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Metadata for text 81001
No. words in text210643
Title Mac-Talla
Author N/A
Editor McKinnon, Jonathan G.
Date Of Edition 1892-1904
Date Of Language 1850-1899
Publisher McKinnon, Jonathan G.
Place Published Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Volume Vol. 1 of 12
Location National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Various
Register Literature, Prose and Verse
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition Paper size 34.2cm x 24.7cm, held in large green folders (25cm x 45cm). There are two folders per year, and each page is held between clear plastic sheets.
Short Title Mac-Talla Vol 1
Reference Details NLS: CB.2/24(6)
Number Of Pages 8 pages per issue, c. 650 issues. NLS does not have a complete collection in hard copy. Missing copies are noted on the inside cover of each folder.
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Jonathan G. McKinnon (1869-1944) was born in Whycocomagh, in Cape Breton. With the help of friends, he created a printing and publishing company and, in May 1892, he began publishing the Gaelic newspaper Mac-Talla. The sub-title of the newspaper reads ‘An ni nach cluinn mi an diugh cha’n aithris mi maireach’. From 1892 until 1900 the newspaper was a weekly publication. In 1901, McKinnon was forced to reduce the frequency of publication to fortnightly and, in 1904, to cease printing altogether, due to the rise in production costs and the difficulty of obtaining money from subscribers. Mac-Talla is the longest running Gaelic periodical and it circulated not just in Nova Scotia, but also in the northern and western United States, New Zealand, and Scotland. According to Michael Newton, ‘Mac-Talla coined and broadcast Gaelic neologisms, encouraged the collection of traditional folklore, voiced ideas about linguistic revitalization, and gave literate Gaels (particularly in Canada, which Scottish Gaels might have perceived as distant and provincial) a medium of expression they otherwise did not have’.
Contents Each issue contains a number of different items, including adverts; short, and occasionally larger, news items on local and national (Canadian and Scottish) events; letters; essays; stories; book reviews; poems and songs; and information from the editor. The earlier issues contain more news items and less songs, while the later issues contain fewer news items and more by way of stories, essays, and songs. The later issues also contain sections on marriages (Posaidhean) and deaths (Bais).

There are essays on a wide variety of topics, including Africa (Vol. VI, No. 33) and Fionnaghal Dhomhnullach (Vol. XII, No. 26). There are also some religious essays or sermons, such as Cumhachd Dhe (Vol. VI, No. 18), and there are several series of letters, e.g. Litir a Thorburn (Vol. VI, No. 33). There are also a number of miscellaneous items, such as A’ ceannach a’ Chorain (Vol. XII, No. 1), which tells how to buy copy of the Koran (an Córan), given that Muslims (Mahometanaich) are not allowed to sell it.

The stories are on many different subjects. In some instances the whole story is published in one issue, while other stories are split between several issues. Stories published as a series include Sgeulachdan Arabianach (e.g. Vol. VI, No. 18), Am Mac a B’ Oige (e.g. Vol. XII, No. 26) and Robinson Crusoe (e.g. Vol. XII, No. 26). Some stories were left unfinished when the paper stopped printing.

The news articles cover topics such as crime, politics, and local issues. For example, the first short news item in Vol. I, No. 7 reads ‘Chaidh I. E. Stiubhart, tuathanach ann an Ontario, a mharbhadh le mucan, aig a shabhal fein, agus mun d’fhuaradh na beisdan a chuir air falbh, dh’ith iad pairt de’. Vol. II, No. 18 contains the news: ‘Chaidh duine da’n ainm Iain Conroy, a mhuinntir New Brunswick a chur do’n tigh-oibreach air son crodh us eich a choimhearsnaich a phuinnseanachadh. Tha e gu bhi ann ceithir bliadhna deug’. Other news items deal with world affairs, e.g. ‘Tha e ro choltach gu bheil na h-Arabich a cur rompa cogadh cruaidh agus searbh a chur ri muinntir na Roinn-Eorpa’ (Vol. II, No. 18).

The poems have various themes, including elegies, satires, and praise poems. For example, Vol. XII, No. 1 contains the poems Throd mo Bhean, Di-Mholadh an Uisge-Bheatha, and Oran nam Bodach.

Some of the later issues have Gaelic sayings filling up odd spaces in the paper. For example, in Vol. XII, No. 1 we find ‘Cha b’e a’ mhuileann nach meileadh, ach an t-uisge nach ruitheadh’ and ‘Bidh uan dubh aig caora bhàin, ’s uan bàn aig caora dhubh’.

There are some regular contributors, such as Fionn (i.e. Henry Whyte) and CONA. Contributors come from Canada and Scotland, and probably from elsewhere also. Some of the material in Mac-Talla had been published previously, such as the article on Ruairidh Mac Leoid (Vol. VI, No. 33), which was originally published in An Fhianuis. Vol. XII, No. 1 contains a short article on An t-Sìde ’s a’ Ghaidhealtachd, reprinted from the Oban Times, and an article on Colla Ciotach Mac Ghilleasbuig, which was read before Comunn Gàidhlig Lunnainn by Prof. MacKinnon of Edinburgh.
Language Mac-Talla contains much interesting vocabulary on a range of subjects. Of particular interest is the terminology used in the adverts. There are adverts for all sorts of goods, including groceries, haberdashery, furniture, funeral arrangements, dentists, opticians, and pharmaceuticals. In these, we find such terms as Canndaidh, Nithean-milis, Cofi, and Sigars (Vol. I, No. 7); Dotair Fhiacail, Fir-Tagridh, Comhairlechean Notairean, da dholair, Storichean, Deagh Bharga, Curraicean, Lamhannan, and Carbad-Mairbh (Vol. II, No. 18); Brogan seomar, no Cuarain, Paipear-tearra, Paipear-mullaich (Vol. II, No. 33); Dotair Fradhairc (Vol. VI, No. 18); and Stor-chungaidhean, Bathar-cruaidh, and Urrasachadh Teine agus Leacan Glaine (Vol. XI, No. 1).

Other terms of interest include the months of the year, which are given as Ianuaraidh, Februaraidh, Mart, April, Maigh, Iun, Iulaidh, Ogust, September, October, Nobhember, and Desember; the Gaelic spelling of Halifacs (Vol. VI, No. 33) and Sraid Shearlot (Vol. XII, No. 1); mios nam faoileach, being the last two weeks in January and the first two weeks in February (Vol. VI, No. 33); Chaidh ionnsuidh a thoirt air am banca robaigeadh ann an Sidni tuath a sheachdain gus an dé (Vol. VI, No. 33); Tim Chlar and Meur ann an Sidni (Vol. XII, No. 1); and the frequent, but not exclusive, spelling of Gàidhlig as Gailig (e.g. Vol. I, No. 7; Vol. VI, No. 33).
Orthography The orthography conforms in general to late 19th-century and early 20th-century standards. The earlier issues have no accents, and it seems that accents first appear in Vol. II, No. 33, published on 10th March 1894. Accents become more frequent in later issues. The form us rather than is is used as the short form of the Gaelic for and. There are a number of typing errors throughout the texts, and a number of occasions where the rule of caol ri caol is not adhered to, e.g. na beisdan (Vol. I, No. 7).
Edition The pages are not numbered in the early issues. In Vols II-V the pages are numbered 1-8 in each issue. Starting with Vol. VI, however, the pages are numbered continuously from No. 1 to No. 21, i.e. 1-146. The last issue of Vol. XII has been paginated incorrectly, repeating the page numbers of the previous issue.
Further Reading Newton, Michael, ‘“Becoming Cold-hearted like the Gentiles Around Them”: Scottish Gaelic in the United States 1872-1912’, e-Keltoi 2, retrieved from
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