Tales of the West Highlands
THE TALE OF CONNAL From
Kenneth MacLennan., Pool Ewe.
Bha rìgh air
Eirinn aon uair da 'm b-aimn rìgh Cruachan, 's bha mac aige, ris an abradh
iad Conall, mac rìgh Cruachan. Chaochail màthair Chonaill, agus phòs
athair bean eile. Bha i air son cuir as do Chonall, chum 's gu'm biodh an
rìoghachd aig a sliochd féin. Bha muime chìche aige-san, agus 's ann an
tigh a mhuime bha e 'dèanamh a dhachaidh. Bha e fhéin 's a bhràthair bu
shine ro mheasail aig a' chéile, agus bha mhàthair gamhlasach air son gu
robh Conall cho measail aig a mac mòr. Bha Easbuig anns an àite, agus
chaochail e, agus dh' iarr e 'n t-òr 's an t-airgiod aige, a chuir cuide
ris anns an uaigh. Bha Conall aig tìodhlacadh an Easbuig, agus chunnaic e
pòc mòr òir a dol aig ceann an Easbuig, agus pòc airgid aig a chasan 's an
uaigh. Thubhairt Conall. ri chuignear chomh-dhaltan, "gu 'rachadh iad air
thòir òr an Easbuig," agus nur a ràinig iad an uaigh, dh' fheòraich Conall
dhiubh-san. "Co b' fhearr leo dol sìos do 'n uaigh na 'n leac a chumail
suas?" Thuirt iadsan gu cumadh iad an leac suas. Chaidh Conall sìos, 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
ràinig na cuignear bhràithrean altrum an tigh, bha 'm màthair ni bu
bhrònaiche airson Chonaill na bhitheadh i airson a Chủigear. An ceann
seachd tràithean, dh' fhalbh Cuideachd do ghillean òga a thoirt an òir a
uaigh an easbuig' agus nur a ràinig iad an uaigh, thilg iad an leac ri
taobh a bhalla thall. Ghluais Conall shìos, agus nur a ghluais, dh' fhalbh
iadsan: dh' fhàg iad gach arm 's aodach 'bha aca; dh' eirich Conall, 's
thug e leis gach òr, 's gach arm, 's ràinig e mhiume chiche leis. Bha iad
uile gu. subbach, sòlasach, cho fad, 's a mhair an t-òr 's an t-airgiod.
Bha famhair mòr dhlủth do 'n àite, aig an robh mòran òir 's airgid ann an
Cois Creige, agus bha e 'gealltainn poc òir do neach sam bith a rachadh
sìos ann an chabh. Bha mòran air an call mar so. Nur a leigeadh am famhair
sìos iad, 's a lionadh iad an Cliabh, cha chuireadh am famhair sìos an
cliabh tuillidh, gus am bàsaicheadh iadsan 'san toll. Latha do na làithean,
thachair Conall ris an fhamhair, agus gheall e poc òir dha airson a dhol
sìos do 'n toll a lìonadh cliabh do 'n òr. Chaidh Conall sìos, agus bha 'm
famhair ‘ga leigeil sìos le ròp. Lìon Conall cliabh an fhamhair do 'n òr,
ach cha do leig am famhair sìos an cliabh air thoir Chonaill, 's bha
Conall 'san uaigh measg nan daoine marbha, 's an òir. 'Nuair a dh'
fhairslich air an fhamhair duine tuillidh fhaotainn a rachadh sìos do 'n
toll, chuir e 'mhac fhéin sìos do 'n toll 's an claidheamh soluis air uchd,
chum 's gu 'faiceadh e roimhe. Nur a ràinig am famhair òg grund na h-uaimh,
'sa chunnaic Conall e, rug e air a chlaidheamh sholuis, agus thug e ‘n
ceann do 'n fhamhair òg. Chuir Conall an so òr ann am màs a' chleibh, agus
chuir e òr os a cheann: rinn e 'n so fhalach am meadhon a' chléibh: thug e
tarruing air an ròp; 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 làmh air a'
chlaidheamh sholuis, agus thug e 'n ceann do 'n fhamhair. Thug e 'n so
tigh a mhuime chìch' air, leis a chliabh òir, 's claidheamh soluis an
fhamhair. 'Na dhéigh so, chaidh e latha a shealg so Shliabh na leirge. Bha
e gabhail air adhart, gus an deach e stigh, do dh' uaimh mhòr. Chunnaic e
'n uachdar na h-uaimh bean bhàn, bhrèagha 's i putadh bior na feola ri
ultach mòr do leanabh, 's na h-uile putadh a bha ise 'toirt do 'n bhior,
dhèanadh an leanabh gàire, 's thòisicheadh ise air caoineadh. Labhair
Conall, 's thubhairt e, "De fath do bhròin, a bhean, ris an òganach gun
chiall." "O!" os ise, "bho 'n is duine tapaidh thu fhéin, marbh an leanabh,
's cuir air a bhior so e, gus an ròist mi e do 'n fhamhair." Rug e air an
leanabh, 's chuir e 'n cleòc a bha air mu 'n leanabh, 's dh' fholuich e 'n
leanabh am taobh na h-uaimh. Bha mòran do chuirp mharbh' an taobh na h-uaimh,
's chuir e fear dhiubh air a' bhior, 's bha 'm boirionnach 'ga ròstadh.
Chualas fo 'n talamh, crith 's toirm. a' tighinn, 's b’ fhèarr leis gun
robh e 'muigh: leum e 'n so an àite 'chuirp a bha ris an teine, an
teis-meadhon nan Corp. Thàinig am famhair 's dh' fheòraich e, " 'n robh
ròsta bruich." Thòisich e air itheadh, 's thubhairt e, "fiu fou! hoagrich!
cha 'n ioghnadh feòil righinn a bhi ort fhéin, 's righinn air d'isean i.'
Dur a dh' ith am famhair am fear ud, dh fhalbh e chunntadh nan corp, agus
se 'n dòigh chunntais a bh' aig orra, beireachd air dhà 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. Ròisd e so ris an teine, 's dh'ith e i. Thuit e 'n sin
'na chadal. Sméid Conall air a bhoirionnach, bior na feòla chuir 'san
teine. Rinn i so, agus dur a dh' fhàs am bior geal an déigh bhi dearg,
shàth 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 fhéin. Chuir a mhuime air falbh e sa' mac fhéin a ghoid a
Bhlàr-aghan bho rìgh na h-Eadailt, agus dh' fhalbh iad a ghoid a
bhlàr-aghan le chéile, agus na h-uile uair a chuireadh iad an làimh air a
bhlàr-aghan, leigeadh am blàr-aghan (ialt) as. Thàinig cuideachd a mach 's
chaidh an glacadh. Chaidh ceangal nan tri chaoil a chuir orra gu daor 's
gu daingean. “Fhir mhòr ruaidh," ars' an rìgh, 'n robh thu 'n càs riamh
cho cruaidh an sin?" "Teannachadh beag dhomh fhéin, agus lasachadh do m'
chompanach 's innsidh mi sin," arsa Conall. Bha banrigh na h-Eadailte 'ga
fhaicinn. Thubhairt Conall an sin.
gu bronach dhomh,
'S mi chomhnuidh air muin an easbuig.
‘Sann leamsa ‘b’ fhad' a' chéilidh sin,
Ged 'sann leam fhéin bu treise.
An ceann na seachdamh tràth,
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 éridh,
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 fhògarrach,
Bhi maitheadh òr do 'n Easbuig."
e gu maith 's gu ro mhaith, " ars' an rìgh, "cha b' ann an aon àite maith
a bha e riamh, 's mòr an t-olc a rinn e." Chaidh an sin a theannachadh ni
bu teinne, 's ni bu teinne 's thubhairt an rìgh, “Fhir mhòir ruaidh, 'n
robh thu 'n càs riamh bu chruaidh na sin." "Teannaich mi fhéin, 's leig
lasachadh do 'n 'fhear so laimh rium, 's innsidh mi 'n sin." Rinn iad so.
Bha mise os esan.
ann an uaimh an òir,
'Se bu bhiadh domh a' cholainn chnàmh,
Feithean chas agus làmh.
An ceann an naoidheadh tràth,
Chunnacas cliabh a' tighinn a mhàn;
Rug mi 'n sin air a' chliabh'
'S chuir mi òr fotham 's òr 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 rìgh dheth, "An robh thu 'n
càs na h-eiginn riamh cho chruaidh 'sin?" "Teannachadh beag dhomh fhéin,'s
lasachadh do m' chompanach, 's innsidh mi 'n sin." Rinn iad so.
sliabh na leirge dhomh
'S mi dol a steach do dh' uamh,
Chunnaic mi bean mhin, bhan, mhathair-shuileach
‘Si putadh bior na feòla
Ri òganach, 'se gun chiall.
Thubhairt mìse an sin,
De fàth do bhròin, a bhean,
Ris an òganach '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 mòr 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 dhàsan tuiteam
Anns an t-suain chadail
'S an do thuit fuathan na coille
Thug mi tarruing`air bior an ròstaidh
'S sheòl mi sud ri còrr a ghoile."
bhanrigh faicinn 's ag éisdeachd gach ni bha Conall a' fulang 's ag radh,
agus dur a chual i so, leum i 's gheàrr 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 rìgh 's tusa a mac a bha 'n siud." Phòs Conall nighean an
rìgh,'s mharcaich iad le chéile am blàradhan dachaidh. 'S dh fhag mise arm
a sin iad.
Kenneth MacLennan, Tumaig, Pool Ewe, Ross shire. Written by Hector
Urquhart, June 27, 1859.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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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