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Metadata for text 85
No. words in text100207
Title Comhchruinneachadh Ghlinn-a-Bhaird (The Glenbard Collection of Gaelic Poetry)
Author N/A (Edited work)
Editor Sinclair, Rev. Alexander MacLean
Date Of Edition 1890
Date Of Language Various
Publisher Haszard & Moore
Place Published Charlottetown
Volume 1 volume in three parts
Location National Library of Scotland
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 15cm x 9.6cm
Short Title Comhchruinneachadh Ghlinn-a-Bhaird
Reference Details NLS: Blair.115
Number Of Pages xii, 394 (See below for difficulties regarding pagination.)
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, he was teaching in Lochaber, Nova Scotia, with 90 pupils. In 1856, he 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 into 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 College and at Dalhousie University for seven years. In 1914, Sinclair 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 Na Baird Leathanach (1898 and 1900, Text 76), Clàrsach na Coille (1881), 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.’ The poems in this volume have come from the manuscript collections of John MacLean, Hector MacLean, and Rev. James Macgregor, and from a collection that Sinclair himself made.
Contents This volume begins with a Preface (pp. iii-vi), in which the editor tells us a little about himself, about the sources he has used to produce this volume, and about his reasons for publishing this collection of poetry. He informs us that this collection includes all of the poems in his collections, and that versions of some of the poems had already been published, but only in collections that were out of print by 1888, such as the Eigg Collection, Gillies’ collection, A. and D. Stewart’s collection, and Turner’s collection. At that time, such volumes were impossible to get hold of in Nova Scotia.

In defence of his decision to include all of the poetic works in his collections, Sinclair argues that while some of the poems are not very good (others being excellent), all of them are useful ‘as Gaelic compositions’ and ‘from a historic point of view’, giving us the ‘real’ or ‘inner’ history of the people (p. v). Sinclair records that he only published 200 copies of this volume, and that he did so ‘in as cheap a manner as possible’ (p. vi). Since much of the text was originally published in newspapers, they were ‘struck off from the type of the newspapers for publication in book form’ (p. vi).

There follows An Clar-Innse (pp. vii-xii), in which the poems have been arranged, as far as possible, in chronological order. Where an author has more than one poem in this volume, first lines of the poems are listed under the author’s name. The first author listed is ‘Domhnall O’ Connachair’ (no date given). The second author listed is ‘Murchadh Mor Mac-Coinnich’ (i.e. Murchadh Mòr, Fear Aicheallaidh), for an elegy dated ‘1643’. The last author listed is ‘Calum Mac-Gillios’ (no dates given) and the second last is ‘Sine Nic-Leoid’, whose lament for her brother is dated by his death in 1884. Poets from all over the Highlands are represented, including Mull, Tiree, Islay, Lochaber, Kingussie, Strathglas, and Barra.

Whereas the Clar-Innse gives continuous pagination from p. 1 to p. 387, it is to be noted that poems listed from ‘p. 221’ to ‘p. 260’ are actually numbered as pp. 1-40 in the body of this volume. The editor explains (p. vi) that pp. 1-128 first appeared in the Island Reporter, then published in Baddeck, Cape Breton, and that pp. 129-220 and pp. 261-322 appeared in the same newspaper after its removal to Sydney, Cape Breton; but that the forty pages between p. 220 and p. 261 were reproduced from the Pictou News. Evidently, the independent pagination of the last mentioned section should have been altered to correspond to the page numbers given in the Clar-Innse (and also in the Corrections and Additions on pp. 389-90). The status of the poems on the remaining pages of this volume, i.e. pp. 322-87, is not mentioned by the editor.

The poems in this volume include works by 62 named authors, together with 14 anonymous poems. The works of some poets are grouped together (e.g. Iain Mac Ailein’s are together in pp. 53-104), but those of some others are dispersed more widely (e.g. Iain Lom’s are found in pp. 1-41, but also pp. 139-56, 269-74 and 328-29). The poets best represented in this volume are Iain MacAilein with 22 poems and Iain Lom with 18 poems. By contrast, Mairi Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh has only one (pp. 268-69). A number of Iain MacAilein's poems are also to be found in Na Baird Thirisdeach (Text 58) and in Na Baird Leathanach (Text 76).

Many of the poets are provided with short introductions, and some of the poems are followed by notes dealing with the subject matter, different versions of the poems, and the meaning of difficult words in the poems. These glossarial notes are commonest in connection with the earlier poems.

This volume ends with an extensive list of Corrections and Additions (pp. 388-94). Pp. 388-91 contain a list of purely typographical corrections, while pp. 391-94 contain a list of substantive corrections and additions.
Sources The immediate source of many if not all of the poems published in this volume is local newspapers, including the Island Reporter and Pictou News, as explained above.

The original sources of the poems in this volume are the manuscript collections of John MacLean, Hector MacLean, and Rev. James Macgregor, and from Sinclair’s own collections. Photostat copies of John Maclean’s and Hector Maclean’s MS collections are held in Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh University Libraries.
Language This volume contains poems on a variety of subjects. A significant number are elegies and laments, such as Cumha do Ghilleasbuig Caimbeul, Iarla Earra-Ghaidheal, a chaidh a dhith-cheannadh an Duneideann ’sa bhliadhna 1685 (pp. 161-64) and Marbhrann Thomais Fhriseil by Mr. Seumas Mac Griogair (pp. 203-07). However, we also find praise poems, such as those by Iain Lom and Iain Mac Ailein, poems about specific events, such as Donnachadh Gobha’s Call Ghadhaig about the death of five men in the forest of Gaick on December 31st 1799 (pp. 222-26), and poems on such topics as clearances and emigration. There are a number of poems on historical events, such as Iain MacAilein’s Cath Alphuirt (pp. 87-89); Iain Lom’s Oran An Aghaidh an Aonaidh Eadar Albainn agus Sasuinn (pp. 35-39) and Oran mu Ghlacadh Morair Hunntaidh (pp. 328-29); Iain Dubh Mac Iain Mhic Ailein’s Am Bruadar, which is a song air cor na rioghachd ’sa bhliadhna 1715 (pp. 46-48); and Oran, Mu Chor na Rioghachd ’sa Bhliadhna 1716 by te de Chlann Mhic-Gillesheathanaich (pp. 375-78). There are also a number of more light-hearted poems, such as Domhnall Domhnallach’s Oran do Ghilleasbuig Mac-Neil, Fear na Pacaide ann am Muile (pp. 181-83), Alastair Buidhe MacIamhair’s Oran an Uisge-Bheatha (pp. 15 [235]-22 [238]), and Calum Mac-Gillios’s Cnoic is Glinn A B[h]raighe (pp. 261-62) and Cailin na Duthcha (pp. 262-64).

The poems contain vocabulary relating to the army and warfare. In Dughall Ruadh Camshron’s Oran (pp. 126-27), for example, we find ‘Ach ’n uair thig am Prionns’ Og, \ Is na Frangaich ’ga choir, \ Theid sgapadh gun taing \ Ann an campa Righ Deors’’ and ‘Theid Diuc Uilleam a cuirt, \ Theid a thilgeadh air dun, \ ’S cha ’n eighear gu brath air \ Na ’s airde na ’n cu’ (p. 127). In Iain Lom’s Oran Air Teachd Righ Seumas a’ Gluasad gu Blar Raon-Ruairidh we find ‘Aig leith-tabh an t-saile tharruing na h-armainn \ ’Suas ’n am bragadaibh dan’ gu ro cheart: \ Mu bheul an anmoich shuidhich sinn campa, \ ’S dh’imich ar ceannard bhuainn am mach. \ Facal ar Coirneil ri Sir Domhnall \ Mar ri ar n-ordagh ’bhi ’n ar glaic;— \ “Na leigibh bonn dail’ a’ seasamh a ’gheaird \ Is cnmaibh [sic] ’ur naimhdean bhuaibh am mach.”’ (p. 152-56). Other words and expressions of lexicographical interest include ‘Is mu ’n d’rinneadh dhiot coirneal; \ Marcach ur nan steud brasa’ (p. 105), ‘Cha b’ ann mar sgonsair no traoitair \ No mar shloighteire cealgach’ (p. 129), and ‘Far an loisgear am fudar \ Is an luaidhe gun chunntas; \ Bhiodh na peileirean dubh-ghorm ri stroiceadh’ (p. 269).

As Sinclair suggests in his Preface, a number of these poems are a good indication of the feelings of the people at the time, particularly about clearances and emigration. In Domhnall Baillidh’s Aoir a Rinneadh air Padruig Sellar a chionn a bhith a’ Fogradh an t-Sluaigh a mach as an Fhearann ann an Cataobh, for example, we are left in no doubt as to the author’s feelings about Patrick Sellar and others who were involved in the Sutherland Clearances: ‘Teine mor an ordagh \ Is Roy ’na theis meadhoin \ Young bhi ann am priosan \ ’S an t-iarunn mu chnaimhean Shellair’ and ‘Tha Sellar an Cuilmhaillidh \ Air fha[g]ail mar mhadadh-alluidh; \ A glacadh is a saradh \ Gach aon ni a thig ’na charaibh’ (p. 200). Likewise, in Alastair og Friseal's Ged Tha Sinn An So An Drast, written ann an Giusachan am Braigh Strath-ghlais, we find ‘Thig la fhathasd air na h-uaislean \ Nach fuilig do ’n tuath bhi ann, \ Ach caoraich ’s ciobairean mu ’n cuairt dhaibh \ ’S iad ga ’n cuartachadh gu fang. \ ’N uair ’dh’ eireas cogadh no uabairt \ ’Chuireas feum air bualadh lann \ Togar bratach dhe na h-uain beo; \ Tha na daoine bhuath’ air chall’ (p. 209). In Oran by Piuthair do Dhonnachadh Brocair, the authoress expresses her sadness at being left behind when two of her brothers emigrate to Nova Scotia: ‘Is tric ri smaointinn ghoraich mi, \ ’S mi ’m onar ann san uair so, \ A cuimhneach’ nam fear oga sin \ Air bhord na luinge ’ghluais bhuainn. \ A thamh an Nova Scotia, \ ’S e fath mo bhroin ri ’luaidh e; \ ’S e ’chaochail snuadh na h-oig’ orm \ Na seoid a chaidh thar cuan bhuainn’ (p. 334).

The language of eulogy is well represented, and this type of vocabulary is frequently found in elegies and laments. For example, in Mairearad Nigh’n Lachainn’s Ged Is Stochd Mi ’n Deigh Crionadh, Oran do Shir Iain Mac-Gillean, we find ‘An ceann-cinnidh ’bu phriseile \ De ’n fhior fhuil ’bu ghlaine \ As a’ choill a b’fhearr cnuasach \ Rinneadh fhuadach thar mara’ (p. 114), and in her Oran do dh’Ailein Mac-Gilleain, Fear Bhrolais we find ‘Fear ard coltach, calma, toirteil, \ ’N lathair cogaidh, an tus troide: \ ’S mairg a bhrosnaicheadh gu olc thu \ An am nochdadh, ’s boineid sgrogt’ air d’ urla-sa’ (p. 115-16). In An Taillear MacAlastair’s Cumha do Domhnall Ban Loch-Iall a chaochail ’san Fhraing ’sa’ bhliadhna, 1748, we find ‘Le an Claidheanan cuil \ ’Gan iomairt gu dluth, \ ’Ghearradh claignean le luths nan dorn’ and ‘’S mairg nochdadh riut strith \ ’N taobh s’ a dh’armailt an righ, \ ’N uair a thogteadh leat piob ’s breid sroil’ (p. 125), and in Mairi Nic-Phail’s Cumha do dh-Eachann Og Mac-Gilleain a Thiritheadh we find ‘Gur h-e mise ’tha fann, \ Tha mo shuil gu bhi dall, \ ’Caoidh an fhiurain gun mheang; \ Chaill mi ubhlan mo chrann, \ ’S chuir sin buaireadh a’ m’ cheann ri m’ bheo’ (p. 117). Of interest in the last quotation is the use of the word crann to mean ‘tree’.

There are a number of elegies and laments on military personnel, such as Aonghas Caimbeul’s Cumha do Choirneal Innse (pp. 211-13) and Domhnall Gobha’s Oran do Chaiptein Donnachadh Siosal Mac Siosalaich Strathghlais (pp. 7 [227]-9 [229]), e.g. ‘Bho ’n thog thu ’n claidheamh an airde \ Ann an aghaidh do naimhdean, \ Bu tu rogha ’chomanndair \ A chur as do na Frangaich; \ Bu lionmhor coinneamh gu ’n call-san \ ’Thug thu ’Bhonipart mealltach ’s d’ a sheoid’ (p. 213), and ‘Bu cheann-fin’ air na Glaisich thu, \ B’ard chaiptein ’san ais-sith thu, \ Bha do thurn gu ro bheachdail \ An am dol sios ann sna baitealan; \ ’S e mo dhiobhail mar thachair e, \ Gu ’n thu, Dhonnachaidh, thigh’nn dachaidh a’d’ bheo-shlaint’ (p. 8 [228]).

A number of the poems contain strings of adjectives, such as Cumha do Ghilleasbuig Caimbeul, Iarla Earra-Ghaidheal, a chaidh a dhith-cheannadh an Duneideann ’sa bhliadhna 1685 (pp. 161-64), where we find ‘Dream bheadarach, bhuadhach, bhaghach, \ Mheadhrach, mhuirneach, \ A labhradh gu foistinneach, fior ghlic, \ Brigh gach cuise’ (p. 162).

A few wordings recur in Iain Lom’s poems. For example, Sinclair prints three versions of the song Biodh an uidheam so ’triall. Compare the following verses: ‘Mach bho Mhorair nan steud, \ Le ’n cluinnt’ oragan nan teud, \ ’S tu a b’ fhoirmeala beus trath-noin’ (p. 140), ‘Mach o Mhorair nan steud, \ Nan organ ’s nan teud, \ ’S tu b’ fhoirmeala beus tra-noin’ (p. 143), and  ‘’Fhir a b’ fhoirmeala beus trath-noin’ (p. 145). Iain Lom’s poetry is dealt with in more detail in Text 186.

The glossarial notes at the end of poems are of value, particularly in regard to the older poems. For example, we are told that Mil-each means ‘war horse’ (p. 150), Bod-chrann means ‘crupper’ (p. 157), Iul-chairt in this instance means ‘a mariner’s chart’, Riaghailt is a ‘compass’ (p. 160), and Teann-sa ri geumraich means ‘rach a ghoid a chruidh’. 331).
Orthography The orthography is in general that of the late nineteenth century, though Sinclair does not use accents. He notes in the Preface, that there are a lot of typographical errors, which was only to be expected as the printers had no Gaelic. As noted above, there is an extensive list of corrections and additions at the back of the volume.
Edition Second edition. This volume gives no indication of there having been an earlier edition than the present one, published in 1890. However, an earlier printing ‘containing fourteen poems by Iain Lom, three by Iain Dubh Mac Iain Mhic Ailein, twenty by Iain Mac Ailein, five by Mairearad Nigh’n Lachainn, two by John Cameron, An Taillear Mac Alastair, and three others’ was issued in Charlottetown in 1888, with the sub-heading ‘Part I’. The publisher, type-face and text of this 1888 publication are identical to those of pp. 1-128 of the present edition. It appears that the editor’s earlier plan was to issue the present collection in parts, but that this plan was superseded.
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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