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Metadata for text 95
No. words in text142118
Title An t-Òranaiche: no Co-Thional Taghte Do Òrain Ùr Agus Shean (The Gaelic Songster)
Author N/A (Edited work)
Editor Mac-Na-Ceàrdadh, Gilleasbuig
Date Of Edition 1879
Date Of Language Various
Publisher Archibald Sinclair
Place Published Glasgow
Volume N/A
Location National, academic, and local (Highland Reference) libraries
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Various
Register Literature, Verse
Alternative Author Name Archibald Sinclair
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 20.8cm x 14cm
Short Title An t-Òranaiche
Reference Details NLS: Lit.S.36 (shelved in Reading Room)
Number Of Pages xvi, 527
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Archibald Sinclair was born on 27th May, 1850. Although Sinclair was born in Glasgow, his parents were from Islay, and it was Islay Gaelic that he spoke. His father, also called Archibald, is described as being ‘in many respects a remarkable man’ (Fionn 1893), as later in life, he taught himself how to use a printing press and set himself up in business in Argyle Street in Glasgow, in 1848. When he died in 1870, the young Archibald Sinclair successfully took over his father’s business. Eventually, due to his increasing workload and his desire to keep up to date with new printing equipment, Sinclair moved the business into new premises on Bothwell Street.

Sinclair was President of the Glasgow Islay Association and was one of the directors of the Gaelic Society of Glasgow. In an article in the Celtic Monthly, Fionn (Henry Whyte) described Sinclair as ‘the generous patron of every movement having for its object the preservation of the Gaelic language or the social advancement of the Highland people’. Archibald Sinclair died on 1st February, 1899. A monument was erected to him by the Glasgow Islay Association sometime before 1913 (see

This volume is an anthology of songs that Sinclair himself collected, edited, and published. It was described by Henry Whyte as ‘the best and most complete, as it is the largest, collection of Gaelic popular songs existing’ (Fionn 1893). Whyte further noted that over the next fifteen years, Sinclair ‘published the majority of Gaelic works which have been issued’.
Contents This volume begins with a Roimh-Ràdh (pp. v-vii) by Sinclair. In it he records that ‘dh’fheuch mi ris a’ Ghàidhlig a litreachadh mar a tha i air a fuaimneachadh ann an ceàrnaibh air leth’ (p. vi). He points out that it would have been impossible to collect all variations of songs and put them in print, and to be categorical about who composed all the songs, particularly where the singers themselves had differing opinions. There follows a Clar-Innsidh (pp. ix-xvi), which lists the songs in alphabetical order by title or by first line. Where a song has no title, a heading of Oran or Duanag is given, and the first line of the song is listed in the Clar-Innsidh. (In the new edition published in Nova Scotia in 2004, these headings have been replaced, usually by the first line of the song.)

Comh-chruinneachadh de de dh-Òrain Ghàidhealach (pp. 1-527) contains nearly 300 songs by 83 named poets and a large number of songs by unknown poets. Some poets have a number of songs to their name, while others have only one. For example, Dr MacLachlan of Rahoy (An Lighiche Mac Lachainn) has 22 songs while Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair has only one. Sinclair’s aim was to collect those songs that were widely esteemed towards the end of the nineteenth century, rather than those by specific composers. Occasionally there is a short introductory note about a song or about its author, and there are one or two footnotes scattered throughout the text, explaining specific references, e.g. the nickname of the steamer which is referred to in Am Ministear ’s am Bàillidh (p. 143). Most of the songs are not dated and the type of song (e.g. waulking, rowing) is not generally specified, although this can sometimes be inferred from the title.
Sources The songs were collected by the editor from oral sources. The title page claims that most of the songs had not been published previously.
Language This collection serves to show what Gaelic songs were most highly esteemed by Gaelic speakers towards the end of the nineteenth century. The songs in this volume cover a wide range of subjects, including love, praise, nature, war, elegy, and local and national events. Some of the songs are still popular today, such as A fhleasgaich an fhuilt chraobhaich chais (pp. 38-40), Ho Ro, Mo Nighean Donn, Bhoidheach (pp. 55-57), and Am ministeir ’s am Bàillidh (pp. 143-44), and some are by well known poets such as Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair and Mary MacKellar.

Love songs include songs in praise of loved ones, both men and women, and also songs that mourn a love lost, for whatever reason. Boichead, by N. Mac-Neill (p. 64), contains both sentiments, the first stanza complaining ‘O nach robh mise làmh riut’ (p. 64), and the second stanza describing his subject’s beauty: ‘Tha maise thar gach gruagaich \ A’ cuartachadh do ghnùis; \ ’S mu d’ phearsa chuimir, shuairce \ Tha suaicheant’ do gach sùil’ (p. 64). There are a number of songs simply labelled Òran Gaoil (e.g. pp. 21-23). In a song entitled Òran le Gàidheal ann an New Zealand, the subject’s lineage is praised: ‘Do shliochd Dhiarmaid tha mo ghaol, \ Sliochd rìghrean bha’n tìr an fhraoich, \ ’S tha fuil co uasal ’s anns an t-saogh’l, \ A’ ruith an aodann Lathurna’ (pp. 23-24). Other examples of songs which blend love with praise are Iain MacPhail An Dròbhair (pp. 33-34) and the song composed by his wife for Bàillidh Iain Caimbeul, nach maireann, a bh’ann an Ardfineig am Muile (pp. 9-11).

There are also a large number of praise songs which do not involve love, but express praise of people, places, and in some cases, things. Examples include Oran do Ailean Camaron by Seumas Shaw (pp. 161-62), and the song Tha ghaoth ’n iar cho caithreamach (pp. 120-23), in which the principal subject of the song is addressed as follows: ‘’S tu sealgair féidh am beanntanan, \ An àrd ’s an iosal ghleanntanan; \ Gur uasal brìgh do linnteanan; \ ’S tu’n crann a dh’fhàs gun bhòsd’ (p. 121). In Mairi Og, Paraig Caimbeul (Paraig Mor Ard-Seile) praises his favourite gun (pp. 127-29): ‘Ged bu leamsa ’n nighean ruadh— \ Nighean Impire ’n taoibh tuath, \ ’S mòr gu’m b’anns’ bhi sìnte suas, \ Air druim a’ chuain le Màiri òig’ (p. 129).

There are a number of songs in praise of place, which may also be seen as nature songs, including Moladh na Landaidh (pp. 52-53), ’S e ’n t-Eilean Uain’ Ileach by N. Mac-Neill (pp. 67-68), Failte do ’n Eilean Sgiathanach by Niall Mac-Leoid (pp. 218-20), An Gàidheal an Tir Chein A’ Moladh Tir A Dhùthchais by Iain Caimbeul of Ledaig (pp. 222-24), and Eilean an Fhraoich by Murachadh MacLeòid (pp. 417-18). Other songs about nature include Duanag (pp. 49-51), Do’n Chuthaig (p. 139), and A Ghlinn Ud Shios (pp. 407-08) by ‘an Lighiche Mac-Lachainn’; and An t-Sobhrach Mhuileach by Dughall MacPhail, being the author’s welcome to flowers that he got in Mull, ‘air dha am planntachadh ri taobh lilidhean, ’n a ghàradh ann am Baile Dhunéideann, anns a’ mhios Mhairt, 1870’ (pp. 206-08). In Chluinn Mi na h-Eoin (pp. 217-18), John Campbell of Mull mentions several different sorts of birds, including, e.g. ‘’S binn leam coileach-dubh ri dùrdail, \ ’S cearc an tùchain dlùth ga shireadh’, followed by ‘’S binn leam gog nan coileach-ruadha \ ’S moiche ghluaiseas ’s a’ bhruaich fhirich’ (p. 217).

There are a number of songs that touch on war, such as Buaidh Leis na Seoid by Alasdair MacGriogair (pp. 1-3); Duisgeadh na Gaidheil, a song ‘do Réisimeid Ghàidhealach Ghlaschu’ (pp. 54-55); and Bhi Ga’n Cuimhneachadh ’s Ga’n Iondrainn, in memory of those who went to war and did not return (pp. 153-55). In Cath Alma by Dughall MacPhail (pp. 388-91), we find ‘’Nuair thug an Russach ionnsuidh fhuilteach \ Air an Tuirc le fòirneart \ Gu toirt fo chìs; ’sa luaisg e sìth \ Gach rioghachd ’san Roinn-Eòrpa: \ ’N sin dh’éirich Breatunn a’s an Fhraing \ Le’n cumhachd toinnte còmhla, \ Am banntaibh dlùth le Omar Pasha:— \ ’S iad mar lànain phòsda’ (p. 389).

A few of the songs touch on specific Highland affairs, such as Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair’s Oran A’ Phrionnsa (p. 102-04), Baintighearna D’Oyly’s Oran Do Phrionns’ Tearlach (pp. 331-32), and Domhnull MacCallum’s Mort Ghlinne-Comhann (pp. 271-73). In Deoch-Slaint’ An Oighre (pp. 62-64), we find ‘Gur deas an Gàidheal an t-oighre, \ Dòmhullach cho àrd ’s a stylear, \ ’N uair gheibh thu gu d’ làmh an oighreachd \ Théid na Goill a chur fo chìs’ (p. 62) and ‘Sealgair féidh am beinn nan stùc thu, \ Marbhaiche bric ri madainn driùchd thu, \ Giomanach gunna nach diùltadh, \ ’S bidh tu air do ghlùn ’s an fhrìth’ (p. 63).

There are also a number of songs relating to emigration and clearance, including Oran Do dh’Eilthireach by Baintighearna D’ Oyly (pp. 281-83), ’S Mi Fagail Mo Dhuthcha by Dughall Mac Lachainn (pp. 405-06), Iorram na h-Imrich Chuain by Rev. D. MacRath, written after many of his congregation left for Canada (pp. 427-29), and Fasachadh na Gaidhealtachd by Aonghas Mac Eacharn (p. 471). Fuadach Nan Gaidheal, by Eanraig Mac Illebhain (pp. 426-27), begins ‘Gur a mise ’tha tùrsach, \ A’ caoidh cor na dùthcha, \ ’S nan seann daoine cùiseil \ Bha cliùiteach a’s treun; \ Rinn uachdrain am fuadach, \ Gu fada null thar chuantan, \ Am fearann chaidh thoirt uapa, \ ’S thoirt ’suas do na féidh’ (p. 426).

There are a number of elegies, including Ailein Duinn, Shiubhlainn Leat (pp. 124-27), which is still well-known today; the marbhrann for Thearlach Stiubhard, Fear Bhaile-Chaolais, a chaochail ’s a’ bhliadhna, 1855 (pp. 213-16); Cumha Brathar (pp. 303-04); and Cumha Do Chaiptein Iain Caimbeul (pp. 360-61).

There are also a few songs which offer advice or warnings, such as Oran Le Gille Og, ’s e An Deigh Seann Te A Phosadh (pp. 57-59), Di-Moladh An Uisge-bheatha by an Lighiche Mac-Lachainn (pp. 90-91), and Teagasg Righ Artair (pp. 465-66) which begins ‘Laidh agus éirich air do làimh dheis, \ Na dean féisd ach sàth; \ Dean comhairle le do ghaol, \ ’S na bi ’d aonar ’n aghaidh chàich’ (p. 465).

There are quite a few light-hearted songs in this volume, such as Domhnull Ciomaineach, a humorous song, written as a conversation between Domhnull and Alasdair Tàilleir (pp. 65-67); the song Mo thruaigh léir thu, ille bhuidhe, which is described as ‘Òran mu bhata ’chaidh do dh-Eirinn a dh’iarraidh uisge-bheatha; agus air do ’n sgiobair dol air tir air son uisge, chunnacas an Cutter a’ tighinn agus b’ eiginn teicheadh ’s an sgiobair ’fhagail’ (pp. 97-98); Na Tulaichean (pp. 117-20), Oran Do Na Fasain by Domhnull Mac-Ruairidh – a wonderful commentary on various aspects of the fashions of the time (pp. 135-39); An t-Each Odhar (pp. 158-60); Fanaidh Mo Mhairi Buileach o ’n Ti by Eòbhan Mac Colla (pp. 258-59); and Na Brogan Dannsaidh by Iain MacDhughail (pp. 261-63).

A few of the songs in this volume relate to sailing, e.g. Bata Phort-Righ (pp. 34-36), Slan Gu’ n Till Na Gaidheil Ghasda by Ailein Dughlach (pp. 338-40), Oran a’ Mharaiche (pp. 387-88), and Oran do Bhata by Aonghas Mac Eacharn (pp. 473-75). A number of these songs relate to local events and people, as do a number of other songs, such as Banais Mor Chamaroin (pp. 19-20) and Oran a’ Bhaloon (pp. 499-501).
Orthography The orthography is typical of the late nineteenth century, though the editor has used some non-standard spellings to reflect poets’ rhymes and rhythms and some dialectal pronunciations. Both grave and acute accents are used, albeit sparingly.
Edition First edition. A second edition was published in Nova Scotia in 2004, with an accompanying CD. In addition to the Clar-Innsidh, the new edition has Clàr nan Streathan-Toisich and Clàr-Innsidh nam Bàrd. The pagination is slightly different in the new edition, which contains over 600 pages in total. The typeface is bigger, and each song begins on a new page. The orthography has been slightly modernised in the new edition. For example, where the first edition has Gàilig (p. 54) and r’a cheile (p. 143), the second edition has Gàidhlig (p. 59) and r’a chéile (p. 158).
Other Sources
Further Reading Fionn (Whyte, Henry), ‘Archibald Sinclair, Printer and Publisher, Glasgow’, Celtic Monthly, 1 (1893), 185.

A picture of the monument that was erected in memory of Archibald Sinclair by the Glasgow Islay Association, along with some brief biographical information, can be found at
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