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Metadata for text 76001
No. words in text70222
Title Na Baird Leathanach
Author N/A (Edited work)
Editor Sinclair, Rev. Alexander MacLean
Date Of Edition 1898
Date Of Language Various
Publisher Haszard & Moore
Place Published Charlottetown
Volume Vol. 1 of 2
Location National and academic libraries
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Various
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 15.3cm x 10.5cm
Short Title Na Baird Leathanach Vol 1
Reference Details NLS: ABS.1.79.200
Number Of Pages 277
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Rev. Alexander MacLean Sinclair was born in Glenbard, in Antigonish County in Nova Scotia, in 1840. His mother was a daughter of John MacLean (Bàrd Thighearna Chola). He was brought up in Glenbard in a Gaelic speaking environment and had no English until he went to school at the age of 8. By the age of 15 however, he was teaching in Lochaber, Nova Scotia, with 90 pupils. In 1856 Sinclair enrolled at Pictou Academy where he studied for around eighteen months. He was a good scholar, and was particularly skilled at mathematics. He later studied at the Free Church College and at Dalhousie College, both in Halifax.

In 1866, at the age of 26, Sinclair was ordained as a minister within the Presbyterian Church. He spent 40 years as a minister, retiring in 1906. During that time, he worked in Springville (where he became interested in local and family history), Sunnybrae, and Belfast, Prince Edward Island. In 1882, he married Mary Ann Campbell and they had five children; four boys and one girl.

After retirement, Sinclair moved to Hopewell, Nova Scotia, where he built a house. He kept up his keen interest in Gaelic, however, teaching Celtic Studies at St Francis Xavier University and at Dalhousie University for seven years. In 1914, Sinclair was was elected a Fellow of the Gaelic Society of Canada for his contribution to Gaelic literature, and he received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Dalhousie University. He died in 1924.

In addition to this volume, Sinclair published a book on the history and genealogy of Clan MacLean, a history of the Clan Sinclair, and a number of anthologies of Gaelic poetry, such as Clàrsach na Coille (1881), Comhchruinneachadh Ghlinn-a’-Bhaird (1888, Text 85), and his series The Gaelic Bards (1890-96). In the judgement of Professor Derick Thomson (1994, 267), ‘He frequently altered his sources, but brought much valuable Nova Scotian tradition to bear on his texts.’
Contents Vol. I
Vol. I contains poems by MacLean bards up to 1775. There are works by 18 named MacLean poets, and four poems by unknown authors. Some poets have only one poem, while others have a large number, e.g. Iain Mac Ailein has 36 poems and Mairearad Nigh’n Lachainn has 10. The poems in Vol. I are headed by the editor’s Clann-Ghilleain (pp. 13-17). This is preceded by a Preface (pp. 5-8), An Clar-innse (pp. 9-11), and Errors and Corrections (p. 12). The poems take up pp. 18-270. These are followed by Speculations in Orthography (pp. 271-73), and Corrections and Notes (pp. 273-77).

Vol. II
Vol. II contains poems by 22 MacLean poets, dating from 1775 to 1898. Some poets only have one poem, while others have a large number. For example, Am Bàrd Mac-Gilleain (John MacLean, Bàrd Thighearna Cholla) has 16 poems, Seumas Mac-Gilleain has 15 poems, and Iain Mac-Gilleain (Balemartin) has 12 poems. Vol. II contains only An Clàr-Innse (unpaginated), the poems themselves (pp. 1-176) and one page of Errata.

The poems are arranged in a roughly chronological sequence, but this is not always transparent, and not all poets are assigned dates. In Vol. I, the first poet, Tighearna Chola, was born around 1490, and a few of the later poets, such as Eachann Bacach and Anndra Mac-an-Easbuig, were born in the early 17th century. The last named poet in Vol. I is Iain Mac-Eoghain, who was born around 1745. However, the last poet in Vol. II, Christy MacLean, was born around 1718 and died in 1808. A short paragraph containing biographical information is provided for most of the poets.
Sources In the Preface to Vol. I, Sinclair claims that the poems were taken ‘almost wholly’ from the MS collections of Dr. Hector MacLean (who collected a large number of poems around 1768) and John MacLean, the poet (who collected a large number of poems around 1816). However, editors should be aware that Sinclair freely altered his texts before publication. Earlier printed sources and Sinclair’s MS sources should be used wherever possible.
Language The poems cover a variety of topics, including love, war, elegy, praise, sailing and fishing, and clanship and land.

The two volumes contain a number of poems about love. For example, there are nine poems in Vol. II entitled Oran Gaoil, five of them by Seumas Mac-Gilleain. Others include Oran do Bharbara Nighean an Easbuig Fularton by Anndra Mac-an-Easbuig (Vol. II, pp. 73-75) and A Ho Ro, Mo Mhairi Lurach by Iain Mac-Gilleain (Vol. II, pp. 91-92). There are also a large number of elegies, e.g. Oran do dh-Dhomhnall Mac-Gilleain, Tighearna Chola, by Catriona Nic-Gilleain (Vol. I, pp. 57-59). The heading of this poem states that it is for ‘Tighearna Chola, agus na Caimbeulaich a suidheachadh fearainn Mhic Ghilleain Dhubhairt’ (Vol. I, p. 57). Other examples include Cumha Baintighearna Dhubh-airt (Vol. I, pp. 18-21) which is given ‘substantially’ as it appeared in An Gaidheal in 1873 (Vol. I, p. 21), and Cumha do Lachainn Mac-Gilleain, who died in 1687, by Lachainn Mac-Mhic-Iain (Vol. I, pp. 65-67). In Vol. II, we find Cumha by Gilleasbuig Mac Gilleain, which begins ‘Fhuair mi sgeula mo sgaraidh \ Mu ’n do mhiosaich an t-earrach, \ Gu’n robh m’ eudail ga ’bhannachd \ ’N ciste chaoil air a sparradh, \ ’S e air ghiùlan aig fearaibh \ ’S mnathan tùrsach dheth galach.’ (Vol. II, p. 1).

Vol. I contains a large number of poems relating to clanship, war, land, and politics. For example, in Gur Bochd Naidheachd Ar Duthcha, a song composed by Eachann Bacach for Sir Eachann Mac-Gilleain who was killed at the battle of Inverkeithing, we find ‘Bho thir-unga sin Bhreatail \ Thun na Carragh ’s cha bheag i, \ Bha na fearainn sin eagnaidh fo d’ staoileadh’ (Vol. I, p. 49). Other such poems include Blar Inbhircheitein (Vol. I, pp. 41-45), where we find ‘Nuair a thogamaid feachdan, \ Gum bu ghasd ar ceann-armailt’ (Vol. I, p. 43); Diomoladh na Pioba, by Lachainn Mac-Mhic-Iain, composed after the battle of Sheriffmuir when the piper took fright and ran off with Conduli’s pipes (Vol. I, pp. 69-71); Coille-Chragaidh by Iain Mac Ailein (Vol. I, pp. 93-95); and Iain Mac Ailein’s Oran (Vol. I, pp. 91-92), which he composed when Sir John Maclean ‘retired to the fortified island of Carnburgh’ after the battle of Killiecrankie, having suffered an invasion by Argyll. In Vol. II, we find Oran, by Domhnall Ban Mac-Gilleain, Mu na gillean òga a chaidh do’n arm (Vol. II, pp. 25-26) and Oran air na Croitearan by Lachainn Mac-Gilleain, which was composed at the time of the land agitations in the Highlands (Vol. II, pp. 126-27).

There are a number of eulogies by Iain Mac Ailein to Sir John MacLean, such as Naidheachd an Aitis, composed when he heard that MacLean was returning home (Vol. I, pp. 103-06). Mac Ailein also composed a number of poems based on legends, such as Fogradh Thuatha De Danann (Vol. I, pp. 139-41) and Cath Alphuirt (Vol. I, pp. 149-51). Also of interest, is his Freagairt Eoin Ghairnealair do dh-Eoin Balbhan, in which we find the lines ‘Craobh thorach a ghàraidh, \ ’Dhol le ailgheas ga fogradh, \ Gu craobh ur chur ’na h-aite, \ ’S gun e mu ’nadar leth-eolach’ (Vol. I, p. 96). A note at the end of this poem explains that Craobh thorach a gharaidh refers to King James, and that craobh ur chur ’na h-aite refers to King William (Vol. I, p. 96).

Vol. I contains a number of praise poems, some but not all to MacLean chiefs. Examples include Oran do Shir Lachainn Mac-Gilleain by Eachan Bacach (Vol. I, pp. 29-31), Iain Mac Ailein’s Moladh do Ghilleasbuig na Ceapaich ’s do ’n Phiob (Vol. I, pp. 89-91), and Calum a’ Ghlinne’s Failte Thearlaich na Sgurra (Vol. I, pp. 246-47). Vol. II contains a number of poems to Tighearna Chola by John MacLean, Bard Thighearna Chola, such as Oran do Thighearna Chola (Vol. I, pp. 31-34). There are a few praise poems which are not addressed to people, such as Iain Mac-Gilleain’s Dan Molaidh, in praise of Gaelic and of Edward Lluyd’s dictionary (Vol. I, pp. 226-28). Of interest in this poem is the Gaelic spelling of Lluyd as Lùid (Vol. I, p. 226). In this category we also find An t-Each Odhar by Calum a’ Ghlinne, Malcolm Maclean (Vol. I, pp. 237-41) and Lachainn Na Gàidhlig’s Moladh nan Gaidheal (Vol. II, pp. 85-86).

Vol. I also contains a number of satirical poems by An t-Aireach Muileach, including An Caimbeaulach [sic] Dubh, on a certain Colin Campbell who stole some cows from MacLaine of Lochbuie (Vol. I, pp. 248-9); a poem here entitled Aoir, addressed to Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair (Vol. I, pp. 249-50); and Diomoladh na Morthir, only part of which exists (Vol. I, p. 251). Compare also Di-Moladh na Ti by Hector Roy Maclean (Vol. II, pp. 105-07).

Oran, by Anndra Mac-an-Easbuig (Vol. I, pp. 79-81), was written ‘an uair a reic e an Cnoc Morairneach, a dh’ fheum e fhagail a chionn ’s gun robh na Camaranaich a goid a chuid cruidh is each, agus nach d’ fhag iad ni aige’ (Vol. I, p. 79), and contains some housing terms. The third stanza reads ‘Maghan farsuinn \ ’Bu shar ghasd aitreabh, \ Gun dion, gun fhasgadh, \ Gun sparr, gun at, gun chòmhla’ (Vol. I, p. 79). We also find some housing terms in Iain Mac Ailein’s Beannachadh Taighe (Vol. I, p. 163), e.g. ‘Mòr-thaigh a’s fearr air a chumadh \ Eadar uinneag, stuadh, is bhalla’ (Vol. I, p. 163).

There are a number of poems of a more light-hearted nature, such as Orain Gaoil by Iain Mac Ailein in which he addresses two ladies, one who thinks he is uneducated, the other who thinks that it is of no consequence because he has moran de thuigse nadair (Vol. I, pp. 84-85). He also composed Comhradh, a dialogue between dithisd nighean Dhomhnaill, mac Mhic-Dhomhnaill Dùibh (Vol. I, pp. 85-89), which was originally published in the Eigg Collection. Oran do na Grùdairean, by Domhnall Cubair (Vol. II, p. 19), was composed after he visited the brewery one night and was not asked in, but was later asked to return as some of the kegs were leaking. An Cubair Colach’s Oran celebrated a trip to America (Vol. II, pp. 9-10).

The theme of emigration is represented by Oran (Vol. II, pp. 111-13) and Bean Bhochd am Manitóba (Vol. II, pp. 122-24), both by Hector Roy Maclean. Rev. Duncan Maclean from Killin composed a number of nature poems, including Ceol (Vol. II, p. 79) and Latha Bealltainn (Vol. II, pp. 80-82).

Vol. II contains a number of poems relating to boats and fishing, such as Domhnall Cubair’s An t-Iasgach Geamhraidh (Vol. II, p. 20) and Oran Air a Chutter (Vol. II, pp. 20-21), and Seumas Mac-Gilleain’s Oran Marachd (Vol. II, pp. 149-50) and Oran air Turus Seòlaidh (Vol. II, pp. 150-52). In these, we find terms relating to boats and to the weather. For example, Bha i fiathail ’s air bheag bruaillein (Vol. II, p. 149) and Crainn ri lùbadh ’s siùil ga ’n stròiceadh (Vol. II, p. 149).

Vol. II also contains a number of songs about Gaelic and the Gaidhealtachd, such as Lachainn Mac-Gilleain’s Oran, written after he met a minister who told him that the Gaelic language had died (Vol. II, pp. 128-29) and Neil Maclean’s Oidhche na Dunàra (Vol. II, pp. 133-35) and Céilidh Mhic-Gilleruaidh (Vol. II, pp. 138-40).

A number of the poems, particularly in Vol. I, are followed by glossarial notes, e.g.: ‘Aimheal, grief. Manadh, chance, luck. Ainid, vexing, galling.’ (Vol. I, p. 59), ‘Arsaidh, old’ (Vol. I, p. 158), and ‘Carn, pile of stones raised over a man’s grave’ (Vol. I, p. 158). A number of interesting words are given in these notes, including the word Dreallainn, explained as ‘a name applied to the island of Mull’ (Vol. I, p. 81); Fodhla, given as ‘an ancient name of Ireland’ (Vol. I, p. 123); and Tuladh, glossed as ‘bread and cheese given with a dram’ (Vol. I, p. 163). The poems also contain a number of loan words, such as a ghibht (Vol. I, p. 48) and ’ghibhtean (Vol. I, p. 80), Mòisean (Vol. I, p. 93), and Drum’ a beatadh (Vol. II, p. 25).

It is unclear whether the language of the older texts has been modernised by the editor; the substantial glossaries following poems such as Caismeachd Ailein nan Sop (Vol. I, pp. 25-26), allegedly composed c. 1537, suggests that he has not altered his originals extensively.
Orthography The orthography is pretty consistent throughout the texts and is generally speaking that of the late nineteenth century. In Speculations in Orthography (Vol. I, pp. 271-73), the editor writes that we should spell words, as far as possible, as they are pronounced, and that, wherever possible, we should retain ‘the oldest form of words’ (Vol. I, p. 271). He suggests, for example, the forms claidheabh rather than claidheamh and fheil rather than ’eil (as can be seen, for example, in Vol. II, p. 11). He also discards the apostrophe in certain places, his basic rule being that if it is not pronounced, it should not be written; and he condemns the use of an apostrophe after the definite article a. However he does advocate its use after a meaning ‘in’ to distinguish it from a meaning ‘out of’. He also suggests the use of an san taigh rather than anns an taigh, since this more clearly reflects the spoken form and also because san ‘is an old form of the article’ (Vol. I, p. 273). This section gives an interesting perspective on the orthographical conventions of the day, and the reasons given for emending them.
Edition First edition. A number of the poems in these volumes have since been published in Na Baird Thirisdeach (Text 58), e.g. Neil Maclean’s Oidhche Na Dunàra (Vol. I, pp. 133-35). Comparison of the two versions of these songs shows significant orthographic variation. The versions in Na Baird Thirisdeach have been modernised to the standards of the early 1930s. The lyrics of Oidhche Na Dunàra differ somewhat, this volume having one extra stanza. There are also some differences in wording and word-forms, e.g. where this volume has Chìteadh and spàirneachd, Na Baird Thirisdeach has Chite and spairinn.

Given that Sinclair is known to have altered his sources, it is necessary to check alternative sources (some of the poems were published in earlier volumes or periodicals) or the original MSS where possible. The earliest authoritative source should be used where possible. Editors should not excerpt from this text. Colm Ó Baoill’s editions should be used to help determine readings, forms and meanings.
Other Sources
Further Reading Dunbar, Robert, ‘The Secular Poetry of John MacLean, “Bàrd Thighearna Chola”, “Am Bàrd MacGilleain”’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2006.
Linkletter, Michael, ‘The Gaelic Collection of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia’, in Byrne, Clancy, and Kidd (eds.) Litreachas agus Eachdraidh: Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig, 2 (2006), 148-60.
Sinclair, Alisdair, ‘Rev. Alexander Maclean Sinclair, F.G.S.C., LL.D (1840-1924)’, retrieved from
Thomson, Derick S., ed., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Glasgow, 1994: Gairm).
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