SourcesThe songs in Vol. I were taken from the MSS of Donald MacCormick and Fr. Allan MacDonald (see Social Context above). The texts in Vols. II and III are based on transcriptions of recordings and versions of songs found in MS sources, such as Fr. Allan McDonald’s collection, and from earlier printed sources. The musical transcriptions in all three volumes are based on recordings made by J. L. Campbell and his collaborators between 1937 and 1965.
LanguageCampbell claims in The Subjects of the Songs (Vol. I, pp. 17-23), that the oldest songs take us back to the 16th and 17th century in the Highlands and Islands, and can provide us with a description of the people and their lives from that time. He notes, for example, that ‘Amongst men, long hair and a fair complexion were esteemed’ (Vol. I, p. 17). He also refers to some of the clothing mentioned in the songs, e.g. ‘the steel helmet (clogada cruadhach), doublet, shirt (léine), plaid (breacan), belt (crios)’ (Vol. I, p. 17), and notes the mention of ‘gin (sineubhar)’ (Vol. I, p. 17), ‘silk from Spain (sìoda reamhar ruadh na Spàine)’ (Vol. I, p. 17), and ‘backgammon (tàileasg)’ (Vol. I, p. 18). The subjects covered in the songs include love, praise of men and women (often chiefs and their hospitality), and laments, and Campbell points out that a number of the songs collected as waulking songs were not originally waulking songs, e.g. the ballad Am Bròn Binn (Vol. I, p. 19).

Most of the songs are, at heart, love songs, whether the subject is a family member or a lover (real or imagined), and whether the loved one is present or absent, alive or dead. For example, in Gura mise tha fo ghruaman (Vol. I, pp. 84-87) we find ‘Mo cheist air péidse Fir Ròthag, \ B’ e sin an t-òganach smearail. \ Calpa cruinn an t-siubhail eutrom, \ Cha lùbadh tu feur no gaineamh. \ Traigh chuimir an stocainn bhàinghil \ Dhìreadh a’ bheinn àrd gun anail \ Giamanach gunna nach diùltadh \ Nuair chaogadh tu ’n t-sùil ’s a’ mhala’ (Vol. I, p. 84), and in ’S muladach mi ’s mi air m’ aineoil (Vol. I, pp. 112-15) we find ‘’S nach fhaic mi tighinn mo leannan, \ Geugaire fionn foinnidh fearail, \ Mala chaol gun chaochladh seallaidh, \ Sùil ghorm ’san aodann nach greannach, \ Fiacaill bhàn is bial dearg tana’ (Vol. I, p. 112).

Some of the songs contain references to war, for example ’S mi ’m aonaran am Beinn a’ Cheòthain (Vol. I, pp. 124-27), where we find ‘Gura h-e mo ghaol-sa Dòmhnall, \ Ort a thig na h-airm an òrdugh, \ Claidheamh is sgiath bogha is dòrlach, \ Cuinnsear caol ’s a thaobh air òradh’ (Vol. I, p. 124), and ’Ille dhuinn bhòidhich (Vol. III, p. 172-79), where we find ‘Gura mis’ tha fo mhulad, \ Giùlain culars Rìgh Deòrsa. \ ’S mi ri giùlain a’ ghunna \ Ann an cuideachd a’ Chòirneil’ (Vol. III, p. 172) and ‘Luchd nan còtaichean gearra \ ’Gan cur fairis dha’n Òlaind, \ Luchd nan còtaichean ruadha \ ’Gan cur suas ann an òrdan, \ ’S luchd nan còtaichean màdair \ Dh’fhan ’san àraich gun deò unnt’, \ ’S iad fo phudhar nan canan, \ A’ call fala le dòghrainn \ ’S iad ’nan sìneadh ’san luachair, \ Fuil mu’n guaillean a’ dòrtadh’ (Vol. III, p. 174).

The attributes of the clan are frequently mentioned in the songs. For example, in Siùbhlaidh mi ’s fàgaidh mi ’m fearann (Vol. I, p.136-39) we find ‘Soiridh uam gu Mac ’ic Dùbhghaill, \ Dhomhsa b’aithne beus do thùrlaich, \ Pìob mhór ’ga spreigeadh air ùrlar, \ Ruidhle mu seach air an ùrlar, \ Clàrsach ghrinn ’s a cruinn ’gan rùsgadh’ (Vol. I, p. 138), and in Cha déid mise, cha déid mi (Vol. I, p. 140-43) we find ‘Tha mi torrach, c’uime ’n ceilinn? \ Cha n-ann bho fhear crìon no goirid— \ ’S math as aithne dhomh do shloinneadh, \ Cha Chamshronach, cha Mhac Coinnich, \ Dòmhnallach deas làidir loinneil’ (Vol. I, p. 140). In Ach a Mhurchaidh òig ghaolaich (Vol. II, pp. 26-29) we find ‘’S ann is càirdeach dà uair thu \ Do dh’uaislean shìol Ailein, \ Do MhacNìll bho na Tùraibh, \ Do dh’Iain Mùideartach allail, \ Do Mhac Fhionghuin bho’n Chréithich, \ Leis an éireadh fir gheala’ (Vol. II, p. 28).

Vol. II contains the Arthurian ballad Am Bròn Binn (Vol. II, p. 18-27), which in this version begins ‘Turas a chaidh Rìgh Artair ’s a shluagh \ Gu tulach nam buadh a shealg, \ Gun duine mar-ris an Rìgh, \ Ach Sir Bhalbha, fo a lìon arm.’ (Vol. II, p 18). We also find a number of songs with a different tone in Vols. II and III, such as Cha déid Mór a Bharraidh bhrònaich (Vol. II, p. 112-21), which takes the form of a flyting between between the bardesses of Clanranald and MacNeil, which begins ‘Nic Iain Fhinn, ban-eileineach, \ Cailin spàgach, uinneineach! \ Blad-chraois leathan, dealanach, \ Stròn ghorm, ghoirid, mheallanach, \ Bus is spor is spreillean ort, \ Taobh dearg a seicheadh am muigh!’ (Vol. II, p. 112). Vols. II and III also contain a number of songs expressing a love of home, such as Ciad soiridh bhuam dhachaidh (Vol. III, pp. 92-93) and Hùgan nan gù, théid mi dhachaidh (Vol. II, pp. 78-79).

In The Subjects of the Songs (Vol. I, pp. 17-23), Campbell mentions the use of stock or formulaic passages, i.e. passages which recur, more or less verbatim, in several songs. A clear example can be found in the songs Di-Sathuirne ghabh mi mulad (Vol. I, 62-67) and Dh’éirich mi moch maduinn àlainn (Vol. I, pp. 128-31). The first song contains the passage: ‘Far an d’fhuair mi gu h-òg m’altrum, \ Cha b’ann air sàile nam partan, \ Air fìon, air beòir, ’s air leann daithte, \ Air bainne-cìoch nam ban basgheal’ (Vol. I, p. 64), while the second contains ‘Far an d’fhuair mi gu h-òg m’àrach, \ Cha b’ann air sàil gorm nam bàirneach— \ Air fìon ’s air beòir ’s air leann làidir \ ’S air bainne cìoch nam ban bàngheal’ (Vol. I, p. 130).
OrthographyThe editors of these texts have had to deal with some special transcriptional challenges. For example, Campbell notes, in The Subjects of the Songs (Vol. I, pp. 17-23), that ‘where such musical [sic] stress falls on an obscure vowel (e.g. forms of the definite article such as a’, na, nam) the pronunciation of this is often changed by traditional songs when so stressed from ə to open o’ (Vol. I, p. 20).

The section Notes on MacCormick’s Text (Vol. I, pp. 160-61), while illustrating MacCormick’s orthographical traits, is also illuminating with regard to the principles adopted in these volumes. Regarding MacCormick’s system, Campbell saw it as containing ‘some peculiarities often associated with the spelling of self-taught writers of Scottish Gaelic’. For example, the apostrophe was often in the wrong place, e.g. s, for ’s. Only the grave accent was used. Unnecessary accents were often written, e.g. on ao and ua, and on historically short vowels followed by ll, m, nn, ng and rr. The word rinn is spelt reinn or rèinn; cn and gn are usually written cr and grl and ll, n and nn, r and rr are written indiscriminately, e.g. òll, eagall, and gilean. The form orra replaces oirre (as is usual in Uist Gaelic). The dependent forms of thoir, thig and abair are usually written with an initial d. Campbell also lists a number of other forms used by MacCormick. Most of MacCormick’s non-standard practices have been eliminated in these volumes, with the exception of the forms déid, dàinig and dug.

The orthography of these volumes conforms largely to mid-to-late twentieth-century standards. Both grave and acute accents are employed throughout.
EditionFirst edition. While some of the songs in these three volumes have never been published before, others have been published (mostly in text form only) in earlier collections. In some cases, the texts printed here have appeared, associated with different tunes, e.g. in Songs of the Hebrides. Full details of these and similar relationships are provided in these volumes, e.g. in Vol. I, pp. 13-14.
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