Reference Number90
AuthorCampbell, John
Date Of Edition1884
Date Of Languagelate 19c
Date Of Language Ed1850-1899
DateMacroLate 19th c.
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherMaclachlan and Stewart
Place PublishedEdinburgh
LocationNational and academic libraries
Geographical OriginsOban and Ledaig
Geographical Origins EdArgyll
GeoMacroArgyll mainland
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterLiterature, Verse
Register EdLiterature, Verse
62 Gaelic poems on various subjects, including praise, love, emigration, love of home, and marriage.
The poems contain terms and expressions relating to war and military service, and to nature.
Some of the poems contain references to mythology and folklore, and to religion.
Alternative Author NameIain Caimbeul
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition18.9cm x 12.8cm
Short TitlePoems
Reference DetailsNLS: Blair.90
Number Of Pagesvii, 118
Gaelic Text ByN/A
Social ContextJohn Campbell was born in Oban in 1823. He spent his childhood in Ledaig in Benderloch, where his father was the teacher of the General Assembly School. As a young man, he set himself up in business in Glasgow, and while there became very interested in religion, under the influence of Doctors Keddie and Bonar. Due to ill health, however, he returned to Ledaig, where he opened a small store. He also ran the local post office, and was the sub-inspector of the poor.

Campbell loved nature and was an associate of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh. He grew fruit, vegetables and flowers in his garden, which he supplied to Oban. He often took long walks in the surrounding countryside, and then returned home, inspired to write at his desk overlooking Arkmucknish Bay and Beregonium.

Campbell’s genial nature ensured he had many friends, and he received a number of honours, including Fellowships from various Celtic, Scientific, and Literary Societies. He was a co-founder of An Comnn Gaidhealach, which was established in Oban in 1891. Campbell is also known for teaching the Scriptures to local children in Ledaig, in a cave by the shore. Campbell’s motto, ‘Thig crioch air an t-saoghal, ach mairidh gaol is ceol’, was chosen by Lady Breadalbane to be inscribed on a new organ to be placed in Taymouth church. Although he was originally from Oban, Campbell became known as the bard of Ledaig. He died in 1897.
ContentsThis volume begins with a Preface by the author (p. iii). It reads: ‘These pieces were written in the intervals of my ordinary avocations, without any ulterior view to publication. Some of them have already appeared as fugitive contributions to the periodical press. They are now for the first time collected and dedicated to all lovers of the land and the language of the Gael.’ The Preface is dated ‘Ledaig, 1884’.

There follows a table of Contents (pp. v-vii), and 62 poems in Gaelic, five of which have accompanying translations (three are by Professor Blackie, one is by Fionn (John Whyte), and one is unattributed). A number of the poems have introductory notes, either in Gaelic or in English. The poem on pp. 109-10 is addressed to the Skye and Edinburgh poet Neil MacLeod, and is followed (pp. 110-11) by the latter’s poem in response. The last three poems are translations of English poems: the first of these being a translation of Charles Mackay’s Farewell to Lochaber (pp. 112-13), the second of Ilka Blade O’ Grass Keps Its Ain Drap O’ Dew (pp. 113-14), and the third of The Starless Crown (pp. 115-18).
SourcesThe poems were published by the author himself.
LanguageThe poems in this volume cover a range of topics, such as nature, love, praise (both of specific people and of Highlanders and Gaelic in general), emigration, war, folklore, and elegy. Some of the poems address us in the voice of the author, while some are put into the mouths of others.

Praise poems include To Professor Blackie (p. 1), in which the poet praises both Blackie and the Gaelic language; To Mrs. Hosack (pp. 22-24), in honour of the marriage of Miss Campbell of Lochnell to William Hosack, Barcaldine, in 1875; To Lord Colin Campbell (pp. 55-56), on his election as a member of parliament for Argyllshire; and there are two poems dedicated to the Oban Mutual Improvement Society (pp. 92-93 and pp. 93-95).

Rannan An Leithsgèul Na Bardachd (pp. 56-58), praises not just poetry, but also Gaelic, and it includes the phrase cùple rann (p. 56). In An Gaidheal An Tir Chein A’ Moladh Tir A Dhuthchais (pp. 12-14), we find ‘Is ged a shealladh na Goill a’ sios oirnn, \ ’Nuair bhiodhmaid dìreach o thir nam beann; \ Fuidh ’n chairt is suaraiche ’s tric a fhuaras, \ Am fiodh is luachmhor’ am measg nan crann’ (p. 13) and ‘Tha ’n gaisgeadh ainmeil, is tric a dhearbht’ e, \ Air tìr ’s air fairge, an cath ’s an strìth; \ B’ iad luchd an fhéilidh gu bràth nach géilleadh, \ Fhad ’s ruitheadh deur de fhuil réidh n’ an crìdh’’ (p. 13).

There are a number of references to war and military service throughout Campbell’s poems. Saighdear Gaidhealach (pp. 28-30), for example, is about a young soldier who ‘was, one night, seized with a presentiment that he was to be killed in the battle that morrow. His brother officers tried to laugh him out of it, but in vain. He wrote home to his friends bidding them farewell, left his affairs in order, and “foremost fighting fell”’ (p. 28). The poem is written as if by his sweetheart. In this poem we find: ‘Sud an fhuil Ghaidhealach bha ceannsgalach buaghor, \ Luchd caitheadh an fhéile is breacan na guaile; \ Cha teichidh roimh ’namhaid ’s cha’n fhaichte san ruaig iad, \ ’S bu làidire dh’ fhasadh mar b’ airdè an cruaidh-chas’ (p. 29). In Gille Mo Luaidh (pp. 51-52), we find ‘’S ann an Apuinn nan stuadh a thuinich do shluagh— \ Na Stiubhartaich uasal àrd; \ ’S ann doibh a bu dual bhi colgarra cruaidh, \ ’S iad nach tilleadh ’s a’ chàs’ (p. 51), and in To Lord Colin Campbell (pp. 55-56), we find ‘’N stochd bho ’n d’fhas thu, chaidh a dhearbhadh, \ O chionn aimsir air a cheann, \ ’S as an fhaillean tha sinn dearbhta, \ Gu ’m bheil freumh a ghineil ann’ (p. 56).

A number of the poems in this volume center around the theme of emigration, such as An Gaidheal A Fagail A Dhuthcha (pp. 9-11), An Gaidheal An Tir Chein A’ Moladh Tir A Dhuthchais (pp. 12-14), and An Gaidheal’ A Tilleadh Ga Dhuthaich A Tir Chein (pp. 17-18). These poems also contain a number of references to nature, as the poet describes his homeland. For example, in Bruthaichean Na Ledaig (pp. 6-8), written when Campbell’s brother left for India (where he later died at the age of 27), we find ‘An sin tha craobh nan sgeachagan, \ Mar chobhar geal, fo bhlàth, \ ’S an fraoch le ghucaig bhadanach \ Cuir rughadh dearg ’s gach àit. \ ’S an aird ri taobh n’ an alltan, \ Tha ’n calltuinn cuir a sgàil, \ Is tric chuir tìm air chall oirnn, \ Le mhoguill bhuidhe-bhàn’ (p. 7). A number of the poems express the author’s, or speaker’s, love of his own home, e.g. Taobh Mo Theine Fein (pp. 19-20) and Do ’m Dhachaidh (pp. 41-42).

A number of Campbell’s poems reflect on his love of the company that surrounds him. This can be seen, for example, in Na Companaich (pp. 40-41), Mo Roghuinn Companaich (p. 43), and Deallachadh Ri Càirdean (pp. 79-80). In Na Laithean A Dh’Fhalbh, a much sadder poem, the speaker reflects on old friends who have passed away, leaving him alone: ‘’S tha mise air m’ fhagail \ Mar stoc anns an fhàsaich, \ Fo’ chùram an làmh sin \ Thug fabhar neo-ghann; \ Gun fhios coid [sic] an riasan \ An deachaidh mo shiabeadh \ Is cach air an iarraidh \ Bho’ m’ chliathaich ’san am’ (p. 102).

The marriage theme occurs in a series of poems, composed as if by unmarried men and women: Tuireadh Seann Fhleasgach (pp. 81-83), Cor Seann Fleasgaich Eile—A Chompanach Ga Fhreagairt (pp. 83-85), Tuireadh Seann Mhaighdean (pp. 85-87), and A Ban-chompanach Ga Freagairt (pp. 87-88). The moral of these songs is ‘get married while you can, don’t become an old bachelor or old maid’. But it is better to be a single woman than to be married to a man who drinks: the poem Bean Ra Fear A Tha ’S An Tigh Osta (pp. 62-64) is put into the mouth of a woman bemoaning a life which has been ruined by her husband’s drinking.

Campbell also wrote a number of love songs, such as Oran Gaoil, a love song to Ceit an Tuairnear (pp. 67-68); an untitled song composed as if by a girl whose fiancé has married someone else; and An Gille Ruadh, spoken as though by a young girl (pp. 73-74). The love songs are grouped together in the middle of the book. Campbell’s love songs tend to be highly descriptive, e.g. ‘Do ghruaidhean eutram, tana, dearg, \ Gun aithn’ air fearg no gruaim, \ Do dhualan dubh mu d’ mhuineal mìn \ ’S thu fìnealt, malda, suairc; \ Do phearsa cuimir, direach, deas, \ Do chneas mar eala chuain, \ Do ghluasad anns gach doigh cuir leis \ Am maisealachd ’s an stuaim’ (p. 69).

In a number of poems the poet reveals or hints at his religious convictions. For example, Rann Air Son Clach-chinn, a short, single-stanza poem, reads: ‘Gabh rabhadh bh’uam a lèughadair, \ Bi réidh ri Dia gu luath; \ Tha mise ann an siorruidheachd, \ Tha thusa air a bhruaich’ (p. 44). In To the Members of the Oban Mutual Improvement Society (p. 92-93), he declares: ‘Na’n sealladh muinntir air math a’ cheile, \ An ait’ an fhéinealachd tha ’s gach àit’, \ Is iomadh dachaidh ’m bheil bròn is éigheach \ A bhitheadh éibhinn le sonas àigh’ (p. 93), and in To the Oban Mutual Improvement Society, 1881 (pp. 93-95), he warns us: ‘Tha cunntas aig gach neach againn \ Ri thoirt an cùirt a’s àird; \ Mar bhuilich sinn na tàlantan \ A fhuair gach aon an dràsd; \ ’S air cladach cuan na Síorruidheachd, \ Nuair sheallas sinn ’n ar déigh, \ ’Se sin an t-agartas bhios cruaidh, \ Ma chaidh iad bhuainn gun fhéum’ (p. 94).

Folkloric themes and references also appear in a number of Campbell’s poems, such as Maighdean Loch-N’an-Eala (pp. 25-26), which tells the tale of the drowing of the daughter of Lord Loch-n’an-Eala, a Campbell, who fell in love with a MacDonald. Her father strongly disapproved and she used to send messages to her beloved down the stream at Garbhaird, in floating vessels. In To Mrs. Hosack (pp. 22-24), we find the stanza ‘’S iomadh là bho ’n shuidh do shluagh-sa \ Air Airdmhucnais chas nan stuadhan; \ ’S Diarmaid fein le shleagh ’s le armachd \ Sealg nan torc feadh chnoc na Garbhaird!’ (p. 23).

Elegies include A Mother Bewailing The Loss of her Daughter, about a girl said to have been lost in the wreck of the SS Royal Charter (pp. 31-34), and Written On The Death Of A Sister And Her Two Children (pp. 36-38), which is spoken ‘as if by her husband’ (p. 36).

There are one or two footnotes to the text, explaining meanings and references. For example, a footnote on page 27 explains that do’n Phléoid is a reference to a ‘small creek near Connel Falls’.
OrthographyThe orthography is generally that of the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Both grave and acute accents are in use. There are a number of printing errors in this volume, but the meaning of the text is usually transparent.
EditionThis volume is the first edition of Campbell’s collected works. A few of Campbell’s poems were also published separately, according to the Scottish Gaelic Union Catalogue. Given that this volume was published by the author himself, it can safely be taken by editors as containing the authoritative version.
Other Sources
Further ReadingA paper entitled ‘John Campbell - the Poet of Ledaig’, by Dugald Carmichael, was read to the Glasgow University Ossianic Society in February 1899, and to Ceilidh nan Gaidheal in December 1900. A MS copy of the lecture is held in Glasgow University Library.
Link LabelDigital version created by National Library of Scotland
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