Tha an duileag seo a samhladh gnosan agus cleachdaidhean abhaisteach anns an linn a h-ochd deug.


‘It is this feeling, assenting, equable marriage between the geographical country and the country of the mind, whether that country of the mind takes its tone unconsciously from a shared oral inherited culture, or from a consciously savoured literary culture, or from both, it is this marriage that constitutes the sense of place in its richest possible manifestation’ (Seamus Heaney).

Historical Documents Available for Download

Worship in Presbyterian Scotland

Torcail Lordship in the Sixteenth Century

Angus MacEachern’s House, Arisaig

First Nail in the Coffin for Gaelic Language

The Collapse of the Gaelic World

The Influence of Debt on the Highland Elite

Captain John MacDonald and Prince Edward Island

Dr Archibald Cameron, Jacobite

Prince Charles Edward Stuart

The Impact of the Military Profession on Highland Gentry

Scottish Immigration to the Maritimes

Officers of the 78th Highland Regiment

The Recruitment of Highland Regiments

Recruitment During the Napoleonic Wars

Scottish Mercenaries and Land Grants in North America

Human Ecology of Saint Kilda

The 1727 St Kilda Smallpox Epidemic

Smallpox Innoculation in Western Scotland

Lord Howe Island and Saint Kilda: a comparison

Girls and Women of Pictou County

Nineteenth Century Scotland

Commercial Landlordism and Clearances in the Western Highlands

Peasant Holdings in the West Highlands

Schooling of Poor Girls in the Highlands and Islands

Working Women in the Scottish Highlands

Leaving the Highlands

Gairloch Settlements

Changing Landscapes

The Crofters War in Tiree

 Crofter Identity in Skye

‘I’m Turning Japanese, I Really Think So’


Poll Start Date: 28th August 2010

It would be helpful to the website and to gauge interests if  visitors without a query in the form of a post could complete the survey: 


Gaelic culture as a whole has always been a tradition based on the spoken word. The values, the history, the music whether port-a-beul or pipe, the sense of identity and rootedness, the very sense of being a Gael, have been articulated and transmitted by living tradition bearers through the Gaelic tongue.  The header for this site ‘Tillidh mi Dhachaidh’ (I Will Return Home) is in recognition of the stalwarts of Coroceolraidh Buenos Aires who maintain the Gaelic culture in their home city six thousand miles away. A number of famous people of Hebridean extraction have made their mark in their own individual field of excellence both at home and across the world.

There are a number of different genres within the Gaelic oral tradition (a unique sample, see image to left, is available for purchase from this site) and these different genres tend to express and encapsulate different kinds of experience and ideas: proverbs express the wit and wisdom of Gaelic culture; tales cover history, genealogical themes, promote role models and supply entertainment; and songs provide the outlet for emotional expression of the community. 

The Statutes of Iona in 1609-10 and 1616 sought to eradicate Gaelic, the so-called ‘Irish’ language,  so that the ‘vulgar English tongue’ might be universally planted. The suppression of the Lordship of the Isles (1411), the Reformation (1560), the final failure of the Jacobite cause (1746) and the end of the clan system were all in turn damaging to Gaelic. The good side to these State reforms upon what had been the previous and customary marauding and unrestrained behaviour of the Islanders included: 

I. The clergy were to be properly obeyed and paid, churches were to be rebuilt, sabbaths were to be kept and Reformed Kirk discipline was to be observed. 
II. Inns were to be established for the convenience of labourers as well as travellers. 
III. To reduce vagabondry, no man was to be suffered to reside in the Isles if he did not have  sufficient income or followed some trade.
IV. Households of chiefs were to be reduced and kept up at their own expense, not at that of the tenantry. 
V. “Sorning” or living at free quarters on the poor people was to be punished as thieving. 
V1. To stop drunkenness, a man might only brew enough liquor for his own family, but chiefs might purchase wine &c., in the south. 
VII. Every gentleman with sixty cattle was to send his eldest son, or, failing sons, his daughter, to be educated at school in the lowlands at his own expense, that they might learn to speak, read, and write English.
VIII. The use of fire-arms was forbidden under all circumstances so as to end the Islanders’ “ monstrous deadly feuds” . 
IX. Bards and other idlers were to be forbidden.

Further setbacks for the language were loss of life in the Napoleonic Wars, the ensuing Highland Clearances, potato famine in the 1840s, and economic marginalisation and underdevelopment which engendered large-scale migration to the Lowlands and overseas. Some mitigation resulted from legislation following the ‘Crofters’ Wars’ in 1886, and at the end of the nineteenth century Gaelic was still the predominant language throughout the mainland Highlands and Hebrides.In the 1914-18 war, losses of life at sea and in the armed forces took considerable toll of the Gaelic population, and the inter-war period witnessed renewed emigration, especially from the Hebrides. The numbers of Gaelic speakers declined sharply from 254,415 in 1891 to 58,969 in 2001. Internal migration from Highlands and Islands to Lowlands has resulted in 45% of all Gaelic speakers today normally residing in Lowland, urban Scotland.


32 responses to “Culture

  1. Waxwing

    April 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    ‘The Sea is Wide – New Celts from Old Horizons’

    500 Copies of ‘The Sea is Wide’ have already been downloaded from this site free of charge, proving its appeal to family researchers. From now on in (as of April 1, 2013), the volume can be downloaded (PDF format is the best option) at a cost of £6 (US$9)from

    Alternatively it can be downloaded at the much cheaper cost of £2 (US$3) on giving a donation to the Derry charity, Children in Crossfire, at

    To secure the cheaper purchase, please post the request on this page under your pseudonym if preferred, with perhaps any genealogy query for good measure. Upon receipt by Waxwings (my pseudonym) of any such request, and confirmation to Waxwings from Justgiving of a donation to Children in Crossfire, Waxwings will temporarily unblock the Smashwords site to enable the free download.

    Although Smashwords favours the ePub format, for downloads the PDF version seems to work better, fully preserves the formatting and more closely resembles the appearance of a normal book. All that is lost in the PDF version is the technicolour but it reads just like a Kindle.

  2. Don MacFarlane

    August 3, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Fo steallaidhnean ‘s fo thunnsgaidhnean
    Nan tonnan mora, borb.

    Anyone who has been in high seas will relive the experience through the verses of Rob Donn Calder (MacKay) of Durness, reckoned to be the Highland Rabbie Burns.

    Image of Clipper in High Seas

  3. donfad

    August 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    MacDonalds, More Sinned or Sinned Against?

    Other Massacres (not Glencoe)

    The Burning of Applecross (1602)
    After a trivial disagreement with MacKenzie of Kintail, MacDonnell of Glengarry, upon his release by the Privy Council, arranged for Applecross to be wasted ‘with fire and sword’, killing every man, woman, and child he could find, and ‘drove a great spoil’ south to Glengarry. Mackenzie in return, at the head of seventeen hundred men, harried the MacDonald territory as far as Moray. Angus MacDonnell then retaliated by ravaging Glenshiel and Letterfearn as far as Loch Duich.

    Campbells, yet again.
    Argyll set his mind to destroying the last relics of families his own had supplanted. His army was sent first to destroy the MacDonald stronghold of Dunavertie in Kintyre, where three hundred of the garrison were slain. The Lamonts of Cowal were then attacked, carried off to to Dunoon, where they were butchered ‘to the number of some two hundred and thirty’. General Leslie was then sent to destroy the remaining MacDougal (relatives of the MacDonalds) strongholds on the Island of Kerrera and of Dunolly on the northern horn of Oban Bay. The castles were destroyed never to be restored.

    MacDonald of Morar
    Allan Dubh MacDonald raised an army of sixteen hundred men in 1488, marched northward through Mackenzie lands, burning and slaying, and at Contin on a Sunday morning set fire to the church in which the old men, women and children had taken refuge, and burned the whole to ashes.

    MacDonnell of Glengarry Again
    MacDonnell made a raid in 1580 on MacKenzie’s lands of Brae Ross, and (again) on a Sunday morning, while all the people were at divine service in the church of Cillechroist, set fire to the fane and burnt men, women, and children to ashes, while his piper marched round the building, drowning their shrieks with a pibroch which ever since, under the name of “Cillechroist”, has remained the family tune of Glengarry.

    The Eigg Massacre (1577)
    In the course of the warfare with the MacDonalds, the MacLeod Chief sailed for Eigg. Seeing his overwhelming force the inhabitants of the island, some two hundred in number, took shelter in a great cave which had a single narrow entrance. By means of footsteps in a sprinkling of snow which had fallen, the MacLeods traced the MacDonalds to the mouth of the cave. MacLeod ordered his men to gather heather and brushwood which were piled against the mouth of the cave and set on fire, and the blaze was kept up until all within were suffocated to death.

    The Vaternish Massacre
    By way of retaliation for this massacre, on a Sunday when the MacLeods of Vaternish were at service in the church at Trumpan, a body of MacDonalds from Uist, having landed at Ardmore, set fire to the fane and burnt it with all its worshippers except one woman, who escaped through a window.The MacDonalds then tried to make their escape on their galleys but the tide had left them high and dry. As they struggled to launch them the MacLeods rushed to the attack, and everyone of the MacDonalds was slain. The bodies of the dead were laid in a long row beside a turf dyke at the spot, and the dyke was overthrown upon them, from which fact the battle is known as Blar Milleadh Garaidh, the Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke.

  4. donfad

    August 15, 2011 at 8:39 am

    The Fairy World and its Inhabitants

    Trooping Fairies
    They live together in large groups and are ruled by a king and queen. They behave like the human aristocracy and sing, dance and ride. They have ever-lasting youth (you never see an old one) and are impeccably dressed. A sub-category are the homely trooping fairies who are always courteous except when humans try to hide and catch them out. They have an unpleasant habit of stealing at every opportunity therefore they are the bane of humans who forget and leave things down.

    Solitary Fairies
    The Scottish equivalent to the Irish Banshee is the ‘Bean Nighe’ or Washerwoman who is seen at an isolated ford where she washes the burial clothes of the foreseen corpse. They were thought to be the ghosts of women who died during childbirth.

    Water Spirits
    Most famous is the kelpie who appears as a horse or a shabby old man and he likes to drown unwary humans. He may also take the shape of a handsome young man who drags seduced young women under water. Just as famous is the mermaid who sits on a rock looking beautiful while combing her long hair. She provides a service of providing fisherman a warning of bad weather at sea. So, if you see a mermaid, stay at home. The Cailleach Bheur, ‘The Sharp Old Woman’, brings the Winter with her, is found at frozen lakes, gorse and holly bushes.

  5. donfad

    July 12, 2011 at 9:57 am

    A Description of Highlanders in 1745

    ‘They boil their flesh in the paunch of the beast and while they hunt they eat it raw after squeezing out the blood. Their bread is a composition of oats and barley which they compose with water and eat raw. Their clothes are mostly the colours of the heath in which they lie while waiting for game. At home they lie on the ground [on a bed of fern or heath]. The heath is as soft as feathers and draws out superfluous humours [sweat] when they lie down weary and faint at night, so they rise fresh and vigorous in the morning. They sleep this way even when there is better accommodation so as not to affect barbarous effeminacy’.

  6. donfad

    July 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Dubbed ‘The Queen of Songs’, this ancient lament-turned-waulking song from the Alexander Carmichael ‘Carmina Gadelica’ collection tells of the heartbreak of the young beloved of Seathan, son of a King of Ireland, at his being cut down in his prime. But how did this song (composed in the finest Scottish and not Irish Gaelic) come from Skye?

    An extended version has been preserved and the Capercaillie rendition is only a short extract, probably heard from Flora MacNeill, heard in turn from her great-aunt, Margaret Johnston of Mingulay near Barra. The fate of the supposed composer is left as an intriguing mystery – as shown by Capercaillie’s title for their version, ‘Chuir m’athair mise dhan taigh charraideach (My father sent me to a house of sorrow)’, one of the verses in the song. Other verses go:

    Chorus: Hù rù o na hi òro

    Tha Seathan an-diugh ‘na mharbhan
    (Seathan is today a corpse)
    Sgeul as olc le luchd a leanmhainn
    (A most evil tale to those who follow him)

    Sgeul is ait le luchd a shealga
    (A tale to celebrate for his hunters)
    Naidheachd a bha dhomhsa searbh dhe
    (News that leaves me bitter at the hearing of it).

    ‘S mairg thuirt riamh rium gum b’e bhean dhubhach mi
    (Doleful accounts are usually told of what a disconsolate woman I am)
    Bean bhochd chianail chràiteach dhubhach mi
    (A pitiable, heartbroken, afflicted, inconsolable woman).

    Bean bhochd a thug spèis dha buidheann mi
    (A pitiful woman who once gave hope to my own kith and kin)
    Piuthar do Fhionn ‘s do Niall Buidhe mi
    (Sister to Finn and Yellow-Haired Niall).

    ‘S minig a chuala ‘s nach do dh’innis e
    (Often was it heard but never was it told)
    Gu robh mo leannan-sa am Minginis
    (That my beloved had been in Minginish).

    There are a good number of neglected words in the full version (the song is five hundred years old and would take an hour to sing to completion), so anyone with the time or inclination can greatly improve their Gaelic with the use of the SMO Gaelic Dictionary.

    As far as trying to pin down historical accuracy as to whether there really was a Seathan, son of King of Ireland, who had a presence in the Western Isles, this would have to fit into the following framework:

    King Aedh 11 of Ireland (568 AD) granted Dál Riada independence from Ireland at the Convention of Druim Ceat.

    Dál Riada went on to dominate Scotland until 843 when Cionaodh MacAilpín unified the Dál Riada and Pictish and became the first King of Alba.

    Seachnasach (665 AD), son of Blathmac, is a possible reference point, maybe an uncle?

    Niall Frosach (759 AD), reigned as King of Ireland for seven years before retiring to Iona Monastery.

    Aedh Fionnlaith (861 AD) married Maolmare (Mary), daughter of Kenneth MacAlpine.

    Irish Monarchy was ceded to Henry 11 of England in 1175.

    Therefore, certain conclusions can reasonably be drawn as the song is thought to have been written about four hundred years after this date:

    It was not contemporaneous with any kingship of Ireland (the Gaelic is too modern);
    Therefore, it was not written by a bereaved beloved of a prince as portrayed;
    Therefore, it was more of a mythical fabrication or loose historical reconstruction at best;
    Therefore, the emotive content of the song is more poetic than personal.

    Despite the probable inauthenticity of the song, the rendition of this ancient waulking song by Capercaillie has now been recognised as a classic of its type and it has been set as an examination piece for students seeking entry to music degrees courses in University. Students are expected to know and recognise about the song:

    The Melody
    The vocal is in the low alto range.
    The melody is based on the five-note pentatonic scale (in this case, G-A-B-D-E).
    The verse melodies and refrains contrast in the way that they descend or ascend.
    There is an element of call and response in the refrains.
    The instruments often imitate the vocal phrases.

    The Word-Setting
    The words use “nonsense‟ syllables, or vocables, in the refrains.
    The text is set in a syllabic way – there is very little melismatic writing*.

    * melismatic – designed to induce a mystical trance, and similar in technique to a Gregorian chant, where words drift between different notes.

    The Harmony and Tonality
    When chords change, it is very noticeable.
    The harmony sounds modal, due to the lack of chords with sharpened notes in them (most of the chords are either G, E minor or C).
    Some of the chords are dissonant note-clusters, emphasising the modern twist that Capercaillie have brought to the song.
    The song ends with a series of plagal cadences* – again giving a modal “feel‟ to the arrangement due to the lack of a dominant chord.

    *musical technique written to fit dance motions where the beat should be more marked and should make itself felt more clearly than usual.

    The Rhythm and Metre
    The overall metre of the song is compound, written in the score as 12/8 time.
    The drummer plays across this metre with cross-rhythms that give the arrangement interest and character.

    The Instrumentation and Texture
    The arrangement is for both traditional and modern instruments, and Capercaillie make a lot of this fusion.
    Often the instruments “trade‟ phrases in a kind of conversation, with the electric piano and bouzouki featuring early on.
    When the full band enters in the middle of the arrangement, the effect on the texture is very telling. To emphasise this, a new chord is played and the drums move to a more regular rhythmic pattern.
    The instruments tend to embellish melodies even when playing in unison with each other.
    There is a lot of improvisation around the melody by various instruments.

  7. donfad

    June 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Professor Nancy Dorian of Bryn Mawr University, Pennsylvania, has been carrying out a heroic thirty-year study of the decline of Gaelic in Eastern Sutherland. Her conclusions are that Gaelic has died in the face of cultural change in things such as ethnic diversity (incomers or ‘blow-ins’), socioeconomic stratification (Gaelic is spurned by the more affluent), and less community-wide face-to-face interaction (decline in door-step neighbourliness). Social structure has been upended in relation to smallness of size (‘knowing everbody else’s business), kinship ties and occupation (non-desktop jobs).

    Most telling of all is an intolerance from fluent speakers of others who are taking baby steps and the insistence of native speakers on speaking to novices in English, despite a keenness from novices to try their hand at Gaelic. Unless there is a bit of give, Gaelic will be on its deathbed.

  8. donfad

    May 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Who are the Celts?

    The term ‘Celtic’ is thought to have first been applied to non-English speaking parts of the British Isles by George Buchanan (1506-82), solely in relation to language. Like General Hugh MacKay of Scourie, Professor Buchanan is a much overlooked figure of great historical importance, highly instrumental in shaping Scotland as it is today. How he found the time or interest to explore the origins of the Celt must remain a mystery – what between his being the chief witness whose evidence against Mary Queen of Scots led to her execution, and his being John Knox’s right-hand man in establishing the Church of Scotland.

    Later work by Edward Lhuyd (16560-1709) and others extended the Celtic concept to include other aspects of culture of the so-called Insular Celts (Scottish, Irish, Manx, Welsh and Cornish) such as music and ethnic identity. Galicia in Northern Spain (Basque territory) and Brittany in France are referred to as Continental Celts who share something of a common heritage with Insular Celts. The original Celtic race is thought to have travelled to the British Isles from Celtica in what was then Gaul (now France).

  9. Don MacFarlane

    February 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Byegone Ways

  10. Don MacFarlane

    February 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

    The wonders of the modern age!

    All clans should follow the example of the MacEacherns and get on Facebook.

  11. Don MacFarlane

    December 18, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Gaelic Clans of Scotland and Ireland PhD Thesis (1986) by Dr Thomas Cairney ex California State University, Chico, CA.

    All Gaels were descended from three pre-Gaelic Celtic tribes from central Europe – the Cruithne, the Erainn and the Laigin. Of these, the tribe that was transplanted to Scotland were the Cruithne, more commonly known as Picts (some stayed behind and are to be found in the midlands of Ireland); their Celtic cousins who stayed in Ireland were the Erainn, mainly to be found in Munster and Ulster provinces and the Laigin, mainly to be found in Connaucht and Leinster provinces. An intermixing of the Scottish Cruithne and the Dalriadan (Ulster) Erainn produced what today are the Highland Gaels in Scotland.

    Sub-Tribes of the Cruithne Haplogroup IxIlb2
    Dal nAraidhe (Dalriadan – Clan Lynch and their kin; Clan Aodha, including MacGennis; MacArtain or McCartan).
    Na Sogain (Galway – Clan Mannion and their kin; The Seven Septs of Leix – Mores, Nolans, Dorans, Lawlors, Dowlings, Devoys, Kellys).
    North Albans (From above Dunkeld, up to the Moray Firth on the East and the Great Glen of Lochaber on the West – Brodie, MacRae, MacMillan, Buchan, Erskine, Rattray, Forbes, Urquhart, MacKenzie, Matheson, Nicolson).
    South Albans (From around the Firth of Forth on the East and Loch Lomond on the West – MacLarens, Ogilvys, Drummonds, Stewarts, Lennoxes, MacFarlanes, MacDuffs).

    Sub-Tribes of the Erainn Haplogroup I2b1a1
    Too numerous to mention. Main branches in Ireland included Ulaidh, Corca Dhuibhne and Dal gCais.
    The Dalriadan branch of the Ulaidh (from North Antrim) travelled back and forth to the western seaboard of Scotland, also populating and inter-marrying in the meantime. The chief branches of Dal Riada were Cineal Loairn and Cineal nGabrain.

    Chief sub-branches of Cineal Loairn: Haplogroup R1b1b2
    Clann Duibhne – Campbell, MacGillivray, MacInnes
    Cineal Baodan – MacLeans, MacNaughtens, MacNabs, Clan Chattan (Mackintosh), Cameron

    Chief sub-branches of Cineal nGabrain: Haplogroup R1b1b2
    Siol Alpin – MacGregor, MacPhie, MacKinnon, MacQuarrie

    Sub-Tribes of Na Laigin Haplogroup R1b1b2*.
    Oirghialla – Cineal nAlbanaich settle in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and their chief clans became MacDonalds and MacDougalls.
    Ui Mainne – numerous Irish clans
    Ui Neill – numerous Irish clans
    Ui Mac Uais – numerous Irish clans

    *Comment: DNA haplotype testing can now call into question the accuracy of a number of the above pedigrees, notably that of the MacDonalds who have variously been described as either descended from Ui Mac Uais R1b1b2 or, more likely, of Norse pedigree and not of Gaelic.

  12. Don MacFarlane

    October 14, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Murder of Annie Beaton

    A fascinating account of entrenched social and cultural values in PEI, amongst emigrants from Skye and Uist in the nineteenth century, reminiscent of the Red Barn Murders in England. The gory murder of Annie Beaton went unpunished and remains alive in people’s memory today.

  13. Don MacFarlane

    September 25, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Norman MacLean, Gaelic-Speaking Raconteur, in Full Flow

    Norman MacLean, one-time solicitor, singer, entertainer and self-acknowledged alcoholic tells his account of settling into old age in reduced circumstances in Daliburgh in South Uist.

    • Don MacFarlane

      October 17, 2010 at 8:54 pm

      In contrast to Norman MacLean’s fluency in Gaelic as a non-native speaker, another ambassador for Gaelic and non-native speaker (this time from Cape Breton), Mary Jane Lamond has underwhelmed listeners to her albums, Suas E and Lan Duil, with her command of the spoken language. Ten out of ten for effort perhaps?

  14. Don MacFarlane

    September 17, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Papal Gaelic Blessing on visit to Scotland 16th September 2010.
    Badly pronounced (sounded more like German) but valiant effort nonetheless:

    Sith agus beannachd Dhia dhuibh uile
    Dia bi tiomchaill oirbh
    Agus gum beannachadh Dia Alba.

    [The peace and blessings of God to you all.
    May God be amongst you and may He bless Scotland].

    Particular thanks was given to the people of the Highlands and Islands for keeping Catholicism alive after the Reformation, at a time when its very survival in Scotland was under severe threat.

  15. Don MacFarlane

    September 4, 2010 at 11:14 am

    One of the visitors has an ancestor who went by the soubriquet, Duncan the Civil. This singling out of Duncan might imply that everyone else was uncouth, as personal descriptors in Gaelic mostly refer to physical appearance. However, the very use of something that was clearly not an insult implies that civility was a personal quality that was valued and admired, and something that Duncan had in abundance.

    A look in the SMO Dictionary for words for civility points to the sophistication of the Gaelic language. There is a compendium of words, all with subtle nuance, which mean civil – a bit like the eskimos who have a hundred words for snow?

    Catharra – civil, civic, militant (from cathair, a chair or centre; or cath, a battle).
    Ciuin – civil, calm, mild, placid.
    Comannach – civil, social.
    Cuideachdail – civil, companionable (from cuideach, together with).
    Doigheil – civil, up to the mark, well-arranged (from doigh, manner).
    Modhail – civil, well-behaved (usually describing a child).
    Rianail – civil, methodical (from rian, method).
    Siobhalta – civil, mild-tempered, placid.
    Suairc – civil, urbane, courtly.
    Suthar – civil, affable, polite.

    On balance, the Civil moniker might refer to Duncan as someone of unruffled temperament, sociable, well-mannered or obliging, or all of these, not just civil. A further demonstration of the subtlety of Gaelic can be seen in the word cuideachdail meaning civil (the same exercise can be carried out on the word modhail, with root modh, for manners). The root of the word is cuid which means portion, allotment or proportion; this then becomes cuideachd, meaning also, addition, group, family or society; or cuideachadh which means helping. All of this might imply a society whose culture was indeed civil, but no pushover, and the antithesis of modern culture which is too often selfish and of a mindset, ‘what’s mine is my own …’

    For an update on how much Gaelic has developed into a modern language that would not be out of place in a boardroom or centre of power, visitors should check out the Scottish Parliament and the European Tribune.

  16. Laurie

    August 6, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    An intriguing Carmina Gadelica entry:
    “Otters and seals are instructive and interesting and become much attached to those who feed them and teach them. They fish in the river, in the lake and in the sea, and bring the fish ashore as retrievers bring birds”. I believe this was in a section pertaining to lore about seals. Is there any history of people on the islands using seals to fish?

    • Don MacFarlane

      August 6, 2010 at 9:14 pm

      This sounds a bit like the North Uist fable about MacCodrum’s Seal-Wife, although the wife was probably not too flattered to be compared to a seal? The same story has been brought recently to the big screen by Neil Jordan, though set in Cork in Ireland, in the film ‘Ondine’ starring Colin Farrell.

      Leaving fairy tales aside, seals can become very comfortable with humans, they have a natural curiosity, they are easily trained (viz. San Diego zoo) and they are expert at locating fish. They might tolerate a fishing boat to follow them, or they might drive fish towards a boat or a fishing net? All it would then require from fishermen would be a local knowledge of seasonal patterns of fish shoal migration (especially herring which can come very close to shore), a suitable stretch of water (a sea or fresh-water inlet, not the open sea or lough) and a net at the outlet. If seals could retain memories of annual gluts of fish and feeding bonanzas, that would do the rest. Any such skill in Hebridean fishermen is long-lost but otters are still used by Bangaladeshi Fishermen today to drive fish into their nets.

  17. Don MacFarlane

    October 11, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    The Sloinneadh
    The sloinneadh still got relied upon as the major source of evidence by the Lord Lyon as recently as 2004 in deciding the true chieftain of MacDonald of Keppoch:

    ‘(1) the omission of a generation from the sloinneadh does not invalidate it or render it unreliable; (2) the sloinneadh can be relied upon even if not separately proved to have been kept in proper form; (3) the sloinneadh can be relied upon if there is evidence identifying it as a traditional oral genealogy kept in the family’.

  18. Don MacFarlane

    June 6, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Emigrant Poems from the 1700-1800s

    John Smith
    Ged thachradh oighreachd mhor agad
    ‘S ged gheill na sloigh fo d’ smachd,
    Tha’m bas is laghan geur aige
    ‘S gu feum thu geill d’a reachd
    Siud uachdaran a dh’ordaicheas
    Co-ionnan coir gach neach,
    ‘S mor oighreachd bheir e leine dhut
    ‘S da cheum de thalamh glas

    Translation: Although you happen to have a vast estate and people yield to you, Death has stringent laws and you must yield to him. Death orders an equal share for all and for your grand estate he will give a shroud and two strides of green earth.

    John McCambridge (ex County Antrim, Irish Gaelic)
    Mo sheacht mallacht ar an tsaol,
    Is carai e go mor na an t-eag;
    Mheall se me o mo mhuinti phein,
    Mar mheallfai an t-uan bhon chaora.
    A mbeadh agam pein ach coit is ramh,
    Na go n-iomairinn ar dhroim an tsnaimh,
    Ag duil as Dia go ruiginn slan
    Is go bhfaighinn bas in Eirinn.

    Translation: I curse the world seven times over, it is more treacherous than the plague; It lured me from my own folk, just as the lamb is lured from the sheep. If only I had a small boat and oar, I would row upon the crest of the wave, entrusting to God to arrive safely and to find Death in Ireland.

    John MacLean
    ‘Si seo an duthaich ‘sa bheil an cruadal,
    Gun fhios do’n t-sluagh a tha tighinn a-nall;
    Gur h-olc a fhuaras oirnn luchd a bhuairidh
    A rinn le’n tuaisgeul ar toirt ann.
    Mun dean mi aiteach ‘s mun tog mi barr ann,
    ‘S a’choille ghabhaidh chur as a bonn
    Le neart mo ghairdein, gum bi mi saraichte
    ‘S treis ’air failinn mu’m fas a chlann.

    Translation: This country of cruel hardship is in store for those yet to arrive; dear bought were the yarns of tempters who brought us here against our will. Before I make a homestead or raise a crop, I must clear a perilous forest; then, despite the strength in my arms, I will be world-weary and spent before my family are yet grown.

    Padraig de Brun (Irish Gaelic)
    Ghluais an long thar linne mara
    Fad o shin is a crann mar or
    Scriobh a sceal ar phar na hoiche
    Ard i rian na reiltean mor.
    ‘Gluais’ ar si, ‘ar thuras fada
    Liom o scamall is o cheo:
    Ta fe shleasa gorm-Andes
    Cathair scafar, gle mar sheod’.

    Translation: The ship sailed over the wide ocean, long since and her mast like gold; she traced her story on the night’s scroll, high in the track of the great stars. ‘Come travel with me’, she said, ‘from gloom and wet, you will find the Andes blue, a sheltered city, bright as a jewel’.

  19. Don MacFarlane

    May 25, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Visitors to the SMO Gaelic Dictionary will often run up against a message which says e.g. ‘Cha d’fhuaireadh facal Gaidhlig mar “fhuaireadh” ‘s an Stor-data’. In English, this means ‘a Gaelic word like “fhuaireadh” was not found in the database’. This despite the fact that ‘fhuaireadh’ is used in the message so the word must exist!

    This just reflects that, to make best use of the dictionary, the user must have some basic knowledge of Gaelic grammar, such as roots, tenses, possessives, subjunctives etc. much like for any other language.

    Breaking down the sentence, it goes like – cha d'(not) fhuaireadh (was found) facal (word) mar (like) etc. ‘Fhuair’ is past tense for ‘faigh’ (to find), not to be confused with the adjective, ‘fuar’ (cold). In pronunciation, the aspiration of the letter f which becomes fh means that the f-sound is eliminated and so ‘d’fhuaireadh’ is pronounced ‘doo-arr-ugh’. Likewise, amongst other letters which can be aspirated are b>bh and m>mh (both pronounced ‘v’);c>ch (pronounced guttural ‘ch’ as in ‘loch’;); d>dh and g>gh (both pronounced ‘gh’); p>ph (pronounced ‘f’); s>sh (pronounced ‘hy’)

  20. Don MacFarlane

    May 22, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    It might be that both people used the pseudonym, MacTalla, being the Gaelic word for echo? Certainly Echo would be a name frequently used for newspapers, so a journalist in a Gaelic newspaper, such as Jonathan MacKinnon of C.B., might use the Gaelic equivalent? Likewise, for his own and a different reason, might John MacRury?

  21. Angus Macmillan

    May 21, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    I wonder if MacTalla was multi-headed. Much if not all that appeared under that name was, as I understand it, the output of the Rev John MacRury ‘of Snizort’, born and brought up at 17 Torlum in the ruin at the back of the current house, and behind the barn which was the home of Donald MacRury, the Bard of Torlum.

  22. Don MacFarlane

    May 19, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    It would appear not as, according to SMO (Sabhal Mor Ostaig), MacTalla was a Jonathan MacKinnon, from Inverness County in Cape Breton.

  23. Don MacFarlane

    May 4, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Extract from column in a Gaelic newspaper, Mac Talla, from Sydney, Cape Breton, April 1st, 1904.

    ‘S iad na tri nithean a’s mo tha dhith air mac an duine ‘sa bheatha so, a thaobh na colann,lon, aodach, agus tamh. Nam b’ aill leat tlachd a ghabhail ann ad lon, agus blas taitneach a bhi air do ghnath,gabh mo chomhairle agus saothairich air a shon. Nam b’ aill leat tlachd a bhi agad ann ad aodach, paigh e mu’n cuir thu ort e. Nam b’ aill leat cadal agus tamh agus suain shocrach fhaotainn, thoir deagh choguis ghlan leat do d’ leabaidh.

    Very wise counsel indeed which suggests how to get most satisfaction from the three things needed for a content life: food, clothes and sleep. For food, work up a good appetite; for clothes, pay for them before you put them on; for sleep, make sure you have a clear conscience!

  24. donfad

    July 13, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Eoghan Og MacLean, of Judique and Eigg Cape Breton Bard circa 1798

    Eoghan Og, after his marriage, removed himself to Sight Point, near Judique in Cape Breton, where he took up a farm and remained about twenty years. Eoghan had a penchant for composing vitriolic songs at the expense of his Sight Point neighbours, which were not malicious but stung painfully.

    One of the victims came to him on a Sunday to complain of his merciless shafts. The answer he got was spoken in Gaelic and ran something like this:

    “Di Domhnaich thainig thu do m’ionnsaidh,
    “S cinnteach nach do ghabh thu t-urnaigh;
    “Coltas caothaich na do shuilean,
    “S cha b’e sugradh nochdadh riut.”

    Or, loosely translated

    “Last Sunday you came my direction
    It’s for sure you hadn’t said your prayers,
    The look you gave me went right through me,
    Nor was it good cheer you had in mind”

  25. donfad

    April 6, 2008 at 1:46 am

    Canadian Gaelic Advancement

    Comhairle na Gàidhlig, Alba Nuadh
    Nova Scotia Gaelic of Council
    PO Box 51011, RPO Rockingham Ridge
    Halifax, NS
    B3M 4R8
    Contact: Lewis MacKinnon
    Phone: (902) 443-4105

    Comunn Gàidhlig Cheap Breatuinn
    The Cape Breton Gaelic Society
    President: Frank MacKenzie
    3161 Sunset Drive
    New Waterford, NS
    B1H 1L1
    Phone: (902) 862-7479

    Comunn Gàidhlig an Ard-Bhaile
    Gaelic Cultural Association of the High City (Halifax)
    PO Box 29035
    Halifax, NS
    B3L 4T8
    Contact: George Seto, Phone: (902) 465-5196

    Mabou Gaelic & Historical Society
    PO Box 175
    Mabou, NS
    B0E 1X0
    Contact: Margie Beaton
    Phone: (902) 945-2790

    Comunn Gaidhlig ‘is Eachdraidh a’ Bhraigh
    President: Dorothy Pottie
    Phone: (902) 625-5500
    New Waterford Gaelic Society
    Dan MacIsaac
    8 Carroll Street
    Glace Bay, NS
    B1A 3B3
    Contact: Dan MacIsaac
    Phone: (902) 849-9331

    Comunn Gàidhlig Gleann Annapolis
    Annapolis Valley Gaelic Society
    Brian McConnell
    PO Box 151
    Clementsport, NS
    BOS 1EO

    Comunn Gàidhlig Siorramachd Phictou
    P.O. Box 273
    25 Fourth Street
    Trenton, NS
    B0K 1X0
    Contact: John Gillis

    Comunn Feis an Eilein
    PO Box 17
    Christmas Island, NS
    B0A 1C0
    Feis Baile nan Gall
    RR 4
    Baddeck, NS
    B0E 1B0
    Phone: (902) 929-2104

    Feis a’ Chladaich a Tuath
    Bonny Thompson
    Indian Brook, Victoria Co., NS
    B0C 1H0
    Contact: Bonny Thompson
    Phone: (902) 929-2372
    Feis Mhàbu
    Bernard Cameron
    Mabou, NS
    Phone: (902) 945-2407

    An Cliath Clis
    The Halifax Milling Frolic Society
    Nova Scotia Highland Village Society
    4119 Route 223
    Iona, NS
    B2C 1A3
    Contact: Rodney Chaisson, Director
    Phone: (902) 725-2272

    Comunn Ceilteach St. F.X.
    St. Francis Xavier University (Student Society)
    Antigonish, Nova Scotia

  26. donfad

    March 17, 2008 at 10:44 am

    ‘Why connect Hebridean and Northern Irish’?

    1. The Northern Irish and Americans have ‘made a big thing’ of the Ulster-Scots or Scots-Irish connection. The received version of a Lowland Scots plantation deletes from history the importance of Hebrideans in the settlement of Ulster. Notably, Donegal and North Antrim were largely settled by Gaelic-speaking Hebrideans, not Lowland Scots.
    2. The experiences of Clearances and Improvements were shared by Irish and Hebrideans but not by Lowland Scots, yet their reactions to hard times were very different.
    3. The clan allegiances were strongest in the Highlands, not in Ireland or Lowland Scotland, and this had a marked effect upon patterns of emigration. In particular, Hebridean emigrants were highly prized in British North America in a way that Irish were not.
    4. Allegiances to the British Empire and the Union were markedly different between the two places and recruitment to British Regiments had disproportionate numbers of Hebrideans. Chieftains raised their own regiments and took the ‘youngest son’ as part-payment of rent.
    5. Patterns of transportation of convicts were markedly different and for different reasons.

    These and other examples of historical anomalies in how people of similar ethnic origin reacted, were treated and behaved during the so-called period of post-Enlightenment can all be placed within the context of different forms of national identity, from irredentism at one extreme to cosmopolitanism at the other.

  27. donfad

    December 2, 2007 at 2:28 am

    Considerably more detail to be found on this topic in the GlasgowGuide website.

    Scottish Gaelic speaking soldiers – called Gallowglasses or Gall Oglaigh – settled in Ulster in the 14th century. Gallowglasses were mercenary soldiers from the western Highlands and Islands of Scotland, imported by Irish clan chiefs to aid in the defence of clan territories. Some of the Gallowglasses did not return to Scotland after fighting and settled amongst the indigenous Irish.

    The Scottish Gallowglass settlement in Ulster should not be confused with the later Scottish Plantation of Ulster. The Gallowglasses were Scottish West Highlanders, Catholic and Scottish Gaelic speaking. Those that settled permanently in Ireland were quickly assimilated into the Catholic Irish Gaelic speaking population of Ulster. The 17th century Scottish Planters of Ulster were on a much larger scale and came from predominantly the Scottish Lowlands. These 17th century Protestant Planters and the indigenous Catholic Irish mixed very little.

    The most famous of these Gallowglass families are:Sweeney (MacSweeney, County Donegal), Coll (MacColl, Argyll in Scotland and County Donegal), McFadden (MacFadyen, County Donegal), Rogers (MacRory, County Tyrone), McSorley (Argyll in Scotland and County Tyrone/Fermanagh), McCallion (MacAllan, County Donegal/Derry) and McCabe (Arran in Scotland and County Cavan/Monaghan). Other surnames now considered to be Irish surnames include McDonnell (MacDonald), McClean (MacLean), McDowell (MacDougall), McAllister (MacAllister) and McAuley (MacAulay).

    Today, reference to Gallowglasses has almost entirely disappeared, with the exception of the Irish spelling of Milford Village in West Donegal. It appears there on the roadsign to the entry to the village –
    Baile na nGalloglach.

    • A. O'Hara

      October 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Another gallowglass name is Mac an Ghallóglaigh (son of the gallowglass) from Donegal originally, and among the anglicised versions of the name are MacGallogley, Gallogly, and oddly some of them took the name Ingoldsby! There is also MacSíthigh (Sheehy) and the Scottish variant MacShíthig (MacKeith, MacHeath), a branch of the MacDomhnaill clan.


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