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Popular Tales of the West Highlands
THE TALE OF CONNAL
From Kenneth MacLennan., Pool Ewe.


SGEULACHD CHONAILL.

Bha rgh air Eirinn aon uair da 'm b-aimn rgh Cruachan, 's bha mac aige, ris an abradh iad Conall, mac rgh Cruachan. Chaochail mthair Chonaill, agus phs athair bean eile. Bha i air son cuir as do Chonall, chum 's gu'm biodh an roghachd aig a sliochd fin. Bha muime chche aige-san, agus 's ann an tigh a mhuime bha e 'danamh a dhachaidh. Bha e fhin 's a bhrthair bu shine ro mheasail aig a' chile, agus bha mhthair gamhlasach air son gu robh Conall cho measail aig a mac mr. Bha Easbuig anns an ite, agus chaochail e, agus dh' iarr e 'n t-r 's an t-airgiod aige, a chuir cuide ris anns an uaigh. Bha Conall aig todhlacadh an Easbuig, agus chunnaic e pc mr ir a dol aig ceann an Easbuig, agus pc airgid aig a chasan 's an uaigh. Thubhairt Conall. ri chuignear chomh-dhaltan, "gu 'rachadh iad air thir r an Easbuig," agus nur a rinig iad an uaigh, dh' fheraich Conall dhiubh-san. "Co b' fhearr leo dol sos do 'n uaigh na 'n leac a chumail suas?" Thuirt iadsan gu cumadh iad an leac suas. Chaidh Conall sos, agus ge b e sgiammhail a chual' iadsan, leig iad as an leac, agus thug iad na buinn asda dhachaidh. Bha e 'n so 's an uaigh air muin an Easbuig. Nuair a rinig na cuignear bhrithrean altrum an tigh, bha 'm mthair ni bu bhrnaiche airson Chonaill na bhitheadh i airson a Chủigear. An ceann seachd trithean, dh' fhalbh Cuideachd do ghillean ga a thoirt an ir a uaigh an easbuig' agus nur a rinig iad an uaigh, thilg iad an leac ri taobh a bhalla thall. Ghluais Conall shos, agus nur a ghluais, dh' fhalbh iadsan: dh' fhg iad gach arm 's aodach 'bha aca; dh' eirich Conall, 's thug e leis gach r, 's gach arm, 's rinig e mhiume chiche leis. Bha iad uile gu. subbach, slasach, cho fad, 's a mhair an t-r 's an t-airgiod. Bha famhair mr dhlủth do 'n ite, aig an robh mran ir 's airgid ann an Cois Creige, agus bha e 'gealltainn poc ir do neach sam bith a rachadh sos ann an chabh. Bha mran air an call mar so. Nur a leigeadh am famhair sos iad, 's a lionadh iad an Cliabh, cha chuireadh am famhair sos an cliabh tuillidh, gus am bsaicheadh iadsan 'san toll. Latha do na lithean, thachair Conall ris an fhamhair, agus gheall e poc ir dha airson a dhol sos do 'n toll a lonadh cliabh do 'n r. Chaidh Conall sos, agus bha 'm famhair ga leigeil sos le rp. Lon Conall cliabh an fhamhair do 'n r, ach cha do leig am famhair sos an cliabh air thoir Chonaill, 's bha Conall 'san uaigh measg nan daoine marbha, 's an ir. 'Nuair a dh' fhairslich air an fhamhair duine tuillidh fhaotainn a rachadh sos do 'n toll, chuir e 'mhac fhin sos do 'n toll 's an claidheamh soluis air uchd, chum 's gu 'faiceadh e roimhe. Nur a rinig am famhair g grund na h-uaimh, 'sa chunnaic Conall e, rug e air a chlaidheamh sholuis, agus thug e n ceann do 'n fhamhair g. Chuir Conall an so r ann am ms a' chleibh, agus chuir e r os a cheann: rinn e 'n so fhalach am meadhon a' chlibh: thug e tarruing air an rp; tharruing am famhair an cliabh, agus dur nach fac e 'mhac 'sa chliabh, thilg e 'n cliabh thar mullach a a chinn. Leum Conall as a' chliabh, 's dubh chủl cinn an fhamhair ris: thug e grad lmh air a' chlaidheamh sholuis, agus thug e 'n ceann do 'n fhamhair. Thug e 'n so tigh a mhuime chch' air, leis a chliabh ir, 's claidheamh soluis an fhamhair. 'Na dhigh so, chaidh e latha a shealg so Shliabh na leirge. Bha e gabhail air adhart, gus an deach e stigh, do dh' uaimh mhr. Chunnaic e 'n uachdar na h-uaimh bean bhn, bhragha 's i putadh bior na feola ri ultach mr do leanabh, 's na h-uile putadh a bha ise 'toirt do 'n bhior, dhanadh an leanabh gire, 's thisicheadh ise air caoineadh. Labhair Conall, 's thubhairt e, "De fath do bhrin, a bhean, ris an ganach gun chiall." "O!" os ise, "bho 'n is duine tapaidh thu fhin, marbh an leanabh, 's cuir air a bhior so e, gus an rist mi e do 'n fhamhair." Rug e air an leanabh, 's chuir e 'n clec a bha air mu 'n leanabh, 's dh' fholuich e 'n leanabh am taobh na h-uaimh. Bha mran do chuirp mharbh' an taobh na h-uaimh, 's chuir e fear dhiubh air a' bhior, 's bha 'm boirionnach 'ga rstadh. Chualas fo 'n talamh, crith 's toirm. a' tighinn, 's b fharr leis gun robh e 'muigh: leum e 'n so an ite 'chuirp a bha ris an teine, an teis-meadhon nan Corp. Thinig am famhair 's dh' fheraich e, " 'n robh rsta bruich." Thisich e air itheadh, 's thubhairt e, "fiu fou! hoagrich! cha 'n ioghnadh feil righinn a bhi ort fhin, 's righinn air d'isean i.' Dur a dh' ith am famhair am fear ud, dh fhalbh e chunntadh nan corp, agus se 'n digh chunntais a bh' aig orra, beireachd air dh chaol cois' orra, agus 'gan tillgeadh seachad thar mullach a chinn, agus chunnt e oir ais 's air adhart iad mar so tri no ceithir do dh' uairean; agus bho m a fhuair e Conall ni bu truime, 'se bog reamhar, thug e 'n stiall ud as bho chủl a chinn gu mhanachan. Risd e so ris an teine, 's dh'ith e i. Thuit e 'n sin 'na chadal. Smid Conall air a bhoirionnach, bior na fela chuir 'san teine. Rinn i so, agus dur a dh' fhs am bior geal an digh bhi dearg, shth e 'm bior troi chridhe an fhamhair, 's bha 'm famhair marbh. Dh' fhalbh Conall an so, 's chuir e 'bhean air a slighe dhachaidh. Chaidh e 'n so dhachaidh e fhin. Chuir a mhuime air falbh e sa' mac fhin a ghoid a Bhlr-aghan bho rgh na h-Eadailt, agus dh' fhalbh iad a ghoid a bhlr-aghan le chile, agus na h-uile uair a chuireadh iad an limh air a bhlr-aghan, leigeadh am blr-aghan (ialt) as. Thinig cuideachd a mach 's chaidh an glacadh. Chaidh ceangal nan tri chaoil a chuir orra gu daor 's gu daingean. Fhir mhr ruaidh," ars' an rgh, 'n robh thu 'n cs riamh cho cruaidh an sin?" "Teannachadh beag dhomh fhin, agus lasachadh do m' chompanach 's innsidh mi sin," arsa Conall. Bha banrigh na h-Eadailte 'ga fhaicinn. Thubhairt Conall an sin.

"Seachd trth gu bronach dhomh,
'S mi chomhnuidh air muin an easbuig.
Sann leamsa b fhad' a' chilidh sin,
Ged 'sann leam fhin bu treise.
An ceann na seachdamh trth,
Chunnacas uaigh 'ga fosgladh,
'S ge b'e bo luaithe bhiodh a nuas aca,
'S mise a bhiodh suas air thoiseach.
Shaoil leosan gu 'm bu mharbhan mi,
Bho 'n uir thahnhaidh 's mi 'g ridh,
Ann an toiseach a gharbh-bhristidh,
Dh' fhag iad an airm 's an eudach,
Thug mise leum an Uisleagan,
'S mi ruisgte, nochdta,
Bu bhochd dhornhsa 's mi 'm fhgarrach,
Bhi maitheadh r do 'n Easbuig."

"Teannaichibh e gu maith 's gu ro mhaith, " ars' an rgh, "cha b' ann an aon ite maith a bha e riamh, 's mr an t-olc a rinn e." Chaidh an sin a theannachadh ni bu teinne, 's ni bu teinne 's thubhairt an rgh, Fhir mhir ruaidh, 'n robh thu 'n cs riamh bu chruaidh na sin." "Teannaich mi fhin, 's leig lasachadh do 'n 'fhear so laimh rium, 's innsidh mi 'n sin." Rinn iad so. Bha mise os esan.

"Naoi trtha ann an uaimh an ir,
'Se bu bhiadh domh a' cholainn chnmh,
Feithean chas agus lmh.
An ceann an naoidheadh trth,
Chunnacas cliabh a' tighinn a mhn;
Rug mi 'n sin air a' chliabh'
'S chuir mi r fotham 's r tharam,
'S rinn mi 'm fholach ann sa 'chliabh,
'S thug mi leam an claidheamh soluis
Tủrn is sona rinn mi riamh."

Thug iad an ath theannachadh dha, s' dh' fhoighneachd an rgh dheth, "An robh thu 'n cs na h-eiginn riamh cho chruaidh 'sin?" "Teannachadh beag dhomh fhin,'s lasachadh do m' chompanach, 's innsidh mi 'n sin." Rinn iad so.

"Latha air sliabh na leirge dhomh
'S mi dol a steach do dh' uamh,
Chunnaic mi bean mhin, bhan, mhathair-shuileach
Si putadh bior na fela
Ri ganach, 'se gun chiall.
Thubhairt mse an sin,
De fth do bhrin, a bhean,
Ris an ganach 's nach eil ceillidh,
'Oir a mhin oir a mhaise,' ars' ise
'Cuir an leanabh so ri teallach'
Rug mi 'n sin air a mhacan
'S shuain mi mo mhanndal uime
'S thug mi nios an rod mr colainn
A bha shuas an tủs na tuime
Chuala mi 'n sin, turtar, tartar, agus turaraich
Fior thalamh dol am measg a cheile
Ach air bhith dhsan tuiteam
Anns an t-suain chadail
'S an do thuit fuathan na coille
Thug mi tarruing`air bior an rstaidh
'S shel mi sud ri crr a ghoile."

Bha a' bhanrigh faicinn 's ag isdeachd gach ni bha Conall a' fulang 's ag radh, agus dur a chual i so, leum i 's gherr i gach ceangal a bha air Conall 's air a chompanach, agus thubhairt i , '' S mise 'm boirionnach a bha 'n sin, agus ris an rgh 's tusa a mac a bha 'n siud." Phs Conall nighean an rgh,'s mharcaich iad le chile am blradhan dachaidh. 'S dh fhag mise arm a sin iad. 

Recited by Kenneth MacLennan, Tumaig, Pool Ewe, Ross shire. Written by Hector Urquhart, June 27, 1859.

4. Another story, which seems to be a fragment of this tale made reasonable, forms part of a collection very well written in the Gaelic of Gearrloch, Ross-shire, from the telling of old men, by Mr. Thomas Cameron, schoolmaster, at the request of Osgood H. MacKenzie, Esq., July 1859.

ALEXANDER MACDONALD, INVERASDALE, tells how Uisdean Mor MacIlle Phadraig, a local hero, famous for slaying "Fuathan" (bogles), in a winter that was very cold, on a day of hailing and snowing (sowing and winnowing) was taking the way of "A BHRAIGHE MHOIR" (the great top), and was determined to reach as far as Lochbhraoin. Coming through a place called Lead leachacachan mu Thuath (na Fuath?), he fell in with a woman, and he soon fell in with a new-born child. No house was near, so he killed his horse, put the mother and child inside, and left them in the snow. He went for help, and when he came back he found them warm and well. He took care of them till the woman could do for herself, and the child grew to be an able lad. He was named "MacMhuirich a curach an Eich," which name has stuck to his race to this day.

After this Uisdean came to poverty. On a cold winter's night of hailing and snowing, he was going on a street in Dun Edin (Edinburgh), a woman put her head out of a window and cried, "It is cold this night on Leathad leachachan mu Thuath." "It is," said he. When she heard his Gaelic, she thought she was not far wrong, and asked him in. "What is the hardest 'Cath' that ever befel thee?" said the woman. He repeated the story, and ended with, - "And though I am this night in Dun Edin, many is the hard fight that I have wrestled with." "I am the woman that was there, and this is the child," said she; and she offered him shelter for the rest of his days.

Surely these are Connal, the robber; and the king and his mother; and the king's horse put to a new use, transferred to the Cowgate from Eirinn and Lochlann, and the forests of Germany; brought down from the days of Sindbad, or of Ulysses, or from the fifteenth century, from the age of romance to the nineteenth century and to prose.

5. 1 have another version of this story, called AN GADAICHE DUBH, The Black Robber, told by Alexander MacNeill, fisherman in Barra, and written by Hector MacLean in August 1859. It varies much from the others. The outline is nearly the same, but the pictures are different. I hope to find room for it.

The story resembles

Ist. The Robber and his Sons, referred to in Grimm's third volume, as taken from a MS. of the fifteenth century. An old robber desires to become an honest man, but his three sons follow their profession, and try to steal the queen's horse. They are caught, and the old robber tells three stories of his own adventures to rescue them.

In the first he is caught by a giant and about to be eaten, but escapes by putting out the giant's eyes with "destructive ingredients." He gets out of a cave by putting on the skin of a sheep. He puts on a gold ring which the giant gave him, which forces him to call out "here I am." He bites off his own finger, and so escapes.

Next In a wilderness, haunted by strange creatures, he finds a woman about to kill her child as a dinner for some wild men. He makes her cook a hanged thief instead; hangs himself on a tree in place of the cooked thief, and has a slice cut from his side.

lastly, the giants, frightened by a clap of thunder, run away; he returns to a civilized country, and the queen, as a reward for his stories, liberates the three sons.

2d. Part of this is manifestly the same as the Adventures of Ulysses in the Cave of the Cyclop. (Odyssey, book ix.)

3d. And the adventure of Sindbad with the giants and dwarfs, on his third voyage (Arabian Nights). The Cat adventure, in the Islay version, may be compared with Sindbad's meeting with the serpents and with the elephants. And

4th. With a Highland story, of some laird of Rasa, whose boat was upset by a company of cats, headed by one large black cat; supposed to be a troop of witches headed by their master.

6. The incident of being buried in a treasure cave with the dead, is common to the Arabian Nights. See Sindbad's Fourth Voyage, and Aladdin; and also,

7. To the Decameron, second day, novel 5; where a man, after a number of adventures, is lowered into a well by two thieves. He is hauled up with a wheel and a rope by the watch, who are frightened and run away, leaving their arms.

The three meet once more; go to the cathedral, and rise up a marble slab laid over the grave of an archbishop. When "Andreuccio" has gone in and robbed the grave, they send him back for a ring, and drop the slab. The priests come on the same errand as the thieves; he frightens them, gets out with the ring, and returns to Perugia from Naples - having laid out his money on a ring, whereas the intent of his journey was to have bought horses."

In all these, Greek, Italian, Arabic, German, and Gaelic, there is a general resemblance, but nothing more.

I have given three versions of the same story together, as an illustration of the manner in which popular tales actually exist; and as specimens of language. The men who told the story live as far apart as is possible in the Highlands. I heard one of them tell it; each had his own way of telling the incidents; and each gives something peculiar to himself, or to his locality, which the others leave out. Ewan MacLachlan, in discussing the MSS. in the Advocates' Library in 1812, referring to Dean MacGreggor's MS., written about 1526, says: - "MacDougall is compared to MacRuslainn, the Polyphemus of our winter tales." It would seem, then, that this story has been long known, and it is now widely spread in the Highlands.

The manners and customs of the king and his tenant are very highland, so far as they can be referred to the present day. Probably they are equally true pictures of bygone days. The king's sons probably visited their vassals, and got into all manner of scrapes. The vassals in all probability resented insults, and rebelled, and took to the wild woods and became outlaws. So the mill was probably the resort of idlers and the place for news, as it still is. The king, in all likelihood, lived very near his own stable, for there are no ruins of palaces; and it seems to have been the part of a brave man to submit, without flinching, to have his wrists and ankles tied to the small of his back, and be "tightened" and tortured; and then to recite his deeds as an Indian brave might do.

It seems, too, that "Lochlann," now Scandinavia, was once within easy sail of England and Ireland; and that the King of Lochlann knew the tenants of the neighbouring king. From the history of the Isle of Man, it appears that there really was a king called "Crovan," who is also mentioned by Worsaae (page 287) as the Norwegian Godred Crovan who conquered Man, A.D. 1077. And in this, the stories are probably true recollections of manners and events, so far as they go. When it comes to giants, the story is just as likely to be true in the same sense. There probably was a race of big man eating savages somewhere on the road from east to west, if not all along the route; for all popular tales agree in representing giants and wild men as living in caves, hoarding wealth, eating men, and enslaving women.

In these stories the caves are described from nature. When Conal walks along the top of the high shore, "rough with caves and goes," and falls into a cave which has an opening below, he does that which is not only possible but probable. I know many caves on the west coast, where a giant might have walked in with his goats from a level sandy beach, near a deep sea, and some where a man might fall into the further end through a hole in a level green sward, and land safely; many are full of all that belongs to a sheep fold, or a shelter used by goats and cattle, and by the men who take care of them.

I know one where a whole whisky distillery existed not very long ago; I first landed in it from a boat to pick up a wild pigeon; I afterwards scrambled into it from the shore; and I have looked down into it from smooth green turf, through a hole in the roof, into which there flowed a little stream of water. An active man might drop into the far end on a heap of fallen earth.

And here again comes the notion, that the so called giants had swords so bright, that they shone in the dark like torches, and that they owned riches hid underground in holes.

Perhaps we may believe the whole as very nearly true. It may be that there were really such people, and that they were miners and shepherds; when those who now tell stories about them, were wandering huntsmen armed with stone weapons.

The third version is remarkable as an instance of the way in which poems of greater merit used to be commonly, and still are occasionally recited. "Cuchullin" was partly told, partly recited, by an old man near Lochawe, within the memory of a clergyman who told me the fact. I heard Patrick Smith, in South Uist, and other men, so recite stories in alternate prose and verse, in 1859; and it appears that the Edda was so composed. Poems of the same nature as "the poems of Ossian," if not the poems themselves, were so recited by an old man in Bowmore more than sixty years ago, when my friend Mr. John Crawford, late Governor of Singapore, and a well-known linguist, was a school boy, who spoke little but Gaelic; and when it was as rare to find a man amongst the peasantry in Islay who could speak English, as it is now remarkable to find one who cannot.


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