Tha Laideann coimhliont,
Torrach, teann nas leòr,
Ach ‘s sgalag thràilleil
I don Ghàidhlig chòir.
San Athen mhòir
Bha ‘Ghreugais còrr ‘na tìm,
Ach b’ ion di h-òrdag
Chur fo h-òirchios grinn.
Latin is perfect / fertile, and firm enough / but it is a slavish servant / compared to worthy Gaelic. / In great Athens / Greek was outstanding in its time / but it had to put its thumb / under its neat golden girdle.
Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, Moladh an Ùghdair don t-Seann Chànain Ghàidhlig.
Seachd bliadhna roimh ’n bhràth,
Thig muir air Eirinn ré aon tràth,
’S thar Ile ghuirm ghlais,
Ach snàmhaidh I Choluim Chléirich!
Seven years before that awful day,
When time shall be no more,
A dreadful deluge shall o’ersweep
Hibernia’s mossy shore.
The green-clad Isla, too, shall sink;
While, with the great and good,
Columba’s happier isle shall rear
Her towers above the flood.
Gaelic proverb; periphrastic translation by Dr. John Smith, Minister of Campbeltown, given in his Life of St. Columba (1798).
Seven years before the Day of Doom (conflagration, destruction),
The sea shall come over Erin in one watch (time, season, period),
And over Islay, green, grassy (blue-green),
But float will Iona (Hy) of Columba the cleric.
These are the three prayers of Patrick, as they were delivered to us by the Hibernians, entreating that all should be received on the day of judgment, if we should repent even in the last days of our life.
- That he should not be shut up in hell.
- That barbarian nations should never have the rule over us.
- That no one shall conquer us, that is the Scots, before seven years previous to the day of judgment, because seven years before the judgment we shall be destroyed in the sea, this is the third.
Tírechán’s Collections Concerning St. Patrick, from the Book of Armagh (TCD MS 52), translated in Sir William Betham, Irish Antiquarian Researches, Vol. 1, Dublin: William Curry, Jun. and Co., 1827, p. 386.
Deus cui omne cor patet et omnis voluntas loquitur: et quem nullum latet secretum: purifica per infusionem sancti spiritus cogitationes cordis nostri: ut te perfecte diligere et digne laudare mereamur, per dominum nostrum iesum christum filium tuum qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate eiusdem spiritus sancti deus, per omnia secula seculorum. Amen.
A Dhé Uile-chumhachdaich, d’ am bheil gach cridhe fosgailte, gach miann aithnichte, agus o nach ’eil ni uaigneach air bith folaichte; Glan smuaintean ar cridheachan le deachdadh do Spioraid naoimh; a chum gu’n toir sinn gràdh iomlan dhuit, agus gu’n àrd-mhol sinn gu h-iomchuidh d’ Ainm naomh, tre Chriosd ar Tighearn. Amen.
1895 Gaelic translation of the Prayer-book, from David Griffith, Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer, 37:5.
God, unto Whom alle hertes ben open, and unto Whom alle wille spekith, and unto Whom no privé thing is hid: I beseche Thee so for to clense the entent of myn hert with the unspekable gift of Thi grace that I may parfiteliche love Thee, and worthilich preise Thee. Amen.
The Cloude of Unknowyng.
Adhra mhìalach nan cat,
Air dhealbh nathrach ‘s a grunnd fuar,
‘Nuair thig Tomas le chuid each,
Bidh là nan creach mu d’ bhruaich.
Thig seann fhàisdinnean, gu teach,
Bheir a chuidheall car mu’n cuairt,
Am fear tha ìosal bidh gu h-àrd,
Fear eile gu làr gu luath.
Thig claidheamh, tein’ agus càs,
Tuil-bheum sgriosach, bhàiteach bhuan,
Air gach seorsa sluaigh is caorach,
Eadar Adhra ‘s Uisge Chluaidh.
Bidh t’ inbhir ‘s do ghlinn an staid chruaidh,
Lasair ruadh a’ gualadh stiall,
Frasan teine tolladh sgamhan,
Pìob is canain feannadh chiad.
Na prionnsach’ cho cruaidh ri creig,
‘G éirigh air an corra-biod,
Ri steiceadh lag toirt orr’ glag,
Aig meud am buig.
Tha dioghaltas le guth àrd,
Mar bha fuil Abeil ‘s an speur,
‘G iolach ‘s ag ùirnigh gu h-àrd
Gort is plàigh theachd air gach cré.
Air gach cré a dhearg an làmh
Anns na rinneadh oirnn de bhruid,
De dh’ uaislibh onarach prìseil
Nan tri rìoghachd bho ghniomh curst’.
Thig plaighean na h-Eiphit gu léir
Bho speuraibh ‘s an talamh g’ur murt,
Cuid eile dhiobh leum bharr chreagaibh,
Mar a thachair do’n treud mhuc.
Ged chaidh mi gu m’ shuain gu h-òrdail,
Mar bu chòir do’n h-uile Criosdaidh,
Chunnacas bruadar de dh’ion bòcain,
Chuir air bhalla-chrith m’fheòil is m’fhiaclan.
An déis dhomh tuiteam ann am chadal,
Chunnacas aisling chuir orm cùram,
Guth ‘g am mhosgladh suas gu sgairteil,
Dol air theachdaireachd ‘nuair dhùisginn;
Dhol chur nan Guibhneach ‘na faicill,
Gu’n robh cruaidh bhreitheanas oillteil
Ri teachd orr’ as leth am peacaidh,
An cuid creach, ‘s an cleachdadh treusoin.
‘S gur beag nach b’ aithreach le Dia
Gu’n do ghin e riamh am pòr,
Dream a thréig an Dia ‘s an rìoghachd,
‘S a rinn ìodhol d’an cuid òir.
The simple question “who were the Gaidheil (Gaels)”? Might seem like a surprising point of departure. When the Comunn Oiseanach (Ossianic Society) started meeting at the University of Glasgow some eighty years later, from 1831, one of their primary functions was as a debating society. They discussed, in Gaelic, a wide range of topics but one which proved especially popular and to which they returned again and again was the Jacobite rising of 1745-46. Was it right, they asked, again and again, that the ‘Gael’ should have risen in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart?
The popularity of the topic was shared by Iain MacChoinnich (1806-48), a native of Gairloch, who worked at the printer’s office at the University of Glasgow and was admitted as an honorary member of An Comunn Oiseanach in 1834. Iain gifted An Comunn a copy of An Nuadh Oranaiche Gaelach (or ‘Ais-èiridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich’), the volume published by Alasdair mac Mhaighistir Alasdair (1751). This Iain MacChoinnich (John Mackenzie) was the editor of the widely known collection of Gaelic poetry, Sàr Obair nam Bàrd Gaidhealach (1841), and also a history of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 entitled Eachdraidh a’ Phrionnsa (1844). The author referred to his honorary membership of An Comunn Oiseanach on the frontspiece of the latter book. This work, Eachdraidh a’ Phrionnsa, refers, as do members of An Comunn Oiseanach in their minute books, to the ‘Gaeil’ as being synonymous with support for the Prince.
The insistence shown by MacChoinnich in labelling Jacobite supporters as Gaels throughout his book seems all the more surprising given his awareness that the leader of the Whig opposition was the chief of a Highland clan. Iain Ruadh nan Cath (John, 2nd Duke of Argyll), the Campbell clan chief, followed by a considerable number of Gaelic speakers, commanded the Hanoverian forces arrayed against the ‘Gaels’ (Jacobites) in 1715. This identification of Jacobitism with Gaels must reflect to some extent, views held not only by An Comunn Oiseanach but also of the way in which contemporary Highland and Scottish society in the nineteenth century perceived events of the previous century.
Later generations can, perhaps, be forgiven for conflating the Gaidhealtachd with Jacobitism given that their predecessors in the 1740s were similarly imprecise. People in the 1740s, particularly people from the Lowlands habitually referred to Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s army as the ‘Highlanders’. Gaelic speakers who supported the Hanoverian regime, on the other hand were often given more specific identities. The Whig supporters tended to be not identified as Gaels or Highlanders, but instead as ‘Argyllshire men’, as ‘Munros’, or ‘Grants.’ Part of the reason for this is that Jacobites, irrespective of whether they were Lowland or Highland, and even the Prince himself, identified themselves as ‘Highlanders’ and adopted tartan dress. The Jacobites were highlanders – in a visual if not always in a linguistic sense.
— excerpted from “Jacobites & Whigs,” The Gaelic Story web site, University of Glasgow.
THE HARP OF THE GAEL.
GAELIC MOD PRIZE POEM.
BY REV. DUGALD MACECHERN, B. D.
(Translated by Author.)
HARP of my own dear country,
Trembling against my bosom,
Sweeter to me are thy strains
Than all of the wide world’s music,
Shapely thy curving neck
Like the wild swan afloat on the ocean,
Gleaming thy sun-bright strings,
Like the golden hair of my dear one.
What ah! what can express
Like the harp’s wild tender trembling,
Love that lies in the heart
Like a precious jewel hidden?
Sweet to me is the viol
When move in the dance the maidens,
Dear to me are the pipes
When my sword is red in the battle,
But ’tis the harp should be tuned
With slender and swift-moving finger,
When in her song my dear one,
Sweet-throated, her love confesseth.
Tell me thy secret, my harp,
Who taught thee to tremble in music?
Was it the ocean crooning
To th’ yellow sands and the sea-wrack?
Say, were thy tutors the lark
And the tuneful thrush of the wild-grove,
Blast of the giant bens
And whisper of wind-kissed forest,
Chant of the waterfall where
The stream leaps down from the mountains,
These, and in glens of our love
The songs of the sweet-throated maidens,
Say, were thy tutors these?
Who taught thee to tremble in music—
Music of kings in the times
When the Sun in his youth was shining,
Music of more than heroes
In the days of Fingal and Ossian.
Coll of the waves! Eilean Chola,
Musical were thy children,
Thine was the last of the line
Of the old-time harpers of Albyn,
Sad was thy heart, oh Murdoch!
When last thou tunedst the harp-strings,
Sad was thy heart, and the ship
Like a seagull out on the ocean,
Passing tby spray-swept island,
Bearing the Prince of thy bosom,
Bearing Prince Charlie an exile
Out on the sorrowful ocean,
Saying good-bye to Albyn
And to the crown of his fathers—
The golden crown of his fathers
Lost on the field of battle,
And to the land of the heroes
Who unto death were faithful.
Passed thy prince from thy view
Till the sail seemed merged in the ocean,
Passed—and together that hour
Thy harp and thy heart were broken.
Never again did thy song
Rise in the halls of the chieftains,
Never in Coll of the waves
In the eyrie of Tighearn Chola.
Even as the rose will shut
When her lover the Sun is departed,
So didst thou close thy heart,
The music, the glory departed.
Music with thee was laid
In thy grave in Mull of the mountains.
How could the strings be tuned
When lost were the rights of our fathers.
Banned was the tartan plaid
And they cursed the tongue of the mountains;
Who, who could tune thy strings
And the land of the Gael dishonoured?
Harp of the kings, let us sing
In the ears of the wise of the nation,
Standing on steps of the throne
Of the Scot-descended Edward,
Close to the Destiny Stone,
The stone of the Scots and of Aidan—
Sing how a nation alone
May stand forever unshaken.
Red and strong is the blood
Where the wind is scented with heather,
Races of heroes are bred
On the purple breasts of mountains,
Often the heroes of hills
Have hurled back doom from a nation—
Have we forgotten Omdurman
And Hector in crisis of battle?
Sing how the blood of the cities,
Swiftly degenerate, faileth,
Sing of proud kingdoms that fell
Their children forsaking the mountains.
Harp of the Scots, thou art kin
To the harp that is slumbering in Tara,
Shall we not therefore sing
Together our songs, O Erin?
Branches we are of the stem
Whose roots reach the ages forgotten,
Proudly the harp of the Gael
In the banner of Erin is floating,
Proudly in veins of the king
The blood of the Gael is flowing—
Blood of the Scots of Dalriad,
Blood of O’Neil and of Canmore.
Here in the hands of our love
Is balm for the wounds of thy bosom,
Thy deep, red wounds—and thy grief
Shall vanish like visions with morning.
Cease from your terrible tears,
O dark-haired daughters of sorrow,
Golden and beautiful breaks
The morn on the hilltops of Erin!
Harp of the world-scattered Gaels,
Sing how the Gaels are in number
Even as the stars; how in strength
They are sinew and muscle of empires.
Brothers they are, of our blood,
Though spread to the four winds of heaven,
Brothers, if exiles, still,
Though their white-sailed ships return not.
What if the straths are forlorn,
The Blood of the race is not passing,
What if the language should fail,
The Race of the Gael is not dying!
See how the Gaels are in number
As sands on the marge of the wild wave,
Conquering with hands of toil
The cities and lands of the stranger;
Under the sun of the Indies
And in the lands over ocean,
Wielding the axe of the settler
Far in the depths of the forest,
Digging the yellow gold,
Low in the depths of the canyon,
Struggling on far fields of battle
Struggling—and falling with glory!
Tell me, my harp beloved,
Shall the hope that I cherish fail me—
Shall I behold the Gaels
To the glens of their love returning,
Men at work on the crofts
As I saw in the times unforgotten,
The mother in musical Gaelic
To the babe at her bosom crooning.
Friendly at feast of the Old-Year,
Chieftain and clansmen together,
Cheeks of the youth aglow
At the Shinty on New-Year’s morning—
Every old custom so dear
To our beautiful glens returning,
Bagpipes on fields of battle
Chanting their war-notes defiant,
And, in the halls of peace
The harp with its wild sweet trembling,
Why should I thus drop tears
On the ruins of old homes broken—
Spanning the bens, behold!
The rainbow, the rainbow is shining!
Listen, my harp, my beloved!
When cometh the time of my changing,
When my hand white as the snow,
To dust in the grave shall crumble,
Do not let any man’s hand
Strike from thee chords of sorrow —
Shall I not rise again
To the wind my boat’s sail spreading,
For the beautiful Island of Youth
In the gold of the Sea of the Sunset.
There I shall practice thy music,
There in the Hall of the Noble—
Beloved! when I am dead,
For me let no wail of sorrow
Rise from thy sun-bright strings,
But a song—a song victorious.
THOS. JEFFERSON TO CHAS. McPHERSON.
Albermarle [sic], in Virginia, Feb. 25th, 1773.
DEAR SIR,–Encouraged by the small acquaintance which I had the pleasure of having contracted with you during your residence in this country, I take the liberty of making the present application to you. I understood you were related to the gentleman of your name (Mr. James McPherson), to whom the world is so much indebted for the elegant collection, arrangement, and translation of Ossian’s poems. These pieces have been and will, I think during my life, continue to be to me the sources of daily and exalted pleasures. The tender and the sublime emotions of the mind were never before so wrought up by the human hand. I am not ashamed to own that I think this rude bard of the North the greatest poet that has ever existed. Merely for the pleasure of reading his works, I am become desirous of learning the language in which be sung, and of possessing his songs in their original form. Mr. McPherson, I think, informs us he is possessed of the originals. Indeed, a gentleman has lately told me he had seen them in print; but I am afraid he has mistaken a specimen from Temora, annexed to some of the editions of the translation, for the whole works. If they are printed, it will abridge my request and your trouble, to the sending me a printed copy; but if there be more such, my petition is, that you would be so good as to use your interest with Mr. McPherson to obtain leave to take a manuscript copy of them, and procure it to be done. I would choose it in a fair, round hand, on fine paper, with a good margin, bound in parchments as elegantly as possible, lettered on the back, and marbled or gilt on the edges of the leaves. I would not regard expense in doing this. I would further beg the favor of you to give me a catalogue of the books written in that language, and to send me such of them as may be necessary for learning it. These will, of course, include a grammar and dictionary. The cost of these, as well as the copy of Ossian, will be (for me) on demand, answered by Mr. Alexander McCaul, sometime of Virginia, merchant, but now of Glasgow, or by your friend Mr. Ninian Minzees, of Richmond, in Virginia, to whose care the books may be sent. You can, perhaps, tell me whether we may ever hope to see any more of those Celtic pieces published. Manuscript copies of any which are in print, it would at any time give me the greatest happiness to receive. The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money. I hear with pleasure from your friend that your path through life is likely to be smoothed by success. I wish the business and the pleasures of your situation would admit leisure now and then to scribble a line to one who wishes you every felicity, and would willingly merit the appellation of, dear sir,
Your friend and humble servant.
I recently stumbled upon this wonderful resource for Gàidhlig toponyms in Nova Scotia, Na Gàidheil Agus an Ainmean-Àite an Albainn Nuaidh (The Gaels and Their Place Names in Nova Scotia), a project of the Gaelic Affairs office of the Province of Nova Scotia.
Folio 3 of the Book of Deer (Leabhar Dhèir) contains a continuation of the Gospel According to St. Matthew and a Scottish Gaelic account of the foundation of the Monastery of Deer by SS. Columba and Drostan.
Colum Cille & Drostán mac Cosgreg a dalta tángator a hÍ mar ro falseg Dia doib gonic’ Abbordoboir, & Bede cruthnec robo mormær Buchan ar a ginn; & ess é ro thidnaig doib in gathraig-sain in saere go bráith ó mormaer & ó thosec. Tángator as a athle-sen in cathraig ele, & do-raten ri Colum Cille sí, iar fa llán do rath Dé. Acus do-rodloeg ar in mormær .i. Bede go-ndas tabrad dó, & ní tharat. Acus ro gab mac dó galar, iar n-ére na glérec, & robo marb act mad bec. Iar sen do-chuid in mormaer d’attac na glérec go ndéndaes ernacde lesin mac go ndísad slánte dó; & do-rat i n-edbairt doib ua Cloic in Tiprat gonice Chloic Pette Mec-Garnait. Do-rónsat i n-ernacde, & tánic slá dó. Iar sen do-rat Collum Cille do Drostán in chadraig-sen, & ro-s benact, & fo-rácaib in mbréther, ge bé tísad ris, ná bad blienec buadacc. Tángator déara Drostán ar scarthain fri Collum Cille. Ro laboir Colum Cille, ‘Bed Déar a anim ó shunn imacc.’
Columba and Drostán son of Coscrach, his disciple, came from Iona, as God guided them, to Aberdour; and Bede the Pict was mormaer of Buchan on their arrival; and it is he who bestowed on them that monastery, in freedom till Doomsday from mormaer and toísech. They came after that to the other monastery, and it pleased Columba, for it was full of the grace of God. And he begged the mormaer, that is, Bede, that he should give it to them, and he did not. And a son of his took a sickness, after the clerics had been refused, and was all but dead. Thereupon the mormaer went to beseech the clerics that they should make a prayer on behalf of the boy, that health might come to him; and he gave to them land as a grant from Cloch in Tiprat as far as Cloch Peitte Meic-Garnait. They made the prayer, and health came to him. Thereupon Columba gave Drostán that monastery, and blessed it, and left the curse that whoever should go against it should not be full of years or of success. Drostán’s tears [déra] came as he was parting from Columba. Columba said, ‘Let Deer be its name from this on.’
Book of Deer.
DUNCAN BÀN was forester in the upper part of Glenlochy (Gleann-lòcha). Achallader removed him thence, and put a friend of his own in his place. The bard was of course much offended, and consequently composed a bitter satirical song to his successor. This offended Achallader, who was resolved somehow to punish Duncan for it. Duncan Bàn attended Killin (Cillfhinn) fair, and Achallader saw him, struck him hard with his staff, and said to him —
“Make a song to that!”
“Well, Sir Achallader,” rejoined the bard, “I will do that, sir, as you have asked me to do so.”
Achallader was a thin, slender, ill-favoured, ill-formed man, and he squinted. Duncan sang extemporarily the following song:–
|“Bha mi latha ‘siubhal sraid,
‘S fhuair mi tàmailt ro mhòr;
‘S ann o fhear na h-amhaich caoile —
‘S e Iain claon an Achaidh-mhòir.
|“I was one day walking a street,
And a great insult I received;
‘Twas from the man of the thin neck —
Squint-eyed John of Achamore!
|Fear crot-shuileach — haothaill-hothainn
Fear geoc-shuileach — hòthaill eo:
Gur coltach thu — haothaill-hothainn
Ri crochadair — hòthaill ò.”
|A skew-eyed fellow — hooill-hothin —
A wry-eyed fellow — hohill yaw:
How like is he — hooill-hothin —
To a hangman — hohill aw.”
Written down as given by Catherine MacFarlane already mentioned.
BALLYGRANT, ISLAY, November 23, 1883.
— Supplied by Mr. Hector MacLean, Ballygrant, Islay; Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).
[T]he first of a succession of measures taken by the Scottish government specifically aimed at the extirpation of the Gaelic language, the destruction of its traditional culture and the suppression of its bearers.
Gaelic: A Past and Future Prospect. MacKinnon, Kenneth. The Saltire Society 1991, Edinburgh.
Whoever would understand one of the most important transactions in the History of the Scottish Highlands must read those six printed pages, containing the actual text of ‘THE BAND AND STATUTES OF ICOLMKILL.’ The purport of the BAND is that, at a Court held by Bishop [Andrew] Knox [of the Isles] in the sacred Island of Iona on the 24th of August 1609, nine of the Highland and Island chiefs, — viz., Angus Macdonald of Dunivaig in Islay, Hector Maclean of Duart in Mull, Donald Gorm Macdonald of Sleat in Skye, Rory Macleod of Harris, Rory MacKinnon of Strathordaill in Skye, Lauchlan MacLean of Coll, Donald Macdonald of Ylanterim in Moydart (Captain of Clanranald), Lauchlan Maclean of Lochbuy in Mull, and Gillespie MacQuharrie of Ulva, — had bound themselves by the most solemn oaths to future obedience to his Majesty and to the laws of Scotland.
The Statutes of Icolmkill.
They are nine in number as follows :–
- The ruinous kirks to be repaired, and a regular parochial ministry to be established and maintained, with the same discipline as in other parts of the realm, the same observance of the Sabbath and of other moralities, and the suppression in particular of the inveterate Celtic practice of marriages for a term of years.
- Inns to be set up in convenient places in all the Islands for the accommodation of travellers, so as to put an end to mere idle wandering and to the burden on the resources of poor tenants and crofters by the habit of promiscuous quartering.
- To the same purpose, all idle vagabonds without visible and honest means of living to be cleared out of the Isles; and the chiefs themselves to cease from capricious exactions upon their clansmen, and be content each with a household retinue of as many gentlemen and servants as his means will support, — e.g. MacLean of Duart with eight gentlemen, Angus Macdonald, Donald Gorm, Rory MacLeod, and the Captain of Clanranald, with six gentlemen each, and so proportionally with the rest.
- Still to the same purpose, all sorning and begging, and the custom of “conzie,” to be put down. [Sorning is the practice of extorting free quarters & provision. Conzie is the practice of billeting the lord’s soldiers upon the tenantry.]
- A main cause of the poverty and barbarity of the Islanders being “thair extraordinair drinking of strong wynis and acquavitie, brocht in amangis thame pairtlie be merchandis of the maneland and pairtlie be sum trafficquaris indwellaris amangis thameselffis,” all general importation or sale of wine or aquavitae to be stopped by penalties, with reserve of liberty, however, to all persons in the Islands to “brew aquavitie and uthir drink to serve thair awne housis,” and to the chiefs and other substantial gentlemen to send to the Lowlands for the purchase of as much wine and aquavitae as they may require for their households.
- Every gentleman or yeoman in the Islands possessing “thriescore kye,” and having children, to send at least his eldest son, or, failing sons, his eldest daughter, to some school in the Lowlands, there to be kept and brought up “quhill they may be found able sufficientlie to speik, reid, and wryte Inglische.”
- The Act of Parliament prohibiting all subjects of his Majesty from carrying hagbuts or pistols out of their own houses, or shooting with such firearms at deer, hares, or fowls, to be strictly enforced within the Islands.
- The chiefs not to entertain wandering bards, or other vagabonds of the sort “pretending libertie to baird and flattir,” and all such “vagaboundis, bairdis, juglouris, or suche lyke” to be apprehended, put in the stocks, and expelled the Islands.
- For the better keeping of these Statutes, and in conformity with the rule that the principal man of every clan is answerable for all his kinsmen and dependents, this present agreement to be a sufficient warrant to all chiefs and sub-chiefs to apprehend and try malefactors within their bounds, seize their goods for the King’s use, and deliver over their persons to the judge competent to be farther dealt with; the chiefs becoming bound not to reset or maintain within their bounds any malefactors that may be fugitive from the bounds of his own natural superior.
— Register of Privy Council of Scotland, Vol. IX, 1610-1613 (1889).
With regard to the “inveterate Celtic practice of marriages for a term of years,” Màrtainn MacGilleMhàrtainn observed eight-five years later:
It was an antient Custom in the Islands, that a Man should take Maid to his Wife, and keep her the space of a Year without marrying her; and if she pleased him all the while, he marry’d her at the end of the Year, and legitimated the Children: but if he did not love her, he return’d her to her Parents, and her Portion also, and if there happen’d to be any Children, they were kept by the Father: but this unreasonable Custom was long ago brought in disuse.
A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, by Martin Martin, 1693.
Some time before the Massacre of Glencoe, the laird of Appin (Tighearna na H-Apunn) had a servant of the name of Colquhoun, in whom he placed great confidence. On a certain occasion he sent him to Inverness (Inbhirnis) for money. The road from Appin to Inverness passed through Glencoe, but Colquhoun was afraid to take it on account of the wild character of the MacDonalds. Avoiding Glencoe, he went down Glen Leachd-na-Muighe, ascended the big pass (Am bealach Mòr), and thence made his way over the hills to the Highland capital. Having done his business, he returned by the same route. As he was passing over the hills above Glencoe, who should he meet but MacIain and his men, who were out hunting. They had rested to take luncheon, which consisted of barley-bread, cheese, and whisky. The bread was in the form of sausage-shaped cakes about seven inches long and an inch and a half in diameter. Colquhoun being invited to partake of the fare, he complied without hesitation. As they were seated on the grass around the chief, the MacDonalds began to confer with each other as to the propriety of using means to prevent Colquhoun from reporting to his master the kind of food they had. Colquhoun overheard what they said, but appeared as though he did not notice it. In order to throw them off their guard, he proposed that they should try who would take the largest bite out of a cake and eat one most quickly. When he saw their mouths full he took to his heels. A party of the MacDonalds followed him as soon as they recovered from their surprise. A waterfall being in his way, he leaped across it, which only two of his pursuers succeeded in doing. Turning upon the foremost of these he cut him down. The other, deeming discretion the better part of valour, gave up the pursuit. The waterfall is to this day called Leum Mhic-a-Chombaich — i.e., Colquhoun’s Leap. When Colquhoun reached home he informed his master of the treatment he had received from the MacDonalds. His master reported the case to the authorities, informing them at the same time that it was not safe for any one to go to Glencoe. This formed one of the many charges that had been accumulating against the unfortunate MacDonalds.
Note. — The following is from the pen of “Nether Lochaber”: “At the battle of Inverlochy (1645) a young man whose name was David Colquhoun, from Loch Lomond side, performed such prodigies of valour that Stewart of Appin took special notice of him, and soon afterwards took him into his own service. David Colquhoun married, and had lands given him in Duror. In course of time the Colquhouns multiplied, and became an important sept under the banner of MacIain Stiùbhart. Seventeen Colquhouns from Appin were at Culloden, where eight of them were killed. They were physically a very fine body of men, being accounted the biggest and heaviest men of the western mainland. Their descendants even at the present day are remarkable for personal strength and size. They are called the ‘dimpled Colquhouns’ from a peculiar dimpling all over the face when they smile, giving them a most pleasing expression. This dimpling is characteristic only of the Appin sept. Other Colquhouns have it not.”
— From the Gaelic of Archibald Campbell, Black Crofts, Benderloch;
Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).