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Title An t-Urramach Iain Mac-Rath (“Mac-Rath Mor”): A Bha ann an Leodhas. Beagan Iomraidh m’ a Bheatha agus Criomagan de ’Theagasg
Author Mac-Neacail, Neacal
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1894
Date Of Language 1850-1899
Publisher G. Young
Place Published Inverness
Volume N/A
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Various
Register Religion, Prose and Verse
Alternative Author Name Nicol Nicolson
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 18cm x 12.3cm
Short Title An t-Urramach Iain Mac-Rath
Reference Details NLS: 5.5013(39)
Number Of Pages 53 pages
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context John MacRae was born in Kintail in May 1794. He was one of twelve children, six of whom died young. Of the other six, MacRae was the youngest of three boys and three girls. Both of his parents were MacRaes. When he was young, his family moved to Ardelve in Lochalsh where they stayed for nineteen years. The children were educated well. The family then moved to Morvich in Kintail where, within a year, MacRae’s father died. John and his brother then took a sheep farm at the south end of Loch Carron, at a place called An t-Iomaire. MacRae left An t-Iomaire for Mam Ratagan, at the south end of Loch Duich, where he had a share of the tack with a friend. He was overseeing the building of a new road up the side of Mam Ratagan when he met Finlay Munro, a well known evangelical, and MacRae asked him to join them for lunch. Finlay agreed, but insisted on saying grace. This appears to have had some effect on MacRae, and it happened that, shortly afterwards, he found himself in the vicinity of an open-air sermon by Dr. MacDonald of Ferintosh. He was overcome with emotion and could think of little else afterwards. He turned his attention to education. Soon afterwards, he began teaching part-time at a school at Arnisdale in Glenelg and it was there that he first began preaching to the people on a Sunday and holding prayer meetings during the week. MacRae then began to think about becoming a minister. He went to Aberdeen University to study Arts, and found himself to be particularly good at mathematics. He then studied theology in Edinburgh with Dr. Thomas Chalmers. He was ordained in 1830 and for a while assisted Rev. James Russell in Gairloch. He became very popular with the people there. In 1833 he moved to Ness in Lewis, to take up the post of minister at Cross. He moved back to the mainland in 1839, to Knockbain in Easter Ross, and ‘it was there that he reached the zenith of his powers and became known as “Macrath Mor”’ (Collins 1976: 25).

Physically, MacRae was well built and strong, and his preaching was also powerful. He was happy at Knockbain, where he was surrounded by ‘like-minded ministerial neighbours’ (Collins 1976: 25), i.e. Evangelicals, although it was a difficult time for the church in the run-up to the Disruption. On this matter, MacRae was chosen by Dr. Chalmers to visit the Highlands and Islands to ‘acquaint people with the matters at issue’ (Collins 1976: 27). MacRae was now a well known minister, and he was also becoming known for his quick tongue against Moderate ministers and others. Collins points out however, that ‘though the weapon of repartee was always ready to Mr Macrae’s hand it was only used when needed. His addresses were not the irresponsible productions of the demagogue, but the well-reasoned and edifying utterances of a discerner of the times’ (Collins 1976: 27). In 1849, MacRae answered a call from the Gaelic community in Greenock. They had a Gaelic chapel there and most of the congregation were in the Free Church. During his time there, Macrae began to feel unwell and was pleased to receive a call from Lochs in Lewis in 1857, believing that the fresh air might do him good. However, the change was not as beneficial as he had hoped. At that time, Lochs had a congregation of around 5000 and his parishioners were scattered over a wide area with very little means of transport. In fact, MacRae was given a yacht by his parishioners, the idea having been suggested by Rev. Roderick Macleod of Snizort whom MacRae was replacing. MacRae was an experienced seaman and the yacht was extremely useful to him. In 1864, MacRae moved to Carloway. He was then 70 years of age. He threw himself into his work but was forced to give it up in 1871 due to failing health. He then moved to Stornoway and spent a year there preaching in the old Free Church, which was mostly empty. He then spent a few months in Skye, before moving to Gourock, to Kilmacolm, and then back to Greenock. He felt saddened there, however, as the new minister was not as powerful a force as MacRae himself had been.

MacRae did not read his sermons (in fact this was one of his complaints about Moderate ministers), but preached extempore. He was always careful to encourage people to join the Church and not frighten them away. He opposed the Union movement, but only because he believed it would end up doing more damage than good as so many people were opposed to it. MacRae’s wife died in 1859, after they had been together for twenty-six years. They had three sons and two daughters. MacRae himself died in Greenock in October 1876. By 1894, all three sons were abroad and doing well for themselves, and both daughters were married to Free Church ministers in the Highlands.

The author of this volume, Nicol Nicolson, was a Free Church minister from Shawbost in Lewis. He served in Garve, Shawbost, and then in Strathcarron. This text is a biography of MacRae.
Contents This volume begins with a Roimh-Radh by MacNeacail (p. 3), explaining that although it had been seventeen years since MacRae died, it was not yet too late to write his biography. There follows a section entitled An t-Urr. Iain Mac-Rath (pp. 5-44) which contains information on the life of MacRae, including anecdotes (pp. 5-14); descriptions of MacRae’s preaching talents and numerous quotations from his sermons (pp. 14-33). A sub-section headed Buadhan Fuil Chrìosd (pp. 33-42) discusses some of Macrae’s sermons, including the one mentioned in the heading. In some cases use is made of MacRae’s own notes. In pp. 33-44 we return to biographical description. There follows Marbhrann air an Urramach Iain Mac-Rath Mor, composed in 1877 by Neacal MacNeacail (pp. 45-51). A single page of Errata (p. 53) is given at the end of the volume.
Sources This account seems to be based on oral reminiscences of MacRae, stories circulating about him, and some of MacRae’s sermon notes.
Language The text contains a number of quotations from the Bible, e.g. ‘Eiribh, rachamaid as a so’ (p. 18), and ‘Bha e a’ searmonachadh la o’n earrainn so:—“Seallaibh riumsa agus bithibh air ur tearnadh, uile iomalla na talmhainn; oir is mise Dia, agus chan 'eil atharrach ann.”’ (p. 18). In addition, a number of religious terms, and terms describing MacRae’s ministering, appear throughout the text, e.g. as deigh àm an Dealachaidh (p. 18), eud air son onair Chriosd mar Righ Shioin (p. 9), Bha e gun sgios a’ misneachadh agus a’ stiuradh choimhthionalan (p. 9), air Latha Sabaid Comanachaidh (p. 24), ‘chum a bhith a’ mineachadh cuisean agus coraichean na h-Eaglais agus chum, a bhith a’ cur iompaidh air an t-sluagh gu seasamh leis an fhirinn agus leis a’ cheartas’ (p. 9), ann a bhith a’ suidheachadh choimhthionalan ura ann an caochladh chearnaidhean (p. 9), ris an Eaglais Shaoir (p. 10), as leth coraichean glormhor an Tighearn Iosa Criosd mar Aon Righ agus ceann na h-Eaglais (p. 10), ministear na h-Eaglais Steidhichte (p. 10), ministear Moderate (p. 11), moran de mhinistearan an t-soisgeil (p. 14), ‘Bhiodh e gu tric a’ labhairt mu fhulangasan an Fhir-shaoraidh agus air aonadh nadur a dhaonnachd agus a dhiadhachd’ (p. 17), Satan, fear-casaid nam braithrean (p. 26), ‘Tha Cumhnant nan Gras le ’uile bheannachdan air an seulachadh le fuil an Tiomnaidheir, oir ‘ far a bheil tiomnadh is eigin bas an tiomnaidheir a bhith ann mar an ceudna’ (p. 36), ‘Cha robh ni a’ dol a ghleidheadh Cloinn Israeil o ’n aingeal-sgriosaidh a chaidh a mach air feadh na h-Eiphit gun an sgrios mar a rinneadh air na h-Eiphitich, ach gum faiceadh e an fhuil air an dorsan’ (p. 37), and La Ceist (p. 39).

There are also a large number of quotations from Macrae, both in his preaching and in his dealings with other people. MacNeacail explains that these are not exact quotations from Macrae; he has reconstituted them from his own memory, and from the memory of others who knew him. Examples of such quotations from the preachings include: ‘Tha eagal orm nach ’eil sibh fhathast abuich air son gabhail ris an t-soisgeul. Is ann a tha mi ga m’ shamhlachadh fhein ri balachan a bhiodh a’ caitheamh chlach ri aodann balla, agus bhiodh na clachan a’ tionndadh air an ais fhein an deigh am balla a bhualadh. Is ann mar sin a tha mise ga m’ fhaighinn fhein ann a bhith a’ labhairt na firinn a’ bualadh air a h-ais orm fhein an deigh a bhith ga cuimseachadh oirbhse’ (p. 18), and ‘Nach leig sibh le Facal Dhe gnothach a dheanamh ri ur cogaisean, agus deanadh ur cogaisean gnothach ri Facal Dhe’ (p. 18). Quotations from his dealings with other people include: ‘“Seadh,” arsa Mr Iain, “tha mi ’faicinn nach do shealg mi uile fhathast iad, agus thusa beo’ an sin ad shionnach’ (p. 10) as a retort to a Moderate minister who said that he had seen him hunting foxes, and ‘An uair a bha e anns na Lochan, chaidh e a mach a ghabhail cuairt air la fliuch anns an earrach. Thug e an aire do dhuine aig an robh a chrait laimh ris an fhearann aige fhein, a’ cur an t-sil. Chaidh e far an robh an duine agus thuirt e ris, “Nach ’eil e ro fhliuch an diugh gu bhith a' cur an t-sil?” “O,” ars’ an duine, “chan ann de shiol a phoca-shalainn a tha sinn.” “Mur a h-ann,” arsa Mr Iain, “is ann is docha thu ghrodadh.”’ (p. 11).

Other words and phrases of interest include Oilthighean Obar-eadhain (p. 7), stiuradair bata (p. 7), do Charlobhagh (p. 13), Dior-daoin (p. 13), air na puincean so (p. 17), an carbadair no an driver (p. 19), and Cionnus a bhios sin? (p. 23).
Orthography The orthography is in general that of the late nineteenth century. Very few accents are used.
Edition First edition. Subsequent editions were published in 1895, 1910, and 1939. The 1895 edition is almost identical to the first edition. It is the same shape and size, and the cover is the same. It bears the date 1894. The title page, however, bears the date 1895. The 1910 edition is slightly larger in format than the previous two and contains only 40 pages. The content is the same, with very slight changes in orthography. The cover and title page give ‘G. Young, Inverness’ as the publisher; the cover has been stamped over with ‘A. MacLaren, Glasgow’. The 1939 edition, published by MacLaren in Glasgow, is the same height as the first two editions but slightly wider. It contains 59 pages of text. The text has been revised in places, e.g. seachd-bliadhn’-déug becomes seachd-bliadhna-deug, Mac-Rath becomes Mac Rath, and Dr Kennedy becomes Dr MacCuaraig. On inspection, the first edition appears to be the most suitable for editors to use. There are a few typing errors scattered throughout the text, e.g. soilteir (p. 6) and naidteachd (p. 43), but the text is on the whole easy to read.
Other Sources
Further Reading Collins, George N. M., “Big Macrae”: the Rev. John Macrae (1794-1876): Memorials of a Notable Ministry (Edinburgh, 1976: Knox Press).
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