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(f)jUjU, \^^ 







Author of"Nbsi.e: with other Poems;" " The Hiqhlaxd Hymxal," btc. 
Minister of Bedford Church, London, 

Mdra ic senaih bar sensc6la." — Togail Troi. 


189 2. 


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It is hoped that the readers of the following chapters will bear in 
mind the fact that this is the first complete account of Gaelic 
literature that has yet been offered to the public, and that it must 
inevitably exhibit traces of the natural imperfections of all pioneer 
works. To other workers in the same field I am of course greatly 
indebted ; and if any of them had published a fairly full history of 
our Highland literature it is quite unlikely that the present 
volume would ever see the light. 

The names of about one hundred and eighty composers of 
Gaelic poetry alone occur in this volume, while not more than a 
third of that number will be found in any previous work on the 
subject. Still I am aware that some mistakes and omissions will 
be met with, but these, I trust, will not elicit so much reprehen- 
sion as material for correction hereafter. 

On the subject of the science of language and race movements 
glanced at in the Introduction, the student will find the latest 
views in the works of Penka, Schrader, Sayce. Hyde Clarke, and 
others. The " Ultonian Hero-Ballads " of Mr Hector MacLean 
and the Reliqucz Celticce of the late Dr Alexander Cameron will 
be prized by those interested in the fields on which the great Cu- 
chulin fought and Ossian sang. 

My studies in the Celtic field have been carried on in the midst 
of duties of a sacred and exacting character ; and I have often 
been hindered by the thought that the attraction in this direction 

vi Preface. 

ought to be resisted. Still I have felt like many others the need 
of making a speciality of some helpful study ; and what for me 
could be more natural as a mental exercise than to be found 
searching out in those obscure fields of an ancient literature for 
the intellectual products of my forefathers ? 

I am much indebted to several friends who encouraged me from 
time to time. It gives me great pleasure to mention among these 
the name of Dr Stoddart, late editor of The Glasgow Herald 
whose kindness and generosity to myself personally I will always 
cherish with gratitude, and whose sympathies with all that is 
good and noble in any people were the natural outcome of the 
cultured heart of a gentleman and a Christian. To him I owe the 
title of this book as well as the privilege, through the columns of his 
influential journal, of showing some of the treasures of our Gaelic 
literature to the great English world beyond our Highland Israel. 
With his name ought to be associated in this matter that of the 
able manager of the paper, Mr Alexander Sinclair, an Argyleshire 
Highlander. The art'cles then published in i88i were the first of 
the kind to appear in a newspaper of such high standing. The 
names of other gentlemen from whom I have received kindness 
occur to me also as I write : Mr D. H. Macfarlane, ex-M.P. ; 
Mr Fraser - Mackintosh, M.P. ; Dr R. Macdonald, M.P, ; Mr 
Duncan Macneill ; and Mr John Mackay, C.E. I have also much 
pleasure in acknowledging the readiness with which the Messrs 
Nisbet, publishers, London, have granted me permission to use in 
the following chapters some articles I contributed to The Catholic 

This book may be described as the child of the peaceful High- 
land revolution on which the political and Christian genius of 
the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone stamped imperial sanction and 
appioval in the Croftei-s Act of 1886. Its growth and delivery in 
various lectures, magazine articles and otherwise, during seventeen 
years, have been coincident with the workings of the spirit of 
racial fusion and union which recent political struggles after a 

Preface. vii 

Brito-Irish brotherhood have well-nigh perfected. On the follow- 
ing pages, therefore, I am occasionally an advocate of the just 
rights and claims of a noble race and an obscure literature ; but 
at the same time I remain a lover of the great English people. I 
have learned during a residence of upwards of ten years to appre- 
ciate and love the generous qualities of my English fellow- 


67 Lady Margaret Road, London, N.W- 








IX. macpherson's ossian 




INDEX .... 






















I N T E D U C T I N. 

" Forchiil)us caiclulnini iiiihia airatli iiilelir;'iii colli aratarcUla hciidaolit 
foiainnain iiitiuaui'iiii ro(l8eril)ai."' 

(.'(vHc (Scot.) MS. nfiith Cent. 

The Celts and the Teuton started westward frum the cradle ot 
the human race, spreading themselves over Europe ; while other 
members of the same stock went eastward, extending themselves 
over wide tracts of Asia. From the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans, 
and the Teutons have sprung the chief nations in whose possession 
Europe still remains. It is interesting to think that the brothers 
who parted thousands of years ago, somewhere in teeming Asia, the 
one going east and the other west, are now meeting again on the 
plains of Hindostan. Their movements during those tiiousandsof 
years have encircled the whole earth. Fiercely have they fought 
and disputed over every inch of the ground which one or other of 
their tribes at one time or other occupied. Theirs has always 
been the chief ruling power in the world. They begin to know 
one another again, b rom the extreme west of Europe, across the 
New World, the Anglo-Celt arrives in India and recognises the 
Hindoo as his brother. 

The Aryans migrated into Europo in a somewhat advanced 
state of civilisation. According to Sayce their advent was from 
the north, a theory which subverts nearly all previously accepted 
opinions on the subject. Some of them, however, such as the 
Greeks first and the Romans afterwards, favoured by the mari- 
time countries in which they settled, made more rapid progress 

than the others. It wns largely their self-conceit that led the 
Greeks and Romans to describe all the nations beyond their bounds 
as " barbarian." Our ancestors in these islands^ whether Celtic 
or Teutonic, were never mere savages. They had a religion, if 
not radically the same, fully as enobling in its tendency as that ot 
Greece and Rome. They evidently made some progress in the 
useful arts, while in the days of Rome's greatest splendour they 
were in possession of military weapons which were not much in- 
ferior to her own. The foi in of government among the Celts was 
patriarchal, and this continued for a long time among the Gaels of 
Scotland. There was the king or chief, who was regarded as the 
father of the clan, tribe^ or nation. With him was associated a 
council of chieftains or elders, and in important matters the wo/ of 
the whole people. But with all this political organisation they 
could not make such progress in civilisation as the Greeks antt 
Romans, who mostly dwelt in cities. The Gaels who along with 
the Germans acted the part of pioneers on the plains of Europe, 
and living a rural life, could not compete successfully in the race 
for higher civilisation with the brother races who inhabited the 
maritime cities of Greece and Italy, and who, besides, obtained 
much of an earlier civilisation from Phcenicia and Egypt. 

The early migrations of the Gael are involved in much obscurity. 
By the study of topography, however, we can follow many of his 
footsteps westward. This study, however, is rendered very difiti- 
cult, and at limes very uncertain, because the discoverable traces 
of the presence of the Celt lie embedded in the soil of the life of 
the powerful pre-CeUic races. The Celt and the Teuton have 
always been close neighboui-s. The progress of the two westward 
appears to have been somewhat simultaneous, at least on the 
Continent. The geographical positions of Erance and Gemnany 
at the present day represent not inaccurately the attitude of the 
Gaelic and Teutonic races towards one another in their earlier 
movements from the east. It has been said that the Celts came 
too soon into Europe, just as the Slaves came too late. It would 
be difficult to verify this remark in the light of history and in the 
face of existing facts. While admitting that the remark may have 
an element of truth in it, we must remember, with regard to the 
Slaves, that it is premature to anticipate what they may become. 
We see them a mighty threatening wave on a westward course. 
The Chinese hordes, who are already a trouble, press behind the 
Russians ; and the growing power of the latter in Europe is a 
matter of serious concern to our statesmen. The struggle between 

Celt and Teuton again cannot he said to he at an end as long as 
France and Germany maintain their present watchful and hostile 
attitude. As to their racial composition respectively the former 
may be said to be as much Celtic as the latter is Teutonic. But 
on the other hand, in the United Kingdom, Celt and Teuton may 
be said virtually to agree. They havo so blended for centuries 
that, notwithstanding boasts on both sides, which science cannot 
sustain, it i.s impossible almost to produce a pure Saxon or a pure 
Gael. It cannot certainly be done in Scotland. This interming- 
ling of races in the British Islands has produced a national character 
very unlike our Continental neighbours. The Anglo- Celtic power 
of the British Empire is not so iramol)ile or sluggish as the Ger- 
man, nor so light and airy as the French ; and its rule appears 
almost to have arrived at the incipient stage of universal dominion. 
Great Britain was peopleil in the north and in the south simul- 
taneously from the Continent, and Ireland was similarly peopled 
trom the north and south of Britain The Gaels of Ireland antl 
of Scotland were the same people, having the same language and 
music ; and all the elements of civilisation about them were the 
common property of both. At the same time there are evidences 
that the Gaels of the North of Ireland stood in closer relationship 
to those of Scotland than those in the South of Ireland. And 
this holds true even to this very day. It should always be borne 
in mind that there have been different tribes of pre-Celts, Celts and 
Teutons in Ireland, which has hitherto prevented that national 
cohesion in the time of danger which alone could secure the inde- 
pendence of the country. Ireland being peopled at a later period, 
has taken a longer time in developing a full orbed nationality. 
On the other hand there has been an earlier homogeneity among 
the Scottish Celts ; whether called Picts. Gaels, Scots, or Alban- 
aich, they were always one against the common foe, whatever 
might be the feuds among themselves. In more recent days the 
reformation of religion in the r6th century helped to produce in 
the Scottish Gael a distinctively different character from that ot 
the Gael of Ireland ; it also destroyed in Scotland many of the 
old Gaelic things which were associated with a religion that was 
regarded as superstitious. 1'hus much of the history and the 
literature of the Scottish Gael was lost. In Ireland, where no 
violent changes took place in the condition and religious beliefs of 
the people, we find very extensive manuscript literature — rich with 
interesting spoils of the past — as well as more relics even of earlier 
Gaelic life in Scotland. 

Chiefly throii.i,'h the great bibours of Zeuss, the distinguisliefl 
Bavarian, the Gael is now, as already remarked, universally ad- 
mitted to belong to the Aryan family. No student of the science 
of language will now contend that he has any special atiinity to the 
Semitic race. The Keltae of the Greek, the Galli of the Roman, 
and the Ghidhcil of Scotland and Ireland, are the same people. 
In the east and in the west Galatia, or in Gaelic \_Gdid/iealiac/i(i, 
contracted] and pronounced Gaellac/id, is the CcHlca, or land of 
the Celts or Gaels. GacUachd or Galatia is literally Gaelt/^?//, or 
the country of the Gads. The term " Gael " is the same as 
" Celt," the only dift'erence being that the original Ga'idel comes 
to us through Latin in the former and through Greek in the latter. 
So the two may be used indiscriminately, although some writers 
have endeavoured to preserve a distinction, using '' (xaelic " for the 
language spoken in Scotland and Ireland, and " Celtic" as a more 
generic term, embracing all the Gaelic Brythonic dialects. " Gael" 
— the Roman " Gaul'' — and the original "Gaidel," aspirated into 
" Gaidhel,'' which in its aspirated form at last dro].s the dh, and 
becomes •' Gael " or Gaul, is just the same word. The Gael stands 
ill the same relation to the Welsh, the Cornishnian, and the 
Armorican, that the Englishman and German, the Roman and 
Greek, stand to one another. The Gael, the Manx, and the Irish 
constitute one branch of the stock, while the Welsh, the Cornish, 
and the Breton constitute the other. 

The Celtic element enters largely into the population of the 
United Kingdom. Just as Celtic dialects were spoken at one time 
throughout the whole of the British Islands, so to the piesent day 
a powerful Celtic element pervades the people of Great Britain 
and Ireland from the lowest to the highest classes. John Knox 
and Robert Burns, two representative Scotchmen, were more Celtic 
than Teutonic. The national perfervid spirit and genius are so still. 
The name of the great Reformer is from the Gaelic Cnoc- 
Ireland can produce many Anglo-Celtic names, among which we 
find that of the Duke of Wellington. The mothers of the greatest 
epic poet and the greatest general that England ever produced 
were Celts. Sarah Gaston, the mother of Milton, was tlie daughter 
of a Welsh gentleman ; and Elizabeth Steward, the mother of 
Cromwell, was the daughter of William Steward, in Ely, a descen- 
dant of the Celtic Stewards of Scotland. Professor H. Morley 
says : — " The main current of English literature cannot be discon- 
nected from the lively Celtic wit in which it has one of its sources. 
The Celts do not form, an utterly distinct part of our mixed popula- 

tion. But for earl}^, frequent, and various contact with the race 
that, in its half-barbarous days, invented Ossian's dialogues with 
St. Patrick, and that quickened afterwards the Northerner's blood 
in France. Germanic England would not have produced a Shake- 
speare." It is only the other year that a Cambrian Celt disappeared 
from our midst — one of the greatest names in English literature- 
Mary A. Evans, better known by iier assumed name of George 
Eliot. This other quotation from Professor Morley's " Library of 
English Literature " is as true as it is suggestive : — " The Celts are 
by nature artists. Mr Ferguson has felt this in his owr art, and 
said in his ' Histoiy of Architecture:' — 'The true glory of the 
Celt in Europe is his artistic eminence. It is, perhaps, not too 
much to assert that without his intervention we should not have 
possessed in modern times a Church worthy of admiration or a 
picture or a statue we could look at without shame.' It would be 
tar too much to assert this of books ; but certainly Teutonic Eng- 
land could not have risen to the full grandeur and beauty of that 
expression of all her life in all her literature . . . without a 
wholesome blending of Teutonic with Celtic blood. The Celts 
are a vital part of our country, and theirs were the first songs in 
the land," 

Before parting with this subject let me note three remarkable 
facts whieh the history of Gaelic Scotland presents. They have 
not always been fully recognised. The first is that the Caledonians 
were never fully conquered by the Roman Power which brought 
almost all other nations of the world into subjection. The second 
is that a Gaelic people gave its present name to the country. The 
third is that a Gaelic King has given us the line of monarchs which 
we have still represented in the present sovereign of the British 
Empire. To these another fact might be a Ided— that the earliest 
modern literature is to be found among the Scoto-Irish Gael. 
Alter the decadence of Greece and Rome the Celts were the first 
of the European tribes to cultivate letters. While the Germans 
and the Northmen were yet roving heathen tribes the Gael in Ire- 
land and in Scotl-and had their seminaries of learning, where 
literature was loved and cherished. And from the Colleges of 
Durrow and lona missionaries, whose well-tiained minds and 
zealous hearts titted them for their great undertaking, went forth 
to Christianise the people of England and the Teutonic tribes on 
the Continent. The extant manuscripts in Gaelic and Latin which 
came from their pens are monuments of their learning and piety, 
as well as of the reverence in which they were held by the people 

to whom they brought the hi^ht of tlie Christian truth. Some ot 
these manuscripts, now stuthed with such rich results by Contin- 
ental Celtic scholars, are to be found in some of the great libraries 
on the Continent; in St. Gall, Milan, Wurtzburg, and Carlsruhe, 
Zeuss found those Gaelic ones on which he based his great work 
the " Gramraatica Celticii," published in 1853. These facts ought 
to make the study of Gaelic interesting — the oldest living language 
in Europe that can boast of such early relics of culture. 

It is now necessary that some remarks should be made on the 
language in which the literature we are to examine is to be found. 
The Celtic forms a branch of the Indo-European group of langu- 
ages. It is divided into two nearly distinct languages, which are 
thus classified : — 

I Gaelic. 
/ The Gaidelic, < Irish. 

CELTIC. ^^- 

I „, ,, ) Cornish (extinct). 

V 1 HE BrVTHONIC, < t) . 

' \ Breton. 
( Gaulish (extinct). 
The differences between Gaelic, Irish, and Manx are merely dial- 
ectic. The Cornish became extinct last century. The Gaulish is 
also extinct ; and what remains of it is found only in the names ot 

To Zeuss is due the credit of having assigned its proper place 
to Celtic in th« family of languages. The problem before his great 
publication in 1853 was the relationship in which the Gaels, the 
Welsh, and the old Gaulish people stood to one another and to 
the other nations of the world. Numerous publications on this 
question appeared during the last two centuries. But from a 
scientific point of view they are of very little value. Errors and 
unscientific theories abound in every work. At that time the 
scholars of France and Germany never mastered the Celtic lan- 
guages ; indeed, there were few reliable grammars by which they 
could be acquired. The native scholars were deficient in linguistic 
training, in common sense, and frequently in common honesty. 
No Gaelic scholar was conscientious enough to learn VVelsh, no 
Welsh scholar to learn Gaelic ; but each and all were ready enough 
to compare their languages with Phoenician, Persian, Etruscan, 
Egyptian, Hebrew, Arabic, &c., of which, again, they knew in 
reality next to nothing ; though a few of them might know a little 
Hebrew. There was one rem.ukable exception, however, to this 

— the great Welsh scholar Edward Llhuyd, of whom it may be said 
that he lived a century and a half before his time ; but, incapable 
of following hira, the native school of philologists sank in*o chaotic 
and puerile etymological dreams. The Celtic problem became 
more hopeless than ever, and Gaelic philology became distasteful 
to sober minds. 

At the same time many Celts insisted '■ on the lofty claim they 
used to advance of speaking the primeval language." It is only 
recently that they have learned " to submit to the logic of facts 
and listen to the voice of science.'' A Gaelic poet, in an elaborate 
]:)oem on his native language, thus declares his conviction on the 
much-debated subject, what language was spoken in Paradise — 

" By Adam it was spoken 
In Eden, I believe, 

And sweetly flowed the Gaelic 
From the lovely lips of Eve." 

Some fifty years ago the science of comparative philology began 
to make itself felt, and Celtic scholars tried to apply its principles 
to Celtic. Pritchard, Bopp, Diefenbach, Pictet, and others worked 
in the right direction, but they failed fully to solve the Celtic pro- 
blem. J- Caspar Zeuss. a Bavarian Highlander, at last succeeded, 
by combining \\ith a mind of unusual power a devotion to the 
subject v.hich amounted well-nigh to a sacrifice of his life. This 
devotion might not even have been sufficient if he had not pos- 
sessed what no one before him possessed — the really oldest 
manuscripts of both the Irish and Welsh dialects. The labours of 
Zeuss have shown : — -That the Caelic and Welsh languages were 
originally one ; that dialectic differences in Caesar's time were 
so small that an old Gael would be at once understood in Wales ; 
and that the Gaels and Cambrians were identical with the Celts of 
the Continent — with those of Spain, Gaul, Lombardy, and the 
Alpine countries ; that this Celtic tongue is one of the branches of 
the Aryan stock of languages. 

The consequence of these estab ished facts is to put an end to 
all attempts at connecting the Celtic with the Semitic class of 

We know the Gaelic language now in three stages : — 

1. Old Gaelic up to 1000 a. d. Tlie most ancient relics of this period 
are the glosses of St. Gall in Switzerland, the Amln-osian Library of Millan, 
&c., discovered by Zeuss. 

2. Middle Gaelic, from 1000-1500 a.]>., is represented by an extensive 
mass of manuscript literature. 

0. Modern (iaelic from tliu sixteenth eentury, w lien liuoks began to be 
printed, to tlie present day. 

The softening caused by excessive aspiration is the greatest change 
which the language has undergone. 

As spoken in .Scotland at the present day the chict dialectic 
difterences are : - 

1. The ia oi the North for the en of tlie Soutli and West Highlands, 
illustrated by Bial Bkil, tnvutli : Fiar, Fkui;, ijrass. 

•1. The vowel-tone ditJ'erenec, illustrated in siieh nords as Okax, song. 
Tlie « is pronounced in three different ways ; in Islay and otlier parts uf 
Argyll like o in ohl : in Mull and other place like ou in foul : in the North 
generally like atr in lair. 

3. The consonantal difference illustrated in tlie pronounciation of r and 

4. The accentual or rhythmic tone difference, observed in the conversa- 
tion of natives of different places. 

In Arran and Perthshire, and to some extent in Caithness ard 
Sutherland, the people in speaking cut off the terminal syllables of 
many words. In the North Highlands they speak with a slow, 
sometimes swinging emphasis ; in the South Highlands they are 
more hurried in their utterance. Any Highlander, speaking 
distinctly, will be readily understood, North and South. 

Gaelic appears to possess wonderful vitality. \Vhile English 
has stamped out (laelic among the Celt;, of Galloway and .\yrshire, 
Gaelic has stamped out the Norse language in the Western Isles, 
where the people are largely of preCeltic and Norse origin. It 
is remarkable that although of the same family of languages, Gaelic 
and English, like oil and water, cannot readily commingle. 

Other subjects associated with early Gaelic literature are the Druids 
and the Feinne. That dim, indefinite, prehistoric ])eriod of our 
annals .vhich terminated in the contact of heathenism with the 
living forces of Ghristianity may be termed pre-Celtic. In the 
dawn of the historical period a mysterious class of men called 
Druids, and a mysterious body of heroes called the Feinne or" 
Fianna, emerge into view, just as we mark the vanishing or ab- 
sorption of the pre-Celtic peoples. WHiatever they were, a certain 
class of A/a^i existed once in these islands. But their sudden 
disappearance in history, like that of the Feinne, has induced 
many to que.stion whether such an order of men ever lived. But 
it is historically certain that a class of men, answering to the de 
scription, nnet and tiied lo oi)po'-e Columba from Tona when he 
visited King Brudeus at Inverness. Tiiey have been called Druids, 
but that term shouUl he regarded in a general or conventional 

sense. They were witliou'. doubt the priests of leariiin;^ ami reh- 
gion among the ancient Scots. In possession of some knowledge, 
meagre as it probably was, they were invested with mystic impor- 
tance by the ignorant and superstitious. With the introduction 
and enlightenment of Christiajiity it would be seen that this 
exclusive order and priestly caste found their supremacy under- 
mined. Their teaching, wliatever it was. appears to have had a 
beneficial influence on tlie formation of the national character. 
They do not seem to have indulged in any enervating services or 
gross idolatry in the kind of worship which was: maintained among 
the people. We see the moral significance of their inlluence more 
fully when wc contrast the ancient Gaels with the ancient Greeks 
With all their fine ethical and aesthetic perceptions, we find 
that the latter throughout their whole history were never a very 
moral people. Just as their bodily senses were enslaved by their 
keen sense of the beautiful in form, colour, &c., so were their moral 
energies by many vices. The sensual and luxurious life of the 
Romans also soon sapped the foundations of the empire, and made 
it a prey to the less civilised nations around. But from the earliest 
times down to the present we find among the people once inilu- 
enced by the Druids a very high moral tone. Guilt} as they might 
be of plundering other races with whom they openly waged war- 
fare, strict honesty among themselves as neighbours was inculcated 
and observed, I'he internecine quarrels and the mutual plunder- 
ing of the later periods arose from the dissensions purposely sown 
by the Scottish kings. To weaken the clans and the bond of 
union existing between them unrighteous charters were granted 
to certain lands in favour of pretenders that could present no valid 
claim. Hence the majority of the clan feuds which frequently 
drenched the Highland hills and glens with blood. 

One particular result of the early teaching has been the national 
respect for woman. It is one of the finest moral traits in the 
character of the Gael. At this day it is among the Gael of the 
Outer Hebrides and of the more recognised Celtic districts of Ire- 
land, such as Munster and Connaught, that the Registrar General 
finds the smallest percentage of illegitimacy. The high-toned 
morality which the poems of Qssian exhibit in this respect has 
been used as an argument against their authenticity. And yet it 
should be no argument at all for one w'O can trace out and 
analyse the early sources wher.ce developed the moral elements 
of the national character. 


The Celt has been generally very religieus. The religion of the 
Gael of Scotland, like that of the Kymry of Wales, whether in 
ancient or in modern Christian times, has always nourished in an 
atmosphere of deep severity. The rigid ethics of the early religion, 
combined with a hard life at a distance from enervating centres of 
civilisation, help to explain this. This sternness of doctrine also, 
no doubt, prepared the modern Gael to accept with such absulute 
entirety, and with such earnest heartiness, the Calvinistic system of 
Christian truth which many regard as severe and harsh. The 
higher results of the literary and moral culture of the Druidic 
religion we have embodied in the relics of Ossianic poetry. The 
order of Druids, with their ideals of philosophy and religion, have 
vanished ; but their power for good remains embedded in the 
foundation of the national name, with its educating influences and 
its inspiring associations. In this power lay the moral strength of 
our early ancestors. Christianity, in its early Celtic and Reformed 
stages, developed into higher and purer issues this national virtue ; 
and the character of the people is exponent of the results of the 
process. Other tribes and communities have had Christianity 
among them too, but with different results. This line of thought 
suggests an explanation of why, as has been already remarked, the 
Irish Gael appears to be somewhat unlike the Scottish Gael. 

A glance may now be appropriately bestowed upon that other 
somewhat mysterious body- — those heroes called ^e Feinne. 

Chief among the early Gaelic inhabitants was the renowned 
order of heroes known as the Feinne, the Fianna, or the followers 
of Fingal, or Finn, the leader. They are supposed to have lived 
in the second and third centuries of our era, and to have been the 
Caledonians who checked the progress of the legions of Rome. 
Very little reliable help can be found regarding this question in 
the extant annals of the Gael. In general it may be held that 
this race of Finn came from the shores of the Baltic to North 
Britain, and that they were not unrelated to the ancient Norse. 
Recently a new theory has been adopted by some, like Mr Camp- 
bell of islay, whose views are entitled to much respect. They 
argue that the existence of the Feinne is only a myth — part and 
parcel of an old world system, not unconnected with the classical 
and oriental — a system of which we have the same with variations 
in the Militia of Ireland, and in the Knights of the Round Table 
of the ancient British. It is held that Fingal and King Arthur 
are the same personages ; that Graine, the faithless wife of Fingal 
is the same as the faithless Guinevere, the spouse of Arthur ; and 


that the unhallowed love of Diarmad and Graine has a suggestive 
similitude in that of Sir Launcelot and Guinevere. On the other 
hand, it is argued that the similarity of these relations, however 
systematic in appearance, may still be adequately explained by 
the fact that human nature is much the same in all lands and 
amongst all races ; that this symbolic theory does not seem to ho 
su]jported by the well-grounded conviction of the people in whose 
traditions the memory of the heroes of the Feinne has been handed 
down to us ; that it is not at all probable that the names of merely 
fictitious heroes would live in the topography of a hundred hills, 
like the name of Finn ; that it does not find support in the more 
philosophic theory regarding the heroes of ancient peoples — that 
all the mythological characters are only exaggerations of real ones ; 
that human nature is never satisfied with the barely mythic and 
unreal, and that the patriotic and other affections never derive 
sustenance from false and unbelievable characters. 

Can a vague statement of this character not .satisfy the 
inquiring student? To the patriotic Celtic inquirer, next in im- 
portance to the evangelisation of the Highlands by Columba, 
stands the great question of the Feinne, wh&43.ave so indelibly 
impressed their individualitie.s on the Gaelic imagination of Scot- 
land. To the more inquiring spirits of recent times these brilliant 
heroes have appeared very strange and mysterious indeed. They 
have had a Melchisedec kind of existence in our traditional history ; 
no one has been able to suggest whence they came, or whither 
they have gone. The names of their leaders have become woven 
with fable, song, and story: with the hills and glens of Albin and 
Erin ; with the warhke struggles which the various conflicting races 
have fought on our Ero-Albinic shores. So vague and romantic 
however, has their history been, that a few clear-sighted writers, 
conversant with comparative mythology, have come almost to the 
conclusion that the Feinne were, as we have already seen, a mere 
Gaelic expression of a world-wide mythus. whose various compon- 
ent elements can be found from Japan to the Hebrides. The 
popular tales and the bardic ballads have been regarded as the 
debris that may be still collected on the shores of the ages. 

The plain Highlander living in the mere tents of history and 
literature, has been reluctant to accept so vague an account of a 
very heroic ancestry. Has not he the poems of Ossiaii still in his 
hands \ Are not the names of Finn and fellow-heroes stamped on 
a thousand hills in Albin and Erin .'' So the invariable conclusion 
has been that in some mysterious way and during some mysterious 


period " Fingal lived and Os^-ian sang." Tluj disaitpointing (|ues- 
lion all along has been, however, where can any account be found 
of these people in our accredited national histories ? The inriuir- 
ing spirits among our patriotic youth examine recent histories 
in vain. Our antiquaries write of names and places, but they have 
failed to assign a local habitation and a name to the Finian peoi)le. 
The only approach to a definite representation of the race we have 
in the famous mystifications of James Macplierson in his disserta- 
tions, notes, and poems, laut the geography of Macpherson 
appears to have been as mistily convenient for himself as it has 
been perplexing to his commentators. Not even the genius of l)r 
Waddell in his goodly volume has been able to identify tiie local- 
ities of Macpherson, or remove the veil of ghostlike existence in 
which the Ossianic heroes are enshrouded. 

Our ordinary historians appear to have avoided treating of so 
perplexing a period or class of men. Browne is satisfied with a 
statement on the Ossianic question. He does not touch on the 
history of the Finnic period. Keltie ignores the whole question. 
MacLauchlan in his " Early History of the Scottish Church," 
which embraces the Ossianic age, has nothing-to say of the Finnic 
environment. In his introduction to hie edition of CJssian. Clerk 
is equally silent as to the accurate identification of the people of 
whom Ossian became the laureate bard. Nor is anything very 
definite to be found even in the learned works of Skene. When 
such admirable authorities are almost universally silent, it becomes 
a very hazardous matter to attempt any statement on the question. 

It must be admitted that hitherto the sources of much of our 
definite accounts have been Irish compilations. Notwithstanding 
Macpherson's comparative contempt for the character of the Irish 
Finian heroes, and for the Irish Os.iianic compositions, yet much 
of the ground work of his own historic ideals was furnished by 
Irish productions. But any historic truth the Irish compositions 
may have had perished in the using in the hands of Macpherson. 
The result has been a .system of chronology that neither he nor 
his friends have ever been able to explain. 

The question still remains, Who were the Feinne ? The answer 
in general has been that they were Gaelic heroes of the second 
and third centuries of the Christian era ; who fought with Romans, 
with Danes, and with one another ; and finally struggled with the 
convening powers of Christianity. In Ireland they have appeared 
under the guise of a Milesian milida, a conception which is 
thoroughly in harmony with the chivalrous ideals of that interest- 


ing island. The following sentences contain tlie gist cf all tlie 
information that is now available : — " It is quite a mistake to 
suppose Finn Mac CiunhaUl to have been merely imaginary or 
mythical character. Much that has been narrated of his exploits 
is, no doubt, apocryphal enough ; but Finn himself is an undoubt- 
edly historical personage ; and that he existed about the time at 
which his appearance is recorded in the annals, is as certain as 
that Julius Caesar lived and ruled at tiie time stated on the 
authority of the Roman historians. I may add here that the 
pedigree of Finn is fully recorded on the unquestionable authority 
of the Book of Leinster, in which he is set down as the son of 
Cnmhall, who was the son of Treniiivi , son of Snaelf, son oLE/Zt^u, 
son of Baiscyn, son oi N'liada Ncchi, who was of the Heremoni;\n 
race, and monarch ot Erinn about A.M. 5090, according to the 
chronology of the Four Masters, that is, no years before Christ. 
Finn himself was slain, according to the Annals of the Four 
Masters, in Anno Domini 283, in the reign of Caidu-e IJfcacJudr.'" 
Little can be added to this statement by O'Curry. The great 
battle of Gahh'ii — Garristown in Meath — took place in 284 ; and 
the ballads represent the brave Oscar, and Calrbre Lifcachalr as 
falling by each others' hands in the deadly struggle. Oscar was 
the beloved son of Ossian, and his grandfather Fiim, who died a 
year before the battle of Gabhra, is brought back to life by the 
Romancists to pronounce a eulogy on the fallen Oscar. 

Irish annalists are satisfied that the fatherland of Finn and his 
lieroes was Ireland ; but no one appears to be able to point out 
the territories over which Finn reigned. It is an undoubted fact 
that Caiihie L'lfeachair was the monarch of Erin when Finn died, 
and when the battle of Gahhra was fought. What can be more 
natural then than to suppose with Macpherson that Finn was 
monarch of Albin \ In Macpheison's works Finn is represented 
always as going from Albin to Erin, a rendenng of history which 
the Irish authorities refuse to accept. When we look for the 
Kingdom of Finn in Scotland where Macpherson has located it, 
we certainly fail to ascertain its boandaries by means of his misti- 
fying phrases. That his Morven is not the Mor7-'6Vv/ of .Argyllshire 
has been pointed out long ago ; nor is much satisfaction to be 
found in Dr Clerk's interpretation of Mor Bhcanna, the Great 
Hills, as a general characteristic of Scotland. It is another illus- 
tration of Macpherson's prudent indefmitene;.s behind which the 
secret of his works has been preserved. 

Now it appears to me that I am led aright in my studies of this 


period of Albin's history, when I regard the Feinne as the last 
leaders of the great race in Albin aud Erin who disappeared in 
history before the extension of the Gaelic conquest and supremacy. 
The spirit of their stru,t,'gle is truly recorded in the ballads when it 
is repeatedly declared that they went forth to the battle, but that 
they always fell. This is the melancholy key-note ot the Ossianic 
poetry. This is the passionate patriotism — a brave, resolute and 
chivalrous race, ever ready for the fight, ever ready to go forth to 
ba.ttle--and has always appealed to the popular heart. The brave 
Finians, however, seemea to go forth to die. The fate of possible 
extinction appears to have pressed heavily on the heart of the 
people. And when the leaders were all dead and gone, Ossian 
the immortal singer of their exploits and enterprises mourned in 
his blindne-ss and solitude the (leparture of his brother heroes and 
hunters, — dwelling with pathetic tenderness on the oft-recurring 
refrain : " The last of my race !" 

The Albinian monarchy, whose head quarters were situated 
near Loch Ness, exercised rule over various tribes. Early in our 
era its sway appears to have extended, to use the proverbial say- 
ings, from the Ord of Caithness to the Rhinns of Islay, from the 
Hen of Lewis to the Cock of Arran : On Ord Ghallach gus an 
Roxtiii Ilic/i, 's «'n Chin Leoghaisich gus a C/ioilcach Arrantith. 
This Albinian kingdom was, no doubt, the scene of the Finian 
exploits which have formed the subjects of poetic romance. It 
was frequently assailed by the Norse on the north-west and east ; 
and by Celts on the south-east. The latter finally prevailed, be- 
stowing their Celtic tongue on the conquered Albinians. The 
Feinne appear to have been the last leaders of the national cause. 
They were probably bilingual, as the more educated classes were 
in the days of Columba. Many of them may have been fully 
Gaelicised, while resisting the encroachments of an alien civilisa- 
tion. Ossian and his fellow-leaders would be of this class. And 
just as many patriot bards in our own time in Ireland and Britain, 
lament the decay of Celtic nationalities in the language of the 
Teutonic conqneror, so the laureate bard of the Albinian people 
has sung of " the last of his race " in the tongue of the conquering 

The kindred of these remarkable heroes appeared in those earl)' 
ages in various lands. They were the immediate predecessors, 
not only of the Celtic, but in some cases also of other races. They 
were the most ancient Lochlins that ploughed the German Ocean 
with their trembling barks. They were the earliest Vikings that 


sailed round the Orkneym skerries : that visited tl-.eir kindnnl and 
fought with them on the shores of Albin, of Erin, and of Breatun. 
And clearly it is their connections we have in the north-east 
of Europe, where they survive in a trying climate with 
shrunk proportions and exhausted national energies. The famous 
ballad on the Battle of Gabhra represents four companies of 
Finians as engaged in the terrible fight— the Feinne of Albin, the 
Feinne of Erin, the Feinne of Breatun, and the Feinne of Lochlin. 

The names of these heroes are still to be found in Lochlin, 
Erin, and Albin, the lands in which their celebrated deeds were 
chiefly performed. We find them in the pages of Adamnan like 
the shadows of a departing people. Finn or Fionn, appears in 
various forms, as in Fuidchanus, Finteni/s, kc. Here we have 
also the first, or most ancient, written form of the name of the 
great bard himself, in Latin disguise, " Oisseneo nomine." 

The territory of the Caledonians lay from Loch Long eastward 
to the Firth of Tay and the German Ocean, and northward in 
later times to the Moray Firth. The Caledonian Forest is repre- 
sented as extending in a north-eastern direction from Loch 
Lomond to the river Isla. The Caledonian territories, however, 
were always shifting. Like ihe Celtiea of the Continent of Europe, 
the Gaeltachd of the British Islands was alway under a process of 
change, but at the same time it was ever the region or the land of 
the Gael. Lands were won from the tribes whom the Gaels con- 
quered, while territories were surrendered to those who pressed on 
behind them. At first the Gneliachd was in South Britain ; but as 
the Gaels moved northward, Albin contracted, and the land of 
the Gael extended. Finally, the Caledonians became the general 
term for all the Gaelic clans who opposed the legions of Rome. 

The etymology of Cakdonia has not been satisfactorily explain- 
ed. The celebrated James Macpherson explains it as follows : — 
" When South Britain yielded to the power of the Romans, the 
unconquered nations to the noi-th of the province were distingu- 
ished by the name of Caledonians. From their very name, it 
appears that they were of those Gauls, who possessed themselves 
originally of Britain. It is compounded of two Celtic words, 
Gael, signifying Celts or Gauls, and Dun or Don, a hill ; so that 
Gael don, or Caledonians, is as much as to say Cells of the hill 
country^ Tn the very next sentence Macpherson unconsciously 
suggests quite a different and better etymology : " The Highland- 
ers to this day call themselves 6^rt!<f/, their language Gaelic ov Galic, 
and their country Gaeldech, which the Romans softened into 

Cakdonia.'' Consideration for Latin Inflections wouM readily 
transform Cae/dac/id into Caledonia. A rival explanation has 
found place in many school books- -Coille-daoine, rendered Men 
of the ]?ood. This, however, is not the accurate translation. The 
compound is absurd and unnatural. It reads to a Gael like Men- 
Wood m English. Another explanation has been Gcied/u'i d/ion?ia, 
browndiaired Gaels ; but i)hysiological facts and the laws of phon- 
ology do not support this derivation. The Welsh have given us 
its meaning from a Cymric standpoint ; and as the word is un- 
known in Gaelic in its historic form the Welsh suggestions appear 
very reasonable. The Caledonian Forest in Welsh has always 
been Calydin or Celydin, a term wdiich means JFood. Its Gaelic 
cognate would be Co'illtean, which also sup])lies the re])resentative 
consonants of Caledonia. The great iorest of the Central High- 
lands would be very naturally spoken of as the Woods, Coiltean ; 
Caledon'iihiimg only a Latin derivative. 

With the spread of Christianiiy the Caledonians became the 
great people in Albin. In the later ages they consisted of Ciael- 
icised Albinians, Gaels, and Brythonised Gaels. Among them 
appeared those who stand first on the roll of literary Scots : the 
poetry and tales of the Feinne developed into their present shape 
in the hands of the ancient Christian Gaels of our land. The 
poetic compositions which relate to this period furnish us with 
gleams of life from the borderland of decadent heathenism and 

From the first proclamation of the latter onwards the outlines of 
Scottish story become continually clearer, shining more and more 
until the day of national freedom and independence shone on a 
brave and struggling people. In glancing very briefly at the 
history of the Gael of Albin we find that it naturally suggests the 
following periods, described by terms which indicate the fresh 
elements introduced oi fresh changes taking place : — 

I. The Pre-Celtic Period embraces the unrecorded ages which 
partially terminated in the third century, when the infiuence of 
Christianity began to be felt. The Roman province in Scotland 
became nominally Christian by the Imperial adoption of Christi- 
anity by Constantine in the year 313. 

II. The Celtic Period extends from the third century to the 
year 1068. During these dark and unsettled times there was much 
intercourse carried on between the old inhabitants of Albin and 
the people of Lochlin ; generally the intercourse took the form 
of a fierce struggle for supremacy. In 1068 Malcolm III. married 


an English princess, known afterwards as the saintly Queen Mar- 
garet ; Gaelic afterwards ceased to be the language of the Scottish 
Court. At that time Picts and Scots being united under one 
monarchy the sway of the Northmen in the northwest became 
much enfeebled. The power of the latter was completely broken 
by the disastrous defeat of Haco, at Large, in 1263. 

HI. The Norman or Feudal Period extends from 1068 to 1567. 
Few of the Gaelic preachers, or representatives of the early Scottish 
Church, survived the repressing influence of Queen Margaret, who 
was a zealous Roman Catholic. The Norman conquest of Englanil 
caused many Saxons to seek refuge in Scotland, where they were 
welcomed by the Queen and her royal husband, Ce.aim Mor. 
Norman influences also began to be felt in Scotland. The lands 
of Celtic chiefs were chartered away by the King to Norman 
barons, of whom many became as Celtic and as identified with the 
Gaelic inhabitants as the Celtic mormaers whom they supplanted. 
The patriarchal system began to decay, and feudalism was gradu- 
ally introduced. 

IV. The Protestant and Jacobite Period extends from the 
middle of the sixteenth century to the year 1745, when Jacobitism 
on Culloden Moor received its deathblow. The nominal first, 
afterwards the actual, acceptance of the Reformation doctrines by 
the Scottish Celts in the sixteenth century has very vitally aftected 
their literature, as well as completely changed their relations with 
the Irish Celts. 

V. The Anglo-Gaelic Period begins in 1745. The influence of 
the English language and English thought has been extending in 
the Highlands since then ; while through the general intermingling 
of races, and a better mutual understanding, the prejudices of Celt 
and Saxon respectively have been everywhere dying away, especi- 
ally among the classes by whom the force of the democratic 
tendencies of our age has been felt and acknowledged. 

The dates assigned to the above periods are only approximately 
accurate, but they may serve to shadow forth some of the chief 
influences which have been at work in the history of Celtic Scot- 
land, and of which we have traces in the literary annals of the 
Gael. Perhaps the surprising thing in connection with these 
meagre annals is the fact that there are any literary remains at all, 
when it is remembered how frequent and how violent have been 
the changes which have occurred in the course of the history of 
Albin. , • 



The Anglo-Gaelic era of Highland history commences, as has 
been pointed out, with the decay of the Jacobite cause. The 
changes that have taken place since 1745 have dee])ly affected the 
destiny and character of the people. Jn some respects the con- 
tact with the fresh forces brought into play was beneficial, in other 
respects it was a moral loss ; but it is to be hoped that on the 
whole there has been considerable gain, and that not altogether 

Under the social and educational changes that have been taking 
place during the last century the Highlanrlers have shown wonder- 
ful adaptableness in the course of the process they have been 
undergoing. The revival of a more earnest spirit of Christianity 
in many districts has completely altered the social habits of the 
people, while the influence of educational agencies has reached 
the most secluded glen and remote headland. 

The English language is everywhere taught, the people, know- 
ing its use in the sphere of secular success, j)referring to have their 
children educated in a purely English rather than in a Gaelic 
school. The present rising generation all understand and talk a 
little .Saxon of some sort, but Gaelic will be the language of the 
mass of the population for some generations yet. English thought 
and culture also reach the people through the hundreds of Uni- 
versity-bred ministers who preach Gaelic in Highland pulpits. 

These important changes in the Celtic world are not effected 
without many venerable regrets being uttered by sentimentalists 
botli in Ireland and .Scotland. If we look across the channel we 
find that the Irish Gael indulges in the same unpractical wail over 
an irrevocable past, that we find so prevalent with his brother of 
Albin. The cry of the sentimentalist there is even more intense, 
more persistent. The unpromising present of the Gael there 
appears to attract like a magnet all the revolutionary sympathies 
of the usually stolid Teutonic heart, after a little contact of the 
races. Just as in their political difiiculties the Irish have always 
looked for help Irom Spam, France, or America, so unless the 
gods somehow interfere to preserve their native tongue, all they 
can or will do, waiting for external or divine deliverance, is to 
take up the refrain — " It is dying." This is how an Irish poet, 
the Rev. M. Mullin, Clonfert, sings with incomparable sadness : — 
" It is fading ! it is fading ! like the leaves upon the trees ; 
It is dying ! it is dying ! like the Western Ocean breeze ! 
It is fastly disappearing, as footsteps on the shore, 
Where the Earrow, and tlie Kine, ami Lougli Swilly's waters roar ; 


Where the parting sunbeam kisses the Corrib in the West, 
And the ocean, like a mother, clasps the Shannon to its breast ; 
The language of old Erin, of her history and name — 
Of lier monarchs and her heroes, of her glory and her fame — 
The sacred shrine where rested, through her sunshine and her gloom, 
The Spirit of her martyrs, as their bodies in the tomb ! 
The time-wrouglit shell where murmured, through centuries of wrong, 
The secret voice of Freedom in annal and in song 
Is surely, fastly sinking into silent death at last. 
To live but in the memories and relics of the Past !" 
It must be very consoling to give one's grief utterance in this 
Iiighly poetical fashion ; it is a question whether the i)oetry loses 
or gains in force, when it is remembered that the singer perhaps 
never put forth any effort to preserve the hfe of that ancient 
tongue which he is harping into her grave. Perhaps he does not 
know the language at all. He may be among those who first 
.spurned and then starved her scholars ; of the sentimentalists who, 
after learned devotees gave to the world in books the results of a 
life's la'iyour, on the publication of which they had expended more 
than all their own means, might borrow but would not buy a copy. 
The accomplished Archbishop MacHale of Tuam, found out to 
his cost the full meaning of this remark. Few were the copies of 
his excellent Grasco Irish Homer that were sold ; and here we 
have an illustration of the extent of the encouragement that real 
Irish scholarship receives. At the same time it must be admitted 
that the writers of Celtic books are frequently much to blame. 
They bury their productions in expensive volumes which can never 
obtain general circulation, or they do not furnish the precise thing 
required ; or if they do, it is not always in a saleable popular 
fashion. Thus we have to regret the evil results of contemptuous 
neglect on the one hand, and extravagant claims and impracticable 
theories on the other, as well as an imaginary sense of loss and 
wrong, on the part of those who ought to give a more practical 
direction to the people's sentiments. 

But the Celt is neither dead nor dying. He is still an import- 
ant factor in the making of the world's history. Apart from the 
very large Celtic element that has been absorbed in the Anglo- 
Celtic intermingling of races under the supremacy of Teutonic rule 
in these islands we find some four or five millions of people talk- 
ing one or other of the Celtic dialects. The number of Gaelic 
speaking Highlanders is not much under half a million. There 
will be about 300,000 of a Gaelic-speaking population within the 


geographical limits of tlie Highlands, the area of which is upwards 
of three-fifths of Scotland. There is a larger Gaelic population in 
Glasgow than the whole population of Greenock. The Gaelic bard 
of to-day has thus as lari^e an audience to sing his lays to as the 
great Ossian himself had in ancient Albin. 

Still it is constantly asserted that whether or not the Gaelic 
language is dead and ready for burial it has no literature ; and the 
assertion has been repeated for several generations with emphatic 
persistence. The following chapters are intended to show that 
there is a literature ; and that it does not altogether deserve the 
contempt with which it has been hitherto regarded. And the 
English-reading public have a right to know from the pens of 
Gaelic scholars what is the value of the literature still extant in the 
ancient language of a people with whom they are so closely united, 
and who form an important integral [)oi-tion of their common em- 
pire. All have an interest in bringing the reign of ignorance, 
apathy, and prejudice to an end. 

At last in the midst of neglect and apathy, of petty rivalries and 
discords which so readily breed within circumscribed spheres, when 
our Gaelic scholars, MacLauchlan and Clerk, Skene and J. F. 
Campbell, and others, were giving to the world the results of their 
laborious eflbrts to uphold the character and literary prestige of 
their countrymen, and were thus paving the way, one voice began 
to be heard on behalf of a despised language and literature. That 
voice crying in the Highland wilderness was that of Professor 
Rlackie ! By inimitable eloquence and unwearied energies he 
interested high and low at once and for years in the establishment 
of a Celtic Chair in the University of Edinburgh. From the Queen, 
from lord and laird^ and from peasant, he charmed, by his sweet 
and natural manner, the gold on which that Chan- is now so suc- 
cessfully founded. Not only that, but he has also given us the 
fullest account hitherto published of the language and literature of 
the Scottish Highlands. It is needless to speak of the affection 
and gratitude which Highlanders cherish towards the learned and 
venerable Professor, who has been a most potent Celtic force in 
this generation. '• Saoi^/ial /add 'n a'coi:;// hheatJia dhiiii T 

Irish scholars have recently laboured hard and successfully in 
furthering the interests of their native literature. It is enough here 
to mention the names of O'Donovan, O'Currie, \Vhitley Stokes, 
Joyce, Standish O'Grady, and Bourke — men whose learning and 
talents would adorn the literary annals of any nation. While the 
Irish have accomplished more than the Scottish Gael, the Welsh 


liave done more than either to preserve their language and culti- 
vutc their literature. Under systematic efforts to suppress it 
entirely the Kvmry have adhered to their ancient tongue with 
unwearying pertinacity. While the Gael of Ireland and Scotland 
have not yet been successful in supporting one purely Gaelic news- 
paper, ihp Celt of Wales has his Welsh newspaper in every town 
of importance in the Principality. It is to the Kyniry that we 
owe the best work yet published on Celtic philology — the " Welsh 
Philology " of Professor Rhys of the Celtic Chair at Oxford. So 
now it may fairly be said that we are in the midst of a Celtic 
Renaissance. Books of a certain useful character do sell, notwith- 
standing the, well founded complaint referred to above. The first 
edition of Canon Bourke's "Aryan Origin of the Gaelic Race" 
was exhausted in a very short time. Campbell's " Tales " are out 
ot print. These are signs of the times which, along with the estab- 
lishment of Celtic Chairs at the central seats of learning, decisively 
indicate a reviving interest in Celtic studies. In talking once of 
the emotional element of the Celtic nature, an enthusiastic Irish 
scholar jocularly remarked to the writer that the Gael was dying 
away in song. If this turns out to be true, it is evident that his 
remains will be examined with pious and scientific care. 

It is interesting to find that, meagre as Gaelic literature is — and 
the great wonder is that what we have should have been produced 
in so unpromising a field — it extends over sixteen centuries. Its 
stream issued from that fount of Gaelic heroism which began to 
burst forth in the first centuries of our era, when the ground of the 
old European world was on every side shaken by the heavy tramp 
of the Roman legions and by the consequent disturbance of equili- 
brium among the clans and races everywhere. Epic products of 
genius, of course, there are not in Gaelic literature. Perhaps the 
pure Celtic genius, as Mathew Arnold held, is incapable of pro- 
ducing epic works — is too emotional, and is only rich in lyrical and 
ballad power. Great works requiring leisure, quietness, and per- 
severance there are not ; the life of our ancestors, active, earnest, 
and practical — its energies ceaselessly being called forth to combat 
the ruthless forces of nature— did not admit of the necessary 
cultivation and ease for such productions. Extensive fruits of 
Gaelic thought and letters we do still possess, however, although 
much has been lost, especially of what was produced in earlier days. 
But these should not for a moment be spoken of in comparison 
with the magnificent monuments of intellectual endeavour which 
Greece and Rome and Anglo-Celtic Britain have reared. But 

Gaelic literature will compare favourably with that of many other 
countries, especially when united with its sister product, Irish 
literature. And Welsh literature, no doubt, should also be added. 
English literature, because of the basis it has in the soil of Christian- 
ity, is the grandest product of the human intellect, the master works 
of Greece and Rome not excepted. It is great ; it is partly Celtic ; 
and we, as Anglo- Celts, admire it. But we may with advantage 
look beyond the bounds of our English studies, and then see more 
clearly the foundation of our Anglo-Celtic empire when we have 
examined with tender and sympathetic care the interesting relics 
of Celtic thought enshrined in the ancient language of the British 

It ought perhaps to be acknowledged that the English-speaking 
peoples of these islands are, at present peculiarly ready to accept 
any authentic information respecting Celtic history and literature. 
The same remark replies to Continental scholars. In our own 
islands the stirring of nationalities in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 
and that simultaneously with the movements of the practical politics 
of the parties of the day and the advocacy of the reform of our 
land laws, has deepened the interest in all questions relating to 
Celtic life and thought. 

It is a mere truism to remark that the language and literature of 
the Gael have been much neglected. All attempts to bring their 
claims before the English speaking world were, till recently, treated 
with systematic indifference if not with contempt. The national, 
historical, and scientific value of the study of both does not appear 
to have occurred even to many who ought to know better. Inter- 
esting and inviting as the field was, it lay long unoccupied. 
Highlanders conscious of some talent were attracted by the rich 
prizes and honour obtainable within the sphere of English letters. 
A few who dipped mto Celtic studies found them either unprofit- 
able or turned away with disgust from a path in which they were, 
met on all sides with petty jealousies and ignorant pretence. The 
Ke.'. Dr John Smith, of Campbeltown, distinguished alike for his 
learning and general culture, sacrificed much of his time and means 
to Gaelic studies ; and, finding them unprofitable, turned in his 
lei.sure hours to farming on his glebe. He was also annoyed by a 
truthless, pedant schoolmaster, Duncan Kennedy, of Lochgilphead, 
who laid claim to the authorship of some ballads which I)r Smith 
had published. The English Republic of letters could not be 
blamed for disregarding the intellectual history of a people who 
ignored their own productions and all that they inherited from their 


ancestors. Yet is it a reproach to Irish and British scholars that 
Continental students should be the first to create interest in Celtic 
studies and place them on a scientific basis. The real parties, 
however, who ought to bear the blame are the Celts themselves— 
the Kymry of Wales, and the Gael of Ireland and Scotland. It is 
with much propriety that Professor Geddes of Aberdeen, thus 
addresses British Celts with regard to their languages : — " Your 
advantages are great. To you it is a mother-speech, whereas to 
others like myself it has to be laboriously learne J, and after all 
imperfectly, so that it can hardly be said to be a speech at all in 
such mouths as mine. It is otherwise with you ; you are within 
the shrine, such as I are without, and just as the radiance of a 
cathedral window, rich with the spoils of time, looks blurred and 
poor to the eye that seeks to comprehend it from without, but 
streams in full glory on the eye that gazes from within, so your 
native speech rightly studied ought to be to you resplendent with 
linguistic treasures, such as no stranger can be expected to unveil." 
The Highlander alone can fully know and appreciate the language 
and literature of his race. But if he takes up the obsolete harp of 
his fathers, and rehearses in melancholy strains that his people are 
perishing and that his language is dying, it is quite natural, that 
his Teutonic neighbour should chime in with an emphatic and not 
always a synnpathetic amen. 

This sort of harping is the species ot music with which many 
Highlanders, and Irijh Gaels also, have been pleased to huinour 
and feed their patriotic feelings over the general neglect of Celtic 
interests. Well may the disinterested spectator declare that they 
are not much in earnest— that the wail is partly hypocritical ; for 
they have done so little to preserve their language and nationality. 
And no doubt the cry is to a certain extent hypocritical with not 
a few self-constituted patriots, and the bulk of the people disregard 
it. The latter do not take up the wail, and they are mainly in the 
right. The enthusiast and the sentimentalist, who indulge in the 
dirge, run away with one small truth, or the phase of a truth— with 
a pathetic misconception of the true state of things. Sometimes 
they hire themselves to do the coronach, like the Irish professional 
mourners who do the wailing over the departed. But the people 
in general are not drawn b> the charming of the sentimentalist ; 
they are more practical. They know and feel the power of circum- 
stances and destiny which they have to overcome and bear, and 
act accordingly. While they find their native hills barren, and 
their native glens inhospitable, they betake themselves to the rich 


woods of Canada and the prairies of the Unit'jd States. Witness 
what a large body of the Glengarry Highlanders once did. Again, 
when they find the want of the English language a bar to their 
secular success in life, they protest, while cherishing dearly their 
native tongue, against pure Gaelic schools being thrust upon them, 
and demand English teaching first. This has been the case not so 
long ago in the Long Island. And the reason is quite patent. 
Before arriving at school age the children are in possession of their 
mother tongue ; and the parents consider, and very rightly, that 
the sooner their sons and daughters acquire good English the 
better for their own comfort, interest, and success in the great 
English-speaking world in which they have necessarily to perform 
a part. ought to be taught from the first through, and 
simultaneously with, the Gaelic. In all this tlie people show that 
their utilitarianism is sensible, intelligent. They recognise the facts 
of their surroundings. They listen to the charming of the senti- 
mentalist, but they go on their own practical way rejoicing. 
Hundreds of Highlanders in our large towns never enter a Gaelic 
church. Er.glisli-speaking mothers and children do not find the 
arrangement of services convenient, and, consulting the general 
good of all the members of the family, they take their seats else- 
where. In this they cannot be deeply blamed In Scotland we 
are quite familiar with the stereotyped arguments and phraseology 
which are applied to depopulation and other matters. But many 
of those who rehearse the one on public platforms and weave the 
other into elegiac verse do not always give us a practical illustia- 
tion of their theories and teaching by living in the Highlands and 
by having Gaelic taught in their own families. 

This conviction and cry of the imaginative Celt that the world 
is slipping from his grasp — that his affairs are in a hopeless con- 
dition — has done much injury to his own interests. And it i.s not 
at all surprising although his neighbours and the rising generation 
of his own people have regarded his language and literature with" 
l)ersistent indifference. Ossian himself is proverbially known to us 
— " Oisein an deigh na Feinne " — as the " last of the race." It 
would almost seem that every generation of f laels during the last 
millennium regarded itself as the last ot the "race." Yec, strange 
to say, the Gaelic language is spoken to day within pretty nearly 
the same limits as it was a thousand years ago, a fact encourag- 
ing to tlie sanguine and poetic natures of men like William 
Livingston, that very original Islay bard, who once sang as 
follows : - 


" Cimain iiigh nam buadliaii oinlhearc, 
A b' fliarsuing clii'i air feadh iia li-Eur[ia : 
Bithidh i fatliast mar a th.'.isicli, 
Os ceann gacli caiuiit 'iia h-iucliair uulais." 

English :— 

Strainji^ mudir iiof'r.s lie in thai (omjite, 
Whose praise thwaijlh Europe iclde has rmuj 
As Hwas of If ore in school and collfj)'; 

// y/ifd! l„jiM-thr kvij nfknoMv<hji'. 


C U A P T E R I. 


" Si laljhair I'ailric 'iiiuiise Fail iia Ricgli, 

'S an faighe caomli sin ('oliini n:ionitlia "n I." — 

Maclean in Lhiydx Ar. Brit. (I7(i7.) 

I<L\(;i.isH : 'Tu-(m it that Patrick apoke in Jnis-Fii.i//e, 
Ami saintly Calum in lona'.s /s/c. 

The present stale of our knowledge does not enable us to assign 
an exact date to the first beginnings of Gaelic literature. The most 
ancient ballads have certainly come down to us through the hands 
of Gaelic Churchmen ; and it may be taken as absolutely certain 
that writing was unknown until it was introduced by Christian 
missionaries. The monuments of Runes and Oghams, the study 
of which may be pursued in the works of Stephens, Anderson, 
and Ferguson, can scarcely be regarded as literature in the proper 
sense of the term. At the threshold of the temple of Gaelic letters 
we are confronted with one name which can not be ignored — that 
of Ossian which we see inscribed on the portals. 

In his days and those of his peculiar people, the Feinne, the 
Pagan and pre- Celtic Period was coming to a close. Let us look 
a little at the picture that has been handed down to us of this great 
bard with whom the heathen dispensation ended. 

That a Fingal lived and an Ossian sang is a proposition that 
cannot be successfully disputed. It was in the eighteenth century, 
when James Macpherson published his fragments of ancient Gaelic 
poetry, that the controversy which rages yet around the name of 
Ossian arose. This controversy, as well as the poems, English and 
Gaelic, published by Macpherson, will be afterwards considered. 
In the meantime, the name of Ossian is used in a conventional 


sense, just as the name Homer is frequently used. He lived, let 
us say, in the third or fourth century, when the heathen dispensation 
of the pre-Celts and of the Gaels was drawing to a close, when the 
Druidic period, with its mysteries, was coming to an end. It is 
neither aflirmed nor denied here at this stage that Ossian was the 
author of the Gaelic poems at present in circulation, and from which 
jNlacpherson ostensibly translated. But what may be safely 
affirmed is, that there was in the days of Gaelic heathenism an 
eminent bard of the name of Ossian, who started the key-note of 
some poetry, which may be styled Ossianic. That fragments of 
his compositions have been handed down to us may with ecjual 
safety be affirmed. But of the early poems and ballads contained 
m Cainpbell's " Leabhar na Feinne " we are absolutely unable to 
say which was composed by Ossian or which by his imitators and 
others. In that vast and valuable collection there may be pieces 
of Ossian's ; and certainly the authorship of many poems is directly 
attributed to him, though evidently in many cases by loose tradi- 
tion. His name is also attached to several productions which can 
easily be proved to belong to some unknown authors. " A hoodir 
Oisein " would be readily prefixed by reciters and scribes to any 
anonymous piece of merit to gain currency for it. 

But granting that Ossian is not a myth, but a veritable man who 
was a great bard among his people, a further question arises. Was 
the poet Irish or Scottish ] The Irish have all along declared that 
the true and original Ossian belonged to them, and lived in their 
country. Their indignation over Macpherson's productions knew 
no bounds. All Macpherson's heroes are represented as going 
from xilba to Erin, which harmonize^; well with the recent deliver- 
ances of Sayce and Rhys. He described all the Irish Ossians 
as fictions and fables manufactured by monks in the Middle Ages, 
and as so far inferior to the genuine remains of Ossian as the most 
insipid heroics of the present day are to the in)mortal productions 
of Homer. He showed that their system of chronology could not 
be harmonised- -that it wa.s, in fact, absurd. As represented in 
the everlasting dialogues between the poet and the saint, he asked 
how could Ossian, who was supposed to live in the third century, 
hold converse with St. Patrick, who did not arrive in Ireland till 
the fifth century ? No such objections could be brought against 
Macpherson's Ossian, whose chronology was, perhaps conveniently 
vague, fairly consistent with itself. The Irish Uterafi then betook 
themselves to the manufacture of poems a la Macpherson, whom 
they denounced first as a thief and afterwards as a forger. When 


they failed to produce any poems of such superior merit as those 
of Macphersou. the theory of theft from the Irish was given up, 
and that of forgery substituted. It was quite evident that the 
Scottish " Ossian " pubhshed by Macpherson was very different 
from the composer of Irish ballads and Finian tales. It was ad- 
mitted by the Scottish patriots that there was a Scottish Ossian 
very like the Irish one — that of the later or heroic ballads and of the 
popular tales. But they held that this was a spurious, inferior, 
and more recent bard or bards, who attached the name of the great 
father of Gaelic poetry to their own productions ; and that the 
genuine, true, and original poems of Ossian, the immortal poet of 
the ancient Caledonians, were translated and published by Mac- 
pherson. The claims of the two countries cannot be satisfactorily 
adjusted or reconciled. History, however, conclusively shows that 
the Gaels of the North of Ireland and those of Scotland were at 
this period verv closely related — Vv-ere, indeed, but one people. 
Just as Shakespeare is cliimed by all sections of the English-speak- 
ing world as their common heritage, so Ossian would be regarded 
by all the Gaelic-speaking tribes or clans as their common property. 

Ossian occupies the same place in both the Irish and Scottish 
genealogies of the great Finian family. He is the son of Finn or 
Fingal the father of the brave and peerless Oscar, the chief bard 
of his people. 

Fionn, whose name means fai}\ the leader, and king of the 
Feinne, is the most remarkable figure in the annals of the Gael. 
The popular conception of his prowess may be gathered from the 
following grand passage of Highland poetry : — • 

" With loud-sounding strides he I'ush'd westward 
In the clank of his armoiu- bright ; 
And he looked like the Spirit of Loda, that scatters 
Dismay o'er the wai--way and fight 1 

" Like a thousand waves on a crag that roll, yelling, 
When the ugly storm is at its height, 
So awful the clash of mail and his weapons. 
While his face wore tlie winter of figlit ! 

" His smooth claymore glittered aloft, 
In his champion hand it was light ; 
And the snormg winds kept moving his locks 
Like spraj' in the whirlpool's might 1 

" The hills on each side they were shaken, 

And the path seemed to tremble with fright ! 
Gleamed his eyes, and his great heart kept swelling— 
Oh ! cheerless the terrible sight I" 


This is a picture of Fingal goint; to battle, and a "terrible sight." 
indeed, it must have been, especially to his foes. The leader of 
the Feinne was surrounded by a worthy Ijand of followers. The 
bards and senachies, or oralists, agree in the character, outlines, 
and abilities of these heroes. Ossian, the son of Fingal, was him- 
self a hero ; but, being generally a supposed narrator, gives us 
little insight into his own distinctive character. He was a great 
bard, a brave warrior, but an unobtrusive man. His son Oscar 
was the i)ride and hope of .Selma, peerless as to strength and skill 
in arms, generous to a fallen foe, and ever ready to meet the 
fiercest champion that ever came from Lochlin. Ciaul or Goll is 
stout and valiant, and next to Oscar in ])rowess, l)ut is at times 
morose. He is never worsted, but he never courts danger for its 
own sake. The beautiful and brown-haired Diarmad cannot be 
seen by any woman without being loved. He is devoted to his 
brothers in arms, and when necessary he can combine sleight of 
hand with heroic daring. Cailte is a poet, and celebrated for his 
swiftness of foot. Then there is the hardy Rayne, the majestic 
Cochulin, and the faithful though rash Conan. Fingal himself has 
been limned from more than one point of view by the oralists. 
His greatness and courage in battle are indisputably pre-eminent. 
He is a prudent, cautious general, and disapproves of unnecessary 
bloodshed. In affairs of the heart he is relentless towards a rival, 
generous though he is in other respects. The worst thing that 
can be recorded of him is his unfeeling and revengeful conduct 
towards his nephew, the gallant Diarmid, when the latter eloped 
with Queen Graine. These were the principal warriors of that 
gallant band of Finian heroes whose names are indelibly engraven 
on the hills and straths of their native land, while their deeds are 
recorded in a thousand songs. They lived at a time when the 
world was undergoing a mighty metamorphoses. Tribes were 
beginning to assume a national cast, and as organised nations t-o 
develope an individuality. They were preparing to run the race 
sketched out to them by destiny, the path of each bounded by a 
particular line or limit of sea, stream, mountain, or valley, and 
were throwing aside all the encumbrances of superseded customs 
and laws that might clog their progress. Fingal and his followers 
appeared in immortal brilliance, crowned with the laurels of death- 
less heroism on the stage of the world, and soon they disappeared 
from the scene. They were seen but for a short time like the sun 
in a wintry day. And the picture is beautifully brought before us 
in the following verses translated by Pattison : — 


" Like a suu-gleam in wild wintry weatlicr 

That hastens oer Lena's wide heath, 
So the Feinne liave faded together, 

They were tlie beam the showery clouds sheatlie, 
When down stoops the dark rain-frown of lieaven. 

To snatch from the hunter the ray, 
And wildly the moaning bare In-anches are driven, 

While tlie weak herbs all wither away. 

" But the sun, in his strength yet returning, 

The fair-freshened woods will espy. 
In the springtime that laugh for their mourning, 

As they look on the Son of the sky, 
Kindly unveilling his lustre, 

Thi'ough the soft and the drizzling shower. 
All their wan heads again will he muster. 

From their drear and their wintry bower. 

" Then with joy will their small buds keep swelling ; 
Not so they who sleep in the tomb — 
No sunbeam that darkness dispelling. 
Shall waken them up from tlieir gloom."" 

Ossian, the blind warrior poet, survives them all. And now, as he 
muses on the departure of his kindred heroes and hunters, and on 
the loneliness of his own state, led by the white-armed Malvina, 
the betrothed of his fallen son Oscar, he seeks their former haunts, 
and breathes as he rests m the well-known shades the pathetic 
lamentation, " the last of my race !'' 

" Chnla tu bkrda nam fonn : 

's taitneacli, ach trom do ghuth ; 

'S taitueach a Mhalmhine nan sonn ; 

Leaghaidh bron am bochd an am tha dubh." 


From the picture of Ossian in his shadowy Pagan domain it is 
refreshing to turn to those names which have played a great part 
in connection with our earliest Christian civilization and literature. 
They are the names of Patrick of Stiathclyde, Bridget of the 
South Gaels of Albin, and Columba of Donegal, subsequently of 
I on a. 

The first glimpse we have of Albin on the canvas of written 
record is a very confusing one. The one outstanding fact is the 
Roman occupation. The next fact that strikes and enchains the 
eye is the presence of Christianity in the land. Among the Gaels 
of the south-west of Scotland we mark the person of Ninian, 
around whom we see across the ages the light of the gospel shining. 


This prejcher of tlie cross, of whose liihours in Galloway very in- 
teresting traces w^ere discovered qu^te recently, appears to have 
carried the gospel not only to the Gaels of the south west, but also 
to the southern Picts north of the P'orth and Clyde. His labours 
began as early as the year 397, and resulted in the first church 
organization known in Scotland. The evengelisation of Ninian 
extended over probably the whole of Romanised Scotland towards 
the end of the fourth century. The races embraced in his spliere 
of operations were Latin-speaking peoples of various nations, 
Brythons, and Gaels. 

Among the last-mentioned, the Gaels of the Strathclyde king- 
dom, whose chief seat was Alcluaidh, now Dumbarton, there 
appeared the family of Patrick, whose name has shed holy lusti-e 
on the early annals of that period. This family had been Christians 
for two generations. The father of Patrick was a ,/aii/io, one of the 
council or magistracy of a Roman provincial town. His name 
was Calphurnius, which some have rendered by the familiar form 
of MacAlpine. Being recognised as a Roman magistrate he thus 
took his place among the local aristocracy of Banavem in Taberni^, 
where villas of the Roman style could be seen, and the sonorous 
Latin could be heard mingling with the kindred accents of the 
ancient Gaelic. This place was probably nol far from that attrac- 
tive spot on the banks of the Clyde where a topographical monu- 
ment has been reared to the celebrated Irish apostle in Kilpatrick. 
Calphurnius was not only a magistiate ; he was also a deacon in 
the Chiistian church. His own father, the grandfather of Patrick, 
was called Potitus, and filled the office of Presbyter in the Strath- 
clyde church. It is also stated that this family cultivated a small 

As there is a great deal of literature extant on the nativity of 
Patrick which conflicts with the results of recent discussion, it may 
be satisfactory to many to have the latest authorative declarations 
on the subject before them. No one has ever attempted to de- 
]Drive the north of Ireland of the honour of having supplied the 
Highlands with the great gospel preacher who evengelised the 
north-west ; who revived the Christianity of the Lowlands ; whose 
earnest disciples supplied the north of England with the teachers 
who converted its people to the power of Christ. But while Pro- 
testant Scotland has made no attempts to deprive Ireland of its 
Coluraban honours Catholic Ireland has persistently endeavoured 
to denude Scotland of its legitimate claims to the honour of being 
the fatherland of Patrick. Ireland's misrepresentations have been 


acquiesced in by Scotsmen, especially by timid historical writers, 
of a certain ecclesiastical type, who have made needless conces- 
sions to Romanist claims in connection with a question which is 
purely historical. It is with peculiar pleasure that we are now 
able to assign Patrick, the son of the Gaelic Church of Strathclyde. 
his true place on the roll of Gaelic Scots ; and to regard him as 
a link in the Gospel succession which Columba brought with 
him to the West Highlands. 

In tl-;e Catholic Dictionary, issued a few years ago, and com- 
piled by Addis and Arnold of the Royal University of Ireland, 
with the approving seal of his Eminence Cardinal Manning on its 
publication, the following satisfactory sentence occurs: "The 
general conversion of the Irish nation was reserved for St. Patrick, 
who was probably born at the place now called Kilpatrick on the 
Clyde whence he was carried as a slave into the north ot Ireland while 
still a youth." To this there is appended a foot note referring to 
the excellent article of an Irish bishop on St. Patrick in one of the 
Irish periodicals : " Dr Moran, Bishop of Ossory, who formerly 
leant to the opinion that the place was near Boulogne in France, 
has lately written convincingly in favour of the Scottish site." The 
Bishop's article has finally decided the question ; and has enabled 
the Gaels of Scotland, with the tacit consent of their Irish brethren, 
to add to the list of their heroic Christian missionaries, a name 
whose brilliant halo of holy effort is unsurpassed in the ancient 
annals of the Christian Church of these islands. 

We are thus enabled to point out the first home of Christianity 
among the Gaels ol Scotland. We find it on the banks of the 
Clyde, where many Christians of the same people, still talking the 
same tongue, may still be found, rejoicing in the same Gospel. 
The pictiu-e of this early Gaelic Church of Strathclyde from whose 
bosom the devoted Patrick came forth, is in itself a sufficient 
reason why the Early History of the Gaels should be re-written. 
It is a chapter added to the Celtic civilisation of the Highland 
people, which has been hitherto ignored or hidden through Roman, 
Teutonic, or Norman influences. 

A good deal has been written about Patrick's visit to Rome, 
where it was necessary to take him by the Romanist writers of later 
times in order that he might receive consecration from an order 
of Ecclesiastical Fathers which had scarcely yet developed. The 
Catholic Dictionary, already quoted, is forced to confess, after 
reference to Patrick's autobiography in his Confession as 
follows :— " He does not mention the Pope or the Holy See." We 


thus find that in his own authentic writings Patrick makes no 
reference to, or acknowledgment of, the Roman Bishop of his day. 
The reason for this is not far to seek. 

Patrick does not appear to have come in contact with any 
Christianity except that which he was taught on the banks of the 
Clyde in the Gaelic Church of hi.s fathers. He had neither been 
to Rome nor known the Roman Bishop (Celestine) of his time, 
so he makes no reference to either in his genuine writings. On 
this question his own words in his Epistle to Coroticus deserve 
quotation- -Ego, Pati ia/s, indoctus, scilicet, Hibeinione, coustitittum 
cpiscopiivi me esse reor : a Deo accept, id quod sum. " I, Patrick, 
an unlearned man, to wit, a bishop constituted to Ireland : what 
I am I have received from God." Thus in the establishment of 
his Church Patrick in no instance appeals to any foreign Church, 
Pope, or Bishop. On authority received from God he superin- 
tended the Irish Church for 34 years. These clear statements of 
his are utterly at variance with the fabricated ones which adorn 
the lives of him which appeared centuries afterwards, and which 
are now regarded as authorities by the fabulously inclined. 

In his own writings Patrick gives us in a somewhat unconscious 
manner a beautiful picture of his devoted character : — "I was 
born free. I was the son of a father who was a decurio. I sold 
my nobility for the advantage of this nation. But I am not 
ashamed, neither do I repent ; I became a servant for Jesus Christ 
our Lord, so that 1 am not recognised in my former position." 
Elsewhere he says—" I was about 16 years old ; but I knew not 
the true God, and was led away into captivity to Hibernia, with a 
great many men, according to our deservings," His occupation 
for six years in Antrim was keeping cattle. But the spirit of the 
Eternal took possession of him. " My constant business was to 
keep the flocks ; I was frequent in prayers, and the love and fear 
of God more ard more inflamed my heart. My faith and spirit 
were enlarged, so that I said a hundred prayers in a day and nearly 
as many at night, and in the woods and on the mountain I re- 
mained, and before the light I arose to my prayers, in the snow, in 
the frost, and in the rain ; and I experienced no evil at all. Nor 
was I affected with sloth, for the spirit of God was warm in me." 
This was the man that the Gaels of Strathclyde gave for the con- 
version of Ireland to Christianity. 

There are several interesting questions suggested by the nativity 
and life of Patrick. The land of his birth is now clearly ascer- 
tained ; but there are subsidiary questions in connection with that 


fact whicli require further consideration. Was Patrick a Gael, a 
Brython or one of non-Ar3'an races which as recently as the tifth 
century were a powerful people? What language did he speak, or 
what language did he acquire in his Christian conquest of Ireland? 
Who were the Irish as a race, and how far they had been Christian 
ised before his arrival 1 As to the question of race, the evidence 
appears to lean distinctly in favour of the conclusion that he was 
a Gaidel and not a Brython, notwithstanding the Brythonic sug- 
gestiveness of the letter P in his name. It ought not to be 
forgotten also in connection with this question that the radical 
differences between the Brythonic and Gaidehc dialects at this time 
were far less important than they are now ; and that the capital of 
the district of Patrick's birth-place had its earlier Gaidelic designa- 
tion of Alcluaidh before it received its Brythonic name of Dunbret- 
ton. Philologists tell us of the loss of the letter P in the Gaidelic 
dialects ; but the phonologists on this question have not fully 
cleared up the difficulties which are suggested by the fact that in 
some of the most novth-westerly districts of the Highlands at the 
present time many of the non-Anglicised natives are incapable of 
making a clear distinction between the letters P and B, and hard 
C and G. If we take the evidence afforded by literature, we can 
come to no other conclusion than that Patrick was of the Gaidelic 
or Gaelic race ; for if we ha/e not actual compositions in the 
Gaelic language by him we have productions in that language 
ascribed to him by ancient countrymen who must have known what 
his native tongue had been. 

The language which Patrick appears to have acquired in course 
of his missionary labours lor Ireland's conversion could have been 
no other than that of the non- Aryan races, or Crutlinic — the jire- 
vailing Erinic — probably related closely to the Albinic, which at 
that time was spoken all over the north-west of Scotland. In the 
north-east of Ireland he no doubt found considerable numbers of 
the Gaidelic race, his kinsmen who had preceded him. But the 
language of those who had been already partly converted by 
Palladius, a semi-mythic saint, who is at least as much connected 
with Albin as with Erin, was certainly different from that of the 
large mass of the Irish people. To extend the conquests of 
Christianity over the fair fields of Erin south as well as north, it was 
necessary that Patrick should master the tongue of the non-Aryan 
races. There can be no doubt that his labours in this direction 
helped also to extend the area of the Gaelic speaking regions, — 
the more literary language of the incoming saint and his race 


making natural acquisirions in every direction. Similar results 
followed the Gospelising efforts of Columba in the Highlands in a 
subsequent age. 

The conclu.sions fairly deducible from a consideration of Patrick's 
life point to many interesting matters in connection with the 
History of the Highland People. We obtain first a clear concep- 
tion of a living Christian church existing among the Romanised 
Gaels of Strathclyde. We also learn that from the bosom of the 
Gaelic Church of Ninian, decayed as it possibly may have been, 
there came fortii the great messenger of the Cross, who recalled 
to life if he did not originate the forces of Christianity in Ireland. 
Again we find the gospel succession of the spirit of truth, coming 
back in a generation or two into the Highlands of Scotland in the 
person of Columba. The lamp of heavenly wisdom, lighted on 
the banks of the Clyde, which Patrick flashed over the fields of 
Erin, became the holy beacon which the fervid fingers of Columba 
planted on the shores of lona. 

The Scottish missionary that went to Ireland and became its 
patron saint is often referred to in the early ballads, Irish and 
Scottish. His Creed-Prayer is given here. It is a curious mix- 
ture of dogma and poetry ; but undevotional as it may seem to us 
had the " green " and other coloured Finians of the day appro- 
priated its earnest petitions and aspirations they would be saved 
the troubles of many " Pursuits." It begins thus in prose : 
" Patraicc dorone innimmunsa." Patrick made this hytnn. It 
then states that it was made in the time of Leogaire, son of Neill. 
The cause assigned to its composition was the need of " protection 
with his monks against the mortal enemies who were in league 
against the clerics." It was to be a corslet of faith for soul and 
body against demons, men, and vices. Demons could not stand 
before the face of him who sang it ; envy and poison could do 
no harm ; in this life it would be a safeguard against sudden death ; 
and it would be a covering of defence (hirech in Gaelic, from the 
Latin lorica) after death. When Patrick sang it as he went forth 
to sow the faith the opposition of Leogaire gave way. 

Then the hymn properly begins : The singer declares his belief 
in the Trinity — in Threeness — confession of Oneness in the Creator 
of the world. 

I bind myself to-day— 

To the power of the Trixity ; 
To belief in the all-gracioiis Three ; 
To confession that the Three are one 
In the Maker of the world and sun. 


I bind myself today — 

To tke power of the birth of Chklst ; 
To the truth that Jesus was baptised , 
To the fact that path of death He trod, 
That three days He lay beneath the sod ; 
To the pow'r of Resurrection morn, 
That from the eartli to heaven he was borne ; 
To the power of His Judgment call, 
When tinal state shall be assigned to all. 

I bind myself to-day- — 

To the power of the Cherubs high ; 

In obedience of the angels nigh ; 

In attendance of archangels' might ; 

In the hope of resurrection's light ; 

In tlie prayers of the sires of eld ; 

In the visions that the seers beheld ; 

In the precepts the apostles taught ; 

In the faith by which confessors wrought ; 

In the innocence of virgins pure ; 

In the deeds of just men that endure. 

I bind myself to-day — 

To the power of Heaven, 

To the lustre, sun-given ; 

To the pureness, snow-driven ; 

To fiery flames brightening ; 

To the swiftness of lightning ; 

To the speed of the breeze ; 

To the depth of the seas ; 

To the firmness of land, 

And the rocks that there stand. 
I bind myself to-day — 

To God's pow'r to be controlled ; 

To His might me to uphold ; 

To His wisdom me to bow ; 

To His eye the path to sliow ; 

To His ear to hear my cry ; 

To His word to speak my sigh ; 

To His hand me to protect ; 

To His way me to direct ; 

To His shield as my defence ; 

To His host till I go hence. 

Against demons' dire devices ; 
Against allurements of all vices ; 
Against strong solicitations 
Of our nature's inclinations ; 
Againit all the bad desires 
With which sin men's hearts inspires, 
Afar or near where'er I be 
In solitude or company. 


Thus I have sought protection from on high 
Against the powers of ill and ciuelty ; 
Against deceitful prophets' incantations ; 
Against the black laws of the gentile nations ; 
Against the false laws of all heretics ; 
Against the craft of the idolater's tricks ; 
Against tlie spells of druids, smiths, and women ; 
Against all lore that taints the spirit human. 

Let Christ protect me to-day against poison — 
Against burning, drowning, against wound, 
Until abundance of reward comes round. 

Christ be with me, Christ before, behind, 
Christ without me, Christ within my mind, 
Christ above me, and in breadth^ length, height, 
Christ below me, at my left and right. 

Let Christ in all who think of me reside, 
And on all lips that speak to me abide ; 
t!hrist be in every eye that sees my walk, 
Christ be in every ear that hears my talk. 

I bind myself to-day — 

To the power of the Trinity, 
To belief in the all-gracious Three, 
To confession that the Three are One, 
In the Maker of the earth and sun. 

Dr Cameron, who has a learned article on " St. Patrick's Hymn" 
in The Scottish Cdtic Review, and to whose accurate prose tran- 
slation as well as to Dr Stokes's in his Goidelica. I am so much 
indebted in the above rendering, makes the following remark : — 
"This hymn forms one of the Irish hymns in the ' Liber Hymnorum,' 
;i MS. belonging to Trinity College, Dublin, and written, as Dr 
Stokes conjectures, about the end of the eleventh or the beginning 
of the twelfth century. The hymn itself, however, belongs to a 
much earlier date." 

The chief dates in the life of Patrick, who was probably born 
about 387, are his landing in Ireland in 432 when he is represented 
as attending the assembly of the Irish Kmgs and Chieftains which 
was held on the hill of Tara that year ; his celebrated letter against 
Coroticus in 453 to regulate church discipline; and his death 
which occurred in 495. 

A very remarkable incident, related in the " Book of Armagh " 
and quoted in Todd's " Life of Patrick," which bears internal 
evidence of high antiquity, and now evidently written at a time 
when paganism was not yet extinct in the country, illustrates the 
way in which Patrick set before the Celtic mind the faith which he 


proclaimed. One morning he and his attendants repaired to a 
fountain called Clebach at Cruachan, now Rathcroghan, an 
ancient residence of the kings of Connaught. Thither came the 
two daughters of King Laogharie, and on seeing the strangers 
supposed them lo be Duine Sidhe fairies, " men of the hills,'' and 
said to them, " Wiio are ye ?" And Patrick said unto them, '" It 
were better for you to confess to oui- tme God, than to inquire 
concerning our race." 
' The first Virgin said, — 

" Who is God ? 

" And where is God ? 

" And of what nature is God ? 

" And where is liis dwelling place ? 

" Has your God sons and daughters, gold and silver? 

" Ts He everliving ? 

" Is He beautiful ? 

" Is He in Heaven or in earth ? 

" In the sea ? 

" In rivers ? 

" In mountainous places ? 

" In valleys ? 

" Declare unto us the knowledge of Him ? 

" How shall He be seen ? 

" How is He to be loved ? 

" How is He to be found ? 

'• Is it in youth ? 

" Is it in old age that He is to be found ?"' 
'But St. Patrick, full of the Holy Ghost, answered and said, — 

" Our God is the God of all men. 

" The God of heaven and earth of the sea and rivers. 

" The God of the sun, the moon, and all stars. 

" The God of the high mountains and of the lowly valleys. 

" The God who is above heaven, and in heaven, and under 

" He hath an habitation in the heaven, and the earth, and the 
sea, and all that are therein. 

" He inspireth all things. 

" He quickeneth all things. 

" He is over all things. 

" He sustaineth all things. 

" He giveth light to the^light of the sun. 

" And he hath made springs in a dry ground. 


" And dry islands in the sea. 

" And hath appointed the stars to serve the greater lights. 

" He hath a Son co-eternal and co-equal with Himself. 

'• The Son is not younger than the Father. 

" Nor is the Father older than the Son. 

" And the Holy Ghost breatheth in them. 

" The P"ather, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not divided. 

" But I desire to unite you to the Heavenly King, inasmuch as 
you are the daughters of an earthly king — to believe." 
' And the Virgins said, as with one mouth and one heart, — 

"Teach us most diligently how we may see Him face to face, 
and whatever thou shalt say unto us we will do." 
' And Patrick said,— 

" Believe ye that by baptism ye put off the sin of your father 
and your mother?" 
' They answered, " We believe.'' 

'■ Believe ye in repentance after sin ?" " We believe." 

" Beheve ye in life after death ? Believe ye in the resurrection 
at the Day of Judgment?"' " We believe." 

'' Believe ye the unity of the Church f '' We believe" 
' And they were baptized, and a white garment put upon their 
heads. And they asked to see the face of Christ, and the Saint 
said unto them, "Ye cannot see the face of Christ except ye re- 
ceive the sacrifice." And they answered, " Give us the sacrifice, 
that we may behold the Son, our Spouse." .'^nd they received the 
Eucharist of God, and they slept in death. 

" The articles of the Creed recited in this extract are those alone, 
it has been observed, which are to be found in .symbols of the very 
highest antiquity, and the dialogue illustrates, what has been al- 
ready noticed, the Celtic belief in genii or aerial beings, inhabiting 
mountains, plains, rivers, lakes, and fountains, and the existence 
of nature-worshi]) in its simplest form." — See the works of Skene, 
Todd, CusACk, Hennesy, Foster, Sherman, and for special 
purposes Whitley Stokes, Miss Stokes, G. T. Stokes, along 
with Maclear's " Celts." 



It has been usually taken too much for granted that the early 
Christian preachers of Britain and Ireland succeeded in fully 
Christianising the districts in which they laboured, and with which 
their names are associated. This is a very imperfect apprehension 
of the results of their efforts. No missionary of the cross could 
excel Patrick and Columba in their enthusiasm for work, in their 
devotion to the Gospel cause, and in their resolute attempt to 
conquer the whole land for Christ. Yet we find that their evangel- 
isation ot the races to which they were respectively sent was very 
incomplete. Patrick writes of the large numbers who were con- 
verted under his preaching, but there is no evidence that Christian- 
ity was universally adopted by the whole people. On the contrary 
it is clear that the Ardri, or chief king of Ireland, continued to 
be a Pagan during the wliole period of the mission of Patrick. It 
was only in the year 513 that a Christian sovereign exercised rule 
for the first time from the throne of Tara. This was some time 
after the death of the apostle of Ireland, which occured in 493. 

While Patrick was labouring to lay the foundations of the Irish 
Church, spiritual decay appears to have crept over the heart of 
of his own native church among the Gaels of Strathclyde. The 
poetic and literary flowering of this period we have in the person 
of the celebrated Brigit. In those who are familiar with the 
revivals and declensions of church life, as unfolded in history, such 
a decay can excite no surprise. In our own times, with all the 
rich aids of civilization and Christian literature, enkindling and 
preservative that we possess, we find that one generation of earnest 
believers in a district is frequently succeeded by an apathetic one. 
So the living church of Strathclyde from which Patrick went forth, 
was in a decadent condition when his name began to shine and 
burn brightly on the shores of Erin. 

There were many causes that contributed to the weakening of 
this Gaelic Church of the Clyde valleys The Roman arms had 
been withdrawn and all over the Romanised provinces political 


disintegration set in. Dependence on a foreign rule, and the 
enervating luxuries of more southern lands had not only paralysed 
the native manliness of the British races, but had also greatly 
emasculated the primitive Christianity of these islands. Indeed, 
in southern Britain the early Christianity became so completely 
extinguished that it had to be re-kindled from the north in the 
sixth and seventh centuries. The vigorous forces of the uncon- 
verted and unconquered tribes of the north were too powerful for a 
Church which had been accustomed perhaps to lean too much on 
the civil protection afforded by an alien power. It must not also 
be forgotten that those early Christians had literally no help to 
feed the flame of their devotion. The fragments even of the 
Scriptures that may have been in circulation could only have been 
in the hands of a very liuiited number ; while the languages in 
which they were written were utterly unknown to the people, and 
there were no ti'anslations. When all this is remembered it be- 
comes rather a matter of marvel that the sacred glow of Christian 
truth survived so long in some places after the personal life that 
kindled it ceased to be. Those were truly ages when Christian 
witnesses were, and had to be living epistles known and read of 
all men ; for the personal life became practically the literature in 
which the gospel was heralded. So the strength of a Church 
depended mainly on the character and personality of the teachers. 
But notwithstanding the deadening influences around and in 
the Gaelic Church of the Clyde districts subsequent to the period 
of Patrick's mission, we still mark in the sixth century the rays of 
Gospel truth struggling there with tiie thick inclosing darkness of 
Paganism. One heroic figure emerges from the surrounding 
gloom. It is that of Kentigern, or Mungo, forever associated 
with the origin and rise of the powerful commercial metropolis of 
Glasgow. The traditions of his life abound with myths and 
marvels ; while his name has been a rich and suggestive theme 
for the etymological fancy. From the romantic literature that has 
gathered around his name, we glean what appears to be recognised 
as generally accepted facts — that he was born at Culross, and that 
he died at Glasgow about 601-3. He had been the pupil of the 
famous St. Serf in the east in the northern boundaries of- the 
Brythonic race with Gaels to the north of them. So he may have 
been a Highland or a Welsh Celt. One or other of the forms of 
his name has been resolved^ apparently with equal ease, into 
either a Gaelic or a Welsh etymon. Perplexing or unsatisfactory 
as this undoubtedly is it yet may suggest an explanation. As 


happens in our own and other times his name would assume 
various forms according to the dialects or languages of the speakers 
and writers. The forms of his name, therefore, furnish no key as 
to the race of his fathers. 

When Kentigern began his labours on the Clyde the church of 
St. Patrick's people had lost much of its first love. Many of the 
Gaels themselves had also been driven westward under Brythonic 
})ressure from the east and from the south. As Christian soldiers 
or Milesians some liad sailed to the north of Ireland to find a 
home ; others had drifted into Perthshire and Argyll, which at 
this period became the true " Gaidhealtachd," or the " land 
of the Gael.' Kentigern strove devotedly to revive the drooping 
church. In his cold stone bed strewn with ashes on the classic 
banks of the Molendinar stream he cultivated the spirit of prayer; 
rehearsed the sacred strains of the psalmist ; and warmed his spirit 
by visions of divine fellowship. In the local sovereign of the 
name of Morken he encountered much disagreeable opposition 
and sarcastic interpretation of the saint's faith in a Providence. 
Kentigern virtually made an application for an ecclesiastical 
establishment and endowment of himself and his presbyter follow- 
ers. King Morken received the application for temporalities in 
a spirit that would do no discredit to a statesman of modern times. 
He reminds the saint of his own popular saying : " Cast thy care 
upon the Lord and he will care for thee." But argued the King 
further : " Now here am I, who have no faith in such precepts, who 
do not seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness ; yet for 
all that, are not riches and honours heaped upon me T' The 
royal granaries were full, while the Christian saints were starving. 
How could he expect to believe in a Providence that thus 
arranged the possessions of men. The saint's replies and inter- 
pretations proved unavailing with the royal sceptic, so broken in 
heart the holy man retired to his oratory to pray. His emotions 
were profoundly stirred ; he began to weep. Then as the tears 
started in his eyes and coursed down his cheeks, so did the waters 
of the Clyde begin to rise and swell into a mighty flood, which at 
last overflowed around the royal granaries, carrying them down the 
stream, and leaving them stranded at the very door of the saint on 
the banks of the Molendinar. The sanctity of his youth and the 
faith of his mature years have been in this fashion richly attested 
by miraculous manifestations, according to his rather credulous 
biographer, Jocelyn. 

The earnest and heroic labours of Kentigern were not confined 


lo Strathclyde. We obtain glimpses of him beyond the Mounth 
among the northern Picts of Aberdeenshire, while his Christian 
fellow-worker and friend, Columba, was beginning to proclaim the 
gospel in Perthshire. In his latter days we find him in Wales 
where he founded the church of St. Asaph, and where he finally 
died, leaving behind him a name whose holy influence has shed 
lustre across the course of thirteen centuries. 

Kentigern is peculiarly associated with the origin of Glasgow. In 
the armorial bearings of this city we have perpetuated, according 
to very remarkable legends, three remarkable miracles which were 
wrought by the holy man, and which it would be probably unfair 
to pass by without reference, considering that the sons of Gaeldom 
ever since have helped and shared so very specially in the pro- 
sperity of Glasgow. A pet robin redbreast, which belonged to the 
college over which St. Serf presided, is represented on a shield 
argent by a bird proper, 'i'his bird either through accident or 
mi.schief was torn to pieces among the students. When the pre- 
sident appeared to punish, young Kentigern, the best boy among 
them, was made the scapegoat. The pieces of the bird were 
thrown in his lap ; but the hidden holiness of the boy was such that 
the creature gathered up his limbs, flapped his wings, and sang a 
joyous song on the approach of the holy master. On another 
occasion Kentigern found his fire extinguished by his enemies ; so 
he was compelled to bring a tree from the frozen forest and breathe 
into it the breath of fire. The remembrance of this feat is pre- 
served in the tree or branch which forms the crest. The figure of 
a fish, with the ring in its mouth, recalls the scriptural reference to 
the finding ot a fish with the needed coin in its body. The bio- 
grapher of Kentigern, Jocelyn of Furness, knew well how to en- 
robe his hero, with the help of the mythic accounts already 
developed, with those miracles which had served sacred ends in the 
lives of other saints at that, period. Fishes with rings in their 
bodies had always been found on critical occasions. 

This brief sketch, in connection with the lives of Patrick and 
Kentigern, of the Gaelic Christianity of Scotland in the fifth and 
sixth centuries, will help to show forth in clearer outlines the work 
of Columba. The spiritual forces that waved forth from lona 
were certainly not the first that brought religious light to the land 
of the Gael. Nor were they so exclusively of Irish origin as they 
are represented to be. In eastern Gaeldom in Scotland Christian- 
ity had been already known. But in the course of the century 
which elapsed from the time of Patrick it had greatly decayed. 


Columl)a came to the west of Scotland to revive and to proclaim 
the faith afresh. He came hack among his ancestral people from 
the midst of whom the gospel had been sent a century previously 
to Ireland. In lona the religious centre of the land of the Gaels 
was simply removed further west and north. The Gaelic speaking 
people themselves were drifting in the same direction towards the 
Atlantic. As they themselves were largely absorbed by the 
Brythons behind them, so they absorbed in their north-west pro- 
gress those brave non-.Aryan clans to whom they became the 
missionaries of the cross and the channels of letters. They ex- 
tended the area of Gaeldom, and imposed their Christian and 
liteiary tongue on the conquered just as the Christian and more 
literary Latin had been previously imposed on many of their own 
ancestors. In the fourth century we mark gospel light in Strath- 
clyde ; in the fifth we see it kindling on the shores of Ireland ; in 
the sixth it begins to burn from Tona. 

It was among these South Alhin Gaels at an early period that 
we mark the appearance of Brigit : the Mary of the Gael. There 
is no standard of Gaelic maintained in the orthography of this 
proper name. Brigit is used here as one of the most ancient 
forms ; as also to preserve a chronological harmony with the 
secondary significant title of " Mary of the Gael," As we all know 
the present form of the name is Bridget in English ; but it has 
been so little talked of in later ages by Gaelic Highlanders 
that it becomes almost a serious matter for the majority of them 
even to spell it in Gaelic. It is only in the compound " La-Fheill- 
Bri^hde "— [Brldej or T/ie Day of the Feast of Bridget, and surname 
MacBride, that we are familiar with this female saintly name. 

This by necessary phonological laws recalls Brujid, which in its 
turn reminds us of the more ancient orthography Brly'd, which is 
adopted by Dr Stokes in his 'Three Middle Irish Homilies." 
Other Irish scholars have spelt it Briyid, even when they are 
quoting from productions such as the poem ascribed to Brigit, 
found in the Burgundian Library, Brussels, headed thus : 

B^'ighitt (cCT.) 
[Brigid (Cecinet)]. 

The distinguished Stokes follows accurately the spelling of Leahhar 
Breac, Brigit. This is the form which we also find in "Cormac's 
Glossary " compiled originally nearly a thousand years ago. The 
definition or explanation appended in Cormac's work is suggestive 
and instructive. " Brigit i.e. a poetess, daughter of the Dagda 


(doctus 1). This is Brigit the female sage, or woman of wisdom, 
i.e. Brigit the goddess whom poets adored, because very great and 
very famous was her protecting care. It is therefore they call her 
goddess of poets by this name. Whose sisters were Brigit the 
female physician [woman of leechcraft] ; Brigit the female smith 
[woman of smith work] ; from whose names with all Irishmen a 
goddess was called Brigit." To this Dr Stokes adds that the 
" name is certainly connected with the Old Celtic goddess-name 
Brigantia as possibly with the Skr. Brhaspati and O. Norse Bragi." 
p. 23. This gives us a glimpse of a ''female smith " : a " female 
physician " ; and a •' female saint " i^sanct Brigit) rolled into one, 
and that one a goddess of Indo-European connections 

With these lofty associations and suggestions clinging to the 
name of Brigit we almost find it difficult to descend to the regions 
of ordinary earthly womanhood ; and recognize in her a mere 
Gaelic Christian maiden. Her name has never been absolutely 
dissociated fiom the realm of myth, or rather mijtJius ; but at the 
same time we cannot help regarding her as a historical character. 
Her name became celebrated very t-arly wherever the Gaelic folks 
did congregate. We find her name associated with King 
Nectan of Albin, and with a church founded in her honour at 
Abernethy. So her fame was not confined to the Gaelic regions 
of Erin. That illustrious Scot, Patrick, a native of the district of 
Strathclyde, is supposed to refer to her in his confession, where he 
says, " There was one blessed Scottic maiden, very fair, of noble 
birth, and of adult age, whom I baptized ; and after a few days she 
came to me, because, as she declared, she had received a response 
from a messenger of God desiring her to become a virgin of Christ, 
and to draw near to God. Thanks be to God, on the sixth day 
from that, she with praiseworthy eagerness seized on that state of 
life which all the virgins of God likewise now adopt" These 
notices help to bring us nearer what Carlyle calls the " actual Air- 
Maiden, incor[)orated tangibility and reality," whose electric glance 
has fascinated the Gaelic world. It could not be expected that the 
date of the birth of Brigit would be preserved ; but when she be 
came a woman of consequence in the Gaelic or Scottic world her 
movements began to be marked. The accounts of the fabulous 
lives are very circumstantial ; but sober-minded critics like O'Curry 
are fairly satisfied with two principal dates, and most reasonable 
folks will be the same. These two dates are Brigit's advent at 
Downpatrick on the 17th of March, 493, a.d. ; and her death in 


The historical and fabulous lives of Brigit suggest a f^'.\\• inter- 
esting questions which can only be hinted at in these remarks :~ 

1. Her conversion by the British Patrick to Christianity. 

2. The probability that she belonged to a good British family 
who, in the days nt the Roman occupation, crossed to the nearest 
Irish districts : (She is described as " of Kildare," a county close 
to the eastern shore). 

3. And that she was a woman of exceptional character or culture, 
whicli was possible in that century, under the perpetuated influences 
of the Boman occupation. 

Thai she and her people, like Patrick himself, were recent im- 
migrants to Ireland from Roman and Christian Britain, there 
cannot be any serious doubt 

These may be the po>sible or probable facts ascertainable re- 
lating to the life of the Mary of the Gael. But around them has 
been woven a very interesting body of Gaelic literature which was 
loved and cherished and cultivated for upwards of a thousand 

We have two ancient lives of Brigit, written on vellum ; and 
these are regarded as the oldest ; and are attributed to St. Ultiin, 
whose death took place in the year 656. The Libe7' Hymnorum, 
a production of the eleventh century is our authority for the in- 
formation that the " Life and Acts of St. Brigid of Kildare, were 
collected and written by St. UltJin," who was her suc::essor in her 
church, as Adamnan was that of Columba in Zona. 

The two lives referred to are found in the Lebar Breac and in 
the Book of Lismore. A life written within the last two hundred 
years on paper is also to be found in the Royal Irish Academy. 
Her life is generally associated with the lives of Patrick and 
Columba, as they also very appropriately are in " The Three 
Middle-Irish Homilies," edited by Dr Whitely Stokes, (Calcutta ; 
1877). In one of the so-called prophetic poems, a Norse Chief 
Mandar, with a fleet, is represented as exhuming the body of Columba 
which was afterwards buried " in Downpatrick, in the same tomb 
with St. Patrick and St. Brigid." 

In the celebrated Domhnach Airyid^ one of the most ancient 
relics of the old Gaelic civilization, we are presented with the 
Jjgrire of Brigid. 

Dr Petrie in his account of the relic says : — " The smaller 
figures in relief are, in the first compartment, the Irish saints 
Columba, Brigid, and Patrick." Perhaps the most interesting 
relic associated with Brigit is " a very ancient crozier, said to have 


belonged to St. Finnharr (of Tormonbarry, in Connacht),- and 
believed to have been made by Coulaedlt,, tiie artificer of St. Brigid 
of Kildare. early in the sixth century," which is " now in the 
Museum of the Royal Irish Academy.".— ^ee O'Currys M.S. 

In early ecclesiastical annals Brigit is thus on the same platform 
with Patrick and Columba in Gaelic Hagiology. True ; her name 
is not found, for instance, in the Benchor Antiphonary ; but her 
name is not unknown even in Latin Hymnology. The earliest 
Latin poem that recognizes her is a fragment of three stanzas, 
beginning with the letters X, Y, Z, respectively. It appears to 
have belonged to an A B C Darian hymn of a somewhat biograph- 
ical nature. — [^QQ AnecdotaQic, 17 13: Leabhar Imuinn : Dublin, 
1S55-1869.] The following Latin lines give us the earliest con- 
ceptions of this " Mary of the Gael." : — 

Ymnus iste angelicae 
Summeque sanctae Brigidae 
Fari non valet omnia 
Viitutum niiribillia 
Quae nostris nunquam auribus 
Si sint facta audivimus 
Nisi per istam virginem 
Mariae sanctae similem. 

Of this the following English rendering may be given : — 
" This hymn, of the most angel like and most saintly, Brigit is 
unable to speak of all the marvellous works of power, such as we 
have never heard of as been wrought, except through this virgin, 
like unto the Holy Mary." 

The prevalence of Brigit's name in Gaelic Hagiology is not 
surprising, when we take into account her reputation for superior 
powers of knowledge and wisdom. And this exceptional distinc- 
tion naturally suggests the question — Where could her superior 
learning have been obtained 1 The writer thinks that it can be 
clearly established that Brigit, like Patrick of Strathclyde, was a 
fruit of Ninian's celebrated monastery of Rosnat. Intieed, 
there can be little doubt about this statement, although the 
question has not been either put or answered hitherto. Philology 
and history combine to make Brigit a native of that district known 
first as that of the Brii^antes, afterwards Bernicia, and later as the 
Saxon Lowlands of Scotland. Professor Rhys thinks the folks 
of this district in Brigit's time were Celtic and largely Cymric : — 
" Thus the term Beinicii would seem to have meant the people of 
the Brigantian land, which^ in this case, was mostly that of the 


ancient Otadini. or Go<lodin of Welsh literature, together with a 
part probably of that of a kindred people, the Duninonii.'' Ac- 
cording to the same learned authority br'igant is phonologically 
'■ the Gallo-Brythonic form of a common Celtic hrigant, which, 
with the nasal suppressed, we have in the Irish name Brigit (for 
Brigentis of the I declension), St. Bridget or Bride. On the whole 
then. Brigantes would seem to have meant the free iTien or privil- 
eged race as contrasted with the Goidelic inhabitants, some of 
7vlwm they may have reduced under them." 

The Gaelic entries in the Book of Deer give us the name of 
Brigit in compound forms, with which we are familiar. "Domnal 
mac giric 7 mal hrigte," (Domnal son of Girec, and MaelbrlgteJ. 
In the old Gaelic genitive this term is " moilbrigtae." The Latin 
rendering has been " calvus Brigittae ;" similar to this is again 
'• Servus Brigittae,'' or " Gillabrighde," as found in the Four 
Masters, a.d. 1146. And it ought not to be forgotten that as 
Columba's name has been perpetuated in that of the Clan C'alum 
so has that of Brigit in Gaelic Scotland been preserved in the 
name of MacBride. 

We have thus traced all that is actually known of Brigit in 
philology and authentic history. But it is in poetry and fabulous 
biography that her figure becomes haloed over with the interest of 
romance and the veneration of ages. 

Brigit herself was regarded as a poetess, and as we have already 
seen, a MS. in the Burgundian Library has preserved a poem at- 
tributed to her. This poem was probably the production of a 
Gaelic bard of "the time of Aengus" Ceile De ; but the ascription 
of it to Brigit recalls her poetic reputation ; while its sentiments 
reveal some of the inward life of the old Gaelic Church of Ireland 
and Scotland. The first stanza runs thus in the original : — 

" Ropadh maitli lem eorm-lind mor. 
Uo righ na righ, 

Ropadh maith lem ir.uinnter nimhe 
Acca h61 tre bithe sir." 


I should like a great lake of ale 
For the King of tlie Kings ; 
I should like the family of heaven 
To be drinking if through time eternal. 

I should like the viands 

Of belief and pure piety ; 

I should like flails 

Of penance at my house. 


I should like the men of Heaven 
In my own house ; 
I should like kieves 
Of peace to be at their disposal. 

I should like vessels 

Of charity for distribution ; 

I should like caves 

Of mercy for their company. 

I should like cheerfulness 
To be in their drinking ; 
I should like Jesus 
Too, to be here (among them). 

I should like the three 

Marys of illustrious renown ; 

I should like the people 

Of heaven there from all parts. 

I should like that I should be 
A rent-payer to the Lord : 
That should I suffer distress, 
He would bestow upon me a good bl 

This production is peculiarly Celtic ; and is remarkable in its 
freedom from the growth of superstition which characterised the 
Latin Church of the time. But it must not be supposed that the 
old Gaelic Church was free from an external growth of a super- 
stition of its own. Indeed it set up rather a hagiology of its own 
in oppositiion to that of Rome, so keen, like all the true Scots 
that its members were, was its love ol spiritual independence. 
Patrick, Columba, and Columbanus, became its Papae, or Papes, 
and Brigit herself its Virgin, — celebrated as the " Mary of the 

Brigit was a very great and saintly personage to several of the 
authors of the Gaelic Hymns in tiie Liher Bymnorum. Ultan of 
Ard Breccain, who is said to have died in a.d. 656, composed a 
special " Hymn in praise of Brigit," whose extravagant sentiments 
and poetic power are but inadequately manifest in the following 
translation : — 

Brigit, excellent woman, 

A flame golden, delightful. 

May (she), the sun dazzling splendid 

Bear us to the eternal kingdom ! 

May Brigit save us 

Beyond throngs of demons ! 

May she overthrow before us 

Battles of every disease ! 


May she destroy within lis 

Our flesh's taxes, 

The branch with blossoms, 

The mother of Jesus ! 

The true virgin, dear, 

With vast dignity : 

May we be safe always, 

With my Saint of the Lagenians ! 

One of the pillars of the Kingdom, 

With Patrick the i^re-eminent, 

The garment over Itga,, 

The Queen of Queens I 

Let our bodies after old age 

Be in sackloth : 

With lier grace may Brigit 

Rain on us, save us I 

In Colman's Hymn she is as usual associated with '• Patron 
Patrick with Erin's saints around him." The blessing pronounced 
on the sacred person of Brigit runs thus : 

A blessing on Patron Brigit 
With Erin's virgins around her : 
Let all give— a fair story — 
A blessing on Brigit's dignity. 

The chief poetic tribute to Brigit's name is ascribed to Brocciin 
Cloen, who flourished about ad. 500. The first verse in the or- 
iginal runs thus : 

Nicar brigit bu^dach bith 

Siasair suide eoin inailt 

Contuil cotlud cimmeda 

Indnoib arecnairc ammaicc. 
English : 

Victorious Brigit loved not the world : 
She sat at a seat of a bird on a cliff : 
The hely one slept a captive's sleep 
Because of her Son's absence. 

The bard then proceeds to describe her virtues in more than two 
hundred Hnes of rich and glowing language. 

She was not a carper, she -was not vile, 
She loved not vehement woman's ear : 
She was not a serpent violent, speckled : 
She sold not God's Son for gain. 

We are told that it was in a " good hour MacCaille set the 
veil on Saint Brigit's head." The poet concludes his hymn of 
praise with the consolatory reflection : — 


There are two nuns in heaven, 

Whom I rely on for my protection, 

Mary anrl Saint Brigit : 

Under the protectioa of them both be we ! 

The life of Brigit printed by Dr Stokes from the Lebar Brecc, a 
manuscript of the fifteenth century, occupies about eighteen printed 
pages. Like Adamnan's life of Columba it is largely taken up 
with legends and traditional memories of miracles. Here is a 
specimen of this standard Gaelic of the 15th century : 

Fecht and dorothlaig araile bannscal iressach codubthach condigsead 
brigit lea amuig life, arboi eomthinul senaid laigen and. 

The passage beginning with this sentence is translated thus : 

Once upon a time a certain faithful woman asked Dubthach 
that Brigit might go in with her into the plain of the Lififey, for a 
congregation of the Synod of Leinster was held there. And it 
was revealed in a vision to a certain holy man v.-ho was in the 
assembly, that Mary the Virgin was coming thereto, and it was 
told him that she would not be (accom]>anied) by a man in the 
assembly. On the morrow came the woman to the assembly, and 
Brigit along with her. And he that lad seen the vision said 
■' This is the Mary that I beheld !" saith he to Brigit. The holy 
Brigit blessed all the hosts under the name and honour of Mary. 
Wherefore Brigit was (called) '• the Mary ot the Gael " thencefor- 

The last sentence in the original is as follows : — 
Conidhi brigit muire nangsedel 6sin ille. 
Dr Stokes points out how this life of Brigit furnishes a good '• ex- 
ample of the way in which heathen mythological legends became 
aimexed to historical Christian saints." He shows how the story 
of Brigit, in many of its recorded incidents, belonged originally to 
the myth or ritual of some goddess of fire. In proof of this the 
following mcidents in the life are referred to : Brigit was born at 
sunrise ; and her name, in cognate Sanskrit Bhargas is associated, 
it is thought, with fire. Her birth takes place neither within nor 
without a house. She is bathed in milk. Her breath revives the 
dead. A house in which she is staying flames up to heaven. 
Cowdung blazes in her presence. Oil is pciued on her head. 
The milk she is led with comes from a white, i-ed-eared cow. A 
fiery pillar is seen rising from her head. Her wet cloak is sup- 
ported by sun-rays. And while she remains a virgin, she is yet 


described as one of the two mothers of Christ the Anointed One. 

Other authorities have described her as having perpetual ashless 
fire, which was watched by twenty nuns, of whom she herself was 
one, blown by fans or bellows only, and surrounded by a hedge, 
within which no male could enter. 

Various other interesting allusions, illustrative of the ancient 
institutions of Gaeldom, are made in this life, such as the purchase 
and sale of slaves, mulcts, (erlnj, witchcraft, dowry. We are also 
reminded that leprosy once existed in Ireland ; that Gaels practised 
ale-brewing ; that jewellery was in use ; and that wattling was 
employed for buildings. 

But further discussion of these matters must be left to a future 
volume. In the meantime, the writer's best wishes for all who 
hear of the name of Brigit, are that they may all be endowed with 
the moral beauty, goodness, and dignity, which have been assigned 
to the godly 3fari/ of the Gael. 



The presence of the Romans in Scotland produced very little 
effect in the Highlands. Fringes of the eastern counties had been 
occupied for brief periods of time ; but the influence of Latin 
civilisation was slight and transient. The Christian churches that 
had begun to flourish in the Gaelic lowlands under Roman rule 
showed signs of decay upon the withdrawal of the Imperial legions 
which at first were a sort of protection to the somewhat feeble 
Christianity of the earlier ages. The chief source of weakness to 
this Christianity was the fact that it had not yet struck its roots 
deeply into the independent soil of the native races. A more 
virile gospel of natural native growth was nee<led. And this was 
now about to be proclaimed by a man whose name is associated 
with the most brilliant period and best aspirations of the history 
of the Highland people. 

This man was Calum, the son of Feidlimidh, son of Fergus, son 
of Niall, of the " Nine Hostages," monarch of Erin^ who was 
slain in the year 405. He was thus of blood-royal on the father's 
side ; while his mother Ethne was also of a princely house. He 
was born about the year 520 at Gartan, in the county of Donegal. 
His people in these northern Highlands of Ireland, belonged to 
the same race that prevailed at this period in the southern High- 
lands of Scotlantl ; so in crossing the sea to the islands of Argyll- 
shire Columba merely sailed from one Gaelic country to another. 
He was a man highly regarded in both countries on account of 
his family connections among the powerful ruling races on both 
sides of the sea. Before proceeding to detail the better authenti- 
cated and the more suggestive events of his life, it may help to 
remove some historical misconceptions and show more vividly the 
field of Columba's operations, if we glance at the condition of the 
various races with whom he came in contact, and at their relations 
to one another. 

When the Highland people first emerge on the canvas of written 
records within their present limits, it is in connection with the 


proclarnation of Christianity among them. We previously get a 
glance of their valiant clans in the great national struggle with the 
aggressive legions of Rome. The brave soldiers of these legions 
with which the Caledonians strove, were in the main of the same 
race as those to whom they were opposed. They belonged to the 
powerful clan Chatti of ancient Batavia, the modern Netherlands, 
where the Romans fixed their base for operations in Britain. It 
was these Batavian Celts with their better weapons, and not Latin 
soldiers, that fought the ancient Highlanders ot the eastern counties. 
Centuries passed after this great battle between the Celts of Albin 
and those of Batavia who were in Roman pay. Then again the 
clans of the north came distinctly into view when the star of 
Christianity arose in the west. The sources of our information at 
this point, are the uncertain references of classical writers on the 
one hand— references which require careful sifting — and the vague 
glimpses of native Christian writers on the other. 

It is not to be expected that these sources would supply us with 
anything like a correct ethnological account. We may feel certain 
that race theories in the sixth century were at least as confusing 
and mistaken as they are in the present day even among fairly 
educated people. So it is only by a careful induction and much 
critical attention, that an approximation to the truth can be 
arrived at out of those classical passages and sentences which have 
been so severely tortured and twisted by Gaels and Goths, Brythons, 
and Teutons. Much choleric temper has extended itself over 
those ancient fields. In recent times sorely debated questions, 
however, have changed faces, and historians have become more 
humane. The Christ breath of the sentiment of human brother- 
hood has very largely soothed the racial asperities with which the 
wars of the Picts and the Scots have been fought again and again. 

There is one phase of the history of those early centuries, which 
he who runs may read now, and in which the Highland people 
are naturally very much interested. It has come distinctly into 
view as the result of able discussions during the last ten years. 
The Celtic period of our national history used to receive very scant 
attention indeed at the hands of the recognised writers on such 
subjects. Our latest historians have shown a spirit of greater 
fairness. The first volume of Burton's " History of Scotland " 
may be said to be devoted to the Celtic period ; and, with the 
exception ot the writer's evident anxiety to find the paternity of 
the higher influences of civilisation in Teutonic fields, may be re- 
garded as a fair representation of the events of the centuries 


described. Even the publication of such a work as Skene's "Celtic 
Scotland," bearing so suggestive a title, is a fact of much signifi- 
cance. A learned if not always discriminating volume, " Celtic 
Ireland," by Dr Sophie Bryant, has also just been published. 

In the fifth and sixth centuries we are confronted with a group 
of races in north Britain which have formed the subject of bitter 
and exhaustive controversies. The terms " Pict " and "Scot" 
are the chief monuments of this fierce warfare. No one can pre- 
tend to say now who the races ate of whom these terms are the 
exponents. They were bestowed on the people by outsiders, and 
are quite unknown in the native literature of the country. It is 
highly probable that they indicate personal characteristics such as 
dress rather than race. The clans or tribes to whom they were 
applied have been found all over north Britain and the north of 
Ireland at different times. To translate them into native terms 
will only make the confusion already existing more hopeless. To 
render Fict by " Cruthnec " would be as inaccurate as to render 
Scot by " Gaidheal." The most helpful way in which we can 
arrive at a fairly satisfactory conclusion at present is to take a brief 
survey of the various races from a Gaelic standpoint ; keeping the 
main results of ethnological inquiry before our minds. From this 
position the use of the terms " Pict " and " Scot " must be alto- 
gether discarded. Let us examine the terms which the Gaelic 
language supplies : — 

1. Alhannaich. — Who were or are the Alhannaich f The word 
has come from Albainn or Alhin, and is now generally used to 
distinguish a Scotsman, whether Highland or Lowland, from the 
ifw-iomirtc/i of Ireland and the ^'asiwrnrtcA of England. The ap- 
plication of Albion to the largest of these islands retreated in the 
course of centuries to the north-west, where it still indicated the 
presence of the ])re-Celtic settlers who gave the name to the island. 
The occasional application of it by Celtic writers to southern dis- 
tricts, even as far south-west as the Isle of Wight, or the sea of 
Ictis, prevailed as late as the eleventh and twelfth centuries. 
Alhannaich, or people of a distinctively pre-Celtic character still 
survived in the west, particularly in south Wales and Cornwall. 
In the time of Columba the Alhannaich proper possessed and 
ruled the country from Drum-Albin nf>rthwards. The language 
they spoke is unknown. 

2. Gaidheil. — " Gaidheil Alba " is an expression which indicates, 
what we otherwise know, that the Gaidheil were immigrants to the 
country of the Albinians. I'he precise term for the land inhabited 


by themselves is " Gaidhealtachd," the application of which sug- 
gests that it is a part oi' district of Albin. A similar expression 
is " Gaidheil Eirin,'' which shows that Ireland is not more pecu- 
liarly the land of the Gael than Scotland ; indeed like " Scots " it 
is only in the latter that the " Gaels," emphatically ' na Gaidheil," 
can be found. When we first Icnoiv them in north Britain we see 
them in possession of the south-west Highlands and the Strathclyde 
valleys. Their Gaelic tongue prevailed south of Drum-Albin. and 
particularly in the fourth and fifth centuries, in that discrict or 
county to which they have given its name, Argyll. They were 
driven to Ireland in earlier times as well as into the Argyllshire 
Highlands under the pressure of the Brythons on the south-east, 
mixed up with, and supported by, the Romans and Roman rule. 

3. Bi'ehtn/iaich. — At the time of Columba men of this race 
pushed as far west as the Clyde. They have left a memorial of 
their presence in that ancient capital of their rule, Dunbreton, or 
Dumbarton. There were, no doubt, many Gaels still in the 
district, although the Brythons asserted for some time a supre- 
macy ; and the former reasserted their presence before the valleys 
of the Clyde became finally Saxon in language. 

4. Sasunnaich. — In the land of the Gael very little was known 
of the Sasunnaich when Columba landed in Argyllshire. They 
were well known to the Bretunnaic.h on the eastern shores, where 
they had tor some time established themselves. But to the Gaels 
in the west they were as yet a mere shadowy name. 

Columba's missionary enterprises were carried on among the 
Gaels of the southern Highlands and the Albinians of the north- 
west. The two languages in which he could freely and eloquently 
preach were Gaelic and Latin, so among the Gaels he found him- 
self at once at home among a kindred people, many of whom had 
already heard o" Christianity. Among the Albinians of the north- 
west neither his Gaelic nor his Latin could serve him ; and he had 
to engage an interpreter, who must have been familiar with Gaelic 
and Albinic. With the Christianising of the north-west the area 
of Gaelic speech extended, and Albinic gradually became extinct. 

The advent of Columba on the shores of the Highlands consti- 
tutes a new era in the national history. In the centuries which 
elapsed from his time 553-97 to that of Queen Margaret 1C57-93, 
some 500 years, we have the truly Celtic period of Scottish national 
life. In the course of the preceding 500 years the Rom.ans 
occupied large tracts of Scottish territory ; and after the withdrawal 
of their legions the .\ll)inians maintained a powerful rule in the 


north west ; so the Gaels had not as yet played so visible a part 
on the national canvas. Now, however, with the evangelisation of 
the country by Columba the Gaels, whose language became the 
organ of sacred eloquence, appeared as the prevailing people. 

The conclusions established by the following facts deserve dis- 
tinct attention in our conceptions of our national history : — 

1. That the Gaels were the prevailing race in north Britain for 
500 years previous to the reign of Malcolm Canmore. 

2. That during these centuries the Gaelic language was used in 
Court and church, and was the national speech of the people, even 
when an English dialect began to develop on the east coast and 
a Norse one temporarily prevailed in the western islands. 

3. 'J'hat a native GaeUc church flourished during this half 

4. That it was during these centuries that the permanent founda- 
tions of our Scottish independence and nationality were laid, in 
the midst of many fierce struggles and bitter sorrows, and by 
means of many battles anrl much bloodshed. It was the Gaelic 
conquests of this period that paved the way for the national throne 
which Kenneth Mac Alpine ascended, and which exercised sway 
in the north until its power merged in that of the British Empire 
upwards of a thousand years after the gospel was pn^laimed by 
Columba in the Hebrides. 

The missionary advent of Columba, or in his own native langu- 
age, Calimi, on the south western shores of the Highlands consti- 
tutes one of the earliest and chief dates of our national history 
The evangelical succession of his Christianity has been traced in 
two directions. One source has been already touched upon, the 
Church of Ninian from which Patrick went forth to evangelize the 
north of Ireland The mother home of this branch of Celtic 
Christianity was undoubtedly Ninian's celebrated monastery of 
Rosnat, which is mentioned under several designations, of which 
" Candida Casa " is the best known. Other names are the " Mag- 
num Monasteriuni," " Alba " and " Futerna," the latter being the 
Gaelic equivalent for the Anglic " Whithern." Abbots and bis- 
hops trained in this renowned monastery laboured in Ulster ; and 
founded monasteries there. The last of this family of ecclesiastics 
was Finian of the race of Dal Fiatach. This is acknowledged to 
be the first channel through which Monachisin was introduced 
into Ireland, the personallinks in the communication being Martin 
of Tours and Ninian. The second channel, as well shown by Dr 
Skene, was through Bretagne and Wales, the personal links in this 


case being " David, Gillas, and Docus, the Britons," otherwise 
David, the patron saint of the Welsh, Gildas, the historian, and 
Cadoc. the founder of Llancarvan in South Wales. Finian, an 
Irish Pict, repaired to the monastery of Kilmuine, or Manavia, in 
Wales, and became the pupil of these three distinguished men ; 
and on his return to Ireland founded in course of time the well- 
known monastery of Clonard in Meath, the Gaelic Cliiainerard, 
where no less than three thousand monks are supposed to have 
been at one time under training. This l)ecame the source of 
living Christianity in the south-west of Ireland after the time of 
Patrick. Finian had twelve followers of celebrated name, who 
have been designated the twelve Apostles of Ireland. Their 
names run as follow : — 

1. Ciaran, the founder of the Saighir monastery in Munster. 

2. Ciaran, called " Mac-an-t-Saoir." the "Artificer's son," 
founder of Clonmacnois. in King's County, in 548. 

3. Columha, son of Crimthan of Leinster, founder of 1'irrdaglas 
in 548. 

4 Mohhi Clairenach, founder of Glasnevin, in Fingall. 

5. Ninnidh, of Loch Erne. 

6. Brendan, of Birr. 

7. Brendan, of the seven years' voyage, founder of Clonfert. 

8. Laisren or Molaisse, of Devenish. 

9. Ruadhan, of Lothra. 

10. 6'ewe^/, of Cluain-innis. 

11. Camne(f/i, of Achabo. 
\ 2. Columha, of lona. 

With the exception of Brendan of Birr, Cainnecli of Achabo, 
and the great Finian himself, who were of the Erinic race, all these 
were of the Gaelic race. 

Highlanders cannot help feeling much interested in the main 
facts of Columba's life. The exact date of his birth, ascertained 
is fixed on the 7th of December, 521. He was baptised by the 
Presbyter Cruithnechan, and the church of his youth was Tulach- 
dubh-glaise, now Temple Douglas, where his frequent attendance 
procured him the title " Calum-cille " or " Calum of tlie Church." 
In due time he became the pupil of Finnbarr, or Finian of Magh- 
bile, where he was ordained a deacon. He acquired taste for 
general literature under the instruction of the bard Genmian. He 


completed his academic training under Finian of Clonard, when 
he became one of the twelve apostles of Ireland. In his religious 
course of instruction the influences of the two British monasteries 
of Candida Casa and Menavia met in the persons of the two 
Finians, respectfully of Maghbile and Clonard. About the year 
545 he founded the monastery of Derry, or of Daire, and after- 
wards tliat of Raphoe in Donegal. Ten years after the date of the 
foundation of the church of Derry he started the celebrated relig- 
ious centre of Durrow or Daire-May, distinguished by the profusion 
of oaks with which it was surrounded. Cennanus, or Kells, in 
Meath, is also associated with his name, as well as a large number 
of less famous churches scattered over many other counties. 

This is the man who was about to Christianise the north-west 
of Scotland, as well as give a fresh impulse to the great missionary 
enterprises of the Celtic Church. Christianity was not altogether 
unknown in the Western Isles before his arrival. The saintly 
voyager, Brendan, one of his contemporaries, had been heard of 
in these regions upwards of twenty years before the arrival of 
Coluinba ; and left traces of his presence in Bute and the Garvel- 
loch Isles, where his name has come down to us in that designa- 
tion of Rothesay folks, Bramlanes, as well as in YiWbrandan 
Sound. He is also reported to have visited the island of Heth or 

The departure of Columba from Ireland for the Scottish coast 
was probably the result of mixed motives. He appears to have 
been implicated in some sanguinary struggle, particularly the 
battle of Culdremhne ; how far it is impossible now satisfactorily 
to ascertain. We are informed by Adamnan that the excommuni- 
cation pronounced by the Synod of Taillte in Meath was for pardon- 
able and trifling reasons. The silly story about the transcription 
of the Psalter, and the judgment about the cow and its calf are 
unworthy of the persons concerned and of the Christianity of th-e 
period. The so-called sentence of exile does not bear the criticism 
of common sense ; and is the product of very credulous times. 
That the heart of Columba yearned for the conversion of his 
kindred across the sea is highly credible and natural. Pohtical 
motives may have entered into his thought ; but we may generally 
accept the impression of one of his biographers, — " his native 
country was left by the illustrious saint and illustrious sage, and 
son chosen of Gocl for the love and favour of Christ." 

In the year 563 Columba, in the forty-second year of his age, 
left Ireland for Scotland. The island of Colonsay was the first 


soil on which he landefl ; but finding that he was still within eight 
miles of Ireland he sailed further north to la or the louan island, 
where he fixed his abode. He was accompanied by " twelve dis- 
ciples, his fellow soldiers," in the fashion of the missionaries of the 
Celtic Church who went forth in their twelves, sometimes in their 
twenty-fours. At first on arrival at Colonsay these devoted breth- 
ren thought they had sailed far enough from Ireland and raised 
Cam cul ri Kirin ; but a clearer horizon soon revealed to them 
their njistake. On the nearest elevation in lona they raised a 
similar Cam bearing the same title, and they were now satisfied 
that they had sailed tar enough north from their native place, the 
vision of which could not tempt them to return. Had they been 
aLle to anticipate the power of modern glasses they would find 
that Ireland was still within their sight. The date of their arrival 
in lona was Whitsuneve, which that year fell on the i 2th of May. 

The name of lona is a source of everlasting charm all over the 
Christian world. Let us form to ourselves some conception of its 
position, .size, and character. In his voyage to this islet Columba 
sailed by the fertile and lowlying shores of Islay, whence the high 
lands of the north of Ireland can be easily seen in the hazy dis- 
tance. He landed on the lonely Colonsay, but stayed not there. 
Further north he found his future home. This was that isle of 
fame and beauty, situated at the south-west corner of the island of 

lona is separated from the Ross of Mull by a channel about a 
mile wide, in which the heavy swell of the ocean sometimes rolls 
unkindly for tiny barks. This channel is deep enough for the 
passage of the largest ships, but is not free from danger on account 
of sunken rocks. The island itself lies north-east and south-west ; 
and is about three and one-half miles in length, and a mile and a half 
in breadth. Its area is about two thousand acres, of which some 
six hundred are generally under cultivation, the rest being either 
pasture or barren. To see its northern end, as the writer first saw 
it, gleaming under the morning sun. -its brews of sand flashing 
their radiance afar, — produces an impression that does not readily 
vanish. The diapason of the Atlantic and the responsive chorus 
of the seashores help to charm and soothe while they solemnize 
the human spirit. There truly you can find the spint of nature's 
rehgion chanting lightly her morning hymns and rehearsing sweetly 
her evening psalms. A plain extends from side to side, at the 
narrowest part, in the centre of the island, with a small green 
hillock in its centre. In this i)art of it the soil is fairly fertile ; but 


towards the north the ground becomes rougher with grassy hollows 
and rocky rising-knolls which end in the highest point in the island, 
Dun-I, 327 feet in height. From that eminence north a strip of 
low land extends to the shore, terminating in a stretch of white 
sand, which is composed chiefly of broken shells which the sv/ell 
of the ocean has roiled and wasted and worn togetiier until it 
heaped them there. Along the east side of the island the ground 
is lowdying and fertile. South of the central plain the surface of 
the soil is irregular, showing stony heights and grassy dells, which 
afford good pasture. The shore abounds with little bays and 
headlands. The underlying rocks are Laurentian, with an almost 
vertical dip, and a strike from north-east to south-west. There are 
beds of slate, quartz, marble, with serpentine, and a mixture of 
felspar, quartz, and hornblende passing sometimes into a sort of 
granite. This is the island of which the proverbial saying has 
made Columba so tenderly sing : 

" I mo chridhe, I mo ghraidh." 
(Isle of my heart, Isle of my love.) 

The name of lona has appeared under a large variety of forms. 
The single capita! letter I has stood for it, which pronounced like 
double ee as (iaelic requires, represents the universal Gaelic j^ro- 
nunciation for the island Here are some of the other forms : la, 
le, li, leoa ; Hi, Hii ; Y, Hy ; lona, Yona, Hyona, and Yensis ; 
I Chalumchille and Icolmkill. In Adamnan it appears as the 
louan island. This is an adjectival form in which the radix is lou, 
equivalent to the Gaelic I. Adamnan's louan was corrupted by 
the mistake of transcribers into the more euphonious lona, an 
explanation which shows, the untenableness of such fanciful 
etymologies as I thonna, " the island of waves," and I shona, " the 
island of the blest." 

These were some of the peculiar developments of the Brito-Irish 
Church from whose bosom Columba came. The monasteries 
were usually located on grants of land, often very extensively made 
by the provincial kings or other chiefs who had been converted to 
Christianity, and desired to have the worship of God set up among 
their [)eople, and thus became identified with the clan or tribe in 
which they were settled. It is in connection with these temporalities 
that the remarkable functionary called Co-arb comes into view. 
He appears to have been a person of greater consequence than the 
bishop, and to have exercised ecclesiastical as well as temporal 
power. l)r Todd defines his position and functions thus : — "' On 


the whole it appears that the endowment in land, which were 
granted to the ancient church by the chieftains who were first 
converted into Christianity, carried with tliem the temporal rights 
and principalities origmally belonging to the owners of the soil, 
and that these rights and principalities were vested, not in bishops 
as such, but in the co-arbs or ecclesiastical successors of those 
saints to whom the grants of land were originally made. In other 
words, the Co-arbs became the trustees of the temporalities of the 
monasteries and of the missionary enterprises of the church. They 
were the predecessors of those who in our own times hold property 
in trust for our training schools, colleges, churches, and missionary 
societies. There were no mines, docks, or railways in which shares 
could be held ; but the chieftain and his clan had real property at 
their disposal which in their piety and generosity they set apart, 
as occasion required, for the support of the gospel. The property 
the earnest-souled monks soon transformed into a centre of holy 
activity and Christian civilization." 

Columba with his family of Christian brethren in lona, labouring 
with hand and head ; studying, writing, and praying ; and sending 
forth to neighbouring lands and islands Christian workers whose 
hearts God had touched, formed a beautiful picture of pious effort 
which deeply impressetl the imagination of succeeding ages. This 
band of ancient Gaelic Christians became known in course of tune 
under the endearing designation of " The Family of Jona." The 
goodly number of twelve disciples accompanied Columba to lona, 
the number being that usually sent forth together to labour in a 
district in imitation of the accidental features of the apostolic 
system. The names of the twelve brethren were Baithen, and 
Cobthach, brothers ; Ernaan, the uncle, and Diarmit the attendant 
of Columba; Rus and Fechno, brothers; Scandal, Luguid, Eachaid, 
Tochann, Cairnaan, and Grillaan. 

lona as a religious centre for the evangelising efforts of these 
brethren was admirably situated. It was on the confines of the 
Albinic and Gaelic jurisdiction. It was granted to Columba first 
by Conall, King of the Gaels, who were largely Christians. The 
great missionary also secured the grant by getting the approval of 
King Brude of the Albinians, whom he visited soon after his 
settlement at lona. This visit to the king was paid at his fortress 
at the mouth of the Ness, and was afterwards repeated several 
times, which evinces the unchanging character of the friendship 
which existed between the king and the saint. 

The interesting story of Columba's missionary labours in con- 


verting the Alliinians and in .reviving tlTe drooping Christianity of 
tile Gaels belongs to the province of Church history and can only 
be glanced at here as a fresh transforming factor which entered 
deeply into the civil life of the people. It was no doubt the de- 
termining influence in the historic process which ended in Kenneth's 
accession to the united throne in S43. Combined with the super- 
ior knowledge of letters, this factor of Christianity facilitated the 
Gaelic conquest of Albin. The struggle described in the popular 
ballads of the Finians was a real one — in which the heathen and 
decadent Feinne, the brave and chivalrous people of Ossian went 
forth against the psalm-singing forces of Christian clerics, but they 
always went forth to fall and die. The Gaelic and Christian 
conquest of the Albinians or Feinne was complete with the union 
of the two races in the ninth century. All through the struggle 
the members of " The Family of lona " played a prominent 

They had travelled north and east, earnestly labouring among 
the various clans and tribes, and founding churches and colleges 
which became not only Christianising but nationalising centres, and 
so preparing the way for the extension of Gaelic rule. When the 
proper opportunity came the nations were evidently well prepared 
for a fusion which appears to have been very thorough. 

judging by the number of churches which they founded, and the 
wide tracts of country over which their labours extended, the 
Family of lona must have had a very earnest and successful 
brotherhood. The northern half of England was Christianised by 
men who went forth from lona, a fact which, it is pleasant to 
notice, is specially acknowledged in the Dictionary of English 
History recently published. 

It is to the Family of lona we are also indebted for the first 
literary products to which we can refer. They were the first to 
love and cultivate the literature which we now so highly prize. If 
there were any such pre-Christian bards as Ossian, it is to the 
ancient clerics that we are indebted for the preservation of their 
compositions. Indeed it is a question whether the knowledge of 
the forms of poetry existed at all in pre-Christian rimes. There 
is no evidence that we posess a scrap of ancient poetry which 
belongs to ages before Christian pens began to cultivate letters. 
The brethren in lona were much engaged in writing, which as an 
accomplishment was considered as an adornment even for the 
highest Church dignitaries. And great value was attached evi- 
dently to the products of their pens. The transcription of sacred 


literature, pr.rliciilarl)- of ihe Ps.-.lter, occupied mucii of tiieir time. 
Columba himself was engaged in this work when death took him. 
To be a ready scribhnidh, or scribe, was an object of worthy am- 
bition. The position of fcrh'i.jliin, or praelector, was one of 
honour in tlie sacred brotherliood. Many of the terms used by 
them in connection with letters have come down to us ; others 
have been lost, or have since their time received different meanings 
and applications. Columba's Stylus, or pen, was called in Gaelic 
(jra'ib, from the Greek graphhrin ; but the graih of modern times 
is an agricultural implement. A very poetic legend tells how this 
stylus of Columba became the property of Gregory of Rome. 
The leather cases in which tlie service books were kept for travell- 
ing were called polire and tiaghn. The alphabet they styled 
<ib(jiter a form which has considerable philologic value ; according 
to one authority Columba's ahylter was written on a cake. These 
waxed tablets for writing introduced cdr from the Latin cera. The 
library was tec^h screuptra ; and its keeper leahhor coimhedacJi. 
These and many other terms once current in (iaelic literature, in- 
troduced by the Gaelic clerics in the British Isles and on the 
Continent, ceased to be used in the centuries of greater ignorance 
which succeeded their times. 

In their ancient writings and lives occur many other terms 
which have their value in shedding light on the social habits and 
condition of the people. The family of lona had their kitchen, 
cvicin, or coitc.henn ; in which the coquina. c.oic, or cook prepared 
the meals of the brethren. Their chief season in the day time was 
nona, or noin, still occasionally heard in tra-noin. Their cows 
were sheltered in an outhouse, the Bocetum, or hathaich ; and in 
the neighbourhood was the pasture-ground, or huaUe. The grain 
was stored in the barn, or, sabhalCthe Gaelic term still in use. 
They had also their Molendinum or Muileann, in which the grain 
was ground by the bra, or quern. A caballus, a capvU, or gerran, 
was kept OB ihe/aifhche, or green enclosure near at hand to be in 
readiness for general purposes. When they wanted to move 
along the shores they had their curucae, or curraich, whose light 
frames covered with skins could so easily glide through the water. 
For distant voyages and other purposes they had the scaphae, or 
scculhan, still applied to a certain class of boats. Visitors and 
guests from far-off lands arrived in their barcae, or, barcna, a term 
still current in Gaelic. The Scologs, or lower order of the clergy 
did not refuse to help the Economus, or fertighis^ the butler, or 
pmcenw, or the baker, or pi star. Tt is curious to find that on one 



occasion the baker was a stray Saxon. Tlierc were also among 
the brethren in lona a smith, or gobha, and a brazier, or cerd, 
which in recent Gaelic has become a term of reproach. The term 
for one article of their dress at least, cuchall, the Latin cucuUa, had 
survived in familiar Gaelic. It is represented that the hardy 
brethren slept on the bare stones, and in their ordinary day clothes. 
They were truly a Milesian or soldier race, who by their persistent 
labours and self-sacrifices thoroughly deserved the name and fame 
which after ages accorded them. 

While the name of Columba is that which shines above all the 
rest there were other labourers in the Hi;^hlands before, and con- 
temporaneously with him who have left behind them illustrious 
memories, fragrant names which have entered very largely into the 
nomenclature of the soil. Brendan has been ah-eady referred to. 
Others like him made missionary journeys through the country, 
such as the two Fillans, Flannan and Ronan, whose names are 
comuiemorated in the Highlands and Isles. Moluoc became the 
founder and celebrated patron of Lismore ; and Kilmaluac in 
Tiree has preserved his memory. His death took place in 592. 
Maelrubha's labours are chielly associated with Wester Ross, but 
he was honoured all over the Highlands. In 673 he founded a 
church and college at Applecross where he laboured zealously till 
he -'rested," as the chronicles say, in 722 in the eightieth year of 
his age. He and Columba were the chief patron saints of Skye. 
The north-eastern part of the island was peculiar to Columba, the 
south-eastern to Maelrubha whose name survives in Kilmaree in 
Strath, and in Kilmolruy in Bracadale. As far south as Islay we 
find him venerated in the central parish of that Island, in Killarrow, 
where he may have laboured on his way from Ireland before he 
settled at Applecross Another heroic character in the same age 
was Donnan whose brave spirit and individuality have evoked 
admiration throughout the whole of Scotland. He was younger. 
than Columba whom he regarded with ardent feelings of friend- 
ship, and among whose Christian family at lona he desired to be 
enrolled. " This Donnan went to Columcille to make him his 
soul's friend ; upon which Columcille said to him, I shall not be 
soul's-friend to a company (heirs) of red martyrdom, and thy 
people with thee. And it was so fulfilled." In the far north his 
figure emerges in eric Chat, or " regions of Catt,'' which included 
Sutherland and Caithness. The parish bearing his name, Kildonan, 
was the chief scene of his enter])rise in the north. He closed his 
life truly in " red martyrdom " in die island of Eigg, 


" To glorious martyrdom ascended, 
With his clerics of pure lives, 
Donnan of cold lug." 

An account already quoted says — " Donnan then went with his 
people to the Hebrides ; and they took up their abode there, in a 
place where the sheep of the queen of the country were kept. 
This was told to the (|ueen. Let them all be killed said she. 
That would not be a religious act, said her people. But they were 
murderously assailed. At this time the cleric was at mass. Let 
us h.ave respite till mass is ended, said Donnan. Thou shalt have 
it, said they. And when it was over, they were slain every one of 
them." Another version runs thus : " Donnan the great with his 
monks. Fifty-two were his congregation. There came pirates of 
the sea to the island in which they were, and slew them all. Eig 
IS the name of that island." In these west Highlands his memory 
was i^reserved in Little Bernera, off Lewis, in South Uist, Loch 
Brooni, and Snizort, Skye, hi each of which Kildonnans are found. 
In the southern Highlands in Arran and Kintyre as well as in 
Wigtonshire and Ayrshire we come across Kildonnans, or churches 
dedicated to his memory. At Auchterloss in Aberdeenshire his 
pastoral staff was preserved until it was broken by the Reformers. 
His martyrdom took place on Sunday the 17th of April, 617 ; and 
must have, along with that of the fifty-two brethren who were with 
him, cast deep gloom on the prospects of Christian enterprise in 
the West Highlands. 

The journeys, the holy labours with their great results, of 
Columba himself, and of his brethren from lona, have been min- 
utely and eloquently described by various writers. The name of 
the founder of lona is associated with upwards of 60 religious estab- 
lishments or places in Scotland, and with as many in Ireland. 
He died on the 9th of June, 597. seventy-six years of age. And 
as we think of the memory whicli he left l)ehind him for the ven- 
eration of his countrymen we are reminded of the bright pillar that 
was seen to glow upon his head on one occasion after reading the 
Gospel in common with brethren from a distance, who visited him 
in Eilein-na-Naoimh : " Brenden Mocu Alti saw, as he toUl 
Cougell and Cainnech afterwards, a ball of fire like a comet burn- 
ing very brightly on the head of Columba, while he was standing 
before the altar, and consecrating the holy oblation, and thus it 
continued burning and rising upwards hke a column, so long as he 
continued to be engaged in the same most sacred mysteries." So 
has the name of the saint burned and risen upwards like a monu- 


mental column upon the brow of Scotland. He has had a de- 
voted, if an increduluos biographer in Adamnan, his eighth 
successor in the abbacy of lona. To tliis writer we are indebted 
lor the most ancient piece of writing produced in the Highlands 
that has been preserved. His name, which has undergone several 
curious transformations, has been embalmed in the designations 
of eight cr ten places under the modifications of Teunan, Eunan, 
Arnold, Avonia, and many. It has passed into personal names 
of modern times in Gill-Adhamnain, or Gilleonan, borne by a 
MacNeill of Barra in 1495. Adamnan was born in 624 ; suc- 
ceeded Columba in lona in 679 ; and died on the 23d of Sept., 
704. His veneration and estimate of his great predecessor may 
be gathered from the following eloquent sentences taken from the 
preface of his interesting work : " From his boyhood he (Columba) 
had been brought up in Christian training in the study of wisdom, 
and by the grace of God had so preserved the integrity of his body, 
and the purity of his soul, that though dwelling on earth he 
appeared to live like the saints in heaven. For he was angelic in 
appearance, graceful in speech, holy in work, with talents of the 
highest order, and consummate prudence ; he lived a soldier of 
Christ during thirty-four years in an island. He never could spend 
the space of even one hour without study, or prayer, or writing. 
or some other holy occupation. So incessantly was he engaged 
night and day in the unwearied exercise of fasting and watching, 
that the burden of each of these austerities would seem beyond 
the power of human endurance. And still in all these he was 
beloved by all, for a holy joy ever beaming on his face revealed 
the joy and gladness with which the Holy Spirit filled his inmost 
soul." Columba, notwithstanding the strong martial element of 
his nature, was evidently capable of attaching disciples very 
powerfully to his person. We find this illustrated also in the 
legend preserved in the Book of Deer about his founding the 
mission-station of Aberdour in Aberdeenshire : " Drostan's tears 
came on parting from ColumciUe. Said Columcille ' Let Deur 
(Deer) be its name henceforward.' " 

Among the relics associated with the person of Columba is the 
Cath-bhuaidh, or Jiattle-Vktory, a celebrated crosier. The follow- 
ing passage from a legend of the nnith century reminds us of the 
great veneration with which the relic was regarded, as well as of 
the spirit in which his followers, three or four centuries after his 
death, went forth to meet the enemies ot their country. " About 
the same time the Fortrecns and Locl.lanns fought a battle. 


Bravely indeed the men of Alba fought this battle, for Columkille 
was aiding them : for they had prayed to him most fervently, be- 
cause he was their apostle, and it was through him that they 
received the faith. One time when Imhar Conung was a young 
man, he came to Alba, with three great battalions to plunder it. 
The men of Alba, both lay and clerics, fasted and prayed to morn- 
ing to God and Columkille ; they mafle earnest entreaty to the 
Lord ; they gave great alms of food and raiment to the churches 
and the poor, received the body of the Lord at the hands of the 
priests^ and promised to do all kinds of good works, as their 
clergy would order them, and that their standard in going forth 
to any battle should be the crosier of Columkille. Wherefore it 
is called the Cath hhnaidh from that day to this. And this is a 
befitting name for it : for they have often gained victory in battle 
by it, as they d.d at that time, when they placed their hope in 
Columkille. They did the same on this occasion. The battle 
was bravely fought at once. The Albinians gained victory and 
triumph, killed many of the Lochlanns after their defeat ; and their 
king was slain on the occasion, namely, Ottir, son of largna. It 
was long after until either the Danes or Lochlanns attacked them ; 
but they were at peace and harmony with them." 

Writers in after ages have attributed poems and prophecies to 
Columba whicli such a good authority as O'Curry declares not to 
be the productions of the Saint, whose chief literary functions are 
associated with the transcription of the sacred writings. 

Li his Life of the Apostle of the Highlands, Dr John Smith of 
Campbeltown, has given translations of some of the Latin poems 
attributed to Columba : the following abstract exhibits their 
manner : — 

" The (4ocl omnipotent, who made tiie world, 

Is subject to no change. He was. He is, 

And He shall be : th' Kternal is his name. 

Equal in Godhead and eternal power, 

Is Christ the Son ; so is the Holy Ghost. 

These sacred glories three are but the same. 

In persons different, but one God and Lord. 

This God created all the heavenly hosts : 

Archangels, angels, potentates, and powers ; 

That so the emanations of His love 

Might flow to myriads diffusing good. 

But from this eminence of glory fell 

Til' apostate Lucifer, elate with pride, 

Of his high station and liis glorious form. 

Fill'd with like pride, and envying God himself, 

His glory, other angels shared his fate, 


While the remainder kept tlieir happy state. 
Thus fell a third of the bright heavenly stars, 
Involv'd in tlie old serpent's guilt and fate ; 
And with him suffer, in th' infernal gulf, 
The loss of heaven, in chains of darkness bound." 

Further lemarks on the poetry attributed to Columba will be 
t'ouinl in tlie next chapter. 



The following entry among the Irish Charters in the famous 
Book of Kells illustrates the fate of much of our ancient Celtic 
literature, especially in Scotland ; '• Anno Domini nio uio (aHas 
IC07). Soiscela mor coluim cille do dubguit is ind aidci as ind 
iardom iartarach in daimliacc moir cenannsa," tkc. a.d. 1006 
(alias 1007) — The great Gospel of Calum-cille was sacrilegiously 
stolen at night out of the western portions of the great church of 
Kells. This was the chief relic of the west of the world on account 
of the singular cover. This Gospel was found in twenty nij;hts 
and two months, with its gold stolen off, and a sod over it." Thus 
the " great gospel " of Columba was preserved from destruction 
by the merest accident. Rut cujiidity has not been the only foe 
that the Celt's ancient manuscript literature has had to contend 
with. The ignorance and indifference of many into whose hands 
it fell have also played their part ; — a tailor was seen last century 
in the Hebrides cutting down Gaelic manuscripts for patterns. 
More fatal than ignorance has been the active depreciation of a 
hostile church operating on the animosity of a rival race. It is 
only now — a thousand years aftei the era of the ancient Celtic 
Church— that scholars and unprejudiced historians have succeeded 
in showing us a little of it. The " sod over it " has been partly 
removed ; and the '• find " has not been altogether uninteresting, 
although the '"gold '' has l)een •' stolen oft"." Zeuss has furnished 
us with materials for the reconstruction of the ancient Celtic langu- 
age ; Skene and others have given us some account of the early 
Iro-British Church ; but Church history has not fully examined the 
available existing material that would show us the character of the 
Christian life and devotion of our early Christian ancestors iii these 
islands. It is proposed in the following chapter to glance at the 
Latin Hymns of the ancient Celtic Church in order to realise to 
ourselves a little of the inner life of those early evangelists to 
whose extraordinary labours and unwearied zeal we are indebtetl 
for the conversion of our forefathers from heathenism. In these 


hymns we have relics of that early religious literature which helped 
to give Christian comfort to generations of lonely labourers on isle 
and mainland. Here we have transmitted to us something of the 
loving heavenly motives, the Gospel inspiration, by whose persua- 
sive force the strongholds of pagan darkness were pulled down 
throughout the British islands, as well as in many districts on the 

These devotional compositions were the common property of 
the wliole Celtic Church at home and abroad It is intended to 
look at them here as remains of the use and wont which prevailed 
during the "golden age " of this early Free Church, as it existed 
in Scotland. In doing so, it may deepen our interest in them if 
we brielly recall the historical setting and political surroundings in 
which the great work of this Church was accomplished. 

In order to reach the heart of this Church, we must jnerce 
through that b^'lt of ecclesiastical and religious darkness which 
Papal Rome wove round the body of our national life during the 
four centuries which preceeded the Reformation. Beyond these 
centuries we are enabled at once to grasp that one outstanding 
fact in our early annals, that from the days of Ninyas, in the be- 
ginning of the fifth century, to the accession of the " Sair Saint," 
King David, in 1124a Free Church, comparatively evangelical 
and aggressive, existed in Scotland for a period of 700 years. No 
definite attempt has been made to show the full national signifi- 
cance of this fact. If we contrast that period of 700 years with 
the following period pf similar length, we find that during the first 
half of the latter, decay and death prevailed ; and that even during 
the second half, with all the advantages attendant on post-Refor- 
mation times, large tracts of our country, once aglow with gospel 
life, remained practically heathen until the lost ground began to 
be reconquered and reclaimed by the modern Free Church of 
Scotland. In all -this there is much to humble, instruct and 
encourage us. We learn that the essentia! power of the gospel is 
the same in all ages, and that similar results follow the earnest 
proclamation of truth in ancient and modern times. I'he Christian 
men that in early days made the gospel a living converting power 
throughout our whole land, even in every village of the Highlands, 
and every islet of the Hebrides, could not have been very unlike 
their countrymen of the present day, among whom evangelical 
truth is preserved and preached. 

A L'laiice at the early history of Ireland reveals the fact that a 
similar course of things took place there. Pope Adrian IV., 


known to England as Nicolas Breakspere, the only Englishman 
who ever sat in the chair of St. Peter, issued a bill in 1 155, giving 
the kingdom of Ireland to Henry TI. of England. This is a re- 
markable fact, and deeply suggestive in connection with the 
reasons assigned for its accomplishment. The Irish had all along 
been Protestants against Rome and her rule. The Pope, who 
like all the bishops of that holy ilk, claimed the right to dispose 
of all Christian lands, finding that the Irish, according to Roman 
estimate, were "Schismatics" and "bad Christians," like their 
brethren of the same period in Scotland, made a present of the 
island to Henry, in order to make good Catholics of the inhabi- 
tants. Here were two Englishmen engaged in perverting, or rather 
completing the perversion of the Free Independent Church of 
Ireland to Rome. Hence all the tears of Ireland, England's great 
responsibility, much bloodguiltines? on all sides, the almost utter 
futility of all attempts to restore to that much-enduring isle, the 
comparatively pure faith of its ancient days. O'Driscol, an honest 
Roman Catholic writer, describes the change as follows : — "There 
is something very singular in the ecclesiastical history of Ireland. 
The Christian Church of that country, as founded by St. Patrick 
and his predecessors, existed for many ages free and unshackled. 
' For above 700 years this Church maintained its independence.' 
It had no connection with England, and differed upon points of 
importance with Rome. The work of Henry II. was to reduce 
the Church of Ireland into obedience to the Roman Pontiff. 
Accordingly, he procured a Council of the Irish clergy, to be held 
at Casliel in 1 172, and the combined influence and intrigues of 
Henry and the Pope prevailed. This Council put an end to the 
ancient Church of Ireland, and submitted it to the yoke of Rome. 
' That apostacy has been followed by a series of calamities, hardly 
to be equalled in the world.' From the days of St. Patrick to the 
Council of Cashel was a bright and glorious era for Ireland. From 
the sitting of this Council to our time, the lot of Ireland has been 
unmixed evil, and all her history a tale of woe." 

The influence of Rome on the heart of the Scottish nation, began 
with the marriage of Malcolm with the English Roman Catholic 
Princess Margaret. This Saxon queen completed the outward 
perversion of Scotland to Rome. She pretended to reform, but 
only managed to enthral the native Church, whose clergy she 
summoned to a Coimcil in 1074. The Gaelic language was the 
only language the clergy could speak- -they had a professional 
knov.ledge of Latin — so King Malcolm, her husband, acted as her 


interpreter. They refused to recognise the absolute supremacy of 
the great Roman father ; they were unable to speak EngUsh ; and 
the queen set herself piously to rectify these abuses and shortcom- 
ings. The Roman Catholic influence of the Norman went on 
increasing until the Court, as the Celtic Professor at Oxford says, 
"in the time of David, who began to reign in 1124, after being 
educated in England in all the ways of the Normans, was filled 
with his Anglican and Norman vassals. He is accordingly, re- 
garded as the first wholly feudal King of .Scotland, and the growth 
of feudalism went on at the expense of the power and influence of 
the Celtic princes, who saw themselves snubbed and crowded out 
to make room tor the king's barons, who had grants made to them 
of land here and there, wherever it was worth having. Tlie out- 
come was a deep seated discontent, which every now and then 
burst into a flame of open revolt on the part of the rightful owners 
of the soil." The Celtic Church died away with the decay of the 
power of the Celtic princes. At the same time the Roman religion 
was warmly supported in the persons of Englishmen, Flemings 
and Normans, who received every encouragement to settle in 
Scotland. The predominance of the Celtic element seems to have 
passed away in the eleventh century. " .\t the time, however, of 
the War of Independence, Gaelic appears to have still reached 
down to Stirling and Perth, to the Ochil and Sidlaw Hill, while 
north of the Tay it had as yet yielded to English or Broad Scotch, 
only a very narrow strip along the coast." The bulk of Bruce's 
army at Bannockburn was composed of the Ivernian and Celtic 
descendants of the ancient Free Church of Scotland. The true 
Christian (ievotion of the Fathers had not altogether disappeared : 
like the Puritan soldiers of Cromwell these grand old Scots began 
the grim work of battle for national freedom, with a fervent prayer 
to the God of battles,-- -a species of homage which surprised the 
more Catholic English. 

The Latin hymns of this ancient Chureh will be found in the 
" Leabhar imuin " (Book of Hymns) and the Bangor Antiphonary, 
both miscellanies of odes, canticles, blessings, prayers, &c. 
Altogether the number is upwards ot thirty. The " Leabhar 
imuin " is a MS. of the ninth or tenth century in Trinity College 
Library, Dublin, of which two thirds have been printed. The 
first part, edited by the late Dr Todd, appeared in 1855, and con- 
tained the following four hymns, with extensive annotations from 
the "Leabhar Breac," &c. : — t. The H3 mn of St. Sechnall in 
praise of St. Patrick ; 2, The Hymn of St. Ultan in praise of St. 


Brigit ; 3. The Hymn of Cummain Fota in praise of the Apostles ; 
4, The Hymn of St. Miigint. These are specimens of the termin- 
ology of the hymn titles. 

The Bangor Antiphonary is a MS. in the Ambrosian Library, 
Milan. It was written between 6S0 and 691 ; and was printed by 
Muratori in 1713. Some of the pieces in this MS. have a histori- 
cal, as well as a devotional value, such as " The Versicles of the 
Family of Benchor," and "The Commemoration of our Abbots," 
in which the names of fifteen abbots of the Bangor (County Down) 
monastery are given in the same order in which their obits occur 
ill the annals. Dr Reeves speaks well of its accuracy, considering 
that the MS. has been some 1200 }ears absent from Ireland. 
These are the sources in which this Latin hymnology of the ancient 
Gaels will be found. They are not very accessible. As already 
remarked, versions of them will be also found in the '* Leabhar 
Breac;"" some of them were printed by Sir James Ware, in the 
appendix to his " Opuscula S. Patricii ;" while the Isidore Codex 
of the " Leabhar imuin " recently brought from Rome to Dublin, 
has never yet been printed. These MSS., written in a peculiar 
ornate style, have become known to arcliaeologists under the de- 
scription " libri Scottice Scripti," 1 books written in Scotch). 

Some of these devotional compositions are as old as the fourth 
century, such as the '• Hymnum dicat " ascribed to Hilary, and 
the " Aledias noctis," ascribed to the famous Ambrose of Alilan. 
The " Audite Onmes"" was composed by Sechnall. the nephew of 
Patrick, towards the close of the filth century, in praise of the Iri^h 
apostle. This piece, rather a poem than a hymn, bears to have 
been written " in Domhnach Sechnaill," (now Dunshaughlin in 
Meath^, by the St. Sechnall, or Secundinus, who was a son of 
Patrick's sister, "by her husband Restitutus" of the " Longobards 
of Leatha." The superscription reminds us of the fact that the 
Scots and the Gaidels were the same people, whether found in 
Ireland or parts o^ Britain. It runs thus : " Incipit Ymnus sancti 
Patricii episcopi Scotorum." (" The hymn beginning, St. Patrick, 
Bishop of the Scots ") The following note on it occurs in the 
"Leabhar Breac"': "Tempus autera." ^" But the time ") j — 
viz ; " when Leogaire, son of Niall, was King of Eirinn came 
to praise Patrick. Sechnall said to Patrick, ' When shall I make 
a hymn of praise for thee ?' Patrick said, ' I desire not to be so 
praised during my life.' Sechnall answ^ered, ' Non interr igavi 
utrum faciam, sed quando faciam,' (• I did not ask whether I 
shoulil do it. but when"). Patrick said, 'Si facias \'enit tempus.' 


('If you do it, the time lias come') — i.e. because Patrick knew 
that the time of his (Sechnall's) death was at hand.'' In the third 
verse we have the old Scottic interpretation of the famous passage 
in Matthew on which St. Peter's chair is founded : — 

" Constans in Dei timore 
Et fide immobilis 
Super quern aedificatur 
L't Petruni Ecclesia." 

" Constant in the fear of (lod, and inmovable in faith, upon him 
as upon a Peter is built a Church." 

The student of these ancient writings is surprised to find the 
modern Irish persist in making Patrick a Frenchman. In the 
" Leabhar Breac " the following note, as decisive of his nationality, 
occurs in connection with this hymn. •' Patraic umorro do 
bretnaibh h ercluaide h bunadus." " Now Patrick in his origin 
was of the Britons of Er-Chuiide " — i.e. of the Strathclyde Britons, 
among whom his name has found its topographical monument in 
Kilpatrick, as already pointed out. 

The ancient Christian Scots had their own saints, to whom they 
were naturally attached as the fathers of their Church. The names 
of Patrick, Columba, and others, as well as of Brigit constantly 
occur in these Latin Hymns. Brigit comes next in im- 
portance to Patrick in Hibernian hagiology. Ultan's hymn 
in praise of her begins with these words. ■• Christus in nostra insola 
que uscatur hibernia ;'' and towards the end, the ^' angelic and 
most holy Brigit " in all her wondrous works of power, is spoken 
of as " like unto the holy Mary." We have only fragments of this 
poem. It appears to have been originally composed, like Sech- 
nall's and several others in these MSS., in the ABC style, with 
3 stanza for each letter of the alphabet. There is another found 
in the beginning of an old Celtic copy of the Greek Psalter, in 
praise of Brigit, whose feast day is also celebrated in another, 
" Phcebi diem." The feast day of Patrick has also its celebration 
hymn, beginning thus : " Lo, the solemn feast day of Patrick is 
shining most brightly." 

The hymn " In Te Christe " is one of the three attributed to 
Columba, and bears in some places the stamp of his majestic spirit. 
The " Ignis Creator igneus " starts with the conception of the 
Paschal candle, and proceeds to describe the columns of smoke 
and flame which guided Israel out of Egypt. A few of the metri- 
cal compositions in the Bangor Antiphonary have a more local 
and historical than a devotional interest, such as the "Good Rule 


of Bangor," and the commemoration of the abbots of that place, 
already referred to. The name of Comgall, the head of the mon- 
astery, who died in 602, occurs, as also, or Molio of the 
Holy Isle, Arran, who died in 639. There is an evening hymn 
beginning with '' Christe c[ui Lux es " and a Pentecostal one about 
the Apostles, with the initial words '' Christi, Patris in dextera." 
There is one hymn, and only one, in the group in praise of the 
Blessed Virgin Mary, ' C'antemus in omni die." 

Metrical translations of seven, in whole or in part, of these 
hymns are given here, to indicate the general character of the de- 
votional portions of the group. The one beginning with the words : 
" Precamur Patrem " has not had any date assigned it, but judg- 
ing by internal evidence, it appeals to belong to the era of Patrick. 
It contains one hundred and sixty-eight lines; starting with an 
address to the Lord's Day, it proceeds to give an abstract of the 
life of Christ. A comparison made between the beginning of the 
physical and that of the spiritual creation, is worked out in some- 
what original fashion. In the following verses the Lord and His 
Own Day are contrasted as the first-born children of light : 

Precamur Patrem. 

We worship Tliee, Almighty King : 
To God the Father praise we briiig ; 
To Jesus, Saviour of the lost ; 
And to the Blessed Holy Ghost. 

Thou art, God, our life and might ; 
The source of all the worlds of light, 
Whicli on the brows of heaven lie, 
And make resplendent earth and sky. 

Of old this day was earth's first-born ; 
It shone from heaven a holy morn : 
Even so the Word, Eternal Light, 
The Father gave this world of night. 

That day the chaos dark destroyed ; 

Dispelling night into the void : 

So Victor o'ei- the foe did He 

This world frem death's fierce fetters free. 

Upon the deep thick darkness lay 
Before the dawning of that day ; 
So ignorance the heart enwound 
Till Jesus shed His light around. 


A remarkable coir^posiiion, ijrolial)ly tn the same 
period, and intended to be used on tlie birthdays ol the martyrs 
has, like a few others, the refrain ''Alleluia" introduced after every 
verse. The term "birthday" does not bear here its ordinary 
meaning, but birth by l:emporal death into a higher life. This 
hymn is regarded as one of the best production of the Latino- 
Celtic muse : 

Sacratissimi Martvres. 

Martyrs of the Cod Most High, 
Who for Christ did bravely die ; 
Leaders on the heavenly road ; 
Viotors, sing with saints to God, — 

Alleluia ! 

Christ exalted ! Cherulnni 
Render homage unto Him, 
On the Father's tiirone on high, 
While the saints with martyrs cry, — 
Alleluia ! 

. Glorious One ! The first to bear 
Shame upon the Cross, our share ; 
In thy triumph blessings came ; 
Now the martyr saints proclaim, — 

Alleluia ! 

The Apostles, strong in faith, 
Sufiered on the Cross to death ; 
Shielded now, and saved by grace, 
Chant within Thy holy place, — 

Alleluia ! 

Christ ! the Helper of the saints. 
Heard their weary hearts' complaints ; 
Now tliese martyrs praises bring 
And rehearse before their King, — 

Alleluia ! 

Praised, Lord, Thy power be, 
Wiiich obtains the victory ; 
Crushes Satan by the way 
While the saints with martyrs say,— 
Alleluia ! 

God's strong hand will be their shield ; 
With His grace their hearts are steeled 
To re.sist the enemy's ways, 
\Vliile with saints they ever, — 
Alleluia 1 


Heirs with Clirist I Their crowns Ijeliohl ! 
Filled with fruit a hundred-fold ; 
Pains are past ; they now rejoice, 
Uttering in thankful voice, — 

Alleluia ! 

Let us iiunibly pray for grace, 
Till we see the Father's face 
In Jerusalem on high 
Where we raise with saints the cry, — 
Alleluia ! 

Another very ancient hymn is the " Spiritus Divinae," which is 
one of the matins used for the Lord's Day : 

Spiiutus Divinae. 

glorious Spirit of the Lisrht Divine ; 

Come, favour me ; 
Thou, God of Truth, in Israel once didst shine ; 

Lord, look ou me ; 
Thou. Saviour, Son, and Light of Light, I know : 
Shed forth Thy living lustre on my woe. 

Thy Spirit is one substance with the Son, 

Lord, look ou me ; 
Thou, Christ, the only first- begotten One, 

Wilt look ou me ; 

1 have redemption from my sin in Thee : 

I seek Thy pardoning aid — Lord, look on me. 

Born of the Virgin that poor men might live ; 

Lord, look on me ; 
The rights of sonship, Thou alone canst give ; 

Lord, look on me ; 
Joint-heir with Thee^ Creator of all things : 
God- Jesus, everlasting King of Kings. 

King of the everlasting ages, Liglit of God, 

Illumine me ; 
Out of thy boundless fitness shed abroad 

Thy love in me ; 
Father, and Son, and Spirit, One in Three, 
In power and substance One, Lord look on me. 

The hymn " Sancti Venite " was intendeci for communion 
service. Dr Neale has rendered it into English. A legend re- 
lates how Patrick and his nephew Sechnall heard a company of 
angels once rehearsing it ; and declares. "So that from that time 

80 literaturp: of the Highlanders. 

to the present, that hymn is chanted in Kninn wlien the hodv of 
Christ is received ' : — 

Sancti Vemte. 

Take the blessed Bread and Wine, 
pjniblems of that Life Divine. 
That for sin has been out-poured, 
By our sacrificing Lord : 
Blessed Jesus crucified. 
Life flows from Thy bleeding side. 

He renews ns by his grace : 
Lee us give to '^iod the praise : 
He has died the lost to save. 
Risen Victor o'er the grave : 
(liver of salvation He ; 
Let His Cross our burden be. 

He, the Fathers suffering Son, 
Priest and Victim all in one, 
Has become the Lamb of God 
To remove our guilty load : 
Saviour, Giver of all light ; 
He will lead by day and night. 

With pure minds let us draw near, 
And discei-n the Shepherd hore ; 
For the liungry, bread He brings, 
Water from the living springs ; 
In our hearts He lives enshi'ined 
Lord and Judge of all mankinfl. 

The Spirit of Giidas, the Welsh monk, who was born in 520, and 
who pronounced bitter jeremiads on the princes of his own race 
and time, is clearly traceable in the next hymn, of whose prologue 
a translation is given. He is one of the Romish corrupters of the 
native Church. His " Suffragare '' is one of the " Loricae " 
breast-plates, used to protect those who rehearsed them against 
evil : — 


Unity in Trinity ! 

Help, for in Thee I live. 
Trinity in Unity ! 
My sins forgive : 
Exposed, I need Thj' help and sympatliy. 
Like one in peril of the mighty sea I 


Thoii wilt preserve me by Thy power 

From all my raging foes ; 
Thy heavenly host in danger's hour, 
Before me goes ; 
Cherubic and seraphic ranks in might, 
Far scattering the forces of my night. 

I see the Patriarchs of eld, 

The Prophets bold and strong ; 
Apostles who the Lord beheld. 
The ^lartyrs' throng ; 
All faithful \vitnesses, who hence have gone ; 
I gaze, and pause afresh to reach the throne. 

Unity in Trinity ! 

In mercy grant Thine aid ; 
Trinity m f nity I 
I seek thy shade, 
Where Christ has made a covenant sure with me ; 
Oh, fearless, there let me abide with Thee I" 

There is a hymn by another author of Welsh extraction, St. 
jNIugint, in the '' Leabhar imuin," beginning with the words " Parce 
dne." The "Altus" of Cohimba, who arrived in Scotland from 
Ireland in 563, is a production of considerable length and much 
merit, in the ABC Darian style. It takes cognisance of the 
whole sphere of sacred and Scriptural truths, somewhat in the 
fashion of the compositions of the Brytho-Saxon Caedmon, and has 
been regarded as a highly effective " Lorica " :- 

Altus Prosator. 

Great Father of all, the Almighty, we praise, 
The One-unbegotten, the Ancient of Days, 
Eternally first, and eternally last I 
With Thee there remains neither future nor past. 

With Thee co-eternal in glory and might. 
Reigns Christ on the throne in the regions of light. 
Thine Only-begotten, the Son of Thy love, 
And there, too, the Spirit, the heavenly Dove. 

Bright myriads of angels a ministrant throng, 
Ring praises unceasing, rejoicing in song, 
Where crowns are cast do\vn at Immauuel's feet. 
And anthems eternal the elders repeat. 

The judgements of heaven shall be scattered abroad 
On all who deny that our Saviour is God ; 
But we shall be raised up with Jesus on higli, 
To where the new mansions all glorious lie. 


There is a Gaelic hymn attributed to Colu:iiba, which illustrates 
the manner and occasions of using these " Loricae " — in Gaelic 
lurech. Its superscription runs thus : " Colum cilli cecinit, while 
passing alone ; and it will be a protection to the person who will 
repeat it going on a journey." The autlior in the first verse re- 
presents himself as lonely on the hillside, and addressing the royal 
" Sun." M'oenuran dam is in sliabh, &c. : — 

" Alone am I iu the mountain, 
Royal Sun of prosperous path ; 
Nothing is to be feared by me. 
Not if I were attended by sixty-hundred." 

The rig-grian — Sun-king, is applied to the Creator. 

The third Latin hymn ascribed to Columba, and bcfzinning with 
the words " Noli Pater " is also a " Lorica.'' It is connected 
with the lighting of fires on St. John's Eve. In some prefatory 
remarks, its virtues are thus described : — " It is sung against every 
fire and every thunderstorm, and whosoever sings it at bedtime 
and at rising, it protects him against lightning." 

Noli Pater. 

Father, restrain Thy thunder, 
Thy lightning from our frame. 
Lest in our trembling wonder 
They smite us with their flame ! 
Thou Awful One ! we fear Thee, 
For there is none like Thee ; 
In thy dread steps we hear Thee ; 
And to Thy shelter flee. 

To Thee awake loud praises. 
One universal song 
The great creation raises. 
Sung by the angel throng : 
Our Jesus, King most loving ! 
The lofty heavens extol : 
We see Thee grandly moving 
Where flashing lightnings roll. 

King of kings ! Thou reignest 
In righteousness and love ; 
And righteous rule rnaintainest 
From Thy pure throne above. 
God's love — a blessed fuel — 
Burns in my heart a flame ; 
Like to a golden jewel 
Preserved in silver flame. 


Much is made of the elements in this composition. In the 
Gaelic one already referred to, Columba guards in the last verses 
against any tendency to Pantheism that might be connected with 
his expressions. He declares : — 

" I adore not the voice of birrls, 
Nor the sreod, nor a destiny, or the earthly world, 
Nor a son. nor chance, nor woman ; 
My Druid is Ckrist, the Son of God, — 
Christ, the Son of Mary, the Great Abbot, 
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 
My estates are with the King of kings ; 
My order is at Cenannug and Moen." 

Cenannus is now Headfort in Meath, where Columba erected a 
monastery. Moen is now Moon, in Kildare. 

The renderings of hymns given in the preceding paragraphs will 
convey some idea of the hymnology of the Gaelic Church. The sing- 
ing of these Latin compositions awoke echoes for ages along the glens 
of Gaelic Scotland as well as in the forests of Germany ; among 
the Swiss and Italian Alps, as well as along the sweet hills of 
Devon and Cornwall. They indicate a practical literary activity 
which served well its generation ; and frequently helped to soothe 
the relentless spirit of revenge of the Pagan nations of the period. 

The primitive Free Church of the Gaels of Britain was an im- 
portant branch of this powerful missionary Church of the Celts. 
Its operations and results were largely obscured by successors 
on the same fields who departed from its methods of work ; but 
recent eftbrts of impartial investigators, have helped to assign it its 
proper place in the ancient Christianixation of Western Europe. 
It does not lie within the scope of this work to discuss the char- 
acter of the organization of this Church of the Gaels. Indeed the 
question has been already so thoroughly investigated by competent 
pens that it would be perfectly superfluous to attempt it. To the 
literary student this period of church history is chiefly interesting 
on account of the fact that it is through the hands of these devoted 
workers of those ages that the first fruits of written literature have 
been handed down to us. These men being our earliest literary 
artists, we naturally turn with perennial interest to the Christian 
organizations which some had founded, and in which others were 

A. small production, some three quarto pages in prose, gives us 
a picture of a holy brother who might be expected to cultivate the 
virtues of the Gospel in soUtude rather ihan in the circle of the 


active community. It is called the " Rule of Calumcille : " and 
has been found in the Burgundian Library of Brussells. The 
Rule recommends residence dose to a church ; a fast place with 
one door ; the company of one attendant only, whose duties must 
be light ; and access to be granted only to those whose converse will 
be of God and His Testament. The time is to l)e spent in prayers 
for those taught and for those dying in the faith. The day is to 
be divided into three parts, one for prayers, for good works, and 
for reading respectfully. The work is to be divided into three 
parts ; the first for his own benefit in doing what is needed for his 
own habitation : the second for the good of the brethren ; and the 
third for that of the neighbours. The work of benefiting his 
neighbours to consist in giving precepts, writing manuscripts, 
sewing clothes, or any other profitable industry. The great end to 
be obtained is that there " be no idleness;" ''ut Deus ait : non 
apparebis ante me vacuus." 

This sentiment of " no idleness " is highly creditable to the 
ancient Gaelic Christian communities ; and if we combine with it 
another found in one of the lives of Columba, — 

" He drank not ale ; he loved not satiety : 
He avoided flesh ;" 
we make a clean discovery which absolutely refutes the unneigh- 
bourly charges of more southern brethren in our own time which 
associate Celts, whisky, and idleness too closely and unfairly 
together. Our early Highland teachers inculcated industry and 
sobriety ; the dangerous powers of whisky were unknown to them ; 
and even the lighter inspirations of ale they eschewed until their 
own primitive virtues were undermined by contact with the beer- 
drinking Pagan Norse on the one hand, and in later times with the 
fiercer spirits which were imported from Teutonic fens on the 
other. Such are the strange reversals of popular opinions which 
accurate study of the facts of history unfolds. The alleged idle- 
ness of the Gael of the present day, doe.s not appear thus to have 
any essential connection with the original sin of the race ; the 
development of the quality appears to have taken place in contact 
with a more sluggish and a less lively people. 

In his great work on '■ English Writers," Professor Henry 
Morley writes :— " When darkness gathered over all the rest of wes- 
tern Europe, the churches and monasteries of the British island, first 
among the Celts and afterwards among the English, supplied, says 
the Danish scholar [Professor Sophus Bugge], in and after the 
seventh century, the only shelter and home to the higher studies. 


The British clergy travelled far in search of books, until in the 
time of Charlemagne it was from the Church in Britain that the 
clearest light shone through the western world." The devotional 
spirit by which these men were animated, will be fairly illustrated 
by the renderings of their Latin Hymns contained in this chapter. 

It is freely acknowledged that the ancient Free Church of the 
Scots, even in its i^olden age, held and practised peculiar tenets 
which in course of time developed undesirable and even unscrip- 
tural fruit. On the other hand, it must be allowed that it adhered 
for a long period to the main doctrines of evangelical Christianity. 
From the hymns which we have been considering, and from 
Patrick's " Epistle of Coroticus," and his " Confession," in which 
we have something of the nature of a creed or a confession of 
faith, as well as from other sources, we gather a fair representation 
of the chief dogmas of its faith. It held and taught the chief 
doctrines of the Trinity, of the incarnation, death, resurrection, and 
ascension of Christ, and ot His coming again at the last day to 
judge all men ; and Hkewise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit 
to make us sons of God, and heirs of immortality. It held, more- 
over, the Holy Scriptures to be the Word of Cxoil, and used them 
freely and exclusively as the authority V)y which all statements of 
doctrine are to be proved and confirmed. At the same time the 
doctrine of human merit, purgatory, saint-worship, transubstantia- 
tion, papal infallibility, and other distinctive tenets of modern 
Romanism, find no recognition. While, as v,-e are told by St. 
Bernard, its followers " rejected auricular confession as well as 
authoritative absolution, and confessed to God alone, believing 
God alone could forgive sins," they would neither give to the 
Church of Rome the tenths, nor the frrst-fruits. which of course 
rendered them " schismatics and heretics " at Rome. Marriage 
was regarded as a civil rite, and was performed by the magistracy. 

The purity of doctrine and generally he.ilthy influence cultivated 
and exercised by the ancient Celtic Church, are shown in a re- 
markable manner in the products of Celtic art. which attained to 
its highest development in the tenth, eleventh^ and twelfth cen- 
turies. The remains of this school of ancient sculpture, if collected 
into one national museum, would form an exhibition of native art 
such as, according to Mr Joseph Anderson^ the Rhind lecturer, no 
northern nation can boast of. Respecting these sculptured stones, 
memorials that are not unworthy of our valiant Christian ancestors, 
Burton, in an interesting chapter, remarks : " It deserves to be 
commemorated that in the hundreds of specimens of native sculp- 


ture of this class recently brought to light there is no single instance 
of indecency, while in the scanty remains of Roman art within the 
same area it would be easy to point out several.'' 

The character of the two races that blended into one through the 
agency of this Church and outward political pressure is not un- 
fairly represented by Professor Rhys, when he says, touching first 
on the Gael or ancient Scot : " One of the lessons of this chapter 
is that the Goidel, where he owned a fairly fertile country, as in 
the neighlourhood of the Tay, showed that he was not wanting in 
genius for political organisation ; and the history of the kingdom 
of Scotland, as modelled by Kenneth mac Alpin and his descen- 
dants, warns one not to give ear to the spirit of race-weighing and 
race-damning criticism that jauntily cHscovers. in what it fancies 
the character of a nation, the reasons why it has not achieved 
results not fairly placed within its reach by the accidents either of 
geography or history." The other ancient race of Albin was 
neither Celtic nor Aryan in its origin. It has been generally known 
as Pictish, and constitutes the backbone of the Scottish nation. 
Mr Rhys calls it Ivernian. The following sentences state a fact 
and describe a process : '• The trouble the non-Celtic Picts were 
able to give the Romans and the Romanising Bryfchons has often 
been dilated upon by historians, who have seldom dwelt on the 
much more remarkable fact, that a power, with its headquarters 
in the neighl:)ourhood of the Ness, had been so organised as to 
make itself obeyed from the Orkneys to the Mull of Cantyre, and 
from Skye to the mouth of the Tay, so early as the middle of the 
sixth century. It is important to bear this in mind in connection 
with the question as to how far the earlier Celtic invaders of this 
country may have mixed with the ancient inhabitants ; since it 
clearly shows that there was no such a gulf between them as would 
make it impossible or even dififlcult for them to amalgamate ; and 
it may readily be supposed that the Goidelic race has been greatly 
modified in its character by its absorption of this ancient people 
of the Atlantic seaboard." The Latin hynms considered here are 
the remains of the devotional literature of these two races, and 
bind the history and memories of modern Scotsmen to the history 
and memories of a people among whom the fervid national genius 
of Scotland was first fashioned. 



" Thoir an eachdraidli Mhaighstir Domhnull 
A tha chumhnaidh 'n cois na tuinne ; 
An urnuigh bha aig Oisein liath-ghlas 
Nach robh riamh ach 'na dhroch dhuine." 

English : 

To Ma-'iter Donald take the story ; 
There, he dirells beside the billow ; 
The prayer fiaid by Ossian hoary, 
Who was aye a inorthle^s fellow. 

It has been well remarked that each of the literatures of the 
two branche<^. of our Celtic population was chiefly the utterance of 
feeling stirred by a great struggle (or independence, and that each 
has at the heart of it " a battle disastrous to the men whose wrestle 
with an overmastering power is the chief theme of their bards." 
The Gaelic struggle and literature began earlier, and its great 
battle is that of Gahhra, said to have been fought in 284 a.d. In 
the later Celtic literature of the Cymri the memorable battle de- 
scribed is that of Cattraeth, said to h^ve been fought in 57c a.d. 

While Cath Gahhra is the chief theme of the Ga:;lic bards, in- 
dividual combats, adventures, and other battles are also rehearsed 
in the early ballads. 

IMacpherson's " Ossian " and Smith's " Old Lays." whose auth- 
enticity has been so fiercely disputed, are excluded from considera- 
tion at present. They will be afterwards examined under the 
dates of their production. The number of lines in these works 
and other two poems respectively is :— 

Macpherson's Poems of Ossian ...10,232 lines. 

Smith's Old Lays 5)335 » 

Clark's Mordubh 758 „ 

MacCallum's CoUath 504 „ 

Total 16,829 


Laying aside these 16,829 lines of suspected poetry, there is still 
the 54,000 lines of ancient poems of unquestioned genuineness in 
Campbell's " Leabhar na Feinne," enough surely to sustain the 
literary character and genius of our early ancestors. 

The ballads which we are now to consider are all genuine and 
old, and may be found in manuscripts written ages before Mac- 
pherson was born. 

The Ossianic or Heroic Ballads will be found in the following 
publications: — The Dean of Lismore's Book (1512, published 
1862); Hill's (1780); MacArthur's (1784); Young's (1784); 
Gillies's (1786); Stewart's (1804) ; Highland Society's Report 
(1805); Turner's (18 f 3); Grant's ( 18 [4)"; MacCallum's (1816) ; 
Campbell's great work (t872). Some of the ballads contained in 
these books were printed from old manuscripts ; others were taken 
down during the last two or three centuries from the oral recita- 
tion of old men, living in all parts of the Highlands. 

These collections represent a good deal of industry and literary 
activity, which reflect very creditably on men who had not the 
stimulus oi a vast reading public to work upon their minds. 


The place in time occupied by these compositions is one of 
considerale length- — it extends at least as far back as the third 
century of our era. It is very interesting to note that this body 
of oral popular literature has been loved, preserved, and rehearsed 
by the Gaelic clans of Albin for at least a thousand years ; for a 
much longer period, indeed, if we rely on fairly credible tradition. 

The inter-tribal struggles described in these ballads— the patri- 
otic resistance against the Norse attempts to obtain the supremacy, 
mixed up as they are with the encroachments of Christianity within 
the realms of heathenism — took place mainly within the Albinic 
area. The geographical limits of this area in those early times • 
were very vague and shifting. In a general way they may be said 
to have embraced the Western Islands, the North-west, and part 
of the central Highlands, as well as the Isle of Man and Ireland. 
Civer all these regions we watch in these ballads the shadowy 
movements of our brave ancestors We hear the faint echoes of 
their names, and the fame of their deeds, the war-cries and voices 
of their almost semi-mythic heroes. 

We regard the tribes whose deeds are celebrated in these pro- 
ductions under two classes — those of the Cruithne or Albinic race 


and those who have become known as the Scottish Iro-Gaelic race. 
At that period there were Cruithne or Picts in Erin as well as in 

Previous to the arrival of Patrick in Ireland and to that of Columba 
in the Highlands, there is strictly speaking no chronological history 
of either country. Of the earlier movements of the clans and their 
l)attles we have no authentic account. But there are traditions 
with a highly probable basis of truth sufficient for the purposes of 
the present Ossianic discussion. Two or three of the central facts 
of the Finian period, as related in a preceding section, are as 
follows : — 

Finn MacCumhaill lived in the reign of Cormac Mac Art who 
ruled from a.d. 227 to 266, and whose daughter Grainne he married. 
Goll MacMorni was a contemporary. Finn was slain in 283, but 
the bards bring him somehow aHve next year to pronounce a eulogy 
on his grandson, Oscar, who fell in the battle of Gabhra. Ossian 
and Caoilte lived for a hundred and fifty years longer ; and the 
blind old heathen bard relates the heroic achievements of his de- 
parted fellow heroes to St. Patrick who arrives in Ireland about 
432. Chronology did not trouble the old ballad-makers of Albin 
and Erin. Such an anachronism as brings Ossian of the third, 
into conjunction with Patrick of the fifth century, did not disturb 
their heroic muse. 

Ireland claimed this Ossian as her own, and her learned doctors 
declared that Macpherson stole his poems from their country. 
Two or three words will be sufficient to dispose of all this: i. 
Macpherson never was in Ireland ; and never kept up any corres- 
pondence with Irishmen. 2. The Ossianic poems published by 
the Dublin Gaelic Society and the Ossianic Society were all 
collected and made known subsequent to the publication of Mac- 
pherson's Ossian. 3. It it admitted by the late Eugene O'Curry, 
one of the highest authorities, that prior to the 15th century there 
existed in Ireland only eleven Ossianic poems, which are extremely 
short, and which will be found in the Book of Leinster, compiled 
in the 13th, and in the Book of Lecan in the 15th century. Of 
these, seven are ascribed to Finn himself, two to Ossian, one to 
Fergus, and one to Caoilte. This clearly disposes of Irelands 
claim to possess anything like Macphei'son's work. Indeed it has 
been given up by some who ad/anced it, while at the same time 
these writers and others laboure<l to manufacture and publish 
poems ala Macpherson ; but to the great chagrin of these learned 
sons of Erin the public will not assign them the same distinction 


and appreciation, which have been accorded to Macpherson's 

Let us now glance at the genuine, and indisputably ancient 
Ossianic ballads preserved in Scotland : i. We have the tragic 
tale of Beirdri in the Glenmasan MS., bearing the date of 1238, 
now in the Advocate's Library. 2. There is a MS. of the 15th 
century, containing a glossary and a poem of five quatrains, attri- 
buted to Ossian. A text the same as this poem is in the Book of 
Leinster of the 13th century. 3. There is the Book of the Dean of 
Lismore, compiled between 15:2-20 a.d. This hook contains 
28 Ossianic poems, nine of which are directly attributed to Ossian, 
two to Fergus, one to Caoilte ; two to Allan MacRuairi, and one 
to C'illieCallum Mac an 011a, —these two last bards being hitherto 
unknown ; and there are eleven anonymous ones, which in style 
and subject belong to the Feinne. These twenty-eight poems ex- 
tend to 2500 lines, or one-fourth of all Macpherson's Gaelic poems, 
The rest of the extant heroic poetry has been collected in the 
Highlands and Islands, chiefly within the last 15c years; and in 
the main consists of versions of the same productions that we have 
in the Book of the Dean of Lismore. They are genuine Highland 
compositions of an ancient character, and some of them are in- 
structive as showing how far oral transmission during the last 400 
years has affected their style and language. 

We thus find that the work begun by Sir James Macgregor 
upwards of 400 years ago, has been taken up at intervals by others 
since his time. Towards the end of the last, and the beginning of 
the present century the principal collectors of these ballads ap- 
peared. Old men in all parts of the Highlands and Isles, famous 
for their mnemonic and reciting powers were sought out by edu- 
cated natives and strangers, and their versions of the old ballads 
taken down. The last and the greatest of the ballad and tale- 
coUectors was Mr Campbell, who in 1859-60 traversed the whole 
Gaelic area ; and assisted by intelligent Highlanders formed large 
collections, of which he has given a considerable quantity to the 
world, in his four volumes of tales. All these are genuine produc- 
tions of the Gaelic popular mind. No stigma or suspicion attaches 
to them. Some of them are at least as ancient as the time of 
Dean Macgregor — 400 years ago ; and they were regarded as 
ancient then. In character and spirit diey resemble — are in many 
cases only Scottish versions of — the kindred literature of the Gael 
of Ireland ; and possess much definite value to the student of 
social life and the philologist. 


Although many of those heroic compositions have been probably 
lost and others marred in their oral transmission, yet enough 
remains to interest the literary student and the historic antiquary. 
Upwards of 54,000 lines have been preserved, and are accessible 
in that truly excellent and scientifically arranged work Leahhar na 
Feinne. In this body of literature we have indubitable proof of 
the existence of a large mass of popular literature among the 
ancient Gaels, who it is evident must have developed considerable 
taste for ballad, song, and story. 

It is hard to assign any date to the composition of these ballads. 
They may have been composed centuries before they were com- 
mitted to writing. We have fragments such as the Glen-mason 
M8. which were written as early as the 12th century, scarcely 
anything earlier. These are written in the hand and language 
common to the learned in both Albin and Erin at the time. The 
book of the Dean of Lismore, however, is written phonetically to 
represent the spoken language of his day, and is mainly in the 
Perthshire dialect. The various collections of ballads made be- 
tween 400 and 70 years ago exhibit different styles of writing, and 
the unsettled modes of orthography prevalent at the time 

The poetic form of these productions is generally that of the 
quatrain. Some pieces do not exceed a few stanzas in length, 
others extend to 80 or 100 quatrains or to between 30c or 400 
Hnes. Many archaic expressions are to be met with ; but on the 
whole when presented in modern orthography they are understood 
by an ordinary Highlander. Not a few of these phrases, though 
not generally understood, have been preserved and transmitted 
even in the oral versions taken down within the last 100 years. 

Some of the most ancient ballads relate to Cuchulin and his 
deeds of deathly valour ; others tell the tragic tale of Deirdri ; 
others relate to the Norse wars ; and not the least romantic de- 
scribe the fierce combats and heroic conflicts in which the brave 
heroes of the Feinne indulged on the shores and plains of Albin 
and Erin. On many a field of fame, east and west, had the 
banners of the Finian heroes gleamed and gained renown ; but 
with all their victories they always fell as they went forth to the 
battle, until they all faded and disappeared " like sungleam in 
wintry weather." 


Taken in chronological order, the Cochulin ballads come up 


first for consideration. Much credit is due to Mr Campbell for 
his attempt at a chronological classification of these productions, a 
very difiicult matter, considering the vagueness, historically, of 
everything connected with the heroic period. As far as dates of 
composition are concerneil, all that can be safely affitmed is that 
these ballads were composed between the Christian era and the 
thirteenth century, some of them undoubtedly belonging to the 
earlier, and some of them to the later centuries of that period. 
Copies of many of them were made by Sir James Macgregor, Dean 
of Lismore, between 1512-26. Then they were regarded as very 
ancient. Those relating to Cochulin and to his sou Cordach are: 
— Cochulin and Kvir ; Cochtdin's Siiiord ; Codiulins Car ; Garhh 
Mac, Stairn ; ConlacWs ^)eath ; The Heads. According to ancient 
annals Cochulin lived in the first century. Connal Ceaniach Mac 
Edirsheol is the author of the last-mentione.i ballad. The Heads, 
and the most ancient of all the Heroic poets. Cochulin was his 
foster-son ; and when he was slain Connal revenged himself on his 
enemies by putting them all to death. In the ballad, Evir, the 
wife or betrothed of Cochulin, is told the names of those put to 
death, whose heads he carried on a withe. There is a heroine of 
Dun sgathaich, Skye, called Aoife, who alsj is mixed up with 
Cochulin's story. The length of tlie ballad is 96 lines. The 
following is a literal translation of the first six stanzas : — 

Connal, these heads are little worth, 

Though in their blood thine arms did'st soil ; 

These heads thou hast upon the withe 
Tell me their owners, now thy spoil. 

Daughter of Orgill of the steeds, 

Kvir, whose words sweet feelings waken, 

'Twas to avenge Cochulin's death 
That I these many heads iiave taken. 

Whose is that nearest thy left arm, — 

That mighty, hairy, dusky head, — 
That head whose colour ha.s not clianged, 

With cheeks tlian any rose more red ? 

The king of fleet steeds owned that head, 

Said Cairbar's son, keen lance in war ; 
'Twas to avenge my foster- son 

I took that head and bore it far. 

Wliose is that head I see beyond 

Inwrapt witli soft and flowing hair, 
His eye like glass, his teeth like bloom, 

With beauty that is peerless there? 


Manadh, tlie one that owned the steeds, 

The son of Aoife— pirate true ; 
I left his trunk without its head, 

His people every one I slew. 


The next class is that of the Deirdrl Ballads. The story of 
Deirdrl and Clan Uisneach, or the three brothers, Naos, Ainle, 
and Ardan, sons of Uisneach, is very affecting and tragic. Mr 
Campbell says : — "'The story of Deirdre is related to Indian Epics, 
and is an j^ryan romance which pervades the whole world. A 
beautiful girl, shut up to baulk a prophecy, is beloved by an old 
King. She runs away with a family of brothers, and after adven- 
tures of many kinds, the story ends in a tragedy." Connachar, 
King of Ireland, whose reign is placed about the middle of the 
first century, was preparing to n)arry the beautiful princess, Deirdri, 
when she ran away with the three sons of his sister, Noas, Ainle, 
and Ardan. They went to Scotland, where they were well received. 
The names of places in the ballads indicate that it was in Argyll- 
shire they settled. While the brothers were away on some expedi- 
tion, to Lochlin, it is supposed, Deirdri was left in charge of a 
" black-haired lad," it is saiti, in an islet north of Jura till they 
would return. The " lad " began to make love to Deirdri in their 
absence, but they came back opportunely to save her. By this 
time Connacher sent them a message of peace from Ireland ; and 
believing that the once wrathful monarch was sincere they returned 
to Ireland. But they were at once met with the hostile forces of 
the King ; and after a fierce struggle the King slew his nephews. 
When Deirdri saw her beloved Naos and his brothers fall, she 
rushed forward, bewailing them, and died upon their bodies. 
There are six or seven versions of this story, the oldest being in 
the MS. dated 1208, in the Advocates' Library, It was written 
at Glenmasan, in Cowal. The versions vary in length. The 
longest contains upwards of 400 lines. The ballad is sometimes 
divided into several parts, and some collectors give only one or 
two parts. It is the part in which Deirdri laments her departure 
from Scotland that is here translated. This and the Book of 
Deer are the earliest specimens that we possess of written Gaelic 
in Scotland. 

The glens and other places mentioned in the following farewell 
of Deirdri are readily identified. The large number of proper 
names occurring in the piece renders it diflicult to give anything 


more than a very stiff translation, which is almost absolutely 
literal : — 

" Do dech Deardir ar a hfeise ar crichibh Alban, agus rochan an Laoidh" : 
— ( Deirdri looked hack on the land of Alhin, aixd santj this Lay. J 

Beloved land, that eastern land ! 
Alba vfith waters wide : 
With Naos in those happy glens 
I wish I could abide ! 

Beloved Dunfigha and Dunfin ; 
The Dun above them seen ; 
Beloved is Inis-Draighnde ; 
Beloved is fair Dun Sween . 

Coille-Chuan ! Coille-Chuan ! 
Where Ainle comes no more ! 
Too short, I ween, was there my stay 
With Naos on Albin's shore. 

Glen-Laye ! Glen-Laye ! 
Oft by its stream I lay ; 
Fish, flesh and fat of badger 
My repast in sweet Glen-Laye. 

Glen-Masan ! Glen-Masan ! 
Where fairest boughs are seen ; 
Lonely was my place of rest 
By Inver-Masan green. 

Glen-Eitive ! Glen-Eitive ! 
Thei-e my first home was raised ; 
Beautiful were its woods in morn 
When there the sun had blazed, 

Glen-Orchay ! Glen-Orchay ! 
vStraight vale of ridges smooth, 
Full joyful there round Naos 
Were the Glen-Orchay youth. 

Glen-Daruadh ! Glen-Daruadh ! 
I love its men — I love it ! 
Sweet are the cuckoos on the boucrhs 
On the grey hills above it. 

Beloved is Drayen — its sounding shore ; 
Beloved is Avich of pure sand ; 
Oh, that I might not leave the east, — 
Beloved and happy land. 


On this tale, and on its connection with Scotlish topography, Dr 
MacLauchlan says : — " This is one of the most touching in the 
catalogue of Celtic tales, and it is interesting to observe the influ- 
ence it exerted over the Celtic mind by its effect upon the topo- 
graphical nomenclature of the country. There are several Dun 
Deirdres to be found still. One is prominent on the vale of the 
Nevis, near Fort-William, and another occupies the summit of a 
magnificent rock overhanging Loch Ness, in Stratherrick." N'ess, 
the name of the loch, is thought to be from Naos. Dr Skene re- 
marks — " Adomnan, in his life of St. Columba, written in the 
seventh century, appears to mention only three localities in con- 
nection with St. Columba's journey to the palace of the King of 
the Picts, near Lochness, and these are Cainle (Ainle), Arcardan 
(Ardan), and the flumen Nesae (Naise). Two vitrified forts in 
the neighbourhood of Lochness are called Dun-Dearduil." The 
same authority also observes that " the ancient legends of Cochulin 
and the sons of Uisneach connect them with those remarkable 
structures termed vitrified forts." Dun-Sgathaig and Dun-mhic- 
Uisneachan are vitrified like Dun-dhearduil. It is suggested that 
a mythic meaning underlies this topography and story. 


A class of ballads which is wholly taken up with the Finian 
heroes proper — with their intercourse and doings among them- 
selves — may be described as Finnic ballads. Finn is the central 
hero ; and the other Finian characters are his attendant satellites. 

There was more than one class of heroes known as Feinn, or 
Fianna :— 

T. Feinn of Albin : Albin was north of the firths of the Forth 
and Clyde. 

2. Feinn of Erin : The same class of heroes in Ireland. 

3. Feinn of Breatan : Breatan was the southern districts of 

Scotland, Dunbreatan, or Dumbarton, being the principal 

4. Feinn of Lochlin : These according to Tacitus, dwelt on the 

right shore of the Suevic Sea, or the Baltic, and were called 
the Aestii. 

There are some evidences which indicate that the last also were a 
Celtic people, who spoke a Celtic language. The inhabitants of 
this district now form part of the Kingdom of Prussia. 


It is the Feinn of Albin and of Erin that the heroic lays gener- 
ally celebrate. Trenmor, the fifth from Baoisgne, from whom 
Finn and his followers were called Clanna Baoisgne, was general 
of the Feinn ; Cumhal, his son, was the father of Finn. Oisein, 
Fergus, Kaoidhne, or Rayne, and Cairol were the sons of Finn. 
Oscar, the son of Oisein, was his grandson ; and Diarmad was his 
nephew, who eloped with his queen, Graine, daughter of Cormac 
Mac Art, King of Ireland, a.d. 227. Caoilte, or Cailt, was a re- 
lative ; and Goll, or Gaul, Conan, and Garaidh were chiefs of the 
Clann Morna. But the heroes, one after another, soon disappeared. 
The theme of several of the principal ballads is the deaths of 
Oscar, Diarmad, Gaul, &c., and lastly, of Ossian himself, who was 
left alone of all that noble band of heathen heroes. In his last 
days the blind old bard came in contact with some Christian 
Patrick, and dialogues of their discussions were for ages repeated 
in Highland ballads. The following ballad, entitled the " Sweetest 
Sound,' is a specimen of the less martial kind : — 

Once wlien the kindly feast was spread 

On Almhin's golden slope. 
The bards they sang of l)liss and woe. 

Despair, and love, and hope. 

And heroes, as they drained the bowl. 

With joy or sadness heard ; 
For those good harpers as they pleased 

Men's rising feelings stirred. 

Lord of the feast there Fingal sat — 

His fair hair touched with grey- 
Near his tirst son, the warrior bard. 

Strong as the noon of day. 

The good MacLuy there conversed 

With Oscar, young and bright, 
And bald head Conan, rash and bold, 

Wlio never shunned the fight. 

And Diarmad there sat, beautiful, 

And rolled Irs eye of blue, 
^Yllen Fingal spoke, and all the board 

His regal question knew. 

" Come, tell me now, my chieftains good. 
At Fingal's feast wlio be, 
Wliat sounds are tliey that form for eacli 
The sweetest harmony ? 


" What are the notes that charm you most, 
And send your cares to flight — 
What sound most charms your inmost core, 
And thrills you with delight ?" 

The Conan — the rash Conan spoke — 

Of all that company 
The first to speak, the first to fight — 

The last to think was he. 

" The rattling dice I love the most, 
When the play is running high ; 
And my coming chances strain my ear, 
And almost blind my eye." 

" Wlien heroes rush together, 
When battle wakes around. 
With clash, and clang, and crushing blows, 
I hear my sweetest sound." 

So Oscar spoke.— Thus Diarmad said, 

" When in my secret ear 
Sweet woman whispers love for me, 

My best loved sound I hear." 

" When first I catch my good hounds' cry, 
Where the proud stag stamps the ground. 
And stands at bay," MacLuy said, 
" I hear my sweetest sound." 

Then Fingal said, " My music is 

The banner's fluttering fold, 
When winds blow free, and the brave I see 

Beneath its streaming gold." 

Alas ! alas ! my sweetest sound 

Wfis once in Fingall's hall ; 
To hear bards sing and heroes speak, 

And now they've perished all ! 

The above has been translated by Pattison.and I use his ren- 
dering. It gives us a good picture of a social gathering ot the 
Finian heroes. The bowl goes round, the harpers begin, and the 
warriors deliver themselves successively on the objects which most 
moved their hearts. Fingal sat there as lord of the feast, and 
directed their intercourse. Conan, rash and thoughtless, but bold, 
loves the rattling dice ; Oscar loves the waking of battle, Diarmad 
the whispering of woman's love, MacLuy the hound in the chase. 
Fingal himself delights in the banner fluttering over the brave in 


V)attle, and Ossian, as usual, regretfully declares that his sweet 
sound was once in the hall of Fingal, who now with his heroic 
followers have all perished. 

The titles of some of the other ballads are Ossian's Lament, 
Cailte and the Giant, &c. We have a special set in several dia- 
logues between Ossian and Patrick on the Feinn and their exploits, 
and on the comparative merits o( the Christian religion and the 
stories of the Feinne. One of theni is called Oisein agns an 
Cleii-each, or Ossian and the Cleric, in which we have a descrip- 
tion of a battle between the Finians and the Norse. The saint is 
very agreeable in this poem, very unlike what he is in Ossian's 
Prayer, and concedes much to the bard, so much, indeed, that he 
is willing to rear an altar, not to God, but to Finn ! It is difficult 
to say whether the ballad refers to a Manus, or Magnus, of the 
third or of the twelfth century. Actually known historic facts 
favour the latter. The length of the ballad varies ; some of the 
versions are upwards of two, some three hundred lines long. 

I here translate the first few verses : — 

Ossiati. — Cleric, that singest tlie psalms ! 
Rude are thy thoughts I ween ; 
Hearest thou a little my songs 
On the Feinn thou hast never seen ? 

Clerk. — 'Tis thine to delight in the songs 

Of the F^inn vvhom thou didst see — 
Sounds of psalms on my lips are sweeter 
Than Finian rhymes to me. 

0. — If thou darest liken thy psalms 
To the Finian arms blood- red. 
Cleric ! I swear I would sever 
By blade from its trunk thy head. 

C. — Great Bard ! I compare them not ; 
The lay of tliy lips is sweet ; 
Let us raise an altar to Finn, 
And render him praise complete. 

0. — Kind Cleric ! if thou wert south-west 
At the Fall of the soft-flowing stream 
Wliere it hastens to join the sea, 
The Feinn thou wouldest greatly esteem. 

C. — Blessed be the soul of that hero ! 
Who fought in his violent might — 
Mac-Cuhail, tlie chief of the host, 
Renowned in the field of fiiiht. 


0. — One clay we were hunting for red-deer. 
And failing to meet with game, 
Ten thousand barks were seen, 
And towards the shore they came. 

We all stood there on the plain ; 
Fins gathered on every side ; 
Round the son of the daughter of Teig, 
Flocked full seven tribes in their pride. 

Their galleys they rushed ashore, — 
That host of the blades blood-red ; 
They were many tlie tents of cloth 
That they reared above their head. 

They hastened along from the woods, 
And put on their armour bright, — 
The weapons on shoulders great 
As they moved from the shore for fight. 

To his heroes Mac-Cuhail spoke, — 
" These foes you have known before ? 
You know how this cruel race 
Wakes warfare along our shore ?" 

It was then that Conan replied, — 
" Who are these that came o'er the sea ? 
Knowest tliou who is chief, Finn of battles? 
The flower of Norse Kings is he !" 

f. — " Who will go from the ranks of the Feinn 
To get word from the hostile host ? 
My favour he'll have if he brings 
Tidings sincere from the coast." 

Then Conan made answer again — 
" Whom should'st thou send, King, 
But Fergus, thy prudent son ; 
Wise word, I ween, he'll bring." 

" Let my curse take thee, bald-headed Conan, 

Said Fergus of gentlest face ; 

" I will go, but 'tis not at thy voice. 

To get word from this Lochlin race." 

Young Fergus, all armed, went off 
Those heroes to meet on the way ; 
He mildly inquired, " What people 
Came over the sea that day ?" 

Magnus, all bloody and fierce, 

Son of the red-shielded Bede, 

Was Chief King of Lochlin— well fitted 

Proud armies of men to lead. 


" What moved thee, thou cruel man, 
From the kingdom of Lochlin's shore ? 
Unless thou hast come our heroes 
To multiply more and more." 

" 1 vow by thy hand, mild Fergus, 
Though brave be the Feinn of thy pride ; 
We'll make no terms with Finn without Bran, 
And his wife we will take from his side." 

" Ere Bran tliou shalt get our heroes 
Will try all tliy streng^th in the strife, 
And Finn thou must meet in fierce combat 
Ere thou canst take captive his wife." 

Since the days of Eve and Helen women have been the cause 
of much evil and strife; and many of the sore troubles of the 
Feinn arose from the bewitching charms which their Gaelic maidens 
and mothers possessed. The chief King of the Loclilins came to 
the shore of Albin with "ten thousand barics"— the Northmen's 
galleys must have been very numerous in those times, our British 
navy of the present day would be small in comparison — determined 
to possess himself of the dog and wife of Finn, the Caledonian 
monarch. In these days this might seem a small casus belli in- 
deed ; but it must be remembered that the dog Bran was a most 
remarkable one ; the posthumous poetic honours that have been 
paid to this canine worthy have far exceeded those that Byron has 
given his favourite. As to the Caledonian Queen, the elopement 
of Graine with Diarmad must not be forgotten ; indeed, it may 
help to explain the formidable descent of Magnus on the shores of 
Albin. To put chivalrous heroes under geasan was then a favour- 
ite pastime among Gaelic ladies. And, being the weaker sex, it 
was well that they should be invested with enchanting or super- 
natural power that would somehow afford them protection in the 
midst of the turbulent, ruthless forces by which they were sur- 
rounded in those days. The battle and its results are described ' 
in thirty verses more. The Norse invaders were worsted ; Finn and 
Magnus met in single combat ; " stones and the heavy earth were 
wakening under the soles of their feet." At last the unfortunate 
Magnus was overcome. Though unbecoming a king, he was 
bound hands and feet ; but ultimately he receives kind and 
chivalrous treatment from Finn ; and he repents of his conduct 
towards him, to whose mercy he said he would trust when he 
heard the bald Conan — who was "ever drinking" — express a wish 
to be allowed to sever his head from his bodv. The author— the 


ballad is put into the mouth of Ossian of course — concludes with 
the declaration that he and his father and Gaul performed the 
greatest feats that day, though they are now "without strength," 
compelled to listen to psahn-singing clerics. 

A particularly interesting poem— one of the many dialogues 
between Ossian and Patrick— is called Ossian s Prayer. I tran- 
slate a few verses of the beginning of Macnicol's version, which 
will give an idea of the piece. It is about 150 lines in length. 
The author makes Ossian a thorough heathen, Avho prefers the 
glories of Finian deeds and fame to all the Christian prospects 
that Patrick can unfold. 


Patrick of the reading 
To me a story tell 

ay < 

Heaven high now dwell ' 

Let me tell thee truly, Ossian, 

To whom fame is given ; 
That thy father, Ganl and Oscar, 

Can not be in Heaven. 

0. Sorry be the tale, Patrick, 
Which tliou art telling me ; 
If Erin's Feinn are not in Heaven 
Why should I Christian be ? 

P. Grievous be thy story, Ossian, 
Fierce thy words liave grown ; 
What are all the Feinn of Erin 
To one hour with God alone 1 

0. I would rather see one battle 
Waged by valiant Finn 
Than to see that Lord of heaven 
And thou cleric chaunting sin. 

P. Althougli the humming fly be small 
A mote beneath its wing 
Can not be hid unknown to Him 
Who reigns as mighty King. 

0. Think you that He was like Mac Ciiil, 
The brave and mighty Finn ? 
Into whose presence all on earth 
Could freely enter in ? 


P. Ossian, long art thou in slumber ; 
The psalms make thy delight, 
Since thou hast lost thy strength and fame, 
And ne'er again can fight. 

0. If I have lost my strength and fame, 

And nought of Finian worth remains, 
Thy cleric rank I slightly prize 
With all its gloomy strains. 

Poor Ossian will not receive the new doctrine of the saint ; and 
his arguments with Patrick are not of a very edifying character. 
The saint, in order to convey to the bard some conception of the 
Creator's omniscience, says that it would not be possible for the 
smallest midge to enter heaven without His knowledge. But the 
bard exclaims in leply, that that was very different from Finn, son 
of Cuhal, in his hospitable hall. Thousands might enter, partake 
of his cheer, and depart without notice. At last Patrick gets 
somewhat impatient with his rather unsatisfactory pupil, and re- 
quests Ossian to give up his elegiac strair.s over the departed glory 
of the Clan Baoisgne, and relate the particulars of some hunt, 
battle, or adventure. The old warrior-bard is nothing loth, and is 
consoled for the moment by the recital of the deeds of his perished 
kinsmen, the Fianna. As usual he ends with a wild burst of 
sorrow for having survived them all. 

'^ Ossian and Evir-Alin" has been a great favourite. In this 
ballad we have the great poet's wooing of the beautiful Fvir de- 
scribed. He sets out with twelve youths to ask the daughter of 
Branno " of the silver beakers." Hitherto the maiden refused the 
sons of kings and nobles, and even the great gloomy chieftain 
Cormac, whom she particularly disliked. After necessary prelim- 
inary questions the ballad (in Pattison's translation) proceeds : — 

" High is the place, Ossian ! 

Do men's tongues to thee assign ; 
If I twelve daughters had^" said Branno, 

" The best of them should be thine." 

Then they opened the choice and spare chamber. 
That was shielded with down from the cold ; 

The posts of its door w^ere of polished bone, 
And the leaves were of good yellow gold. 

And as soon as the bright Evir-Alin 

Saw Ossian, great Fingal's son. 
The love of her maiden youth 

By me, proud hero, was won. 


Then we left the dark lake of Lego 

And homeward took our way ; 
But Cormac, fierce Cormac, waylaid us, 

Intent on the furious fray. 

Eight heroes had followed their Chieftain, 

And their men behind them stood ; 
The hillside flamed witli their armour, 

Their spears were raised like a wood. 

Eight came with Ossian the lofty. 
All equal to shield liim in war. 

Then the heroes met face to face, and the strife was fierce and 
long. Ossian and Cormac at last met in personal combat with 
the following result : 

Five times he dashed on my buckler ; 

Five times I hurled hiiu back. 
Ere I struck him down on the greensward, — 

Cormac in conflict not slack. 

I swept the head from his shoulders. 

And held it up in my hand ; 
His troops they fled, and we came with joy 

To Fingal's mountain land. 

Oscar, the peerless son of Ossian, and the favourite grandson of 
Finn, is one of the bravest and finest characters among the 
Fingalians, and his early death greatly affected the hilarity o?"that 
happy band of heroes and hunters. The following verses from 
Gillies's collection record, instructions and precepts which were 
inculcated by his royal grandfather ; (my own translation) : — 

" Son of my son," said the King, 

Oscar, thou young prince of might. 

When watching thy glittering blade, 'twas my pride 

To see thee triumph in the fight. 

Cleave thou fast to tliy fathers' fame, 

And keep unsoiled their honoured name. 

When Treunmor the prosperous lived, 

And Trahal, great warriors' sire, 

They were victors on every field, 

Winning fame in the conflict dire. 

Their names shall flourish in story and verse. 

Which the bards liereafter shall rehearse'. 


Oh ! Oscar, spare not the armed hero, 

But the needy and feeble sustain ; 

Like the spring-tide stream rushing in winter 

Attacking the fees of the F(5inn ; 

But gentle as summer's breathing wind — 

To all that seek thy succour kind. 

Such was the victor Treunmor, 
And after him Trahal the brave ; 
And Finn, too, befriended tlie weak 
From the power of the tyrant to save. 
I would meet him with welcome hand, 
And shield him beneath my brand. 

These are indeed noble sentiments and precepts from a semi- 
barbarian monarch such as Finn is supposed to have been. It 
may fairly be questioned whether this is not one of the more re- 
cent productions. One line, " 'na aobhar shininn mo lamh " — 
in his cause, &c , reminds us of Christian conceptions. Sucli a 
word as aobhar, cause, does not, so far as I am aware, occur in the 
purely heathen poems. 

The ballads on the deaths of Diarmad and of Oscar are among 
the best, and have been great favourities with popular reciters. 
The Lay of Diarmad seems to have given names to many places 
in Scotland and Ireland. The names of the heroes of the Feinn 
in general we find embedded in the nomenclature of the soil, 
especially the name of Finn, their great leader. This is evidence 
of the early era in which they lived, as well as of the affection with 
which the people cherished their memories. The death of Oscar 
is a very long ballad. What follows is a free rendering of upwards 
of the first half : — 

The feast was over and the morn 
Shed round its brilliant blaze ; 

The lialls of Cairber gleamed afar 
Beneath the sheen of rays ; 

The light within lit up the face 

Of heroes stout and tall, 
Who started early to their feet 

To leave that ancient liall. 

Brown Oscar from the Albin shore 

Was there among the rest — 
Of beauteous form aud boldest eye 

He stood in might confessed. 

" But ere we part," red Cairber said, 

In accents rude and strange, 
" Brown Oscar, come from Albin land. 

Our spear-shafts we exchange." 


" Why so exchange," young Oscar said, 

Witk calmly moving lips, 
" Thou red-haired Cairber, why exchange, 

Chief of the port of ships ?" 

" Not much for me— not much for me," 

The frowning Cairber said, 
" Though ev«ry warrior in your isles 

To me a tribute paid." 

" Whatever, Cairber, thou ihouldst ask 

Of gold or precious thing, 
All that without disgrace might be 

Asked by a manly King, 

" Were thine at once ; but this exchange 

Of shafts without the heads, 
With ruthless scorn tears all the garb 

Of kindness into shreds. 

" Hadst thou not known, thou coward prince. 

That Fingal is not by. 
Thou hadst not dared to speak such words,— 

Less loud would be thy cry." 

" Though Fingal and thy father both 

Were here, with sword in hand, 
I would have asked, and I should have. 

All that I now demand." 

" If Fingal and my father both 

Were here, with sword in hand, 
Thou wouldst not, if they chose, retain 

One foot of Erin land." 

" I make a vow," quoth Cairber Red, 

" Away to drive the deer 
From Albin's sea-girt hills, and bring 

The spoil to Erin here." 

" I make a vow — a vow 'gainst that " 

Quoth Oscar. " With this spear ' 
I'll drive thee back from Albin's hills 

To Erin mount and mere." 

Tken Cairber roared, " I make a vow ; 

This spear of might possessed. 
Ere that, fair Oscar, thou shalt see, 

I'll plant beneath thy breast." 

" A vow ! a vow !" cried Oscar fierce, 

" Ere that shall happen me. 
Red Cairber ! in thy forehead proud 

This spear shall planted be !" 


Cold fear and rage alternately 

The other warriors shook, 
When they had heard the dreadful vows 

Both heroes nudertook. 

They saw tierce gloom was gathering 

On Cairber's knitted brows ; 
They marked how like the breaking storm 

The wrath of Oscar rose. 

'Twas then a bard upon his harp, 

Gentle as evenuig's breath, 
Poui-ed forth tlie numbers that presage 

A mighty hero's death. 

Then Oscar seized with rage his arms, 

And cast a glance around, 
To see wliere stood his Albin chiefs — 

The few that tiierc were found. 

(ireat was th* host of Cairber there ; 

But Oscar's friends were few, 
>itill they were brave and undismayed, 

And well their arms they knew. 

The strife began. We lieard the shouts 

That came to us afar. 
And all the din of deadly clash 

From the dread scene of war. 

Then up we rose and hastened 

To join the widespread fight ; 
Each joined the battle as he reached 

With furious delight. 

The bitter struggle lasted long, 

And many fell in death ; 
Our smaller force still .smaller grew 

On that dark fatal heath. " 

Though Oscar's sword — his friends oppressed- 

Was failing in its might, 
We saw him struggling fiercely on 

Amid the woful fight, 
Like a hawk darting on the birds 

That scattered in their flight ! 

His course was like the rushing roll 

Of surges with their roar 
When winter storms have poured their force 

Upon the suffering shore. 


The Sunbeam of tlie battle rose — 

Finn's standard we did know — 
Then slowly backward, foot bj' foot, 

Retired the treacherous foe — 

Scattered like sheep, and fall'n like leaves : 

The wild pursuit rolled on ; 
And on that field of dread were we 
Id silence left alone. 

And there lay Oscar bleeding much 

Upon the mournful plain ; . 

And every living Finian there 
Had friends among the slain. 

The bard Fergus is asked to relate to Finn how the Feinn fared 
in the conflict. In this part I follow a hteral rendering of 
MacLauchlan's, modified by Morley : — • 

" vSay, Bard of the Feinn of Erin, 
How fared the fight, Fergus, my son, 
In Gabhra's fierce battle-d.-^y ? say !" 

The fight fared not well, son of Cumhal, 
From Gabhra come tidings of ruin. 
For Oscar the fearless is slain. 
The sons of Cailte were seven ; 
They fell with the Feinn of Alviii, 
The youtii of the Feinn are fallen, 
Are dead in their battle array. 
And dead on the field lies MacLuy, 
With six of the sons of thy sire. 
The young men of Alvin are fallen ; 
The Feinn of Britain are fallen. 
And dead is the king's son of Lochlin, 
Who hastened to war for our right— 
The king's son with a heart ever open, 
And arm ever sti'ong in the fight." 

" Now, Bard — my son's son, my desire, 
My Oscar of him, Fergus, tell 
How he hewed at the helms ere he fell." 

" Hard were it Finn to number, 
Heavy for me were the labour. 
To tell of the host that has fallen. 
Slain by the valour of Oscar. 
No rush of the waterfall swifter, 
No pounce of the hawk on his prey, 
No whirlpool more sweeping and deadly, 
Than Oscar in battle that day. 


And you who last saw him could see 

How he throbbed in the roar of the fray. 

As a storm-worried leaf on the tree 

Whose fellows lie fallen below, 

As an aspen will quiver and sway 

While the axe deals it blow upon blow. 

When he saw that MacArt, King of Erin, 

Still lived in the midst of the roar, 

Oscar gathered his force to roll on him 

As waves roll to break on the shore. 

The king's son, Cairber, saw the danger, 

He shook his great hungering spear, 

firief of Griefs ! drove its point through our Oscar, 

Who braved tke death-stroke without fear. 

Rushing still on MacArt, King of Erin, 

His weight on his weapon he threw, 

And smote at MacArt, and again smote 

Cairber, whom that second blow slew. 

So died Oscar, a king in his glory. 

I, Fergus the bard, grieve my way 

Through all lands, saying how went the story 

Of Gabhra's fierce battle-day." " Say !" 

I take the following lines of the close of this grand ballad from 
Pattison's blank-verse translation. Finn was beside his grandson 
before he breathed his last. Oscar heard the great king's wailing 
cry, and looking round on all he sighed and said, " Farewell ! I 
shall return no more." Finn, who never wept before in sight of 
man but once, when Bran died, strode a pace away and wept. 
Then Finn came back ; and, standing near my side. 
He bent again o'er Oscar, while he said : — 
" The mournful bowlings of the dogs distress me — 
The groanings of the heroes old and grey — 
The people's wailing and their blank despair. 

son ! that I liad fallen in thy stead. 
In the dire battle with thy treacherous foes, 
And thou hadst loved to be a chief and leader, 
And bring the Finians east and west with joy ! 

O Oscar ! thou wilt never rise again ! 
O'er thee, my old heart, like an elk, is leaping ! 
Thou wilt return, thou wilt return no more ! 
'Twas rightly said, ' I shall return no more !' " 

These are some of the scenes of the great battle of Gahhra, the 
Temora of Macpherson, fought about the year 284 A.n. 


Strong-minded ladies in these days clamour for women's rights ; 
but if men are wise they will, before conceding these, consider 
what use was made by women in the early days of Finiau chivalry 
of the rights which they then enjoyed. In these Islands in ancient 
days the gentler sex appears to have possessed some extraordinary 
powers and to have exercised terrible privileges which were some- 
limes abused. If a lady put Geasan (obligation) on a knight or 
chief there was no escape from the execution of her wishes. He 
had to obey her, however unreasonable the request might be. 
Thus when the great Finn himself was in the earlier stages of his 
barbarian youth, before he became the celebrated General of the 
Feinn, and when lie had no better raiment than the skins of the 
animals he slew for food, he came across one fine morning a grand 
assemblage of ladies resting on one bank of a great chasm, and a 
party of gentlemen on the other. One of the former, a proud 
Princess, insisted in her lover's case that he should clear that chasm 
before she gave him her hand ; but the poor fellow kept clapping 
his arms round his body till he could screw his courage to the 
springing point. Finn understood the conditions, and observed 
the unfortunate fellow's predicament, and modestly asked if she 
would take himself for her wedded lord on his accomplishing the 
task. She replied that he looked a personable enough man, 
though marvellously ill clad, and that if he succeeded she would 
give him the privilege. Finn did succeed, but she laid Geasa on 
him that he should accomplish the same task every year. This 
was not the only one that laid Geasa on Finn. Another fair 
tyrant insisted on his leaping over a dallan as high as his chin, 
with a similar pillar stone of the same dimensions boi-ne upward on 
the palm of his hand. In after days he acknowleged in confidence 
to his father-in-law, that this was the most difficult feat he had ever 
performed, and few indeed would be disposed to doubt his asser- 
tion. On one occasion Finn nearly failed in one of these exploits ; 
the cause of his failure was thought to be his meeting a red-haired 
woman on the road, and that it was a Friday morning. It is 
evident that these Gaelic princesses were a little too exacting, and 
that it would not do for every one to undertake satisfying their 
somewhat unreasonable demands. That the laying on of Geasa 
was attended at times with much discomfort and danger is illus- 
trated in the history of the beautiful but unfortunate Diarmad 

Diarmad appears to have possessed one fatal gift — the hall-seirce 
— that of kindling love in all the women he met. It is said that 


there was a spot of beauty on his forehead which captivated all 
the ladies that saw him. He was the nephew of the king ; and 
full proud was Finn at times of the deeds of valour which his 
sister's son had achieved. He was generally described as the 
young, the beautiful^ the brown haired Diarniad. He was as 
brave and gallant as he was handsome, and a universal fiivourite 
among the Feinn. But he was soon to come under the influence 
of the inexorable Geasa which decided " the woful fate of Mac- 
Doon." At the wedding feast of Finn and Graine^ the daughter 
of King Cormac, the bride lays Goasn on Diarmad to carry her off; 
and though this was highly repugnant to his loyal feeling, and in 
direct contravention to his military oath, as well as against his 
personal interests, he was obliged to comply. With what result 
the well known ballad, called " The Lay of Diarmad," describes. 
There are many versions of this ballad ; the one translated here 
is that found in " The Book of the Dean of Lismore." It is here 
entitled " Bas Dliiarmaid ;" or, The Death of Diarmad. " A 
houdir so AUane M'Royree," or " The Author of this is Allan 
APRorie,'" is prefixed. MacRorie was probably a mere reciter. 
The ballad begins thus : — 

Here is (Uen-Sliee of the elk and Jeer, 
Where we hear the sweetest souiuls ! 

Where oft on its scratli the Fcinn 
Have liunted with eager hounds. 

On the fair brows of blue Bcn-Oulbin 

The sun its bright rays has slied, 
Where Finu oft pursued the chase, 

And the streamlets ran do\yn blood-red. 

Come, barken a little ; I sing 

Of one of these heroes great — 
Of Ben-Gulbin and genereus Finn ; 

Of Diarmad's sorrowful fate. 

In other versions the name of Graine and her elopement with 
Diarmad are introduced here, as well as some sharp colloquy 
between the latter and Finn. 

Mournful was Finu on that day 

Tiiat tlie fair ruddy Diarmad died, 
When lie followed the terrible boar 

That yet had all spears defied. 


'Twas left to bright-armed MacDoon 

To meet ^'ith the dreaded boar ; 
It was Fingal's deceitful plan 

That the others should flee it before. 

Few were beloved like him — 

MacDoon of tliat lovely band ! 
By beautiful women bewailed 

As he lay with his spear in hand. 

Bravely he roused the boar 

Ou the hillside where it had lain — 
The old boar of tlie sweet Glen-Shee, 

The fiercest that ever was slain. 

There Finn of the ruddiest hue sat down 

'Neath Bpn-Gulbin's grassy side ; 
Whence issued the boar for the Avoodland ; 

Oh, the ill that did there betide ! 

'Twas the clank of the Fiuian arms, 

And the echoing shout of the men, 
That wakened the slumbering monster : 

Before them he ruslied down the glen. 

He attempted to distance the heroes — 

The old boar of the bristling hide — 
^Yhich the spear and the shaft of the quiver 

Of tlie hunter so often defied. 

In another version Finn is here represented as saying to Diarmad 
— "Son of Doon, dost thou wish to win honour?" — thus the king 
spoke wrathfully ; and added — " Slay that boar by thyself, thou 
gay victor, which the heroes so long has defied." Diarmad 
attempts the task. 

Then MacDoon of the keen-edged arms 

Comes up with the monster fierce. 
With his strong poisoned spear lie tried 

The side of the boar to pierce. 

But his spear broke — shivered in three — 

On that tough and bristling hide ; 
With his warm and blood-red liand 

That spear he vainly plied. 

Then from its sheath lie drew 

His blade of renown — tliin-leaved ; 
And with it MacDoou slew the monster 

While no hurt he himself received. 


Finn is greatly disappointed at Diarmad's success. He evidently 
calculated that in his struggle with the boar alone his nephew 
would receive his death-hurt. This was not the case, and — 

Then Finn of the Feinn grew sad, 

And sat on the side of the hill ; 
It grieved him that brave MacDoon 

Escaped without wound or ill. 

From the first Finn cannot be said to have adopted a very 
magnanimous plan for punishing his nephew ; but jealousy being 
cruel as the grave, he has formed now a cruel expedient for com- 
passing his death : — 

After long silence lie spoke — 

These evil words spoke he — 
" Diarmad, measure the boar from the snout, 

Tell how many feet long he be." 

Finn he had never refused- 
Alas ! him no more we meet — 

He measures the back of the boar — 
MacDoon of the ligWtsome feet. 

In the other versions it is told that Diarmad's feet were bare, and 
that the length of the boar was sixteen feet. Finn denied that he 
was so long, and insisted on a second measuring. 

*' Diarmad, measure with care again. 

The boar against the luiir ;" 
Mournful it was to see 

That deed of the hero fair. 

He went on that errand sad. 

And measured the boar again ; 
But he trod on a poisonous bristle, 

And he felt in his heel a pain. 

The hero fell on the field— 

MacDoon that had no deceit ; 
He lay there beside the boar :— 

Now, there is the tale complete. 

At this part of the relation another version adds that Diarmad, 
in asking several times for a drink at the hand of Finn, rehearsed 
how he served him " eastward and westward." But the king re- 
plied that the ill he had done him in one hour outweighed all the 
good exploits he could tell. " Thou shall yet get no drink from 


my shell." Diarmad then addresses a melancholy farewell to I'en- 
Gulbin, the hill of his love, and to courtship. He keenly feels his 
sorrowful plight as his life-blood is ebbing away ; and true to his 
character his last thoughts are, as he dies, of " the maids of the 
Feinn." Finn then relents, and pronounces a regretful eulogy over 
the dead body of Diarmad. In the Dean's version it is the bard 
himself that pronounces the praise of the dead, in verses which 
describe his person and character :— 

Pierced to the heart he lies, 

MacDoon in the battle brave, 
The suffering son of the F(^inn ; 

On this hillock I see his grave. 

The blue-eyed hawk of Essroy, 

The victor in every fight. 
Pierced by the poisonous bristle — 

There he lies on the height ! 

By the jealous design of Finn 

Fell the bright-souled MacDoon 
Redder his lips than the cherry, 
• Whiter his breast than the sun. 

His tresses flowed golden yellow ; 

Long eyelash 'neath brow so fair ; 
Blue and gray in his eye ; 

Prettj' and curled his liair. 

Grentle and sweet in his speech 

Was that champion clotlied with might ; 

With elegant hands and a faultless form. 
And a skin of purest white. 

Fair winner of women's love, 

MacDoon of the witching eyes ; 
In courtship he'll ne'er engage. 

For there 'neath the sod lie lies. 

Nor with steed nor with hunter shall Diarmad 

Go forth for the cliase again ; 
The loved son of beauty and valour 

Is left there, alas, in the Glen ! 

The Death of Diarmad, like the Death of Oscar, has been a great 
favourite with reciters. But believers in the authenticity of Mac- 
pherson's " Ossian " regard the former as inferior poetry. The 
author of the version translated above, Allan Macrorie, lived pro- 
bably in the ihirteenth or fourteenth century. Glen-Shee, mentioned 
in the poem, is a well-known locality in Perthshire, and Ben-Guibin 



is a hill in Glen-Shee. But this is not the only place that is said 
to be the scene of the slaying of the boar and of Diarmad's death. 
The district around West Loch Tarbert, Kintyre, also affords 
topographical indications of the famous hunt having taken place 
there. Nor can the claims of our friends, the Irish, be forgotten ; 
they also have their SUabh Gidbin. 

When some of the ballads are described as Ossianic it is not to 
be understood that they were composed at the time that Ossian is 
supposed to have lived, but that the theme is Ossianic. Of this 
class is a eulogistic poem on Finn in the Book of the Dean of 
Lismore. Althou,:;h written nearly 400 years ago it has yet a 
modern ring about it as compared with many of the other ballads. 
The earlier versions of these Ossianic ballads were composed pro- 
bably in Pagan times, but as the Pagan reciters of them were dying 
off, the minstrels nominally Christian would take their place, and 
adapt the old ballads to the new state of things. The elder pro- 
ductions would be undergoing continual transformations in the 
hands of every new class of reciters. While the theme is the same, 
sometimes the versions are so different that no single verse in the 
one can be found in the other. It is in this manner that their 
chronology becomes a puzzle. Anachronisms abound. Ossian, 
who flourished upwards of two hundred years before, is introduced 
by the Christian and post-Ossianic reciters as holding converse , 
with St. Patrick. 

" Actor hujus Ossane M'Finn ;" or The Author of this is Ossian, 
the Son of Finn, is prefixed lo the poem of which I am now to give 
a translation. In the course of the ages, Ossian has had to accept 
the paternity of many productions ; but people took this as a 
matter of course until the appearance of the celebrated works of 
James Macpherson 250 years after Sir James Macgregor prefixed 
Ossian's name to this poem. The poetry of this piece is not of a 
very high order, but is interesting as giving the popular conceptions 
regarding Finn 400 years ago. It was probably composed by an 
ecclesiastic, the number of which class at the time in the Highlands 
was considerable. It begins thus : — 

For twice three days and one great Finn I did not see ; 
And ne'er before a week such sorrow brought to me. 
The son of Teigi's daughter, king of deeds and might, 
My teacher and my strength, my guidance and my light. 
Both poet he and chief, a king my love commands ; 
Finn, monarch of tlie Feinn, the lord of many lands. 
Leviathan at sea, a lion on the shore, 
Keen as the air-borne hawk, and wise in art and lore ; 


He's courteous and just, a ruler firm and true. 
Full polished in his ways, deceit he never knew. 
A lofty chief is he in song and in the fight, 
Resistless to the foe, to friends their fame and might. 
His skin is like tiie clialk, his cheek is like the rose, 
His eye transparent blue, his hair like gold down flows. 
The trust of all his men, with every charm of mind, 
Prepared for worthy deed, to women meek and kind. 
Great champion was he, loved son of field and flood, 
The brightness of the blades, the tree above each wood. 
Full generous was the king — good and rich wine he poured 
From the large green-hued bottle on the festive board. 

We never read in the older ballads of such non-priraitive things as 
bottles. Am botid mor glas, which the Hberal Finn would place 
on the table, must have belonged to the fifteenth century. The 
good quahties of Finn are not yet exhausted. 

Of noble mind and form and of a winning mien — 
His people's Head — he walked with stejj so firm, serene. 
In Banva of the hills the fame of war he sought ; 
There battles tw'ce fifteen the royal Fingal fought. 
Assistance for the weak MacCuhail ne'er withheld, 
In heart and on his lips no falsehood ever dwelled. 
Finn never grudged his aid, his people ne'er oppressed — 
The King above all kings, the sun above the rest. 
In Erin of the saints before his mighty hand 
The monsters left the lakes, the serpents fled the land. 
I never could declare, though mine were endless days, 
I ne'er could tell one-thii-d of his good deeds and praise. 

It is rather curious to find the stereotyped " Erin of the Saints," 
in a composition of the fifteeenth century. Wnile suggesting the 
ecclesiastical character of the author, it does not prove that he 
was a very zealous '• saint " himself ; for we find that he quietly 
ascribes to Fmn exploits which the Irish ecclesiastical world has 
all along attributed to St. Patrick. " He cleared the lakes of 
monsters and the land of serpents." As usual, Ossian himself is 
described as an deigh na Feinne : — 

But sad am I, and Finn of the brave Fianna dead ; 
With him, the princely chief, my pride and joy have fled. 
Well may my tears outpour, for no delight survives 
The princes and the chiefs and all their royal wives. 
I lean on death's cold arm^i'm like the shaking x'eed ; 
I'm like an empty nut — I seem a reinless steed. 
A feeble kern am I, with sorrow sore within— 
Rv'n Ossian I, the bard, the son of noble Finn, 


In his forlorn state the baixl now remembers tlie house and court 
of Finn, his royal father : — 

Since Finn now reigns no more, all that I owned is gone — 

His house had seven sides — the house of Cuhal's son ; 

And seven score of shields did hang on every side ; 

There fifty robes of wool had been the king beside — 

Fifty warriors filled the robes, wlio were the royal pride. 

There were ten bowls full briglit for drink, where Finn did dine, 

Ten horns of gold, and ten blue flagons of good wine. 

How goodly was that house ! liow grand tlie home of Finn ! 

Mean grudging liands, false lustful hearts, there nt'er had been. 

Each man had equal riglits among the mighty Feinn ; 

To emulate the King his followers were fain. 

He was our chief renowned so far, so nobly good. 

Who never to the meanest man was proud or rude. 

None empty lett his house, good, generous was he ; 

No gifts were e'er like his — gifts scattered wide and free. 

In Cnoc-an-air, an Irish poem, there is a description of the treasures 
of the Finians, which were said to have been hidden under Loch 
Lene (Killarney), that reminds us of the robes of wool in Finn's 
house. The Irishman and the Highlander got the conception 
probably from the same source : — 

This is the lake— the fiercest to be seen, 
That is under the sun truly ; 
Many treasures belonging to the Fians, 
Are in it doubtless secured this night. 
There are in the northern side 

Fifty blue-green coats of mail ; 
There are in the western side 
Fifty helmets in one pile ! 

And hundreds of swords, " broad '• and "glittering," and shields, 
and gold and raiment in plenty. The Scottish author, perhaps 
because his ideas were cast in a more ancient mould, was some- 
what more modest in his description of Finian wealth. 


The Norse ballads constitute another class. The wars between 
the Feinn and the Lochlins are the theme of many of the ancient 
C)ssianic ballads. It is impossible to say exactly to what age they 
severally belong. The Vikings, or sea rovers, began their visits to 
the Western Isles and Ireland as early as the first century, and 


continued these visits for more than a thousand years. The name 
Viking has no connection with King being derived from vie, a bay 
— vicing, baysman — as Mr Robertson has clearly shown. The 
erroneous translation sea-kings has been used by several writers. 
It is the same word as the Gaelic Uig, the name of places on the 
west sides of Skye and Lewis. In English it assumes the form of 
JVick — Inwencick. It also means a bay or creek in Gaelic, as 
found in the words of a poet, " idgecm saUe^ In 794 the 
Western Isles were ravaged and lona destroyed. The monastery 
of lona was burnt in 802 by these Vikings ; and in S06 the family 
of lona, sixty-eight in number, were slain. The abbot of lona 
then retired to Kells, Ireland, and lona ceased to be the centre 
of Gaelic learning, while all relics of Gaelic culture were removed 
to Dunkeld and other places. 

The Gaelic people of Albin and Erin call the Danes and the 
Vikings Lochlins. The Vikings were originally half Celtic, 
if not altogether a Celtic race. Indeed the substrata of many of 
the Germanic tribes were originally Celtic. 

The following ballad probably i-elates to the wars of the eleventh 
century : — 


The Norland King stood on the height 

And scanned the rolling sea ; 
He proudly eyed his gallant ships 

That rode triumphantly. 

And then lie looked where lay his camp, 

Along the rocky coast, 
And where were seen the heroes brave 

Of Lochlin's famous host. 

Then to the land he turn'd, and there 

A fierce-like hero came ; 
Above him was a flag of gold, 

That waved and shone like flame. 

" Sweet Bard," thus spoke the Norland King, 

" What banner comes in sight ? 
The valiant chief that le.-^ds the host, 

Who is that man of might ?" 

" That," said the bard, "is young MacDoon 

His is that banner bright ; 
When forth the Feinn to battle go. 

He's foremost in the fight." 


" Sweet bard, another comes ; I see 

A blood-red banner toss'd 
Above a mighty hero's head 

Who waves it o'er a host ?" 

" That banner," quoth the bard, " belongs 

To good and valiant Rayne ; 
Beneath it feet are bathed in blood 

And heads are cleft in twain," 

' ' Sweet bard, what banner now I see 

A leader fierce and strong 
Behind it moves with heroes brave 

Who furious round him throng ?" 

"That is the banner of Great Gaul : 

That silken shred of gold, 
Is first to marcli and last to turn, 

And flight ne'er stained its fold." 

" Sweet' bard, another now I see, 

High o'er a host it glows. 
Tell whether it has ever shone 

O'er fields of slaughtered foes ?" 

" That gory flag is Cailt's," quoth he, 

" It proudly peers in sight ; 
It won its fame on many a field 

In fierce and bloody fight." 

" Sweet bard, another still I see ; 

A host it flutters o'er ; 
Like bird above the roaring surge 

That laves the storm-swept shore." 

" The Broom of Peril," quoth the bard, 

" Young Oscar's banner, see : 
Amidst the conflict of dread chiefs 

The proudest name has he." 

The banner of great Finn we raised ; 

The Sunbeam gleaming far, 
With golden spangles of renown 

From many a field of war. 

The flag was fastened to its staff 
With nine strong chains of gold, 

With nine times nine chiefs for each chain 
Before it foes oft rolled. 

•' Redeem your pledge to me," said Finn ; 

" And show your deeds of might 
To Lochlin as you did before 

In many a gory fight." 


Like torrents from the mountain heights 

That roll resistless on ; 
So down upon the foe we rushed, 

And brillant victory won. 

The abov^e set of verses occur in several ballads with considei-- 
able variations. It was a sort of national war-song among the 
Finian leaders in their frequent conflicts with the Norwegians. In 
the translation several verses are taken from different sources. 

Heroic daring and deeds are ascribed by the bard to each of the 
warrior-chieftains. Brown Diarmad MacUoon is foremost in the 
fight ; the valiant Rayne leaves cloven heads behind him ; great 
Gaul is ever the first to fight, and never turns his back on the foe ; 
Cailte has won his fame on many a field ; Oscar hears the proudest 
name of all the chiefs ; and, finally, Finn himself comes before us, 
his banner, Deo-greine (Sunbeam), gleaming with its spangles of 
fame over that heroic band, whom he now invites to sweep down 
on the Lochlins. 

The specimens now given of the ancient ballad poetry of the 
Gael will be sufiicient to indicate its character and style. It only 
remains now to mention in connection with the heroic ballads the 
names of a few more of the better known ones. 

There is a very fine ballad on the death of Dearg or Dargo. 
Others are the Expeditions or Imeachd of Finn, of ^aobiear, or 
Nine, &c., and the Great Distress of the Fmgahans — Teantaclul 
Mor na Feinne. A Norwegian Hag is the theme of a good deal 
of composition, while the Invasion of Magnus or Mamcs is a 
ballad of considerable length and interest. This was probably 
the celebrated Magnus Barefoot, so well-known in the Hebrides, 
and throughout the north-west. From the Orkneys to the Isle 
of ^lan and Ireland, along the west coast of Scotland, the Lochlins 
traversed the seas for centuries and held rule ; and well did they 
and the Highlanders know one another. 



"Lying, worldly stories concerning the Tuatha de Danann, the sons of 
Milesius, and Finn Mac Cumhail with his Feine." — Oaksuel (a.d. 15G7.) 

It may be thought by some that too much has been said con- 
cerning the ballads and the character of the B'einne. Others may 
be quite dissatisfied with the fragmentary notices which have been 
taken of those grand Gaelic ancestors. The former ought to bear in 
mind that the authors of these Celtic romances were the fathers 
and for centuries the cultivators of Gaelic song and story : and 
that they were also " the cause " of much rhyme and romance in 
others. The student of Gaelic literature can no more give up his 
devotion to Ossian and to the bards who were liis contemporaries 
and successors than the English student can forget his Chaucer and 
.Spensei and the glorious poetic host of the Elizabethan age. The 
latter ought to remember that instead of a few paragraphs it would 
require many volumes to bring forward with fair adequacy the 
Uterature and history of the Finian period. 

Let us now glance at the popular fictions of Irish romancists. To 
the Scottish student these are suggestive as presenting similar but 
varying conceptions regarding the same class of heroes. 

As bearing on the Irish character of the present day, it is very 
remarkal)le that the Irish versions of the stories and ballads are, as 
compared with those of Scotland, characterised by more magnifi- 
cent e.xaggerations and more gorgeous romance. The glow of 
richer eloquence and of a more splendid verbiage, combined at the 
same time with more of the sense of the ludicrous and incongruous, 
is felt as you tread the famous field of Magh-lene, or the more re- 
nowned scene of CafJiyarhJi [Gabhra], or listen to the cleverly 
invented dialogues between Ossian and Patrick, in the company 
and under the guidance of the Irish Gaelic liternti. This is worth 
noting, for it indicates how early essential differences began to 
develop between the two tribes of the same race. At this very 


day the natural eloquence of Irishmen (proberbially all born orators) 
far transcends that of Highlanders, whose hardy native hills appear 
to have made them generally more men of brave deeds than of 
eloquent good words. The richer soil and the softer climate of 
Ireland have had a more emasculating influence on the Irish brother 
tribes ; but nature is not always unkind ; this possible disadvantage 
is more than counterbalanced by the rich flow, suavity, and sweet- 
ness of the Irish tongue. It is not only the eloquence but the 
peculiar character of Irish wil and humour that is traceable in 
Eire's versions of the Celtic romances. There is also a stationary 
element observable in the history of the nation. The pre-Celtic, 
Celtic or Finian Ireland is very much to-day what it was upwards 
of a thousand years ago. St. Patrick may have made the most 
of Ireland nominally Christian but the essential heathenism of 
many of the people has never been yet eradicated ; nor was it in 
the Highlands till this century, deeply and powerfully as the people 
were touched by drastic ecclesiastical and political changes. A 
Highland bard of great natural abilities and poetic endowments — 
William Livingston — has very well expressed in an interesting 
poem, '• Eirin a' gul " (Erin weeping), his satisfied conviction that 
the people have never changed. Livingston sang as a Scottish 
Gael of the pre- Reformation days would. He had as little regard 
for his Holiness in Eome as he had for the late Rev. Principal 
Candlish, of Edinburgh, when the latter was preaching in Greenock, 
and Livingston assumed a threatening attitude as if he would dirk 
the preacher, who had the temerity to touch up the Highlanders — 
about the Sustentation Fund, I suppose. It is melancholy to ob- 
serve — especially suggestive to those who make so much of our 
boasted advancement in civilisation — that the Gaelic peasantry of 
Munster today cannot show that they have risen higher on the 
steps of their ancestral dead selves than what they were when the 
Gaelic ballads were first rehearsed on the glens and bens of ancient 
Mv.bnan. The same remark till recently was applicable to many 
parts of the Highlands. 

Among the most famous of the old Celtic romances are the 
three tragical stories of the " Children of Tuirrean," the " Children 
of Lir." and the " Children of Uisneach," whom we have already 
come across in the Gaelic ballads ; also the " Pursuit of Diarmad,'' 
and the "Cattle Raid of Cuailgue, " As it has been always so 
popular in both Scotland and Ireland, let us look at the " Pursuit 
of Diarmad." There is no space for even the briefest outlines of 
the large number of other celebrated fictions. The following 


paragraphs from this nearly endless Prirsuit may be compared 
with the Scottish poetical version already given. 

Finn is about to be married to the daughter of King Cormac, 
and high festival is held in 'the banquetting hall of royal Tara. 

The King of Erin sits down to enjoy drinking and pleasure, with 
his wife at his shoulder, and Hraine at her shoulder. Finn Mac- 
Cuhail is at the King's right hand. Cairbre Lififeachair, the son 
of the king, is there, and so is Ossian. the son of Finn. The other 
chief Finian heroes are also there. (In the quotations I follow the 
Irish orthography of the proper names.) 

" 'Tell me now,' said Grainne to Daire Mac Morna of the 
songs, ' who is that warrior at the right shoulder of Oisin, the son 
of Fionn ?' ' Yonder,' said the druid, ' is GoU Mac Morna, the 
active, the warHke.' ' Who is that warrior at the shoulder of GoU ?' 
said Grainne. ' Oscar, the son of Oisin,' said the druid. 'Who 
i.s that graceful -legged-man at the shoulder of Oscar?' said Grainne. 
' Caoilte Mac Ronain,' said the druid. 'What haughty, impetuous 
warrior is that, yonder, at the shoulder of Caoilte X said Grainne. 
'The son of Lughaidh of the mighty hand, and that man is sister's 
son to Fionn Mac Curahaill,' said the druid. ' Who is that 
freckled, sweet-worded man, upon whom is the curling dusky-black 
hair, and [who has] the two red ruddy cheeks, upon the left hand 
of Oisin, the son of Fionn ?" ' That man is Diarmad, the grand- 
son of Duibhne. the white-tootlied, of the lightsome countenance ; 
that is the best lover of women and of maidens that is in the whole 
world.' 'Who is that at the shoulder of Diarmad ?' said Grainne. 
' Diorruing, the son of Dobhar Dauihadh O'Baoisgne, and that 
man is a druid and a skilful man of science,' said Daireduanach. 
* That is a goodly company,' said Grainne " 

Miss Graine Mac Cormac, or rather Princess Graine, might well 
make this remarkable admission regarding the character of those 
heroes. She was emphatically a woman. The above series of 
questions is thoroughly in harmony with the inquisitorial character 
of ladies of fashion in general, as well as with ordinary feminine 
curiosity. This curiosity was awakened by the vision of and con- 
tact with a band of conquering heroes whose names have mysteri- 
ously touched the heart of the Celtic world for centuries. Let 
handsome young Diarmads be careful. Grkinne " called her attend- 
ant handmaid to her, and told her to bring to her the jewelled- 
golden-chased goblet which was in the grianan after her. The 
handmaid brought the goblet, and Grainne filled the goblet forth- 
with, and there used to go into it the drink of nine times nine men. 


Grainne said, ' Take the goblet to Fionn first, and bid him take a 
draught out of it, and disclose to him ihat it is I that sent it to 
him.' " This was done by the obsequious handmaid ; the same 
dose was sent to Cormac, his wife, and son, by the orders of 
Princess Graine, with the result that " one after another they 
fell into a stupor of sleep and of deep slumber." The scheming 
Graine might well be satisfied with the immediate fruits of tlie 
potations which she administered to her father, Fionn and the rest. 
She is now to administer a dose of a different sort to Finn's 
nephew, Diarmad. And while we cannot refuse our sympathies 
to the brave and betrothed Finn, severe as our ethics in the marital 
sphere may be, yet we cannot also help remembering that it was 
hard for a young princess to be wedded to even a sovereign person 
whose son and grandson were present. She must have intuitively 
felt it would be the union of June and December. Diarmad, "the 
white-toothed, of the lightsome countenance ;" and " the best 
lover of women and of maidens in the whole world," and Finn's 
nephew, would naturally be esteemed a more desirable admirei' by 
this highly passionate and royal girl. 

Graine turns to Diarmad and says to him : " Wilt thou receive 
courtship from lae, O'son of Duibhne ?" " I will not," said Diar- 
mad. '' Then," said Graine, '• I put thee under bonds of danger 
and destruction, O Diarmuid, that is, under the bonds of Drom- 
draoidheachta, if thou take me not with thee out of this household 
to-night, ere Fionn and the King of Erin arise out of that sleep." 
Diarmad replies by speaking of the bonds as "evil," and indulges 
in expressions o^ self-depreciation. She reminds him of some 
brave deeds he performed once "on the plain of Teamhair [Tara]," 
when " Fionn and the seven battalions of the standing Fenians 
chanced to be there." She insinuates that this was the cause of 
her admiration, seeing Diarmad taking ' his caman from the next 
man to " him, and winning the goal three times upon Cairber and 
upon the warriors of Teamhair." She turned the light of her eyes 
upon him that day, and never gave her love to another, nor would 
she till she died. Diarmad wonders why it was not Finn that was 
the object of her love instead of himself, because ' there is not in 
Erin a man that is fonder of a woman than he." He now makes 
another excuse : Finn has the keys of Tara ; they cannot leave the 
town. But the willing lady finds means of exit for herself and the 
reluctantly gallant gentleman. " There is a wicket-gate to my 
Grianan, and we will pass out through it." Diarmad, after some 
more ungallant excuses, goes to " his people,'' and particularly to 


Ossian, and says, "O, Oisin, son of Fionn, what shall I do with 
these bonds that have been laid on me?" 'Thou are not guilty 
of the bonds which have been laid on thee," said Oisin, " and I 
tell thee to follow Grainne, and keep thyself well against the wiles 
of Fionn." The soft-hearted, but irresolute Diar.rad, questions 
the rest of the Finian heroes in a similar fashion ; and they all 
appear to be favourable to Graine's proposition and bonds ; one 
of them, Caoilte, says very gallantly and emphatically, "I say that 
1 have a fitting wife, and yet I had rather than tlie wealth of the 
world that it had been to me that Grainne gave that love." This 
sounds very like the possible determination of a chivalrous Irish 
colonel of "the seven battalions of the standing Fenians." After 
a little further hesitation, Diarmad at last exclaims, "Then go 
forward, O Grainne." The hero now enters on a series of rnanly 
exploits Graine and he flee into Clanrickard, in Galway, where 
he fortifies a little grove in which they shelter themselves. Those 
in pursuit discover this grove, but Diarmad's sagacious advisers 
before he left send the knowing dog. Bran, half human, half-brute, 
to warn him. Bran has "knowledge and wisdom," and thrusts 
his head into Diarmad's bosom. That, and the friendly shouts of 
the dog's far-off masters are sufficient. 

There now appears in the relation a character well known in 
many stories — Aonghas, or Angus, vel Innes, vel ^neas, of the 
Brough, a place on the Boyne. He was the son of Dagdae, a king 
of the Danaans in Ireland ; and mirahile dictu reigned over the 
island for eighty years. He was a great friend of Diarmad, to 
whom he presented two remarkable swords and two javelins equally 
remarkable and venomous in their character, designated — the former 
Moraltagh and Begaltagh ; and the latter, Gatlidearg and Gath- 
huidhe. He now comes to the help of the eloping fugitives in their 
besieged "grove," where *' Grainne awoke out of her sleep " in a 
rather disconcerted state of mind. Aojighas carries her off in a- 
fold of his mantle, but Diarmad will not submit to be rescued in 
that rather inf^lorious fashion. 

After that Aonghas and Graine had departed. Diarmad " arose 
as a straight pillar and stood upwright, and girded his arms and 
his armour and his various sharp weapons about him.'' He came 
to a door of the seven-wattled doors that there were to the en- 
closure, and asked who was at it. One or other of the chiefs of 
the Feinne was at the first five doors at which he successively in- 
terrogated ; and each and all of them were ready to permit him 
tacitly to make his escape, but his chivalrous nature would not 


allow him to regain his freedom in any unknightly fashion. The 
sixth wicket is hostile ; but it is not Finn's. He comes to the 
seventh : — " He asked who was at it? ' Here are Fionn, the son 
of Cumhaill, the son of Art, the son of Treunmhor, O'Baoisgne, 
and four hundred hirelings with him ; and we bear thee no love, 
and if thou \\ouldst come out to us, we would cleave thy bones 
asunder.' 'I pledge my sword,' said Diarmuid, 'that the door at 
which thou art, O Fionn, is the first [ie , the very] door by which 
I will pass of [all] the doors.' Having heard that Fionn charged 
his battalions on pain of their death, and of their instant destruction, 
not to let Diarmad pass them without their knowledge. Diarmuid 
having heard that, arose with an airy, high, exceeding light bound, 
by the shafts of his javelins and by the staves of his spears, and 
went a great way out beyond Fionn and beyond his people without 
their knowledge or perception. He looked back upon them, and 
proclaimed to them that he had passed them, and slung his shield 
upon the broad arched expanse of his back, and so went straight 
v/estward ; and he was not long in going out of sight of Fionn and 
of the Fenians." 

At Ros-da-shoileach (now Limerick) the hero found Aonghas 
and Graine in a warm and comfortable hut, with half a wild boar 
on spits. Aonghas departs, leaving with them his best counsel 
against '• the wiles of Finn." 

After availing themselves of various refuges, the fugitive pair 
approach the west coast of Kerry, where they see the allies of 
Fionn from the French coast drawing close to the shore. Nine 
times nine warriors step ashore, and Diarmad inquires what was 
their business, and what county they came from. The reply that 
they are " the three royal chiefs of Muir-n-iocht," and are now 
come at Fionn Mac Cumhaill's order to seek and to curb " a forest 
marauder" called Diarmuid O'Duibhne, whom he has outlawed. 
In a trial of skill Diarmuid kills fifty of these French Finians. 
These are styled " green " Finians, with three of whom Diarmad 
deals somewhat remorselessly in the course of a day or two. Their 
names will be interesting to the Gaelic reader — Duch-chosach 
(black-footed), y'7oyi«-cAo6r«c/i (fair footed), Treunchosach (strong- 
footed). Before he finally encounters these and the '' three 
enchanted hounds" Diarmad thus accoutres himself:—" He girt 
about him his suit of battle and of conflict, under which, through 
which, or over which, it was not possible to wound him ; and he 
took the Moralltach, that is the sword of Aonghas na Brogha, at 
his left side, which [sword] left no stroke nor blow unfinished at 


the first trial. He took likewire his two thick shafted javeUns of 
battle- -from which none recovered, either man or woman, that 
had ever been wounded by them. After that, Diarmuid roused 
Grainne and bade her keep watcli and ward for Muadhan, [saying] 
that he himself would go to view the four quarters around him. 
When Grainne beheld Diarmuid with bravery and daring [clothed] 
in his suit of anger and of battle, fear and great dread seized her." 
But an off-hand reply " soothed Grainne, and then Diarmuid went 
in that array to meet the green Finians.'' These are part of the 
troubles and feats of Diarmad MacDoon, the alleged ancestor of 
the great MacCailein line. The romance will be found in the 
third volume of the Tninsactions of the Dublin Ossianic Society, 
well edited by Mr S. H. O'Grady. Our own Highland versions 
on the subject are tolerably well known. 

During the dreamy period of the Middle Ages the great literary 
source of amusement among the Gaels of Scotland were the 
" Ursgeuls," nuhle or romantic tales, which upwards of thirty 
years ago were collected and published (1859-62) by J. F. Camp- 
bell, Esq., of I slay. They were not produced in the heroic ages, 
the period of the great mass of our ballad literature. The ballads 
and the tales, no doubt, have been mixed together ; but the latter 
are distinctly of a later growth. Some of the tales were manufac- 
tured as recently as the eighteenth century ; but the most of them 
belong to the pre-Reformation period. Some of them are traceable 
to classical sources ; others indicate relationship with Oriental 
stories. From Japan to the Hebrides, as shown by Mr Campbell 
in his introduction and notes to the four volumes of his " West 
Highland Tales," are found the relics of the same original " Sgeul- 
achd,'' with the modifications which country, clime, and circum- 
stance would naturally necessitate. In their fundamental lines or 
conceptions these tales are the common property of the whole 
Aryan race — of the Hindoo in the east, and of the German and. 
Celt of the west. The study of talelogy, as well as philology, leads 
us to the common origin of all the members of the Indo-European 
family. Many of the Highland tales must have been matured 
under the spirit that the crusades into the east invoked in the west. 
We find reference in them to Turks, Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, 
Franks, &c., and to conditions of life which show their close 
relations to mediaeval times. They became the popular literary 
sustenance of the people, supplying the want which is met by the 
popular works of fiction or novels of the present day. We find 
every phase of character exhibited in their outlines, extravagant as 


many of them often are. They are still waiting classification. 
Mr Campbell was a very enthusiastic collector of these tales 
for years. He traversed more than once the whole of the High- 
lands to gather up these fragments of l:)ygone Celtic lif^:. His 
success far exceeded his sanguine anticipations. His volumes 
constitute the monument of his success, as well as of the industry, 
talent, and scientific spirit which he brought to bear upon the work. 
He had many hearty assistants in all parts of the Highlands, whom 
he inspired with much o! his own ent'iusiasni. Mr Hector Mac- 
Lean, of Ballygrant, Islay, an able Gaelic scholar, and a man of 
real culture and literary talent, helped him in transcribing the 
Gaelic, while he himself transferred the tales into literal idiomatic 
English. It has been fortunate for our limited Gaelic literature 
that Mr Campbell has left us so much of our popular prose in 
these goodly four volumes, and so much of genuine ballad poetry 
in his " Leabliar na Feinne." I give a specimen of these tales in 
translation. Space will not admit of giving the sgeuluchd complete; 
but enough is presented to illustrate the general style and character. 
The reader of these tales realises at once their kinship with the 
Danish tales of Andersen, the German stories of Grimm, and the 
Welsh Mabinogion translated by Lady Guest. 


There was a witlow once of a time, and she had three daughters, 
and they said to her that they were going to seek their fortunes. 
She prepared three bannocks. She said to the big daughter, 
" Whether do you like best the little half with my blessing, or the 
big half with my curse ?" " I like best," said she, " the big half 
with your curse." She said to the middle one, " Whether do you 
like best the big half with my, or the little half with my 
blessing?'' " I like best," said she, ''^ the big half with your curse." 
She said to the little one, "Whether do you like best the big half 
with my curse, or the little half with my blessing?" "I like best 
the little half with your blessing." This pleased her mother, and 
she gave her the other half likewise. 

They left^ but the two elder ones did not wish to have the 
younger one with them, anci they tied her to a stone. They held on, 
and when they looked behind them whom did they see coming 
but her with the rock on her back. They let her alone for a while 
until they reached a stack of peats, and they tied her to the peat- 
stack. They held on for a while, when whom did they see coming 


but her with tlie stack of peats on her back. They let her alone 
for a while until they reached a tree, and they tied her to the tree. 
They held on, and whom did they see coming but her with the 
tree on her back. They saw that there was no use meddling with 
her. They loosed her and they let her come with them. They 
were travelling till night overtook them. They saw a light far 
from them, and if it was far from them they were not long reaching 
it. They went in. What was this but the house of a giant. They 
asked to remain overnight. They got that, and they were set to 
bed with the three daughters of the giant. 

There were turns of amber beads around the necks of the giant's 
daughters, and strings of hair around their necks. They all slept, 
but Maol a' Chliobain kept awake. During the night the gi;mt got 
thirsty. He called to his bald rough-skinned lad to bring him 
water. The hald rough-skinned lad said that there was not a drop 
within. " Kill," said he, " one of the strange girls, and bring me 
her blood." " How will I know them 1" said the bald rough- 
skinned lad " There are turns of beads about the necks of my 
daughters, and turns of hair about the necks of the rest." Maol 
a' Chliobain heard the giant, and as quickly as she could she put 
the strings of hair that were about her own neck and the necks of 
her sisters about the necks of the giant's daughters, and the beads 
that were about the necks of the giant's daughters about her own 
neck and the necks of her sisters, and laid herself quietly down. 
The bald rough-skinned lad came and killefl one of the daughters 
of the giant, and brought him her blood. He bade him bring him 
more. He killed the second one. He bade him bring him more, 
and he killed the third. Maol a' Chliobain wakened her sisters, 
and she took them on her back and went away. The giant ob- 
served her, and he followed her. 

The sparks of fire which she was driving out of the stones with 
her heels were striking the giant in the chin, and the sparks of fire 
that the giant was taking out of the stones with the points of his 
feet, they were striking Maol a' Chliobain in the back of her head. 
It was thus with them until they reached a river. Maol a' Chliobain 
leaped tlie river, and the giant could not leap the river. " You 
are over, Maol a' Chliobain.'' '• Yes, if it vex you." " You killed 
my three bald red-skinned daughters." •• Yes, if it vex you." 
" And when will you come again 1" " I will come when my 
business brings me," &c., &c. 

The tale is a good deal longer ; but the above portion will give 
an idea of the style and manner of the whole. Unlike many of the 


ballads, the language of these tales is thoroughly popular. Mr 
Campbell had in his possession, besides what he published, much 
material deposited after his recent death in the Advocates' 

A Popular Rhyme, frequently occurring in the tales, is a great 
favourite as a boat song. It fills the same place in the popular 
romances that the " Banners " does in the heroic ballads. The 
original will be found in the second volume of Campbell's •" Tales," 
and is regarded as very old. " The vigorous and elastic spirit 
that pervades the following verses must have strung the heart of 
many a hardy mariner who loved to feel the fresh and briny breeze 
drivmg his snoring Birlinn, bounding like a living creature over 
the tumbling billows of the inland loch, or the huge swell of the 
majestic main." Pattison translates thus : — 

We turned her prow unto the sea, her stern unto the shore, 

And first we raised the tall, tough masts, and then the canvas hoar ; 

Fast filled our towering, cloud-like sails, for the wind came from the land, 

And such a wind as we might choose, were the winds at our command : 

A breeze that rushing down the hill would strip the blooming heather. 

Or rustling through the greeu-clad grove, would whirl its leaves together. 

It heaped the ruins on the land, though sire and sire stood by. 

They could no help afford, but gaze with wan and troubled eye ! 

A flap, a flash, the green roll dashed, and laughed against the red ; 

Upon our boards, now here, now there, it knocked its foamy head. 

The dun bowed whilk in the abyss, as on the galley bore. 

Gave a tap upon her gunwale and a slap upon her floor. 

She could have split a slender straw — so clean and so well she went — 

As still obedient to the helm her stately course she bent. 

We watched the big beast eat the small — the small beast nimbly fly, 

And listen to the plunging eels — the sea-gulls' clang on high — 

We had no other music to cheer us on our way 

Till round those sheltering hills we passed, and anchored in this bay. 

When the hero or heroes of the tale had fco undertake a sea 
voyage this rhyme was invariably introduced by the reciter as a fit 
description of how it was accomplished. Ghearradh i cuinnlein 
caol coirce le/eabhas a stiuraidh appears to have been the highest 
conception of skilful steering, and we may readily believe that it 
would be hard to surpass such a marvellous feat. Much complaint 
has been made against these same " lying, worldly stories," which 
the good bishop Carsuel found obstructing his reforming efforts. 
Several of his profession since have uttered the same complaint. 
But surely if the minds of the people were not filled with a better 
gospel, the wisest thing they could do was to extract any lessons of 
prudence and morality that they could find in these simple tales. 


As to the preservation and age of these romances the question 
is excellently stated in the following sentences by Standish G'Grady : 
" Whatever it may be that has given vitality to the traditions of 
the mythic and elder historic period, they have survived to modern 
times ; when they have been formed into large manuscript collec- 
tions, of which the commonest titles, ' Bolg an tSalathair,' answer- 
ing to a ' Comprehensive Miscellany.' These were for the most 
part written by professional scribes and schoolmasters, and being 
then lent to, or bought by those who could read, but had no leisure 
to write, used to be read aloud in farmer's houses on occasions when 
numbers were collected at some employment, such as wool-carding 
in the evenings ; but especially at wakes. Thus the people became 
familiar with all these tales. The writer has heard a man who 
never possessed a manuscript, nor heard of O' Flanagan's publica- 
tion, relate at the fireside the death of the sons of Uisneach with- 
out omitting one adventure, and in great part retaining the very 
words of the written versions." '-It has been already said that 
some of these legends and poems are new versions of old ; but it 
is not to be supposed that they are so m at all the same degree or 
the same sense as, for instance, the modernised Canterbury Tales 
are of Chaucer's original work. There is this great difference, 
that in the former, nothing has been changed but some inflections 
and constructions, and the orthography which has become more 
fixed ; the genius and idiom of the language, and in a very great 
measure the words, remaining the same ; while in the latter all 
these have been much altered. Again the new versions of Chaucer 
are of the present day ; whereas our tales and poems, both the 
modifications of older ones, and those which in their very origin 
are recent, are one with the other, most probably three hundred 
years old." 

It was the authors, writers, and preservers of these tales and 
romances that manufactured and handed down to us the fabulous 
chronicles in which tlie early migrations and history of the Gaelic 
clans lie embedded. Let us cast a glance at these interesting 
chronicles, the historical value of which has not yet been decided 
by our Celtic literati. 

It has been a question much discussed, how the British islands 
were first peopled ; whether some other nameless tribes landed 
before the Celts : and in what manner the Celts came into pos- 
session. It is admitted by some Cymri in traditions that their 
brother Gaels were before them, whoever had been in possession 
before the Gaels. Hu the Mighty, the great ancestor of the 


Welsh, being a wise vuler, entered into federal relations with the 
Gaels on his arrival, the land being extensive enough for the two 
Celtic tribes. This Hu Gadarn, who is said to have come with 
his people direct from the regions round about '• where Constan- 
tinople now is," is thus described in the poetry of his country : — 

" The mighty Hu with mead would pay 
The bard for his melodious lay ; 
The Emperor of land and sea 
And of all living things was he." 

Irish annalists make a certain Milesius and others leaders of the 
Gaelic colonies by which Ireland was peopled. These colonies 
came from the East, and having rested in Spain, they sailed thence 
directly to Ireland. There are many historical romances extant 
regarding these colonies of Gaels and their wanderings and final 
settlement in Ireland. " The Chronicles of Eri " is among the 
most interesting. Dr Keating, in his legendary history of Ireland, 
gives the descent of the Gael from Ciathelus, or Gaidhecd Glas, as 
follows : — Gathelus, who started westward from Egypt, was the son 
of Niul^ son of Fenius Farsa, son of Baath, son of Magog, son of 
Japbet, son of Noah ! The force of reason could no further go. 
Niul was a man of much learning and wisdom, and was married to 
a daughter of Pharaoh, called Scoto. She was the mother of 
Gathelus, who, it is said, was an intimate friend of Moses. When 
the great exodus of Israel from Egypt took place Gathelus was in 
his eightieth year. After various adventures his descendants 
arrived in Spain, where they remained for some time masters of 
the country. Milidh or Milesius was an eminent warrior ; greatly 
distinguished himself before leaving Egypt in a war with the 
Ethiopians ; fought in Scythia, and became one of tlie kings of the 
descendants of Gathelus in Spain. He also was married to a Scota, 
a daughter of Pharaoh. His sons, in the year 500 before Christ, 
sailed to Ireland with a fleet of thirty vessels. They soon con- 
quered the Tuatha de Danaan, and divided Ireland into two parts. 
Ebir was made king of the southern part of the island, and Eremon 
of the northern part. 

The descendants of Gathelus in all their wanderings are supposed 
to have carried with them Jacob's Stone, the famous Lia, Fail, or 
stone of destiny, stolen from Scone by that royal robber of Scotch 
antiquities, Edward I., now in the coronation chair in Wesim-.nster 
Abbey. It is alleged that it was removed from Ireland to Scotland 
in 03 A.D. by Murtogh MacEarc that his brother Fergus Mor 


might be crowned on it. Science makes havoc at times with 
tradition. After examining the Lia Fail, Professor Geikie, accord- 
ing to Dr Skene, declares that it is merely a block of Perthshire 
sandstone. At the same time, it must be a stone of great anti- 
quity, and lies at last in a safe and honourable resting-place, at 
whose shrine, and before the mightiest and most beloved Monarch 
that ever sat on an earthly throne, Celt and Saxon, Dane and 
Norman, bend the knee in loyal unity. There is an interesting 
prophecy of a very ancient origin connected with the Lia Fail. 
O'Hartigan an Irish poet, who died in 975, speaks of it in the fol- 
lowing couplet — 

An cloch a ta fam dha shail, 
Uaithe raidhtear Inis Fail. 
The stone beneath my two heels, 
From it, is said, the Isle of Fail. 

Hector Boece, the Scottish historian, gives the following Latin 
couplet : — 

Ni fallat fatum, Scoti, qnocunque locatum, 
Invtiiient lapideni, regnare tenentur ibidem j 

Of which Keating gives the following Gaelic : — 

Cineadh Scuit saor an fine, 
Mun budh breag an fhaisdine, 
Mar a fuighid an liagli-fhail, 
Dlighid flaitheas do gliabhail. 

Rendered thus in English — 

The Scots shall brook that realm as native ground, 
If weirds fail not, where'er this chair is found. 

So much for the Lia Fail. 

There is a reluctance on the part of Irish writers to accept any 
theory that implies the colonisation of Ireland from Britain. On 
the contrary, they rather attempt to prove that the Scottish Gael 
emigrated from Ireland— a theory which appears to have been 
invented in the fifteenth century. It was afterwards adopted un- 
questioningly by Scottish antiquarians, with few exceptions, of 
whom James Macpherson of Ossianic fame was one. For some 
time the Highlanders generally accepted the theory, and almost 
all the Highland clans were somehow or other traced to an Irish 
original. MacMhaighstir Alastair thus sings of the original 


country of the clans according to the belief of last century : — 

*' There are thousands now in Alba 
As stout as are in any land ; 
The grey Gaehfrom Scota, 
Who cheerful round your colours stand." 

By Scota Ireland is meant. All the elaborate and romantic 
chronicles by which Milesian and Spanish colonies are made to 
land on Irish soil were mostly manufactured by monks in the 
Middle Ages, and have no defensible historical foundation ; the 
same may be affirmed of the alleged colonisation of Argyllshire by 
Irish Gaels. 

Some of the romances and the chronicles, however, suggest what 
appear to be reliable facts respecting the several races of Erin and 
Albin. Just as there ^vere several tribes of Finians in ancient Eire, 
so there are different tribes of Celts in modern Ireland. A pow- 
erful pre-Celtic element, as in the north-west of Scotland, prevails 
in the south-west of Ireland. On the other hand a Norse element 
also pre /ails in the north-west of Scotland, which has largely 
entered into the population of the north of Ireland. The difference 
of character exhibited by the generic Irish and generic Scottish 
Celt is to be traced no doubt to the degrees of original difference 
in the blending of races. 

The Norse element has always been recognised by the more 
intelligent of the Highlanders. We find Mary MacLeod, the 
Harris poetess, born in 1569, addressing the Dunvegan chief of 
the day in these words : — 

" In counsel or fight, thy kindred 
^ Know these should be thine— 

Branch of Lochlin's wide-ruling 

And king-bearing line ! 
And in Erin they know it 

Far over the brine ; 
No Earl would in Albin 
Thy friendship decline." 

The matter of religion is, no doubt, an important factor in the 
later difference ; but the sturdier Norse element in the Highlander's 
constitution may account for much. In reading the literature of 
the two countries, we are at once struck with the different keys 
to which the bards attune their harps. An Irish bard, in English, 
sings thus of his country : — 


" She sits alone on the cold gravestone, 
And only the dead are nigh her ; 
In the tongue of the Gael she makes her wail ; 
The night wind rushes by her : 

" ' Few, O few, are the leal and true, 
And fewer shall be, and fewer ; 
The land is a corse ; — no life, no force — 
wind with sere leaves strew her ! 

" ' Men ask what scope is left for hope 
To one who has known her story ; 
I trust her dead ! Their graves are red ; 
But their souls are with God in glory.' " 

This note is not to be found in the whole range of Highland 
poetry. Perhaps it is because the retrospect of the past is not so 
full of sadness for the Highlander, who, notwithstanding his re- 
hellions and their frequent non-success, has fairly maintained his 
ground in Scotland. He has had his share in the struggles for 
Scotland's independence ; and he now identifies himself with the 
whole nation, proud of the name, and rejoicing in her glorious 
history. The Jacobite bard, Alexander Macdonald, addresses the 
Scottish Lion thus : — 

" Hail ! thou rending Lion, 
Of matchless force and rampant pride ! 

When up thy chieftains roused tliem 
Gay banners fluttered far and wide. 

Strong rock and everlasting. 

Hard and old and undecayed. 
High thy royal crest show. 

For tliousands gather in thy shade. 
With mirth in their armour briglit — 

The dauntless race that never yield — 
The spectres that stir panic flight. 

When quick striking swords tliey wield. 
Many gallant youths beneath thee, 

With stout hands and shoulders great, 
Go rushing on where's honour won — 

For wild fight they're never late. 
With steady foot and agile hand 

To thrust or cut each weapon gleams ; 
Red on the ground death gasps around. 

But gay o'erhead the Lion streams. 

Thou roaring, frowning Lion !" &c. 
This is the kind of poetry on which the Highland national spirit 


has been fed. Retrospects have less weight and prospects more 
with the Highlander. On the other hand the Irish Gael dwells 
intensely on the past, and thus grievously sins against his future. As 
appendix to this chapter on prose romances, I give some Irish 
literary facts and a Hibernian picture of Ossian in verse, as — 


The early literature of the Scottish Gael cannot be well under- 
stood apart from early Irish literature. The ballads of the two 
countries describe the same struggles ; the characters engaging in 
the strife are the same, and hear the same names. So it ought to 
be interesting to compare some of the idealised characters of early 
Irish hterature with those tliat we find in Scotland. 

The early history of Ireland and its literature has not yet been 
written, and the name remark is applicable to the Highlands of 
Scotland. One able and scientific work has been recently pro- 
duced in the latter country — the learned three volumes of Dr W. 
F. Skene — " Celtic Scotland." The indefatigable labours of the 
late Professor Eugone O'Curry have prepared the way for an 
authentic history of Ireland ; and it is to be hoped that such works 
as those of the Gradys, Stokeses, &c., will clear the ground 
of fables and reveal the genuine Hnes of early Irish annals. In 
his "Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish 
History," O'Curry remarks -" It will be found that all the writers 
who have published books on the subject up to the time of deliv- 
ering these lectures — books some of them large and elaborate — 
not one ever wrote who had previously acquired the necessary 
qualiiications, or even applied himself at all to the necessary study, 
without which, as I think I have established beyond a doubt, the 
history of Ireland could not possil)Iy have been written. All were 
ignorant, almost totally ignorant, of the greater part of the records 
and remains of which I have here, for the first time, endeavoured 
to present a comprehensive, and, in some sort, a connected 
account." Irish scholars ha«e an immense mass of valuable 
ancient manuscrips in which they find rich remains of their early 
literature, as well as materials for their early history. Let us 
mention some of the most important. Here is a list of some of 
the old and middle Irish periods : — 

A copy of the Four Gospels, stained with the blood of the Irish 
St Killian, who was martyred in 678 a.d. ; taken from his tomb in 
743. In the library of Trinity College, Dublin, are found —A 
Latin copy of the Four Gospels, written previous to 700 a.d. ; the 


Four Gospels of Dimma, Latin, with a few Gaelic words, 620 a.d. ; 
the Book of Durrow, containing the Four Latin Gospels, about 700 
A.D. ; the Book of Kells. same contents as last, about 800 a.d. ; 
the Gospel of St. Moling, about 800 a.d. ; the Book of Armagh, 
containing the Latin New Testament, notes on St Patrick's life, 
and the life of St Martin of Tours, 807 a.d. ; the Book of Leinster, 
containing the Cattle Raid of Cuailgne, and the Destruction of 
Troy, 1 150 a.d. ; the Yellow Book of Lecain, 1391 a.d. ; and the 
Book of Brehon Laws — the last-named three books are in the 
Irish language. In the Royal Iiish Academy are the Book of the 
Dun Cow, also containing the Cattle Raid, tio6 a.d.; the Book 
of Ballymote, 1391 a.d. ; also a copy of the Book of Lecain, [416 
A.D. These are all in the Irish language. Earlier dates than 
those given have been assigned to some of these books. These 
and the Annals of Loch C^, the Annals of the Four Masters, the 
Annals of Tigheinac, &:c., are all of great interest and value to 
Gaelic scholars in Scotland. The ancient Celtic literature extant 
in Scotland cannot be at all compared in extent with that preserved 
in Ireland. 

As already remarked, the picture of Ossian that the Irish ballads 
and tales present resembles that of the ballads and tales of Scot- 
land. In the fourth volume of the Transactions of the Ossianic 
Society of Dublin, we find a description of the journey and resi- 
dence of Ossian in Tir-nan-Og, "The Land of Youth." In 
Scotland this place is known as Kilein-na-h-Oige, " The Isle of 
Youth." Ossian and the rest of the Fianna were '• hunting on a 
misty morning nigh the bordering shores of Loch Lein," when a 
fleet rider was seen advancing towards them — 

" A young maiden of most beautiful appearance, 
On a slender white steed of swiftest power." 

The name of this maiden is " Niamh," and she describes herself 
as the " fair daughter of the King of Youth." 

" A royal crown was on her head ; 
And a brown mantle of precious silk, 
Spangled with stars of red gold, 
Covering her shoes down to tlie grass. 

" A garment, wide, long, and smooth, 
Covered the wliite steed : 
There was a comely saddle of red gold 
And her light hand held a bridle with a golden bit." 

In answer to Fingal's inquiry she says that, " as yet she has not 


been spoken of with any man," but that " her affection and love 
she has given to his son " — Ossian. In these ballads and tales 
" geasan," some bewitching obligations or bonds, are frequently 
spoken of. It was by the exercise of this power — these invisible 
bonds —that the faithless spouse of Fingal compelled the beautiful 
Diavmad to elope with her. This Princess, " the golden-headed 
Niamh," put her " geasan " on Ossian. She thus addresses 
him : — 

" Obligations unresisted by true heroes, 
! generous Oisin, I put upon thee, 
To come with myself now upon my steed 
Till we arrive at the ' Land of Youth.' 

"It is the most delightful country to be found, 
Of greatest repute under the sun. 
Trees dropping with fruit and blossom, 
And foiliage growing on the tops of boughs. 

" Abundant there are honey and wine, 

And everything that eye has beheld, 

There will not come decline on thee with lapse of time. 

Death or decay thou wilt not see." 

He is to get there a '• hundred swords," and a hundred of every 
article or possession that could be dear to the heart of a warrior or 
a bard. Ossian thus replies : — 

" No refusal will I give from me, 

charming queen of the golden curls ! 

Thou art my choice above the women of the world, 

And 1 will go with willingness to the 'Land of Youth.' " 

The poet then describes in melancholy strains his parting with his 
own people — the Feinne : — 

" I kissed my father sweetly and gently, 
And the same affection I got from him ; 
I bade adieu to all the Fianna, 
And the tears flowed down my cheeks. 

" Many a delightful day had Fionn and I, 
And the Fianna with us in great power, 
Been chess-playing and drinking, 
And hearing music — the last that was powerful ? 

" A hunting in smooth valleys. 

And our sweet-mouthed dogs with us there ; 
At other times, in the rough conflict, 
Slaughtering heroes with great vigour." 


Macpherson's Ossian is never caught at " chess-playing." or speak- 
ing of other things that might savour of more recent days. The 
course of Ossian and Niamh is thus described : — 

" We turned our backs to the land, 
And our faces directly due west ; 
The smooth sea ebbed before us, 
And filled in billows after us." 

Before they arrive at the " Land of Youth," Ossian rescues a 
distressed Princess from the hated hands of a giant ; and 

" We buried the great man 
In a deep sod-grave, wide and clear ; 
I raised his flag and monument, 
And I wrote his name in Ogham Crdobh." 

They are welcomed to the " Land of Youth " by a " multitude of 
glittering bright hosts," and conducted to a Royal fortress, by 
whose side are seen — 

" Radiant summer-houses and palaces. 
Made all of precious stones." 

" When all arrived in one spot. 
Then courteously spoke the ' King of Youth,' 
And said, ' This is Ossin,' the son of Fionn. 
The gentle consort of ' golden-headed Niamh !' " 

He spent a long time in the " Land of Youth ;" but in the midst 
of its calm, waveless existence, he longs for his old life with the 
Feinne, and for a sight once more of his lost brothers-inarms : — 

" I asked leave of the King, 
And of my kind spouse — golden-headed Niamh, 
To go to Krinn back again. 
To see Fionn and his great host." 

She reluctantly consents to C'ssinn's return ; and the parting is 
bitterly sad to both : — 

" I looked up into her countenance with compassion, 
And streams of tears run from my eyes, 
Patrick ! thou wouldest have pitied her 
Tearing the hair of the golden head." 

She warns him on his return never to alight off the white steed, or — 
" Thou wilt be an old man, withered and blind." 


On his arrival in Erin he sought, with a doubtful and trembling 
heart, for the Fianna. He soon met a great troop of men and 
women, who saluted him kindly, and were surprised at the l)ulk of 
his person, his form, and appearance. He asked them whether 
Fionn was alive, and whether any disaster had swept the Fianna 
away. He was told that a " young maiden "' came for Fionn, and 
that he went away with her to the " Land of Youth :" — 

" When I mysel heard that report, 
That Fionn did not live, nor any of the Fianna, 
I was seized with weariness and great sorrow, 
And I was full of melancholy after them." 

The poet immediately betakes himself to '' Almhuin " of great 
exploits in broad Leinster ; but could not see the " Court of 
Fionn," and — 

" There was not in its place in truth, 
But weeds, chick-weeds, and nettles." 

While passing through the Glen of the Thrushes he sees three 
hundred men before him : their leader cries for help to the bard, 
whose chivalrous instincts are roused, and who, forgetting the strict 
injunctions of Niamh not to touch the earth, alighted and relieved 
them from their difficulty, performing the most marvellous exploits. 
But alas ! — 

" No sooner did I come down, 
Than the white steed took fright ; 
He went then on his way, 
And I, in sorrow, both weak and feeble." 

He had been a long time in the ■' Land of Youth," and intended 
going back to that country, perpetually " under the full bloom ;" 
but now he could not. His stay in that land reminds us of the 
seven sleepers of Ephesus, He tells the everlastingly occurring 
Patrick — 

' ' I spent a time protracted in lengthy 
Three hundred years and more. 
Until I thought 'twould be my desire 
To see Fionn and the Fianna alive." 

The great prince-poet, as everywhere represented, is in his last 
days poor and blind. After declaring to Patrick that — 

" There is many a book written down. 
By the melodious sweet sages of tlie Gaels, 
Which we in truth are unable to relate to thee, 
Of the deeds of Fionn and of the Fianna ;" 


he concludes his lengthy relation in these two stanzas : — 

'■ I lost the sight of my eyes, 
My form, my countenance, and my vigour, 
I was an old man, poor and blind. 
Without strength, understanding, or esteem. 

" Patrick ! there is to thee my story. 
As it occurred to myself without a lie, 
My going and my adventures in certain, 
And my returning from the ' Land of Youth.' " 

Such is the picture we have of Ossian and his life in some of 
the Irish ballads. There is no resemblance between this poetry 
and that which Macpherson has given us. Oisin an Tirna-h-Oige 
is the production of a wi-iter who lived not many centuries ago. 
It is certainly much more modern than even the Oisian of the older 
ballads, in which dialogues between the saint and the poet occur. 

A very fine specimen of the old heroic poem of the Gael is the 
Battle of Cnoc-an-air. Here we have terrible fighting among the 
"Seven battalions of the standing Fenians." The Irish versions 
of the dialogues between Patrick and Ossian are very much like 
those of Scotland. 




" Gach fill 's bard, gach I(5igh, aosdan is draoi, 
Gach seanachaidh fus, gach eoladhain shaor is saoi ; 
Na diadhairean mor bu chliu, 's bu ghloir do'n Clileir 
B' ann leath' gu tarbhach labhair iad briathra Dh^." — MacLean. 

The unwise utterance of Dr Samuel Johnson that no Scottish 
Gaelic manuscript of an older date than last century existed is 
amply refuted by the catalogues of British, Irish, and Continental 
Libraries. Private individuals also are in possession of Gaelic 
manuscripts, some of which come to light now and then. In 1873 
Admiral Macdonald sent to Mr J. F. Campbell of Islay the famous 
Leahhar Dearg, or Red Book of Clan-Ranald, which he had re- 
covered. This was one of the manuscripts which Macpherson 
was supposed to have used and destroyed ; but after having read 
it in company with IMr Standish O'Grady, Mr Campbell declares 
that this paper manuscript " does not contain one line of Mac- 
pherson's Ossian." It is highly probable that many others may 
have ancient manuscripts among their family archives like this one 
of Admiral Macdonald, the supposed destruction of which by 
Macpherson caused so much literary waste in connection with the 
Ossianic controversy. 

There have been in Scotland many influences- -changes dynast- 
ic, political, and ecclesiastical — unfavourable to the preservation 
of our manuscripts. In the midst of these turbulent changes and 
the ravages of wars, the vandal hands of foes that demolished 
churches and burned houses would not spare the native literary 
remains they might come across. We have lost much by the 
ravages of the Norse in lona, of the English at Scone, and of the 
Reformers. But fresh access of national life came in each case. 

It is not the intention of these chapters to describe at length the 
MSS. that we have left us, but a few of the older ones may be 
mentioned. The earliest, as already remarked, are to be found in 
Continental Libraries— those on which Zeuss founded his '' Gram- 


matica Celtica." Some of them are no doubt Irish, but some of 
them must have been also written hy the missionaries who went 
forth at that time from the College of lona. The language and 
MSS. of that period in Ireland and Scotland were of the same 
character and were common property, and continued to be so to 
a great extent till the period of the Reformation, which, as above 
remarked, along with more violent political changes in Scot- 
land before then, helped to destroy relics of preceding ages. 
The oldest Gaelic MS. extant in this country is a folio beautifully 
written on parchment or vellum from the collection of the late 
Major MacLauchlan of Kilbride. It is in the possession of the 
Highland Society, and is marked Vo. A., No. i. It is supjjosed 
to belong to the eighth century. The following remark is found 
on the margin of the fourth leaf: — " Oidche bealtne ann a 
coimhtech mo Pupu Muirciusa agus as olc Hum nach marunn diol 
in linesi dem bub Misi Fithil ace furnuidhe na scoile." It has 
been thus rendered by the late Dr Donald Smith : — " The night of 
the first of May, in Coenobium of my Pope Marchus, and I 
regret that there is not left of my ink enough to fill up this line. 
Jane Fithil, an attendant on the school." The MS. "consists of a 
poem, moral or religious, some short historical anecdotes, a critical 
exposition of the Tain^ an Irish tale." 

One of the next oldest is named '' Emanuel," and is ascribed to 
the ninth century. Thirty-five lines are quoted in the appendix of 
the Highland Society's report. 

There is a parchment book that is attributed to the tenth or 
eleventh century. It contains Biblical legends, a life of St Columba, 
&c. It admits of no doubt that many Gaelic productions perished 
in the eighth century, when lona was sacked by the Norse. And 
it is only a wonder that so many relics should have survived the 
rudiless changes of those days. 

Bishop Moore, of Nurvvich, aftervvariis of Ely, presented his 
library, more than a century ago, to the University of Cambridge. 
Among his large collection of books was a vellum MS. of 86 folios, 
about six inches long by three broarl. It is said that this MS. is as 
old as the ninth century. The principal part of it is written in 
Latin, and contains John's Gospel and portions of the other three 
Gospels, the Apostles' Creed, and part of an Oflice for the visita- 
tion of tiie sick. It belonged to an establishment of the Culdee 
Church, and is an interesting relic of the Celtic learning and cul- 
ture of the time, particularly of the ecclesiastics of that Church, 
who, while cultivating their native Gaelic, could also read and 


write Latin. To the Gaelic scholar the chief interest lies in the 
Celtic portion of the MS. — the Gaelic entries made on the margin 
and on other spaces in the volume. The MS. was published some 
years ago by the Spalding Club, under the excellent editorship of 
the late Dr John Stuart, who has given us the Gaelic entries as 
well as the original in a scholarly and careful fashion. A Gaelic 
paragraph on the founding of the old monastery of Deer has 
attracted much attention, on account of its reference to Columba, 
and because it shows the intimate connection that existed between 
the parent establishment at lona and branch establishments in 
distant parts of Scotland. 

The Legend of Deer is as follows : — 

Columcille acus drostdn mac cosgreg addlta tangator dhi marroalseg dia 
doib gonic abbordoboir acus bede cruthnec robomormder buchan araginrv 
acus ess6 rothidnaig doib ingathrdig sdin iiisaere gobraith omormaer acus 
6tb6si?c. tangator asadthle sen inoathraig ele acus doraten ricolumcille si 
iarfalhin dorath de acus dorodloeg arinmorniaer .i. b6d6 gondas tabrad do 
acus nitharat acus rogab mac do galar iarn6rt5 na glerec acus robomareb act 
madbec iarsc^n dochuid inmormaer dattac na glerec gondendaes ernacde les 
inmac gondisdd sldute do acus dorat inedbairt doib ndcloic intiprat gonice 
chloic pette mic garndit doronsat innernacde acus tanic slants do ; Iars(5n 
dorat collumcille dodrostdn inchadrdig sen acus rosbenact acus foracaib im- 
brether gebe tisad ris nabab blienec buadacc tangatar deara drostan 
arscarthain fri collumcille rolaboir collumcille bedear anim ohiinn I'macc. 

Translation : 

(Columcille and Drostan of Gosgrach his pupil came from I as God had 
shown to them unto Abbordoboir and Bede the Pict was mormaer of Buchan 
before them, and it was lie tliat gave tliem tliat town in freedom for ever 
from mormaer and tosech. They came after that to the other town, and it 
was pleasing to Calumcille, because it was full of God's grace, and he asked 
of the mormaer to wit Bede that he should give it to him ; and he did not 
give it ; and a sou of his took an illness after [or in consequence of] refusing 
the clerics, and he was nearly dead [lit. he was dead but if it were a little.] 
After this the mormaer went to entreat the clerics that they should pray 
for the son that health should come to him, and he gave in offering to tliem 
from Cloch in tiprat to Cloch pette mic Garnait. They made the prayer, 
and health came to him. After that Calumcille gave to Drostan that town 
and blessed it and left as (his) word, " \Vhosoe\er should come against it, 
let him not be prosperous." Drostan's tears (deara) came on parting with 
Calumcille. Said Calumcille, " Let Dear be its name henceforward.") 

According to this legend it seems that King Brude's court at 
Inverness was not the only distant place visited by the lona 
Apostle, but that he also went as far east as the district of Buchan. 
The other chief Gaelic entries are records of grants of land made 
by the Monastery. The majority of the names entered, though 


mere patronymics then, became some time after clan names as 
understood at the present day. It was then or very soon after that 
the ancient inhabitants of Celtic Albin began to form themselves 
into clans in the state in which they were found two centuries ago. 
The S3Stems of feudalism and clanship began to blend and develop. 
Towards the end of the MS. the following interesting Gaelic 
entry is found : — " Forchubus caichduini imbia arrath in lebran 
colli aratardda bendacht foranmain in truagan rodscribai." This 
has been translated by the distinguished Celtic scholar Dr Whitley 
Stokes thus — "Be it on the conscience of everyone in whom 
shall be for grace the booklet with splendour ; that he give a bless- 
ing on the soul of the wretohock who wrote it." The same eminent 
authority says — " In point of language this is identical with the 
oldest Irish glosses in Zeuss's Grammatica Celtica." This precisely 
proves what has been elsewhere already stated, that the Gaelic of 
Scotland and Ireland at that time was exactly the same, and that 
it was at a later period that dialectic differences appeared. It also 
suggests that many of old existing MSS. might have been written 
by Scotchmen as well as by Irishmen. 

The most ancient and authentic record of the Scottish Kings is 
to be found in a poem called •' The Albannic Duan," which was 
recited by the Gaelic bard laureate of the day at the coronation of 
Malcolm III. It was found originally in the MacFirbis Manu- 
script in the Royal Irish Academy. The name of the author is 
not known. The Duan consists of one hundred and eight lines, 
and is composed in the ballad measure. Being mostly a catalogue 
of names, it does not bear a verse translation very well. The first 
four stanzas run thus : — 

Ye learned men of Albin all, 

Ye yellow-haired and gentle band, 
Who iirst invaded, do you know, 

The ancient shore of Albin land ? 
Albanus came with active men, 

That son of Isacon of fame, 
Brother of blameless Briutns he ; 

From him did Albin get its name. 
Briutus sent his brother bold 

Across the stormy sea of Icht, 
The sea-swept poiut-of Fotudau 

In Albin fair he took with might. 

Long after Briutus, brave and good, 

The Nevi-clans the land enjoyed ; 

A.nd Erglan, who came from his ship 

When he had Conning tower destroyed. 


It was probably in this reign that tlie uncient language of Albin 
ceased to be used in the Royal Court of Scotland. It continued, 
however, to be the fashionable speech of the provincial princes of 
the Isles until the lordship of the Isles terminated, towards the end 
of the sixteenth century, with Angus ]\[acDonald of Duneevaig, 
Is'ay, and the Glens in Antrim. Sir James Macdonald of Antrim, 
who had no English, came with a magnificent retinue to visit 
James IV. of Scotland at Holyrood previous to his ascending the 
throne of England, and stopped for sometime at Court. Could 
the King, with whom Sir James was a great favourite, and to whom 
he was closely related, converse with him in the Gaelic language ? 

There is a parchment manuscript in quarto that belongecl to the 
Kilbride collection. It is prettily written, and contains a metrical 
account or list of holidays, festivals, and saints' days throughout 
the year ; an al nanack ; and a treatise on anatomy, abridged from 
Galen, &:c. ; the Schola Salernitana in Leonine verse, drawn up 
about iioo A.D., for the use of Robert, Duke of Normandy, the 
son of William the Conqueror, by the well-known medical school 
of Salerno. The Latin text is accompanied by a faithful Gaelic 
explanation. A specimen follows : — 

" Si vis iacolumem, si vis te reddere sanum ; 
Curas toUe gi-aves, ii'asci crede prophaniira." 

" Madh ail bhidh fallauii agus madh aill bliidh slau ; 
Cuirna himsuiraha tromadhit, agus creid gurub dioiahain duit fearg de 

Having the words Leahhar GioUacholaim Meigleathadh on the last 
page of the MS., it is supposed that it belonged to Malcolm 
Bethune, a member of a family distinguished for their learning and 
medical skill, that supplied for many ages with physicians the 
Western Isles of Scotland. It was one of them, Fergus Mac Beth 
or Beaton, that signed the holograph, of the famous Islay Charter 
of 140S for Donald, Lord of the Isles. A MS. dated 123S on the 
cover is supposed to have been written at Glenrnason, in Cowal. 
It contains tales in prose and verse — one about Deardri, Dearchdl, 
or Darthula. 

Another valuable and interesting MS., dated r5i2-26, belong- 
ing to Sir James Macgregor, Dean of Lismore — '-Jacobus M'Gregor 
decanus Lisraorensis " -has been mostly published. The editors 
who have done their work admirably, have been Dr Thomas Mac- 
Lauchlan and Dr W. F. Skene. The work of the former was very 


difficult and laborious — first to change the orthography of the 
Dean, which was phonetic, into modern GaeUc. and then give a 
literal English translation. 

Among other known manuscripts of the period is that of 
Dunstafifnage, October (2 1603, by Ewen Macphaill. It contains 
prose tales concerning Lochlin and Finnic heroes. 

A paper manuscript 1654 5, by Edmond MacLauchlan. contains 
sonnets, odes, epistles, and an ogham alphabet at the end. 

\ quarto paper manuscript of 1690-91 contains ancient and 
modern tales and poems. It was written at Ardchonnail, on Loch- 
awe side, by Ewen Maclean for Colin Campbell — " Caillcdn 
Caimpbel Zeis an his an leahharan..'" This Gaelic inscription appears 
on the seventy ninth leaf of the manuscript. 

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries we have arrived at a 
period in which Gaelic is very generally written. To the latter 
century belong the most of the manuscript materials extant. The 
subjects of these manuscripts are of the most various descriptions. 
We have among them compendiums of theology, fables and 
anecdotes about saints, (S:c. The most valuable, perhaps, are the 
genealogical manuscripts. The historian of Scottish annals is not 
sufficiently equipped without knowledge of these. Some of them 
no doubt, being family records very frequently, are very partial ; 
but when collated the one will correct the other. Other subjects 
treated of in these manuscripts are medicine and astrology. The 
substance of these is translated from Greek and Moorish works, 
Galen, Averroes, and Avicenna being the general sources. The 
largest number of the medical manuscripts were written by or 
passed through the hands of the Beatons, the well-known physicians 
of the western isle.s. Astrology appears to have been studied by 
the aid of Arabian writers ; so many of the superstitions or popular 
ideas in the Highlands regarding the stars had probably an Arabic, 
and not a Druidic origin, as the present Highlanders generally 
believe. The surprising thing is that this science of the period 
should be known and cultivated in such inaccessible places as the 
Highlands and Islands. Dr MacLauchlan very pertinently and 
truly remarks as: follows :— '' The metaphysical discussions [of the 
MSS.], if they may be so called, are very curious, being character- 
ised by the features which distinguished the science of inetaphsies 
at the time. The most remarkable thing is there are Gaelic terms 
to express the most abstract ideas in metaph}sics- terms which 
are now obsolete, and would not he understood by any ordinary 
Gaelic speaker. A perusal of tiiesc nncici.t writings shows hoiv 


much the language has declinetl, and to what an extent it was 
cultivated at an early period. So with astrology, its terms are 
translated and the science is fully set forth. Tables are furnished 
of the position of the stars, by means of which to foretell the 
character of future events. Whatever literature existed in Europe 
in the r4th and 15th centuries extended its influence to the Scot- 
tisli Highlands. The nation was by no means in such a state of 
baiharism as some writers would lead us to expect. They had 
legal forms, for we have a formal legal charter of lands written in 
Gaelic ; they had medical men of skill and acquirement ; they had 
writers on law and theology, and they had men skilled in archicec- 
ture and sculpture." Rut then these manuscripts, these evidences 
of light and culture among the Gaels ot the Middle Ages, were 
buried in private and public libraries till some years ago ; and 
historians and other's not suspecting their existence did not look 
for them ; and so wrote what their fancy dictated concerning the 
barbaric Gael. 

In examining the older MSS. and assigning them a nationality, 
the student of (.*eltic literature must bear in mind that the language 
s[)oken in the Highlands of Scotland and in Ireland in early times 
was exactly the same, and that the dialectic differences existing 
just now have mostly developed since the period of the Reforma- 
tion. The literature that the two Gaelic peoples possessed till 
then was also to a great extent common property. As to their 
writing, what is called " Irish hand,'' or vulgarly Erse, or " Irish 
character," is nothing more than what was once common through- 
out the whole of Europe. It was in it Gaelic writers once wrote 
in Scotland ; and thus is how some of our early MSS. have been 
assigned an Irish origin. 

With the reign of Malcolm III., or Ceann-Mor. in the eleventh 
century, and his marriage with an English Princess, Scottish insti- 
tutions and habits began to be radically affected. The Anglicising 
and Romanising processes at work were in their final stages in the 
Lowlands about the time of the last invasion of the Norse in the 
thirteenth century. Soon after the laws and customs of Scotland 
were found quite transformed. Feudalism was introduced, and 
bej^an to extend even among the Highland chiefs and clans. The 
system of clanship, although having apparent points of resemblance 
to feudalism, w-as in principle essentially different. " In the former 
case the people followed their chief as the head of their race, and 
ihe representative of the common ancestor of the clan ; in the 
latter they obeyed their leader as feudal proprietor of the lands Id 


which they were attached, and to whom they owed mihtary service 
for their respective portions of these lands. The tlighland chief 
was the hereditary lord of all who belonged to his clan wherever 
they dwelt, or whatever lands they occupied ; the feudal baron was 
entitled to the military service ot all who hekl hands under him, 
to whatever race they might indivitlually belong. The one dignity 
was personal, the other was territorial : the rio;hts ot the chief were 
inherent, those of the baron were accessory : the one might lose 
or forfeit his possessions, but could not thereby be divested of his 
hereditary character and privileges ; the other when divested of 
his fee ceased to have any title or claim to the service of those who 
occupied the lands. Yet these two systems, so different in prin- 
ciple, were in effect nearly identical. Both exhibited the spectacle 
of a subject possessed of unlimited power within his own territories, 
and exacting unqualified obedience from a numerous train of 
followers, to whom he stood in the several relations of landlord, 
military leader, and judge, with all the powers and prerogatives 
belonging to each of those characters." The system of clanship 
was for a time better adapted for the Highlands ; but the tendency 
of both clanship and feudalism was to obstruct the adminstration 
of justice and impede the progress of improvement. 

Let us now glance at the general culture of this period. From 
the poetry of Finlay MacNab, in The Book of the Demi of Lismore, 
we learn that the ancient Itards were in the habit of writing their 
compositions. Indeed there was far more literary culture among 
the Gaels for many centuries before the Reformation than existed 
for some time subsequent to that period. As in earlier ages there 
was close intercourse in literary matters carried on during the 
period of the Kingdom of the Isles between the Highlands and 
Ireland. There are many names, Irish and Scotch, well known 
in literary annals, to be found in the Highlands at this time. The 
Beatons, originally O'Neils or MacNeills, were a family of leavne.d 
physicians in Islay and Mull. Manuscripts, either written by them 
or in their possession, are still lu existence. The MacVurichs, 
descendants of Muireadhach Albannach, who were hereditary 
senachies or bards to Clanranald. preserved the literary torch 
lighted for generations in the Western Isles. Some of them are 
said " to have received their education in Irish Colleges of poetry 
and writing." On the other hand it seems to have l)een a general 
practice for Irish scholars to come to the Highlands, where they 
and their writings were well received and well known. Irish 
annals inform us of Irish scholars who were regarded as masters 


in the Highlands. These are the names of four of them : — 

In 1 185 died Maclosa O'Daly, ollave or scholar, a poet of Erin 
and Albin. He was famed for his poetry, hospitality and nobility. 

In 1328 died blind O'Carril, chief minstrel of Erin and Albin in 
his day. 

In 1 44? died Tadgog, son of Tadg, son of Giollacoluim 
O'Higgin, chief preceptor of the poets of Erin and Albin. 

In 1554 died Tagd, son of Aodh 0"Coffey, chief teacher of 
poetry in Erin and Albin. 

From this we learn thai liteiature existed, and that it was sedul- 
ously cultivated both in the Highlands and in Ireland at this time ; 
and we also learn how much influence the one country exercised 
on the language and literature of the other. 

During this period Gaelic scholars and culture were encouraged 
and fostered by the Princes, afterwards the Lords of the Isles. 
These Princes were also very liberal in their benefactions to tlie 
Church ; it was one of them, the great Somerled, that endowed 
the Abbey of Paisley. lona and other places over which their 
sway extended had always their constant help. And thus in their 
patronage of churchmen they afforded shelter and protection to 
literature. The MacVurichs and tlie Beatons, already mentioned, 
were at one time their secretaries and senachies or clan-historians. 
Having in course of time extensive possessions in Ireland as well 
as in Scotland, much intercourse was maintained between the 
two countries, bards and scholars of both countries going and 
coming in their train. The most distinguished of them after 
Somerled were Donald, from whom the clan, Donald Bulloch, with 
his biother John Mor, and James Macdonald the last of the Isles 
who thus signs his name in a missive to the Irish Privy Council, 
on January 24, 1546 :- " James M'Connail of Dunnewaik and ye 
Glinnis, and aperand aeyr of ye YlHs." The Macdonalds, at one 
time or another, as Princes or Lords of the Isles, ruled for upwards 
of five centuries of the historical period over nearly the half of 
Scotland and part of the north of Ireland. They occupy a prom- 
inent place in Norse, Irish, and Scottish history. The Macdonalds 
finally lost ail their lands in the West, the most of which passed 
into the hands of their powerful rivals the Campbells : — 

The Halls of Finlaggan no longer sound 

To joyous feasts and dances as of yore : 

The bard is dumb, the liarper plays no more 

Where the proud princes of tlie Lsles were crowned : — 


Their palace waste ! while sadness sits around ; 
And weeds and nettles flourish on the floor ; 
Stark silence liovcrs round tlie islet's shore 
Where tread of warriors oft had shook the ground. 
The chiefs and chieftains of the isles and west 
Are seen no more at great Macdonald's court ; 
Their galleys traverse not the island seas : 
They with their furious feuds are now at rest : 
Razed is each castle, ruined is each fort, 
Within thy bounds, Queen of the Hebrides ! 

The name that stands first on the roll of the bards of the Middle 
and Modern Ages is that of Muireadach Aldannach. He is 
the author ot several poems which have been preserved in The. 
Book of the Dean of Lismore. Religious subjects are the theme of 
all his compositions. None of the old bards exhibits so much 
earnestness and intensity of feeHng. There is also more subjec- 
tivity in his poems than in other productions of the period. His 
name signifies Murdoch of Albin, or Scodand. given probably to 
distinguish him from another Irish bard of the same name. Mui- 
readhach became the ancestor of a family of senachies and bards 
who have been very distinguished in the literary annals of Gaelic 
Scotland. They were hereditary bards and senachies to the Claii- 
ranald family. One of them, Lachlan Mbr MacMhuireadhach or 
Vurich, accompanied Donald Balloch of the Isles in 141 1 at the 
battle of Harlavv, reciting his grand war-incitement poem. The 
last of them, Laclilan MacVurich, gives evidence in the report of 
the Highland Society on Ossian, and traces his genealogy tlirough 
eighteen generations to Muireadhach Albannach. Muireadhach 
appears to have lived between a.d. ri8o and 1220. I give here a 
metrical version of a short religious poem of his in the Dean of 
1-ismoi'e's book. He is supposed to have been an ecclesiastic, as 
many of those who wrote in early times were. 

I praise Thee, Christ, tliat on Thy breast 
A guilty one like nie may rest ; 
And tliat Thy favour I can share ; 
And on my lips Thy cross may bear. 

Jesus, sanctify my heart, 

My hands and feet and every part ; 
Me sanctify in Thy good grace, — 
Blood, flesh and bones, and all my ways. 

1 never cease committing sin ; 
For still its love resides within : 
May God His holy fragrance shed 
Ui^on my lieart and on my head. 


Great glorious One \ouchsafe relief 
From all the ills that bring me grief ; 
Ere I am laid beneath the sod : 
Before me smooth my way to God. 

Another poem of Muireadhach is a curious dialogue between him- 
self and Cathal Ci6dhear£r. King of Connaught, who lived towards 
the end of the 12th century. Both of them were then entering on 
a monastic life. It has been inferred from the dialogue that 
Murdoch was a man of high birth. Another poem of his in the 
Deau of Lismore's book T have translated as follows : — 

'Tis tiine to leave for Paradise 

Since it ia hard this pain to beai', — 
To win unsoiled, the heavenly prize 

Which others cannot with us share. 

Now to thy priest thyself confess, 

And all thy sins recall to mind, 
Seek not His court with guilt- stained dress, 

For in that state none entrance find. 

None of thy many sins conceal, 

Though sore it he their ill to tell : 
Thy secret thoughts and deeds reveal. 

Lest thou incur His wrath in hell. 

And with the clergy make thy peace. 
Unworthy, helpless though thou be ; 

Repent aright, and sinning cease. 
Lest heavy guilt be found on thee. 

He who forsakes the Lord Mest High 

For love of sin, sinks deep in woes ; 
The evils wrought in secresy 

Full well the Eye all-searching knows. 

Let these be thoughts for Adam's race ; 

To me they do not seem untrue ; 
Men for a time may know their place, 

But deatli at last they can't eschew. 

Muireadhach Albannach occupies the same relation to a 
number of succeeding generations of bards in Scotland that the 
famous Dafydd ap Gwilym (born, 1293) does towards succeeding 
Welsh bards. 

We have a specimen of tlie written Gaelic of this period in the 
famous Macdonald charter, the earliest Gaelic one extant. In 


1408 Donald, Lord of the Isles, granted lands in Islay to Brian 
Vicar Mackay of Rhinns, in that Island. The Mackays were an 
old family in Islay ; from them came the Magees of Ireland, and 
I believe the present Bishop of Peterborough. The lands were 
Baile-Vicar, Cornobus, Cracobus, Tocamol, &c., in the parish of 
Kildaltop. The charter conveying these lands, still in existence, 
is written in Gaelic. It was published some time ago by the 
Record Commission. It is an interesting document, and is here 
given in a literal translation. It was written by one of the 
Beatons, already referred to, who signs himself " Fergus M'Beth." 
He was probably at the time physician to the Lord of the Isles. 
As Dr M'Lauchlan, who deciphered it, says — " The style of the 
charter is that of the usual feudal charters written in Latin, but the 
remarkable thing is to find a document of the kind written in Gaelic, 
at a time when such a thing was almost unknown in the Saxon 
dialects ot either England or Scotland." 

It is interesting to find that the Gaelic of the charter, written 
470 years ago, is the same as that spoken in Islay at the present 
day. One word hrach, " ever," is spelt phonetically, just as it is 
pronounced now in the dialect of the island. The only word 
which seems to have changed its signification is hheatha, or un- 
aspirated heatka, which was then used for " world." Ihatka in 
modern Gaelic means life, but an older form was hWi, which now 
means being or existence, but in ancient Ciaeiic was used for 
" world."' See Zeuss^s Grammar. 

In the name of God. Amen. 

I, Mac Donald, am granting and giving eleven marks and a-half of land 
from myself and from my heirs, to Brian Vicar Mackay and to his heirs, 
after him foi- ever and ever, for his service.s ... to myself and to my 
father before me ; and this on covenant and on condition that he himself 
and they shall give to me and to my heirs after me yearly, four cows fit for 
killing for my house. And in case that these cows shall not be found, the 
above Brian and his heirs shall give to me and to my heirs after me, two 
marks and forty for the same above cows. And for the same cause I am 
binding myself and binding my heirs after me, to the end of the world, these 
lands, together with their fruit of sea and land, to defend and maintain to 
the above Brian Vicar Mackay, and to his heirs for ever after him in like 
manner. And these are tlie lands I have given to him and to his heirs for 
ever — namely, Baile-Vicar, Machaire. Leargariabhoighe, Ciontragha, (Jraftol, 
Tocamol, Ugasgog, the two Gleannastol, Cracobus, Cornubus, and Baile- 
Neaghtoin. And in order that there may be meaning, force, and effect in 
this grant I give from me, I again bind myself and my heirs for ever under 
covenant this to uphold and fulfil to the aforesaid Brian and his heirs after 
him to the end of tiie world, by putting my hand and my seal down here, 


in preseuce of these witnesses here below, and tlie sixtli day of the month 
of the Beltane, and this year of the birth of Christ, one thouand four 
hundred and eight. 


.John Mac Donald. 

Pat : Mac aBrian. 

Fergus Mac Beth. 

Hugh McCei. 

It is a suggestive commentary on the uncertainty of sublunary 
things that these lands which Donald was to " uphold " " to the 
end of the world " to Brian and his heirs have passed through the 
hands of more than one family since — they bein2 now the property 
of .John Ramsay, ol Kildalton. Neither a INlackay nor a Mac- 
donald owns any land in Islay now. 

Lachlan Mor MacVurich. — This senachie and bard to the 
Clanranald is the author of one of the most extraordinary poems 
in Gaelic or in any language. He was of the family of the famous 
Muireadhach Albannach. He accompanied I3onald, Lord of the 
Isles, at the battle of Harlaw, in 141 1, and rehearsed his poem to 
animate the followers of the Islay chief. This war song or battle 
incitement (Stewart's Collection) consists of three hundred and 
thirty-eight lines. The theme of the production is " 0, children 
of Conn of the Hundred Fights ! remember hardihood in the time 
of battle.'' Round this subject Lachlan Mbr has gathered some 
six hundred and fifty adverbial adjectives, arranged alphabetically, 
and every one of them bearing specially and martially on the great 
theme of the song. There is nothing in the poem but these ad- 
jectives, which certainly in themselves are not very poetical ; but 
rehearsed unhesitatingly from a good memory "in all their aston- 
ishing alliterative array by a ready speaker gifted with a strong and 
sensitive voice, they could not but have offered a rare opportunity 
for impetuous, vehement, and effective declamation." 

It may be remarked here, en passant, that there is no decisive 
evidence for the assertions of historians that Donah: of Islay lost 
that battle. He claimed the victory; but even although it were 
more decided it would be equally barren of important results. It 
is also a misconception of the character of the forces engaged when 
it is said that one side was Celtic and ihe other Saxon, and that 
it was a struggle for race supremacy. There were many Gaels on 
the other side also, just as there were in the last battle fought on 
British ground — that of Culloden. 

The Four Wise Men. —One of the most interesting poems in 
the Book of the Dean of Lismore is a dialogue between four men 


who are supposed to stand at the grave of Alexander the Great. 
It appears to be somewhat older than the fifteenth or sixteenth 
century. It illustrates the strong masculine character of those 
earlier ballads, where sense is not buried under a heap of verbiage. 
Whoever the author was, he was evidently a man of sound judg- 
ment and cultured common-sense. Being of more than average 
merit in the original, the poem bears translation better than other 
inferior productions in the Dean's Book. It has been excellently 
done by the late Mr Thomas Pattison, ar.d I avail myself of his 
version. It is very interesting to read the moralisings of High- 
landers some five hundred years ago. 

For wise men met beside the grave 

^Yhere the Prince of Greece was laid — 
The mightiest Alexander ; 

And these true words they said : — 

" But yesterday, to serve his need, 

The world's great host would rise ; 
And there, alas !" the first man said, 
" To-day he lonely lies." 

" Proudly rode he on the earth 
Not many days bygone ; 
And now the earth," the second cried, 
" It rests on his breast bone." 

Then did the third wise speaker say, — 
' Not many days ere this 
He own'd the whole round world ; and now 
Not seven short feet are his !" 

" Alexander treasured gold 
To serve his every whim ; 
And now," the fourth man sagely said, 
" 'Tis gold that treasures him. 

" Like gold was Philip's son — the gold 
That binds the jewels bright ; 
Like the palm among the trees ; the moon 
Amid the stars of night ; 

" Like the great whale among small fish ; 

The lion 'mid the slain ; • 

The eagle when she drives the birds 
From the rock of her lone reign. 

" Like Zion hill amid the hills— 
The hill that holiest seems ; 
Like the great sea unco the floods ; 
Like .Jordan 'mid the streams. 


" He was a man above all men, 

Save the High King of Heaven ; 
To him were armies, towns, and lands, 
And herds and forests given." 

Tims o'er the great man's tomb they spoke I 

Wise do I count their lore ; 
Unlike to women's idle prate 

Were the sayings of these four. 

In the Dean's Book we have poems by two ladies— the first 
Gaelic poetesses of whom we have any record. The name of one 
of them is Efric MacCorqudale or MacNeill. This poetess, 
whose name is written " Effric neyn corgitill," is the authoress of 
a \ery spirited poem. She appear.'-; to have been the wife of the 
last MacNeill of Castle Sween, an ancient strong-hold at the moutii 
of Loch Sween in Knapdale. Argyllshire. The last constable of 
this clan was Hector MacTorquil MacNeill, whose name is found 
on a Macdonald charter in 1472. He was of the Gigha MacNeills, 
who sprung from Torquil MacNeill, designated " filius Nigelli " in 
his charter of the lands of Gigha and Taynish with the constabul- 
ary of Castle Sween. '■ MacTorquil," half Gaelic, half Norse, 
reminds us of the mixture of Teutonic and Celtic blood in the 
veins of this clan. When the last MacNeill died, leaving no heii 
in the direct line, the office and lands connected with Castle Sween 
weie given, in 143 1, to the F^arl of Argyll. Efric, his wife, here 
laments the fact. 

Rosary, thou kindlest sorrow ; 

Thou art ever my delight ; 
Telling of the noble bosom 

Where I lay until to-night. 

Death has filled me with its sadness ; 

Where's the arm I clung to long ? 
Ah ! I saw it not departing ; — 

His the valiant and the strong. 

Joyful voice of softest music ; 

Known it everywhere remains ; 
Lion of Mull of the white towers, 

Hawk of Islay of smooth plains. 

There's no joy among our women ; 

At the sport men are not seen ; 
Like the skies when winds are silent, 

80 with music is Dun Sween. 


On Clan-Neill they've taken vengeance ; 

See the palace of the brave I 
Cause to us of sad lamenting 

Till they lay us in the grave. 

The other poetess is— 

Isabel, Countess of Argyll. In the Dean's Book this lady 
is described as "Isabella Ni vie Cailein ;" elsewhere she is called 
" Contissa Ergadien." She was Isabel Stewart, eldest daughter of 
John, Lord of Lorn. She was married to Lord Colin Campbell, 
who was created Earl of Argyll in 1457, and died in m93- 'I'lie 
])oems of these two ladies are interesting as showing that Gaelic 
literature was cultivated in fashionable quarters at that period. I 
have attempted a literal rendering in verse of the Countess's 
poem : — 

Pity one that bears love's, 

Yet the cause that must conceal ; 
Sore it be to lose a dear one, 

And a wretched state to feel. 

And the love I gave in secret 

I must ever keep unknown ; 
But unless relief comes quickly 

All my freshness will be gone. 

Ah ! the name of my beloved 

Ne'er to other can be told ; 
He put me in lasting fetters ; — 

Pity me a hundredfold. 

Ln surveying the arena of history we observe places geographi- 
cally small sending forth the most prevailing of the forces that 
have fashioned the course of civilisation. A glance at one or two 
countries will readily illustrate the significance of the great factors 
at work in the making of the world's annals. We discern in Judea, 
a small strip of land, the country whence the all-conquering 
religion and civilisation of the whole earth have come ; we find in 
Greece — a small concatenation of tribes and provinces — a philos- 
ophic and aesthetic power which has supplied the minds of men 
with profound wisdom for centuries ; for our laws and many of our 
customs and institutions we are indebted to Rome, Pagan and 
Christian — a city in a com|jaratively petty peninsula ; in our own 
isles of the Gentiles, not excluding Man, Ireland, and 8t. Kilda, 
there has been developed the greatest moral force of the present, 


and it may be said of any inillenniLun hitherto. Our British 
islands look small indeed on the chart of the world ; and it is 
possible that our geographical insignificance may tempt everween- 
ing, inimical powers, and some of our own subject nationalities, to 
touch unkindly some day the mane of the British lion ; but very 
vainly indeed as long as Christian manliness resides in the hearts 
of never-enslaved Britons. 

Along the coasts of Britain lie several islets where were nursed 
and whence have emanated national elements of moral power 
which have to some extent influenced our all-prevailing Anglo- 
Celtic empire. Lindisfarne, Inchcolm, and lona we generally 
know. lona in Loch Erizort, Lewis, the interesting islets that stud 
the west coast of the latter island, the far north tiny little Rona, 
were in early days centres of light and religion, if not of culture. 
To-day the tourist finds few or none to welcome him in many of 
those once heaven-favoured island-homes that repose in their 
attractive poetic solitude and antiquarian suggestiveness on the 
majestic bosom of the Atlantic Ocean. But in the far-west St 
Kilda there still resides as monarch, priest, and judge, that zealous 
Free Church ordained missionary, Mr .Mackay, who, according to 
artist Sands's admission, bravely wrestles with all the elements, 
moral and physical, that conflict with the interests of man. But 
leaving St Kilda in its loneliness and sailing in among the inner 
Hebridean Isles, we find in the fertile Island of Lismore— the 
great garden— z. man in the fifteenth century, often now referred 
to in Gaelic literature, the Rev. Sir James Macgregor. A native 
of Perthshire^ belonging to a royal clan that was afterwards 
" nameless by day," with a heart filled with the enthusiasm and 
perfervid spirit of his countrymen, he and his brother got up a 
collection of the songs and ballads of their native land, which was 
among the first of the literary olTorts of the kind. In Lismore also 
resided in later days another literary ecclesiastic, the sturdy Mac- 
Nicol, who produced an able volume of obstinate Scottish prejudice, 
a pretty hearty, intelligent growl over the great lexicographer's 
"Journey to the Hebrides." 

To Macgregor's book we are indebted for some specimens of 
the poetry of his own and previous periods. Some of the votaries 
of the muse to whom he assigned niches of honour in his collection 
have been already referred to ; the names of a ^qw more, with a 
few specimen verses of their compositions, are here given. 

Sir Duncan Campbell is described as " Duncan MacCailein, 
the good knight. '' He was Sir Duncan Campbell of Clenorchy, 


son of Sir Colin, who died in 1478. He must have been a knight 
of some courtly and literary importance in his day, for he not only 
wrote poetry in Gaelic, but he obtained from tlie powers that were 
charters to extensive lands in Perthshire, and became one of the 
Earls of Breadalbane. He is the author of several pieces of 
poetry which have been characterised as remarkable for caustic 
humour, indulged in sometimes at the expense of the female sex. 
A published poem of his is a satirical elegy on a miser, a species 
of beggrtr humanity that the world has not yet succeeded in ex- 
tinguishing. I give a literal metrical translation of some of the 
verses : — 

Who is now the chief of beggars 

Since the best of them is gone ? 
Sorely down our tears are streaming 

Since his begging face lias flown. 

Piteous is the orphan's case ; 

Deatb to begging ill has brought ; 
In eacli homestead there is sorrow. 

As the begging can't be taught. 

Ever since our God created 

Man at first, I have not heard 
Of a mendicant like Lachlan, 

Wiiose decease our grief has stirred. 

Without fatlier, without mother. 

Beggary grows weak and poor ; 
For none e'er could beg like Lachlan : 

How can 1 my loss endure ! 

Duncan Macpheuson is thought to have been an ecclesiastic, 
a class, notwithstanding Professor Blackie's genial sneer about the 
" solemn sepulchral piety of certain North-VVestern Gospellers," 
who have been the authors and media of the most of what the 
literary Highlander can refer to with national pride. The '' sombre 
nationaUty " of the old Ossianic bards is discernible in the follow- 
ing lines : — 

Alastair, art still in sorrow ? 

Or canst cast it to the ground ? 
The old year is swiftly passing. 

And yet godless art thou found ? 

Now while thou art grey and aged, 

Hast tliou not tlie grace of heaven ? 
If there be aught good in sorrow, 

(Tod to thee rich gifts has given. 


John MacVurich. — This writer was likely a member of the 
famous family who were so long hereditary bards to Clanranald. 
Their ancestor was the famous Muireach Albannach of the thir- 
teenth century. I give a metrical rendering of some verses :— 

0, sorry is the fate 

I finil mine own to-day ! 
Have jjity kindly heav'n ; 

Save from this pain, I pray. 

Tlie misery I feel 

Is threefold here alone ; 
And my misfortune black 

Comes weighted with a stone. 

My rage and wrath are great 

For how she's grieving me ; 
I see her sweet soft skin 

Like white foam on the sea. 

So rosy is her hand ; 

Her lips like berries red ; 
My soul she holds while sleep 

At night flies from my bed. 

I fancied she was nigh, 

And that she smiled on me ; 
But since my grief began 

The maid I can not see. 

Her raven curly locks 

Are prettily arrayed ; 
Five lovers there are knit 

To th' name of the fair maid. 

that she were my own : 

Then I should be so blest ; 
My love for evermore 

To press her to my breast ! 

Many of the authors whose compositions appear in the Dean's 
Book were evidently professional men, either clerical or medical. 
It was among these two classes that the lamp of literature was 
kept burning. Many of the names are indeed suggestive of pro- 
fessional connections, such as Mac-an-Olave, MacNab, Mac- 
pherson. Maol Domhnuich, &c. 

It has been held that the Romish system of the celibacy of the 
clergy was not introduced or acted upon till a century or two 
I)efore the Reformation. Whether or not this is true we have at 


all events quite a crop of clans whose progenitors must have been 
the sons of ecclesiastical persons. We have Mac-an-Aba. MacNab, 
from the son of the Abbot ; .Mac Vicar, from the son of the Vicar : 
MacPherson, from the son of the Parson, or Persona ; MacTaggait, 
from the son of the Priest ; MacMaster, from the son of the 
Maighstir or Minister. Other names come to us through those 
who devoted themselves to be the servants or of God or of 
some saints. Mac-gille-Chriost is Gilchrist, or the son of Gilchrist, 
or the servant of Christ. Mac-gill'-Iosa, is GilHes, or the son of 
the servant of Jesus ; Mac gill'-lain, or MacLean, is the son of the 
servant of Seathain, or John ; Mac-gill'-aindreais is the son of the 
servant of Andrew ; Mac-gill'-Edra (Gill'-an-Leabhairi is the son 
of the servant of the Book, Macindeor ; Mac gill'-Mhoire is 
Morrison, the servant of Mary, (S:c. The clerical element appears 
to have been a powerful interest at one time in the Highlands and 
Islands. Indeed, this may be said of Scotland as a whole, a 
characteristic which has not yet become invisible. The Dean's 
book shows us the Highlands under the old order of things. A 
vast change was impending. The Catholic ecclesiastical dispen- 
.sation was drawing to a close. The Church of Rome never gained 
a powerful hold of the people ; so in general they contemplated 
its downfall with indifference. The intelligent of them who were 
interested in religion hatl more sympathy with the old native 
Church — the Celtic — which Rome supplanted or were ready to 
embrace the new taith of awakening Christendom. 

CiiLLicALUJNi Mac-an Olave. — This bard is the author of several 
pieces of fair merit m the Dean's Book. He appears to have been 
one of the famous Beatons, Leigh, of Islay, Mull, and 
Skye. Ot him and of several others m the Dean's MS. we know 
little more than their names, some of which 1 now give : — John of 
Knoydart, who poetises on the murder of the young Lord of the 
Isles by the Irish harper, Dermid O'Cairbre, at Inverness in 1490 ; 
Duncan Mor, from Lennox ; Gilchrist Taylor, Andrew Macintosh, 
the Bard Macintyre, John MacEvven MacEachern, Duncan Mac- 
Cabe, Dougall MacGille Glas, Maol Domhnuich (Servus Domini), 
Baron Ewen MacOmie, MacEachag, and Duncan, brother of the 
Dean, Sir James Macgregor, who transcribed the most of the 
manuscript so famous under his brother's name. 

There are a gootl few verses of a satiric character to be found 
in the Dean's collection. The reader is rather surprised to find 
the religious Dean admitting such an estimate as the following of 
monks and monasteries into his collection : — 


I, Robert, went yesterday 

A monastery for to see ; 
But to my wishing they said nay, 

Because my wife was not with me ! 

Among the Irish pieces there are several satirical productions by 
an Irish Earl Gerald, the fourth Earl of Desmond, directed against 
the fair sex. 

The ruthless and vindictive spirit which at this time prevailed 
in Scotland may be gathered from the following verses of a battle- 
incitement on the eve of the invasion of the English, which ended 
on the fatal field of Flodden : — ■ 

Burn their women, lean and ugly ! 

Bnrn their children, great and small ! 
In the hut and in the palace^ 

Prince and peasant, burn them all ! 
Plunge them in the swelling rivers, 

With their gear, and with their goods ; 
Spare, while breath remains, no Saxon ; 

Drown them in the roaring floods ! 

These lines have been translated by Professor Blackie, as well as 
the next piece of banter. 

Black John Macgregor of Glenstrae, who v/as buried at Dysart, 
in Glenorchy, May 26, 15 19, was a kind patron to the red-haired 
bard Finlay MacNab, who begins his praises as follows : — 

I've been a stranger long 
To pleasant-flowing matter ; 
I'm tired of lashing fools 
Witli unproductive satire. 
I've dwarfed my Muse for nought, 
But now she sliall grow bigger 
By chant of lofty theme — 
The praise of the Macgregor. 
A prince indeed is he. 
Who knows the craft of ruling ; 
Well taught in each degree 
Of proper princely schooling. 

Men make boast of noble blood : • 

Though money has its praises, 
I'd much liefer be well-born 
Than count the wealtli of Crcesus. 
Hear me gentles and commons all, 
Cease your blame and banter ; 
When I my pedigree rehearse. 
You'll find I am no vaunter. 
From great Clan Dougall I descend ; 


No better blood is flowing, 

But richer made in me from founts 

That 1 will soon be showing. 

From the MaeCailein a good part 

Of my life's blood I borrow, 

MacCaileiu bountiful to bards. 

Then how siiould I find sorrow ? 

In Earla I was bom and bred, 

I tell you true the story, 

A very noble place it is, 

'Twixt Aros and Tobermory, 

Macdonald lies off to the west : 

I dwell with good Clan Gillean, 

Brave men who stood in battle's breast, 

A hundred 'gainst a million. 

MacNeill of Barra, too, most sure, 

Gives gentle blood to me, sir ; 

And Colousay doth makp her boast, 

I'm kin to the MacFie, sir. 

The mighty masterful AlacSween, 

Clan Ranald and ^lacleod, sir. 

The stoutest chiefs e'er tramped on green, 

Give substance to my blood, sir. 

The Cattanachs and the Macintoshes 

Both make a goodly figure 

In my proud line ; and linked with them, 

Clan Cameron and Macgregor : 

And Stewart's seed, though sown on earth 

More wide than any other, 

The tale is true that one of them 

Was my grandsire's grandmother ; 

And if you will to do me harm 

I rede you will consider 

That I have cousins stout of arm 

In Breadalbane and Balquhidder ; 

Clan Lauchlan and Clan Lamond, too. 

All numbered with my kin, sir ; 

I really see no end in view 

When once that I begin, sir ; 

For in my veins of uoble blood 

Dame nature was so lavish. 

She added some drops from the flood 

Of thy pure fount Clan Tavish, 

Lads that plenish our green hills 

With virtue and with vigoui-. 

Tight little men, but with more pith 

Than many who are bigger. 

I visit MacDougall of Craignish, 

And from the good Maclvor 

I get my dinner full and free. 

And never pay a stiver. 


Ami now my race and lineage rare, 
When you have bravely mastered, 
You'll find the best of all j'our blood 
Flows in my veins — tlie bastard ! 

The following poem is by a Phelim Macdougall. 'I'he power of 
his muse cannot be said to be of so high an order as his moral 
suggestions. But poetry and severe ethics do not always go to- 
gether. So we can afford some literary and religious sympathies 
to poor Phelim in his fifteenth century gropings after light : — 

'Tis not good to travel on Sunday, 

Whoever the Sabbath would keep ; 

Not good to be of ill-famed race ; 

Not good is a dirty woman ; 

Not good to write without learning ; 

Not good are grapes when sour ; 

Not good is an Earl without English ; 

Not good is a sailor, if old ; 

Not good is a bisliop witliout warrant ; 

Not good is a blemish on an elder ; 

Not good a priest with but one eye ; 

Not good a parson if a beggar ; 

Not good is a palace without pay ; 

Not good is a liandmaid if she's slow ; 

Not good is a lord without a dwelling, &c. 

The author of the following verses was neither the first nor the 
last that fathered their petty productions on poor Ossian. 

The Author of this is Ossian, the Son of Finn. 

Long are the clouds this night above me ; 

The last was a long night to me. 

This day that drags its weary way 

Came from a wearier yesterday. 

Each day that comes is long to me : 

Such was not my wont to be. 

Now there is no fine delight 

In battle-field, and fence of fight ; 

No training now to feats of arms, 

Nor song, nor harp, nor maiden's charms, 

Nor blazing hearth, nor well-heaped board, 

Nor banquet spread by liberal lord, 

Nor stag pursuing, nor gentle wooing, 

Tiie dearest of dear trades to me. 

Alas ! that I should live to see 

Days without mirth in hut or hall 

Without the hunter's wakeful call, 

Or bay of hounds, or hounds at all, 

Without light jest, or sportive whim 


Or lads with mounting breast to swim 

Across the long arms of the sea — 

Long are the clouds this night above me. 

In the big world there lives no wight 

More sad than I this night. 

A poor old man with no pith in my bones, 

Fit for nothing but gathering stones. 

The last of the Finn, the noble race, 

Ossian, the son of Finn am I, 

Standing beneath the cold grey sky, 

Listening to the sound of bells. 

Long are the clouds this night above me ! 

One of the chief characteristics of the poetry of this period is 
the clearness or distinctness of the ideas. The authors seize at 
once their subject and straightway sing what they have to utter. 
They also appear to have a definite object in view when they 
invoke the muse, and they carry it out in a clear, direct, and un- 
hesitating fashion. The vagueness and mistiness of Macpherson's 
Os.sianic poems have been much commented upon, and sometimes 
with good reason. Nothing like mistiness can be affirmed of the 
Ossianic poems which were composed or transcribed and were 
popular at this period. The ideas of the authors stand out in 
brilliant distinctness, like stars looking forth beneath the brows of 
a frosty night. 

The Lismore collection of songs and poems is not the only manu- 
script of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that received but 
scant attention from our forefathers. Many ancient Gaelic manu- 
scripts carried by Christian missionaries to the Continent have never 
returned. More than two hundred, once in the possession of Gaelic 
scribes, may still be met with in the various European libraries. 
Drs Laing and Skene, especially the latter, have done good service 
to Scotland in this field The admirable collection of Gaelic MSS. 
in Edinburgh, some of which, it is hoped will yet be published, is 
the result of the energetic eftorts of Dr Skene. The Fernaig 
manuscript which he has put in the hands of Professor Mackinnon, 
contains according to the latter, some 4000 lines of Gaelic poetry 
of the seventeenth century. It is hoped that Mr Mackinnon will 
lend his ability and scholarship to the early publication of this 
work. Judging by a published article of the Professor of Celtic in 
Edinburgh, at the present date (November, 1889), he seems to be 
unaware that the " Red Book " of Clanranald is not lost. Pie will 
be glad to know that it is in the possession of Admiral Reginald 
Macdonald. Mr Campbell of Islay, informed the writer once that 
he and Mr Hennesy had read the " Red Book." 



" A field of the dead rushes red on my sight, 
And the clans of Culloden are scattered in fight." — Campbell. 

A RETROSPECT of the remains of ancient Gaelic Literature 
establislies the following among other facts :- i. That the Scottish 
Gael of the first centuries of the Christian era was not a barbarian. 
2. That a considerable body of oral or traditional literature was 
then extant among the people. 3. That there is no evidence that 
writing was known in the British Islands before the Christian era. 
4. That relics of the writings of Churchmen from the fifth century 
downwards still exist in manuscript. 5. That the literature of the 
Irish and Scottish Gael, till the period of the Reformation in the 
sixteenth century, had much in common, the language used in the 
northwest of Ireland and in the north-west of Scotland being the 

We have come now to the consideration of the poetry which 
may be regarded as the beginings of modern bardic literature. It 
shows a different spirit, while it is generally presented in a different 
form. After Mary MacLeod, the chief productions of the Gaelic 
muse from Iain Lorn to MacMhaigltstir Alasdair were Jacobite. 

The persecutions and .sufferings of the Clan-Gregor, _" the clan 
that was nameless by day," form the theme of many interesting 
and stirring ballads. The terrible valour, the undying courage, 
and the heroic faithfulness of this much injured sept have been 
beautifully drawn by Sir Walter Scott. 

The authoress of Macgregor's Lullaby was a daughter of Colin 
Campbell of Glenorchy, and the wife of Gregor Macgregor, whose 
death she laments in this Lullaby. Her husband, his brother, 
Malcolm Roy, along with their father, Duncan Macgregor, were 
beheaded in 1552 by Colin Campbell of Glenorchy, Campbell of 
Glenlyon, and Menzies of Rannoch. The Black Duncan men- 
tioned in the song was her brother, the seventh laird of Glenorchy. 


whose picture is still preserved at Taymouth Castle. The follow- 
ing is Pattison's rendering of the Lullaby, which, along with the 
next two songs referred to (not in '.he Dean's book), have always 
been very popular : — 

Early on a Lammas morning with my husband was I gay ; 
But my heart got sorely wounded ere the middle of the day. 

Ohorus — Ochau, ochan, uiri, 

Though I cry, my child, with thee — 
Ochan, ochan, uiri, 

Now he hears not thee nor me. 

Malison on judge and kindred, they have wrought me mickle woe ; 
With deceit they came about us, with deceit they laid him low. 

Had they met but twelve Macgregors with my Gregor at their head ; 
Now my child had not been orphaned, nor these bitter tears been shed. 

On an oaken block they laid him, and they spilt his blood around ; 
I'd have drunk it in a goblet largely, ere it reached the ground. 

When tlie rest have all got lovers now a lover have I none ; 

My fair blossom, fresh and fragrant, withers on the ground alone. 

While all other wives the night-time pass in slumbers balmy bands, 
I upon my bedside weary, never cease to wring my hands. 

Far, far better be with Gregor where the heather's in its prime, 
Than with mean and Lowland barons in a house of stone and lime, &c. 

Other Macyregor Songs of the same era are " Macgregor 
Ruara/" and "■ The Braes of the Ceathach." Macgregor O Ruara 
begins thus : — 

There is sorrow, and sorrow, and sorrow now fills me — 

Poor pitiful sorrow no man can redress ; 
It is sorrow and sighing, and sadness tliat thrills me — 

Oh ! terrible sadness I cannot repress. 

Macgregor has perished — Macgregor, pine-bannered — 

Macgregor, beloved in Glenlyon the green ; 
Macgregor, the brave, by whose foes ever honoured 

Tlie threatening roar of our pibroch has been. 

" The Braes of the Mist " is one of the sweetest and most affect- 
ing songs in any language. The singer — a woman — concealed her 
husband and two sons of the fiercely persecuted Macgregors in a 
bed as the enemies were approaching the house. She sat at the 


fire and began singing her song. She sang of herself as waiting 
in solitude for her persecuted friends. The people outside listened 
as the woman sang, and accepting as true what she said, they 
passed on without troubling her. Her heart's dearest wishes de- 
pended on the effect produced by her extempore verses. It has 
been well said that " seldom, indeed, has song or ballad been 
composed or chanted in circumstances of such intense excitement." 
The first verse runs as follows : — 

I sit here alone, by the plain of the highway, 

For mj' poor hunted kin, M^atching mist, watching by way ; 

I've yet got no sign that they're near to m}' dwelling ; 

At Loch Fyne they were last seen — if true be that telling, &c. 

Mo Valie Veg Og is a very popular song, somewhat like "Helen 
of Kirkconnel Lea," and Tennyson's " Oriana " 'I'he occasion of 
the composition was as follows :— One of the chiefs of the Clan 
Chisholm having carried off a daughter of Lord Lovat, placed her 
on an islet in Loch Bruiach, where she was soon discovered by 
the Frasers, who had mustered for the rescue. (Other accounts 
of the origin of the song have been given). A severe 
conflict ensued, during which the young lady was accidentally 
slain by a chance blow from her own lover, in defending her from 
her furious brothers. The lover was condemned to be executed 
next day. The night preceding his execution he composed Mo 
Valie Veg Og, Young little May. The following is a rendering of 
the spirit of the song : — 

I groan for thee in prison, 

Mo Valie Veg Og 
0, dost thy spirit listen, 

Mo Valie Veg Og ; 
From where the dew-drops glisten. 
From thy deep sleep uprisen. 
While these lone arms I miss in. 

Mo Valie Veg Og ? 

We met when summer flowei'ed. 

Mo Valie Veg Og ; 
Where am'rous birds embowered 

Mo Valie Veg Og ; 
The trees that near us towered. 
Sweet dew-drops on us showered ; 
But something near us lowered, 

Mo Valie Veg Og. 


Wrapt in each other dreaming, 

Mo Valie Veg Og ; 
We saw the distance gleaming, 

Mo Valie Veg Og ; 
Thy kinsmen vengeful seeming, 
With fell intention teeming 
We strove, and blood was streaming, 

Mo Valie Veg Og ! 

Encountering their lance, 

Mo Valie Veg Og ; 
I struck by sore mischance 

Mo Valie Veg og ; 
Cursed aye be their advance ! 
T bent in trembling trance 
To drink thy dying glance, 

Mo Valie Veg Og. 

Condemned thus I am grieving, 

Mo Valie Veg Og ; 
Aye longing to be leaving, 

Mo Valie Veg Og ; 
To-morrow sees them cleaving 
This frame ; hope, undeceiving. 
Lifts me with thee believing, 

Mo Valie Veg Og. 

The Owlet. — It is said that this poem was composed by a 
Badenoch deer-stalker about 1550. It is two hundred and sixty- 
eight lines in length. The " Owl " is the form of a dialogue 
between the author and an owl, which, old and feeble, the unkind 
hunter's wife, who was much younger than he, brought in to be a 
fit companion for her husband. There is a good deal of cleverness 
and poetical ingenuity in the piece. It is the only composition of 
the kind in the language, and reminds us of "Listen Little Porker," 
by the Welsh poet Merddyn Wyllt. 

The Aged Bard's JFish. — This poem appeared towards the end 
of last century, in the days of the Ossianic controversy, and has 
come under the suspicions of the sceptical. It was then regarded 
as an old poem, perhaps belonging to pre-Christian times. It 
probably belongs to the first part of the seventeenth century. It 
begins thus — 

Oh ! place me by the little brook, 

Of gentle wandering pace and slow. 
And lay my head near some green nook 

That kindly shades the sunny glow. 


At ease upon the grass I'll rest 

Of the balm -breathing flowery brae ; 
My foot by the warm wave caress'd 

That winds throughout the plain away. 

There the pale primrose let me see, 

There the small daisy close at hand, 
And every flower so dear to me. 

For grateful hue or odour bland. 

About tliy lofty banks, my glen, 

Be bending boughs and blooming sprays, 

Where small birds sing from bush and fen 
To aged clift's their amorous lays. 

There have been several translations of this much-admired poem, 
but on account of occasional vagueness of conception and obscur- 
ity of the style it has been found very difficult to convey with 
certainty and accuracy the sense of the original. In one hundred 
and forty-four lines the bard conjures up many scenes and images 
before his mental vision, and finally welcomes the " Hall of Ossian 
and Daol" — he cries, " Open, fly, the night comes, and the bard 
is gone !" 

Among the poetesses whose names have not been forgotten in 
the story of Scottish letters is that of Mary Macleod, A/airi ni'n 
Alastair J^uaid/t, or Mary, the daughter of red haired Alexander. 
Her name as a poetess has become quite proverbial among the 
people. Apart from the mantle of poetry which she wore she was 
a very remarkable person, who would be long remembered. Like 
some others, her own assertive personality accounts for much of 
the popularity of her productions. 

Mairi ni'n Alastair Ruaidh, who has been regardd by some 
as the first in point of time of the modern Gaelic bards, was born 
in Harris, in the Long Island, in 1569, and died at Dunvegan, 
Isle of Skye, in 1674, at the extraordinary age of 105 years. She 
received no education, yet her poetry is characterised by boldness, 
freshness, and originality. The metres she uses are often compli- 
cated and unusual ; but the native melody of her song and the 
pathetic character ot her conceptions render her poetry very 
enjoyable reading. She was a well-known visitor among her 
neighbours, who generally rallied her by references to a beverage 
stronger than water. Pattison translates a song she composed on 
her being banished from Dunvegan by the young chief of the 
MacLeods ; who, on hearing her laudatory verses, sent a boat to 
bring back the affectionate poetess. 


Alone on the hill-top, sadly and silently 
Downward on Islay and over the sea 
I look, and I wonder how time hath deceived me — 
A stranger in 8carba, who ne'er thought to be. 

Ne'er thought it, my island, where rest the deep dark shade 
The grand mossy mountains for ages have made ; 
C4od bless thee ! and prosper thy chief of the sharp blade 
All over these islands his fame never fade ! 

Never fade it, Sir Norman ! for well 'tis the right 
Of thy name to win credit in counsel or fight — 
By wisdom, by shrewdness, by spirit, by might. 
By iranliuess, coui'age, by daring, by sleight. 

In counsel or fight, thy kindred know these should be thine — 
Branch of Lochliu's wide-ruling and king-bearing line ! 
And in Krin they know it, far over the brine ; 
No Earl would in All)in thy friendship decline. 

The name of Mairi ni'n Alastair Ruaidli has been affectionately 
remembered by many generations of Highlanders. 

John Macdonald. —This well-known Lochaber bard, called 
Iain Lorn, or hare John, was of the Keppoch family ; lived in the 
reigns of Charles I. and II. ; was a very old man about 1710. 

The heir of Keppoch was sent abroad to be educated ; and in 
his absence his affairs were entrusted to his cousins, who planned 
a scheme to get rid of him so that they themselves would get 
possession. The bard perceived their wicked scheme beforehand ; 
and comes prominently before us in his endeavours to expose 
them ; and again in the active part he took in punishing the 
murderers. The massacre took place in 1663 ; and soon after the 
poet persuaded Sir Alexander Macdonald to concert measures for 
punishing the perpetrators of the deed. They were seized and 
beheaded, and the awful retribution is commemorated by the ugly 
monument, '' Tobar nan Ceann," or 'Well of the Heads," in 
Invergarry. Macdonald was politician as well as poet in his day. 
He was a keen Jacobite, and acted as the laureate of the party in 
the Highlands. He was the means of bringing the armies of 
Montrose and Argyll together at Inveriochy, where, on Sunday, 
February 2, 1645, a bloody battle was fought, in which the flower 
of the Campbell clan were slain. He is a poet of great fire, 
vigour, and satiric power. He was buried in Dunaingeal, in the 
braes of Lochaber. 



Did you liear f rom Cille-Cummin 

How the tide of war came pouriug '! 
Far and wide the summons travelled, 

How they drove the Whigs before them I 

From the castle-tower I viewed it, 

High on Sunday morning early, 
Looked and saw the ordered battle, 

Where Clan Donald triumphed rarely. 

Up the green slope of Cail-Eachaidh 
Came Clan Donald marching stoutly ; 

Churls who laid my home in ashes. 
Now shall pay tiie line devoutly ! 

Many a bravely-mounted rider, 

Witli his back turned to the slaughter. 

Where his boots won't keep him dry now, 
Learns to swim in Xevis water. 

On the wings of eager rumour 

Far and M^ide the tale is flying, 
How the slippery knaves, the Campbells, 

With their cloven skulls are lying. 

I have availed myself here of the rendering of Blackie, whose 
literary deftness in translation and poetic genius have successfully 
transferred not only the sense of, but frequently improved on, the 
mere artless of the productions of the Gaelic muse. If the versa- 
tile Professor is not always boMly and simply hteral in his 
versions of Gaelic poetry, he never fails to seize and attractively 
exhibit the spirit of the bard. 

Archibald Macdonald.— This minor bard, called " An Ciaran 
Mabach," was a natural son of Sir Alexander Macdonald, i6th 
baron of SI eat. He was contemporary with lahi Lorn. He was 
a clever and hiidily practical man, and was entrusted in matters of 
importance by his father, who allotted him a portion of land in 
North Uist. 

Neil Mackellau. — Mackellar was a farmer in Jura in 1694. 
He does not appear to have composed much — a poetical address 
of his to /oh7i Ru'Mllt Mac Cailein, the Earl of Argyll, which I 
found among the papers of the poet Livingston, was published in 
the fifth volume of the " Gael." 


DioRBHAiL Nic-a'-Bhriuthain, Or Dorothy Brown, was a native 
of Luing, an island in Argyllshire. She lived towards the close of 
the seventeenth century, and, like many of the bards of the period, 
was a keen Jacobite. Like Iain Lorn, she used her bitter satire 
against the Clan Campbell with considerable effect. She is known 
by her Orando Alastair Mac Colla, the famous Sir Alexander Mac- 
donnell of Antrim, and the gallant lieutenant of Montrose. 

SiLis Ni'n Vic Eaonaill, or Cicely Macdonald, was the 
daughter of Macdonald of Keppoch, and lived from the reign of 
Charles II. to that of George I, Like Iain Lom and Dorothy 
Brown, this poetess was a Roman Catholic, and her muse was 
employed against the house of Hanover. Her husband having 
died in a fit of intoxication while on a visit to Inverness, she com- 
posed Jlfarbhrdun air has a fir, and afterwards some hymns. 

Neil Mac Vurich, who was born early in the seventeenth 
century, was bard and senachie to the family of Clanranald. He 
belonged to South Uist, where the land he had is still known as 
Baile-hhaird. He was a descendant of Muireadhach Alha7inach, 
and grandfather of Lachlan Mac Vurich, whose name appears in 
the Ossianic controversy. He wrote a Gaelic history of the Clan 
Ranald, whose records he kept. He was living and an old man 
in 1715. 

John Macdonald, or Iain Duhh Mac lain 'ic Ailein, a gentle- 
man of the Clan Ranald family, was born in 1665. He held the 
farm of Grulean in the island of Eigg. One of his best pieces is a 
fiery martial poem called " Oran nam Fineachan Gaelach." 

The AosDAN Matheson, who flourished in the seventeenth 
century, belonged to Lochalsh, Ross- shire, where he had as his 
bard free lands from the Earl of Seaforth. Much of his poetry, 
like that of Neil Mac Vurich. has been lost. A poem, Oo'n larla 
Thuathach, Triath Chlann Choinnich, has been freely rendered by 
Sir Walter Scott : " Farewell to Mackenzie, high Chief of Kintail." 

Hector MacLean, who lived in the seventeenth century, was" 
bard and senachie to Sir Lachlan MacLean of Duart. The Chief's 
Klegy is the subject of a special poem by the bard. 

Lachlan Macrinnon, who lived in the seventeenth century, 
was a native of Strath, Isle of Skye. He was a bard of real power, 
and a good many of his pieces have come down to us. Mackenzie, 
collector of "The Beauties of Gaelic Poetry," who delighted in 
unearthing and publishing all the moral dirt he could lay his hands 
on, relates a story about Mackinnon which does not represent the 
bard's character in a very attractive light. 


Roderick Morrison. — -This famous bard, commonly called An 
Clarsair Dull, or the Blind Harper, was born in the island of 
Lewis in 1646. He was a descendant of the Brieve Leosach, well 
known in the annals of the island. Roderick's father was a man 
of piety and culture, in Lewis, whose memory is still fragrant 
among the people. It seems he was a true gospel light amid the 
half-heathenism which then prevailed in the Western Isles. He 
sent Rory and his other two sons to be educated at Inverness, 
intending to educate the three sons for the church. In course of 
time Angus settled in the parish of Contin, and Malcolm in 
Poolewe, Ross-shire. Roderick lost his eyesight through the 
small pox when receiving his education in Inverness, and then 
turned his attention to the study of music. He soon became 
famous not only in Scotland, but also in Ireland. When returning 
from the latter country it is said that he called at every baronial 
residence on his way. Before going home to the north he visited 
Edinburgh, where at the time the Scotch nobility and gentry were 
met in Holyrood House. There he came across the chief, John 
Breac MacLeod of Harris, by whom Roderick was at once en- 
gaged as his family harper. While with MacLeod he composed 
many tunes and songs which are yet popular. His patron Mac- 
Leod afterwards gave him a rent-free farm at Totaraor, in Glenelg. 
After the death of John Breac he went back to his native Lewis, 
where he was much respected in his old age. He died in this 
island, and was buried in the churchyard of I or Hy, near Storno- 
way. ]\Iorrison is a poet of considerable power and culture, 
although his fame as a harper — he was almost the last of that class 
so celebrated among the Gaels — has obscured his name as a poet. 

JoHX Mackay. — This bard, known as Am Piohaire Dull, or the 
Blind Piper, whose father was of the Sutherlandshire Mackays, was 
born in the parish of Gairloch, Ross-shire, in the year 1666. 
Being born blind he was taught music, first by his father, after- 
wards he was sent to the College of Pipers, in Skye, which was 
then presided over by MacCruimein, of world-wide fame. In 
course of time he became family bard to the chief of Gairloch. 
While he stayed with this chief he is said to have composed 
twenty four piohrachds and many strathspeys, reels, and jigs. He 
died in 1754 at the great age of ninety-eight, and was buried in 
Gairloch. The poems of this bard are thoughtful and well finished, 
but, like many of that period, are scarcely known now. 

The learned Edward Lhuyd published his " Archaeologia Brit- 
annica " in 1704 ; and the imaginative Celt of the day was de- 


lighted that so much of the dying language of his forefathers would 
be preserved — that so handsome a monument should be reared to 
its memory. In 1707 a s.icond edition was issued, in which com- 
plimentary ])oetical addresses from Highland mmisters were given. 
There is one from the Rev. James MacPherson, Kildalton, Islay, 
and another from the Rev. John Maclean of Killninian, Mull. 
The following stanzas from Maclean's verses, are of considerable 
merit in the original Gaelic :— 

When the grey Gael — Milesian race from Spain — 
To green lerne had crossed the mighty main, 
Great was tiie fame they carried to our shoie. 
Of skill in arms, of poetry and lore. 
When that good seed had spread out far and near, 
The Gaelic then was honoured there and here ; 
That musically sweet, expressive tongue. 
To which our fathers have so fondly clung. 

In royal courts a thousand years and more 
It reigned in honour — spoke from shore to shore ; 
Then bard and lyrist, prophet, sage and leech 
Wrote all their records in the Gaelic speech : 
Since first Gathelus came from Egypt's strand 
That ancient tongue was written in our land ; 
The great divines whose fame is shed abroad 
In Gaelic accents learned to praise their God. 

'Twas Gaelic Patrick spoke in Innis-Fayl, 

And sainted Calum in lona's Isle. 

Rich polished France, where highest taste appears, 

Received her learning from that Isle of Tears ; — 

le, alma mater, of each tribe and tongue. 

Once taught for France and Germany their young ! 

Well may we now our swelling grief outpour, 

That seat in ruin, and our tongue no more ! 

Great praise and thanks, noble Lhuyd, be thine, 
True learned patriot of the Cambrian line ! 
Thou hast awaked the Celtic from the tomb. 
That our past life her records might illume. 
Engraved in every heart in lettered gold 
Thy name remains : thy silent words unfold 
To future ages what our sii-es had seen. 
While others say, ' A Gaelic race hath been.' 

The first of the Gaelic addresses comes from Andrew Maclean, 
Tyree, who calls himself " the son of the Bishop of Argyll :— 


Ah)dra M'Ohileoin Fear aa Cnuic, an tiridhe mac Easbuig 
EarrarjhaoidliU, C. C. 

Ordheirc an gniomh saor bhur comhluinn 

Cliu do fhoghlum beirid uainn : 
Ti do chur do na thuit oi- sinnsreadh 

Cus do sgeimh bhur linn a nifuaim. 
Molsid M'Liath na Slieauchas, 

Ochd mhacigh'achd do leanmhninn oirinn, 
Brathreachus Gaoidhll Fear Sliaxan, 

Thabhart nar ccuimhne ceart na loirg : 

which may be freely rendered thus : — 

Excellent is thy work completed ; 

Thy deep lore is widely known ; 
The s\veet language of our fathers 

Grandly to the world hast shown. 
Praise shall be of Lhuyd's great labours 

Which henceforth we emulate ; 
Friendship for the Gael of England 

In our hearts he does create. 

Robert Campbell, of Cowal^ begins with the following dedicat- 
ory preface : — 

" Den Uasal oirdherc Maighsdir Sdioavd Lhuid, Fear coimhead tigh na 
seud a Noiltigh Ath-Ndamh a Nsagsan, Ughdar a Nfoclair Ghaoidheilg, 

•' Robert CaimpbelFeav Faraiste mhic Cka'din an Comhal C.C." 

To-day in Eire there is joy ; 

While harp and song wake gentle sounds ; 
The strains of tuneful throats are heard 

Within old Albin's gladdened bounds. 

The pow'r that kindles this delight 

Is that sweet tongue of those fair lands 

Which lay so long in captive chains ; 
It wakens now and breaks the bands. 

In it have terms of peace been sealed, 

In it Jeliovah's praises sung ; 
Small be the lore of learned men 

Who know not this rich ancient tongue. 

This moved to work the noble Lhuyd, 

Whose words of eloquence proceed 
From that deep fount beside which grew 

The Oakling of the Celtic seed, 

'Tis time to teach and woo the muse 

Where fair Oxonia rears her towers, 
Where classic learning finds her home, 

And Isis shows her banks of flowers. 


Tyree, Mull, and Cowal are not the only places where clergymen 
were wont to " woo the muse '' in those days. Poetic expressions 
of admiration and encouragement were also sent to Lhuyd from 
Ardchattan, and Islay. Here is that of the Rev. James Mac- 
Pherson, of Kildalton : 

Thou art welcome, gentle scholar, 

To the Highlands' wave-worn shore ; 
In all provinces of P^ire 

Thine is welcome evermore. 

Welcome through the Gaelic borders, 

England will accord thee hail : 
Chiefs will make of thee companion, 

Praise will come from Ireland's Gael. 

From the tomb thou hast awakened 

Our neglected ancient tongue. 
Which, though long in bonds forgotten, 

Into printed life has sprung. 

Rich and wise is thy instrwction ; 

Clear and learned is thy speech ; 
Ancient words gain force and meaning 

On each page as thou dost teach. 

Bear to learned Lhuyd my blessing. 

Who our language has restored ; 
Hence to him great praise and welcome 

Gaels shall everywhere accord. 

The Rev. Colin Campbell wrote his in Latin, which till that 
period was the medium of communication among Highland 

John Whyte, called Forsair Choir' an-t-Si, belonged to the end 
of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century. He 
lived near Kilmun, and composed a good many songs which are 
recognised as of a superior order. He was the ancestor of some- 
of the name who have been known for their strongly Celtic 

William Mackenzie, otherwise known as An Ceisteir Crtibach, 
was born in Gairloch about 1670. He was a bard of superior 
powers ; but the loose character and profanity of some of his com- 
positions caused the Presbytery that engaged his services as a 
Catechist to dismiss him from his office. Mackenzie, of " The 
Beauties of Gaelic Poetry." has published a lengthy song of his 
which is a blot on the whole work. 

John MacLean, who was a native of Mull, where he was for 


long a popular poet, is the author of a few songs of superior merit. 
His compositions were general favourites at the time of Johnson 
and Boswell's journey to the Hebrides. They heard some of his 
songs sung by a lady. He composed an excellent piece on Sir 
Hector MacLean when he went to France in 1721. The bard 
died in 1760. 

Malcolm MacLean, otherwise known as Calum a GJdinne, 
was a native of Kinlochewe. in Ross-shire. He was a soldier, and 
served for some time abroad, where he deeply learned the worship 
of Bacchus. " Mo Chailin donn og" is yet popular. It was com- 
posed for his daughter. He died in 1764. 

Am Bard Mucakach, a Macdonald, originally from Glencoe, 
lived in the island of Muck, and is the author of a very good poem 
on the " Massacre of Glencoe." 

Angus Macdonald, a native of Glencoe, is the author of the 
popular song " Bha Clcddheamh air Iain 'san t-searmoin." It was 
intended to ridicule the cowardly conduct of a John Gibeach, who 
was at the battle of Sherififmuir in 1715, but who took to flight in- 
stead of remaining to fight. 

John MacCodrum. — This original and witty bard was a native 
of North Uist. He lived at the same time as his more famous 
contemporary, Alexander Macdonald. The accomplished Sir 
James Macdonald, who died at Rome in 1766, made MacCodrum 
his bard, and gave him free land in North Uist. He met James 
Macpherson when collecting Gaelic materials for the poems of 
Ossian ; and the Uist bard appears to have indulged in wit at the 
expense of Macpherson. MacCodrum is a poet of great ability 
and satiric power. His poems on "Old Age" and "Whisky" 
are of a first-class order. He was, like many of the bards of his 
day, a keen Jacobite. 

The poet's attachment to his patron inspired a tender elegiac 
song of which the following translated verses are a specimen : — 

As I awake it is not sleep 

That strives with me in troubles deep ; 

My bed beneath the tears I weep 

Is in disquiet : 

My bed beneath, &c. 

Of him, my patron bright, bereft, 
I have no fair possession left ; 
While pain of loss my soul has cleft 

In sight and hearing : 

While pain of loss, &c. 


Sore tears are ours ; joy is no more ; 
No hope of smiles ; no cheer in store ; 
We seem like the brave Fians ot yore 

And Finn forsaken : 

We seem like the. &c. 

Ah ! true it seems the tale to tell ; 
Our cup is filled with doings fell ; 
Provoking in a rage of hell 

Bless'd God the Highest : 

Provoking in a rage, &o. 

Blest One from Thee let us not swerve ; 
Above with Thee he goes to serve ; 
Christ ! do Thou for us preserve 

Our loving brothers : 

O Christ ! do Thou, &c. 

The early death of the subject of this elegy, — of Sir James 
Macdonald,— wrought the bard into unwonted seriousness. As 
his name indicates, this poet is a representative of the commingled 
Norse and Celtic races of the Hebridean people. 

Hector MacLeod was a native of South Uist. Like Mac- 
Codrum, he was a zealous Jacobite, and after 17 15 lived in the 
Roman Catholic districts of Arisaig and Morar. There is much 
originality and poetical ingenuity in MacLeod, who, finding it 
dangerous to sing his Jacobite leanings without disguise, had re- 
course to allegorical ways of expressing himself. 

Archibald Macdonald, known as Gilleashuig na Ciotaig, or 
left-handed Archibald, also a native of Uist, is one of the few 
comic bards that the Highlands have produced. An " Elegy" on 
John Roy, a piper while living, and the ''Resurrection " of the 
same, are really clever productions, as well as his song for Dr 
MacLeod, a St Kildian, who was for some time a surgeon in a 
Highland regiment. 

Zachary Macaulay, whose father was an accomplished Epis- 
copalian clergyman, was born in the island of Lewis at the 
beginning of the eighteenth century. He is thought in his youth 
to have written some " wanton " songs ; his pubUshed pieces show 
true poetic instinct and power. The air of one of his songs was 
a favourite with Burns. Lord Macaulay was a descendant ot 
Zachary 's family, from whom the brilliant essayist and historian 
evidently inherited his genius. 

Like that of all other peoples, the limited literature of the Scottish 
Clans has had its periods of revival and decadence. The bolder 


and more original poetry of the early centuries of our story was 
followed by the feeble and imitative strains of the verse writers of 
the medieval generations. 


In the seventeenth century we had the silver age, and about the 
middle of last century the golden age of modern Gaelic poetry. 
Singers of orignal power appeared in every part of the country. 
Of these Alexander Macdonald was the first and the greatest. 
From the wilds of the Ardnamurchan regions he poured forth his 
imperishable strains. After him Duncan Macintyre comes next, 
the poet-hunter of Glenorchay. From the heart of central 
Argyll and Breadalbane he sent forth unique and inimitable songs. 
In the grand wilds of Perthshire Uugald Buchanan, the sacred 
bard of Rannoch, was wilting his sublime poems on such awful 
themes as the "Judgement " and the " Passion " of the God-man. 
In the far North Robert Mackay, the famous Sutherlandshire 
herdj was gladdening the firesides, of a happy peasantry — whose 
descendants are now in Canada— with his witty and satiric com- 
positions. In the West the delicate and fine-fibred William Ross 
began to sing soon after these, his sweet lays of love and sorrow. 
Jacobite rebellions no doubt stirred up the Highland heart at this 
period ; and in the midst of the political ferment of the times the 
muse appears to have thrown her choicest mantle on receptive 
spirits among the people to give song-utterance to their emotional 
aspirations. In the poetry of Macdonald, Mackay, and Macintyre, 
we see the greatest bards of modern times. It is difficult to decide 
which of the first and last mentioned is the greater poet — 
Mackay is not regarded as equal to either. As far as the works 
of preceding bards could help their poetic culture their minds 
were moulded by the same influences. 

But in regard to ordinary education it must be remembered that 
Macdonald was for some time at a University, while Macintyre 
was never able to write. In their descriptions of outward nature 
their poetry shows very much like equal power, while the note of 
the one is n(rt always distinguishable from that of the other. But 
the passionate depth of the one has no echo in the sweeter and 
gentler nature of the other. Each in his own way is a mighty 
singer of whom any country might be proud. And it is remark- 
able that both should be Argyllshire singers. 

Alexander Macdonald, also more frequently called Mac-Mhaigh- 


stir /llastair, son of Master Alexander, was born early in the 
eighteenth century, tlie exu^t date and place of his birth being 
nowhere recorded. His father, Mr Alexander, as he was always 
styled by the Highlanders, was an Episcopalian clergyman. He 
resided at Dailea, in Moydart, and is said to have united farming 
with his ecclesiastical functions. He had several sons and daughers, 
and Alexander was his second son. Alexander received his edu- 
cation first under the superintendence of his father, and afterwards 
for a session or two in the University of (rlasgow. His academic 
career was cut off early by an imprudent marriage. It is not 
known with certainty whether it was for the Church or for the Bar 
he was originally intended. It was feared that his general char- 
acter and conduct would scarcely warrant entrance into the former: 
while his wild changeabteness and irregularities would seriously 
bar his progress for the latter. He ultimately settled in Ardna- 
murchan, teaching, farming, and writing poetry. He then changed 
his ecclesiastical creed, became a Presbyterian and an elder in the 
Established Church, which he continued to be till the year 1745, 
when again he changed his creed, became a Roman Catholic, and 
forsook his all to join Prince Charles. He held a commission in 
the Highland Army, which he tried to animate by his fiery and 
warlike songs. For some time after the battle of Culloden he 
suffered much hardship. One nii^ht, while lurking outside some- 
where, so intense was the cold that the side of Macdonald's head, 
which rested on the ground, was grey when he rose in the morning. 
Soon after friends in Edinburgh procured teaching for the bard 
among Jacobite families. But he did not stay long there. He 
returned to the Highlands, where he died when he had reached a 
good old age. His life was stormy and checkered, like the historic 
period which was then also coming to a close. 

Macdonald's first literary work was a Gaelic and English Voca- 
bulary, published in 1741. It was the first attempt of the kind. 
His poetry was first published in Edinburgh m )76r, and his 
volume was the first book of original poems ever published in 
Gaelic- He wrote extensively, but two thirds of his works in MSS. 
have been lost or destroyed. As we read the works of Macdonald 
and those of Macpherson's Ossian— the two highest names in 
Gaelic poetry — we feel at once that we breathe the air of different 
regions, or move in the atmosphere of different ages Between 
them and the common herd of bards we discern a vast interval in 
the range of their poetical conceptions. Both breathe the spirit 
of" Tir nam beann, nan gleann^ 's nan gaisgeach." but their deep 


utterances of the soul from the mystic land of fancy and passion 
are not alike. The inspiration of both is that of the great Bens, 
the mysterious-seeming valleys, and of deep crying unto deep. 
Macdonald is wild, picturesque, and gorgeous, ever presenting the 
dread and sad realities of nature. He loves to picture her coarser 
characteristics more than lier qualities of tenderness. His poetry 
glows with sensuous imagery, overflows with luxuriance of thought 
and voluptuousness of feeling, and exhibits much of the animal 
and material elements of creation. His music is wild, impetuous, 
and fiery; his metres sometimes smooth, and ruggedly rushing. 
In accomplishing his more elaborate efforts he shows signs of 
spasmodic tendencies. He excels in intensity of thought and in 
fiery vehemence of expression. The force of poetical ardour with 
which he 

Hurls the Birlin through the cold glens, 
Loudly snoring, 

is deeply absorbing. Natural scenes in the West Highlands he 
describes with vigour and striking effect. Sometimes he becomes 
quite majestic, as when he sings of. *' rain-charged clouds on thick 
squalls wandering loomed and towered." Some of the parts of 
his principal poem, The Birlin, a boat voyage in the Hebrides, 
are very powerful and soiiietime.s sublime. The unrestrained 
vehemence and govgeousness of The Birlin give place to simpler 
delineations in The Sugar Brook. There is much delicious por- 
traiture in this last poem. 

The Praise of the Lion is a fiery appeal to the Scottish nationality. 
The Jacobite cause is the theme of many of his songs, Prince 
Charles being sometimes personified under female names, such as 
" Morag.-' In his love songs Macdonald is sweet, tender, and 
musical, rough though his muse is at other times. His •• Praise 
of Morag," in a sort of piohrachd measure, is powerful ; but com- 
posed under such conditions as Burns wrote " Mary in Heaven," 
Macdonald's lawful spouse became alarmed and jealous. At once 
he turns to " Dispraising Morag," which he works out elaborately 
with Mephistophelian ardour and spirit, regardless of all poetic 
justice and decency. " The Resurrection of the Gaelic Tongue " 
is a powerful poem, celebrating the antiquity and supreme excel- 
lence of the language of the Gael. 

As specimens of the sweet and tender in Macdonald's poetry, 
let us take a verse or two from his fine i)iece. The Sugar Brook. 
He has done for thi.s insi-nificent burn what Burns has done for 
the Doon and Gray for the Tuggie. He describes the different 


birds tuning their little throats in the morning to take up the 
several parts assigned to them in the great harmonic chorus of 
nature. He hears the rich treble of Robin, the deep bass of 
Richard, the "goo-goo" of the cuckoo ; while on a stake apart 
from the rest the thrush sings lustily, and the blylhesorae brown 
wren and the vieing linnet tune up their choicest strings. The 
blackcock croaks, and the hen sings her hoarse response. Then 
come the fishes, the bees, and the frisking calves, the milkmaid 
and the herdsman, to fill up a scene already sufficiently gorgeous. 
There also — 

The wailing swans their murmurs blend 

With birds that float and sing ; 
Where joins the Sugar Brook the sea 

Their tuneful voices ring. 
Softly sweet they bend and breathe 

Through their melodious throat. 
Like the crooked bagpijjes' wailing strain, 

A sad but pleasing note. 

The following two stanzas are very fine in the original, and Patti- 
son has very successfully rendered them into English : — 

! dainty is the graving work 

By Nature near thee wrought ! 
Who^e fertile banks with shining flowers 

And pallid buds are fraught. 
The shamrock and the daisy 

Spread o'er tiiy borders fair. 
Like new-made spangles, or like stars. 

From out the frosty air. 

All ! what a charming sight display 

The ruddy rosy braes. 
When sunbeams dye their flowers as bright 

As brilliants all ablaze : 
And M'hat a civil suit they wear 

Of ribgrass and of hay. 
And gay-topt herbs, o'er which the birds 

Pour forth their pompous lay. 

The Birlin has been translated by Sheriff Nicolson, and a part 
by Professor Blackie. The complete translation of Pattison was 
the first and is still the best. This poem is a master-piece of 
Gaelic poetry, and presents peculiar difficulties to the translator. 
After this " Blessing of the Ship," the '• Blessing of the Arms," we 
have in the third part an incitement for rowing to a sailing place. 
The rowers are asked with a powerful sweep to 


Wound the huge swell on the ocean meadow, 

Rolling and deep. 
With your sharp narrow blades white and slender, 

Strike its big breast ; 
Hirsute and brawny, and rippled and hilly. 

And never at rest. 
0, stretch, and bend, and draw, young gallants ! 

Forward going ! 
Let your fists' broad grasp be whitening 

In your rowing ! 
Ye lusty, heavy, stalwart youngsters ! 

Stretch j'our full length ; 
With shoulders knotty, nervy, hairy, 

Hard with strength ; 
See you raise and drop together 

With one motion. 
Your grey and beamy shafts well ordered, 

Sweeping ocean. 

In this spirit the poem extends to more than 500 lines, divided 
into t6 parts, until finally the voyage of the Birlin ends somewhat 
hke that of St Paul. 

Till Avithin recent years the practice of walking cloth in peasant 
homes was a general thing. The writer has often witnessed it in 
the north as well as in the south Highlands, in places where walk- 
ing mills did not extinguish the ancient ways of Highland women. 
The " Morag" of Macdonald was a "Walking Refrain," or song 
for a young woman of fair bewitching tresses. In history her alias 
is Prince Charlie whose adventures touched the hearts of women, 
bards and weak-minded statesmen. " Ho Morag" in other words 
is a treasonable prayer, adoration, or incitement for Jacobitically- 
minded Highlanders and others. The bard's heart was evidently 
in this wretched and ill-starred rebellion ; but it ought not to be 
forgotten that if the poet's heart tended to disloyalty he had 
thousands of titled traitors and sympathisers close to the Han- 
overian throne. The Jacobite bard rushes with inexhaustible 
enthusiasm into the " walking " labours of the Highland women 
as their thoughts travel after the fair adventurer : 

Bright Alorag of my heart's emotion 
I long to see thy yellow tresses. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, child of love, 

Beloved of many. 
If thou art gone across the ocean 
Return to help in our distresses. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, &c. 


Bring back a set of winsome beauties 
To walk the red cloth well and tightly. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, &c 
! here at home amid thy duties 
Thy linen would be clean and sprightly. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, &c. 

And thou wouldst never be o'er-laden 
In menial office of the servant. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, &c. 
She, Morag, my own handsome maiden, 
With the hair circlets fair and fervent. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, &c. 

Further on the bard is " enthused " over the deeds of Montrose 
and Alastair Mac Colla, the brave Sir Alexander Macdouald of 
Antrim, whose heroism has not yet received its due reward : 

On Mainland, Canna, Eigg, they wander, 
Brave troops, whom Allan led delighted. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, &c. 
When great Montrose and Alexander 
Proud Lowland hosts had fought and frighted. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, &c. 

The close of this stirring lyric gives us the warrior-bard, after the 
ancient manner : 

Thick and close, and walked and plaited 
Blood-coloured, reddened be the heather. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, &c. 
Haste with thy walking maidens mated 
With our brave girls to march together. 

Yes ; and Ho Morag, &c. 



" That is what I always maintained. He has found names, and stories, 
and phrases, nay passages in old songs, and with them has blended his own 
compositions, and so made what lie gives to the world as the translation of 
an ancient poem." — Samuel Johxson^. 

Few questions have more deeply disturbed the equanimity of the 
literary world than the age and authorship of die " Poems of 
Ossian." The national antagonism and prejudices of three king- 
doms were roused over the name of the poor old bard, when his 
re[)uted works first appeared nearly one hundred and thirty years 
ago. A controversy of exceeding keenness ensued ; it has not 
ended yet ; and we may well question whether it will ever be sat- 
isfactorily settled. Tt is proposed here to give tlie history of the 
poems and annex the opinions of all those entitled to be heard on 
the question of authorship. 


I. Sketch of the ^'- Poems of Ossian^ — In the year 1759 James 
Macpherson was tutor in the family of Graham of Balgowan, at 
Moffat. There he met John Home, the author of " Douglas." 
Home was told by Professor Adam Fergusson, a Gaelic-speaking 
Highlander, that some remains of ancient Gaelic poetry existed ; 
and getting translations of specimens from Macpherson, a native 
of Badenoch, he showed them to Drs Blair. Fergusson, and 
Robertson, by whom they were highly appreciated. Importuned 
by them_, he translated all he had, and published in 1760 " Frag- 
ments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland." 

'I'he friends already mentioned wished to secure all other relics 
that could be found in the Highlands ; and the tutor, then a 
divinity student, was provided with funds, and undertook his 
famous journey through the Highlands, where he received MSS., 
and took down poetry from the recitation of old people. He was 


first accompanied by Lachlan Macpherson of Strathmashie, a 
aentleman and a scholar, and also a bard himself, for some time 
on his tour ; he was also joined latterly by Captain Alexander 
Morrison, who subsequently assisted him. He returned to Bade- 
noch, and remained there till January, 176 r. preparing his materials 
for the next publication, assisted by Macpherson and Morrison, 
Two Perthshire clergymen were also near him — the Revs. MrGallie 
and James MacLa^an, the latter no mean poet himself. By these 
also he was assisted, and he kept correspondence with them. 

In 1762 appeared in London, " Fingal," an epic in six books, 
along with other sixteen poems. 

Next year appeared " Temora," in ei^ht books, and five other 
poems. " A specimen of the original of ' Temora,' " the seventh 
book in Gaelic, was also published in this volume. 

These epics kindled scepticism in many minds ; and the " trans- 
lator," smarting under imputations of forgery, as well as filled 
with vanity at being thought the author of the poems, indulged 
himself in sullen silence. 

2. Dr Johnson.— Tht great king who reigned in literary matters 
in those days was Samuel Johnson, a very worthy man, but full of 
obstinate prejudices against everything Scotch and Highland. He 
undertook a journey to the Hebrides purposely to investigate into 
the Ossianic question ; but he came with the absolute belief that 
Gaelic was never written, and no poems of any consequence ex- 
isted in that language. Boswell's journal : — " Dr Johnson pro- 
ceeded- — ' I look upon Macpherson's '' Fingal" to be as gross an 
imposition as ever the world was ti-oubled with. Had it been 
really an ancient work . . it would be a curiosity of the first 
rate.' . . 

" When Dr Johnson came down, I told him , . that Mr 
MacQueen repeated a passage in the original Erse, which Mr 
Macpherson's translation was pretty like ; and reminded him that 
he himself once said he did not require Mr Macpherson's 'Ossian '' 
to be more like the original than Pope's ' Homer.' 

"Johnson — 'Well, sir, that is just what I always maintained. 
He has found names, and stories, and phrases, nay, passages in 
old songs, and with them has blended his own compositions, and 
so made what he gives to the world as the translation of an ancient 
poem.' So also thought Laing in his fiimous and elaborate essay ; 
as well as thousands of others who accepted the dicta of these 

3. The Highland Society's Report, got up widi great candour. 


and after much inquiry and research, and with the testimonies of 
noljlenien, gentlemen, and clergymen, bearing on the question, 
from all parts of the Highlands, appeared in 1806. It was pre- 
pared by Henry Mackenzie, the author of " The Man of Feeling." 
The result arrived at was : — ■ 

I St, That the characters of Macpherson's poem were not in- 
vented, but were subjects of Highland tradition ; and that poems 
certainly existed which might be called Ossianic. 

2d, That such poems had been handed down from an unknown 
period by oral recitation, and that many Highlanders could still 
repeat them. 

3d, That such poems had been written, and some were to be 
found in MSS. 

4th, That Macpherson used many such poems in his work by 
joining separated pieces together, and that, by adding connective 
narratives of his own, he had woven them into larger poems and 
the so-called epics. No materials were found, however, to show 
the extent of this process and the amount of genuine matter the 
poems as published by Macpherson contained. 

4. 7Ae Gaelic Ossicm \va.s published in 1807, accompanied with 
Macfarlane's Latin version and MacArthur's dissertation, It came 
through the hands of Macphersons's executors, assisted by Dr 
Thomas Ross, of Lochbroom. Money was collected in the East 
Indies by military gentlemen to defray the expense of publication, 
and before Macpherson died in 1796 he had the copy ready for 
the press ; but no traces were to be found of any ancient MSS. 
which he might have used in preparing his copy, if he ever had 
any such ^MSS. that he used. There is nothing exceptionally 
ancient about the text of i^oj. 

5. JVew State of the ^wes^jou.— Highlanders, with very few ex- 
ceptions, if any, on its appearance accepted the Gaelic text of 
1807 as the genuine originals from which Macpherson translated, 
and which they regarded as composed by Ossian in the third 
century. But the views of Johnson and Laing were still subscribed 
to by the great majority of English-speaking people. 

'6. Macgregors '■'Genuine Remains."' — Patrick Macgregor, M.A., 
barrister, published in 1841 the genuine remains of '"Ossian '' in 
an English rhythmical translation not much inferior to Dr Clerk's 
with a very well-written historical introduction maintaining the 
authenticity of the Gaelic Ossian. 

7. Irish Writers were all along jealous of the attention which 
Macpherson's translations secured for Gaelic poetry in Scotland. 


Societies and individuals determined not to be behind Scotland in 
supplying the public with ancient Ossianic poems. The Ossianic 
Society especially published five volumes of tales, and poems, and 
translations ; Macpherson was charged with stealing the substance 
of his poems from Ireland ; and at the same time the arguments 
of Johnson and Laing were reiterated ; while the most of what 
tht-y themselves published as ancient was not more than a century 
or two old. 'Jhe Irish could neither manufacture nor lay their 
hands on epics like those of James Macpherson, so Dr Drummond, 
Edward O'Reilly, &c., charged Macpherson -wiih. fabricating the 
poems, when they found they could not prove that he stole them 
from Ireland. Ireland has extensive Celtic literature ; much of 
it ancient too; Imt it can show nothing like Macpherson's pro- 

8. Dr W. F. Skene. — This Celtic scholar says : — '' A review 
of ail the circumstances which have been allowed to transpire re- 
garding the proceedings of James Macpherson seems rather to lead 
to the conclusion that the Gaelic version, in the shape in which it 
was afterwards published, had been prepared in Badenoch, during 
the months Macpherson passed there, after his return from his 
Highland tour, with the assistance ot Lachlan Macpherson of 
Strathmashie, and Captain Morrison, and that the English tran- 
slation was made from it by Macpherson in the same manner in 
which he had translated the fragments." The following facts 
appear to favour Dr Skene's conclusion : — After Eachlan Mac- 
pherson's death, a paper was found in his repositories containing 
the Gaelic of the seventh book of Temora, in his handwriting, with 
many corrections and alterations, and thus described — " First rude 
draft of the seventh book of Temora." 

Mr Gallic sent to the Highland Society a part of the Gaelic of 
Fingal, which afterwards appeared as part of the Gaelic version. 
He had taken it from a MS. he had recovered, written by a friend, 
"who was at that time with Mr Macpherson and me— a gentleman 
well known for an uncommon acquaintance witii the Gaelic, and a 
happy facility in writing it in Roman characters." Pressed to tell 
who this friend was, he says : — '• His name was Lachlan Mac- 
pherson, of Stralhmashy. He died in 1767." Dr Skene says : — 
" This Gaelic version seems, therefore, to have been put together 
before 1767 ; and if before 1762, it will account for the original of 
the seventh book of Temora having been published in that year, 
and also for an advertisement which appeared soon after the pub- 
lication of the second quarto, that the originals were lying at the 

macpherson's ossian 189 

publisher's, and would be published if a sufllcient number of sub- 
scribers came forward ; but as few subscribers appeared, and fewer 
came to look at them, they were v/ithdrawn."' 

The view of Dr Skene was scarcely raain;ained hitherto by any 
Scottish Gaelic scholar. Shaw in lySi^ echoed .Johnson's senti- 
ments. He began to read through Macpherson ; and was held 
immediately to scorn by the Gaelic literati. 

9. The Late Rev. Thomas Pattison. author of ''The Gaelic 
Bards " ( 1866), and a man highly capaiile of forming judgment on 
the question, says, " When we consider that the finest parts of 
Macpherson's Ossian are incontestably proved to have been 
popular poetry long anterior to his appearing, I think we should 
throw all prejudice aside, and affirm that whoever composed the 
poems attributed to Ossian, James Macpherson was not the man ; 
and that whatever merit may belong to him as a translator, or 
whatever claim he may have to be considered their compiler in 
their present form, he has no legitimate title to be culled their 
author. They are substantially older than he, probably by many 
centuries." Pattison, like manv others before him, dwells on 
Macpherson's inferior Gaelic scholarship ; but the facts do not 
warrant the conclusion drawn, that Macpherson was incapable of 
writing the Gaelic Ossian. Macpherson was a man of genius, and 
quite able to deliver himself in Gaelic as good and classical as many 
scholars that lived then or since. 

10. J'oh7i F. Campbell., Esq. — The most formidable opponent of 
the authenticity of Macpherson's Ossian recently is Mr Campbell 
of Islay. His earlier views, as expressed in the Highland Tales, 
were those of Gaelic-speaking Highlanders in general. But the 
longer he dwelr, among the genuine old ballads found in manu- 
scripts and in collections taken down from the oral recitation of 
Highlanders who lived before Macpherson's time, the more con- 
firmed he became in his grovving conviction that Macpherson was 
both translator and author, and that the English was first composed. 
"My opinion now," he says, '"is that Macpherson's translation 
was first composed by a great genius, partly from a knowledge of 
Scotch nature and folk-lore, partly from ideas gathered from books, 
and that he and other translators afterwards worked at it, and 
made a Gaelic equivalent whose merit varies according to the 
translator's skill and knowledge of Gaelic. It is said that an early 
copy of the 7th book of Temora, with corrections in Strathmashie's 
hand, was found after his death. I suppose that he revised a 
Gaelic translation by Macpherson, or by some other. His own 


Gaelic songs are idiomatic, whereas the 7th book of Teinora is 
Saxon Gaelic in general, and nonsense in many passages. The 
English equivalent is like the rest of Macpherson's work. In 
either case, because of matter, manner, orthography, and language, 
Macpherson's English and Gaelic Ossian, must have been composed 
long after Dean MacGregor collected his book in Macpherson's 
country, near his district, and in Morven." This is tlie opinion of 
a Gaelic-speaking gentleman thoroughly conversant with the facts 
of the case, and eminently qualified to maintain his side of the 

II. Mr Hector MacLean^ Mr Campbell's clever co-adjutor in 
much of his work, takes a similar view. He says — "The so- 
called Gaelic Ossian of Macpherson exhibits all the symptoms of 
being a translation from English. Anglicisms abound everywhere; 
the structure of the verse is fully as much akin to English as to 
Gaelic poetry. It is deficient in all the good qualities of style, 
strength, clearness, and propriety. The versification is exceedingly 
rugged and irregular ; alliteration, so characteristic of Celtic 
poetry, is generally deficient, and frequently entirely wanting ; the 
sentiment is usually morlfid and vapid ; and in fact the so-called 
original Gaelic Ossian is almost in every respect inferior to the so- 
called English translation." MacLean at the same time speaks 
of the ballads in Campbell's Leabhar na Feinne as " characterised 
by purity of language, vigour of expression, and smoothness of 
versification." MacLean's thorough knowledge of Gaelic as well 
as his EngUsh culture and philological attainments entitle him to 
be heard. 

12. Hev. ^)r Archibald Clerk. — The dissertation prefixed to the 
magnificent edition of Ossian. Gaelic and English, published in 
liSyi, at the expense of the Marquis of Bute, and edited with a 
new literal translation into English by Dr Clerk, of Kilmallie, 
should be read by all who wish to know the history of the Ossianit; 
controvers}'. Dr Clerk was an accomplished Gaelic scholar— a man 
of culture and sound judgment. He ably and warmly maintains 
that I\lacpherson was only a translator. In him his opponents 
find a writer thoroughly qualified, by his literary, scholarly, and 
philological attainments, to deal with this vexed question. When 
he and Mr Campbell fail to agree, it is very difficult for others 
less conversant with the facts of the case to arrive at any satisfac- 
tory conclusion. While Dr Clerk was patriotically engaged on 
his splendid new edition of Ossian, Mr Hector MacLean was 
regretting " that those who know Gaelic as their vernacular should 


be so far duped as to spend their time translating into English 
what is really nothing else than an inferior and incorrect translation 
from that language." 

13. The Rev.^Dr HateJy IVaddeU.—'- Ossisin and the Clyde" 
is the title of a large, and elaborate, and ingenious work by Dr 
Waddell. He holds that " Ossian " is historical and authentic ; 
and he supports this position by a three-fold argument — geological, 
geogniphical and etymological, and traditional. The work is 
learned and eloquent ; and the author pursues his argument with 
much minuteness and research. He believes in Ossian by instinct, 
just as many of his opponents have rejected the same by instinct. 
He holds that Macphersou is merely editor and translator ; and 
that he has used no liberties with his text beyond what an editor 
and translator is entitled to use. He, however, labours under the 
disadvantage of not knowing the GaeHc language, although this 
difficulty is much minimised by the help of Dr Clerk's literal tran- 
slation and notes. Part of his arguments is certainly new and 
original ; and the book deserves perusal on the part of the student 
of the Ossianic controversy. 

14. Dr August Ebrard. — This distinguished German divine and 
writer, whom Professor Blackie describes as an " impartial spec- 
tator" and a " well-trained German scholar," has written an article 
on this question in which, after giving a historical sketch, he indi- 
cates his arguments in favour of the authenticity of Macpherson's 
(issian. He says, " in Ossian's poems there is presented to us the 
subject-matter of Observations and thoughts, just such as would 
have occurred to the remembrance of one who had taken part in 
these battles. And whoever may have cast this material into its 
present form it is certain that he has left the substance thus un- 
altered. And- why should this not actually have proceeded from 
this Ossian — -prince, warrior, and poet? We know that in old 
times it was the common custom of the Celtic tribes that the bards 
should accompany the army to battle, and that every warlike and 
heroic deed should straightway be celebrated in more or less de- 
tailed song. Undoubteclly this would happen with the numerous 
warlike deeds of King Finnghal. How intelligible it must, then, 
appear, that after the death of Finnghal and the ruin of his king- 
dom, the king's son, Ossian, who had fled to the Hebrides, and 
who was now a blind old mnn, should have collected into such 
conflex epics as " Carthonn," " Finnghal," and " Timora," the 
songs which had been sung, partly by himself and partly by friendly 
bards (as Carul and Ulin). How intelligible that these poems, 


noble in themselves, as well as being reminiscences of former 
magr.ificance, should have been preserved with a fond tenacity, 
and transmitted from generation to generation in the usual manner, 
by learning by heart, in the centuries (300-900) when the Cale- 
donian nation was so heavily oppressed by tlie Nordmen, Picts, 
Britons, and Anglo-Saxons." He further says : — " And thus all 
the linguistic phenomena are forthwith explained." Dr Ebrard is 
well known as the author of a work on the early Celtic Church, 
and by his Gaehc grammar. 

15. Professor John Stuart Blackie. — In presenting the views of 
those entitled to be heard on this question it only remains now to 
give the conclusions arrived at hy Professor Blackie, who is 
acquainted with Gaelic and thoroughly familiar with all the facts. 
He holds that the question has never yet been examined in a 
strictly philological fashion. After going through the whole of the 
originals recently he holds, in opposition to Mr Canipbell, that the 
Gaelic is unquestionably the original. He brings forward five 
tests by which a translator's hand is clearly discoverable :— 

(i.) In the English version, awkward, forced, and unidiomatic 
expressions frequently occur, which can be clearly traced to the 
influence of a Gaelic original. 

(2.) In all poems of any antiquity handed down in manuscripts 
difficulties will occur, arising from obsolete words, errors in tran- 
scription, confused connection, and other causes In such cases 
it is a common piactice with translators to skip the difficulty, gloss 
over the matter with some decent common place, and sometimes 
to make positive blunders, which it is not difflcult for a philologer 
to expose. All these signs of a translator's hand are frequent in 
Macpherson's English, and would be more so had he not indulged 
in such a habit of skipping generally, that it is difficult to say in 
certain cases decidedly that the skip was made because the writer 
of the Enghsh wished to shirk a difficulty. 

(3.) It is a common practice with translators, when they find a 
passage a little obscure, to remove the obscurity by some manifest 
alteration of tlie phrase, or even by interpolating a line or inter- 
larding a commentary. This also occurs in Macpherson. 

(4.) It is not always that a translator writes under the same 
vivid vision, or the same fervid inspiration as the original poet. 
The instance of failure to seize the most striking features of the 
original, and the substitution of generic for specific epithets are 
frequent in Macpherson, 

(5.) Most translators yield — sometimes, no doubt, wisely — to 


the temptation of imj^roving on their originals, and Macpherson, 
from what we know of him, was the last man in the world to think 
of resisting such a temptation. How much of the GaeHc as we 
now have it — that is, his clean copy of his own originals— was sub- 
jected to this process of beautification no one can tell, but de- 
partures from the simplicity of the original can be traced in several 

He thinks that the English, as a whole, is a translation from the 
Gaelic, and not a translation of the best quality in many respects, 
and that this may be accepted as one of the best ascertained facts 
in the range of philological investigation. Philological induction, 
combined with the amount of external evidence to be found in the 
Highland Society's report, produce a cumulative proof which he is 
most anxious to see how Mr Campbell can rebut. Principal 
Shairp thinks that Professor Blackie has hit upon the true solution 
of this controversy. 

1 6. Mi- Archihald MacNeill, IV.S., with his brothers Lord 
Colonsay and Sir John MacNeill, who were all familiar with the 
Gaelic language, firmly believed that the Gaelic text of Macpher- 
son belonged to the early centuries of the Christian era. Mr 
MacNeill published his views in a small volume in which legal 
acumen is brought to bear on the question, and which concludes 
as follows : '' At what date Ossian lived we do not pretend to 
determine ; but this, at least, is sui^ciently clear, that the Gaelic 
Ossian was not the production of Macpherson or any author of 
modern times, but must be referred to a period of remote antiquity. 
It further appears from the internal evidence of these poems, that 
they refer to a period prior to the diffusion of Christianity and the 
era of clanship." Of course Macpherson was clever enough, 
granting he elected to do so, to give a complexion of antiquity to 
his compositions. 

17. My own opinion of the question I embody in the following 
propositions. I began the study of Macpherson's Ossian some 
twelve years ago, and exercised myself then in translating many 
portions of it, so I am fairly familiar with it. 

I believe — 

(i.) That the English is a translation from Gaelic, probablv 
from a ruder version than that published in rSoy. 

(2.) That Macpherson is neither absolutely the author, nor 
merely the translator, of the poems connected with his name. 

(3.) That he formed his original Gaelic by joining and re- 
casting old ballads, that he connected these ballads by paragraphs 


of his own composition, and that the newly-written recast matter 
constitutes the chief parts of the epics which he had thus formed, 
but in which, however, the spirit of the old productions still 

(4.) That the Gaelic is far more elaborate than the English, is 
subtler in conception, less concrete in expression, and has been 
likely, before the text was finally published, the subject of many 
alterations and improvements. 

(5.);That on the whole the language of the text of 1807 is not, 
as some allege, essentially different from that of the ballads that 
are known to be genuine. 

(6.) That the metre of the Gaelic text is not more irregular 
than that of these same ballads, the chief difference being that 
while the latter are mostly made up of either trochees or iambs 
the former frequently mixes anapaests with trochees or iambs. 

The Highland Society's report, in a general way points to sim" 
jar conclusions. The process adopted by Macpherson was early 
described by Dr. Smith (1780) who is supposed to have dealt with 
ballads in Macphersonic fashion: — '-Mr Macpherson compiled 
his publication from those parts of the Highland songs which he 
most approved, combining them into such forms as, according to 
his ideas, were most excellent, retaining the old names and leading 
events." This is what Dr Smith himself honestly did in his Sean 
Dana ; and it is rather surprising, alter Dr Smith's description of 
the process adopted by himself, and probably also by Macpher- 
son, that any intelligent persons, whether Highand or otherwise, 
should insist on the absolute originality of every line in the texts 
of both Smith and Macpherson. I believe no conscientious dis- 
honesty was intended by eiiher, especially by Smith. They were 
both influenced by the loose views of editorial functions prevalent 
in their day. The question of what was Macpheison's ideal of 
editorial functions lay ignored all along at the root of the Ossianic 
controversy. A seriously mistaken and uncritical view it was ; but 
he thought he was doing what would be for the credit of his native 

When the writer arrived at the conclusions just indicated, ten 
years ago, he was not so clear as to the process by which Mac- 
pherson wrought the Gaelic and English Ossians into their present 
forms. Since then, in 18S3, he entered more minutely into the 
question in a paper read before the Gaelic Soeiety of London 
and the conclusion forced upon his mind, as the result chiefly of 
comparisons between the various versions of the Gaelic fragments 


which were found in mysterious circulation in Macpherson's life- 
time, was that the Gaelic Ossiati, hke the English equivalent, was 
a i)rocluction of the last century, and that James Macpherson w^as 
the author as well as translator of these celebrated compositions|of 
the Gaelic muse. Dr Macdonaid, M.P., President of the Gaelic 
Society, and other expert Gaelic scholars present, while reluctant 
to accept the conclusions of the paper, did not seriously attempt 
to dispute them ; while Mr Macdonald Cameron, ]M,P., regarded 
the arguments brought forward as clearly decisive on the question. 
Since then Mr Macbain of Inverness ably discussed the poems 
from other standpoints, and has informed the writer that the 
late Dr. Cameron of Brodick adopted similar views. The great 
Ossianic question may now be regarded as settled. What was 
needed all along to settle it was sufficient knowledge, culture, 
judgment, and honesty on the part of men familiar with the Gaelic 
language. Such men have appeared since the publication of Dr 
Clerk's Ossian, the first note being sounded by Air J. F. Campbell 
in his celebrated review of Clerk's work in llie Times. Mr. H. 
Maclean adopted the same views ; and the writer, in 1883, on 
independent and other grounds was forced to take up the same 
position. Dr Cameron and Mr Macbain, representing the mid- 
land and northern Highlands, having now concurred, the students 
ot the Gaelic language north and south unite thus in regarding 
Macpherson's Gaelic Ossian as compositions of the last century. 
These compositions are great original works, and ought to be thus 
described. Their spirit is ancient and Celtic, though their form 
is modern. They, James Macpherson their author, and Gaelic 
literature stand in the same relation to one another that we find 
illustrated in the case of the " Idyls of the King," Alfred Tenny- 
son, and Cymric literature. The only difference is that Tennyson 
has not given us the "' Idyls " in Welsh as well as in English, and 
that Macpherson's English version is in prose mstead of being in 
blank verse. As long as Gaelic scholars of undoubted respectabi- 
lity believed otherwise, it was difficult for outsiders like the Blackies, 
Ebrards, and Waddells, who discussed the question, to be certain 
of their conclusions ; but henceforth it will be inexcusable in any 
man of letters to argue for the old views, as Mr George Eyre-Todd 
does in an introduction to the "Poems of Ossian," published in 
the Canterbury Poets series (1888) without taking any cognisance 
of the latest dehverances of those most entitled to express an 

For a long time the controversy regarding the poems of Ossian 


had only the English version for its critical basis ; so it was un- 
reasonable then to expect a satisfactory solution of the vexed 
question of authorship. Those who knew the language could only 
guess at the originals ; and those who did not know it had to be 
satisfied with all they could make of the English. Both parties 
occupied a position critically absurd. The one side ignorant of 
the language could not presume to pronounce whether the poems 
were or were not a translation ; and the other had not yet the 
materials for judgment before ihem. But now in the year 1807 
appeared the long looked-for and much discussed Gaelic originals 
of the Ossianic translations published some forty years previously. 
The following is the title-page in full : — " The Poems of Ossian, in 
the Original Gaelic, with a literal translation into Latin, by the 
late Robert Macfarlane, A.M., together with a Dissertation on the 
Authenticity of the Poems by Sir John Sinclair, Bart., and a trans- 
lation from ihe Italian of the Abbe Gessarotti's Dissertation on 
the Controversy respecting the Authenticity of Ossian, with Notes 
and a Supplementary Essay, by John Mc Arthur, LL.D., published 
under the sanction of the Highland Society of London. Magna 
est Veritas et praevalehit. Vol. L London. [Printers and Pub- 
lishers' names], i?o7, pp. ccxxxii., 278. 

'* Vol. II.," pp. 390. 

" Vol. III.," pp. 576. 

" Dana Oisen Mhic Fhinn, air an cur amach air son maith 
coitcheanta muinntir na Gaeltachd. Duneidin ; clo-bhuailte le 
Tearlach Stiubhart, [§18. " 8vo., pp. 344. 

This last is a copy of the Gaelic text contained in Sir John 
Sinclair's magnficent edition of Ossian. It was printed at the 
expense of Sir J. ."\Iacgregor Murray and other gentlemen that it 
might be distributed among the Highlanders to cultivate and to 
preserve their old chivalrous spirit. There was a copy sent for 
the use of every parish school in the Highlands. These copies 
were addressed to the care of the parish ministers, in whose hands 
they generally remained. One thing is certain, they never reached 
nor became known amongst the people in the manner in which 
other books circulated amongst them. 

Here were the Gaelic originals of Ossian at last ; and certainly 
there was no great reason to regret the delay in tlieir appearance, 
when they were now presented in so splendid a dress. Surely now 
all controversy about them should cease for ever. All Gaelic- 
speaking Highlanders thought so then ; and there are many who 
think similarly still. 


This text was not exactly as it came from Macpherson's hands, 
who died while preparing it for the press. A. standard of Celtic 
orthography was then in course of formation ; and John Mac- 
kenzie, Esq., of London, one of Macpherson's executors, engaged 
the Rev. Dr Thomas Ross to write out with him the text of 
Ossian in the style adopted by the excellent translators of the 
Gaelic Bible. Dr Ross, although well acquainted with the lang- 
uage, was not the most accurate scholar of his day. So until 
Clerk's " Ossian " appeared in 1870 there was no fairly correct and 
scholarly text of these poems. Had the text come from Macpher- 
son's own hands, the orthography would probably have been very 
different. Macpherson enjoyed neither the time nor tlie practice 
in writing the language to enable him to write either consistently 
with himself or with any system of orthography. What he wrote, 
or took down, or copied at an earlier period, of which we have a 
fair specimen in the 7th Book of " Temora," published with the 
translations, is like what many educated Highlanders of the 
present day would write. When conducting Highland periodicals, 
the writer frequently received articles from gentlemen with some 
reputation for Gaelic scholarship which were much in the style of 
Macpherson's orthography. Yet these same gentlemen might be, 
as some of them were, profoundly acquainted with the vocabu- 
lary and idioms of the language, although they were unahle to 
write consistently with their own or any other mode of spelling ; 
and were they poets of first-class genius, they could produce, as 
far as acquaintance with the language was concerned, poetry like 
that of Ossian, Macdonald, or Macintyre, the last of whom could 
not write at all ; whilst it will not be seriously contended that 
Ossian was so familiar with the pen as he was ever with the sword. 
The state of the text at any time since it was first moulded in 
Macpherson's hands could not be of the slightest value in deciding 
the age of the poems. Neither could it be of more service philo- 
logically than an;,' other Gaelic books printed during the last hun- 
dred years. It could have no value like The Book of Deei\ and 
The Book of the Dean of Lismorc. 

Though a very inviting field, it is not here intended to enter 
into examination of the words of the text. When this question 
has been competently investigated some of our views which at 
present waver will be thoroughly confirmed. 

Let the question of the authenticity be in the meantime laid 
aside, and let the poems as they are be considered. One thing 
is certain — they are the clever productions of a Gaelic genius—- 


of a master whose works liave influenced the literature of modern 
Europe. The healthy and grand old figure of Ossian appeared on 
the scene of the artificial literary world of the eighteenth century, 
and his tenderness, his naturalness, and his keen sympathies with 
the external world of form, of colour, and of movement carried 
before him the conventionalities of a hollow generation. Ossian, 
along with Cowper, was the first influence at work in bringing 
back the rising poets of the day to the study and contemplation of 
nature. The poems were translated into all the languages of 
Europe. This '' most magnificent mystification of modern times, 
as a German writer has described Ossian, acterl like a spell on 
poets in this country and on the Continent. Goethe and Lamar- 
tine felt the force of this spell ; the former acknowledged it in the 
"Songs of Selma" in " Werther," and the latter in " Memoirs of 
my Youth." The illustrious French poet has vividly described in 
the following passage the enthusiastic admiration of Ossian that 
prevailed in France in his younger days. 

" It was now the period when Ossian, that poet of the genius ol 
ruins and battles, reigned paramount in the imagination of France. 
Baour-Lormian had translated hmi into sonorous verse for the 
camp of the emperor. Women sung him in plaintive romances, 
or in triumphal strains, at the departure, above the tomb, or on 
the return of their lovers. Small editions in portable volumes had 
found their way into all the libraries. One of them fell into my 
hands I plunged into this ocean of shadow, of blood, of tears, 
of phantoms, of foam, of snow, of fogs, of hoar frosts, and of 
images, the immensity, the dimness, and the melancholy of which 
harmonise so well with the lofty sadness of a heart of sixteen 
which expands to the first rays of the Infinite. Ossian, his 
localities, and his images harmonised wonderfully also with 
the nature of the mountain district, almost Scottish in its 
character, with the season of the year, and with the melancholy 
aspect of the places where I read him. It was during the biting 
blasts of November and December. The earth was covered with 
a mantle of snow, pierced here and there by the black trunks of 
scattered pines, or overhung by the naked and branching arms of 
the oaks, upon which flights of crows assembled, filling the air 
with their coarse cawings. Icy fogs clothed the branches with hoar 
frost, clouds swept in eddying wreaths around the buried peaks 
of the mountains. A few streams of sunshine streamed for a 
moment through their openings, and discovered distant perspec- 
tive of unfathomable valleys, which the eye might fancy gulfs of 


the sea. It was the natural and sublime exposition of the poems 
of Ossian which 1 held in my hand. I carried him in my hunting 
pouch over the mountains, and while the dogs made the deep 
gorges of the hills echo with their barking, I read his pages, sitting 
beneath the shelter of some overhanging rock, only raising my 
eyes from its pages to find again, floating along the horizon or 
outstretched at my feet, the same mists, the same clouds, the 
same plains of ice or snow which I had just beheld in imagination. 
How often have I felt my tears consealing on the borders of my 
eyelids ! I had become one of the sons of the bard, one of the 
heroic, amorous, or plaintive shades who fought, who loved, who 
wept, or who swept the fingers across tlie harp in the gloomy 
domains of Fingal." 

In Italy tiie influence of Ossian was supreme. Cesarotti tells 
us that he became the founder of a school of poetry there. 
Throughout the literary world the power of Ossian's muse was 
felt. The artificiality, hoUowness, and conventionality of the last 
quarter of the eighteenth century rendered the natural echoes of 
the grand old voice of Cona a fresh music and a welcome relief. 

There are two complete translations of these Gaelic poems 
before the world besides Macpherson's — Macaregor*s and Clerk's. 
The last is absolutely literal, while Macgregor's is also pretty faith- 
ful to the Gaelic. Both versions are neither blank verse, nor 
rhyme, nor prose, but are couched in a species of rhythmic verse in 
lines of various lengths. Neither the one nor the other is ever 
likely to become popular, so that a literal popular version is still 
required for those whom ^Macpherson's own cannot satisfy. I 
have thrown into a very literal blank verse the whole of Carrick. 
from which I take the following description of Finn's encounter 
with the Ghost of Lodin. It is a fair specimen of the poems as a 
whole, and gives us an inkling of their mythology, which here and 
elsewhere is vague and shadowy : — 

Lodik's Ghost. 
A fire descended in the dark beyond ; 

The moon M-as red and languid in the east ; 

A blast came down in sadress from the plain ; 

And on its wings the semblance of a man ; — 

Cru-Lodin standing pale upon the plain — 

He nigh approached unto his own abode, 

Holding his dark spear useless in his baud ; 

His red eye like the blazing of the skies ; 

His speakinjr like the thunder on the hill 

In shadowy darkness distant far away ; 


Finn lifted up his spear amid the night ; 
And on the meadow was his shouting heard. 


" Sou of the Night, begone thou from my side. 
Betake thee to thy wind and be away ! 
Why earnest tliou to my presence, shadowy one ? 
Thy semblance is unreal as thine arms. 
Can thy brown form be terrible to me, 
Thou Phantom of the Circles Lodin owns ? 
Frail is thy shield, and weak thy vapoury cloud ; 
Thy bare sword like a flame across the surge ; 
Which shall be cleft asunder by tlie blast, 
And scattered thou thyself without delay, 
Begone thou Dismal Offspring of the skies ! 
Recall thy blast to take thee and begone." 

The Ghost. 
" Would'st thou from my own cii'cle me coerce 1 
Spake the deep voice of hollowest refrain. 
" It is to me that hosts of heroes yield ; 
I glance but on the people from tlie height. 
They ai'e dispei'sed like ashes 'neath my gaze. 
Out of my breatli proceeds the blast of death. 
I journey loftily upon the wind ; 
And tempests hurry forth themselves on high 
Around my brow, cold, melancholy, pale ; 
But calm is my abode beyond the clouds. 
And pleasant the broad fields of my repose." 


" Go, and abide then on tliy pleasant plains," 
Replied the mighty king with hand on liilt, 
" Else, Cuhal's Son, forget not in the field. 
Weak is thy spectre — and my strength is great. 
Did I direct my footsteps from the hill 
Toward thy hall, high on the jieaceful plain ? 
Or did my pow'rful spear e'er clash amid 
The garments of the skies against the voice 
Of the Black Ghost Cru-Lodin's circle keeps ? 
Why hast tliou lifted witli a scowl thy brow ? 
Or wherefore shakest thou aloft thy spear V 
Little I dread thy words, thou Shadowy One ! 
I fled not from an army in the field, 
Why flee before the C)ffspring of the Winds ? 
The Valiant Brave, the King of Lofty Bens, 
He shall not flee ! He knows, though he has not 
Been there, tlie frailty of thine arm in war." 

The Ghost. 
" Begone ! flee to thy land," rejjlied the Form, 
' Flee on the dismal tempet, flee, begone ! 
The blast is in the the hollow of my hand. 

macpherson's ossian. 201 

Mine are the conflict and the speed of storms ; 
The King of Sora is a Son of mine ; 
He kneels down in the mountain to my form ; 
At Rock of Hundreds he upliolds the strife, 
And scatliless he shall gain the victory, 
Begone to thine own laud, thou Cuhal's son, 
Or to tliy grief experience my wrath." 
The Combat. 
He lifted up his threatening spear on high, 
And fiercely forward bent his lofty head. 
Then Finn advanced, opposing him in wrath, 
Wielding his blue transparent sword in hand, — 
The sword — the Son of Luiun of duskiest cheek. 
The steely lustre pierced the Phantom through. 
The Evil wraith of death assumed a frown ; 
He fell devoid of shape, far, far beyond. 
Riding the wings of the dark cairns, like smoke 
A sapling raises with a stick in hand. 
About a hearth of discord and of gloom. 

The Wraith of Lodin's form shrieked on the Ben, 
Collecting his essentials in the wind ; 
The Innis of the boars the tumult heard : 
The trembling waves stopped action in their coarse. 
The heroes of great Cuhal's son arose. 
And in each hand a spear was held aloft ; 
" Wiiere is he? " — and their fury gathering gloom. 
And every mail loud clanking round its chief. 

As formerly remarked, the "Old Lays " of Dr Smith are fully 
as interesting and poetical as Macpherson's Ossian ; and all who 
wish to read and enjoy good Gaelic poetry — fresh and idiomatic — 
should go to these lays. Smith's own translation is exceedingly 
loose and turgid as compared with his Gaelic. As already 
observed. Smith also conies under the suspicion of being the 
author of the Gaelic^ as well as translator. His own account of 
the translation has been alreaily given ; and there seems no good 
reason why its honesty and correctness should be doubted. His 
Gaelic originals appear to stand in the same relation to pre-existent 
ballad and taleologic literature that Burns' new versions of Scottish 
songs and ballads sustain to the older and original productions. 
Like Macpherson, Dr Smith cannot be said to be wholly the 
author nor merely the translator of these grand poetical "lays." 
Illustrative specimens of them are given in the next chapter. To 
furnish a contrast to IMacpherson's Ossian and manner, I give the 
following lines on Bas Air/, or the Death of Artho : — 
In battle-field he fell in fame ; 
Terrible to many as he came 
Like thunder through the woods, or lightning 


That hid itself midst ruin frightning ! 

The enemies trembled, fell, and fled ; 

From Artho's hand destruction sped, 

Like Melmor's rocks daslied through the woods 

To sink beiow in sullen floods ; 

Such seemed the low-laid hero's form 

Ere came death's arrow in the storm. 

Da7t an Deirg^ one of the finest poems in Smith's volume, has 
been recently translated, edited, and annotated by an accom- 
plished English scholar and graduate of Cambridge, Mr. C. S- 
Jerram, who has been at the pains of studying the language. To 
this interesting little volume is prefixed a very intelligent and fair 
account of the state of the Ossianic question. 

Dr Smith's " Old Lays," translated by himself in too free and 
turgid a fashion, are as interesting as Macpherson's " Ossian," and 
not inferior in any respect to that famed production. In the open- 
ing of one of these '• lays," called " Finan and Lorma,'' we find a 
very pretty set of verses in which the young people around him, 
looking upon the heavens, are represented as addressing the aged 
Ossian in the following manner : — 

While on the plains shines the moon, bard ! 
And the shadow of Cona holds ; 
Like a ghost breathes the wind from the mountain. 
With its spirit voice in its folds. 
There are two cloudy forms before us, 
Where its host the dim night shows ; 
The sigh of the moor curls their tresses, 
As they tread over Alva of roes. 
Dusky his dogs came with one, 
And he bends his dark-lirow of yew ; 
There's a stream from the side of the sad-faced maid. 
Dyes her robe with a blood-red liue. 
Hold thou back, thou wind ! from the mountain. 
Let their image a moment stay ; 
Nor sweep with thy skirts from our eyesight, 
Nor scatter their beauty away. 
O'er the glen of the rushes, the hill of the hinds 
With the vague wandering vapour they go ; 
0, Bard of the times that have left us ! 
Aught of their life cans't thou show ? 

ossian's reply. 
The years that have been they come back as ye speak. 
To my soul in their music they glide ; 
Like the murmur of waves in the far inland calnij 
Is their soft and smooth step by my side. 

The translation is from " The Gaelic Bards." Let us now 


glance at a particular class of popular pieces that have become 
mixed up with the suspected works of Macpherson and Smith. 
The original of the specimens which follow was well known before 
I\lacpherson"s Gaelic Ossian appeared. The famous " Address to 
the Sun " is found in English in Macpherson's Carthon. In the 
published Gaelic of 1807 its place is marked by asterisks. The 
Gaelic is inserted to correspond with the English in Clerk's edi- 
tion. A new literal translation is here attempted :^ 

0, thou that glidest iu the sky, 

Round as the hero's full hard shield, 
Thy frownless lustre, whence on high? 

Sun, whence thy ceaseless light revealed ? 
Thou comest in thy lovely might ; 

The stars conceal from us their motion ; 
The moon pale hies from heaven's height, 

And shrouds her in the western ocean. 
Thou in thy distance art alone ; 

Who bold may dare approach thy might ; 
^Yitll age, cairn, cliff, are overthrown ; 

With age the oak f.ills from the height. 
The ocean shakes with ebb and flow ; 

The moon is lost in depth of night ; 
But, Victor, thou alone dost glow 

In endless jo}' of thine own light. 
When tempests darken round the earth 

Wih lightning, and with hoarse-voiced thunder. 
Fair through the storm thou look'st iu mirth 

Upon the troubled heavens under. 
But vain to me are thy bright rays, 

Since I must see no more thy glance 
Gold-tressed that turns on eastern gaze 

Of heaven's cloudy countenance. 
When thou art trembling iu the west, 
Through ocean's dusky doors to rest. 
But like myself thou art perchance — 

Once robed with weakness, once with strength ; 
In circling sky our years advance 

Together to one end at length ; 
Rejoice, Sun, while thou art young ; 
Be glad, thou Prince ! while thou art strong ! 
Old age is dark and void of mirth. 

Like faint moon ere her horn she fills ; 
Wliile looking from the clouds on earth 

Where hoary mist skirts cairny hills. 
The biting blast with breath of cold 
Beats on the traveller weak and old. 

It is said that this address, the original of which was supplied to 


the Highland Society in the year 1801, was well known in the cen- 
tral Highlands early in the eighteenth century. The Rev. Mr 
Macdiarmid wrote it down from the dictation of an old man in 
Glenlyon about 1770. It is said that this old man learned it in his 
j'outh from people in the same glen before Macpherson was born. 

The "Address to the Setting Sun " is given at the beginning of 
Macpherson's Canlcthni a. It consists of eleven lines, and has 
been a great favourite among the people. The following is a 
literal translation : — 

Leav'st the blue distance of the skies, 
Unsullied Sun, with tress of gold ? 
Where west thy tent of slumber lies 
The portals of the night unfold. 
The cautious billovv's cower nigher 
Thy shining temples to behold ; 
Awe-struck, their heads they lift up higher 
To view thee grand in tliy rejjose ! 
Pale from tliy side they back retire ! 
May in thy cave sleep o'er thee close, 
O, Sun ! till thou the dawn inspii-e. 

The above lines were written down by Mr Macdiarmid at the 
same time as the " \ddress to the Sun." In the two pieces we 
find abstract conceptions that we never come across in the old 
ballads. This gives real ground to the argument of recent 
writers that the poems are of modern date. Whether ancient 
or modern, they are poetry of a high order, superior to that of 
the Irish and Scottish ballads. The new theory seems to some 
inconsistent with the honour and veracity of more than one clergy- 
man and gentleman of repute, who could have no personal inte- 
rest in helping to palm on the public the alleged forgeries of 
Macpherson. There is another " Address to the Sun " — to the 
rising sun — in Dr Smith's Old Lays, which appeared many years 
before the publication of Macpherson's Gaelic. It is admirably 
translated by Mr Pattison, and I avail myself of his translation : — 

Son of the young morn ! that glancest 

O'er the hills of the east with thy gold-yellow hair 
How gay on the wild thou advancest 

Where the streams laugh as onward they fare ; 
And the trees yet bedewed by the shower, 

Elastic their light bright branches raise, 
Whilst the melodsts sweet they embower 

Hail tliee at once with their lays. 


But where is the dim light duskilj' gliding, 

On her eagle wings from th}' face ? 
^Yhele now is darkness abiding ? 

In what cave do bright stars end their race — ■ 
Wlien fast, on their faded steps bending, 

Like a hunter you rush through the sky, 
Up those lone lofty mountains ascending, 

While down yon far summits they fly ? 

Pleasant tiiy path is, Great Luttre, wide-gleaming. 

Dispelling the storm with thy rays ; 
And graceful thy gold ringlets streaming, 

As wont in the westering blaze. 
Thee tlie blind mist of niglit ne'er deceiveth. 

Nor sends from the right course astray ! 
The strong tempest, all ocean that grieveth, 

Can ne'er make thee bend from thy way. 

At the call of the mild morn appearing. 

Thy festal face wakens up bright ; 
Thy shade from all dark places clearing, 

But the bard's eye that ne'er sees thy light." 

In an Irish poem from which quotations have been made the 
the hard is represented as blind, in two of these pieces we have 
touching allusion to the same melancholy infliction. " Vain to 
nie are thy bright rays " occurs in the Address to the Sun, and 
" the bard's eye that ne'er sees thy light " in the Address to the 
Rising Sun. The soul' of the old poet seemed to take delight in 
tontrastinu his own sightless condition with the brilliant sun in his 
course through the heavens. This tone of melancholy pleasure — 
of deep and lonely nurtured feehn§— so characteristic of the 
Ossianic poems, is also chatacteristic of the Celtic race, especially 
of the Scottish Gael, whose spirit seems to have been enswathed 
in the majestic gloom of his own native glens and mountains. 
The curtains of mist hanging over the silent and weird-looking 
lochs, the ghost-like clouds that glided across the glens oi in- 
wrapped the crests of the hills, the moan of the sounding sea- 
shore mingling with the roar of a hundred streams forcing their 
ways to join the boundless ocean, are sights and sounds which 
naturally exerted a powerful influence on the souls of those who 
lived daily in their midst. When the tempests darkened round 
the earth, and lightnings flashed, and the hoarse-voiced thunder 
shook the hills, how pleasant it must have been for the depressed 
spirit of man to^gaze on the face of the sun, looking " fair through 
the storm " " upon the troubled heavens under " of a Hebridean 


These are specimens of a great deal of poetry which High- 
landers of the present day unhesitatingly ascribe to Ossian. In- 
deed, the Ossian of these pieces appears to be a poet of quite a 
different calibre from that of the old ballads. One thin.y is clear 
that whoever was'^the author or authors of these much discussed 
productions, he or they were poets of the higliest order, and must 
have been Gaels born and bred in the HiKhlnnds. 



" Lean gu dlii ri cliii do shinnsear ; 

'S ua dich'nich a bhi mar iadsau." — Seann Dan. 

English : 

Folloio thou thy fathers' fame ; 
Ne'er for rjet thy countrifs claim. 

After the Celtic poems and translations of the Bard of Bade- 
noch had begun to realise fame and fortune for their author, other 
writers of varying gifts sought to enter into similar labours. For 
literary students the Gaelic realm of letters hitherto had been 
obscure and untrodden fields ; but now all at once the old Celtic 
world of the Scottish past became alive with heroes of magnificent 
deeds and bards of illustrious renown. The refinement, the cul- 
ture, the heroic courage of grand old Scots, in the environment of 
the purest chivalry, kindled everywhere admiration throughout 
Europe. People wearied of the artificialities and platitudes of the 
eighteenth century, allowed themselves to get into raptures over 
the healthy pictures of ancient life which these Celtic composi- 
tions unfolded. The blind old Ossian was then more popular 
than the blind old Homer, and all "Old Lays" connected with 
the Highlands and Islands acquired a value which they never had 
before. There was a general rage for Gaelic old lays and ballads, 
and a search was instituted throughout the land for such produc- 
tions. Bards, senachies, reciters, and singers of every description 
and every rank in life were requisitioned for the supply of ancient 
Ossianic ballads. 

One good result of this was to make the Highlands better 
known, and to help in the removal of old race-prejudices which 
had all .ilong existed in some quarters, but whicli had become 
gre atly intensified through the recent Jacobite rebellions for which 
the Highlanders as a people were not primarily responsible. John 


Knox may be said to have made the Scotland of his time reform- 
ing, radical, and religious, and Sir Walter Scott the Scotland of 
the nineteenth century romantic in verse and story ; and James 
Macpherson may be said with equal force to have made the 
Highlands in the eighteenth century. It has been said that old 
Celtic lays and ballads became then the fashion. The pioneer in 
the field, it ought to be remembered, however, was not the Bade- 
noch tutor. Three or four years before Macpherson was heard of 
there died, in June 1756, in the 30th year of his age, 


who was the first to direct public attention to Os.sianic ballads. 
He was born at Scoonie. Fifeshire, in 1727. His father was a 
seafaring man. Asa mere lad, Jerome became a paickman ; but 
dealing in buckles, garters, and such small articles not suiting his 
'• superior genius," he sold his stock, bought books, and finally 
struggled into St Andrews University, where he graduated in 1750. 
He soon received the appointment of assistant in Dunkeld 
Grammar School, of which he became Rector two or three years 
afterwards. In this position, acquiring knowledge of the Gaelic 
language and of the people, along with his other duties, he 
remained until struck down of fever, as already stated, in 1756. 
A-t that time Dunkeld, an ancient home of Celtic activity, learn- 
ing, and enterprise, was more of a Gaelic district than it is now 
and Stone found himself in social and intellectual surroundings 
which were new to him. He had probably more racial kinship, 
with the people than he himself knew or acknowledged, or than 
even Professor ^Mackinnon, who Has edited his collection, has 
thought of. For centuries Gaidel and Brythou lived and fought 
in his native Fifeshire, and their fervid life-blood has never ceased 
to run in the veins of Fife men. Probably the eloquent Thomas- 
Chalmers received much of the inspiration of his genius from this 
Celtic source. Stone left a collection of Gaelic ballads which was 
for some time regarded as lost. The MS., after passing through 
various hands, passed two years ago into the possession of Edin- 
burgh Unicersity on the death of Dr. Clerk, to whom it was given 
when preparing his edition of Ossian, by David Laing. Professor 
Mackinnon has published the collection of ballads in the Trans- 
actions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, 1887-88, occupying 
fifty pages of the volume, and accompanied vvitlr an interesting 
biographical note, to which the writer is indebted for some of the 

OLD LAYS. 209 

particulars given above. These ballads are of exactly the same 
character as those of the Feinne already considered. They are 
merely other versions of the same poems dealing with the same 
themes of the Finnic environment of the old Gaelic national life. 
The first translator of Gaelic poetry deserves a memorial cairn 
in any book devoted to the interests of our Anglo-Gaelic litera- 
ture. Jerome Stone gave the first translation of the old Gaelic 
Lays to the world in 1756 four years before the appearance of 
Macpherson's Fragments. It appears that a St Andrews Profes- 
sor was the first to interest young Stone in Gaelic poetry, and the 
best of his efforts at translation was his free rendering of " Fraoch's 
Death," or as he entitles it, '' Albin and the Daughter of 
Mey " : — 

A thousand graces did the maid adorn : 

Her looks were charming, and her heart was kind ; 

Her eyes were like tlie windows of the morn, 

And Wisdom's habitation was her mind. 

A hundred heroes try'd her love to gain ; 

She pity'd them, yet did their suits deny ; 

Young Albyn only courted not in vain, 

Albyn alone was lovely in her eye : 

Love filled their bosoms with a mutual flame ; 

Their birth was equal, and their age the same. 

Her mother Mey, a woman void of truth. 
In practice of deceit and guile grown old, 
Conceived a guilty passion for the youth. 
And in his ear tlie sliameful story told ; 
But o'er his mind slie never could prevail, 
For in his life no wickedness was found ; 
With shame and rage he heard the horrid tale. 
And shook with indignation at the sound ; 
He fled to shun her ; while with burning wrath 
The monstei', in revenge, decreed her death. 

Amidst Lochmey, a distance from the shore, 

On a green island, grew a stately tree. 

With precious fruit each season cover'd o'er. 

Delightful to tlie taste and fair to see. 

This fruit more sweet than virgin honey found. 

Serv'd both alike for physic and for food : 

It cured diseases, heal'd the bleeding wound, ' 

And hunger's rage for three long days withstood 

And precious things are purchas'd still with pain. 

And thousands try'd to pluck it, but in vain. 

For at the root of th's delightful tree, 
A venomous and awful di'agon lay, 


With watchful eyes, all horrible to see. 
Who drove th' affrighted passengers away ; 
Worse than the viper's sting its teeth did wound 
The wretch who felt it soon behov'd to die ; 
Nor could physicians ever yet be found 
Who miglit a certain antidote apply : 
Even they whose skill had sav'd a mighty host, 
Against its bite no remedy could boast. 

Revengeful Mey, her fury to appease. 

And him destroy who durst her passion slight, 

Feign'd to be stricken with a dire disease, 

And oall'd the hopeless Albin to her sight : 

" Arise, young hero ! skilFd in feats of war, 

On yonder lake your dauntless courage prove. 

To pull me of the fruit, now bravely dare. 

And save the mother of the maid you love ; 

I die without its influence divine, 

Nor will I taste it from a hand but thine." 

With downcast look the lovely youth reply'd, 
" Though yet my feats of valour have been few, 
My might in this actveuture shall be try'd ; 
I go to pull the healing fruit for you." 
With stately steps approaching to the deep 
The hardy hero swims the liquid tide : 
With joy he finds the dragon fast asleep, 
Then pulls the fruit, and comes in safety back ; 
Then with a cheerful countenance, and gay, 
He gives the present to the hands of Mey. 

" Well have you done to bring me of this fruit ; 

But greater signs of prowess must you give : 

Go pull the tree entirely by tlie root, 

And bring it hither, or I cease to live." 

Though hard the task, like lightning fast he flew. 

And nimbly glided o'er the yielding tide ; 

Then to the tree with manly steps he drew. 

And puU'd it hard from side to side : 

Its bursting roots his strength could not withstand ; 

He tears it up, and bears it in his hand. 

But long, alas ! ere he could reach the shore. 

Or fix his footsteps on the solid sand. 

The monster foUow'd with a hideous roar, 

And like a fury grasped him by tlie hand. 

Then, gracious God ! what dreadful struggling rose 

He grasps the dragon by th' invenom'd jaws, 

In vain ; for round the bloody current flows. 

While his fierce teeth his tender body gnaws. 

He groans through angui-h of the grievous wound, 

And cries for help ; but, ah ! no help Avas found ! 

OLD LAYS. 211 

The hero's death is a tragic one ; and the life of the " helpless 
maid ! " vanishes in the usual tender regrets of bards. Our great 
interest in the production, apart from the early death of the gifted 
and sympathetic Stone, lies in the fact that he was the was the 
first English-speaking man of letters who attempted to deal fairly 
with the products of the Gaelic muse. To students of Macpherson's 
Ossian and Ossianic ballads it will be apparent that the Badenoch 
tutor merely imitated Stone in the English productions ; he gave 
the spirit, not the letter of Gaelic poetry. Macpherson's trouble 
lay in the originally unexpected necessity of providing Gaelic 
originals which would be fair equivalents for his published English 
versions. The bitter assaults made on his works naturally led to 
his manner of self-defence. As an illustration of how poetical 
translators deal with the original materials placed in their hands, 
nothing better could be found than this Gaelic ballad which Stone 
published in English dress in the " Scots Magazine." In " Mac- 
kenzie's Report," the original Gaelic, Stone's rendering, and a 
literal version are supplied. The second is describedas a " Trans- 
lation of the foregoing," as published by Stone in the "Scots 
Magazine " for 1756. In order to show how a " translation " was 
regarded in the age of Macpherson, it may be well to give the 
last three verses of " Fraoch's Death " in the original, then the 
" Report's " literal version, and lastly Stone's poetic translation. 
Here are the last three verses of the Gaelic ballad : — 

Thogamar anois an cluin Fhraoich, 
Corp an laoich an Caiseal Chro. 
On Bhas ud a fhuair am fear, 
Mairg is mairion na dheigh beo. 

Gu mhi sud an tuabhar Mna, 
Is mo chonairceas air mo dha Koisg, 
Fraoch a chur a bhuain a Chrainn, 
An deis an Caoran a bhi bhos. 

Air a cluain thughte an t'ainm. 
Loch meidhe raite I'is an Loch, 
Am biodh a Bheist anns gach uair. 
Is a Craos a suas an Dos. 

This is the " Report's," literal translation of these verses : • 

We bore to the grove of Fraoch, 

The body of the hero to its circular pale ; 

After the worthy has died, 

To be alive is our regret 


Cruelest of woman was she, 
That ever was seen by eyes, 
Who sent Fraoch to tear the branch, 
, After the fruit had been torn away. 

The grove bears his name, 
Loch Meyo is the name of the lake, 
Where the monster kept watch. 
And its open jaw to the tree. 

This is the original material out of which Jerome Stone 
wrought his translation as follows : — 

But now he's gone and nought remains but woe 
For wretched me ; with him my joys are fled ; 
Around his tomb my tears shall ever flow, 
The rock my dwelling, and the flay my bed ! 
Ye maids and matrons, from your hills descend, 
To join my moan and answer tear for tear ; 
With me the hero to the grave attend. 
And sing the songs of mourning round his bier. 
Through his own grove his praise we will proclaim, 
And bid the place forever bear his name. 

The idea may come to many readers as a surprise that if Jerome 
Stone had been spared to perform the part of translaior of the 
Gaelic ballads and small epics of the Finnic mythus, he would 
probably furnish the world with " translations " which would not 
be nearer tlie "originals" than Macpherson's have been. The 
reference here is not to Macpherson's Gaelic published subse- 
quently, but to the Ossianic compositions which became such a 
source of general Celtic inspiration during the latter half of the 
eighteenth century. 


This writer was among the most cultured and di.^tinguished 
of those who about a hundred years ago devoted time, means, 
and talent to the study of GaeHc literature. The labours of the 
Rev. Dr John Smith of Campbeltown, as an author and trans- 
lator of prose and poetry, were varied and abundant. He pro- 
duced a Life of Columba the Apostle of the Highlands ; a work 
on The Functions of the Sacred Office, which received the high 
commendation oi l)r. Bickersteth ; and a work on Gaelic An- 
tiquities and the History of the Druids, which is still sought after, 
and which exhibits considerable research and good literary powers. 
These works, in English, enable us to judge of the qualities of the 
man in general ; but it is with his Gaelic works that we have 

OLD LAYS. 213 

chiefly to deal. He was one of those who helped to translate the 
Old Testament into Gaelic, edited a version of the Gaelic Psalter, 
another of the Shorter Catechism ; and was t!ie translator of some 
religious works, such as Alleiiie s Alann. When engaged on the 
last-mentioned production, wliich he undertook to translate at the 
request of a lady, he took portions of the " Appeals to the Un- 
converted " with him into the pulpit, being too busy to prepare 
sermons of his own, with the result that a spiritual revival took 
place in the congregation, and anxious hearers flocked to the 
pastor for spiritual comfort which he felt himself totally unable to 
supply. It is said that this experience led to an emphatic spiri- 
tual change in himself 

How Smith was moved to interest himse'f in Gaelic poetry is well 
described in his own language in a letter to the Highland Society 
Committee : "(31st January 1798), I can only say that from my 
earliest years I was accustomed to hear many of the poems of 
Ossian and many tales respecting Fingal and his heroes. In the 
parish of Glenurchay, in which I was born, and lived till the age 
of 17, there were many at that time who could repeat a number of 
Ossian's poems \ and there was particularly an old man called 
Doncha (rioch) Macnicol, who was noted for reciting tlie greatest 
store of them. That any of them had been translated. I did not 
know till I became a student in philosophy, when, in the year 
1766 or 1767,1 read Mr Macpherson's translation, with which, 
beautiful as it is, I was by no means so much charmed as I had 
been with the oral recitation of such as I heard of the poems in 
the original language. The elegance of the modern dress did not, 
therefore, in my opinion, compensate for the loss of the venerable 
and ancient garb," When it became doubtful whether Mac- 
pherson would publish the Gaelic originals. Smith formed the 
design of publishing as many as he could of the original?, which 
" at that time would not be a few." " But,"' he proceeds, '' find- 
ing there was no encouragement to be expected for such a work, 
and that those whicli I had already collected would not defray 
their own expence, nor have been ever published had it not been 
for the liberal support and patronage of the Highland Society of 
London, I gave up the pursuit of Gaelic poetry ; about which I 
became so careless that I never took the trouble of transcribing 
or preserving several pieces that had fallen into my possession." 
Smith is not the only one to whom the " pursuit of Gaelic poetry " 
and Celtic studies became a painful and barren enterprise. 


It appears that Duncan Kennedy, a schoolmaster at Lochgilp- 
head, busied himself in collecting, transcribing, and editing in his 
own peculiar manner all the old Highland lays he could find in 
Argyllshire, and that some of his materials found their way into 
Smith's possession. It is understood that the latter refers to Ken- 
nedy in the following sentences : " (1802), I remember well," — 
Kennedy was still alive, — '• that a man who had given me the use 
of a parcel of poems, without any restriction, had long threatened 
a prosecution for publishing what he called translations of his 
collection of poems, and alleged he had a claim to a share of the 
profits. I beheve, however, upon enquiry, that he understood the 
profits were only a serious loss, as I had been persuaded to run 
shares with a bookseller in the publication, which to me turned 
out so bad a concern (when my income was but thirty pounds a- 
year), that I could never since think of Gaelic poetry with pleasure 
or with patience, except to wish it had been dead before I was 
born." In this same letter Smith declares that a little while 
before he had used the last copy he had of his Translations " in 
papering a dark closet that had not been lathed, in order to derive 
some small benefit from what had cost " him so much, Macpher- 
son reaped the first crop of the ancient lays of the Celtic world of 
romance ; piled a fortune out of it ; became a member of Parlia- 
ment ; bought a Highland estate on which he erected a monument 
for himself ; and arranged for the burial of his body in Westminster 
Abbey. Some of his imitators found the path of Celtic studies 
and poetry one of thorns, poverty and misfortune, and obscure 
graves, without a cairn to mark their resting-place. 

Smith's Collection of Ancient Poems appeared in 1780, sub- 
joined to the Dissertations on Gaelic Antiquities. These poems 
were translations, it was declared, " from the Gaelic of Ossian, 
Ullin, Orran, and others;" and in 1787 he published the originals 
of these poems, the number being fourteen. Their titles are : 
The Lay of the Red; The Death of Giml ; The Lay of_ Duhona; 
Dinrmid ; Clan-Morni. or Fiuan and Lor?na, from which follow- 
ing lines are taken to show the character of the verse and mode of 
thought :— 


Och ! 's truaigh mi fein a chlann, 
'N 'ur d^igh gu fann aosmhor ; 
Mar dharaig sheargte mi air aonach, 
Ris nach pill gu briUh a caoinchruth. 

OLD LAYS. 215 

Tha'n dulach dorcha anns a' ghleann, 
'S gach crann air raoin gun duilleach ; 
Ach pillidh 'sa' cheitein am niaise, 
Ged iiach faicear mo sgeimh-sa tuille, 
Dh' fhililnich siol Albha nam feachd, 
Mar smiliid d teach fuaraidh dorcha ; 
Cha'n iognadh mise bhi trom an nochd 1 
'S tusa Fhionain 'san t-slochd, '3 a Lorma ! 



children 1 am weak and old ! 

Bereft of you I feel forlorn ; 
Like oak-tree withered on the height, 

Whose leaves shall never more return. 
The winter darkens in the vale : 

The branches bloom with leaves no more ; 
The spring their beauty will bring back, 

But ah ! my strength nought can restore. 
The host of Alva has decayed 

Like smoke from a cold house of gloom ; 
This night I grieve for there are left 

Finan and Lorma in the tomb. 

The above Albha, Alva, is Allen in Ireland, and has no connec- 
tion with Alban, with which, however, it has been often con- 
founded in the old ballads. Ultra patriotic Scotchmen have fre- 
quently, likely in ignorance, rendered the Irish Almhuin into 
Albin. This mistake occurs in Mr Pattison's Gaelic Bards. 
•' Once, when the kingly feast was spread on Albin's golden 
slope," p. 148. 

The titles of the others in order are : T/ie War of Lifine ; 
Caihula ; The War of Manns, which includes the highly popular 
Lay of the Great Fool; Tra/uil, at the beginning of which there 
appears the beautiful address to the Rising Sun — 

A Mhic n.-x h-6g mhaidne, ag eiridh, 
Son of the young morn that ripest ; 
Dargo ; Conn, in which a version of a passage occurs whose equi- 
valent is given in a translation thus : — 

See Loda's gloomy form advance, 
On high he lifts his shadowy lance. 
Within his hand the temi^ests lour, 
The blast of death his nostrils pour : * 

Like flames his baleful eyes 
Appal the valiant — from the fight 


They turn before the blasting light ; 
Bis hollow voice like tliunder shakes the skies, 
Slowly he moves along, exulting in his might. 

Vain are thy terrors, dreadful shade I 

Lo ! Morven's king defies aloud 

Thy utmost force. — His glaring blade 

Winds throueh the murky cloud. 

The form falls shapeless into air : 

His direful shrieks the billows hear. 

And stop their rapid course with fear. 
The hundred rocks of Inistore reply, 
As roll'd into himself he mounts the darkened sky. 

The above is a specimen of Smith's verse translations. ^ From 
the same poem is taken tlie following to show the manner of 
his prose translation, in which the Old Lays made their first 
appearance : — 


But Ossian alone does not experience distress ; aged Lugar, thine was part 
of the trouble. In thy halls were seen the feast, wax candles, and wine ; 
though they be now desolate, they were once the residence of kings ! 
But similar to the revolving year, Lugar and his beloved wife were seen 

Travelling through the vales of beautiful Moialuin, the habitation of 
Lugar was found desolate, the kid broused on its green surface, stretching 
itself in sleep in the once joyous dwelling. In its window was the bird of 
night, and gre«n ivy shaded its desolate walls, the greyhound and dun roe 
surrounded them, and his hospitable door lies sorrowful under the falling 

Sons of the bill, have you seen Lugar ? Probably you rejoice that he 
is no more. But'you shall decline like him, and your relations will one day 
inquire for you. Your children will shake their heads with sorrow, they 
know not the place of your abode ! 

The vicissitudes of life are similar to those of the year. I lived void of 
trouble in the summer of youth, like firs on the green Mor-uth, careless of 
the storms of winter. 1 thougiit my verdant leaves would remain, and tliat 
age would not injure my branches. But now 1 am forlorn like thyself, arid 
my aged locks are on the wings of the wind ; our joyful days are both gone 
on the wings of the blast to the desert. 

The passage just given explains Smith's failure to impress the 
pubhc with his prose versions of Old La3's. It affords quite a 
contrast to the style of Macpherson, v.'hich was sententious and 
clarified by a Saxon as simple as that of tlie English Bible. In his 
Life of Columba, Smith gave translated specimens of the Saints' 
Latin Hymns, of which an extract has been ah-eady given (p. 69). 
He rendered this passage of the Altus prosatur in blank verse — the 

OLD LAYS. 217 

beginning of the same in rhymed metre by the writer being else 
where supplied (p. 8t). The following lines by Smith, accom- 
panying the Gaelic of Tama, show that he appeared to better 
advantage in verse than in prose translations : — 

Malvina, say what now renews thy woe ? 
Say why thy tears, like rills, incessant flow ? 
Why heaves thy bosom with the moanful cry, 
Like Lego's reeds when ghosts among the m fly ' 

And dost thou ask the cause of all my woe, 

When yonder Selma's mossy tow'rs lie low ? 

When bats and thistles dwell in Fingal's hall. 

And roes bound fearless o'er its mould'ring wall 

— Besides, I heard upon the distant wind 

A sound that rous'd my sadly-musing mind ; 

It is, 1 fondly said, Cuchullin's car ! 

The Ciiief returning from the roar of war ! 

— A light had likewise gleam'd on Lena's heath ; 

My love, my Oscar ! 'tis thy spear of death ! 

I said : but Oscar's spear is in the tomb ; 

His shield, Selma, in thy empty womb. 

I saw its bosses cover'd o'er with rust, 

And all its thongs fast-mould'i-ing into dust. 

Ev'n so, Malvina, my brave Oscar's love ! 

Like those we mourn for, we must soon remove ; 

No trace of us on Selma shall be found. 

Save the green mound that marks our sleep profound. 

Soft are the slumbers of that bed of peace : 

Let then Malvina's flowing sorrow cease ; 

Nor weep for friends whose actions were so bright. 

Whose steps were mark'd with beams of heavenly light. 

Now night descends with all her dusky clouds, 
And ocean in her sable mantle shrouds ; 
Yet night will soon resign her place to day. 
But my protracted woe must last for aye. 

The Gaelic of the last four lines runs thus :— 

Dh'aom an uiche le neoil, 
Thuit an ceo air an lear ; 
Sinblaidh an oiche 's an ceo, 
Ach tha mise ri m' bheo gun ghean. 


The remaining poems are : The Burning of Taura • Calava ; 
and 77^1? Death of Art. A very much quoted and admired passage 
which occurs in the lay of Taura is here given : — 


Innseam pairt do dreach nan reul : 
Bu gheal a deud gu h-iir dlii : 
Mar cliannach an t-sl6ibh 
Bha cneas fa h-eideadh iir. 

Bha a br^ighe cearclach ban 
Marshneachda tl^i nam beann ; 
Bha a dd chich ag eiridh \kn : 
B'e'n dreacli sud miann uan sonn. 

Bu shoitheamh binn a gloir ; 
S' bu deirge na'n ros a beul : 
Mar chobhar a sios r'a taobh 
Sinte gu caol bha gach nieur. 

Bha a da chaol mhala mhine 
Dftdhonn air lionih an loin . 
A dk ghruaidh dlireachd nan caoran ; 
'Si gu iondan saor o chron. 

Bha a gniiis mar bharra-gheuga 
Anns a oheud-fhas ftr : 
A fait buidhe mar oradh shleibhtean; 
'S mar dhearsadh greine bha sftil. 



Tell us some of the charms of the stars : 
Close and well set were her ivory teeth ; 
White as the cannach upon the moor 
Was her bosom tlie tartan briglit beneath. 

Her well-rounded forehead "shone 
Soft and fair as the mountain-snow : 
Her two breasts were heaving full ; 
To them did tlie hearts of the heroes flow. 

Her lips were ruddier than the rose ; 
Tender and tunefully sweet her tongue ; 
White as the foam adown her side 
Her delicate fingers extended hung. 

Smooth as the dusky down of the elk 
Appeared her two narrow brows to me ; 
Lovely her cheeks were like berries red ; 
From every guile slie was wholly free. 

Her countenance looked hke the gentle buds 
Unfolding their beauties in early spring ; 
Her yellow locks like the gold-browed hills ; 
And her eyes like the radiance the sunbeams bring. 

OLD LAYS. 219 

This Aislvig in the original is, Uke the teeth of its subject 
so " close and well-set," that a good translation is not easily exe- 

This " Vision of a Fair Woman " has nothing in common 
with that of the "Fair Women " of Chaucer and Tennyson ; but 
no one reading it can fail to remember the poetry of Moore, and 
recognise the Celtic source of the bright peculiarity of his 
melodious muse. 


a land-surveyor in Badenoch, the county of James Macpherson, 
published in 1780 a small volume of translations of ancient Gaelic 
poetry under the title of " Caledonian Bards." Among other 
pieces is a poem entitled Mordubh, whose history is even more 
mysterious than that of the work of " Ossian." The translations 
in this volume are the most unreadable stuff that one could 
imagine. Clark, and even Smith, failed to catch the secret that 
enabled Macpherson to pour forth his inimitable prose epics. 
Clark's prose is frequently turgid nonsense, and it is rendered 
ridiculous by his coining of proper names out of unnatural colloca- 
tions of adjectives. The " ingenious Mrs Grant of Laggan " put 
some of the surveyor's poetry into verse, and thought she was 
handling ancient poetic material instead of eighteenth-century 
stuff, which might be creditable enough were it not presented to 
the public under a false garb. She knew the " gentleman's 
character," and " the circumstance of his father and grandfather 
being great Gaelic scholars and collectors, who moit probably 
had an opportunity of obtaining such poems which were not 
within her reach.'' The pious and honest Mrs Grant never fancied 
that this family of Clarks and others at that time might spin 
out such stuff as they palmed on the public, with or without 
ancienb lays to help them. It is the volume of this Badenoch 
surveyor that finally and fully opened the eyes of the writer to the 
truth respecting the Ossianic productions of the last century. 
Clark and Kennedy were men of considerable gifts ; — if they had 
used them with greater honesty the cause of Gaelic literature 
would not have been so involved in suspicion a hundred years 
ago. Their labours, however, have not been lost. Kennedy's 
manuscript collections of poetry, safely deposited in Edinburgh, 
have great value, and Clark may be said to have produced a 


Gaelic composition of some ability. Special efforts seem to have 
been made to get this conglomerate of Mordubh into appreciative 
circulation. It imposed on Mrs Grant, as we have seen. In a 
stray number of the "General Chronicle" for February i8ri, 
which the writer found in London a few years ago, part of Mor- 
dut/i, with a literal translation, is published ; and the clever 
editor of " The Beauties of Gaelic Poetry " commenced his splen- 
did volume with this poem of The Greai-Biack, with a foot-note 
which says : " The author of this poem, whose name is Douthal, 
was both a chief and a bard of great repute. The accounts which 
tradition gives of him are various, but the most probable makes 
him the Poet of Mordubh, King of the Caledonians." This was 
a more ancient and illustrious ancestry for the author of the poem 
than the genuine producer, John Clark of Badenoch, could 
boast of 

The Gaelic fragment, as given in the " General Chronicle," 
begins thus in Gaelic : — 

A' bheil thus' air sgiathan do luathas, 
A ghaotli, gu triall le d'uile ueart ? 
Tliig le cairdeas a dh'ionsuidh m'aois, 
Thoir scriob eatrom tliar mo chraig ! 

Englished in the same as follows : — 

Art thou on the wings of thy swiftness, 

O wind, travelling witli all thy strength ? 

Come to my age with kindness ; r, n 

Brush liglitly over my rock ! 

John Clark was a third rate imitator, whose imitations were 
almost parodies. He had neither the learning nor the genius of 
either Smith or Macpher.-:on. who must henceforth be regarded as 
great Highland bards. These two, no doubt, caused much con- 
fusion among our heroic lays. James Macphersou and Dr John 
Smith helped to give fresh currency to many of the false etymo- 
logies and Druidical ideas that have afflicted the Gaelic world for 
the last century. They have mystified <:iur Ossianic poems and 
ballads, as well as the pre Christian religion of the Caledonians. 
They turned upside down our early history, and placed our 
relations to the Irish on a false basis, creating unnecessary antago- 
nism between the Celts of the two countries. But honour to 
whom honour is due. If no James Macpherson had ever 
appeared, our Highland Ossian would have been as obscure, per- 


haps, as the extant Oisins of Ireland. In some respects he 
was the greatest genius that the Highlands ever produced, and 
ought not to be regarded with so much contemptuous indifference. 
He had a most peculiar gift for executing prose translation, not- 
withstanding the failure of his Homer. In this one respect he 
was much superior to Dr Smith, who, however, had the advantage 
of jNlacpherson in greater power of sweet Gaelic versification. 
Smith was a born poet ; all his works are evidences. The two 
did their best to show forth the historic, linguistic, and poetic 
glories of the Gael and his country ; so let us drop a tear on their 
cairns and pass on. 



" It is easy to disparage the study of these scanty remains of a literary 
language which, though it be not dead, is more of an unknown tongue to 
our modern men of letters than almost any other." — Dr Joseph Anderson. 

The intellectual activity created in the sixteenth century led to 
the formation of a new literature for the diffusion of the new learn- 
ing. This literature belongs to that period in our national history 
when religious ferment, political and ecclesiastical change, began 
to operate effectually on the mind of modern Europe. The first 
Gaelic effort in this direction was by John Carsuel, superintendent 
of the diocese of Argyll, who translated and published (1567) 
John Knox's Prayer-Book. The English original was printed at 
Edinburgh in 1565, and the Gaelic version appeared within two 
years after that date. It is the first Gaelic book that ever was 
printed either in Scotland or Ireland. Only three copies were 
known to exist previous to 1872 ; one perfect copy in possession 
of the Duke of Argyll, and two imperfect copies, one in the Edin- 
burgh University I library and the other in the British Museum. 
In 1872 the Rev. Dr. Maclauchlan made a complete transcript 
of the book, and a new edition was published page for page and 
line for line with the original. Philologists regard it as very 
valuable. Bishop Carsuel was a native of Kilmartin, well versed 
in the Gaelic language, and thoroughly acquainted with the people 
of the wide district of whose spiritual interests he had charge. In 
an address prefixed to his book he alludes to the manuscript 
literature then extant^ " written in manuscript books in the com- 
positions of poets and ollaves, and in the remains of learned 
men." The bishop seems to have imbibed something of the 
earnest, critical spirit of nineteenth-century Christianity, and 
deserves our respect for giving us the first printed book in Gaelic. 

Still it is unfortunate for Gaelic literature, though perhaps not for 
the Protestant religion, that he and others determined on the ruth- 

OLD LAYS. 228 

less extinction of the popular ballads among the people. The 
Ursgeuls, or prose tales, were condemned even with greater empha- 
sis. The following verses from a ballad from which an extract 
has been taken already will show the character of the popular 
Hterature which Carsuel did not consider edifying : — 



'S gann a chreideas mi do sgeul, 

A chlerich leir d' leabhar bin, 
Gu'm biodh Fionn, no cho fial, 

Aig duine no aig Dia an laimh. 


Ann ifrinn tha e'n laimh, 

Fear le'n sath bhi bronnadh oir. 
Air son a dhimeas air Dia, 

Chuir iad e'n tigh pian fo leon. 


Nan robh Clann-Morni a steach, 

Is Clanna-Baoiigne, na fir threun, 
Bheireamiad-ne Fionn a mach, 

Nobhiodh an teach againn fein." 


Coig cuigeauna ua h-Eirinn ma seach, 

'Sairleat-sa gu moram feum, 
Gha tugadh sin Fionn a mach, 

Ged bhiodh an teach agaibh fein, 


Nach math an t-aite ifrin fein, 

A chl6irich dh'an leir an sgoil ! 
Nach go math is flaitheas De 

Ma gheibhear iunt' f6idh is coin ? 


OssiA2j's Pkayee. 

Ossian.—O clerk of the white book thy tale 
From me no faith can win ; 
That God or man could keep in pain 
The brave and generous Finn. 

Patrick. — Ay, captive, he is now in hell 
Who used to scatter gold ; 
Because he scorned to worship God 
They thrust him in that hold. 


0. Clan-Morni and Clan Baoisgne brave, 
If they would there resort, 
Soon would we have great Finn released, 
And make oar own the fort. 

P. Though Erin's Clans should all unite, 
A mighty host, believe, 
Possessing all that place yourselves. 
You could not Finn relieve. 

0. But hell is not so bad a place, 

Clerk, to whom school is clear? 
As good as is the high heaven of God, 
If there be dogs and deer ? 

Earnest Reformers could not regard this sort of literature as a 
powerful auxiliary in the recasting of a nation's faith ; so Carsuel 
thought the Gaelic population would benefit spiritually by the sub- 
stitution of his own Gaelic liturgy for the popular songs and tales. 

Ossian's " Prayer" appears to have been treated with disparage- 
ment by the Highlanders of last century as well, especially by the 
" clerics," who were such a source of annoyance to poor Ossian 
himself while he lived. One feels inclined to ask, after reading 
some of the old ballads, whether the Patrick who described all the 
ancient Finians as in hell, was a species of the modern Protestant, 
so well represented by the late valiant Dr Begg and the late Dr 
Gumming. Whether or not it is evident that he was a persistent 
Protestant against the heathenism of the Feinne, indeed quite a 
thorn in the side of the poor old bard. The Irish monks of later 
days, however, appear to have taken very kindly to the laureate of 
the Fingalians, and to have lopped off many of the excrescences 
of the faithful Patrick. Scottish ecclesiastics appropriated the 
new Irish versions, but pruned off the excrescences with which 
the Basque, or Spano-Iberian imagination of the south-west of 
Ireland, had clothed the simple originals. Carsuel, in the six- 
teenth century, under the jiressure of Reformation doctrines, was 
the first to touch unkindly the hoary locks of the ancient bard. 
The Feinne and their singer, however, survived in the aftections 
and traditions of the population, until the Gospel according to the 
English Puritans and our own Scottish Govenanters began to out- 
root entirely the semi-heathen and Finian ideals of the people. 
So now in many districts of the Highlands, and throughout 
the Islands, much to the disgust of students of folk-lore, like 
Campbell of Islay, the only singing you hear is, not the rehearsal 


of the old heroic lays or the Ossianic duans, but the Psalms of 
David or the hymns of Sankey. As already remarked, the 
" clerics " of last century treated the Ossianic compositions with as 
little respect as Patrick, Carsuel, or Spurgeon would. At the 
end of a copy of Ossian's Prayer there is a stanza by Duncan 
Rioch Macnicol, who was then styled the "Modern Ossian," 
very much in the fashion of our present day Gaelic bards, who 
dub themselves as of this or that ilk. Duncan, whose feelings 
towards the old bards must have been rioch enough, describes poor 
Ossian in the following terms, given already in the original 
(p. 87), in sending the copy to the Rev. Donald Macnicol, 
Lismore : — 

To Master Donald take this story ; 
There he dwells beside the billow ; 
The prayei' said by Ossian hoary, 
Who was aye a worthless fellow. 

The last line is a condensation — though Duncan Rioch was pro- 
bably in a fii of humour, supposed to be a rare state of soul for a 
Highland Celt — of the Protestant or Evangelic disposition of 
Patrick, Carsuel, and Peter Grant. These remarks have been sug 
gested by the specimen of Gaelic which follows. Specimens have 
already been given of the style of writing ancient Gaelic from the 
earliest period down to the beginning of the sixteenth century. 
To those who may have paid a little attention to them it may 
have been interesting to discern the gradual change which Gaelic 
has undergone, until we find it about 1600 beginning to take the 
Scottish form out of which our present standard of the Gaelic 
Bible has been developed : — 

Gaelic Prose, 1567. 

Agas is mor an doile agas an dorchadas peacaidh, agas aineolais agas 
indtleachda do lucht deachtaidh agas scriobhtha agas ehumdaigh na 
gaoidheilge, gurab mo is mian leo agas gurab mo ghnathuidlieas siad eachd- 
radha dimhaoineacha buaidheartha bregacha saoghalta do ciimadh ar thuath- 
aibli dedhanond agas air mhacaibh mileadh agas arna curadhaibh agas 
hind mhac cumhaill gona fhianaibh agas armhoran eile noch airbhim. 

Translation : 

And great is the blindness and sinful darkness, and ignorance, and evil 
design, of such as teach and write, and cultivate the Gaelic language, that, 
with the view of obtaining for themselves the vain rewards of this world, 
they are more desirous, and more accustomed, to compose vain, tempting, 
lying, worldly histories, concerning the Tuath de dannan, and concernino- 


warriors and champions, and Fiugal the son of Cumhal, with liis heroes, and 
concerning many others which I will not at present enumerate. 

The Highland love of Paganism was destined to flourish 
down to our own time, a Stornoway woman having been seen 
worshipping the moon as recently as the beginning of the present 
century, the parish minister of Uig at the time being the witness. 

In his Hibbert Lectures ([888) Professor Rhys says — ''It is 
worthy of note that this kind of Paganism died hard in the islands 
on the Armoric coast ; in fact it lasted, in spite of Church and 
State, down to the time of the Norsemen's ravages."' Fifteen cen- 
turies of vigorous Christianity have not yet extirpated the serpent 
of superstition in the British Islands. 

After the publication of Carsuel's Book of Prayers, which led 
the way, the only species of literature that the press helped to dif- 
fuse for more than a century was of an ecclesiastical or religious 
character. In the seventeenth century appeared a translation of 
Calvin's Catechism, " Faose'ui Eom Stiubhaut," the Synod of 
Argyll's translation of the Psalter, the Confession of Faith in the 
eighteenth century, followed by catechisms and summaries of 
Christian doctrine. Endeavours were made to awaken the people 
out of the spiritual lethargy induced by the age of inaction which 
preceded the Reformation era. The only successful way to reach 
the heart of the people was felt to be through the medium of their 
native tongue. Towards the close of the last century, for this 
end. translations of all sorts of religious works became numerous, 
even Roman Catholic Highlanders having a bulky volume of a 
summary of Christian doctrine translated for their use. 

During this time the Highlanders had no version of the Scrip- 
tures in their own tongue, Welshmen and Irishmen being favoured 
earlier than they in this respect. The first portion translated was 
the Psalter by the Synod of Argyll in 1659. The Bible was not 
much known in the north-west at this period. A few individuals 
possessed the Irish version, but this was never much in practical 
use. Preachers used the English Bible, of which they gave their own 
extemporaneous translation as they went along. A good specimen 
of written Gaelic towards the end of the seventeenth century will 
be found in the Rev. Robert Kirk's preface to his metrical version 
of the Book of Psalms. To the ordinary reader it is hardly dis- 
tinguishable from the Irish of the same period. The Highlander 
will be glad to have an opportunity of reading in his own language 


such an eloquent encomium on the Psahns which he prizes so 
so dearly, 

Gaelic Prose, 1684. 

Ataid na Psalma taitneamhach, tarbhach : beag nach mion-fhlaitheas Ikn 
dainglibh, Cill fhonn-mhar, le ceol naonihtha. Mur abholghort Eden, lionta 
do chrauuaibh briogbmhoire-na beatha, agus do luibhennibh iocshlainteani- 
hail, anihluidh an leabhar Psalmso Dhaibliioth, a ta na liaghais air uile au- 
sbocair na nanma. Ata an saoghail agus gach beo chreatair da bfuil an, na 
chlarsigh ; an duine se is Chlairseoir agus duanaire, chum moladh an nior- 
Shia mirbhuileach do chein ; agus ata Daibhidh do gutl mar fhear don chuid- 
eachd bhias marso ag caoin-chaint gu ceolmhar ma nard-Rl. 


The Psalms are pleasant and profitable. A church resounding with 
sacred melody is almost a little Heaven full of angels. As the Garden of 
Eden, replenished with trees of life of potent efficacy and with medicinal 
plants, so is this Book of Psalms of David, which contains a remedy of all the 
diseases of the soul. The world and every living creature it contains are 
the Harp ; !Man is the Harj^er and Poet, who sings the praise of the great 
wonder-working God ; and David is ever one of the company who are thus 
employed in sweetly and tunefully discoursing about the Almighty King. 

The Highland clergy at this time were, as a class, fairly well- 
educated. This will be seen in the accounts of English travellers 
who now began to take tours to the Celtic north-west. In earlier 
times the intercourse between the Highlands and the great world 
beyond was greater than in the seventeenth century. Before the 
seats of government were all removed from the districts of the 
Gael further south, the communication with Ireland and the Conti- 
nent of Europe in the north and in France was considerable. Till 
the days of Queen Elizabeth relations were fitfully sustained be- 
tween the insular court of the Princedom of the Isles and the 
English Court. It was during the seventeenth century that the 
Gaelic regions became a very terra incognita to South Britain. 
Now a learned and sympathetic visitor arrived, from whose pages 
we get glimpses of the state of learning and culture among the 

It is a Welshman, Professor Rhys of Oxford, that has given us 
the best work on Celtic philology and Celtic paganism, in the 
present day ; and it was a Welshman that wrote the best book on 
the same subjects upwards of 200 yearsago. Edward Lhuyd's great 
work on Celtic scholarship appeared in 1707. The title runs 
thus : — '^ Arch^olooica Briiatunca, giving some account, additional 
to what has been hitherto published, of the Languages, Histories, 
and Customs of the Original Inhabitants of Great Britain, from 


collections and observations in travels through Wales, Cornwall, 
Bas-Bretagne, Ireland, and Scotland. By Edward Lhuyd, M.A. of 
Jesus College, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. 
Oxford : Printed at the Theater for the author, MDCCVII." 
Were the matter within the bounds of the 460 folio pages of this 
handsome volume printed in the style in which books are now 
generally published it would make three or four very considerable 
volumes. At the beginning of an appendix the following note 
occurs : "Having since the printing this Irish dictionary sent copies 
to Ireland and Scotland in order to have it improved, the following 
supplement consists chiefly of some notes returned thence by two 
gentlemen well known to be able scholars and masters of that 
language." It is in connection with these "copies," I suppose, 
that the poetical complimentary verses inserted at the beginning of 
the volume were sent to the author. These verses were written in 
Latin, Gaelic, and Welsh. Two or three Latin ones and four in 
Gaelic are sent from the Highlands. The character of this great 
work may be gathered from the titles of the several departments : 
Comparative Etymology, 40 pp. ; A Comparative Vocabulary of 
of the Original Languages of Britain and Ireland, 130 pp.; An 
Armoric Grammar and Vocabulary, 33 pp. ; Some Welsh Words, 
A Cornish Grammar, British MSS., and a British Etymologican, 
86 pp. ; A Brief Introduction to the Irish or Ancient Scottish 
Language, and Feclair Gaoidheilge-Shasonach no Bearladoir Scot- 
Sagsamhtiil ; An Irish-English Dictionary,'i36 pp. ; two pp. describ- 
ing Gaelic MSS., and An Index. In the preface he proceeds to 
explain what induced him "to an undertaking so laborious, so 
little diverting, and so much out of the common road." 

It is interesting to note how this laborious Oxford student met 
the prejudices of the day. The undertaking " proceeded not 
from any conceited opinion, as some might be apt to imagine, of 
the plausibleness of these languages. Most of us commonly hear 
or read too much to be ignorant that the generality of people are 
rather disposed to a ridiculing than a favourable reception of any- 
thing in that kind. This did not, I own, in the least discourage 
me, as well knowing that the same prejudice in the like case pre- 
vails in all other great governments, and that in any uncommon 
undertaking the judgment of men of distinction (or at least particu- 
lar experience in the subject proposed), is to be only regarded. 
The inducement I had was no other than a seeming probability 
that such an essay might in this curious age contribute not a little 
towards a clearer notion of the first planters of the three kingdoms, 


and a better understanding of our ancient names of persons and 
places." No grammar of the Scottish Gaelic appeared up to the 
time of Lhuyd ; but he speaks of " a Scotish gentleman who had 
some thoughts of publishing " one. It would be interesting to 
know who this gentleman was ; perhaps he was one of those who 
sent the poetical addresses to Lhuyd. 

In connection with this great work Lhuyd experienced the same 
discouragements which often beset similar works of learning. He 
was told by some considerate critic that his volume would meet 
with but a cold reception ; for it consisted " only of etymology 
and Welsh and Irish vocabularies." The critic exclaims, " Now 
there are not half a dozen or half a score in the kingdom that are 
curious in that way. The world expected, according to his promise 
and undertaking, a natural history, which is a study of established 
request, and that a great many are curious in." But Lhuyd has 
in the pubHshed list the names of two hundred lords, knights, and 
gentlemen of learning and distinction belonging to England alone. 
This was something to begin with for such a work, and must have 
been rather a disconcerting refutation of the critic's remark about 
" half a dozen " readers. It is quite possible that this complaining 
critic looked forward to an interesting dissertation on the strange 
human animals that inhabited in those days Lorn, Mull, and Islay, 
and other Celtic parts. He and others could scarcely realise to 
themselves that the Celtic barbarians who dwelt in those distant 
regions could write and talk good English ; and in their leisure 
hours exercised themselves in the composition of Latin verse or 
Gaelic poetry. 

Lhuyd was accompanied everywhere on his travels by David 
Parry, A.B. of Jesus College, Oxford, who wrote a small section of 
the work. It is a very interesting picture that the travels of these 
learned Oxonians in the Highlands suggest seventy or eighty years 
before the mighty Johnson visited the Western Isles, which in 
earlier ages were so well known throughout the ecclesiastical world. 
Here is a specimen cf Latin verse from the pen of a Highland 
minister two hundred years ago : — 


Quid si reversus spii-itus afforet 
Jam Buchanani, nobile callidi 
Tentare plectrum, pristinumque 
Officium renovare chordis ? 

Antiqua tellus, die, age, Scotia, 


Quem destinares Tu, facili Vii'um 
Ornare versu ; queni parares 
Non humili celebrare caiitu ? 

Luidus priorum qui Britonum decus, 
Poscit CamtBnas ; pulvere sen diu 
Ftfdata purgator reponat, 
In superam referatque luceni. 

Sive Hie morsu temporis improbo 
Exesa fida restituafc manu, 
Atque acer Intei'pus recudat 
In veniens renovata SKcluni. 

Sive Hie vocum exquirere origines 
Longo recursu gestiat, et suo 
A fonte deducat, redire 

Ad veterem faciatque ritum. 

Quanivis dolendo pressa silentio 
Jam Buohanani conticeat lyra, 
Stat fama Luido, vendicantque 
Perpetuam sibi scripta laudem. 

Andreas Frazier, Ecd. Scot. Presh. 

Another poetical address is sent from the romantic district of 
North Argyll, where many of the deeds recorded in the ancient 
ballads took place, and where, no doubt, the distinguished Cymric 
scholar received hearty Highland hospitality from Colin Campbell, 
pastor of Ardchattan. The conclusion runs as follows : — 

Restituit Scotis sublapsa ; caduca Britannis ; 
Celtis et Pictis deperdita. Cornubiensis 
Cantaber, et 8cotus quam linquam agnoscit uterque, 
Comparat : Affinis sensus hacarte resolvens, 
Et renovat surdis anres et lumina cajcis. 
Linguas prisca loqui, cogit dum vera fateri, 
Literulis larvas fucos duni vocibus aufert, 
Hispanum Scotuni de divisa stirpe, Britannum 
Historic ut taceant, statuit ; sermonis amussi 
Albauii metas Bretonis Cambrique resignans. 
Primus enim Cephilos Scotus, Pephilosque Britannos, 
Nosque notas Britonum sib'lasse ostendit anhelas. 

Mille alia invenit doctis celebranda Camanis : 
Cedite Banniades : Non vestra cupressus erica. 
Amiciti;o et gratitudinis ergo 
Coi.LiNUS Campbell, Ardchattamig Pastor, Lornensis. 

The Gaelic addresses are highly interesting to the philologist, as 
showing Scottish Gaelic in a transition state. At the period of 
Lhuyd's visit to the Highlands and Isles, and down to the middle 


of last century, the Highland clergyman wrote either in Latin or 
Gaelic. It was at that time, also, that the Scottish Gael began to 
depart from the old style of Gaelic writing and orthography. 
This departure might have been dictated to some extent by a Pro- 
testant feeling, but was mainly cansed l>y the desire to make the 
orthography exactly expressive of the po]jular speech. The differ- 
ence between the Irish and Scottish dialects was rendered greater 
by the change. Highland clergymen cf that period being of the 
better families throughout the country, were generally well- 
educated gentlemen. Even generations after, we find more 
literary talent than can be found in many places to-day. 

A glimpse of the state of the country after the gory struggle 
which ended on Culloden Moor shows a far higher state of 
literary culture than an outsider would readily believe possible 
in the circumstances. The Ossianic controversy which subse- 
quently arose brought forward the names of many clergymen who 
during the last half of the eighteenth century were a credit to their 
country. Such men were the Rev. James Calder and the Rev. Dr 
Alexander Fraser, in the north-east ; the Rev. Thomas Ross of 
Lochbroom, the Rev. I\Ir Macqueen of Kilmuir, in Skye. and the 
Rev. Dr. Macpherpon of Sleat, in the north-west ; the Rev. Dr 
John Macarthur of Mull, the Rev. Dr Macnicol of Lismore, John- 
son's formidable opponent, the Rev. Mr. Woodrow of Islay, and 
the Rev. Dr John Smith of Campbeltown, with his accomplished 
brother, Dr Donald Smith, in the south west ; the MacLaurins of 
Cowal, the distinguished divine and the professor of mathematics, 
the Stewarts, translators of the Bible, Professor Adam Ferguson of 
Edinburgh, and Professor Macleod of Glasgow, the Rev. Dr Mac- 
intyre of Glenorchay, Dr Grahame of Aberfoyle, and the Rev. 
Messrs Macdiarmid, Gallic, and Maclagan, in the central High- 
lands. The atmosphere in which such men breathed — and they were 
scattered throughout all parts of the Highlands — could not be alto- 
gether one of ignorance ; and the large mass of the people were, 
no doubt, largely benefited by the culture of and intercourse with 
their clerical superiors. 

Dr Samuel Johnson, notwithstanding many surly prepossessions, 
besought, with that good broad honesty of his nature, such edu- 
cated Highlanders and Irishmen to furnish the world with correct 
information regarding their language and literature. All English 
readers know of his tour to the Hebrides, whither he journeyed 
more than a century ago, in those days of difficult travelling, to 
judge for himself concerning the people among whom appeared «o 


remarkable a poet as Ossian. He did not visit Trelanrl, but early 
in life he corresponded with an accomplished Irish gentleman, 
Mr Charles O'Connor of Ballinegare, Roscommon, in relation to 
Irish literature. In his first letter, April 9, 1737, he says : — "Sir 
William Temple complains that Ireland is less known than any 
other country as to its ancient state. The natives have had little 
leisure and little encouragement for inquiry, and strangers, not 
knowing the language, have had no ability. I have long wished 
that Irish literatui-e were cultivated. Ireland is known by tradi- 
tion to have been once the seat of piety and learning, and surely it 
would be very acceptable to all those who are curious, either in the 
original of nations, or the afiinities of languages, to be further in- 
formed of the revolutions of a people so ancient, and once so illus- 
trious." He hopes O'Connor will continue his Irish studies, and 
speaks of the great pleasure he has in hearing of the progress of 
his undertaking. Twenty-two years afterwards Johnson renews the 
correspondence, and complains of O'Connor disappointing him : — 
" I expected great discoveries in Irish antiquities, and large publi- 
cations in the Irish language, but the world still remains as it was 
— doubtful and ignorant. What the Irish language is in itself, and 
to what languages it has affinity, are very interesting questions, 
which every man wishes to see resolved that has any philological 
or historical curiosity. Dr Leland begins his history too late ; the 
ages that deserve an exact inquiry are those times (for such they 
were) when Ireland was the school of the west, the quiet habita- 
tion of sanctity and literature. If you could give a history, though 
imperfect, of the Irish nation from its conversion to Christianity to 
the invasion from England, you would amplify knowledge with new 
views and new objects. Set about it, therefore, if you can ; do 
what you can easily do without anxious exactness. Lay the foun- 
dation, and leave the superstructure to posterity." This is a very 
interesting and remarkable letter, and exhibits Johnson as entirely 
free from the vulgar anti-Celtic prejudices which long obtained in 
many quarters after his day. It pointed to the lines of study which 
the Celtic student should follow. But both Irish and Highland 
scholars failed to comply with the lexicographer's wishes. Philo- 
logy did not then exist, and accurate philoso])hical histories had 
not then made much progress. Celtic scholars travelled to Spain 
and Egypt and other places in the East for the cradle in which the 
first pure Gaelic baby was rocked ; linguistic affinities were sought 
in Hebrew and Arabic ; while Gaelic or Celtic was sometimes de- 
clared to be the molhev of all languages. This race of Gaelic Ori- 


entals continued to exist till recently, if indeed it is even now 
wholly extinct. The Irish, however, at last have abundantly shown 
the great extent of literature, manuscript and printed, which is en- 
shrined in their language. The recent works of learned Irishmen 
are evidence that the interest is not abating in Irish literature. 
While it is admitted that the Irish Gael is in possession of some 
literature, it is yet denied that the Scottish Gael has any literary 
remains to show. And indeed, looking at the barrenness of the 
Highland hills, and the bareness of the Highland glens, the 
stranger from the sunnier South is apt to think that no literature 
could flourish on so sterile a soil. The lakes and straths, swept by 
the fresh breezes, he feels too coldly uncongenial — too frigid a 
home for the cultivation of letters — too dreary a land for the 
muses to dwell in. Men of stout arms and lion hearts have issued 
from these regions. That' fact is recognised. But it is not well 
known that also there, far from what have hitherto been regarded 
as the great civilising centres, letters and knowledge have had for 
ages their sacred precincts and earnest votaries. Unpromising 
though the Highlands look to the literary eye, yet we find that 
even Dr Samuel Johnson, no lover of either Celts or Scotsmen, 
touches with pathetic beauty in two or three sentences written 
upwards of a cenlury ago, on the conditions under which, even in 
the heart of the Highlands and Isles, in times of old, the produc- 
tion of Gaelic literature was possible : " We are now treading 
that illustrious island which was once the luminary of the Caledo- 
nian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived 
the benefits of knowledge and the blessings of religion. Far from 
me and from my friends be such a frigid philosophy as may con- 
duct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been 
dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. That man is not to be 
envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of 
Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the 
ruins of lona." Dr MaccuUoch, again, speaks of our country as 
owing a "deep debt of civilisation, of letters, and of religion " to 
the same place. From that little isle, lying grandly with its white 
brows of sand on the bosom of the mighty Atlantic, learned men 
went forth twelve and thirteen hundred years ago to Ireland, to 
England^ and to many places on the Continent of Europe, to found 
colleges and establish churches. Adamnan and Bede testify that 
at that period Gaelic and Latin learning was cultivated in "the 
Celtic colleges ol lona, Oransay, Ardchattan, Uist, Rowdill, and 
Melrose," and then and subsequently also in a score of other 
academic centres of Gaelic learning and activity. 


Towards the close of the eighteenth century, when translations 
ot Gaelic poetry brought the genius of the Celtic spirit in contact 
with the intellectual forces of modern Europe, many who hitherto 
despised our Gaelic literature, began to look into this neglected 
field. Lord Bute, a Scot, with Gaelic sympathies, was Prime Min- 
ister then. The extract to be immediately given from a letter by 
the distinguished Lord Bannatyne, who, as Sheriff of Bute, and 
subsequently as Judge on Circuit at Inveraray, became interested 
in Gaelic manuscripts, will show the attention bestowed on the sub- 
ject by men of position. Lord Bannatyne used his influence to 
get the valuable Gaelic manuscripts of Major Maclachlan of Kil- 
bride in Argyllshire transferred to the Highland Society, and in 
writing on the subject says : — ''The result, you know, was, that 
by means of the Rev. Francis Stuart, minister of Craignish, I ob- 
tained confirmation of the fact that his family had once possessed 
a very large collection, of which he had given two or three to Gen- 
eral Sir Adolphus Oughton and the late Sir James Foulis, both of 
whom were Gaelic scholars, and that there still remained above 
twenty in his possession." Elsewhere we come across these and 
other titled gentlemen acquiring knowledge of Gaelic over a hun- 
dred years ago. It was the P^arl of Eglintoun, with the approbation 
of Boswell and Johnson, that inspired the publication of the Gaelic 
Analysis by Shaw, who describes the acquisition of the language 
late in life by Sir James Eoulis in the following terms : — " who, late 
in advanced years, has learned to read and write it, and now drinks 
of the Pierian spring untainted by reading fragments of poetry in 
Fingal's own language." Shaw was delighted with the patronage 
which his aristocratic friends bestowed on Gaelic, The following 
verses, translated by Sir James, found a place in his Grammar : — 

Chuir e an claidheamh, fada, fiorchruaidh, 
Fulanach, tean, tainic, geur. 
'So cheaii air a clmir anu gu secair, 
Mar chuis mholta gan dochair lein, 
'Se gu dirach, diasadach, dubh-gliorm, 
'Se cidtuidh, cumtadli, conolach, 
Go leathan, liobhadh, liobharadh, 
Go socair, sasdadh, so-bhuailte. 
Air lainih-clili a' ghaisgaich ; 
Gur aisaiche do naimhdan a sheachnadh, 
No tachairt ris 'san am sin ; 
Cho bu lughe no cnoc sleibh, 
Gach ceum a dheanadh an gaisgach. 


Trax.slatiox by Sir James Foulis, Baronet. 

He seized his sword, tliick, broad, and long, 
Well- forged, well-hammered, tempered strong, 
Polislied, of purf^st metal made, ' 
Like lightning blazed the shining blade ; 
Jagged like a saw, it tore and hewed, 
Inured to slaughter, blood-embrued ; 
Dire horror, and destructive fate, 
On the full age attentive wait; 
'Twas certain death its stroke to feel ; 
Strength-withering, life-devouring steel. 
Even valiant foes, struck at the sight. 
Durst hope no safety but by fight ; 
Their ranks wide-scattering all abroad 
From hill to hill the hero strode. 



" Land where Religion paves her heavenward road ! 
Land of the temple of the living God ! 
Yet, dear to feeling, Scotland, as thou art, 
Shouldst thou that temple e'er desert, 
I would disclaim thee, seek the distant shore 
Of Christian isle, and thence return no more." 

The subject of the ancient hymns and rehgious poetry of the 
ancient Gaels was discussed in earlier chapters, as also the religious 
compositions of mediaeval times. After the stormy era of the 
Reformation and the Jacobite period, the sacred muse of the 
Highlands began to make her voice heard once more. The 
sacred bards ot the Early and Mediaeval times have thus received 
attention ; it now remains to treat of those of Modern days. 
The light of the Reformation movement failed for some genera- 
tions to reach the masses of the people in many districts of the 
Highlands. The hindrances were many : the want of suitable 
earnest pastors, and the large extent of the districts assigned to 
each. It ought also to be remembered that the complete trans- 
lation of the Bible into Gaelic is not yet a century old ; and even 
although there had been a translation earlier there were not many 
who were able to read it. The Highlanders then were also in the 
first stages of a transition state. They felt the system of clanship 
crumbling under their feet. Quarrels were easily fomented. The 
strong and sagacious took advantage of the times, and took care to 
adjust themselves to the developing circumstances of the future. 
Jacobitism found a stronghold in the Highlands, not because the 
people were Papists or religiously indifferent or fervent lovers of 
the Stuarts, but because they had- a strong sense of justice and 
loyalty, sore as they had frequently suffered for their fidelity. 
Jacolnte adventurers regarded the Highlands and Islands as a 
suitable field for their treasonable operations— isolated from the 
mighty stirring current of the kindling spirit of the times — a spirit 


that began to question the right divine of kings to govern wrong. 
The conflict between the enhghtened Protestant mind and the en- 
slaving spirit of Jacobitism came to an end on Culloden Moor. 
Many of the Highlanders forsook the Stuart cause earlier. Argyll- 
shire in the west, and almost whole counties in the north and 
north-east, did not either stir for Prince Charles or espoused the 
opposite side. Evangelical religion had turned the current of the 
people's thoughts in those districts. Especially was this the case 
in the north, where able and godly ministers — some of them 
Lowland ministers, who found asylum there from persecution — 
brought back the clans to the knowledge of the true religion. 

Yet even in the north there were many inaccessible glens and 
corners where many — often desperate men — made for themselves 
a home, and where they lived in a state of heathenism. And in 
this state they continued almost down to our own time. Uncom- 
plimentary as they were in many respects to the religious character 
ol his countrymen, there is no doubt the following lines were 
very applicable last century. The author — Dr Macgregor, the 
Gaelic apostle of Nova Scotia — laments that the Highlanders were 
ignorant and blind, and that learning was rare among them :— 

" Bha na Gaidhil ro aineolach dhall, 
Bha ionnsachadh gann nam nieasg : 
Bha 'n eiilas co tana 's co mall, 
'S nach b'aithne dhaibh 'n call a mheas. 
'Se b'annsa leo 'u arigiod 's an ur 
A chaitheadli go gurach truagh, 
Ri amaideachd, oranaibh, 's ul, 
Ri bannsaibh, 's ri ceol da'n cluais." 

This description of Macgregor was perfectly true, and applicable 
to the Highlanders at the close of the great Jacobite struggle— so 
absorbed were Highland energies with the social and political 
enterprises of that disastrous period that the education and reli- 
gious training of the people were quite neglected. At the same 
time there were many quiet corners north and south in which the 
Gospel muse found an asylum, and one ot these we find in Glen- 
daruel, Argyllshire, a spot closely associated with the early Celtic 
romances and our ancient Gaelic manuscripts. 


The date of this author's birth is unknown, but he appears to 
have flourished in Glendaruel early in the eighteenth century. 
Among the traditions preserved of him is the account that he was 


Mind, and that after the celebrattd Hymn or Holy Lay associated 
with his name was composed, his sight was restored. 

Laoidh Mhic-Ealair, or Mackellaf's Hymn, was greatly prized 
among religious peopie, and became very popular before Buchanan 
beaan to tune his sacred lyre in Rannoch. His lame rests chiefly 
on this one production, although it is declared that in his youth 
he indulged in the composition ot profane pieces. According to 
Reid, his hymn was first published in Glasgow about the year 1750. 
It had, however, an earlier publication among the people through 
many persons that learned it by heart and loved to repeat it on 
account of its helpful statements of Gospel truths. It consists of 
thirty-three stanzas or quatrains, and furnishes a Scriptural expo- 
sition of the theme he took up. 'i"he date of his death is as un- 
certain as that of his birth, but one authority tells us that a 
granddaughter of his lived in Glasgow in the second quarter of 
this century. The following verses remind us of the manner 
of Buchanan, in whom we detect traces of Mackellar's muse : — 

'N uair chaidli Criosd gu p6in a bhiis 
'Sa dh'uiling e air son an t-sluaigh, 
Sgoilt brat an teampuil sios gu lar, 
'S dhiisg na mairbh an aird o'n uaigli. 

Chreathnaich an talamh trom le crith, 
Air a' ghr6in gu'n tainig smal ; 
Le feirg Dhe do chiath e 'n sin ; 
Dh'fhuiling Criosd an bcis re seal. 

English : 

When Christ endured the pain of death, 
For men Himself a Victim gave, 
The temple's veil was rent in twain 
As forth the dead came from the grave. 

With heavy thunder sliook the earth, 
The sun endured a darkening cloud ; 
Beneath God's wrath he trembled then 
Awhile Clirist lay within tlie shroud. 


This sacred bard is supposed to have been born about 1690, 
and has been described as " a poet, a scholar, and a gentleman," 
and as of Mudale, parish of Farr, Sutherlandshire. He belonged 
to the Clan.Abrach Mackays. A son of his, William, married and 
resided at Knockfin, in the parish of Kildonan, and is said to have 


been a conteraporary of Rob Donn Mackay. He was a man of 
deep religious spirit ; and attained considerable local distinction 
among the people of his district on account of the saintliness of his 
character. In his ' Metrical Reliques " John Rose describes 
Mackay as " an eminently pious man," and gives the following 
account of the conditions under which one of the poems was com- 
posed : " The first ot these poems was composed by him on a fine 
moonlight night in harvest while he happened to be out in the 
fields, lying on his back, contemplating the glory and majesty of 
the heavenly luminaries." 

Some men of the Sutherlandshire Militia stationed in 1746 at 
Dunkeld, immediately after the Rebellion, are represented as pious 
soldiers, who, having sought out Dugald Buchanan ofRannoch, 
used to sing to him the religious poems of Mackay of Mudale. 
The Sutherlandshire men used to relate that Buchanan sang 
Mackay's hymns "with great glee," and that it was the latter's 
compositions that moved the former to sing in sacred strains him- 
self. There is probably little or no foundation lor this last state- 
ment. Mackellar had far more influence on Buchanan's mind 
than Mackay; but at the same time the story of the " Men'' of 
the far north is very instructive as indicating how readily men of 
Evangelical sympathies and genuine Christian life understood one 

Five of Mackay's compositions are preserved in Rose's coUec • 
tion. They are fair expositions of the pulpit themes with which 
the " Men " of the north in those days were familiar, and appear 
to have been well appreciated by the author's religious conterapo- 
poraries, by whom they were orally preserved. The last, from 
which the following two verses are taken, is composed in a simple 
easy measure, and is entitled " The Complaint^ in which we have 
early indications of that Christian experience,- of the painful self- 
analysis and introspection, — for which the "Men" subsequently 
became so remarkable : — 

'S moch a threig mi do shlighe, 

'S gu bheil m' fhiachan guu aireamh ; 

Gabh ri toillteannas Chriosda, 
'S na iarr aig mo lamh-s' iad. 

Dean mi reidh ris iia phearsa, 

Tboir gu comunn a ghraidh mi ; 
Cuir an aireamh na trend me, 

'S mi«e chaora bha caillte. 



I early wandered from thy path, 

My debts I ne'er can reckon o'er ; 
The worth of Christ accept for me 
And at my hand seek them no more. 

In Him atonement let me find, 

Me in his love's communion keep ; 
Give me a place among tlie flock, 

Though 1 have Ijeen so lost a sheep. 


Matheson, a sacred bard of considerable originality and spiri- 
tual insight, was born in the parish of Kildonan, Sutherlandshire, 
in 1 719. At that time there was much religious fervour and feel, 
ing in that part of the country as well as throughout the north in 
general. So the " Sacred Poetry of the North " towards the end 
of last century makes a pretty large volume. While Buchanan 
was tuning his sacred harp in the central Highlands, Matheson 
began his religious strains in the far north. Matheson cultivated 
a small farm, and lived to the age of sixty-three, his death taking 
place in 1782. He exercised great religious influence in his own 
parish — his power of satire contributing much towards this influ- 
ence. A single poem of his was declared by the parish minister 
to have done more good than all his own preaching for a series of 
years. As a poet he stands as high as his countryman Rob Donn, 
with whom he has many points in common, although Matheson's 
poetry is decidely sacred, which Rob Donn's is as decidedly not. 
His Gaelic is frequently unintelligible to the western and southern 
Gael, which is one reason why his poems have not been in greater 
request among them. The following verse shows his manner in 
Gaelic : — 

Ar sinnsear thus, 
'Nuair chaill iad an liith's. 
Gun mhill iad an ciiis 

Air susdanan aill ; 
Tha'n truailleadh so lionmhor, 
Dh'fhag mis 'anns an fliionan, 
Mar chraobh a th' air crionadh 

Gun fhiogais gun bhlath. 


Our ancestors marred 
At the very beginning, 
Their strength and their case 

In old ways of sinning ; 


The corruption widespread 
In the vineyard has left me, 
Like a poor withered tree — 

Of all bloom it bereft me. 

When Matheson's Poems were first published early in this cen- 
tury, they were accompanied with a preface from the hands of the 
Rev. Dr Macdonald of Ferintosh and the Rev, John Kennedy of 
Killearnan, in which the natural gifts of the poet, and his great 
Christian graces are referred to in very high terms : " Though 
destitute of the advantages of education," say the writers of the 
joint preface, " he was one of the most celebrated Christians in 
that or perhaps any other country. He possessed a clear atid 
comprehensive view of Divine truth, and discovered a deep and 
practical experience of its power on the heart and life." In the 
imperfect sketches of Matheson's life which have been preserved 
there are strong indications of the religious and ecclesiastical dis- 
content which prevailed among the laity in those northern districts 
at the time, and of the latent dissent which subsequently developed. 
It is interesting to read that " at one time the parish church 
being vacant, Matheson headed a deputation from the people to 
their Presbytery in quest of a minister. Finding the Presbyteiy 
stiff to move, ' I could sooner accomplish my errand with the 
great Hearer of prayer,' he said, 'than with the Presbytery.' 
One member, a clergyman of the unmitigated old Moderate 
school, or as our Anglican friends would express it, of the extreme 
High Church party, rid'culed him as not possessed of education or 
influence entitling him to be heard. ' You may mock,' he replied, 
but I can tell you the word of Scripture by which the Lord first 
wounded my conscience. I can also tell the word by which 
Christ was made precious to my soul ; — I suspect that is more 
than you, sir, can say.'" If poor Burns had been fortunate 
enough to have a little of this spirit his contact with the graceless 
members of the Presbytery of Ayr might have had a happier issue 
for himself. 

There were clergymen of considerable culture in Caithness and 
Sutherland in the days of Matheson. Interesting sketches of some 
of them will be found in local religious histories such as Auld's 
'• Ministers ami Mea in the Far North." Kennedy's " Days of the 
Fathers in Ross shire " is another pleasant, gossipy work, in which 
the struggle of light with darkness is vividly pourtrayed. At the 
same time there were many spots in the central and western High- 
lands wliere the truths of Christianity were scarcely known. Among 


these places was Abriachan, on the north-west bank of the 
romantic Lochness, some ten miles west of Inverness. To this 
day it is difficult of access, notwithstanding the recently well- 
made winding road from the level of the loch to the villages. It 
is a wild and barren like gorge, surrounded east and west by hills 
of a similar character. To the north lies a dreary moor, which 
declines in the direction of Beauly. 

The character and habits of the people at the beginning of the 
eighteenth century harmonised well with the nature of the place 
where they fixed their habitations. From this rather inaccessible 
nest they carried on for years with impunity a regular system of 
smuggling. They had every natural advantage on their side; they 
were reluctant to give up a profitable though nefarious traffic, with 
the lawfulness of which their consciences were not much con- 
cerned ; and so hitherto they had refused to submit themselves to 
the more civilised conditions under which the people around theni 
began to settle. This was the sphere of labour assigned by the 
Society in Scotland for Promoting Christian Knowledge to the 
poet-evangelist MacLauchlan, who was virtually the first to preach 
the Gospel to the people of Abi-iachan. 


This bard-evangelist was born about the year 1729. He came 
of a family who occupied for generations a portion of the farm of 
Kinmylies, called Balmaclauchlan, near the town of Inverness. 
He was about sixteen years of age when the Rebellion of 1745 
broke out, and remembered well seeing the wretched fugitives 
from that disastrous field of battle being cut down in their flight by 
the English soldiery. While quite a young man he was selected 
by the society already mentioned to be one of their evangelist- 
teachers at Culduthel, some three miles from Inverness. After a 
few years of successful labour there he was sent to Abriachan, 
where by the weight and general excellence of his character and 
the judicious exercise of his talents, the people soon became 
quite transformed. It is said that the godly people of the district 
used to travel ten and even twenty miles to hear the bard Mac- 
Lauchlan exhort. He was twice married, but had no family by 
his first wife. In his second wife he found a truly congenial com- 
panion. While he was an admirer of the famous Hector Macphail, 
minister of Resolis, she was equally devoted to the no less famous 
James Calder, minister of Croy, the two being, along with Mr 


Alexander Fraser of Kirkhill, the most eminent ministers in the 
north at that time. The poet died in the year iSor, and his 
remains He interred in the churchyard of Kirkhill. MacLauchlan 
was evidently a remarkable man in his day, and appears to have 
possessed very fair culture. An English letter of his addressed to 
his son, a divinity student, afterwards the Rev. James Mac- 
Lauchlan of Moy, shows how well he could write English, and 
how well versed he had been in evangelical theology — " I say 
when two things are awanting, to go along with either the 
doctrines of law or gospel has little or no effect ; i.e„ when 
either wants a homely or particular application. It may be sound 
morality or sound gospel (even when both differ), yet so general 
that attentive hearers may hear, and never be made to cry out, 
What shall we do to be saved} Secondly, when law or gospel is 
not attended with the operation of the Spirit of Christ, what can 
be expected to be the consequence % . There is no wind so 
proper to winnow Christ's corn as that of the gospel. ... I 
might say a great deal on this subject, but one thing I find is, 
when some would maintain that never man spake like this Man, 
yet when Christ would address Himself with particular homeliness 
the very same lips would cry out, Crucify Him ! Crucify Him ! 
And this is come on the Church of Scotland, that she is now filled 
with a silly general strain of preaching when and where soundest 
fearing if truth is told so homely as to say like Nathan to David 
'Thou art the man,' the speaker would become a prey; and if 
such is the case with such as can preach orthodox law and gospel, 
what can be said of such as can but lecture out harangues that are 
neither true morality nor gospel % . . . \ think some, and no 
small part, of the distinction between a picture and the real being 
of grace is first in the begetting, next in the birth, then m the feed- 
ing, next in the growth, &c." This letter, like his poetry, shows 
what a keen insight into human nature the bard possessed, and 
how well he understood the causes of the religious deadness of his 
day throughout the Church of Scotland. The poet makes here 
the " silly general strain of preaching " the cause of this deadness ; 
elsewhere, in one of his poems he attributes the sad state of 
things in the Church to patronage. He was right in both cases. 
It was the patron that forced on the people preachers of the " silly 
general strain " stamp. The revival of religion in the first quarter 
of this century owes much to the good seed sowed by such earnest, 
faithful men, as MacLauchlan ; and not a few of our ablest minis- 
ters of the present day have descended froiri such worthy ancestry 


The late Rev. Dr Thomas MacLauchlan of Edinburgh, the emi- 
nent Celtic scholar and eloquent preacher, was a grandson of the 
poet-evangelist of Abriachan ; and one of the doctor's sons, Hugh, 
is possessed of poetical endowments and literary talents worthy 
of his great-grandfather. 

It is very difficult to give satisfactory translations of any poetry, 
but Gaelic measures and turns of expression present peculiar diffi- 
culties. I have endeavoured in what follows to give renderings of 
some verses of all the poems of MacLauchlan that have come 
down to us. The longest is the "Elegy" on Mucphail of 
Resolis ; but much of his poetry is said to have been lost. After 
committing several of his poems to writing, the author, forming 
but a low estimate of his own abilities, committed the MS. to the 

We first give a few verses of the " Elegy " above referred to, 
although it cannot be baid to be the best specimen of the poet's 
productions — 

macphail's "elegy." 

Well may Resolis deeply mourn ; 
We share her sorrow o'er his urn ; 
Our holy feasts shall ne'er henceforth 
Enjoy the great Light of the North. 

No more we see that guiding Light ; 
Oft did he tell in words of might 
The danger great to Albiu nigh 
In clouds of gloom athwart our sky. 

Well in our slumber may we start : 
He warned, ere hence he did depart, 
That from the ominous day to come 
He would be taken to his home. 

As Lot was saved from Sodom's fate 
Ere ftod poured out His fury great, 
So judgment from the Lord we dread 
Since good Macphail, our guide, is dead ! 

In the " Elegy " we find several good verses bearing on the subject 
of patronage in the Church of Scotland. They show us how gall- 
ing that yoke of Parliament was always felt to be ; and how clearly 
Bible-cultured people, of no pretence to a knowledge of the mys- 
teries of statecraft, discern the radical ills by which communities 
and individuals are fatally afflicted. It was only in 1874 that 
statesmen legislatively acknowledged the evils which were so 


patent to the poetic eye of MacLauchlan of Abriachan a century 
before : — 


Our Mother, by State's wiles untaught, 
A thoughtless slumber low has brought ; 
Dark perils grew before her face. 
In watchless and unfaithful dajs. 
Her true-soul'd witnesses are rare ; 
The gospel now so few declare ; 
Our secret griefs we cease to hide 
Since conscience everywhere has died. 

Though Patronage had her interred, 

Like Lazarus unsepulchered, — 

Forsaken in the bonds of death, 

All stinking with corruption's breath ; 

Yet when her Head the word has spoken 

The stone is raised ; Death's power is broken ; 

The Patron's power disappears, 

And we'll have praise instead of tears. 

The " State of the World," or the worldly, is another poem of 
considerable merit. It not unlikely represents much of the style 
of thinking and manner of the bard in his preaching addresses. 
Indeed our religious bards in general give us a good deal of gen- 
eral preaching and exhortation in their productions. Buchanan 
has done so ; so has Macgregor ; while Grant's hymns, as well as 
those of Dr Macdonald, are very much evangelical sermons in 
verse The following translation is as literal as the exigencies of 
rhyme and metre can admit : — 


When proudly they stand 

On the heights of the world 
The storm then descends 

And below they are hurled ! 
When they are least anxious 

They're hurried away, 
For iron misfortune 

Will brook no delay, 

When life's breath is going, 

At grim Death's command, 
Think not thine own power 

Had helped thee to stand. 
Think not those weak hands 

Had preserved thee thy strength ; 


Thy frail member? yield 

To Death's summons at length. 
Of better blood boast not, 

Vain child of the sod ; 
We are all from that Adam 

First fashioned by God, 
We are all from that Adam, 

In him our life lay ; 
And all have to carry 

These bodies of clay. 
In this clay, soul-fashioned, 

We march to the tomb, 
Leaving loved ones behind us 

When entering its gloom. 
How mucli, then, thou takest 

Of all this world's good ? 
Some few yards of linen. 

Some few deals of wood. 

There are eight lines of a little poem called " An Samhla," or 
The Comparison, which reminds us of the generally subjective 
state of mind whicli the Highland men were wont to cultivate so 
assiduously. In Morrison of Harris and in Macrae of Petty we 
see the extreme spiritual self-analysis which they carried on. I 
also give a rendering of a few verses of a fair poem on those given 
to riches. It has the same preaching ring that we find in the one 
on the state of the world : — 


I'm like a barrel sealed. 
Whose stores the others cannot see ; 

The gazer scans in vain ; 
Good wine or poison it may be : 

But strike thou in some spot 
Wiiere all the staves are not so sound, 

Soon thou shalt see the stufi" 
Outpouring on the ground. 


I mourn for you that follow ill. 

Ye who misspend the days of youth ; 
The cup of sin you daily fill, 

And grieve afar the God of Truth : 
He keeps you while you fast advance 

In fleshly pleasures' passing train ; 
But yours will be inheritance 

With heirs of everlasting pain. 
If thou wouldst follow Him each day, 

Be meek and mild — extinguish pride ; 


To sinf dl lusts do not give way, 

And all dark habits cast aside. 
Though great thy faith be and thy pray'r, 

They cannot ease tliy grievous load, 
Unless thine be a covenant share 

In the soul-sealing work of God. 

Behold her of Samaria : 

Deep in her soul the poison flowed ; 
But when the face of Christ she saw 

Her heart turned from the guilty road. 
A drink before that spring supernal 

She sought with lips all parched and sore ; 
He gave her of the life eternal, 

Which slaked her thirst for evermore. 

Though MacLauchlan has not left much to prove that he pos- 
sessed the gift of satire, yet it seems that some of his poems helped 
his preaching considerably in extirpating the habit of card-playing 
once so universal in the Highlands — it used to be carried on at 
baptisms, weddings, and even late wakes. Highlanders have had 
a terrible dread of being satirised by the bards. To have come 
under the satiric tongue of the poet acted like a social excommuni- 
cation ; and bards frequently availed themselves of this power to 
accomplish ends different from that to which MacLauchlan had 
set himself in the following verses : — 


Oft I gazed with saddened feeling 

On the weak that went astray ; 
Men of outward name and promise 

Whom I sought to teach the way. 

When I entered they wei'e sitting 

The enjoyment to begin, 
At the table where the Christian 

Cannot shun committing sin. 

They would rather have my absence 

For they felt a glow of shame : 
Stopping then they promised never 

To take up the godless game. 

With a pack of Satan's leaflets 

There the husband's hands between, 
They lost time and vainly wasted 

Light at wicked work, I ween. 

MacLauchlan's poems have been considered at greater length 
than the mere quality of his poetry might warrant because they 


shed light on the life and manners of the Highlanders during a 
particular time in a circumscribed district, and because hitherto 
they, in common with those of several othev religious bards, have 
received no attention whatever. On the other hand, the great 
bards of the secular life have been very abundantly written upon 
and their merits exhibited. 


The Highlands produced several religious poets of consider- 
able merit during the eighteenth century, although the areas of 
living religious activities were undoubtedly very limited. Chief 
among them was Dugald Buchanan, whose hymns have taken 
a very high place. He has been compared to Covvper, but he 
reminds us more of the celebrated Welsh bard Goronvvy Owen, 
who has much in common with Buchanan. It is curiously sug- 
gestive that the sacred bard of Anglesea and the sacred bard ot 
Rannoch, the religious representative poets of their respective 
countries, should be found composing highly spiritual poems, and 
at the same period writing elaborate ones on the awful theme of 
the " Day of Judgment," while the polished Addison and ethical 
Johnson were delivering their well-finished articles on mere moral 
platitudes to a highly conventional generation. Perhaps the 
Highlanders have received, apart from the Bible, no greater gift 
than the holy and sublime strains of the muse of Buchanan, who 
impressed his personality and character on all the Gaelic-speaking 
portion of his countrymen who in his days were in the throes of 
painful political changes, and about to enter on a new era of 
severe trial and uncertainty. Much of what the world has admired 
in the Highland character since is due to the formative and 
healthy iniiuence of Dugald Buchanan's hymns. 

Dugald Buchanan was born in 17 16 on the farm of Ardocb, 
Perthshire, where his father rented a farm and was the owner of a 
small meal mill the remains of which are still standing. His 
people were deeply religious people, of whom he speaks with 
much affection and respect in the autobiographical sketch which 
he left written in English. It is remarkable to find such people in 
Balquidder at that period — in the country of Rob Roy, who the 
year before the poet wzs born had marshalled his men on the field 
of Sheriffmuir under the banner of the Pretender. 

Young Buchanan was educated in one of the schools belonging 
to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, which was 


afterwards supplemented by attendance on some classes in Edin- 
burgh Univei'sity, while he was superintending the printing of the 
Gaelic New Testament. And this last fact reminds me that I 
have recently counted more than twenty well-known Gaelic bards 
who received University education ; so the general cry of illite- 
racy is not applicable to the majority of them who at least Avere 
trained in the rudiments of learning. 

Buchanan was afterwards appointed by the Presbytery of the 
bounds to be catechist and evangelist in the district of Rannoch, 
where he laboured with much acceptance and success. He died 
of virulent fever in June 1768, when he was fifty-two years of 
age. His death was profoundly moumed by every family in the 
district. His widow survived till 1824, and one of his daughters 
died as recently as 1854. 

It is said that Buchanan composed a good deal of poetry 
that has never been published. He published his religious poems 
or hymns in 1767. They are eight in number, the longest, 
" The Day of Judgment," is 408 lines in length. This poem is also 
his best. It is dramatically vivid and very sublime. Indeed, 
Buchanan is the only Gaelic bard that exhibits much sublimity. 
He was a man of culture, of even judgment, and of true insight 
into human nature. There are many evidences of his acquaintance 
with the literature of his own and other times. While he knew 
something of Shakespeare and other masters of English literature, 
he became especially a student of the living religious thought of the 
England of his day. The writings of such men as Philip Dodd- 
ridge and Isaac Watts helped to feed his spiritual needs and to 
colour the products of his own genius. 

The works of Buchanan have maintained their popularity to the 
present day. In 1875 the twenty-first edition of his poetry ap- 
peared, accompanied by a new sketch of his lite by the Rev. 
Allan Sinclair, late Free Church minister of Kenmore. In No- 
vember of the same year, a monument, in the form of an obelisk 
of Peterhead granite, was erected to commemorate his name and 
genius at Kinloch-Rannoch. 

The poems of Buchanan, in whole or in portions, have been 
frequently brought before the English-speaking world. Mac- 
gregor, Maclachlan of Canada, Pattison, Sinclair, Blackie, and 
Macbean have attempted translations with varying successes. As 
in the case of the finest lyrics on less sacred themes, the transla - 
tion of these hymns presents peculiar difficulties which can only 


be fairly overcome by translators whose own spirits are in holy 
unison with the language and sentiments of the author. It is 
quite evident that such a master- translator as Professor Blackie 
cannot feel at home among religious truths and experiences, with 
which his sympathies are not very warm. What Buchanan calls 
" conversion " Blackie would describe as a new point of " ethical 
departure," — a cold and philosophical conception of an all-im- 
portant event which could scarcely charm the hearts of religious 
folks of the poet's type. Only the pens of a Mason Neale and 
like-minded men can glide along sympathetically on these sacred 
heights of holy thought and life. 

The first of the hymns is called The Majesty of God, which 
begins in octosyllabic verse as follows : — 

what is God ! or what His name ! 

Angels in glory cannot know ; 
Where he is veiled in dazzling light 

No thought or eye can ever go. 

This is one of the less popular of his hymns, the theme being of 
a more abstract nature than that on which he dwells generally. 

The hymn which stands second in the order of pubHcation is 
called The Sufferings of Christ. This beautfnl production has 
greatly impressed Highland religious thought, and that before the 
Gaelic Scriptures were yet entirely translated or in the hands of 
the people. The form of verse chosen is very happy, and one 
into which the Gaehc language flows with liquid ease and beauty. 
Its spirit and manner may be imperfectly gathered from the fol- 
lowing lines r — 

It is my Saviour's sufferings 

My song will now proclaim, 
That High King's life of humhleness 

In hirth and death of shame ; 
The miracle most wonderful 

That e'er to men was told : 
God who was from eternity — 

An infant born behold ! 

The poet then rehearses in tender and mellifluous strains the 
more suggestive events of the Lord's earthly life, and ends in a 
few verses of extreme beauty, pathos, and simplicity, detailing 
the agonizing circumstances of His death and crucifixion. The 
air to which the hymn is usually sung is very pretty and plaintive, 
and is a great favourite in the Highlands. A t a time when living 


Gospel preaching was far from general, the rehearsal of this and 
other similar productions on Sunday in many humble Highland 
homes, helped to keep alive the flame of spiritual life. 

The next is the greatest of his poems or hymns — The Day of 
Judginent. The poet begins in his usual Scriptural simple style, 
but as he proceeds the treatment and the language become ele- 
vated and majestic. We seem to see the dramatis personce acting 
their gorgeous parts on the canvass of the poet's grand concep- 
tions. The verses beginning with " 'N sin fasaidh rudhadh anns an 
speur," are regarded as very sublime. But there is no translation 
of this poem that will convey anything Hke a fair impression of 
the original. The following verses may give some idea of the 
manner of the poem :— 

Then, like the morn enkindling red, 
A glowing spreads throughout tlie skies ; 
Where Jesus comes a glare is shed 
By heaven's burning tai^estries. 

The clouds all suddenly unfold 
To make for the High King a door ; 
And we the Mighty Judge behold, 
Whose glory streams forth evermore. 

The rainbow glows around his form, 

His voice resounds like mountain-floods ; 

Outflashing o'er the sullen storm, 

His lightning eye pours from the clouds. 

The sun, great lustre of the skies, 
Before His glorious Person pales ; 
At length her failing brightness dies 
Before the light His face unveils. 

Her robes of gloom slie Avill uptake, 
The blood-red moon drops down in space ; 
The miglity lieavenly powers shall shake, 
Outcasting planets from their place. 

Like tempest-shaken fruit on trees. 
So shall they tremble in the skies ; 
Like heavy rain -drops on the breeze. 
Their glory like a dead man's eyes. 

The poetical conceptions of Buchanan on this subject have woven 
themselves into the theological ideas of the Highlander, like those 
of Milton into the religious thought of England, 


The Skull \s well-rendered by Professor Blackie, whose version 
begins thus : — 

I sat all alone 
By a cold grey stone, 
And behold a skull lay on the ground ! 
I took in my hand, 
And pitiful scanned 
Its ruin, all round and round. 

Without colour or ken, 

Or notice of men, 
When a footstep may trample the ground ; 

AjaAv without tooth, 

And no toncfue in the mo uth, 
And a throat with no function of s ound. 

In thy cheek is no red, 

Smooth and cold is thy head, 
Deaf thine ear when sweet music is nigh ; 

In thy nostrils no breath, 

And the savour of death 
In dark hollow where beamed the bright eye. 

No virtue now flashes 
'Neath eyelids and lashes, 
No message of brightness is sped ; 
But worms to and fro 
Do busily go 
Where pictures of beauty were spread. 

And the brain that was there 

Into ashes or air 
Is vanished, and now hath no mind 

To finish the plan 

It so boldly began 
And left— a proud folly— behind. 

From that blank look of thine 

I gather no sign 
Of thy life-tale, its shame or its glory ; 

Proud Philip's great son 

And his slave are as one 
When a skull is the sum of their story. 

The poem called Winter begins in this manner : — 

The summer has ended, 

The winter is nigh us ; 
The foe of all living 

Comes to spoil and to try us ; 
Mars all that is lovely. 

And tramples it under — 
Full ruthless to all things, 

He rages for plunder. 


His wings he spreads o'er us, 

The sun behind pushing ; 
While fiercely to scourge us 

His brood is forth rushing ; 
The white-pinioned snow from 

The sky is forth flying, 
The hailstones like shot 

From the stormy north hieing. 

When he breathes upon it, 

Its soul leaves the flow'r ; 
His lips the proud bloom 

Of the garden devour ; 
The robes of the uplands 

And forests he tears them ; 
His ice-flags of azure — 

The choked streamlet wears them. 
His breast's frozen whistle 

Wakes loud the commotion 
Of the waves as they surge 

O'er the barm-swollen ocean ! 
The sleet he congeals 

O'er the moors in their whiteness, 
Clean scouring the stars 

Till they dazzle with brightness. 

The poet, after this introduction, goes on to moralise at great 
length, drawing his lessons from the seasons and their changes. 
His poems are eight in number, and altogether constitute but a 
very small volume. 

The titles of the other poems not referred to above are — The 
Dream, The Hero, and Ptayer. An excellent sketch of his life and 
conversion'written by the author himself in good English, has been 
translated into Gaelic, and is found frequently prefixed to the 
Hymns. This acount the author solemnly signs, and prays that 
this transaction of his signing himself as the Lord's consecrated 
servant on earth may be ratified in heaven. Buchanan tells us 
that he was an anxious hearer at one of the sermons which the 
distinguished evangeHst George Whitefield preached at Cambus- 
lang on the occasion of the latter's visit to Scotland. 

Buchanan, in conception and utterance, shows more than the other 
Gaelic bards the effects of his acquaintance with English literature. 
The religious subjects which were the theme of his poetry partially 
account for this. When in Eldinburgh Buchanan became acquain- 
ted with several distinguished men in the Scottish capital — among 
others, the celebrated David Hume, who was much impressed by 
the culture and character of the Sacred Bard of Rannoch. 



" Here one thing springs not till another die, 
Only the matter lives immortally." 

— Sylvestkr's Du Bartas. 

The authors whose works come under notice in this chapter 
may be described as belonging to the Anglo-Gaelic era of High- 
land history, when the influence of English thought, movements, 
and manners began to penetrate into the most sequestered corners 
of the north west. This influence came in through the two chan- 
nels of the religious literature of English Puritanism and Imperial 
politics. When the Highlander came under the spell of the 
former in such works as those of Bunyan, he no longer cherished 
alien feelings towards Bunyan's fellow-countrymen, many of whose 
struggles and sufferings were akin to his own ; nor did he want 
any longer to nurse a spirit of mere Gaelic separatism that might 
conflict with the national purposes of the latter. We, therefore, 
find traces of English reading and culture in all the Gaelic poetry 
that has been produced since the commencement of this era. 
Even very early last century there is evidence that English 
thought began to exercise some influence on the compositions of 
the Highland poets. As already pointed out, English literature 
contributed not a little to the development of Dugald Buchanan's 
sacred muse. The chief Gaelic poets of this period were fairly 
well educated, and knew the English language well. Several of 
them were clergymen who had gone through a course of train- 
ing in Scottish Universities. 

There are three elements of sadness that enter into the poetry 
of this period — first, the sorrowful cry of baffled Jacobitism ; 
second, the vain cry of enthusiasts over the disappearance of 
Gaelic habits and customs ; and again, the intense wail of a 
fatherland spirit over the depopulation of the Highlands. Along 
with greater devotion to the cultivation of erotic poetry these are 


the themes of the bards of this era, who feel painfully conscious 
that the ground of this transition period is fast slipping away from 
under their feet. 


This famous Sutherlandshire Bard, better known as Rob Donn, 
or Robert the Brown, was born m the parish of Durness in 17 [4, 
He is said to have composed verses between his third and sixth 
years, like some other poets, early lisping in numbers. For a 
long time before his death he filled the humble office of principal 
herd for his chief's (Lord Reay) cattle. He died in 1778, when 
he was sixty -four years of age. Although most of his pieces can- 
not be said to be religious— some much the reverse — we are told 
that he was an elder in the national Presbyterian Church. His 
death was deeply regretted over the whole country, where his 
memory is still most warmly cherished. 

His poetical works were collected and edited early in this cen- 
tury by the late Rev. Mackintosh Mackay. LI-. D., who wrote a 
memoir of the bard. Sir Walter Scott directed Lockhart to re- 
view Mackay's Poems eulogistically in The Quarterly Review, 
giving him a place among tiie real sons of the muse. The monu- 
ment to his memory has inscriptions on it in Gaelic, Greek, and 
Latin, so that Rob Donn has had fair justice done him. 

Mackay wants imagination and the overpowering feeling we 
find in two or three others of the Gaelic bards. But although he 
does not stand among the very first of the Gaelic poets, he is yet a 
powerful, refreshing, and influential singer, with a good deal of 
wit, point, and satire. He is a shrewd and sensible man, with a 
Wordsworthian tendency to exalt the commonplace into fit themes 
for poetry. 

His Elegy on Eweti is one of his best-known pieces. The 
morning he composed it he heard of the death of Pelham, then 
Prime Minister to King George the Second ; and he contrasted 
his death with the dying state of poor Ewen, in whose house he 
had stayed the previous night. Ewen could not converse with 
the bard, who, after kindling the fire in the morning for the 
dying man, composed the poem from which the following stanzas 
translated by a clansman of the bard — Mr Angus M. Mackay — 
are taken :— 

'Tis thus thou dost instruct us, Death, 

That we should turn ere yet too late I 

The longest lives are but a breath, 

Thou caliest hence both small and ^reat ! 


But these thy latest actions ought 

To ope at once our slumberous eyes — 

Thy sudden leap from Britain's court 

To tiiis low nook where Hlwen lies ! 

Long time, Ewen, yes, long time, 
Has dread disease foretold thy fate ; 
Now nigh Death's door dost thou repine, 
^Vith no one to compassionate ! 
If unimproved the time has passed, 
And many a ei-ime been done therein, 
Yet hope remains while life sliall last, 
Oyet repent thee of thy sin ! 

If we believe thy word, Death, 
These lessons we shall ne'er let slip ! 
There is no mortal drawing breath 
Too vile for tiiy companionship I 
The solemn truth when will we learn, — 
Death's vision is both high and low — 
From Ewen's sores tliou didst not turn, 
Great Pelham felt tliy mortal blow. 

Thou makest grief in court and hall 
When at thy touch earth's glories fade, 
The ragged poor man thou Host call 
For whom no mourning will be made ! 
All men, Death, thy face shall see. 
And all be forced with tliee to go ! 
Watchful and ready we should be 
'Twixt Pelham high and Kwen low ! 

And all around thy victims fall. 
Unseen thy sudden bullets fly ; 
The noises round us loudly call 
That we should be prepared to die. 
Thou that art lowest in the throng. 
Hast thou not heard that Ewen dies? 
And thou whom riclies render strong, 
That low in death great Pelham lies ? 

Friend of my heart, and shall not this 
Make all our thoughts to heaven tend ? 
Society a candle is 
That flames away at either end ! 
Where shall we find a humbler man 
In Scotland than thy father's son ? 
And in all Britain greater than 
This Pelham, save the king, was none ! 
Long time, Evveu, &c. 

This old beggar did not yet lose his power of hearing, and feeling 
insulted by the manner in which his name was introduced into the 
moralising verses he snatched up a club towards the close of the 


song, and creeping behind the bard aimed a blow at him with all 
the strength ot his withered arm. Rob barely escaped, and tried 
to soothe the enraged old man. 

Mackay shows great detestation of greed in his poems. One is 
a dialogue between the world and the greedy man. 'J'he wants of 
the bard in his humble station were few and easily supplied, so he 
could contemplate with sorrow the growing spirit of selfishness 
that began to creep in along with advancing civilisation and 
change of habit. This spirit he rebukes in the following verse 
from an address to Lord Reay : — 

Hadst thou by nature been a man of greed, 

How soon had grown the tempting glittering hoard ; 

If thou to pity's tears hadst deigned no heed, 

And hard wrung rents with liuman curses stored ! 

But no, for when tlie yearly rents were paid, 
It was more joy to thee a thousand-fold 
To see a glad face in God's image made. 
Than the king's image on the yellow gold ! 

Like many of the bards, Rob appears to have suffered from a 
sore affair of the heart. A yellow-haired Annie deceived him, 
and ran away with a fair carpenter from the south, and he sang 
Is tro?n learn an airidh. It seems the courting was carried on at 
a shieling, a favourite place of resort f©r lond swains and tender 
maidens : 

Oh, sad is the shieling. 

And gone are its joys ! 
All harsh and unfeeling 

To me now its noise. 
Since Anna — who warbled 

As sweet as tlie merle — 
Forsook me — my honey-mouthed, 

Merry-lipped girl ! 

Ach, ach, now I'm trying 

My loss to forget— 
With sorrow and sighing. 

With anger and tret. 
But still that sweet image 

Steals over my heart ; 
And still I deem fondly 

Hope need not depart. 

So fancy beguiles me. 
And fills me with glee, 


But the carpenter wiles thee, 

False speaker ! from me. 
Yet from Love's first affection 

I never get free ; 
But the dear known direction 

My thoughts ever flee. 

The above verses are Pattison's translation. It is said that the 
deceitful '' Anna "' led an unhappy hie afterwards, and never re- 
covered her old spirits after the memorable parting at the " shiel- 
ing," of which the hard sings so pathetically. 

While Rob Donn is not equal to Macdonald or Macintyre in 
the highest qualifications of the poet, he is their superior in power 
of satire. His two rival bards have confounded vituperative 
language with satire, Ijut Mackay never. He is a great favoux*ite 
with his countrymen, who are very proud of him, and have laud- 
ably done all they could to make known his poetry and perpet- 
uate his fame. 

In many respects Mackay is a typical representative of the 
northern counties, where the intense Celtic spirit and feelings of 
nationality which charact*^rise Argyllshire Celts do not prevail so 
extensively. The Teutonic element brought in by the Norse is 
stronger in the North, and may partly account for this apparent 
lack of Celtic enthusiasm and of the usual Celtic grace of style. 
In his own way, though exercising his sportive muse in a more 
confined and humbler sphere, Rob Donn might be described as a 
sort of Highland Praed or Calverley. 

The bard was in the service of two of his clan on whom he has 
composed well-known elegies. These two were Lord Reay and 
John Mackay. The elegy on the latter has been translated as 
follows by the clansman already referred to iu a good sketch 
which appeared some years ago in a London periodical : — 

Some keep the verbal law of man, 
And yet hard creditors are they ; 
They store wliat legally they can, 
What the law makx's them, that tliey pay ! 
Thougli want and misery they see, 
Not less through pity grows their sum ; 
Shut eyes and purse alike will be 
Against tlie poor and needy one ! 

This bastard honour grows apace — 
The creed of numbers beyond ken. 
Who, greatly to their own disgrace, 
Would rather owe to God than men ! 


Theirs will be loss beyond recall 
When God shall sum up all their debt — 
" Thou heededst not tlie poor man's call, 
I also will thy prayers forget ! " 

If thou another's want didst know 
Thou couldst not in thy goods rejoice ; 
Towards the poor thy heart wo»ld glow 
Although his wants ne'er found a voice. 
Ah, sooner lose a pound of gold 
Than take to thee an ounce of sin, — 
The waters shall bring manifold 
For all thy treasures cast therein ! 
I saw the gentle who was poor, 
And he was full of gloom and grief, 
He passed the once wide- opened door 
Where now no more he finds relief ! 
I saw the widow in her tears, 
I saw the beggar hungering ; 
The orphan now unclothed appears 
Unnoticed by the unpitying ! 
W^ho needs advice must want it now, 
' And see the prosperous times depart; 

All clouded is the poet's brow, 
With noue to reverence his art. 
None seek to make the poor rejoice ; 
And when I ask why joys are fled, 
They answer me with tearful voice— 
" Alas ! is not MacKachainn dead ? " 
I see the gathering of the poor — 
Now poor indeed since thou art dead, 
And closed for aye tlie open door 
Where Love consoled and Bounty fed ! 
And strangers now are praised to me 
As lib'ral^I knew only one^ 
But ah ! the wandering stars we see 
After the setting of the sun ! 


This bard, Mac-an-t-Saoir — the Irish MacTear— meaning the 
son of the joiner or carpenter, a recent intruder among the names 
of the Gaelic clans, is one of the great Highland poets to whom 
the Gaelic patriot refers with a pardonable measure of pride. 
Ossian, Macdonald, and he are the chief names on the roll of our 
bardic annals. 

This famous hunter bard, frequently called Duncan Ban, or 
fair-haired, was born on the 20th of March 1724, at Druim- 


liaghart, in Glenorcbay, Argyllshire. His parents lived in an 
out-of-the way spot, far from the parish school, so Duncan never 
learned to read or write. Yet, rising from a humble sphere of 
life, with only the education that the traditions, the popular 
poetry and scenery of his native hills could afford, he has left us 
compositions which we would not willingly allow to perish. 
Highly cultivated some of his mental powers must; have been. 
His memory was something wonderful ; and yet there have been 
at all times in the Highlands men equally trained like Macintyre 
to remember and rehearse thousands of lines of poetry, Upv^-ards 
of six thousand lines of poet-y composed by himself have been 
published. All this he carried about with him for years, along 
with the poetry ot others, an immense mass of which he knew 
and was able to repeat, until the Rev. Dr Stewart of Luss, one of 
the translators of the Bible, was at the trouble of taking them 
down to the poet's own dictation some time before 176S, when 
they were first published in one i2mo volume of 162 pages. A 
second edition appeared in 1799 and a third in 1804. These 
were all the editions before his death took place in the year 1812. 
But thousands knew them who never read them ; while many of 
his more popular pieces found their way into other Gaelic collec- 
tions. There have been several other editions since Macintyre 

The first song of Duncan Ban was composed on a sword with 
which he was armed at the Battle of Falkirk, where he served on 
the Royalist side as a substitute for Mr Fletcher of Glenorchay. 
The sword was lost or thrown away in the retreat, and his em- 
ployer refused to pay the sum for which he had engaged the bard. 
But Duncan's song became popular and incensed Fletcher so 
much that, meeting the poor poet one day, he suddenly struck him 
on the back with his walkmg-stick, and bade him '• go and make 
a song about that." IMacintyre appealed to his patron the Earl 
of Breadalbane, who compelled Fletcher to pay the bard the 
stipulated sum, 300 merks Scots (;^i6 17s 6d). 

Soon after the noble Earl — always kind to the bard — appointed 
him forester and gamekeeper in Coire Cheathaich and Ben-Dorain, 
the subjects of his two chief and finest poems. He was after- 
wards in the same capacity with the Duke of Argyll at Buachaill- 
Eite. Then he joined the Fencible Regiment raised in 1793 by 
the Earl of Breadalbane, where he served as a sergeant until 
1799, when it was disbanded. He afterwards served in the City 
Guaid of Edii'.burgh till 1806, when he was enabled to live com- 


fortably on his own savings and on the profits of the third edition 
of his poems. He died in Edinburgh in May i8i2,in the 89th 
year of his age, and was buried in the Greyfriars Churchyard, 
where a monument has been raised for him. 

Duncan Ban, in some respects, is the first of the GaeHc bards ; 
Professor Blackie seems inchned to rank him above Ossian. He 
is certainly less artificial than the Gaelic Ossian of 1807 — more in 
harmony with the life and sentiments of the Highlanders. He is 
the natural outcome as well as the true exponent of the spirit and 
manners of the period of Highland history which was then draw- 
ing to a close. His powers as a poet are of the highest order. 
But the sphere of his life being so circumscrii)ed, and the themes 
on which his muse was exercised were so temporary and local in 
their character, that Duncan Ban can never receive from the 
the world that homage to which his wonderful and lofty genius 
entitles him. He has been called the Burns of the Highlands ; 
and, perhaps, his genius is equal to that of Burns, taking into 
consideration the difference in their education. Burns, however, 
shows more intensity of conception and stormy passion ; while 
Macintyre dwells with more luscious delight on the beauties and 
glories of the external world. 

Professor Blackie is a great admirer of Duncan Ban, and 
has given us what will always remain a delightful translation 
of Macintyre's unique poem, Ben-Doniin. The translator of 
Goethe's " Faust "^ — whose new edition of his translation of the 
great German bard's work must ever be regarded as the best — 
possesses the poetical ingenuity and subtilty, as well as deftness in 
rhyme, necessary in a translator of Ben-Dorain. Coire-Cheafhaich 
is a poem equally celebrated with Ben-Dorain, translated into- 
English by Pattison, whose version lias been utilized by Mr 
Robert Buchanan, the distinguished dramatist and poet, with 
slight alterations, in one of his works. Through these translators 
the English reader is put in possession of some fair knowledge of 
the muse of the Hunter-Bard of Glenorchay. 

Here is the first verse of Coire Cheathaich, or The Braes of the 
Mist :— 

My misty Coire ! where hinJs are roving ; 

My lovely Coire ! my charmuig dell ! 
So grand, so grrssy, so riehly scented. 

And gemm'd with flowers of sweetest smelL 
Thy knolls and hillocks in dark-green clothing, 

Rise o'er tlie green award with gentle swell, 


Where waves the cannach, and grows the darnel, 
And troop the wild deer I love so well. 

Duncan's chief love-song is characteristic. It is composed for 
his " spouse newly wedded," and not for an unmarried maiden. 
This is how the bard describes the manner in which he made 
choice of "Fair Young Mary " :— 

My net I cast in the waters clear, 

And strained hard to draw it to land, 
And lo ! I had caught a bright sea-trout, 

That lay like a swan on the strand. 
Pleased was my soul with the fortune 

That came with such joy to my hand ; 
My spouse ! thou art the star of the morning ! 

Blest be thy slumbers and bland ! 

'•Aged and grey" he visited the hills for the last time, and 
composed his '' Last Farewell to the Hills," one of the most 
pathetic of his poems. Taking a retrospect of the past, he sor- 
rowfully sings : — 

And yesterday I trode yon moor- 
How many a thought it moved ! 

The friends I walked with there of yore. 
Where were those friends I loved ! 

I looked and looked, and sheep, sheep still, 
Were all that I could see : 

A change had struck the very hill — 
world I deceiving me. 

Few descriptive poets excel Macintyre in his representations of 
external things, whether animate or inanimate. Everything he 
touches he invests with the glow and the beauty of poetry. The. 
hills with their mist and deer, the streams and lochs with their 
teeming inhabitants, and all the natural inhabitants of his native 
glens and mountains, were congenial themes of his muse. " His 
Address to his wife— Mairi Bhan Og — may be read beside the 
sweetest and most expressive of the Lowland lyrics, while it cer- 
tainly breathes a refined courtesy and a purity of sentiment which 
these do not always possess, and which is not in any way insigni- 
ficant in such a man, whether taken as an index of his moral 
nature, of his intellectual endowments, or of the kindliness of 
nature in gifting him with such unaffected manliness and good 
taste." Macdonald could be sweet and tender when he chose; 


it was far from being his nature. Macintyre is generally genial 
and tender, for it is the habitual attitude of his mind and heart. 
We are told " he was like the rest of the poets, vety fond of com- 
pany and a social glass, and was not only very pleasant over his 
bottle, but very circumspect." 

I give here a specimen of his poem, Ben-Doraiu, of which 
we have a translation from the pen of Professor Blackie : — 

My delight it was to rise 
With the early morning skies, 

All aglow, 
And to brush the dewy height, 
Where the deer in airy state 

Wont to go ; 
At least a hundred brace 
Of the lofty antlered race, 
When they left their sleeping-place 

Light and gay ; 
When they stood in trim array, 
And with low deep-breasted cry, 
Flung their breath into the sky. 

From the brae : 
When the hind, the pretty fool, 
Would be rolling in the pool 

At her will, 
Or the stag in gallant pride, 
Would be strutting at the side 
Of his haughty-headed bride, 

On the hill. 
And sweeter to my ear 
Is the concert of the deer 

In their roaring ; 
Than when Erin from lier lyre 
Warmest strains of Celtic fire 

May be pouring ; 
And no organ sends a roll 
So delightsome to my soul 
As the iDravely-creste 1 race 
When they quicken their proud pace 
And bellow in the face 

Of Ben Dorain. 

Nor will tliey stint the measure 
Of their frolic and their pleasure 

And their play, 
When with airy-footed amble 
At their freakish will they ramble 

O'er the brae. 
With their prancing and their dancing, 
And their ramping and their stamping, 


And their plashing and their washing 

In the pools, 
Like lovers newly wedded, 
Light-hearted, giddy-headed 

Little fools. 
Xo thir=t have they beside 
The mill-bi-ook's flowing tide 
And the pure well's lucid pride 

Honey-sweet ; 
A spring of lively cheer, 
Sijarkling, cool, and clear. 
And filtered through the sand 

At their feet ; 
'Tis a life-restoring flood 
To repair the wasted blood. 
The cheapest and the best in all the land ; 
And vainly gold will try 
For the Queen's own lips to buy 

Such a treat. 
From the rim it trickles down 
Of the mountain's granite crown 

Clear and cool ; 
Keen and eager though it go 
Through your veins with lively flow, 
Yet it knoweth not to reign 
In the chambers of the brain 

With misrule ; 
Where dark water-cresses grow 
You will trace its quiet flow, 

With mossy border yellow, 
So mild, and soft, and mellow, 

In its pouring. 
With no slimy dregs to trouble 
Tlie brightness of its bubble 
As it threads its silver way 
From tlic granite shoulders grey 

Of Ben-Dorain. 

Then down tlie sloping side 
It will slip witli glassy slide. 

Gently welling. 
Till it gather strength to leap, 
With a light and foamy sweep, 
To the corrie broad and deep. 

Proudly swelling ; 
Then bends amid the boulders, 
'Neath the shadow of the shoulders 

Of the Ben, 
Through a country rough and shaggy, 
■■^o jaggy ai^d so knaggy, 
F'ull of hummocks and of hunches, 
Full of stumps and tufts and bunches, 


Full of bushes and of rushes, 

In the glen. 
Through rich green solitudes, 
And wildly hanging woods, 
With blossom and with bell, 
In rich redundant swell, 

And the pride 
Of the mountain-daisy there 
And the forest everywhere. 
With the dress and with the air 

Of a bride. 

The number and variety of Macintyre's compositions is very 
large, all sorts of themes being regarded as fit for the exercise of 
his poetic fancy. Like those of the Highland bards, however, 
his subjects are generally more of local and personal than of the 
larger human interests— a fact which is not at all surprising when 
his education, calling, circumstances, and surroundings are con- 

Personal satires and eulogies, as well as the ordinary events 
of Highland humble life and occupations, form the circle of 
themes with which his muse is occupied. But wherever he gets the 
opportunity of seizing upon new subjects he straightway rushes at 
them, and turns them over in the rural though rich alembic of his 
intellectual and ethical processes, with results which show shrewd- 
ness, sagacity, and poetic powers of observation of a high order. 
In the corrie, on the hillside, or after the chase, Duncan Ban is at 
home, and his poetry then rises to the highest pitch of the true 
pastoral. Elsewhere his muse necessarily travels on lower planes. 
But, like all his countrymen, inspired by visions of the great bens 
and far-reaching valleys, he is ever eager to extend his sphere 
of observation as well as his horizon of knowledge. 

In his suggestive poem in Praise of Duiiedin, or of Edinburgh, 
where the patriarchal poet died at the good age of eighty-nnie, 
there is a current of pleasant and pawky observation which re- 
minds us of the great changes that have come over the Scottish 
capital as over Ben-Donibi of the poet's " Farewell." The fol- 
lowing verses of a very literal rendering describes the author's 
impressions of what usually attracted his gaze in " Bonnie 
Dunedin " : — 

There's many a noble lady 

A poor man here may meet 
In gown of silk or satin 

That sweeps along the street ; 


And every pretty thing wears stays, 

To keep her straight and spare ; 
And beauty-spots on her fair face 

To make her still more rare. 

Each one, as well becomes her, 

Polite among the rest ; 
And proud, and rich, and ribbony, 

And round and gaily dressed : 
The clothes on the young maidens 

Just showing to your eye 
A strong and pointed well-made shoe — 

I thought the heels too high. 

When I went into the Abbey, 

It was a noble sight 
To see the kings in order. 

From King Fergus, as was right ; 
But now since they are gone from us, 

Our Alba wants the Crown — 
No wonder that her once gay court 

Is like a desert grown. 

There is a lantern made of glass. 

With a candle in each place, 
That yields a light to every eye 

Around a little .space. 
Nor less a cause of pleasure 

Are the instruments they play, 
That give a sweeter music 

Than the cuckoo does in May. 

It is difficult to say how far the recovery of the regalia, her 
Majesty's frequent residence in the Highlands, ths crowds of 
tourists northward every year, and, above all, the Home Rule 
movement, might affect the sentiment of the line — 

"Our .'Vlba wants the Crown " 

but undoubtedly in these days of gas illuminations and electric- 
light glories, the " lantern made of glass with a candle " would be 
no "cause of pleasure" to the most unsophisticated son of the 

Macintyre comi^osed an Elegy for himself, from which the fol- 
lowing expressions of a feeble faith are taken : — 

Loudly shall the trumpet peal 

With echoes in all quarters heard ; 
From the fields shall wake the dead 

Left by others there interred ; 
All that perished in distress 

In the storm or in tlie Hood ; 


To Mount Zion go the host 

To triumph through the Saviour's blood. 

To the world I say farewell, 

To all there on pilgrimage ; 
Light and gay I lived my season 

Until I am weak through age : 
Changed now my powers be 

While death stares me in the face, 
As I pray for welfare yonder 

Saved through my Saviour's grace. 

Contemporary with and immmediately after the great singers 
Macdonald, Mackay, and Maciutyre were many other banls 
whose inspiration is dearly traceable to their era. Some of them 
composed very largely, although in many cases not more than 
one or two of their compositions are remembered. Many of the 
composers were well educated, and had they written in a language 
better understood in the world in general, their names would have 
been better known. The present Highlanders, while frequently 
singing their songs, do not know so much as the names of the 
the authors. The same may be said also of Lowlatiders with re- 
gard to many of their own songs. 

RoN.vLD Macdonald. — The merits of this bard were over- 
shadowed by the great fame of his father, Mac Mhaighstir Alas- 
dair. He was a man of considerable attainments and of un- 
doubted poetic gifts, and published a selection of his own and 
his father's poems in 1775. He was to publish more, but did not 
meet with suitable encouragement. 

Lachlan Macphersox. — This writer, probably better known 
as " Strathmasie,"' his territorial designation, and described as 
a gentleman and a scholar, was born about the year 1723, and 
died in 1767. He gave able assistance to James Macpherson of 
Ossianic fame in his translations. The relation of Strathmasie to 
the work has been a subject of very acrid discussion. His own 
acknowledged poems are in good idiomatic Gaelic, and in style 
and metre are quite different from the Gaelic poems of James 
Macpherson's Ossian, but quite like the poetry of the other 
Gaelic bards. In all his published poems there is not a stanza or 
even a line a la Ossian. In poetic power and originality he is 
much behind Duncan Ban and Mac Mhai^^hstlr Alasdair^ but he 
has shown that he is quite able to write tolerable poetry. The 
titles of his poems are--^/t F.lcgy on Cluuy ; The Felloxi'ship of 


Usquebay ; A Marr'uii^e ,• The Dun B reeks ; A Hunting Song ; The 
Advice; An Amor oil s I'iece; Satire on Mice. 

John Rov Stuart. — Colonel Stuart was a native of Kincar- 
dine in Badenoch. He first served in the French army against 
the British Government. He was afterwards with Prince Charles 
on the fatal moor of Culloden. After lurking for some time in 
this country he managed to escape to Fiance, where he died. 
His signal bravery at Culloden was observed by the Duke of 
Cumberland, who asked who he was : '' Ah, that is John Roy 
Stuart." " Good God ! " exclaimed the Duke, " the man I left 
in Flanders doing the butcheries of ten heroes ! Is it j;ossible 
that he could have dogged me here ! " Stuart's Poems— the 
principal of them is on Culloden Day — are impetuous, racy, and 
■vigorous. An English bit of humorous verses, called Roy Stuarfs 
Psahn, extemporised where he was hiding on one occasion, runs 
thus : — 

The Lord's my targe, I will be stout, 

With dirk and trusty blade, 
Though Campbells come in flocks about, 

I will not be afraid. 
The Lord's the same as lieretofore. 

He's always good to me, 
Though red-coats come a thousand more 
Afraid I will not be. 

Kenneth Mackenzie. — This bard was born in 1758 at Caisteal 
Leahuir, near Inverness. When quite a young man he went to 
sea, but returned in 1789, when he began to collect subscribers' 
names for his proposed volume of poetry. Some time after the 
publication of his poems he was procured the rank of an officer in 
the 78th Highlanders, through the joint influence of Lords Sea- 
forth and Buchan. After leaving the array he got the situation of 
postmaster in an Irish provincial town. He was living in 1837. 
His poems are of an high order, polished, smooth, and well- 
finished. One of his songs bas become a universal favourite — 
Am Feile Pieasach. 

Allan Macdougall. — This highly popular bard, better known 
as Ailein Dall, or Blind Allan, was born in Glencoe in 1750. 
His parents were poor, so Allan, incapacitated by his infirmity of 
blindness for the usual spheres of industry, turned his attention to 
music as a means of livelihood. He soon became well known as 
a fiddler in the district, and by engagements at country wed- 


dings and raffles earned a little to suppoit himself. The poems 
also he composed helped to make him popular; and with the as 
sistance of Mr E, MacLachlan, latterly of Aberdeen, who was 
then a tutor in the neighbourhood, a volume was prepared and 
pul)]ished. Soon after this Colonel Ronaldson Macdonald of 
Glengarry took the poet under his patronage. In 1828 he tra- 
velled the counties of Argyll, Ross, and Inverness for subscribers 
for a new edition of his poems, but after procuring 1000 names, 
and going to press in 1S29, the poor poet died. He was buried 
in the churchyard of Kilfinan. He has been regarded as the last 
of the family bards. He was a man of true poetic gifts ; many of 
of his songs are still highly popular, such as — 

" Nam faighainn gille r'a cheannach." 

James Shaw. — Poor James Shaw, otherwise called Bard Loc/i- 
jian-E«/a, was born about 1738. He subsequently lived at Ard- 
chattan, where he received some kindness from Cieneral Campbell 
and his lady. He died in 1828 suddenly on board a steamboat 
when returning from Glasgow, where he was trying to get his 
poems printed. He has been described as idle and dissipated. 
Bidh Fonii Oine Daonnan, one of his songs, is slill very popular. 

Donald Macdonald. — Like the Bard of Lochnell this com- 
poser too fell a victim to his own infirmities of character. Mac- 
donald, also called Am Bard Conanach, was born in 1780 in 
Strathconon, Ross-shiie. He was a sawyer by tiade, which he 
pursued after he removed to Inverness, where he did not fail to 
give ccope to his convivial disposition. His moral conceptions of 
things do not seem to have been ol a very high order, judging by 
his well-known song FJuiair me Sgeuln moch an dl. 

Alexander Mackinnon. — This composer, whose father was a 
farmer in Morar, Arisaig, was born in 1770. Early in life he en- 
listed in the 92nd Regiment, and was present at the Battle of 
Alexandria in 1801, where he was wounded. He was discharged, 
and enjoyed his pension for some time ; but disliking the quiet- 
ness of civilian life, he again joined the army, where he remained 
till he died at Fort -William in 1814. His principal poems are on 
La7idi?ig in Egypt, The Battle of Egypt, and The Battle of Hol- 
land. These are characterised by much poetic fire and warlike 

Angus Fletcher. ^This gentle and cultured bard, the author 


of the highly popular production Clachan ghlinn Daruadhail, was 
born on the west bank of Loch Eck, in Cowal, 1776. He was 
educated at the parish school of Kilmodan Afterwards he lived 
for some time in Bute, till he become, in 1804, parochial school- 
master of Dunoon. He is also the author of some other songs 
that have become popular, especially The Lassie of the Gleti, 
which, in an English dress from Fletcher's own pen, is well known. 
This song was first published in the " Edinburgh Weekly 

Allan Macintyre. — Very few Highlanders have ever heard of 
this author. Macintyre, known as Ailein nan Sionach. or fox- 
hunting Allan, was a native of Kintyre. He published early in 
the century a small volume of his own, and other poems, but {i^"^ 
of his productions are now sung, and his book is rather scarce. 

Donald MacLeod. — This author published while he was 
still young a volume of original and other i)oems in iSii. Young 
of Inverness was the publisher, and probably he and others influ- 
enced the young author in his selection of such pieces of ques- 
tionable taste and authorship as those of the Ceisteir Cruhach and 
Mordjibh. ]\LacLeod's productions are rated very highly by his 
countrymen who delight in designating him. Am Bard Sgiafhanach, 
or The Skye Bard. While Macleod is undoubtedly a man of good 
poetic parts, he ranks much below his far more distinguished and 
gifted son, Neil Macleod, whose songs have deservedly taken a 
high place in popular esteem. 

Other bards of various gifts, and authors of published volumes 
of poetry during this period, are — 

Duncan Campbell, who describes himself as a native of Kilmun, 
Cowal, published a " Gaelic Song Book" at Cork, 1798. 

John Macgregoi\ published a volume of 227 pages in iSoi, at 
Edinburgh, There is none of decided merit. 

Aruj^is Kennedy, a native of Ardgour, Argyllshire, published a 
volume at Glasgow in 1808. One or two of his songs have be- 
come very popular. 

William Gordon, a native of Creich, Sutherlandshire, published 
a volume of 156 pages in 1S02. He was a soldier, and in his 
latter days composed religious hymns. 

Margaret Jlfacgregors poems appear in Mackintosh's Collection 
in iSjL 


There were many other composers of one or a few songs or 
poems which may be found in various collections of whom we 
know little or nothing more than their mere names. To this class 
belong Donald Macintyre of North Argyll, George Morison of 
the far North, William MacMurchie of Kintyre, Alexander Mac- 
innes of Glencoe, Maclachlan of Kilbride, and some female 
composers who are only known as the wives or daughters of men 
described as of certain localities. There does not appear to have 
been a parish or clachan in the Highlands and Isles that has not 
brought forth its own singer. 


This sensitive and delightful poet was born at Broadford, Isle of 
Skye, in 1762. He received good education at the parish school 
of Forres, where he highly distinguished himself. He made a par- 
ticular study of his native language, and was also well ac- 
quainted with Latin and Greek. He sang sweetly, and played 
on the violin, flute, and other instruments with considerable skill. 
He became parish schoolmaster of Gairloch, Ross-shire, where he 
was a very successful teacher. He did not fill this situation, how- 
ever, very long. He died of consumption in 1790, in the twenty- 
eighth year of his age. His early death is said to have been hastened 
by a love disappointment. In Cuachag ?ian Eraob/i, one of his 
best known songs, he indulges in melancholy and painful reflec- 
tions. It is addressed to a cuckoo that settled on the branch of 
a tree beside him. He remembers his false love and sings :— 

Nought to me but a sting all her bright beauties bring — 

I droop with decay, and I languish ; 
There's a pain at my heart like a pitiless dart. 

And I waste all away with anguish. 
She has stolen the hue on my young cheeks that grew. 

And much she has caused my sorrow ; 
Unless now she renew with her kindness that hue 

Death will soon bid me " Good morrow.." 

Death did soon bid poor Ross " good morrow : " and in this song, 
like Michael Bruce, he sang his own elegy. How pathetically 
the poet cries in the prospect of death ! — 

If she were thus low, with what haste should I go 

To ask how the maiden was faring ; 
Now short the delay till a mournful array 

The brink of my grave will be bearing '■ 


Ross is a poet of a high order, and one of the sweetest min- 
strels the Highlands have produced. Many of his songs are 
highly popular. The exquisite sweetness and finish of Ross ap- 
pear in his praise of the •' Highland Maid," the first two stanzas 
of which are rendered as follows by Mr Angus Macphail, whose 
early death has been a loss to Gaelic literature :— - 

My pretty Highland maiden, 

With tresses golden bright, 
And blue eyes softly shading. 

And soft hands snowy white ; 
O'er Scotland'.'? hills and plains 

WitJi thee I fain would go, 
Wrapped in our native tartan plaids 

That in the breezes flow. 
C4ive me my Highland dress, 

'Tis grand beyond compare j 
Give me m> Highland maid, 

Sweett smiling, young, and fair ; 
Then banish sleep and care. 

From eve to rosy morn. 
In happy love beneath our plaid, 

The proudest dress that's worn. 

Ross is one of the best known and best loved of all the Gaelic 
bards. His career, so similar to that of Keats, ends so prema- 
turely and pathetically that his memory has become engraven on 
the hearts of all who hear his story and love to sing his songs. 


Ewen MacLachlan, a poet of real culture, sweetness, and light, 
was born in ^775, in Torracaltin, Coiruanan, where his ancestors, 
who originally came from Morven, were for several generations. 
His great grandfather was a bard of note. He was educated first 
in the parish school of Fort-William, and afterwards in King's 
College, Aberdeen. While carrying on his studies he was tutor 
successively in the family of Cameron of Camishy, in that of 
Cameron of Clunes, and in that of Macmillan of Glonpean. 
He distinguished himself hi-hly at school and at the Univer- 
sity, especially in classics. He intended to enter the Church, 
but on the eve of taking license some friends dissuaded him from 
taking the step, recommending him to wait, and aim at a pro- 
fessorial chair. Among these was the gentle author of " The 
Minstrel,'' Professor Beattie, who thought much of MacLachlan, 


and became his fast friend. In 179S MacLachlan published some 
of his own productions in Allan Dall's volume, which he himself 
committed to writing for the ijlind Bard. These were the 
" Songs of the Seasons," etc., and several books of Homer's 
Iliad translated into Gaelic heroic verse. In 1818 he published 
his " Metrical Effusions," where Greek, Latin, English, and Gaelic 
poems appear. He was engaged by the Highland Society of Scot- 
land to compile a Gaelic dictionary. For this work he was emi- 
nently qualified, being intimately acquainted with old Gaelic, as 
well as with Eastern and classical languages. He died before the 
work was finished, in 1822, in the 47th year of his age. When 
he died he was head master of the Grammar School of Old Aber- 
deen, a post for which his classical attainments peculiarly fitted 
him. A love-song by MacLachlan — Gur gile mo Leaiuian — is 
still among the most popular in the language. He himself has 
furnished us with an English equivalent, which will give a fair 
idea of the more tender qualities of his genius. These simple 
and pretty verses, usually sung to a plaintive air, come to us laden 
with the purity and freshness of the mountain breeze : — 

Not the swan on the lake, or the foam on the shore. 
Can compare with the charms of the maid I adore ; 
Not so white is the new milk that flows o'er the pail. 
Or the snow that is show'r'd from the boughs of the vale. 

As the cloud's yellow wreath on tlie mountain's high brow, 
The locks of my fair one redundantly flow ; 
Her cheeks have the tint that the roses display. 
When they glitter with dew on the morning of May. 

As the planet of Venus that gleams o'er the grove, 

Her blue rolling eyes are the symbols of love ; 

Her pearl-circled bosom diffuses bright rays, 

Like the moon, when the stars are bedimm'd with her blaze. 

The mavis and lark, when they welcome the dawn, 
Make a chorus of joy to resound through the lawn ; 
But the mavis is tuneless — the lark strives in vain, 
When my beautiful charmer renews her sweet strain. 

When summer bespangles the landscape witli flow'rs, 
While the thrush and the cuckoo sing soft from the bowr's, 
Through the wood-shaded windings with Bella I'll rove. 
And feast unrestrain'd on the smiles of my love. 

jNIacLachlan counted a number of distinguished men among 
his friends — among others, Alexander, Duke of Gordon ; the late 
Glengarry, Sir John Sinclair, Dr Gregory, and Lord Bannatyne 
Macleod. His funeral was attended by the Professors of the 


University and Magistrates of the city to show their respect. His 
remains weie removed to his native Lochaber for burial. On the 
way to the burial place at Killievaodain in Ardgour the hearse 
was met and accompanied to the last resting-place by Glengarry 
and a number of his clansmen dressed in their native garb. Few 
of MacT achlan's talents and culture in modern times have de- 
voted their energies to the cultivation of Gaelic literature. There 
is a reason : the practical spirit of the nineteenth century has, 
perhaps desirably, cooled even the enthusiasm of bardic natures. 


Among the bards of some note who flourished in the first 
quarter of this century is John MacLean, usually styled the Laird 
of Coil's Bard. He is one of the last of the order of family bards, 
or seanachies. I'ut the office m his case does not appear to have 
been of much advantage to himself— it was more honourable and 
and ornamental than remunerative. MacLean was born in the 
Island of Tiree in 1787. As an instance of the tenacity with 
which Highlanders cleave to the traditional pedigrees of their 
families, it may be mentioned that he traced himself back through 
the MacLeans of Treisinnis, of Ardgour. and of Duart to the great 
Hector Roy of the Battles, who was killed at Harlaw in 141 1. 
But this is a small claim as compared with that advanced by a 
Dublin schoolmaster, John O'Hart, who, in a pamphlet dedicated 
to her Majesty Queen Victoria, whom he regards somewhat as a 
fellow-sovereign, pretends to trace his pedigree to the mighty 
monarchs of Eire who once reigned in " Tara's Hall!" Mac- 
Lean published a collection of poetry, most of the pieces being his 
own composition, in 1818 ; another volume ot his own poems ap- 
peared at Antigonish in 1836. His works complete have since 
been issued in excellent style under the title of " Clarsach na 
Coille" (Harp of the Wood), edited with intelligence and care by 
the Rev. A. M. Sinclair of Nova Scotia, whose Gaelic scholarship 
and enthusiasm are well known on this side of the Atlantic. It 
is said that " in the poet's younger days the people of Tiree led 
merry lives ; they did not trouble themselves with hard work ; 
they had, however, plenty to eat and drink. The island was full 
of distilleries, and whisky-drinking was carried on to a very great 
extent. There were capital dancers in the place, and certainly 
these men did not allow their legs to become stiff through want of 
exercise upon the floor." This picture of island-life suggests the 


material which was frequently the source of inspiration to bardic 
lucubrations. After learning the trade of shoeinaking, Mac Lean 
started for Glasgow, where he married. In 1810 he was diat'ted 
into the militia, but was discharged next year. In 18 ig he emi- 
grated to Nova Scotia, where he lived till the year 1848, much re- 
spected and appreciated by all his countrymen who knew him. It 
appears that ^Maclean has composed religious poetry, though little 
known — some of his hymns being printed in Glasgow in 1835. 
Here is an account of this side of his nature : •' It was not till he 
had been several years in Barney's River that he turned his atten- 
tion to this species of composition. His hard lot in this world no 
doubt tended to direct his attention to a better world. He had 
always led a good moral life— a more truthful or a more honest 
could not be found. He had always observed the worship of 
God regularly in his family." MacLean is a bard of considerable 
powers, but cannot be compared with the bards whose names 
are known wherever the GaeHc language is spoken. One song of 
his has been highly popular, mainly because of the sweet air that 
is attached to it. The following verses will show the manner of 
the song, Oc/i a rliiii gur in air viaiie : — 

Each day I sigh here a lonely stranger, 

I cannot sing with my heart love-laden ; 
I was right foolish to give my promise 

To her of Cauna, the youtliful maiden. 

It was with gladness I left the island, 

Home of my childhood and my devotion, 
To seek the gold here tliat may be found not 

In those bare islands amid the ocean. 

How proud and happy I was with Allan 

Beginning work in the gray of morning ; 
'Twere better far to be there than labour 

A lonely stranger 'neath Lowland scorning. 

I would not stay in my native island. 

To my ambition the land was narrow ; 
When Lowland lasses inquire in English, 

I say in Gaelic, "I came from Barra." 

This song is so painfully simple and commonplace, notwithstand- 
ing its popularity, that it can scarcely bear translation a^ all, un- 
less the translator is permitted to introduce some of the .stock 
sentiment and phraseology of the muse. One ot MacLean's bi*st 
pieces is on the Laird of CoiTs Boat. Another of more than 
average merit was written shortly after his arrival in Nova Scotia 


It shows the bard ill at ease in his new surroundings in the Coille 
Ghruamach, or Gloomy Wood. It opens thus : — 

I stray alone in these woods of shadows, 
My thoughts are restless, I feel in pain ; 
This place conflicts with the laws of nature, 
My strength forsakes me in heart and brain. 
I cannot sing the old songs of Albin, 
My bosom saddens to hear their strain ; 
My Gaelic dies since I speak no longer 
That tongue still cherished beyond the main. 

Alas I small wonder although I sorrow 
Behind the hills in this gloomy wood. 
In this lone desert by Bai-ney's River, 
With hare potatoes alone for food. 
Ere cultivation is seen rejoicing 
O'er all the land and the trees are cleared, 
My strength will fail in an arm exhausted 
While yet the children are left unreared. 

MacLean is one of the last of the old order of bards. His 
poetry shows little or no trace of English reading ; and the theme 
of the majority of his poems is the praise of the Laird of Coll or 
some kindred chieftain. Ytry appropriately might the happy 
couplet of Sir Walter Scott desciibing the oUl and infirm minstrels 
of other days be applied to MacLean — 

" A simple race ! they waste their toil, 
For the vain tribute of a smile." 

It ought to be mentioned, however, that the Laird of Coll showed 
on more than one occasion that he did not forget his enthusiastic 




" Ho gur toigh leam J he gur toigh learn i 
Ho gur toigh leam fein a' GhtYilig i 
'S toigh leam i 'sgach kit am bi mi ; 
Bheir i ann am chuimhn' a' Ghaidlh'ltachd." 

—Chorus of Popular Song. 

English : 

Ho, I love the siueet old Gaelic ! 

It reminds me of the Highlands, 
Hay, 1 love that tongue of heroes, 
Evtryivhere in far or nigh lands. 

Considerable activity was shown in the beginning of this cen- 
tury in collecting the floating mass of poetry then extant in the 
Highlands. Celtic patriots who dreaded the immediate decease 
of the ancient language of Albin set themselves in praiseworthy 
fashion to the task of rescuing this popular literature from the 
devouring jaws of time and change. A brief survey of the various 
publications which were the practical outcome of this happy de- 
termination will exhibit no unworthy results. These results, in 
many cases achieved at great self-sacrifice, are more deserving of 
notice when it is remembered how expensive it was then to pub- 
lish bulky volumes, especially in the Gaelic language, and how 
limited was the constituency to whose support the persistent 
patriots appealed. Their devotion to their venerable mother- 
tongue, supposed to be on her death-bed, deserves our gratitude ; 
and if their ghosts occasionally revisit in the glimpses of the 
moon, the scenes of their self-denying labours, they must be grati- 
fied to hear still the echoes of their much-loved tongue resounding 
as of yore throngh the glens and by the seashore as well as in 
crowded halls in our large centres of population. Peace be to 
their manes ! and long may the torch of Gaelic enthusiasm, which 
they kept lighted, and handed down to us, be preserved a burning 
power in the bosoms of our Highland countrymen. 

It is not proposed to do here much more than the mere enum- 


eration of some of these collections of poetry. This itself will 
be sufficient, along with the array of Gaelic bards that have already 
passed in review before us, to show further how unfounded is the 
general dictum that there is no Gaelic literature — no books in the 
language of the Highlander. 

Some popular songs of this period are — " Mairi Dhonn " and 
" Mairi Ghreannar," by Kenneth Mackenzie of Lochbroom ; 
" 'Scanail m'Aigne," and " Soraidh Slan do'n Ailleagan," by the 
the brothers William and Alexander r\Iackenzie, of Lochcarron ; 
''An Lar Dhonn," by Murdoch Mackenzie, of Achilty, Ross- 
s'.iire ; "Thngmi'n Oidhche r,»oir san Airidh," by John Macgilh- 
vray ; '• Gaor nam Ban Muileach," by Margaiet Maclean of Mull ; 
" O'n tha mi fo Mhuladh air m'Aineol," by the Rev. Charles 
Stewart, D.l)., of Strachur ; " Nighean Donn na Buaile,'' by the 
Rev. Duncan Macfarlane, latterly of Perth ; " Gu ma slan a chi 
Mi," by Hector Mackenzie, an Uilapool sailor; "A Nighean 
Bhui Bhan," by Donald Macinnes ; " Mo run geal Og," by Chris- 
tina Ferguson, of Contin ; " Thainig an Gille Dubh," by Lady 
Malcolm Raasay : "A Mhairi Bhoidheach," by a North Uist 
scholmaster ; " Moladh Caber- Feidh," by Norman Macleod of 
Assynt, whose two sons. Professor Macleod of Glasgow and the 
Rev. Angus Macleod of Rogart, were well known last century. 

Anonymous pieces are many: "An Gille Dubh ciar Dubh,'' 
"Mo Nighean Chruinn Donn;" "Fear a' Bhata ; " " Cuir a 
Chinn Dileas ; " ''An Nochd gur faoin mo Chadal domh;" 
" Och mar tha Mi ;" " Horo Eileinich, Ho-gu " (the three last 
being evidently composed by Islaymen) ; "Tha Tigh'n Fodham " 
(MacDhughail, 'ic Lachuin \\ a verse of which Boswell boasted of 
being able to sing when he was with Johnson on his tour in the 
Hebrides. The popular collections of songs will supply many 

i^ince 1812 the following collections of miscellaneous pieces of 
poetry have appeared :— P. Macfarlane's (1813); in this volume 
was first published a part of MacLachlan's translation of Homer 
(the 3rd Book). P. Turners (1813), mostly culled f'-om the works 
of the well-known heroic bards. H. and J. MacCallum's (1816), 
principally Gssianic or heroic ballads. J. MacLean's (1818), 
containing much original matter. Inverness collection (18 21, 
fViiser) ; James Munro's ^?7/eof/aw (1830), Avhich has maintained 
Its popularity all along. Other small thmgs appeared early in the 
century — £oin Bheag nan Creagaibh Aosda (1819); CeiUeirean 
Mnn nan Creagun Aosda (1819), and a choice collection of Scotch 


Songs with Gaelic translations (Inverness, 1829). " The Harp of 
Caledonia," " An t-Aosdana," " The Mountain Songster," " An 
Duanaire," have been published more recently, and are still 
in circulation. The most valuable of all the collections is '• The 
Beauties of Gaelic Poetry " — a magnificent vo'ume, on which 
much labour was spent, by John Mackenzie. The productions of 
many of the Gaelic bards are given in this work, along with bio- 
graphical notices, and much critical and explanatory matter. 
Mackenzie, who was a native of Wester Ross, was a man of 
great talent and industry ; but his aesthetic and moral tastes not 
being of a high order, he allowed many pieces of an immoral ten- 
tendency to appear, which somewhat marred the work. It is the 
mas^mivi opus of Gaelic literature. The " Oranaiche," by Archi- 
bald Sinclair (1879) is another large and excellent work, which 
does great credit to the compiler and publisher. With the ex- 
ception of the " Beauties,'' which is of a different sort, there is no 
collection in Gaelic like Sinclair's, whether we regard the variety, 
the extent, and the quality of the contents. 

While the " Beauties'' contain the best productions of the princi- 
pal bards during the last three hundred years, the " Oranaiche,'' 
give.s us the better known sons^s of the present century, many of 
the lyrics being the compositions of living writers, from whom 
Mr Sinclair, otten at very considerable trouble io himself, 
obtained the manuscripts, and took down the words at the 
author's or others' dictation. Tiie-e are two hundied and ninety 
songs in this handsome volume, many of them very long- -a gene- 
ral charac*;eristic of Gaelic songs— and not a itw, it must be 
admitted, more of the nature of poems than of lyrics. The songs 
in this collection are of all sorts — humorous, patriotic, satiric, and 
sentimental. The latter class predominates ; indeed, it constitutes 
three-fifths of the whole. In considering the range of poetic 
culture discernible in this volume, it is remarkable to note the 
almost total absence of martial songs. The bards of this century 
would aiipear to have been baptised in the perennial stream of the 
tender passion of which they sing with such evidently luscious 
delight. This is the one great theme which they take up with 
the devotion of their whole being. Another subject which here 
and there gives a tinge of sadness to the book is the depopulation 
of the Highlands, which is so fitted, like the troubles of a jilted 
and suffering lover, to elicit, in all its intensity, the melancholic 
element in the Celtic nature. Mac-na.brac>a (Son of Malt) also 
comes in for requent and hearty praise, drinking Deoch-slainte 


being capable at all times of invoking in many Highland bosoms 
the purest and most generous feelings and sympathies. It ought 
to be observed, however, as Sheriff Nicolson suggests in his excel- 
lent volume of Gaelic proverbs, that although nsqueba is so much 
identified with the failings of the modern Highlander, this exhila- 
rating beverage was almost unknown to the Gael until last century, 
the drink known till then being mostly " fion dearg na Fraint-;,'' 
the red vnne of France. It has been remarked above, that this 
volume does not present us with many martial lyrics. This fact 
reminds us of the great change that has come over the Highlands. 
The obvious explanation is that the warlike ardour which was 
wont to flow forth in battle incitements has been toned down by 
the altered circumstances of the people since the day of Culloden, 
and runs now into the natural stream of the tender passion. On 
the other hand, if we go back to the days of Finian chivalry we 
find a martial element in all the productions of the bards ; and 
this continued largely to prevail as long as the Gael habitually 
carried about with him his claymore, ready to fight for his person 
or follow his chief to the field. 

One of the best, and the only genuine martial song in the 
" Oranaiche," is the first in the volume, Bucddh his na Seoid, 
by Alexander Macgregor, schoolmaster at Dull. It contains six. 
teen stanzas of four lines of twelve syllables in length, and having 
a chorus takes a long time to sing it ; but the martial enthusiasm 
it breathes, along with many suggestive historical references, are 
such that audiences sit frequently spellbound till the whole piece 
is rehearsed. Of the humorous pieces in the volume mention may 
be made of The Dun Horse, The Minister and the Bailie, and 
The Advent of an Escaped^ Irish Balloon on the shore of one of the 
Hebrides. The author of the last-mentioned represents the whole 
island as in commotion when the monster ap])roached the shore 
— ^old men and old women taking for granted that this could be 
no less a personage than the devil himself, who came at last to 
claim his own. 

There are upwards of fifty names of composers in the " Oran 
aiche,'' many of whom are still living, and who are not known 
on the pages of another book. 'With this fact before us surely 
it cannot be affirmed that the race of bards is gone. I was 
once present at a meeting of a Highland Association in Glasgow, 
where I was informed there were no less than six bards, authors of 
published, well-known songs. It is difficult to conceive how so 
many of the irritable genius could work in harmony or dwell together 


in unity and in poetic brotherhood. Among Uie fifty above-men- 
tioned occur the following less known Celtic names :— Lady 
D'Olyly D. Orr, MacMurchie, MacPhail, Macroy, MacLugas, 
MacAfter, Wilkinson, etc. etc. Let us now glance at some of 
the best-known songs. 

Gu ma Sinn a chi Mi, the composition of an Ullapool sailor, 
the air of which is very pretty, is a highly popular song. I have 
tried to render some verses of it thus : — 

Full happy may I see thee, 

My faithful auburn maid I 
Sweet girl with flowing tresses 

In pretty smiles arrayed. ^ 

My soul was oftuplifted 

By words thy lips have said ; 
And oft by strains of gladness 

My fluttering heart allayed. 

This night to me how dreary 

Upon the ocean tide 1 
My slumber is full cheerless — 

To thee my fancies glide. 
Without thee here 1 sorrow, 

My thoughts are at thy side ; 
I pine away in anguish 

Till thou become my bride. 

Wai-m eyes are thine like berries, 

With lashes sweetly lined ; 
Fresh cheeks are thine like rowans, 

In loveliness enshrined. 
My heart is filled with fondness 

For one so true and kind ; 
And ever since I left thee. 

The days like years I find. 

'Twas said I shunn'd thee, dearest, 

Ere hither I was borne ; 
My kiss that I denied thee 

While leaving thee forlorn. 
Let no such tale, dear, grieve thee. 

Reject their speech with scorn ; 
Thy breath to me smells sweeter 

Than dewy grass in morn. 

Some of the most popular songs are anonymous, Ho-ro Eilein- 
ich belongs to this class, and is a great favourite at large Highland 
gatherings on account of the swinging character of the air and 
metre. Here are a few verses :- 


O, green island of the sea ! 
Native home, I love but thee : 
Fairest fielrls of earth that be, — 
The bonnie braes of Landai. 

There afar I see Ardmore, 
Home of game that I adore ; 
There mj' heart is evermore 
Among the hills of Landai. 

Thy dark brow though rocky be, 
Early shines the sun on thee ; 
Heigiits of deer ! I long to see 
Beyond the shore of Landai. 

Oft there fell beneath my hand, 
Spotted seal upon the sand ; 
Snowy swans upon the strand, 
And heathcocks in fair Landai. 

! I love thee, Islay green, 
Of my youthful days the scene ; 
Where the best of men have been 
Who loved the songs of Landai. 

One of the finest songs in the language is Mtiile nam Mot- 
B/iairji, or Mull of the High Hills. On account of its peculiarity 
of metre, it does nnt lend itself readily to easy translation. Some 
of its verses run thus : — 

In Mull of the woods tliere lives the maiden 
For whom my poor heart is now love-laden : 
Though dead be that love like joys of Eden 
I woo no lasses in Cowal. 


All cheerless and lonely here I sorrow ; 

Ko fond ray of hope is seen each morrow, 

jSIy heart has refused fresh love to borrow ; 

It turns to the wood -crowned island. 
Like beautiful sheen of rosy morning 
The glow of thy cheek is sweetly burning ; 
The troth of my love if thou art spurning 
Soon linen and sods will shroud me. 
For thine is thecharm that wins devot'on 
The graces of form that wake emotion. 
As bright as the sea-gull on tlie ocean. 
Or cannach on brows of Morven. 
Were mine tliy fond kiss I'd cease repining. 
Thy love would restore my health declining, 
! let me behold the beauties shining 
Around the maiden of Morven. 


A glance into the Oranaiche and other collections of Gaelic 
songs will reveal to the casual student of Gaelic literature what 
vast treasures of lyrics the language contains. These songs ad- 
mirably exhibit the emotional lyrical s])ii-it of the Gael, and leads 
us to much of the source of the genius of song which has ren- 
dered Scotland so deservedly renowned. 

The Rev. Angus M:icintyre, late of Kinlochspelvie, composed 
several poems ot grcMt merit. His love song, " O's runach learn 
an ribhinn donn," is very pretty. A translation by Mr H. Whyte 
will be found in an interesting little volume recently published, 
" The Celtic Garland." Here are some verses : — 

I dearly love my auburn maid 

That dwells beliind the mountain, 
At eve I'll meet her in the glade, 

To roam by dell and fountain. 

Though here with hounds I chase the deer, 

Where streamlets bright meander, 
To yonder glen, where dwells my dear, 

My thoughts will ever wander. 

The birds that round about me fly, 

Pour forth their notes of gladness ; 
While here alone I sit and sigh 

In sorrow and in sadness. 

Her hair around her shoulders flows 

With graceful waving niction. 
Her snow-white bosom heaving goes 

Like sea-gull on the ocean. 

One ol the popular songs and airs among Highlanders is that 
of *' Finary." The verses that have become so well-known in 
connection with this song are not those to which the air was at- 
tached originally. 'J'he original song was " Irinn arinn u horo," 
by Allan Macdougall, a lyric of fair merit, but which has never 
attained to anything like the popularity of " Finary." The author 
of " Finary " appropriated an air alrctidy popular, like the author of 
" Mairi Laghach." 'I'he reputed author of " Finary " is the elder 
Dr Norman Macleod, and certainly the theme of the song is 
founded on an event in his personal history. It is a farevveU to 
Finary, where the manse of his father was situated, in Morven, on 
the occasion of Norman leaving home to attend the first session 
at Glasgow University. The sentiment is very pathetic and 
natural, and very readily lays hold of th? tenderest chords of the 
heart of the home-loving Highlander. There is something about 


it, the antiquarian reference to the past, and its touches descrip- 
tive of natural scenery, which remind us of the genius of Macleod. 
Yet it has been doubted whether he was the author of the original 
English version — the English one being regarded as the original. 
Mr Neil Campbell, of County Down, now of Glasgow, a man 
who knows a good deal of generally unknown facts relating to the 
Gaelic literature of this century, once told the writer that the Rev. 
Mr Kelly, of Campbeltown, once Dr Macleod's friend and col- 
league in that town, was the author of the English version, which, 
apart from the home-loving sentiment and air, is rather poor 
poetry. The following is the first verse, which shows reason but 
the veriest imperfection of rhyme : — 

The wind is fair, the day isfine ; 
Swiftly, swiftly runs the time ; 
The boat is floating on the tkle^ 
That wafts me off from Finary. 

But apart from the artistic execution of the verses, the sweet, 
high-souled, and patriotic sentiments conveyed in them would 
always recommend them to the warmhearted and emotional Gael. 
The history of " Fionnairidh " has always seemed to me some- 
thing like th;it of " God Save the Queen," or " The Address to the 
Cuckoo." The names of Bruce and Lowe are connected with the 
last just as those of Macleod and Kelly are with the first. One of 
the few who could authoritatively decide the precise authorship of 
*' Fionnairidh " — was that true and highly-gifted Highlander the 
late Dr John Macleod of Morven ; and also his learned relative Dr 
Clerk of Kilmailie, who could write with accuracy of the different 
versions, English and Gaelic, of Eirich ogiis tiugainn, O. 

The following Gaelic version — eight stanzas, there are four 
more — are given as they came through the hands of the late 
Archibald Sinclair, who had probably something to do with it. 
It was first printed on a leaflet, was then copied into the "JGael " 
in 1872, and has been several times published in whole or in part 
since : — 

Tha 'n latha maith, 's an soirbheas ciiiin ; 

Tha 'n nine ruith, 's an t-i'im dhuinndliith ; 

Tha 'm bat' 'g am fheitheamh fo a siuil, 
Gu 'm thoirt a null Fhionn-Airidh. 

Tha ioma mile ceangal blath 

Mar sliaighdean ann am fein an sas ; 

Mo chridhe 'n impis a bhi sgaint' 

A chionn bhi fasail Fionn-Airidh. 


Bu trie a ghabh me scriob learn fhein, 
Mu 'n cuairt air luchairt Fhinn an trt^in ; 
'S a dh'eisd mi sgeulachdan na Feinn 

'G an cur an ceill am Fionn-Airidii. 
'S bu trie a sheall mi feasgair Mairt 
Far am biodh Oisein sinn a dhan ; 
A' comhead grein' aig ioma tra 

Dol seacii gach la 's mi it. Fionn-Airidh. 
Beaiinachd le athair mo ghraidh, 
Bidh mi cuimhneah ort gu brath , 
Ghuidhinn gach sonas is agh 

Do 'u t-seauii fliear bhan am Fionn-Airidh. 
Mo mhathair ! — 's ionmhuin t' ainm r 'a luaidh — 
Am feum mi tearbadh uait clio luath ? 
Is falloh a'm' allabanach truagh 

An eian uait f^in 's o Fhionn-Airidh ! 

Soraidh leatsa, brathair chaoin, 
Is fos le peathraichibh mo ghaoil ; 
Cuiribh bron is deoir a thaobh 

'S biodh aoibh oirbh ann am Fionn-Airidh. 

Beannachd le beanntaibh mo ghaoil ! 
Far am faigh mi fiadh le lagh : 
Gu ma fad' an coileach-fraoich 

A' glaodhaich ann am Fionn-Airidh. 

The chorus consists of Eirich agus ihigainn, O, " Let us rise 
and come away," repeated tree times, with a fourth line, "Fare- 
well, farewell to Finary." The following rendering is an adapta- 
tion by the writer. The form " Finorie " is used to preserve a 
sort of sympathetic sympathy with and likeness to terms with 
similar endings in Lowland ballads, such as " Glenorie," etc. 
This form has also more sympathy with the music : — 


The day is good, the wind is fair ; 
The sands of time the hour declare ; 
There rides the boat that hence will 
Me far away from Finorie. 

A thousand ties my soul enchain ; 
Like arrows they awaken pain ; 
My heart is nearly broke in twain 
Since I must leave thee, Finorie. 

Often alone I sought the hold 
Where mighty Fingal lived of old ; 
Often I heard long legends told 
Of Finian deeds in Finorie. 


Often I viewed at Eve the spring 
Where Ossian tuned his harp to sing ; 
Where slieen of gold the sun did bring 
Upon the heights of Finorie. 

Farewell, dear father, best of men, 

Far fron^ me in tiie Highland glen ! 

Heav'n smile on thee till back again 

I come to see dear Finorie. 

Mother : a name to me most dear ; 
To lose thy tender care I fear ; 
But in my snareful journey here 
I think of thee and Finorie. 

brother of my love, adieu I 
Dear sisters, hide your grief from view ; 
Your tears suppress, your joys renew ; 
Be happy while at Fiuoiie. 

Farewell, ye mountains capjj'd with snow ; 
Ye wild resorts of deer and roe ; 
Long may the heatli-cock live to crow 
Among the braes of Finorie. 

But matters are still further complicated in connection with this 
favourite song. A gentleman from North Argyll assured the 
writer that another Gaelic version was in general circulation long 
ago in Mull and Morven. This might have been the original 
one by Dr Macleod himself, from which Kelly translated ; and 
the fact that the original chorus, '' Eirich a^iis iiugainn (9," has 
been known only in Gaelic favours this supposition. Surely old 
folks in Morven must still be able to repeat this supposed original 
version if it ever had existence. If so, it is to be hoped that 
some one will take the trouble of giving it to the world. But 
whoever the author was, the song bus obtained unquestionable 
hold of the Highland heart, no doubt largely because it refers to 
an early event in the histoiy oi the " Highlander's fiiend," the 
good, genial, and large hearted Norman Macleod. 

Poetry like that of A Mackay, of Moyhall (1821), of Archi- 
bald Grant, of Glenmoriston (1863I, of John Macinnes (1875), 
Galium Macphail (1879), and of John Macfadyen (1890), shows 
excellent ease in verse- making, and no small amount of humour 
at times ; but it does not demand serious examination. That 
so many volumes should be published indicates much activity 
and energy on the part of an obscure Gaelic muse. 

Another bard of the name of Grant may be mentioned as be- 
longing to this class. Many of the popular lyrics have been com- 


posed by authors who have not given u3 more than one or two 
songs. Mo N/i^/ienii Duhh was written by the Rev. Mr Morrison 
of Petty; Main Lii'^hacli, by John ^laedonald of Lr>ch broom ; 
Bonneid is it, by A. Macalister ot I slay ; Etlein an Fhraeich, by 
]\1. MacLeod of Lewis. The mass of lyrics of this class is some- 
thing enormous. When translated into English they are felt to be 
simple — sometimes painfully simple — metrical inartistic utterances 
of love-enkindled hearts. Attached to tender and often very 
pretty airs they have lived on the lips of thousands, and have 
cheered weary workers in the field and at the fireside. Of the 
nameless class of plaintive lilts is the following : — Mo Run Geal 
Dileas, well known throughout the Highlands. There are many 
versions of it, and the number of verses is scarcely ever the same. 
The chorus rather unintelligible, and may have belonged to an 
earlier set of verses. The verses translated give a very fair con- 
ception of the merits and the spirit of the original. Like the 
Laureate's Mariana, many of these Highland singers show much 
of the '"aweary, a-weary " condition of soul, and people of pre- 
tended lofty moral culture condemn the poor lyrists for manifest- 
ing such excess of feeling. 

My faithful fair one, my ou-n, my loved one, 

My faithful fair one, return again ; 
0, 1 return not ! my love, I may not ; 

For my own dear one is weak with pain. 

0, that I were in the form of sea-gull, 

That swims so lightly upon the sea ; 
Soon would I leave for the isle of Islay, 

Where lives the maiden that grieved me. 
0, that I were with the best of maidens ! 

In pleasant glades of the mountain side ; 
With none to hear us but woodland songsters, 

I'd kiss my own one with loving pride. 

I was a season in foreign regions — 

In sunny climes that are far away ; 
None with thy beauty my eye could find there ; 

And with the fairest I would not stay. 

I will not strive with the tree that bends not, 
Though on its branch -tops sweet apples grow ; 

FareM-ell be with tliee, if thou iiast left me, 
ife'er came an ebb-tide witliout a flow. 

Mairi Laghach has become a great favourite, and has been 
translated more than once. The author was John Macdonald, 


latterly of Crobeg, in Lewis. He adopted the chorus of an infe- 
rior song which a Muidcha nam Bo composed for his own daugh- 
ter, who did not seem to elicit much admiration from the ungal- 
lant bachelors in the neighbourhood. Macdonald took up the 
air and composed the set of verses that are now so popular. It 
is worthy of remark that in his case also the subject of his song 
was a baby, and not a grown-up girl or woman. Steering his 
barque across the Minch his thoughts reverted to the friendly 
home he left behind him in Stornoway , and anxious to examine 
his poetic gifts he composed his song to Wee Mary, as it might 
be rendered, who tben could not walk. Eventually she became 
his wife. Once on a visit to Ireland, the author was surprised to 
hear, while he himself was still a young man, his own song sung in 
an adjoining room, which shows how readily a song that catches 
the popular ear and taste will travel. 

An endeavour is made to be as literal aspossible in the follow- 
ing translation, which must necessarily want much of the aroma 
of the original : — 

Early roved my Mary 

With me tlirough Glen-Smeoil, 
Wheu young love's keen arrow 

Pierced me to the soul. 
With such living fervour 

We together drew, 
That none under heaven 

Ever loved so true. 

Oftentimes with Mary 

To the hill I strayed, 
Innocent and hajjpy 

Through the grassy glade : 
Cupid ever busy 

Teaching us to love, 
As we rested fondly 

In the sun-lit grove. 

Though tlie wealth of Albin 

Were assigned to nie, 
How could I be happy, 

Dear one, without thee ? 
I would rather kiss thee, 

As rny own true bride, 
Than possess the treasures 

Found in Europe wide. 

Thine the snowy bosom. 
Filled with love for me, 


Breast of beauty fairer 

Than the swan on sea : 
With the lovely tresses 

Round thy ears that stray, 
Golden curly wavelets 

In their fond array. 
All the pomp of princes 

Did our pride surpass, 
With our bed of grandeur 

On the leaves and grass : 
Flowers of the desert 

Heart and soul to feed ; 
Streaiilets from the mountains 

Nourishing each seed. 

Nought that men invented — 

Pipe nor harp — could play 
Music with the sweetness 

Of our love-born lay : 
With the larks above us, 

Thrushes on the spray. 
Cuckoos in the greenwood 

Warbling to the May. 

It is of course impossible to preserve the music of the original 
in any translation ; the renderings given abo\ e are intended 
merely to indicate something of the spirit of the lyric treasures en- 
shrined in Gaelic. Any one turning to our collections of poetry, 
especially to Sinclair's " Oranaiche," will at once see that the 
Highlands are as rich as the Lowlands in song literature, and 
that the poetry produced, is of an equally high order. There are 
hundreds of pieces nameless and claimless on the lips of thousands 
which will continue to be sung as long as there will be a tongue 
to speak the Gaelic language. Such has been the poetic litera- 
ture which for ages the Gael has chiefly loved and cherished, and 
the better recognition of which would enable the Highlander and 
Lowlander alike to show to tie world a body of song such as no 
country of the size of Scotland has ever jet produced. Many 
suppose that the ancie^nt language of Caledonia is dead or dying ; 
--it was never read nor written so extensively as now. And it 
ought to be further remembered that the lyric genius of the High- 
land Celt is not confined to what we have in Gaelic. Many men 
of Gaelic extraction have exhibited their gift of song and music in 
other spheres. Not to speak of the poets Ferguson and Burns, in 
whose veins Celtic blood largely flowed, Thomas Campbell, was 
one of these. Hector Macneill, the hope of Scotland after the 
the death of Burns, was another. The connection ot Lord Mac- 


aulay with the lyric genius of the Gael has been already pointed 
out. The songs of Dr Charles Mackay are known to all the 
readers of English poetry; and those of Peter Macneill of Tra 
nent are on the full tide of popular esteem. The names of 
George Macdonald and Robert Buchanan are familiar to all the 
students of contemporary literature. In the kindred spheres of 
music and the drama we come across the names of Mr Hamish 
M acCunn, Dr A. C. Mackenzie, President of the Royal Academy 
of Music, and the prima donna Miss Macintyre. Scores of others 
might be mentioned whose genius is traceable to their Gaelic 
extraction, there being scarcely a Highland clan name that has 
not its representative among the crowned sons of song. In the 
ecclesiastical world the stars of Celtic or Gaelic names are a 
legion. The position of Archbishop in the great see of York 
has been attained successively by two men of Gaelic extraction 
— the eloquent Magee being a descendant of the Mackays of 
Islay, and his successor MacLagan being a member of a disting- 
uished Highland family which has given us the Gaelic bard Mac- 
Lagan, a profound Professor of Theology, late of Aberdeen — 
and now the Archbishop himself. 

The survey which we have just taken of our popular poetry 
clearly indicates that the Gaelic is still the language in which 
many compose and write. Many would heartily sing thus with 
Professor Black-e : — 

Is there a Gael that dare despise 
His mither tongue aud a' that, 
And clips his words in .Saxon wise ? 
He's but a cuif for a' that. 
For a' that, and a' that, 
Their hums and ha's and a' that, 
We'll still be true to speech we drew 
Frae mither's lips for a' that. 
The deep, full-breasted Highland tongue, 

Wi' gairm and fjlaodh and a' that, 
Ere Roman fought or Greeklings sung. 
Was sounded loud for a' that. 
For a' that, and a' that, 
Their classic lore and a' that. 
On Higliland braes the Celtic pluase 
Comes banging ouc for a' that. 

At the same time we have no wish to preserve Gaelic, as Professor 
Blackie has said, in any artificial or galvanised existence. We 
merely ask fair-play for it on the scene of linguistic competition. 


And this fair-play it is now more than ever likely to receive, the 
Highlanders having their own representatives now in Parliament 
and in the county and parochial councils. As long as bards con- 
tinue to arise— and there is no sign that the supply will be readily 
exhausted — and the people love to rehearse their strains, so long 
will the Gaelic remain a living factor in the land. In these pages 
it is attempted to show the extent and nature of this sort of litera- 
ture of the people ; but as Highlanders we do not wish, in attempt- 
ing to bring the literature of our language before the world, to 
challenge comparison with other bodies of literature. Our main 
purpose is served if we succeed in showing to our fellow-country- 
men. Highland and Lowland, that there are national literary trea- 
sures which have been hitherto comparatively overlooked, and 
which ought in an important degree to add to the already high 
fame of bonnie Scotland as a land whose glens and bens, whose 
rivers and lakes are everywhere vocal wiih songs of love and 



"That poet turned him first to pray 
In silence ; and God heard the rest, 
'Twixt the sun's footsteps down the west." 

— E. B Browning. 

Before the plough of cruel eviction from their homes cut deep 
furrows into the Highland heart, the bards, such as Duncan Ban, 
loved to sing of the pleasures of the chase ; but the second quar- 
ter of the nineteenth century witnessed a change in this respect. 
A new, if not a revolutionary spirit — at least one of discontent — 
got abroad throughout the land. This " divine discontent " 
seized upon the Highland bards, and the burning strains of Mac- 
lachlan of Morven and William Livingston, no longer ran in the 
older moulds of Macintyre and others. The extension of the 
franchise, the study of history and the science of language, the 
growing sympathy with oppressed nationalities, the revival of 
Christian lorces, and the increasing value attached to human life, 
— these and many other "cries of the human," helped forward a 
movement which may be fitly described as a Celtic Roinaissance. 
This Highland movement was reinforced by kindred and sympa- 
thetic influences from Ireland, Wales, and circles of social and 
linguistic learning on the Continent, until it eventually bore sta- 
tutory fruit in the Highland Land Act of 1886, which constitutes 
an Imperial Charter of hereditary right to their native land for the 
Gaelic-speaking communities of Scotland. This was an achieve- 
ment which even bards with millennial visions and hopes could 
scarcely look foi ward to a generation ago. 

The wails of the bards over Highland depopulation, however, 
nursed the people's discontent as well as tlieir resolution to assert 
themselves. A good proportion of the authors whose composi- 
tions come under notice in this chapter come under the spell of 
the Celtic Renaissance. Indeed this spirit of national resurrec- 


tion is the vital force pervading their productions which would be 
poor and barren without it. 


At the head of the Bards of the Victorian era stands Evan 
MacColl, who was born in 1808 at Ken more, Lochfyneside, 
Argyleshire, where his father was a small farmer. Young Mac- 
Coll eagerly seized on all the sources of culture within his reach, 
and at an early age became familiar with some of the chief works 
of English literature. He was born and educated in the midst of 
strongly Celtic influences and associations which continued to 
mould his mind and heart throughout his whole career. 

In 1836 he published "■ The Mojuitain Minslrel ; oi\ Clarsach 
nam Beaun." a series of English and Gaelic poems and songs 
He is one of the best known of our living Gaelic bards. Fletcher 
of Dunans and Campbell of Islay, to whom the English and 
Gaelic parts of his volume are respectively dedicated, befriended 
the young bard, who had proved himself highly deserving of the 
patronage they extended to him. The genius of MacColl is en- 
tirely lyrical, very few poems of any length having come from his 
pen. His English songs are generally playful and pleasant, but 
do not show much depth of passion. His Gaelic poems have the 
same ring as his English pieces, but are more natural, and show 
he bard at his ease in the use of language. ^JacColl is a sweet 
and intelligent singer, but in real power of thought and expression 
he is not Livingston's equal. The following verses show MacColl 
in liis more vigorous style : — 

" Ho ! landed upon Moidart's coast is Scotland's rightful King ! " 
Such was the news to which the Gael once gave warm welcoming ; 
And soon, glad -buckling on their arms, stout chiefs and clansmen true 
Have sworn in his good cause to try what good broadswords can do. 
No cravens they to count the cost of failure ; man alive ! 
We'll never see their like again — the Clans of 'Forty-five. 

Brief time hath passed till Finnan's vale is all alive with men 
From east and west in loyal haste proud gatiiering to their ken, 
The royal standard is unfurled — their prince himself is there, 
Their loving homage to receive, their dangers all to share ; 
Grey chiefs, who for his fathers fought, the fire of youth revive, 
To stirring pibrochs marshalling the Clans of 'Forty-five. 

Let no man say that to restore a deed proscribed they arm — 
They think but of kin loving trust, his Highland heart so warm, 
His royal rights usurped — and they upon his princely brow 


Would place his father's crown or die. Too well they kept their vow, 
Let men who prate of loyalty in this ow day derive 
Instruction in that virtue from the Clans of 'Forty-five. 

Ay ! let them think of brave Loch iel and Borrodale the bold — 
Of Keppoch and Glengarry, too, those chiefs of iron mould — 
TheChisholm, Cluny, Brahan's lord, the Mackintosh so keen, 
The Appin Stuarts and MacCoUs, the lion-hearts Maclean, 
With many a ('hief and Clan besides, who quickly did contrive 
To make theirnames immortal in the famous 'Forty-five ! 

The poet, who entered the Liverpool Custom- House in 1839 
through W. F. Campbell of Islay, M.P. then for Argyleshire, 
removed to Canada in 1850, where in a similar position at Kings- 
ton he remained until he was superannuated in 1880. The vener- 
able poet, now in the eighty third year of his age, resides in 
Canada, where a son of his is an able Congregational minister, 
and a daughter known as a poetess of much merit. 

None of the Gaelic bards had a wider acquaintance, nor a 
larger outlook of life than MacColl. But in the midst of all new 
associations and attractions, he remained at heart frankly and 
even sternly Highland. The following verse of an address (1878), 
to a well-known Highland patriot, Mr John Murdoch, illustrates 
this phase of his character : — 

I think I see thy manly form, 
Firm and unyielding as Cairngorm, 
The poor man's cause maintaining warm, 

Just like atrue-souled Highlander ; 
I see the scorn within thine eye 
As some evicting Chief goes hy — 
One whose forbears would sooner die 

Than dispossess a Highlander. 

Before Celtic things were held in such esteem as they are now, 
or rather, perhaps, before their value was appreciated as recently, 
men of Celtic extraction like Macaulay and Charles Mackay 
wrote of the Highlanders and Highlands, not only without dis- 
crimination and sympathy, but without knowledge, and even in a 
spirit of savage contempt. The latter lived to express regret for 
his earlier conduct; the fornier had not the same opportunity of 
modifying his earlier impressions, and his Highland fellow-country- 
men were not slow to declare their minds on the subject. Among 
those who sought to pay back the illustrious historian in his own 
coin was Evan MacColl. On the occasion of Macaulay's death 
some one had written " Macaulay now is registered among Eng- 


land's mighty dead ! " On this MacColl wrote verses the first 
and last of which are as follows : — 

Hecli, sirs! " Macaulay's registered 

'Mong England's mighty dead 1 " 
Let us hope that he lies buried near 

Her first mean-mighty Ned. 
Scotland can never well forget 

The zeal of those two men, — 
The one to stab her with the sword — 

The other with the pen. 

But let that pass, — he's there — John Bull 

Is not so much to blame ; 
He lived to magnify John's rule, — 

John magnifies his name. 
The wonder, after all, is how 

John could be fooled so far 
As a mere meteoric light 

To worship as a star. 

The warm and generous heart of the bard is revealed in much of 
his poetry. His little poem, Zei us do the best we can, shows his 
sympathy with the struggling poor : — 

Mark yon worldling lost in self, 

Dead to every social glow ; 
Wouldst thou, to own all his pelf, 

All life's purer joys forego ? 
Truest wealth is doing good — 

Doctrine strange to him, poor man ! 
If we can't do all we would, 

Let us do the best we can. 

One of the best criticisms on MacColl's poetry comes from the 
pen of Hugh Miller : " There is more of fancy than of imagina- 
tion in the poetry of MacCoIl, and more of thought and imagery 
than of feeling. In point, glitter, polish, he is the Moore of 
Highland song. Comparison and ideality are the leading features 
of his mind. Some of the pieces in this volume are sparkling 
tissues of comparison from beginning to end," 


A little volume, Am Filldh, mostly written by James Munro 
(1840), author of the " Gaelic Grammar," contains a great deal of 
first-class poetry. In the composition of small pieces of the senti- 
mental kind, Munro is scarcely inferior to Livingston in fresh 


ness and condensation, and is MacCoU's equal. We have in the 
" Filidh " several pieces by othei' hands, as well as excellent 
translations from the English. Munro was a man of thorough 
culture, and profoundly acquainted with the extent and idioms of 
the Gaelic language. Of all this there is undoubted evidence in 
his poetry. Here is a rendering of one of IVTunro's songs, which 
is attached to a very fine air : — 

Dark winter is going ; 
Kind breezes are blowing ; 
The mountains are glowing 

With colours more fair. 
The face of the flowers 
Grows fresh 'neath the showers ; 
And warmer the bowers 

Appear in the glare. 

The summer advances 
With heat-shedding glances ; 
His sunny beam dances 

With joy on the cold. 
The little birds singing, 
The woodlands are ringing ; 
The primrose is springing 

To deck the green wold. 
The sun in fresh power 
Calls forth bird and bower 
In robes of fair flower 

Enchanting to see 
But, honey-lipt lover, 
Thy charms I look over ; 
In them I discover 

Sweet beauties more rare. 
Come with me, then, dearest. 
To woodlands the nearest, 
To plight troth sincerest 

Of love evermore. 


The late Dr Maclachlan of Rahoy, in Morven, stands high as a 
poet. A little volume of his poems was published in 1868, 
Like all the singers whose works have become popular in the 
Highlands, all that he wrote was intended to be sung. He looks 
at nature as a man of culture and tender sympathies, and with an 
independent eye ; and what he sings comes with all the freshness 
of the evening breeze as it sweeps o'er the Highland loch. One 


theme he especially dwells on — the depopulation of the High- 
lands. His heart is saddened as he sees the Lowland shepherd, 
who has no sympathy with the place, the people, or their language, 
treading with his dogs the glens and hillsides where many expatri- 
ated Gaels had once their happy homes. He has also written 
several love lyrics which are admirable in conception and expres- 
sion. A song on " Drink," Chan "Z mi deur ticille, is the best of 
that sort in the language. Dr Maclachlan lived all his days in 
Morven, beside his accomplished neighbour, the Rev. Dr John 
MacLeod, himself a man of no mean poetic powers. Although a 
skilful practitioner, and possessing considerable talents, he never 
sought for a more ambitious sphere. He loved the people around 
—he was widely known— and they loved him in return. He 
never married, and he lived till he was an old man, not perhaps 
less liked by his neighbours for his weakness for a dram, which he 
and they thought a necessary beverage in chill and misty Morven. 
Here is a translation, well executed by Mr H. Whyte, of one of 
Maclachlan's poems : — 

lovely glen ! as through a haze 

Of tears that dim mine eye, 
Upon thy futile fields I gaze. 

Fair as in days gone by. 
Thy stately pines their tall heads rear 

O'er fairy knolls and braes ; 
Thy purling streamlets now I hear, 

Like music's sweetest lays. 
Thy herds are feeding as of yore 

With sheep upon the lea ; 
The heron fishes in the shore. 

The white-gull on the sea. 
The cuckoo's voice is heard at dawn. 

The dove coos in the tree ; 
The lark, above thy grassy lawn, 

Now carols loud with glee. 
Repose supremely reigns o'er all, 

Low crowns the mountains hoar ; 
And vividly they now recall 

The days that are no more. 

Thy gurgling brooks, and winds that fleet 

Through groves of stately pine, 
Awaken with their converse sweet 

Sad thoughts of auld lang syne. 

Thy peaceful dwellings, once so bright, 
In dreary ruins lie ; 


The traveller sees not from the height 

The smoke ascending high. 
To yonder gai'den once thy pride, 

No one attention shows, 
And weeds grow thickly side by side, 

Where bloomed the blushing rose. 
Where are the friends of worthy fame, 

Their hearts on kindness bent ; 
WHiose welcome cheered me when I came. 

Who blessed me as I went ? 
Full many in the churchyard sleep, 

The rest are far away, 
And I forlorn in silence weep, 

With neither friend nor stay. 
Death in my breast has fixed his dart. 

My heart is growing cold. 
And from this world I'll soon depart, 

To rest beneath the mould, 

A new edition of his poems, with a sketch of his Hfe from the pen 
of Dr Cameron Gillies, was p'.ibHshed some twelve years ago 
under the auspices of the Glasgow Morven Association, whose 
members had also in hand the erection of a monument to the 
bard's memory. 


The compositions of Angus Macdonald, the Glen-Urquhart 
Bard, show poetic genius of a high order in the few poems of 
his which have yet seen the light. He has left some poems in 
manuscript which it is hoped, will some day be published. The 
poems in the Gael and in the Inverness Transactions remind us 
of the productions of very kindred spirits. Livingston and R. 
Macdongall. He and Livingston seem to have diligently culti- 
vated the style and manner of Ossian, particularly of the Gaelic" 
of 1807. He was a master of rich idiomatic Gaelic, and having 
also the "accomplishment of verse," he could make himself ter- 
rible or tender, just as his muse was stirred. He had a parti- 
cularly true eye for the beauties of nature ; and was always accurate 
and graphic in his descriptions. He possessed a keen and culti- 
vated ear — was a teacher of music for some time ; so his verse is 
full of melody and harmonious cadences. He excelled in poetry 
of the Ossianic type ; but, like all masters of the art. he shows 
also much tenderness in his love lyrics. He was appointed the 
first bard of the Inverness Gaelic Society, an office filled by Mrs 


Mackellar afterwards. He received in 1869 a medal for a prize 
poem from " The Club of True Highlanders," London. His 
daughter, Mrs A. Mackenzie of Inverness, has inherited some of 
her father's genius, and is herself the author of compositions of 
considerable excellence. 


A volume of goodly s\ze, Poems and Songs : Gaelic and English, 
by this poetess, was published in 1881. Mary Mackellar has for 
many years been well-known as a woman of bright poetic powers ; 
and her talents in this respect were sometime ago recognised by 
the Gaelic Society of Inverness, when she was appointed Bard. 
Her poems are characterised by much vigour and freshness, and 
evince a subtlety of conception which is quite beyond the ability 
of the ordinary Gaelic versifiers. It is premature yet to judge 
what position she may take among the Gaelic bards. Her songs, 
superior as some of them are, have not yet been accorded much 
popularity. There is a sort of straining — an occasional abstruse 
Browning element in her Gaelic pieces — which is probably the 
cause of this, and which has evidently resulted from too close a 
following of the abstract conceptions of modem English poets, the 
natural utterance of which Gaelic is somewhat unfitted for. 
She possesses keen and nervous sensibilities, and looks at nature 
with a warm, sympathetic, and observant eye. Like the brook 
from the gully she bursts forth with I'ich thought and melody ; but 
her poems frequently want breadth of basis. She has generally 
the true inspiration, but she does noi manage sufficiently to lose 
her self-consciousness — to fall into that state of abandon which is 
needed for the production of the highest forms of poetry. At the 
same time she has proved herself one of the best Gaelic poetesses 
the Highlands has produced. Her English pieces are vigorous 
and readable. They are not inferior to her Gaelic poems, al- 
though occasionally exhibiting want of Wordsworth's "accomplish- 
ment of verse" so keenly felt by Hugh Miller in his own case. 
All Highlanders welcomed Mary Mackellar's excellent contribu- 
tion to their native literature. She died in 1890 in Edinburgh, 
and members of the Cameron Clan — her maiden name being 
Cameron — accompanied her remains to their final resting-place 
in her native Lochaber. 


This cultivated poet, a native of Mull, author of An i-Eilein 
Muiieach, one of the popular songs in the language, was a man of 


strong and well-cultivated intellect, who did not at all give us 
what might be expected from one of his rich poetic endowments. 
But what he has done is first-class. The most of it will be found 
in the " Oranaiche." Macphail was also known as a most effec- 
tive Gaelic speaker, as well as a clever writer of Gaelic stories. 
He has done good work in translating religious productions, his 
translation of MacLauiin's magnificent sermon on " Glorying in 
the Cross of Christ " being one of the best little books in the 
Gaelic language. 

There are several minor bards whose names have for a long 
time been known in different parts of the Highlands — 

Robert Macdougall, author of •' A Gaelic Guide " to Canada, 
where he resided for some time, published an interesting volume 
of poems in 1840. Along with original pieces of great merit he 
gives a translation ot Tarn d Shunter, and of some poems of 
Byron, whom he somewhat imitated. He was the first, along 
with James Munro, of the new school of poetry to which Living- 
ston, .\ngus Macdonald, and others of the present day belong. 

Archibald Campbell, of Kinloch-Earn, brought out a neat 
volume of songs and poems in 1831. One or two of them have 
become very popular. His style is unaffected, and the sentiment 
natural. The whole volume is fully of average merit. 

John Cameron, of Ballachulish, author of " Dan Spioradail " 
(1862), has written several poems and songs of considerable merit. 
The best-known is Duil ri Bailc-ehaolais fhaichin. Like Mary 
Mackellar, Cameron did not continue a worshipper at the shrine 
of the sacred Muse, to which he seems to have been devoted in his 
early days. 

John Campbell, of Leadaig, is well-known as the author of- 
several excellent poems, one of which has been translated by Pro- 
fessor Blackie. There is much taste as well as evidence of fair 
culture in all that Campbell has written. His poetry is distin- 
guished by the pastoral sweetness and light of a simple Highland 

John Mackorkindale, a native of Islay, afterwards in Canada, 
possesses true poetic insight, and had he continued to cultivate 
Gaelic poetry he could produce excellent work. Parts of a poetic 
dialogue on " Dun Bhrusgraidh " by him were reprinted in the 
first volume of The Gael. 


George Campbell, late of Kinabus, in the same island, com- 
posed a great deal of poetty of more than average merit, but his 
compositions were never collected and published. Fiiinch a 
Ribhinn phrisedl \% to be found in the " Oranaiche." The maiden 
addressed is Jean ^Vodro\v, daughter of the Kildalton minister, 
who published in 1771 a mellifluous rhyming version of Fmgnl, 
founded on Macpherson's English. 

The Rev. Donald Macrae, a native of Plockton, late of Ness, 
Lewis, was a true poet, although he did not produce much. A 
sweet, pathetic poem, by him, The Emigrant's Lament, written on 
the occasion of many of his congregation m Lewis leaving for 
Canada, has been much admired, and has been translated into 
English by a daughter of late Rev. Dr Gibson of Glasgow : — 

The Emigrant's Lamest. 

We've gone to the shore, 
With those who no more 
Shall see their own isle 

For ever. 
Th' iron ship's now their home, 
Through white, curling foam 
They speed, some in joy. 

Some weeping. 

See childhood's glad eye ; 
But list woman's sigh ! 
Even manhood's stout heart 

Is breaking ! 
Hot streaming tears flow, 
ifow silent in woe, 
They're looking behind 

In sorrow. 
Still sailing on west, 
From the land they love best. 
They gaze upon nought 

But Muirneag ! 
See Muirneag depart ! 
Dear hill of their heart 
Now lost to their view 

For ever ! 
'Tis sunk in the sea. 
Each cheek becomes pale I 
Oh ! list yon wild wail 

For Muirneag ! 

Dear friends, loved so well, 
Are left far behind, 


Fond bleeding hearts swell 
With aiu 

The bereaved pastor continues the wail further in a more religious 
strain, hoping — 

When time shall have passed 
May all meet at last, 
Safe at yon fair haven. 
In glory ! 


The Bard of Lochfyne is probably the best-knuwn hitherto of 
the Gaelic singers of this centuiy ; but his place is disputed by 
the sweet lyrist of Rahoy. Though not so popular as these two, 
as a mere singer, because he has produced so few songs suitable 
for singing, William Livingston must be regarded as the most 
powerful poetic personality among the Celtic bards of this century. 
Like Browning among the English poets, Livingston is less known 
than minor claimants for bardic recognition, because the general 
reader of Gaelic poetry is not always capable of appreciating any- 
thing higher in the poetic scale than smooth flowing verse and 
mellifluous rhymes that make no demand on the severer exercise 
of thought. But his position as a bard among his contemporaries 
has been more than once recognised by a few of the most distin- 
guished Celtic scholars and critics of his time. In competition 
for prizes offered by the Glasgow Celtic Society, on three occa- 
sions Livingston obtained the first prize, some of the adjudica- 
tors being the late Rev. Dr Smith of Inverary ; the late Rev. 
Duncan MacNab of Renfield Free Church, Glasgow ; and the late 
Rev. Duncan MacLean of Glenorchy ; — the last being himself a 
sacred poet of very considerable genius. Many of his competitors 
on these occasions are authors of very popular songs, but their 
productions must be credited with more rhyme than poetic 

William Livingston was born in Gartmain, in Islay, in the year 
1808. There are not many of his kith and kin in that island now, 
nor is there any evidence that his humble progenitors were any- 
thing else than some of those nomadic individuals or families, of a 
Celto- Germanic character, unconnected particularly with any of 
the well-known clans, but who, in the political economy of the 
Highlands were ranged under the name of "siol Dhomhnuill,'' or 
some other, and in latter days became more unreasonably Celtic 


in their race antipathies than the purer Celts themselves. The 
late notorious Mitchell and the present leaders of the Irish Home 
Rulers are Irish instances of what has been stated. The bard 
Livingston is a Scottish instance ; and the proximity of his native 
place to Ireland's northern coasts may have some suggestive 
value, especially when his training, or rather no training, and the 
sources of his historical and social knowledge are taken into con- 
sideration. There is another Livingstone of Highland extraction — 
his family were originally from Mull — who has had some connec- 
tion with Glasgow like his namesake the bard; but Dr David 
Livingstone, the devoted and distinguished African traveller, turned 
his attention and directed his labours to the amelioration of the 
condition of Africa's benighted and dusky children. Livingstone, 
the traveller, regarded all the sons of humanity, whether they were 
black or white, of whatever race, as the sons of the one great 
Father, equally good and precious in his sight, and all of one 
blood ; but Livingston the bard devoted all his energies to the 
patriotic rehearsal, in prose and verse, of the doughty deeds and 
ancient prowess of our Scottish ancestors ; with him the Scotsman 
alone ought to occupy the position of lord of creation, especially 
if it could be proved he was a Celt, — and the Englishman espe- 
cially, on account of his continual oppression of the smaller king- 
dom of Scotland, he, like Irishmen of a certain order, regarded 
with intense dislike, as the universal tyrant throughout the civilised 
world. The bones of the distinguished traveller Dr Livingstone 
were deposited in their final resting-place in Westminster Abbey 
amid the sympathetic tears of all civilised nations. He was a 
cosmopolitan patriot, one of the few extraordinary men whom 
God vouchsafes in the progress of the ages for the enlightenment 
of the dark places ot the earth and the promotion of the highest 
interests of universal humanity. Livingston, the bard, whose 
pursuit after knowledge under unusually unfavourable condi- 
tions, and whose indomitable perseverance and fervour of heart 
were not unlike those of David Livingstone had but a very limited 
vision of the functions of his mission into the world. The duties 
which he assigned to himself were the magnifying of Scotland's 
fame and glory, the lashing in Wallace and Bruce fashion of the 
Teutonic intruder from the south of the Tweed, and the special 
vindication of the Celtic character from the continual aspersions of 
the uncircumcised Saxon. He did his work with a will, but there 
was no need for it. It was as uncalled for as Thomson's work on 
Liberty^ which, undertaken in an unwise moment, notwithstanding 


its fine poetry, the public, not without reason, condemned to 
" gather spiders and to harbour dust." When highly needed 
work goes without its reward it cannot be a matter of surprise that 
unnecessary ebullitions of patriotism do not always pay ; so poor 
Livingston, like not a few of the order of Bards, died somewhat 
neglected in an obscure street of the philanthropic city of Glasgow. 
But he did not die unknown to a few sympathising friends. The 
members of the Islay Association and others were always anxious 
to relieve the necessities of the poet when his temper and ways 
made it possible to be of some service to him. In some respects 
his own independence was like that proud independence of his 
native country, of which he was so fervent a singer. He died in 
1870, his wife predeceasing him a few weeks. 

Much of the character of Livingston is traceable to his up- 
bringing. In youth he received no education, and his earliest 
training when a boy was herding cattle. Was not Rob Donn, the 
Sutherlandshire Bard, also a herd ? But it was thought fit to set 
the embryo herd-poet to learn a trade, and he served his time at 
tailoring, which he carried on in a desultory fashion all his days, 
and in which he was intelligently and sympathetically assisted by 
his frugal wife. He was thus a grown-up man before he got any 
education, and all he ever got was self-taught ; and had his pride 
permitted him to tell the story of his struggles after knowledge, 
English, Latin, French, Greek, and a little Hebrew, it would fur- 
nish an interesting chapter in the annals of the pursuit of learning 
under difficulties. The manuscripts of his in possession of the 
writer show the extraordinary pains he took with his work— his 
endeavours after a purer English style, even when well-advanced 
in years— and what a long time he was a wooer of the muses be- 
fore he arrived at the intensity of poetical conception which dis- 
tinguished his later poetry. His earlier efforts do not seem to 
have been very successful, and they are of a somewhat humorous 
character. He almost stands alone among the prominent Gaelic 
bards in having given us no love songs. The reason is that he 
was probably a married man before the dormant powers of his 
poetic nature awakened. While there is much tenderness in all 
his descriptions of nature, the reader of his poetry must feel that 
he is always surrounded by an atmosphere of martial enthusiasm 
and intense patriotic sentiment. He was too wise to attempt the 
singing of a passion the power of which did not evidently per- 
meate his nature ; but the love of fatherland, the story of the 
gory struggle of Scottish independence were to him all-absorbing 


sources of inspiration ; and to these he always turns, and finds in 
them the congenial themes on which he enthusiastically lavishes 
the rich poetic gifts with which he was endowed. 

Livingston published his first volume of poetry in 185S. A 
smaller volume followed a few years afterwards, in 1865 ; and in 
t868 a few poems in pamphlet form, one of them being a prize 
production — being the third piece for which he received a pi'ize 
from the Glasgow Celtic Society. The year before his death he 
began to arrange his poems with a view to publi.shing them all in 
one volume, but before he transcribed more than half a dozen of 
them his pen was arrested by an invisible Power. 

"Death's subtle seed within, 
Sly treacherous miner ! working in the dark 
Smiled at the well-concerted scheme." 

I well remember how the old bard, with his macjnificent beard, 
which he often stroked with evident admiration, and which seemed 
to he growing up to his very eyes — small piercing eyes that 
scanned the neighbours suspiciously— emphasised the hope that 
when ihe proposed volume would appear, it would contain fully as 
much first-class poetry as the works of either of the three Gaelic 
modern bards, ]\rackay, Macintyre, or Macdonald. It is pleasant 
to know that the work which the bard had so much at heart has 
been accomplished under the auspices of the Islay Association, 
mainly at the suggestion and with the assistance of a patriotic 
countryman — Mr Colin Hay — who is a great admirer of Living- 
ston's poetry. 

The longest of Livingston's poems is a dramatic piece entitled 
The Danes in Islay. It is the only proper dramatic poem in the 
language. The subject is one that the poet could take up with 
much enthusiasm, as he pictured to himself the Norse army in a 
fleet of sixty-three sail entering the spacious Lochindaul, and 
dropping anchor there with no friendly intent. The bard's histo- 
rical and antiquarian knowledge stood him here in good stead. 
The i-reat Macdonald, Prince of the Isles, is the central figure, 
and next to him the aged but faithful Mackay of Rhinns. both 
of whom are immediately informed by their watchful scouts of the 
advent of those hereditary foes, the Norse invaders, on the green 
shores of Islay, which was once in their own possession. The 
fiery cross is sent all over the island to call together the brave 
subjects of the Macdonald to defend their homes and hearths. A 
battle takes place ; and in the final struggle there are many heroes 


who do great and incredible deeds, chief among whom are — 
Nuagan Mor, a Norse prince; Raosbun, Gilleathain Thora, and 
Donncha Mor Laorain. Though this is one of the most ambitious 
of Livingston's productions, yet it is not equal as a whole, and not 
so finished, nor of so high an order as, for example, his prize 
poems ; but the lyrical portions of it are very fine, the marching 
song of Mackay of Rhinns, to the tune q{ AInathan a' G/iiinne so, 
being quite a gem. Here are some verses of a war chant which 
occurs in the poem. The Norse invaders are supposed to rehearse 
the following wild and fierce lyric as they drop anchor in the har- 
bour of Lochindaul : — 

Here we come, but we thus will not leave you — 

The axe, axe ; 
To-morrow will startle and grieve you 

With the axe, the axe. 
A red blazing torch in each dwelling — 

The axe, the axe ; 
Your goods plundered, your captured wives yelling — 

The axe, the axe. 
Fleeing, and cursing, and wailing — 

The knife, knife ; 
The girth of your knees sliall be failing 

For the knife, knife, 
They who meet us shall leave that place never — 

The knife, knife ; 
Morn or eve shall they see them for ever — 

The knife, knife ; 
None shall live to tell of the Reaver 

With the axe, axe ; 
But the raven above shall be croaking — 

The axe, axe ; 
And then feast on their limbs till he's choking — 

The axe, axe. 
You now live who in blood then shall welter — 

The knife, knife ; 
Cave or hole cannot hide you or shelter 

From the knife, knife. 
Through your throats the hoarse chorus ascending — 

The knife, knife ; 
In that cry screams and groans shall keep blending — 

The knife, knife. 
All these ills shall your great men entangle — 

The axe, axe — 
Kre their heads on our green withs shall dangle — 

The axe, axe; 
The nerves of their necks we will rend them — 

With the axe, axe ; 
To the anvil to roast then we'll send them— 

The axe, axe — 


The head of Mackay shall we shinty — 
The axe, axe — 
Down the Rhinns, where his kin shall grow scanty, 
With the axe, axe. 

The Danes in Islay is not the only cath or battle that the bard 
has sought to immortalise in tough classical Celtic. We have 
also several vigorous poems on the battles of Scotland's earlier 
struggles for independence. Livingston's muse is nearly wholly of 
a martial order, which, while it explains his want of popularity 
among what he would regard as a somewhat effeminate generation, 
is the more remarkable when it is remembered how purely senti- 
mental the most of his contemporary bards have been. The 
titles of three other poems are — The Battle of Mona Phraca, The 
Battle of Dail-righ — regarded as his best — and that of Tra- 
Ghminard, where the great Sir Lachlan MacL,ean of Duart fell, 
pierced by the fatal shaft of the dwarf Duhh-Shte, who offered 
services the Knight of Duart despised. The dwarf is described 
by the bard in pretty expressive terms — " Treoich a ghuir an 
Diabhiil 'san Lag an Diura ! " The best of all his poems is 
the loo lines (the number was limited) prize poem on the 
achievements of the Highland regiments in the Crimean war. 
There is nothing better, and not many poems equal to it in the 
whole range of Celtic poetry. The best- known of his poems is 
Fios thun a Bhaird, or Word to the Bard, supposed to have been 
sent to him in Glasgow from a farmer's wife in Islay, the late Mrs 
Blair, of Lonban, wno showed much kindness to the bard when 
on a visit to his native island, and whose son is the popular 
minister, the Rev. Robert Blair, who was a constant friend oi 
Livingston, and who edited the complete edition of his works 
(i8Sr), In this delightful poem he describes in stanzas of great 
beauty and tenderness the changes that have taken place, the 
ruins of the depopulated districts, and the natural scenery of the 
island. The following are the opening stanzas of the Message to 
the Bard:— 

The morn is bright with sunshine, 
And soft the west wind sighs ; 

The loch is calm and quiet, 
Since peace reigns in the skies. 

Bedecked with canvas gaily. 

Barks glide unwearily ; . 

To the Bard rehearse the story I 

Of these things I hear and see. 

This is the month of blossom, .• 

When the herds of cattle go 


To the glens of lonely corries, 

Where they neither reap nor sow. 
But in these green-clad inches 

My kine now never he : 
To the Bard rehearse the story 

Of these things I hear and see. 

On heathy heights in thousands 

Stray flocks of kine and sheep ; 
And deer rush o'er the wild steeps 

Where freshening breezes sweep — 
The nohle antlered race 

Bedewed that tread the hills with glee, 
To the Bard rehearse the story 

Of these things I hear and see. 

One of the most arimired of Livingston's poems is that on the 
achievements of the Highland regiments under Sir Colin Camp- 
bell in ihe Crimean War. As much ot its beauty consists in a 
sort of i)roverbial form of expression, of which the bard was a 
consummate master, and in a rhythm of consonantal rhymes, 
much of what is powerful in the original becomes quite prosaic 
when rendered literally into English. Here is the first half of the 
poem, which may indicate something of its manner :— 


Tidings of awe came to my ear — 
An ominous threat that war was near ; 
I sought out Albin's central height, 
To view the distant scene of fight. 
I saw beneath one standard there — 
The figure of the Northern Bear. 
There thousands in their armed might 
Panted for battle's fierce delight. 
O'er Alma's heights the Russians rolled. 
Defiant, warlike, keen, and bold ; 
In war-arraj' the hostile force 
Stood there in ranks of foot and horse ; 
Then came the order for the Gael 
Those scarpy brows of death to scale. 
Down from that hoary rocky crest 
Poured showers of fire into their breast ; 
Forward the fearless heroes leapt ; 
Mid clouds of slaughter on they swept; 
" For Victory" the Lion roared ; 
The Finian clans unsheathed the sword, 
Like rapid swollen floods in Clyde ; 
Cirand, swift as Es-linn's silver tide ; 
So rushed the heroes in their might 
Of ardour to the field of fight, 


Beneath that proud, uiiconquered shred 
Of ancient fame the Gaels were led ; — 
With those broad brands ye did unsheathe 
Ye left destruction, groans, and death ; — 
Ye from the land of hill and flood 
Heroic thus the foe withstood ; 
And from those rocky heights of woe, 
Ye swept disgraced that host of snow. 
They trembled as they saw with dread 
The lion, rousing, raging, red, 
To scatter with resistless force 
And ire their columns, man and horse ; 
Deeds sure to kindle our emotion 
While earth remaineth wed to ocean. 


'Mid thund'ring guns and clash of arms 
I saw amass the Russian swarms 

On Balaclava's dusky plain ; 
There waved the eagle fierce and fell 

To widen more its ravenous reign, 
Like a foul bird of restless liell. 
Thousands responding bent on prey, 
And gorging blood her power obey ; 
The hoarse-voiced horn began to bray ; 
The steeds of war began to neigh, &c. 

Notwithstanding his exceeding patriotism it cannot be said that 
Livingston was either very generous or magnanimous. While 
haunted with painful suspicions he allowed the canker of vin- 
dictiveness to mar the finer elements of his nature. His envy 
also rendered him almost intolerable to all his Highland literary 
friends in Glasgow. But these, as one of them once remarked, 
could afford to prize all that was good in the bard and overlook 
his shortcomings. When this friend was dying William came to 
ask his forgiveness, which he was assured he had, with the re- 
mark, " William, my ghost will not trouble you." This gentle- 
man knew the bard's selfish motive in asking pardon, and the 
superstitious reason for his so doing. Notwithstanding all this, 
the man was not many days in his grave when the bard began to 
attack him in a scurrilous letter in the newspapers, which, how- 
ever, was not inserted. He might be described as a (,'eltic 
brother of Walter Savage Landor, whom he resembled in several 
respects. But the sphere of life in which Livingston was born, 
and his want of early education, ought to make us charitable in 
our judgments of the savage element of his character. It must be 


acknowledged, at the same time, beneath the barbarian 
patriotism of his nature there lay a depth of tenderness and 
warmth of a grateful heart, which we discern in several of his 
pieces on individual persons. There can he no doubt, also, that 
many of his eccentricities arose from finding himself out of joint 
in the social world, where mere patriotism or poetic talent cannot 
irequently obtain the means or influence which selfconscious 
spirits so hopelessly look for. 

Blur ShwmdaiL a piece of considerable length and merit, was 
published in The Gael after his death. The only other piece of 
importance is Driodjhotiaii Imhir an Racain, a poem of five or 
six hundred lines long. 

It ought to be mentioned that two gentlemen, one belonging to 
Kintyre and the other to Cowal, were constant friends to Living- 
ston — the late Mr Gilchrist, printer, Glasgow, and also Mr 
Duncan Whyte, of the same city. Livingston was intensely 
Celtic in all his ideas and habits. He has written a good deal 
of prose in English ; but in that language he is like a lion in 
chains. He published ''A Vindication of the Celtic Character,*' 
a goodly volume of strong Celtic feeling and prejudice, such as 
we would now expect from an Irish Celt ; also, several parts of a 
history of Scotland, which he did not finish, he and the publishers 
having disagreed on account of the strong anti- English feeling dis- 
played by the writer. He swallowed the old Scottish chroniclers, 
especially their anti-English prejudices, and accepted as pure truth 
all that they have recorded. The Scotsman of the days of Bruce 
and Wallace scarcely cherished so much of the spirit of nationality 
and animosity against England as Livingston did. At the same 
time there was an element of hollowness in his assumed patriot 
ism. into which, however, he sought to thoroughly work himself, 
like some others of his countrymen of the j^resent day. It can 
scarcely be denied that an element of unhealthiness prevailed in 
the moral basis of his nature ; but unlike many others of the 
Highland poets, ihe smallest trace cannot be found in his works 
A few years ago a monument was erected to his memory in Jane, 
field Cemetery, Glasgow. Well has he described his own spirit 
in the following quatrain of Scotch : — 

We see the buckles glancin' 
On his/raochan shoon, 
He'll mak' the Laivlands Hielan' 
Ere he'll lea' the toun. 



This author, the son of the well known Bard Sgiathanach, 
Donald Macleod, is undoubtedly chief among the living singers of 
the Gael. Several of his songs have become very popular, such 
as An Gleann 'san robh 7tii O^. All his productions are charac- 
terised by purity of style and idiom, freshness of concep- 
tion and gentleness of spirit, and liquid sweetness of versifica- 
tion. His " Clarsach an l^oire " contains as much variety of 
good popular songs as any volume of a single author in the 
language. The Gaelic Society of Inverness has just appointed 
him to the position of Bard to the Society in succession to Mary 
Mackellar. May he long live to wear his laurels, and continue 
to delight his countrymen with new songs of his native land 
and people. 


The Rev. Donald Maccallum, a native of central Argyleshire, 
now a parish minister in Lewis, is the author of a small volume of 
songs and poems entitled Sop as gach Seid. His works evince a 
genuine poetic spirit, — a quiet meditative mood and thoughtful 
observation that so many parts of the Highlands are so well fitted 
to produce and nurse. Mr Maccallum has perfect command 
over the language and the " mechanic exercise " ot verse ; but he 
will probably be more remembered in Highland history as almost 
the only minister of the State Church in Scotland who had the 
moral courage to stand up for the people in the struggle of the 
crofter agitation in the years 1883-86. 


This writer, Surgeon- Major Macgregor, M.D., of the Bombay 
Army, a native of Lewis, has kept alive the Gaelic muse for 
many years in the far-off fields of Hindostan. In that land of 
many languages and many races Dr Macgregor composed many 
excellent lyrics in his native tongue of the Gael, and got them 
printed there as well. In the midst of his honourable and 
successful career, the poet's fancies continually turn to home 
scenes and dear ones left in the old country. Memories of Maui 
na h-Airidh, " Mary of the Shieling," or some others, find pleasant 
embalmment in smooth -flowing verse. In 1890 appeared a 
long English poem from his pen, The Girdle of the Globe, which 
has been very well received by many who are well-entitled to 
judge, some of the Ivrics scattered throughout the cantos showing 


the spirit and power of utterance of the true poet. We look foi 
much more some of these days from his pen, especially when, as 
he may do before loni:, he retires from the honourable service of 
his country to cultivate the favours of the muse at home. 


Mrs Macpherson (nee Macdonald), a native of Skye, had some 
bitter experiences of life some twenty years ago or more, when she 
was about fifty years of age, and then her latent powers of verse- 
making began to assert themselves. In recent years she has com- 
posed largely on themes of local interest, — on the land question, 
her favourites among those by whom this question has been kept 
alive, and on her own personal grievances. Like Rob Donn she 
has been very fortunate in having some patroni who have patrioti- 
cally espoused the cause of her muse and borne the expense of 
publishing in excellent style her compositions. The highly com- 
petent pens of Mr John Whyte and Mr Alexander MacBain have 
helped in the production of the volume (Inverness, 1891). The 
one took down the poems in conect writing from the composer's 
dictation, while the other has supplied an introductory biographical 
sketch. The portraits of the poetess in various attitudes representa- 
tive of Highland home industry are a good feature of the volume. 

If we follow the Highlander across the ocean we find him there 
as fond of poetry and song as he was in his original home. The 
Rev. D. B. Blair, of Canada, has contributed a good deal to 
Gaelic literature. He is the author of many original poems of 
much merit, one on the Falls of Nia^^ara being particularly excel- 
lent. He has translated parts of Virgil's /Eneid from the Latin. 
It was said some time ago that he had ready for the press a 
Gaelic grammar and a new Gaelic version of the Psalms. 

'J'he Rev. A. M. Sinclair, of Nova Scotia, is also a worshipper' 
of the muse. He, indeed, belongs to a family of bards. The 
Gaels on this side are particularly indebted to Maclean Sinclair 
for his valuable contributions to their literature, his last two 
volumes (1890) being a handsome addition to the catalogue of 
good Highland books 

But it is not in America alone that we find the cultivation of 
the Gaelic muse. If we go to New Zealand we find there Far- 
QUHAR Macdonnell, oncc of Plockton, a composer of consider- 
able genius, and one of whose songs has become a popular 


It is not only in Canada and New Zealand but also in Australia 
that the Gaelic muse is kept alive. Here are verses of a pretty 
poem in Gaelic and English by the Rev. A. Cameron, a native 
of Lochaber. from that broad continent in the Antipodes. The 
author holds communion with the Ree waterfall, Nether-Lnchaber, 
in a dream : — 

I gaze on thco thou wondrous fall ! 
As 1 had (lone long j'uars ago ; 
I travelled far on duty's call 

Since last I saw thy currents flow. 

In days gone by, when joy was young, 

'Twas my delight to sit me here ; 
When thy grave voice, so full and strong, 

A pleasant song was to mine ear. 

Methinks I hear thy waters say, 

In greeting accents bathed in tears, 
" Where did thy wandering footsteps stray 

These many long and weary years ? 
" I missed thee on the rocky brink, 

Thy youthful shadow on the pool. 
When thou would'st say as thou would'st think 

Thy daily lesson for the school : 

'• When none but I was to thee near 

Save He who guides our weary ways, 
To whom creation all is dear, 

As joining in His glory's praise." 

We have thus seen that throughout India, America, and Aus- 
tralasia we can find singers and composers of Gaelic songs, repre- 
senting leal-hearted sons of the Highlands, who have nobly served 
their country, their people, and their God. 



" happy saints ! rejoice and sing ! 
He quickly comes, your L'Ord and King ! " 

— W. D. Maclagan, D.D., Abjy. of York. 

The religious Highlander of the present day is known to be 
stubbornly opposed to the use of hymns of human authorship in 
public worship. His prejudice was deepened and played upon 
recently in connection with a Union controversy between two 
well known ecclesiastical bodies. One result has been that many 
of the southern Highlanders who were in the habit of using the 
translated Scripture Paraphrases have discontinued the practice. 
But notwithstanding the prejudices of many Highlanders against 
hymns, all the writers of sacred poetry have been very popular 
among them. There were many authors of religious poetry 
whose compositions did not become much known until the begin- 
ning of this century. To this class belonged yi;/^;/ Ban Maor and 
Bean a' Bhana, under whose names a good deal of verse appears 
in a collection by Duncan Kennedy of Melfort, who plays a rather 
unenviable part in the Ossianic controversy. The names of other 
two auUiors also occur in the volume — Macindeor and Mackeich. 
Macfadyen, a Glasgow student, p\iblished a volume of hymns in 
1770, but nothing more is known of him or his work. 


This poet was born at Balvicphadrick, on the estate of Cul- 
diithel, near Inverness. His father, who was a farmer at Borlum, 
bestowed some pains on the education of William, who, after his 
marriage, rented successively the farms of Bailedubh, in Tordar- 
roch, and that of Cnocbui, in the parish of Daviot. He afterwards 
gave up farming, and was appointed by the Society for Propagat- 
ing Christian Knowledge to teach one of their schools at Leys, in 
the parish of Croy, some three miles from Inverness. He laboured 
there as teacher and evangelist for forty years. He died in 1838 


at the advanced age of ninety, and was buried in the churchyard 
of Dunlichity. Mackenzie appears to have been a man of fair 
culture and was well read. His poetry, although not first first-class, 
has a masculine, sensible ring about it. A good deal of it con- 
sists of excellent sermon matter, expressed in clear natural lang- 
uage and smooth and flowing verse. Scripture history and the 
usual evangelical doctrines of Christianity with an underlying 
practical application, constitute his general theme. He has also 
composed several elegies and addresses to persons. The poet 
deals thus with a certain class of religious professors : — 

Bheir iad cuireadh dhuitse dh'ol 

Le daimh is m6ran carthannas ; 
'S bidh iad cho cribhach an cim, 

'S gu'm feum thu'n dn\m a bheannachadh. 

English : 

They will invite thee to the drink 

As friends each hour grow thicker ; 
And then each one seems so devout 

That thou must bless the liquor. 


If not the most powerful, this bard is certainly the keenest and 
subtlest that the Highlands have produced. His father was a 
native of Glenalchaig, in Kintail ; but Donald was born in the 
parish of Petty, Inverness-shire, the date of his birth being 
nth November 1756. His parents were poor people in 
humble life, and their son got no education whatever. But 
Christian teaching and Biblical knowledge became a deeply culti- 
vating power in his case. He earned his livelihood by labouring 
at his loom, when he lived as a cottager on the estate of the Earl 
of Moray in his native parish of Petty. He lived to the good ige 
of eighty-one, his death taking place in 1837. He was buried in 
the churchyard of Petty, where a small tombstone points out his 
grave. He got his poems published in Inverness some time 
before he died, under the title of Spiritual Songs. He has com- 
posed a considerable quantity of poetry, the most ot which is first- 
class when the bard's theme is of more than local interest. He 
combines the spiritual insight and holy sympathies of George 
Herbert with the subtlety of Shelley. He is the only bard that 
distinctly illustrates the tendency to mysticism in Highland reli- 
gion manifested in some quarters. His profound self-analysis may 
be seen the poem Luireach : — 


Bha 'n inntinn dhiomhain riamh mar tha, 

Aig spionadh triith na h-umhlachd, 
Mar eiin aig itealaich gu h-^rd, 

'Snacli gabhadh tumh 'san diithaichs'. 

Is coslach mi ri madadh tair', 

Le lotail)h grannd a' biiraich, 
Ach le a theangaidh a rinn slim 

Na leoin a ta 'ga chiurradh. : 

The mind of vanity e'er so 

Obedience true o'er-riding, 
Like birds on flight in highest heaven 

And ne'er on earth abiding. 

I am so like that dog despised 

That with sore wounds is moaning , 
But with his tongue has healed his hurts 

That caused his painful groaning. 


This poetess — J^'ean Torra dhamh — who was the daughter 
of Ewen Macpherson, schoolmaster in Laggan, Badenoch, 
appears to have been a woman of great piety. She began 
first to compose in English, but her husband, whose name was 
Clark, persuaded her to compose in Gaelic, At the beginning of 
this century she went to Inverness to get her poems, some thirty 
in number, written, she herself being at that time blind, and also 
to publish them. Her works appeared some time ago, anew 
edited and very well translated by the Rev. John Kennedy. Mrs 
Clark is a natural and intelligent singer, but without much fresh- 
ness or originality. 'Hie warmth of her religious feelings renders 
her pieces more readable than ihey would otherwise be. She 
died at Perth at an advanced age. 


Margaret Campbell was born at the farm of Clashgour in 
Glenorchay. Her father's name was Peter Campbell. She 
was married a second time to a Cameron at Fort- William, 
when she became much reduced in circumstances. »She 
published a little volume of songs in 1785; a second edition, 
which relieved her embarrassments a little, in 1805. Her Laoidh- 
can Spioradail appeared in Edinburgh in 1810, a volume which 
seems to have escaped Reid's notice. The hymns are thirty-four 
in number. An EngUsh appendix gives an abstract of the 


themes with which the hymns are occupied. The metre is not 
always very regular, but a few of the pieces show some poetic 


Next to Dugald Buchanan, the author whose hymns are best 
and most widely known, is the late Peter Grant, a Baptist minister 
in Strathspey, who pul)lished the first edition of his hymns as early 
as 1 813. As he tells us in one of his poems, he was deeply im- 
pressed with the extent of practical heathenism among the High- 
landers. He complains, as Bishop Carsuel in the sixteenth cen- 
tury did before him, that the Highlanders loved the tales of Fin- 
gal and Ossian more than the Gospel, and that they spent all 
their spare time in the recital of these vain heathen stories. 
Carsuel gave his own generation a liturgy, and Grant to his a 
series of Gospel hymns ; and it need scarcely be asked which of 
them w:is the more successful. The hymns became immediately 
widely popular, and edition after edition was called forth, and they 
have maintained their popularity to the present day. Grant is 
not a powerful poet, but he is a very sweet singer. His hymns 
and poems have a holy fragrance about them that is quite capti- 
vating. The simplicity of the conception and the naturalness of 
the style at once affect and enchain the heart. Grant succeeds 
where a hymnist of more ambition and power would fail. The 
warmth of his earnest nature is felt in every stanza he has written. 
He died full of years and honours, beloved by all who knew him. 
A sweet poem of his begins with the experience of a child emerg- 
ing in heaven : — 

'S leaiiabh solasach mi 

Gle og chaidh A tim ; 
Chaidh mo tlweorach o'n chich do'n uaigh ; 

'S eed bu ghoirid mo thim 

Gabhail fradharc do'n tir, 
'S mor th'agam ri innse do'n t-sluagh. 
Engllsh : 

A child joyful, beloved. 

Early from time removed, 
From the breast to the grave they bore me ; 

Though brief was that state 

I have much to relate 
To the many I see before me. 


Macgregor (1759-1830), sent by the General Associate Synod 
to Nova Scotia in 1786, has written hymns (1819) which have 


^ been highly valued by sections of Highlanders at home and 
abroad. He was a native of St Fillans, in Perthshire, and wrote 
and spoke Gaelic with greater purity and elegance than the 
natives of that county in the present day are able to do. The 

. University of Glasgow conferred on him the degree of D.D. in 
recognition of his arduous and successful labours in the Colonies 
among bis countrymen. His poetry, although not of the first 
order, is yet sweet and natural — metrical effusions in which the 
simple truths of the Gospel are rehearsed with earnestness and 
freshness. The following verses are translated from his poem on 
The Resurrection : — 

Great must be that might, 

Keen must be that sight, 
That so wisely all parts exhume ; 

All the craven and brave, 

The master and slave, 
He shall call from the dust of the tomb. 

Widely scattered though be 

Heads and bodies, yet He 
Reunites them in one again ; 

Then forth shall be hurled 

From the graves of the world 
All the ashes of slaughtered men. 

The bones that are placed 

On the hill or wild waste, 
In the desert, or pit, or shore ; 

In the ocean deep, 

'Neath the river's sweep — 
To life he shall then restore. 

When the earth shall be shaken 

All classes shall waken — 
The poor, and the king, and the brave ; 

Then forth shall be rolled 

The young and the old. 
The maiden, and lover, and slave. 

Some will rise in great fear 

When the Lamb shall appear, 
The just from the evil to sever ; 

Some will wake with delight^' ,j;,'^-^ 

In garments all bright, % 
As the heirs of the kingdom for ever. 

Macgregor's grandson, the Rev. George Patterson, D.D., has 
written his life, much of which is founded on an autobiographical 



Dr Macdonald, of Ferintosh, as " The Apostle of the North," is 
a household word in the Highlands. As an orator, preacher, 
and evangelist, no man of his day was the instrument of greater 
good to his countrymen, by whom his memory will be warmly 
cherished for generations. In The. Gaelic Messenger (1829-30) 
appeared the first and the best of his poems, which have been the 
delight of more than one generation of Highlanders. This was a 
poem of three parts — The Christian on his Jouniey to, at^ and be- 
yond Jordan. Some of his other poems are biographical. His 
poetical works were published in a neat volume in 1846. Here 
are a few verses translated from the " Christian's Journey : " — 


He often sought for special grace 

At mercy's fountain free, 
To keep up aye a clieerful face 

Hard though the heart might be ; 
And by that smile of happiness — 

That fragrance sweet he found — 
He helped a holy cheerfulness 

In all the saints around. 

He bated all hypocrisies, 

The silent face of gloom. 
The moaning and the plaintive sighs 

That savour of the tomb. 
But the sweet breath of life he knew 

Amidst the tainted air ; 
Heart-brokenness that came to view 

Would have his tender care. 


I hear the floods of Jordan roll. 

My flesh is seized with dread ; 
But shame shall ne'er approach my soul, 

By hope of heaven led. 
That hope tlie Rock of Ages showed 

To those who went before. 
Who safely trod the sacred road 

That leads to Canaan's shore. 

My spirit tre-nbles with afl"right 

As down to death I go ; 
Around me glide the shades of night, 

And weary doubtings grow. 
Before is an eternity 

Uareckoned by our years j 


The shoreless and the boundless sea 

That wakens shrinking fears. 
But on the Christ my eye doth rest, 

I trust his gracious power ; 
He succoured me when sore distressed, 

And He will save that hour. 
Yea, He a help v/ill yet pvovide, 

While I am ci this shove ; 
The waters great He will divide, 

Till Jordan I am o'er. 


That Christian who once fearful stood 

Where high the waters swell'd 
Lamenting there before the flood, 

Corruption still unqucH'd, 
Has entered row into that rest 

Whose light aye filled his eye ; 
His spirit now in glory drest 

Surrounds the throne on high. 

The po])ular and livins; character of Macdonald's preaching 
genius is everywliere apparent in his hymns. Sweetness, elegance, 
and oenial, broad spiritual-mindedness, have rendered his composi- 
tions universally pleasing. He will probably ever remain the chief 
type of the Highland preacher. 


The name of this sacred bard was once very popular in the 
South-West Highlands and Isles, and his memory is still green 
with many aged Christians particularly in the island of Tiree, 
where he laboured with success as a Nonconformist min- 
ister. His hymw?,— I.aoid/icaii ^y^;^; (7^(7 //—appeared in 1841, 
and for many years continued to be gi'eat favourites in certain- 
circles. Macdougall and Peter Grant belong to the same order of 
simple bard-evangelists who have always been a spiritually elevat- 
ing force in humble quartets where more ambitious labours have 
been failures. Their productions have been sermons in verse 
which the common people have received with greater gladness 
than has been accorded to the more elaborate and ambitious utter- 
ances of the regular pulpit. 


Morrison, originally a blacksmith to trade, and latterly a Free 
Church catechist in Harris, is one of the most powerful and inge- 


nious of the bards. I do not know in any language a poem like 
his Diiin og is seann Duin agam in its subtlety of conception, its 
felicity of expression, and its cunning weavings and turnings of 
verses. Its theme is the " holy war " in the Christian soul, 
which he treats not at all in the style ot Bunyan, but in quite an 
original fashion. Tt was published in 1835, again in America along 
with many of his other poems. His poetry shows that he was 
profoundly exercised and interested in the spiritual problems and 
difficulties of the Christian life. Few men ever obtained a deeper 
insight into the human heart, and fewer still possessed equally 
great poetic gifts for uttering what has been seen and felt. A 
good edition ot his whole works is much required ; and it was 
once hoped that his son, Dr Morrison of Edinburgh, would satisfy 
the wishes of his father's admirers. The bard died in 1852, sixty, 
two }ears of age, before any of his works in book-form appeared. 

Usquba has been the theme of frequent laudations by the secular 
bards ; the following verses are from a preaching poem of a very 
different strain : — 

Ye friends whom I cherish, nurse not in your mind 
That I sing in this song from a motive unkind ; 
My theme is the drink-plague — that ill-unconfined, 

That feeds on our ravage and ruin. 
Ye cannot dislike though the satire be keen ; 
For disgrace, woe, and want are where'er it has been ; 
And spirits immortal enslased may be seen 

Its road to the devil pursuing. 
Degraded is he who delights in its breath, 
For its trade has been plann'd in the regions beneath ; 
Its curse has been wed to consumption and death 

In bodies' and souls' undoing. 


This was an able minister of the Church of Scotland, who was 
for some time settled at Arisaig. Collath is a poem of the heroic 
kind, which Mackenzie had inserted in "The Beauties" as a 
specimen of ancient poetry ! Mr MacCallum published it first 
anonymously, as he did another booklet in which he acknowledged 
himself to be the author of Collaih. His poetry shows fair poetic 
gifts. We meet with MacCallum again as the author of a Church 


The late Free Church minister of Glenurchy, Mr MacLean, 
Was a religious poet of great power and originality. Buchanan, 


IVIorrison, and he are poets of the first order. The "Gaelic 
Hymns" of MacLean appeared in 1868 in a small closely-printed 
volume. The pieces in this volume are rather religious poems 
than hymns. A keenly aesthetical spirit pervades all that Mac- 
Lean has written ; and he has written more than any of the first- 
class religious bards. He is exceedingly rich in poetic illustration, 
and very profound in thought. He was a mon of wide general 
culture, and he brought the power and fruits of it with him into 
the sphere of Gaelic religious poetry. But though his countrymen 
highly appreciated his able ministrations in that language in the 
pulpit, they do not appear to be ready to understand that they 
have such a deep mine of fresh and original tliought in his poetry. 
The thoughtful reader, however, will at once feel tliat MacLean is 
a man of great culture and a poet of a high order, in full sympathy 
with man and the works of creation. Like Morrison of Harris, 
he is too profound for the present popular taste Here are some 
translated verses of one of his best poems, on the scenery of his 
native place : — - 

As I sit on the knoll, on the steep scarpy lieight, 
And lonely survey all that falls 'neath my sight, 
My crowding thoughts, stirred in their slumber, fast roll 
In currents resistless all over my soul. 

Loch Tay there I see with a beautiful shade 
On its bosom that's pure as the breast of a maid ; 
Like a child in sweet rest, in its fairy bed laid, 
Touch gently its locks ere its glory will fade. 

Oh fair is the vision before me outspread ! 
Kind nature's bright face that awakens no dread, 
The green woods where songsters attune on each tree 
Their throats for sweet warbling — beloved of me. 

The Dochart is rushing to Lochy's domain 
To meet htr, good woman, so gentle and plain ; 
When they have embraced and are wed into twain 
His fiei-ceness forsakes him, he yields to her strain. 

Glen Dochart, Glen Lochy, are bright to the view, 
With their corries of green when their dress they renew ; 
With tlie shadowy nooks where tlie streamlet fast rushes. 
Where you hear the gay chorus of robins and thrushes. 

All changeless I see them, hill, river, and road, 
But where are the people that once there abode ? 
Some rest in their graves 'neath tlie slumberous sod. 
But the many are scattered o'er ocean abroad. 

The smoke rises high from our house as before, 
In volumes encircling the same as of yore ; 


But where is that father so kindly nursed me, 
And, gentlest of mothers— 0, where now is she » 

The schoolhouse, unaltered, stands there all aloue. 
But where the young friends of my bosom are gone? 
The schoolhouse is there still, but where are the boys 
With whom I oft tasted of innocent joys? 

The church there I see on tlie desolate street, 

But where are the crowds that I there used to meet .' 

The minister, too, who had won my regard ? 

The answer of echo is, " Under the sward.'' 

MacLean was a scholarly man and possessed rich gifts for 
preaching to his fellow-countrymen. His style was concise and 
suggestive, his matter well-arranged ami weighty, while the inspir- 
ing spirit invested all with a heavenly force and meaning which 
greatly delighted all the more thoughtful Highlanders. 


The Hymns of John Morrison of Skye (1828), are now scarcely 
read. Others also published religious poems and hymns ; but there 
is none of them of any particular merit. They are just sermons 
and Christian experiences put in respectable verse. They, how- 
ever, helped no doubt to propagate, especially in some parts of 
the west, the earnest evangelical teaching of the authors. The 
Gaelic Elegies, published in 1850 by the Rev. W. Findlater of 
Durness, do not show much poetic freshness either ; but owe much 
of their interest to their religious character and Christian senti- 
ments. Two of the elegies are on Dr Macdonald of Ferintosh 
and on the Rev. A. Stewart of Cromarty. MacEachern of Eis- 
dale (1866) scarcely reaches mediocrity. The Rev. A. Farquhar- 
son, a native of Perthshire, who spent the most of his life in Tiree 
also published a good deal of religious poetry, scarcely equal in 
merit to Macdougall's. He died a few years ago. The Rev. 
Malcolm MacRitchie, a native of Lewis, wrote a good many 
poems and hymns, which were published upwards of 30 years ao-o. 
They are superior to those already mentioned in poetic vigour and 
freshness of expression. A small volume by Cameron of Uist is 
just published (1891). Hendry of Arran and D. Macdougall have 
both composed a quantity of religious poetry ; as also Alexander 
Cook, a native of Arran, who was a lay preacher of great ability. 
The writer published a poem of considerable merit by Cook in 
Bratach na Firinnm 1873. Macquarrie and Macintyre, both of 


Ross and Mull, the former a Baptist preacher and the latter a farmer, 
have both composed religious poems and hymns. It would be 
needless to catalogue the names of others whose names have never 
taken the smallest hold of public attention. It is very remarkable 
that men of powerful genius in all countries have often sunk to 
mediocrity whenever the theme was purely religious. There are 
not, it appears, many hymns in any language, with the excep- 
tion of the Psalms, that can be described as first-class poetry, 


Many laudable attempts have heen made to bring the power of 
the sacred muse to bear on Highland life. Principal Daniel 
Dewar, D.D., published a considerable collection of hymns in 
1806 for public worship. It was translated wholly from F^nglish, 
and consisted of paraphrases and hymns then current in the 
English language. Another collection by John Munro appeared 
in "1819, printed by D. Mackenzie, Glasgow. This is made up 
chiefly of translations from Watts's hymns, and many of them are 
well rendered. Another appeared in 1832, published by John 
Reid. This tiny volume is neatly printed, and consists mainly of 
translations from the Olney hymns. Some of the compositions in 
Kennedy's collection have been referred to already. The 
" Sacred Poetry of the North," edited by John Rose, and published 
in 185 1, is the most valuable collection of sacred poems yet given 
to the Highlanders. The authors whose works are contained in 
this volume have been already brought before the reader in chro- 
nological order. In more recent times many of the hymns of our 
own day, translated by Archibald Macfadyen, Rev. Dr John Mac- 
Leod, and others, were published by Duncan Campbell in 1874. 
A new edition of the same is just published, the collection being 
in request among Baptists who have always encour-iged more 
hymn-sinj:;ing in public worship than their Presbyterian neigh- 
bours. The latter, however, are beginning to cultivate more 
liberty in this respect. A few of the hymns sung in Scotland by 
Mr Sankey in 1874, were translated by the I'ev. Alexander Mac- 
Rae of Clachan, and were received with much appreciation. 
The first part of " The Highland Hymnal," by the writer, was 
published in 1886. In connection with Highland hymnology, 
ancient and modern, Mr Lachlan MacBean, Mr Stewart of Killin, 
and Mr Alexander Carmichael have done good work in exhibiting 
some of the treasures of the Gaelic sacred muse. Still a good 


volume of Church Praise with music has never yet been given to 
the Highland Gael. 


These were first translated by the Rev. Alexander Macfarlane 
of Kilmelfort and Kilninver. Forty-fi\eof them were published 
in 1753. They were afterwards revised and remodelled, and 
published in complete form by the Rev. John Smith, D.D.. to 
whom also we are indebted for the best version of the Psalter. 
During the second and third generations of this century, the 
Paraphrases, through no lack of life or poetic merit, fell into 
disrepute in some Highland districts, particularly in the north- 
west, through theological controversies in whose train rather 
mechanical theories of inspiration began to be introduced. These 
viev/s, hitherto unknown among the Gaels, now followed out to 
their logical issues, led to the rejection of all hymns of mere 
human authorship in public worship. This result, however, is 
only temporary ; and in its operations confined to certain circum- 
scribed districts. 


The first fifty Psalms were published in 1684 by the Rev 
Robert Kirk of Balquidder. A version by the Synod of Argyle 
appeared in 1694. 

Several other attempts were made in the eighteenth century to 
produce a good translation of the Psalms in metre, chiefly under 
the auspices of the Synod of Argyle. At last there appeared in 
1783 a version which has been generally received by all good 
judges of Gaelic idioms and poetry as the best. The author of 
this version of the Psalter was the elegant Dr John Smith, who 
received the unanimous thanks of the Synod of Argyle for 
" executing it in so faithful and beautiful a manner." 

An eftbrt was made to force upon the Churches another trans- 
lation of the Psalter by the Rev. Dr Ross of Lochbrooni, a man 
of considerable ability and distinguished for his knowledge of 
Gaelic. This version, however, is marred by obsolete phrases and 
idioms, and has never obtained universal circulation in the High- 



" Duisg a leoghain euchdaich, 's dean (Enrich gu faraniach, 
Air brat ball-dearg, breid-gheal, 's fraoch sleibhe mar bharan air ; 
Tog suas do clieann gu h-eutrom, 's na speuraibh gu caithreasach, 
'S theid nii-fhin cho geire 's a dh'fheiutas mi d'arabhaig : 
Togam suas do mlioladh priseal, 's do clieann rioghail farasda, 
Cha'n'eil ceann no corp 's an riogliachd an cruaidh-ghniomh thug barrachd 

An ceann cruadalach t\rd sgiamhach, maisach, fior-dheas, arranta, 
'Stric sgairt ri uchd an fhuathais, ri am luchd t'fhuatha tarruinn riut. 

— Macdonald. 

English : 
Awake thou furious lion ! awake with lusty roar, 
On thy bright blood-stained standard, heath-circled as of yore ; 
Thy head lift up full lightly in heaven with raging might, 
And I will rusli with fervour to mingle in thy fight : 
I raise thy praises precious round thy calm regal head ; 
None e'er throughout the kingdom excelled thy deeds of dread ; — 
That head of strength and valour where fearless beauty glows, 
Oft roared it out its terrors when onward pressed the foes. 

This was the spirit and manner in which the great poet Alex. 
Macdonald went about rousing his countrymen to lofty deeds of 
valour in the second quarter of the eighteenth century. He 
lavished all his poetic enthusiasm on the " praises " of the national 
lion, and the inspiration of his muse and of that of a hundred- 
others bore fruit a century afterwards. Such poems as Macdonald's 
have had a profoundly formative influence on the minds of the 
young Highlanders of our own t'lnes, — especially the more sus- 
ceptible and less sordid spirits, who would not deny their country, 
race, or language for all the golden success that self-effacement as 
Gaels could secure. These enduring sons of the Highlands and 
Islands succeeded at last, although in the midst of much 
obloquy and secular loss, in accomplishing a Gaelic revolution ; 
— in creating a Gaelic revival, and ultimately a powerful agi- 
tation that bore a fruit that has justified the more sanguine expec- 
tations and claims of bards and patriots. This has been the 


fruit of a century of Gaelic eftort devoted to the study of the lang 
uage, history, and interests of the people. While the foes of such 
an endeavour have been numerous and supercilious, even in selfish 
Hit^hland quarters, let it not be forgotten that a great deal cf sym- 
pathy and practical help came from many kindly hearts and hands 
among our Lowland fellow-countrymen. 

It is interesting to trace the influences that have brought about 
this bloodless revolution in the Highlands, some of whose people a 
little over a century ago were engaged in rebellion against the 
present dynasty. A healthy form of Christianity and common 
sense have done it all. The meaning of the one came to ihem 
through the translation of good religious writings and the Gaelic 
Bible : and the exercise of the other became possible through the 
instructed good qualities of the Highlanders themselves. 1 there- 
fore in this last chapter devote some paragraphs to the results 
that the chief forms of Gaelic endeavour have produced. 


The first portion of the Bible translated was the New Testament, 
in 1767, by the Rev. James Stewart of Killin. Dugald Buchanan, 
the poet, accompanied Mr Stewart to Edinburgh to superintend 
the work through the press. The title-page bears that the trans- 
lation was undertaken at the request and at the expense of the 
Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The 
translator adopted an orthographical system, which has been per- 
fected into a standard of Gaelic by succeeding scholars. The first 
edition of the translation of the Old Testament was published in 
the following order : — 

Part L, 1783, translated by John Stuart, D.D , of Luss. 

Part IV., 1786, translated by John Smith, D.D., of Campbelton. 

Part n., 1787, translated by Dr Stuart. 

Part HI., iSoi, translated by Dr Stuart. 

'J1ie fourth part, assigned to Dr Smith, contained the Prophets, 
which had afterwards to be revised, Smith's version being more 
poetical than literal. Dr Stuart was a son of the translator of the 
New Testament, and received in 18 19 for his labours in connec 
tion with the first and other editions of the Gaelic Scriptures the 
sum of ;j^iooo from the Lords of the Treasury, a Government 
favour which has not been always recognised. A new and r-'vised 
edition on which Dr Alexander Stewart, of Dingwall, was engaged 
with Dr Stuart, of Luss, under the instructions of a large com- 


mittee of Gaelic scholars appointed by the General Assembly in 
1816, was published in quarto in 1826, It is acknowledged by 
all competent judges that this Gaelic version of the Scriptures is 
beyond all praise ; that in many instances it adheres more closely 
to the original than the English Bible, whose beauty and excel- 
lence have won universal admiration. The translation of the Old 
Testament was also undertaken at the expense of the Society for 
Propagating Christian Knowledge, and through its liberality the 
Scriptures were sold at half the cost price. On the publication 
of the Revised Version of the English Bible, a committee of 
Gaelic scholars undertook the revision of the Gaelic Bible ; but on 
account of some difficulties with the Society for Propagating 
Christian Knowledge the fruit of their labours has not yet ap- 


It is mostly religious works of the EvangeHcal and Puritan type 
that have been translated into Gaelic. The masterpieces of 
Bunyan, Brooks, Baxter, Burder, Owen, Howe, Doddridge, Alleine, 
etc. etc., have been rendered into good, popular Gaelic, and 
have had immense circulation. Hundreds of religious works have 
been translated, some as old as The Imitation^ and as recent as 
Newman Hall's Come to Jesus. The principal translators have 
been the Macfarlanes, Dr Smith, MacLaurin, Rose, Dr Macgilli- 
vray, Dr Mackintosh Mackay, the Rev. Allan Sinclair, and the 
Rev. A. Macgregor, translator of the Apocrypha. It was Mac 
Eachen, a Roman Catholic priest, that translated The Imilaiion. 
Several books of Homer's Iliad were translated by the ac- 
complised Ewen MacLachlan of Aberdeen ; Virgil's ^neid by 
Blair; and Tarn O' Shanter and other poems by Robert Mac- 
Dougall, the bard. As is well known, the Queen's Book has been 
translated into excellent Gaelic by Mary Mackellar. The Good - 
Templar and Masonic rituals were, with the help of the present 
writer, translated by Duncan Macpherson and Angus Nicholson 
respectively. Not the least important of recent eftorts of this 
kind is the admirable translation of that great Highland charter 
of Gaelic emancipation, the Crofters' Act, from the able and 
accurate pen of Mr Henry Whyte. 


A good deal of Gaelic literature has been translated into Eng- 
lish, whilst the " Ossian " of Macpherson has been rendered into 


Latin and into most of the European languages. Following is a 
list of the names of those who have published anything of im- 
portance : — 

Jerome Stone . . 


Patrick Macgregor . 


James Macpherson 


Robert Munro . . . 


Rev. J. Wodrow . 


Rev. Dr Macl.auchlan 


Ewen Cameron 


J. F. Campbell, Esq. 


John Clark . . . 


Rev. Thomas Pattison 


Rev. Ur Smith . 


Rev. Dr Clerk . . . 


Rev. Dr Ross . . 

Robert Buchanan 


The MacCallums . . 


C. S. Jerram, Esq. 


Mrs Grant . . . . 


Professor J. S. Blackie 


The names of some others, such as Sinclair, the Whytes, 
MacBean, etc., will occur to the Gaelic reader. The works 
translated by these writers would fill many volumes. The 
works of Macpherson, Dr Smith, Dr MacLauchlan, J. F. 
Campbell, Thomas Pattison, Dr Clerk, and Professor Blackie 
have received much attention, and are well-known. Mac- 
pherson and Smith translate, on the supposition of transla- 
tion, very much in the style of Pope in his Homer with 
this difference, that their paraphrastic renderings are only 
in prose. MacLauchlan, Campbell, and Clerk have adopted 
a rigid literality of rendering which the Ossianic controversy, 
among other reasons, compelled them to follow. These 
writers give the original Gaelic along wth the English ver- 
sion. So does Jerram. whose Dan an Deng is scholarly and 
accurate, very much in the style of Clerk's Ossian. In the Gaelic 
Bards of Pattison the original is not given, the work being in- 
tended lor popular use among English readers. Pattison's trans- 
lations are metrical and rhyming ; and so are Blackie's in his ad- 
mirable and interesting work, 2Vie Language and Literature of the 
Scottish Highlands. Those to whom the Gaelic is a scaled lang- 
uage have kindled the flame of patriotic enthusiasm by the 
healthy mountain breezes which the perusal of these translations 
has brought down. 


Several good grammars and dictionaries have been published. 
Shaw, towards the end of last century, published a grammar and 
dictionary which are not of much value. Stewart's Grammar in 


i8i2 is still the best, and any new grammar must take Stewart's as 
a basis. Currie, MacAlpine, Forbes, and Munro have also pub- 
lished grammars. Muiiro's is a work of real scholarship and 
value, but badly arranged. Dr xMacgillivray and L. MacEean 
have also written grammars, but the best of all recent attempts is 
that published by the late D. C. Macpherson, Edinburgh. Good 
grammars have also been written by Irishmen, and even Germans, 
from which much help may be obtained. The vocabularies 
of Macdonald and Macfarlane paved the way for the High- 
land Society's Dictionary, published in 1828. a noble monu- 
ment of Gaelic talent and industry. It appeared in two large 
volumes. Its departments are — Gaelic, English, and Latin ; Anglo- 
Gaelic, Latino-Gaelic. There are 837 pages m the first volume, 
and 1016 in the second. The general conduct ol the work was 
entrusted to the Rev. Dr John ]\IacLeod of Dundonald. He was 
assisted by the Rev. Drs Irvine, Macdonald, and Ewan Mac- 
Lachlan. In its progress throui^h the press the work was carelully 
superintended and corr^;cted by the Rev. Dr Mackintosh Mackay. 
None of the Celtic langua^^es can boast of so extensive and 
learned a lexicon, although it is defective in etymology, the science 
of language being then only in its infancy. Armstrong and Mac- 
Alpine have also produced excellent and useful dictionaries. That 
of the former is not much inferior to that ot the Highland Society's, 
while MacAlpine's has perhaps been the most successful of all. 
The indefatigable labours of the Macfarlanes, father and son, 
have been placed to the credit of Drs MacLeod and Dewar, whose 
namec were thought a necessary .guarantee by the publisher that 
their dictionary was of standard value. Theirs and MacMpine's 
are in general circulation. That of the latter is a pronouncing 
dictionary, and has been highly appreciated by those anxious to 
acquire the language. The translations of phrases and idiomatic 
expressions under the principal words are acknowledged to be a 
chief excellence of the work. The English-Gaelic part of Mac- 
Alpine's dictionary was compiled by John Mackenzie, editor of 
" 'Ihe Beauties of Gaelic Poetry,'' who had some peculiar ideas of 
reform in Gaelic orthography. He was heartily execrated by the 
irascible MacAlpine for his laboui-, which was no doubt a hack 
business undertaken for publishers whom Mackenzie could not 
control. A good deal of material for an etymological dictionary 
was left by the late Dr Alexander Cameron of Brodick, the publi- 
cation of which is looked for under the editorial care of Mr Alex. 
Mac Bain, M.A. 



The number of Gaelic prose writers is very limited. This fact 
is the result of various causes on the surface of things. Till the 
beginning of this century the vast masses of the Highland people 
were utterly unable to read, and even those who were able 
to make use of books turned to English ])roductions sooner than 
to Gaelic ones, a tendency that is not invisible even in our own 
day. All that tlie plain Highhaider has been able to consume in 
the way of literature he has found in the Book of Books — the Bible 
— and in the many translations of religious literature placed within 
his reach. Families and individuals destitute of the spiritual instinct 
have found all the literary sustenance needed in the old popular 
tales and poetry which circulated from mouth to mouth rather 
than in written forms. To the Finian tales and similar stuff the 
Highlanders of the nineteenth century were till recently as partial 
as those of the sixteenth century were to the oral literature of the 
same pagan character against which Superintendent Carsuel raised 
his ineffectual protest at the time of the Reformation^ This oral 
form of literature required neither money nor ability to read for 
its enjoyment ; while the manner of its culture helped to relieve 
the weariness and monotony of Highland life. Literature in 
books, which meant money, was therefore at a discount. 

But to the great credit of sagacious patriots of the Presbyterian 
Church of Scotland, efforts were continually made to teach the 
people to read and to circulate healthy literature. The Society 
for Promoting Christian Knowledge rendered splendid services in 
both respects, as did also in later times the circulating Gaelic- 
School teachers, whose labours early in this century converted 
many a dreary moral wilderness into fair fields of spiritual life. 
Similar excellent work has been accomplished by the Ladies' As- 
sociations of Edinburgh and Glasgow duiing the last forty years. 
And now at last well-trained teachers are to be found in Board 
Schools established by the national system of education introduced 
by the Act of 1872, under which the good old parish schools have 
vanished. But with all these revolutionary changes there is no 
adequate encouragement yet atiforded to the teaching of Gaelic, 
which a prejudiced Government Department in London feels re- 
luctant at heart to acknowledge. This state of matters is a suffi- 
cient explanation of the fact that our Gaelic prose literature is so 
scanty, and that the writers of it have received so little reward for 
their patriotic labours. 


In the following paragraphs will be found the names of the 
most of those who are the authors of volumes of Gaelic prose, or 
who are otherwise recognised as having contributed considerably 
to our prose literature : — 

Rev. Hugh Macdiarmid. — This well known minister ot Cal- 
lander is the author of a goodly volume of sermons which have 
had a fair circulation in the South Highlands. They exhibit no 
special ability in the author, but are plain common-sense produc- 
tions which would not rouse much holy enthusiasm in the reader, 
nor make serious demands on his intellect. At the same time 
they were often in request in pious homes, where, on the poor 
man's great Day of Rest, they might be bi ought forth to be read. 

Principal Daniel Dewar, D.D.— Though the Principal of a 
Scottish University, Dr Dewar did not allow himself to get con- 
temptuous towards the language of his forefathers like many much 
smaller men when they get into posts of honour. As pointed out 
elsewhere, Dewar published early in the century a fair collection 
of Gaelic hymns, the preface to which shows him to be a man of 
culture and devout spirit. We find his name also associated with 
a popular dictionary, and with all enterprises of his time for the 
uplifting of Gaelic life. " The Gaelic Preacher," a booklet by Dr 
Dewar, is well-known to the present generation of Gaelic readers. 

Rev. John Macmillan. — This Arran preacher was one of the 
ablest men who occupied Gaelic pulpits in the early part of this 
century. The unction and power of his sermons are stdl remem- 
bered by old folks in his native island, where his labours have 
been highly esteemed and loved. " Macmillan's Sermons " is a 
posthumous volume issued under the editorial care of his relative, 
the Rev. Mr Stewart, who in their publication has conferred a boon 
on his Highland fellow-countrymen. The founders of the great 
publishing house of Macmillan were not unrelated to the disting- 
uished preacher of these sermons. 

Rev. Mackintosh Mackay, LL.D, — This Sutherlandshire di- 
vine was the most distinguished and thorough Gaelic scholar of 
his time. He collected and edited Rob Donn's poems, no small 
achievement in itself ; had a prodigious share in the production of 
the Highland Society's Dictionary, and published the I'iafiuis at 
the time of the Disruption of the Scottish Establishment — a monu- 
ment of good Gaelic prose and powerful exposition of great prin 
ciples in the language of the Gael. The pages of the Fiaiiuis, 


however, being largely controversial, tliey are now very much for- 
gotten like the many pamphlets which the Union controversy 
subsequently brought forth. For many years Dr Mackay was one 
of the best known ministers of the Scottish Churches at home and 
abroad. In Australia he helped divided Presbyterians to unite, 
but on his return home in his old age he opposed a similar union 
in Scotland. He kept up hi** interest in Gaelic studies to the very 
last, and his love of accuracy continued to the end. Mr William 
Mackenzie, publisher, of Glasgow, engaged him to write a Gaelic 
Church History (1872), which in his last years he accomplished 
with ad the care and scholarship which distinguished his work 
for the great Gaelic dictionary in his younger yeai's. 

Rev. Alexander Beith, D.D. — This remarkable divine has 
only recently passed away over ninety years of age. As early as 
1824 he published a little book on "Baptism" when he was 
minister at Oban. It is interesting as being one of our earliest 
original prose works. 

Rev. Norman Macleod, D.D. —Well has Dr Macleod been 
styled •' The Highlander's Friend," for no Gaelic man of emi- 
nence has ever identified himself with his countrymen more 
thoroughly than he. The favourite of Royalty, the personal 
friend of Sir Robert Peel, few men of his cloth have ever re- 
ceived more public honour and respect ; and his no less famous 
son found a people, when he came forward publicly, affectionately 
ready to welcome him. It is as a powerful writer of Gaelic prose, 
however, that the elder Norman will be remembered. His writ- 
ings are full of wit, wisdom, and humour, and will be read by 
Highlanders as long as Gaelic continues to be spoken. No other 
man has fashioned by his literary eftbrts the mental habits of his 
countrymen so much as he. He has been the Dickens {plus 
powerful religious feelings) of the Highlands. No Highlander ever 
knew better than he how to touch the heart-chords of hi*i country 
men. In many of his labours he had a worthy and scarcely less 
able coadjutor in his brodier, the Rev. Dr John Macleod of 
Morven. His works were collected, edited, and republished by 
his accomplished relative, the Rev. Dr Clerk of Kilmallie. 

Macleod's Leabhar nan Cnoc became their first introduction to 
Gaelic literature to thousands of Highlanders who never lost the 
first impressions it left on their minds in youth. 'I'he first volume 
of the Gaelic Messenger for 1830 was condemned by some as 
too light and racy ; the second and last for 1831 received so little 


support that the magazine was stopped. The late Mr W. R. 
MacPhun, the publisher, informed the writer, in 1873, that the 
parcels of " Messengers " sent to the Highlands and Islands came 
back at the end of the year, after they had been lead, without any 
accompanying payment, of course. Dr IMacleod and his enter- 
prising publisher saw then that it was time to give up the business. 
Some who have lost time and money in recent times over Gaelic 
affairs may find some cold comfort in this incident in the experi- 
ence of our greatest of prose writers. 

John Mackenzie. — The compiler of " The Beauties of Gaelic 
Poetry " wrote largely in, for which he had great natural 
gifts. He was the author of an admirable " History of Prince 
Charles," in which much easy and idiomatic Gaelic will be found. 
His other works of •' The Beauties," " The English-Gaelic Dic- 
tionary," "The Gaelic Melodist," etc., are so well-known that no 
further description of them is necessary. The late Gaelic pub- 
lishers, Maclachlan 6^ Stewart of Edmburgh, employed Mac- 
kenzie on various works for years. 

Rev. Duncan MacCalluri. — This Arisaig minister has come 
before us already as the author of Collath, once sent fortli as an 
ancient heroic poem. He is better known as the author of a 
Gaelic Church History, which is written with fair ability. This 
has at least the distiction of being the first of the kind in the 

Rev. John Forbe.s. — The author of the " Double Giammar " 
(Gaelic and English in parallel columns), second edition (1S48), 
was a very clever and a very leanietl Highlander. He translated 
much into Gaelic, in which he wrote with purity and ease. He 
was very ingenious in coining new terms for conceptions hitherto 
alien to Gaelic. He and Munro having no access to the works of 
the ancient writers of the Celtic Missions Churches described 
by Zeuss became thus needlessly neologists. Forbes's Lochran, 
LoiiQ, Gheal, etc., are well-known to the readers of Gaelic religi- 
ous literature. 

Rev. Archib.\ld Clerk, LL.D.—Dr Clerk's greatest work is 
the elaborate edition of Macplierson's Ossian (1870), with new 
translations and notes, and Macpherson's original prose version 
running at the foot of the pages. All that Celtic culture and 
accurate knowledge of Gaelic could do for the Gaelic of 1807 
Clerk has done ; and the splendid work, in two volumes, was 


published at the expense of the generous Marquis of Bute. But 
all to no avail ; for I find, just as write, that even Professor 
Mackinnon at last has given up the old faith in Ossian. Dr 
Clerk's prose writings were numerous as editor and contributor 
in connection with periodical liteiature. He, in conjunction 
with Dr MacLauchlan, undertook the revision of the Gaelic Bible, 
but with results rather unsatisfactory. 

Rev. Tho?>ias MacLauchlan, LL.D. — A very difficult task 
was taken in hand by MacLauchlan when he undertook the tran- 
scription and rnodeniisation of the MS. and Gaelic of the Dean of 
Lismore's Book. This work he also translated literally into 
English. He. too, edited Macpherson's Gaelic Ossian, the small 
edition in circulation having been issued under his care. Like Dr 
Clerk he had a hand in and helped various Gaelic enterprises of 
hi.s time. Among others he had charge of the new edition of 
Carsuel's Liturgy. His " Celtic Gleanings " (1857), and " Review 
of Gaelic Literature " (1872) in Fullarton's work on the Highlands 
and Highland Clans, were the first attempts to give us an account 
of the literature of the Gael. His " Early Scottish Church " was a 
creditable production, considering the limited materials which 
were then available for the general historian's purposes. 

Rev. Angus Mackenzie. — Mr Mackenzie, a native of Lewis, 
has the honour of being the only man who has ever attempted to 
write a complete history of Scotland in Albin's ancient tongue. 
His Eachdraidh na h-AIbn {\'&6']] is written with much ability 
and in good idiomatic Gaelic. It covers the whole period of 
Scottish story, and ought to have on extensive circulation among 
Highlanders. But it is feared that although sold very cheaply it 
had not the sale it so well deserved. 

Rev. Alexander Macgregor. — This excellent and patriotic 
"Sgiathanach " was among the best story-tellers of his age, rank- 
ing probably, as far as that gift is concerned, next to Norman 
Macleod. Tales and sketches on almost everything Highland 
were continually pouring from his facile pen for many years. 
His translation of the Apociypha, undertaken at Lucien Bona- 
parte's request, will remain a fine m.onument of his knowledge of 
his native tongue. The Gaelic Socie'.y of Liverness and The 
Celtic Magazine were much indebted to him during the first years 
of their existence. When he died he was minister of the West 
(Established) Church of Liverness. 


Rev. Alexander Cameron, LL.D. — No one in this generation 
has contributed so much towards accurate Gaelic scholarship as 
the late Free Church minister of Brodick. He taught Gaelic with 
great success for years at Glasgow University to scores of High- 
land students who, but for his enthusiasm and self-denying labours, 
would be settling in Highland pastorates with more than enough 
of Latin and Greek and Hebrew but quite ignorant of Gaelic 
grammar. The more learned products of Dr Cameron's pen were 
published in the Scottish Celtic Review begun in i8So. This 
periodical was chiefly written by himself and largely filled with 
])hilology. Mr MacBain of Inverness is understood to be prepar. 
ing for the press the materials left behind by Dr Cameron. 

Rev. John George MacNeill. — The Free Church minister of 
Cawdor began writing Gaelic articles while still a student in 1873. 
He contributed a large proportion of the general contents of two 
volumes oi Bratach na Firitpi in which also a telling short story, 
Tii^/iJiacloiche appeared from his pen. A7t Soisgeul ann an 
India (1S88) is a living, natural and idiomatic translation of Miss 
Rainy's admirable volume on the Gospel in India. This is one of 
the most interesting, books in the language the reader finding here 
the life and customs of Aryans in the East described in the ancient 
tongue of Aryans in the extreme West of Europe, the children of 
Sanscrit and of Celtic being once more brought there into close 
contact. Mr MacNeill has edited the Free Church Gaelic Quar 
terly with much spirit and success for some years. The Gaelic 
preface to the Oianaiche and a biographical sketch and notes to 
the secoud edition ot " Pattison's Gaelic Bards" are from his pen. 

Professor Donald Mackinnon, M. A.— After ages of unrea- 
sonable neglect of the Gaelic language, it is satisfactory to Gaels at 
last to be able to point to the Celtic Chair in Edinburgh Univer- 
sity as an academic recognition of its claims ; and it is not less 
satisfactory to know that the first occupant of the Chair is a scholar 
well fitted to adorn the position. Professor Mackinnon's first 
contributions to the literature of his native language appeared in 
The Gael, and showed that the native ability and culture which 
secured him recognition in other spheres of study might be of 
exceptional service to Gaelic literature. Mr Mackinnon has pub- 
lished a text-book for the use of his class ; and has contributed 
more than one series of fresh and delightful articles to the columns 
of The Scotsman, which will no doubt appear some day in a more 
permanent form. 


Rev. William Ross. — Coming early under the influence of Dr 
MacLauchlan, Mr Ross, in the midst of much public work and 
various activities, has carried on his Gaelic studies and Celtic re- 
searches, which have been of a careful and extensive character. 
He has taught with success a GaeUc class, and lectured on Gaelic 
literature for many years at the Free Church College, Glasgow. 
He has also rendered a good deal of public service in connection 
with Highland education. 

Rev. RoBEKT Blair, D.D. — Thi? able and popular minister of 
the Church of Scotland has contributed very largely to our Celtic 
periodicals, delivered many delightful Gaelic lectures, and has in 
various ways heartily promoted the cultivation of the Gaelic lang- 
uage. He has edited an edition of the poetical works of living- 
sion, and supplied a good biographical sketch of the bard. 

Henry Whyte. — "Fionn " is well-known to the Gaelic-reading 
public at home and abroad as a clever and industrious Anglo- 
Gaelic journalist. A volume of Gaelic-English and English- 
Gaelic metrical translations, "The Celtic Garland" (i88i), has 
has had a very good circulation. In prose and verse, in English 
and Gaelic, Mr Whyte shows great versatility and considerable 
culture ; while his knowledge of the music, manners, and life of 
the Highlanders is extensive. 

John Whyte. —Although his name is attached to no special 
volume, Mr Whyte has for many years been recognised as one of 
our ablest Gaelic scholars. He writes with elegance and accuracy 
in both languages, and, like his brother Henry, is well able to 
express himself in verse as well as in prose. He wrote largely 
for Tim Gael, T/ie Highlander, etc. ; while recently he transcribed 
for the press the poems and songs of Mrs Macpherson. 

Lachlan MacBean — MacBean's Lesso?is in Gaelic has been 
perhaps the most popular of all the helps provided for the student 
anxious to acquire the language. The author has for many 
years been a successful journalist, but in the midst of his profes- 
sional duties he has found time to produce some remarkable 
works, 'particularly translations from such standard authors as 
Dugald Buchanan, etc. Mr MacBean is equally at home in the 
use of the Gaelic and English languages, and it ought to be said 
that his translations have the desirable quality of being readable in 
their FngHsh dress. Perhaps the fact ought not to be omitted 


that his works have been published by a gentleman who has 
shown considerable enterprise for many years in connection with 
Gaelic publications — Mr John Noble of Inverness. 

The list of those known as fair writers ot Gaelic prose is now 
well-nigh exhausted. Mackellar, Dugald Macphail, and others 
whose names appear in other chapters might also be described as 
prose writers. Among others the following also may be men- 
tioned as having used a Gaelic pen with varying successes : — 

Rev. Neil Dewar of Kingussie is an able and accurate Gaelic 
scholar, who helped in the publication of an edition of the Gaelic 
Bible with references. 

The Rev. D. M. Co/well is the author of a little treatise on 
astronomy published more than forty years ago. 

Dr D. Black of Poolewe published a booklet on medicine and 
nursing in 1877 which is well written and full of valuable know- 
ledge and guidance. 

Dr Morrison of Edinburgh, son of the sacred bard of Harris, 
wrote for some time a good deal for the columns of The Gael. 

The Rev. John MacRury has supplied in excellent style much of 
the Gaelic Supplement to Life and Work, the organ of the Estab- 
lished Ohurch. He has also written well versions of some ancient 
Gaelic tales. 

Dr John Clerk has exercised his able and ingenious pen in 
verse and prose products of various kinds. 

Dr Hugh Cameron Gillies, another gentleman of the same pro- 
fession, author of a small Grammar and Textbook, is at home 
in the use of the Gaelic language, and has edited some poetry and 

Malcobn Macfarlan, the author of a little interesting work of 
Gaelic Phonetics, has written a good deal in Gaelic with care 
and fair accuracy. 

The Rev. James Dewar, late of Oa, Islay, produced quite a 
unique little vrork. and one of some ability — a Gael'C reply to the 
celebrated " Claim and Protest " of the Free Church of Scotland. 

There may be some small productions of merit, such as a Ser- 
mon by the Rev Archibald Cook, and similar publications, which 
are unnoticed here ; but I do not think that many works of any 
importance have escaped reference. As already mentioned in- 
another chapter, the Gaelic is cultivated in Canada as at home. 
We are all familiar with the name of the Rev. D. B. Blair, but 
there have been many others in the Dominion who have laboured 


to keep the flame of Gaelic literature alive. Patrick Macgregor 
the well-known barrister, was one of them ; and the name of Dv 
Neil MacNish reminds us that there are not a few even now — men 
of ability and patriotic spirit— who strenuously uphold the inte- 
rests of Albin's ancient tongue. 


Strenuous efforts were put forth early in this century to supply 
the Highlanders with useful literature in their own tongue, but 
the necessary sustained support has not hitherto been accorded to 
such efforts. Popular poetry and religious writings have there- 
fore been the main channels through which hterature has reached 
the Gaelic mind. The following list embraces the chief publica- 
tions of this kind :-- 

In 1803 the RosRoi7ie, a magazine, commenced, but the pub- 
lication ceased with the fourth number. 

In 1829-31 An leachdaire Gaidhealach, a monthly, was sent 
forth by W. R. MacPhun, publisher, Glasgow, with the elder l)r 
Norman Macleod as editor. 

In 1835-36 An Teachdaire Ur Gaidhealach was published. 

In 1840-43 Cuiartear ?ian Gleann appeared, with Dr Macleod 
once more as chief support and editor. 

In 1848 Fear tathaich nam Beatm made its appearance only to 
succumb, like its predecessors, after a brief existence. 

Some of the writers associated with these efforts were Lachlan 
Maclean, Archibald Sinclair, Campbell (the GlasgoA' publisher), 
and the late Rev. Dr Archibald Clerk of Kilmallie. 

The Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843 became the 
chief theme of an ably conducted periodical, An Fhianuis, edited 
by the Rev. Dr Mackintosh Mackay. 

Even in Canada attempts were made to keep the Gaelic alive 
by means of magazine literature. Between 1840 and 1841 
Urquhart published in Canada Caairtear nan Coiltean ; and 
about 1851 John Boyd published An Cuairtear Og in Antigonish, 

For many years afterwards no efforts were made to publish 
magazines till 1871, when Mr Angus Nicholson, a native of Lewis, 
published in Canada the first three numbers of An Gaidheal 
(The Gael). On the advice of some Celtic friends the spirited 
projector of this venture transplanted his young sapling into 
Scottish soil in 1872, where it continued to appear for about six 


years. In 1872-4 Bratach na Firiun, chiefly a religious maga- 
zine, appeared, published by the writer in his undergraduate days. 
At present the Church of Scotland's own organ of "Life and 
Work " has a Gaelic Supplement. The Free Church issues The 
Gaelic Record. Gaelic articles have also appeared in the news- 
papers of Inverness and Oban, editors having discovered 
of late years that the insertion of Gaelic articles is not inimical to 
the circulation of their journals. • The Celtic Alagazine, ably 
carried on for some years by Mr Alexander Mackenzie, and the 
Highland Monthly at present, though not written in Gaelic, have 
helped forward Gaelic scholarship. Nor must I omit to mention 
the earlier patriotic efforts of Mr John Murdoch in The Highlander, 
in writing the language and advocating its claims — efforts which 
ought to find a special place in the pages of the historian of the 
Gaelic Renaissance of this quarter of the nineteenth century. 


The Highland Societies of London and Scotland have contri- 
buted materially towards the cultivation of Celtic literature, al- 
though the latter for more than half a century has developed into 
a merely agricultural association. The Scottish one has given us 
the learned "Report" on the Ossianic literature, which Henry 
Mackenzie, author of " The Man of Feeling," edited as well as 
the magnificent Dictionary already described. The London 
Society helped to give Smith's Seann Dana to the world more 
than a century ago, and Patrick Macgregor's Genuine Eet?iains of 
Ossian in 1840. This Society still flourishes under royal and 
aristocratic smiles in London, and in recent years, under the guid- 
ance of Dr Farquhar Matheson, Dr Roderick jNIacdonald, M.P. , 
and others, has helped many Highland youths with bursaries to 
enable them to obtain University training. l"he Gaelic Society 
of 1-ondon was formed in the year 1777, and is still rejoicing in a 
vigorous manhood. In those days there were many Gaelic 
patriots about the metropolis who had made considerable fortunes 
abroad and in the south ; and they felt it a sacred duty to en- 
courage organisations which might nurse the apparently decaying 
spirit of the threatened Scottish nationality. tSome twenty years 
ago the Gaelic Society of Inverness was formed, and to it the Celtic 
world is indebted for a series of annual volumes of Transactions 
in which we have materials for a rich museum of folk-lore, poetry, 
tradition, history, philology, etc. These volumes will be of the 


utmost value for the future student. Two names deserve special 
mention in connection with these vohmnes — that of Mr William 
Mackenzie, Principal Clerk of the Highland Land Court, a gentle- 
man who wields a facile pen in both Gaelic and English ; and that 
of Mr William Mackay, solicitor, Inverness, who is among the 
most distinguished arcliceological lawyers in the country, and who 
has furnished contributions of the highest value to these volumes. 
The Gaels of Glasgow more recently formed a Gaelic Society, 
of which Mr Magnus Maclean, M. A. of Glasgow University, is 
the admirable secretary. This Society has made a good beginning 
with the publication of the first volume of its Transactions lately 
published, Perth and other large towns have also their Gaelic 
Societies in this country, and if we look across the Atlantic we 
find quite a large number of them in Canada. The Gaelic 
Society of Toronto, of which a distinguished native of Islay — Mr 
David Spence— has been a moving spirit, is in a very flourishing 

In the great political change which has just come over the 
dreams of Highlanders the Gaelic language has been of the most 
undoubted service. Indeed it is through its judicious use as a 
political weapon that this change was brought to a successful pass 
in 1886. It was the thousands of the Gaelic Land-Law Reform 
matiifestoes sent forth from London in 1883-4, that organised the 
Highlands and Islands for the bridiant Parliamentary triumph of 
1885, by which the first practical fruits of the Gaelic revival were 
reaped. And here it may be interesting to preserve a copy of one 
of these manifestoes, which played so prominent a part in bringing 
about the Imperial recognition of Highland rights. The follow- 
ing prose paragraphs may be refe-red to as a specimen of the 
Gaelic of the period as well as a monument oi the services rendered 
by the use of Gaelic in an important national crisis : — 


" Comunn Gaidhealach Licnnii'nin ait son Lagh an Fhcarainn 
A ihlensachadh. 

" Chuireadh an Comunn so air chois an toiseach air son gu'm biodh 
Teachdairean Rioghail air an cur feadli Giidhealtachd agus Eileana na 
h-Alba a rannsaohadh mu chor agus mu ghearan na Tuadh Bhig ann.'s na 
ce^rnaibh sin ; mar an ceudna air son atharrachaidhean a dheanamh air 
Laghan an Fhearaiun, a shocruicheadh gu dainghean Mail Cliothromach, 


Greim Seasmhach airan Fhearann, agus Pdidlieadh air son Athleasachaidh- 
ean maille ri leithid d o Ath-shuidheachadh air an Fhearann 'sa bhiodh 
feuniail air son math an t-Sluaitjh. 

" Airan dara la do Sheptember 18S4, ehoinnich Fir-ionaid o na Comuinn 
Ghiiidhealach a tha air son Lagh an Fhearainn Ath-leasachadh ann an Co- 
Labhairt ann an Inbherfeothrain ; agus dh'aontaich iad air a bhonn a 
leanas mar Chlarinnsidh air son a' Ohomuinn Gh^idhealaiuh a tha air 
son Lagh an Fhearainn Atii-leasachadh : 

" Gu'm biodh Cuirt Fearainn le comasan breith agus riaghlaidh air a 
stdidheachadh air son Giiidhealtachd agus Eileana na h-Alba air son gach 
ceist a dh'eireas eadar na h-uachdarain agus an Tuath a shocrachadh ; agus 
an coitcheannas a dh'urdachadh gu'm biodh am fearann air a roiun agus 
air a chur am feum air son math an t-sluaigh. 

"Lkn ughdarras gu bhi aig a' Chiiirt — 

' Imh. — A shuidheachadh nam mal a bhios air am p^idheadh, agus nan 
cumhnantan air am bi am fearann air a ghabhail. 

'2mh. — A mheudachadh nam bailtean anns am bheil Croitearan a nis, 
agus a dheanamh bailtean iira agus tuathanachais air fearann 'sam 
bitli a chi a' Chiiirt freagarrach ; piiidheadh iomchuidh a bhi air a 
thoirt airson call 'sam bith a thig air an fheadhainu aig am bheil am 
fearann an drisd. 

'3mh. — A dh'5rdachadh gu'm biodh tighean freagarrach, le roinnean do'n 
fhearrann, air an ullachadh, air cilimhnantan ceart, air son seirbheis- 
ich agus luchdobair an fhearainn. 

' 4mh. — A shochracliadh gach riaghailt a bhuineas do Shealg ; gun fearann 
'sam bith ri bhi air a ghabhail air son seilg As eugmhais aonta na Cuirt. 

" Gu'm bi comas aig Luchd-riaghlaidh nan Sglrean, fo slieoladh na Ciiirt, 
air aigiod rioghachdail fhaotainn an iasad air urras nan cisean, gu bhi air a' 
thoirt an coingheall do'n Tuath Bhig, Croiteirean, is Coiteirein, a clh'uU- 
achadh tiiighean is stoc ; na li-iasaid so ri fuireach fo bhoinn atii-ph^idhidh 
air urras nan tuathanachais, nam bailtean, nan croitean, 's an stuic gus am 
faigh Luch-raighlaidh nan Sgirean an cuid fein air ais. 

" Gur h-ann aig a' mhuintir a tha ag ^iteachadh a' ghruinnd a bhios c5ir 
air toradh gach ath-leasachadh no seilbli a bhios air a cliruthachadh ann no 
air an fhearann leosan a tha 'ga oibreachadh ; agus bidh e comasach doibh 
an coirchean 'nan gabhaltais a reicnoairdoigh eiledealachadh riu ;a'mhuinn- 
tir a thig 'nan d(5igh gu bhi fo na h-aon chumhnantan, 's an seilbh air na 
h-uile cliuirichean agus shochairean, a bha aig an fheadhainn a bha rompa. 

"Gu'm bi gabhaltais cinnteach no seasmhach aig uile luchd-aiteachaidh 
an fhearainn ; se sin ri radh nach bi iad air an gluasad cho fhad 's a bhios 
na mail a shuidicheas a' Chiiirt air am paidheadh, agus cUmhnantan a 
ghabhaltais airan coimhlionadh." 


The earlier labours of many Highlanders in these fields are not 


now of so much value, but a similar remark is equally applicable 
to those whose names are associated with other peoples and their 
history. The results of such efforts as these are certainly not 
Gaelic literature, but they are referred to here as kindred and in- 
dispensable in understanding it. Such books as Grant "On the 
Descent of the Gael " and Logan's " Scottish Gael " remind us of 
the earlier periods, while we are able to point to Skene's monu- 
mental work " Celtic Scotland " as embodying the fruits of the 
Gaelic learning of our generation. The "Antiquarian Notes" 
and other excellent productions from the pen of Mr'Fraser- 
Mackintosh, M.P., show that some of our legislators in these 
times take a living and hearty interest in the annals of their ances- 
tors. That splendid series of publications, " The Historians 
of Scotland," the Celtic student will find a much-prized posses- 
sion ; and the series of volumes the Rhind Lecturers have given 
us will be felt to be equally valuable. Gregory, Browne (supple- 
mented by Keltie), and others have written on general Highland 
history and the achievements of the Highland regiments. And a 
large number of writers have published important works on county 
and clan histories. 

Among those who have ]/ublished clan histories the name that 
undoubtedly stands highest is that of the indefatigable Mr 
Alexander Mackenzie of Inverness, whose labours in this field are 
quite gigantic. He has produced many large and interesting volumes 
on some of the chief clans, and the fulness and accuracy of them 
are acknowledged by those most competent to judge. In this 
field Mr Mackenzie stands head and shoulders above all his 
fellows. As projector and editor of the Celtic Magazine first, and 
subsequently ot the Scottish Highlander, he has supplied his 
countrymen with an immense mass of Highland lore of every de- 

Very interesting volumes of Celtic waifs and strays, Gaelic tales, 
and folklore have been published by Mr Nutt, London ; and to 
these have been contributed exceedingly valuable notes by Mr 
Alfred Nutt. The material for these volumes has been supplied 
by able ministers of the Church of Scotland -the Rev. Mr Mac- 
Innes, Rev. J. G. Campbell of Tiree, and the Rev. Mr Mac- 
dougall of Duror. The name that stands highest in this sphere of 
folk-lore is undoubtedly that of the Rev. .Alexander Stewart, LL.D., 
the well-known and accomplished " Nether Lochaber," whose gifted 
pen has shed the lustre of literary beauty on all it has touched. 
Dr Stewart's powers are as versatile as they are original and full of 


the patriotic spirit. For more than a generation he has poured 
forth rich contributions in poetic prose and in verse, in English 
and in Gaelic, on natural history, literature, and folk-lore. 

In the preceding chapters an attempt has been made to point 
out the value of the literary tieasures which lie enshrined in the 
Gaelic language, as well as the fact that no previous age has wit- 
nessed more Celtic activity than the present, and that the tongue 
ofOssian is still a subject of fond use and devotion with many. 
As an interesting proof of this the following verses may be appro- 
priately introduced as a Gaelic close to the volume ; and in 
relation to them it may be stated that they were first sung in a 
London church at a Gaelic service, with organ accompaniment, by 
a congregation of Gaels, Scots, Welsh, and Angles ! — 



Dbia, gl6idh an sluagh le d' ghras ! 
An rioghachd ^s gach c;ls ! 

Dhia, gl^idh an Crun ! 
Biodhmaid a ghnilth fo d' laimh 
Le buaidh os ceann gacli ndimh, 
'Nad ghrAdhsa faotainn s.iimh ! 
Dhia, gl6idh an Crfm ! 


A Thighearna, Dhia na gloir, 
Dean air gach diblidh foir 

Is gleidh an Crun ! 
Cum suas Victoria cliaomh : 
Roinn ceartas air gach taobh : 
Dion oighreachd bhochd do naomh ! 

Dhia, gleidh an Criln ! 

Ar suil tha Riutsa suas : 
Seall air ar cor le truas ; 

Is gleidh an Cn\n ! 
Cair cuibhreach uilc mu sgaoil ! 
Tog sinn d slochd an t-saogh'il ! 
A steacli do thir a' ghaoil ! 

Dhia, gl(?idh an Criin ! 


Adaranan, 16, 47, 52, 68, 95 

Addis, 33 

Adrian, 72 

Aengus, 49 

Ainle, 93, 95 

Andersen, 127 

Anderson, Joseph, 27, 85, 222 

Aoife, 95 

Ap Gwilym, D., 151 

Ardan, 93, 95 

Argyll, Countess of, 156 

Argyll, Duke of, 222 

Arnold, 33 

Arnold, Matthew, 21 

Arthur, 10 

Averroes, 146 

Avicenna, 146 

Auld, 241 

Baithen, 63 

Bannatyne, Lord, 232 

Beattie, Professor, 272 

Bede, 09 

Beith, Rev. Dr, 333 

Bethune, Malcolm, 145 

Black, Dr D., .338 

Blackie. Professor, 20, 171, 192, 

Blair, Rev. D. B., 312, 330, 338 

Blair, Dr Hugh, 185 

Blair, Dr Robert, 307, 337 

Bopp, 7 

Boswell, 186 

Bourke, 20, 21 

Breadalbane, Karl of, 261 

Boyd, John. 389 

Breakspere, 73 

Brendan, 59, 66 

Brendan of Birr, 59 

Brigit [Bridget], 31, 41, 45. 76 

Broccan, 51 

Brown, Dorothy, 172 

Browne, 343 


Browning, E. B., 292 
Browning, 302 
Bruce, King R., 303 
Bruce, Michael, 271, 284 
Brude. 8,63 
Bryant, Dr Sophie, 56 
Buchanan, Dugald, 248-253 
Buchanan, Robert, 261, 290 
Bugge, Professor Stephen, 84 
Bunyan, 264 
Burns, 4, 181 
Burton, 55, 85 

Cadoc, 59 
Caedmon, 81 
Cailte, 30, 89, 96 
Cainnech, 59, 67 
Cairbre, 13, 104 
Cairnaan, 63 
Calder, 229, 242 
Calverley, 258 
Calphurnius, 32 
Cameron, Rev. A., 313 
Cameron, Dr A., 38, 336 
Cameron, John, 300 
Cameron. J. M., M.P., 195 
Campbell, Archibald, 300 
Campbell, Sir Colin, 303 
Campbell, Colin, 146, 176 
Campbell, Colin, 228 
Campbell, Lord Colin, 156 
Campbell, Dnncan, 270 
Campbell, Sir Duncan, 157 
Campbell, Kev. R , 175 
Campbell, J. F., 10, 20, 21, 88. 141 
189 ' 

Campbell, Rev. J. G., 343 
Campbell, John, of Ledaig, 300 
Campbell, George, 301 
Campbell, Margaret, 316 
Campbell, P., 339 
Candlish, Principal, 121 



Carmichael, Alexander, 324 

Carsuel, 120, 129, 222 

Caston, Sarah, 4 

Cessarotti, 196 

Charles, Prince, 237, 268 

Chaucer, 130,219 

Ciaran, of Saigheir, 59 

Ciaran, of Clonmacnois, 59 

Clark. John, 87, 219-220 

Clark, Mary, 316 

Clerk, Dr Archibald, 12, 20, 190, 208, 

334, 339 
Clerk, Dr John, 338 
Cobhtach, 63 
Cochulin, 30, 92 
Colonsay, Lord, 193 
CoLUMBA, 27, 31, 36, 41, 54, 57 
Columba, son of Crimthan, 59 
Comgall, 77 
Conan, 39, 96 
Congell, 63 
Connacher, 93 
Connal, 92 

Connell, Rev. D., 338 
Conung, 69 
Cook, Rev. A., 338 
Cook, Alexander, 323 
Cir'nac, 45 
Cowper, 198, 248 
Crodhearg, 151 
Cromwell, 4, 74 
Cumberland, Duke of, 268 
Cumhal, 96, 98 
Cusack, Miss, 40 

D'Oyly, Lady. 281 

David, K.,72' 

David, St, 59 

Deirdri, 95, 95, 145 

Desmond, Earl Gerald, 161 

Dewar, Rev. N., 338 

Dew^ar, Rev. J. 338 

Dewar, Principal, 324, 352 

Diarmad, 30, 96, 110 

Diefenbach, 7 

Docus, 59 

Doddridge, 349 

Domnal, 49 

Donald, Lord of the Isles, 145 

Donnan, 66, 67 

Drostan, 68 

Du Bartas, 254 

Dubthach, 52 

Duncan Mor, of Lennox, 160 

Eachaid, 63 
Ebrard, 191 
Earnaan, 63 
Eglinton, Earl of, 232 
Eliot, George [Evans], 5 
Ethne, 54 
Eve, 100 
Evir, 92, 102 
Eyre-Todd, G., 195 

Farquharson. 323 

Fechno, 63 

Fergus, 54, 89, 96, 99 

Finian, 63 

Finnbarr, 48 

Flannan, 66 

Fletcher, Angus, 269 

Forbes, Rev. John, 334 

Foster, 40 

Foulis, Sir James, 232 

Fraser, Dr A., 229 

Frazier, Andrew, 228 

Fergus, 54, 89, 96, 99 

Ferguson, Professor Adara, 185, 229, 

Ferguson, Christina, 278 

Ferguson, Sir S., 5, 27 

Findlater, 323 

Fingal, Fiona, Finn, 10, 13, 29, 30 

Galen, 146 

Gallic, 186, 188, 229 

Gaul, Gall, 30, 89, 99 

Geddes, Principal, 23 

Geikie, 132 

German. 59 

Gibson, Rev. Dr, 301 

Gilchrist, 310 

Gildas, Gillas, 59, 80 

Gillies, 88 

Gillies, Dr H. C, 298, 338 

Glas, 160 

Glengarry, 273 

Gcethe, 198 

Gordon, W., 270 

Gordon, Duke of, 273 

Grahame, P., 229 

Graine, 10, 30, 80, 89, 96, 100, 110. 

Grant, 88 



Grant, 340 
Grant, A., 286 
Grant, Mrs, 219 
Grant, Rev. Petei, 317 
Gray, 181 
Gregory, 273, 343 
Grillaan, 63, 88 
Grimm. 88 
Guest, 127 
Guinevere, 10 

Haco, 17 

Hay, Colin, 305 

Helen of Kirkconnel, sen., 167 

Hendry. 323 

Hennesy, 40 

Henry II., 73 

Herbert, George, 315 

Hill, 88 

Homer, 28 

Hu Gadarn, 1.30 

Hume, David, 253 

Irvine, Rev, Dr, 330 

James IV., 145 

Jerram, 329 

Jocelyn, 43, 44 

Johnson, Samuel, 141, 185, 230 

Joyce, 20, 231 

Keating, 131 
Keats, 272 
Kfcltie, 12, .343 
Kennedy, Angus, 270 
Kennedy, Duncan, 22, 314 
Kennedy, Rev. John, 241 
Kennedy, Rev. John, 316 
Kennedy, Rev. Dr John, 241 
Kentigern, 42, 44 
Kirk, 224, 325 
Knoydart, John, of, 160 
Knox, John, 4, 208, 222 

Laing, Dr, 164, 208 

Laisren, 59 

Lamartine, 193 

Landor, 309 

Leiand, 230 

LhHyd, 7, 173, 225 

Livingstone, David, 303 [347 

Livingston, William, 24, 121, 302-10, 

Logan, 340 
Lovat, 167 
Lowe, 284 
Luguid, 63 

MacAffer, 281 

MacAlister, 287 

MacAlpin, 32 

MacAlpin, K., 53, 86 

MacAlpin Neil 

Mac-an-OUa, 9,160 

MacArt, Cormac, S9, 96, 108 

Mac Arthur, 8S, 196, 229 

Macaulay, Lord, 178, 294 

MacAulay, Z., 178 

MacBain, A., 195, 312 

MacBean, 249, 324, 337 

MacBeth, Fergus, 145 

MacBride, 49 

MacCabe, 160 

MacCaille, 51 

MacCallum, D., 87 

MacCallum, 311 

MacCallum, Rev. Duncan, 321, 334 

MacCallum, J. andH., 88 

MacCei, Hugh, 153 

MacCuUooh, 231 

MacCunn, 290 

MacDiarmad, Rev. H., 204, 229, 332 

MacColl, Evan, 293-5 

MacCodrum, John 177 

MacCrimmein, 173' 

Macdonald, Admiral Sir Reginald 

141, 164 
Macdonald, Sir A. of Antrim, 184 
Macdonald, Alexander, 134, 179- 

Macdonald, Sir Alexander, 170 
Macdonald, Archibald, 171 
Macdonald, Archibald, 178 
Macdonald, Angus, of Islay, 145 
Macdonald, Angus, of Glen-Urqu- 

hart, 298 
Macdonald, Angus, 177 
Macdonald, Cicely, 172 
Macdonald, Dr George, 290 
Macdonald, D., 269 
Macdonald, Sir James, 178 
Macdonald, John, 170 
Macdonald, John, 287 
Macdonald, John, 172 
Macdonald, John, D.D., 241, 319-20 


Macdonald, Dr R., M.P., 195, MO 
Macdonald, Ronald, 267 
Macdonnell, F., 312 
Macdougall, Rev. 343 
Macdongall, Allan, 268 
Macdougall, Phelim, 163 
Macdougall, Robert, 300 
MacDougall, Rev. Duncan, 320 
MacEachern, 160 
MacEachern, 323 
MacEachaig, 160 
Macfadyen, 314 
Macfadyen, John, 286 
Macfadyen, Archibald, 324 
Macfarlaue, Duncan, 278 
Macfarlane, P., 278 
Macfarlane, Robert, 196 
Macfarlan, M.,338 
MacFirbis, 144 
Macgillivray, John, 273 
Macgregor, Alexander, 280 
Macgregor, Duncan, 160 
Macgregor, Gregor, 165 
Macgregor, Sir James, 88, 90, I45 
Macgregor, Rev. A., 335 
Macgregor, James, D.D., 237, 31 7 
Macgregor, Surgeon-Major, 3[(j 
Macgregor, John, 161 
Macgregor, Margaret, 270 
Macgregor, Patrick, 187 339 340 
MacHale, 19 
Maclnnes, Rev. D,, 343 
Maclnnes, A., 271 
Maclnnes, D.,278 
Maclnnes, John, 286 
Macindeor, 314 
Macintyre, 160 
Macintyre, Dr, 229 
Macintyre, Allan, 270 
Macintyre, Donald, 276 
Macintyre, Rev. Angus, 283 
Macintyre, Duncan, 259-267 
Macintyre, Miss, 290 
Macintosh, Andrew, 160 
Mackintosh, Eraser, M.P., 343 
Mackellar, David, 233 
Mackellar, Mary, 299 
Mackellar, Neil, 171 
Mackenzie, Alexander, 340, 343 
Mackenzie, Dr A. C, 290 
Mackenzie, Rev. Angus, 335 
Mackenzie, Henry, 187, 340 

Mackenzie, John, 279, 834 
Mackenzie, John, of London, 107 
Mackenzie, Kenneth, 268 
Mackenzie, Murdoch, 278 
Mackenzie, William, 176 
Mackenzie, William, 314 
Mackenzie, William, 341 
Mackay, A. M., 255 
Mackay, Bryan V., 152 
Mackay, A., 286 
Mackay, Charles, 298, 294 
Mackay, Rev. Dr M., 255, 332,339, 
Mackay, John, 173 
Mackay, Robert, 255-259 
Mackay, Wililam, 341 
Mackinnon, A., 269 
Mackinnon, L., 172 
Mackeich, 314 

MacLagan, Rev. James, 186, 229 
MacLagan, Archbishop, 315 
MacLachlan, Dr. 296-7 
MacLachlan, Ewen, 269, 272, 274 
MacLauchlan, Lauchlan, 242-247 
MacLauchlan, Major, 142, 232 
MacLauchlan. DrT., 12, 20, 95, 107 

145, 222, 335 
MacLauchlan, Edmond, 146 
MacLaurin, 229 
MacLean, Andrew, 184 
MacLean, Rev. Duncan, 321 
MacLean, Hector, 127, 190 
MacLean, Hector, 172 
MacLean, Rev. John, 174 
MacLean, John, 176 
MacLean, John, 274, 276 
MacLean, Ewen, 146 
MacLean, Lachlan, 339 
Maclean, Magnus, 341 
MacLean, Malcolm, 177 
MacLean, Margaret, 278 
Mackinnon, Professor, 164, 208, 336 
xMackorkindale, John 300 
Mac Lear, Rev. Dr, 40 
MacLeod, Lord Bannatyne, 273 
MacLeod, Donald, 270 
MacLeod, Professor, 229 
MacLeod, Hector, 170 
MacLeod, Murdoch, 287 
MacLeod. Dr John, 324 
MacLeod, Norman, D.D., 283, 333, 

MacLeod, Neil, 311 



MacLeod, Mary, 133, 165, 169 
MacLugas, 281 
MaeLuy, 96, 107 
MacNab. Finlay, 148, 161 
MacNab, 302 
MacMurchie, 271 
Macmillan, Rev. John, 332 
Macmillans, publishers, 332 
MacXeill, Archibald, 193 
MacXeill, Efric, 155 
MacNeill, Gilleonan, 63 
MacNeill Hector, 289 
MacXeill, Rev. John G., 336 
MacX"eill, Leogaire, 36, 39, 75 
MacXeill, Peter, 290 
MacXeill, Sir John, 193 
Macnicol, 161, 223,229 
MacXish, Rev. Dr N., 339 
MacOmie, Baron Ewen, 160 
Macphail, Angus, 272 
Macphail, C, 286 
Macphail, Dugald, 289 
Macphail, Ewen, 146 
Macphail, Rev. Hector, 242, 244 
Macpherson, Dr, 239 
Macpherson, Rev. James, 174, 176 
Macpherson, Mary, 313 
Macpherson, James, 12, 15, 37, 87, 

Macpherson, D. C, 330 
Macpherson, Duncan, 338 
Macpherson, Duncan, 158 
Macpherson, Lachlan, 267 
MacPhun, \V. R., 339 
Murdoch, John, 340 
Macquarrie, 323 
Macqueen, Dr, 186, 229 
Macrae, Rev. Donald, 301 
Macrae, Donald, of Petty, 315 
Macritchie, Rev. M., 323 
Macroy, 281 
MacRuairi, 90, 110 
MacRury, Rev. John, 338 
xMacVuricb, 150, 153 
MacVurich, John, 159 
MacVurich, Neii, 172 
MacCrubha, 66 
Magee, Abp., 152 
Malcolm III., 16, 58, 7.3, 144, 147 
Manning, 33 
Manus, 96, 119 
Maol-Donuich, 160 
Margaret, Queen, 17, 57, 73 

Martin, 58 

Miller, Hugh, 295, 299 

Morison, George, 271 

Morrison, R., 173 

Morrison, of Petty, 287 

Morrison, John, of Harris, 320 

Morrison, John, 323 

■' Mary of The Gael," 47, 50, 52 

Matheson, 172 

Mathcsou, Donald, 240 

Matheson, Dr F., 340 

Merddyn, 168 

Milton, 4, 251 

Mitchell, 303 

Mobhr, 59 

Molaisren, 77 

Moluoc. 66 

Montrose, 184 

Moore, Bishop, 142 

Moore, Thomas,219 

Moran, Bishop, 33 

Mossison, John, 

Morrison, Dr, 338 

Morely, Henry, 4, 84, 107 

Mugint, 75, 81 

Muireadach, 148, 150 

Mullin, Rev. M., 18 

Munro, James, 273, 295-6 

Murdoch. John, 294 

Murray, Sir John Macgregor, 196 

Naos, 93 

Neale, Dr, 79, 250 

Xiamh, 136 

Nicholson, Angus, 328, 339 

Xicolson, 182, 286 

Xinian, 31, 36, 48, 72 

Ninnidh, 59 

Noble, J., 338 

Nutt, 341,. 343 

Xutt, Alfred, 341, 343 

O'Cairbee, Diarmid, 160 

O'Carrd, 149 

O'Connor, Charles, 230 

O'Curry, 20, 46, 60, 89, 135 

O'Daly, 149 

O'Donovan, 20 

O'Driscol, 73 

0' Flanagan, 130 

O'Hart. John, 274 

O'Grady, 20, 126, 130, 141 

O'Hartigan, 132 

Orr, D., 181 

Oscar, 30, 89, 104 108 



Ossian, 5, 11,28.30 114, 136 

Ottir, 69 

©ughton, Sir Adolphus 232 

Owen Goronwy, 48 

Parry, David. 227 

Patrick,27,28. 31,34, 41 

Patterson, Kev. Dr, 318 

Pattison, 30, 96, 101. 108, 154, 189 

Peter, St, 76 

Petrie 47 

Pictet,' 7 

Politus, 32 

Pope, 188 

Praed, 258 

Pritchard, 7 

Ramsay, John, 153 

Kayne, 30, 96 

Reay, Lord. 255. 258 

Reeves, 76 

Rhy«, Professor, 21, 28, 48, 74. 86, 

224, 225 
Robert, Duke, 145 
Robertson, 117 
Robertson, Principal, 185 
Ronan, 66 
Rose, John, 324 

Ross. Dr Thomas, 187, 196, 229, 325 
Ross- Rev. William, 271-2 
Ross, Rev. William, 357 
Ruadbhan, 59 
Rus, 63 
Sankey, 324 
Sayce, Professor, 1. 28 
Scandal, 63 

Scott, Sir W-, 208, 255- 276 
Sechnall, 75, 79 
Senell, 59 
Serf, St, 42 
Shairp, Principal, 193 
Shaw, 189 
Shaw, James. 269 
Shakespeare, 5 
Shelley, 315 
Sherman, 40 

Sinclair, Archibald, 279, 289 
Sinclair. Rev. A., 149 
Sinclair, Rev. A. M., 274, 312 
Sinclair, Sir John, 196, 273 
Skene, W. F., 12, 20, 95, 132, 135 

145. 164 188, 343 
Smith, Dr D., 142 

Smith, Dr John. 22, 69, 87, 201, 202 

212-218, 229 
Spence, David, 341 
Stephens, 27 
Stokes, Miss, 40 
Stokes, G. T., 40 
Stokes, Dr Whitley, 20, 38, 49, 45, 

Stone, Jerome, 208-9 
Stewart, Rev. Dr Alex., 353 
Stewart, A. & D., 88 
Stewart, Rev. Dr Alexander, 341 
Stewart, Charies, D.D., 278 
Stewart' Elizabeth, 4 
Stewart, Isobel, 156 
Stuart, Francis, 232 
Stuart, Dr, John, 143 
Stuart, John Roy, 268 

Tadgod, 149 

Tagd, 149 

Taylor, Gilchrist, 160 

Temple, 230 

Tennyson, 167, 195, 219 

Thomson, 303 

Tochan, 63 

Todd, Rev. Dr, 38, 40, 62, 74 

Tremor, 96, 103 

Turner, 88. 278 

Ultan, 47. 50, 74 
Urquhart, 339 

Victoria, Queen 274, 342 

Wallace, 303 

Ware, Sir James, 75 

Waddell, Dr Hately, 191 

Watts, 249 

Wellington, 4 

Whyte, Henry, 283, 328, 337 

Whyte, John, 176, 312,337 

Whitelield, George, 253 

Wilkinson, 281 

Wodrow, 229 

Wordsworth, 299 

Young, 88 

I Zeuss.J. C.,4, 6, 7-71. 141. 144 

The reader is requested to substitute on page 54 the date " 521 " for 
"520 ; " and on page 164 " O'Grady " for " Hennesy."