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Gairloch in North-West Ross-Shire
Part II.—Inhabitants of Gairloch

Chapter XXIII.—Living Gairloch Bards


THERE are several Gairloch men now living who essay the poetic vein in their own language.

One of them is Alexander Mackenzie, of Oban, or Opinan, near Mellon Udrigil. He is called "the bard' and has composed, it is said, some good songs. He lives the ordinary life of a crofter.

Perhaps the best known of living Gairloch bards is Duncan Mackenzie, the Kenlochewe bard. He was born in 1831, on the Culinellan farm near Kenlochewe. His father Hector was a weaver at Kenlochewe, and composed some poems, but his muse was neither so prolific nor so notable as that of his son. Duncan's mother was of the Loch Carron Mackenzies, some of whom were also poets. Duncan Mackenzie was never at school, and only learned to read Gaelic after attaining manhood. He had a brother named Malcolm, who was a piper, and died some years ago. The bard displayed his talents at an early age, for he composed several pieces when only eleven years old. The first which attracted public attention to his talents as a bard was a dialogue in verse between himself and Fionnla Leith, which he composed at the age of fifteen. The bard is a -crofter at Kenlochewe. Like his father he is a good weaver; at times he has also proved himself an efficient shoemaker, mason, and carpenter. He is not a great singer, but he sometimes, though rarely, renders his own songs in a low voice but with expression. He has composed a large number of songs. A dozen of them have been published by Mr Alexander Mackenzie, under the auspices of the Gaelic Society of Inverness. Many of his pieces are forgotten by himself, though remembered by his neighbours. He has over fifty in manuscript. He excels in satire, and a vein of sometimes rather strong humour pervades his poems. He is a tall slender man, with plenty of beard, and still frequently dons the kilt.

The following poem was composed by the Kenlochewe bard on the marriage of Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie, Bart, of Gairloch. Appended is an English version of the song which Professor Blackie has kindly made for this book. It is a close translation:—



Alexander Cameron, who may be called "the Tournaig bard," is a native of Inverasdale, on the west side of Loch Ewe. He was born about 1848. He has been manager of Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie's farm at Tournaig for some sixteen years, and has been on the Inver-ewe estate since he was a boy of fifteen. He is the author of a number of songs and poems of considerable merit. Perhaps the best of them is a poem in twenty verses in praise of Tournaig. The song in its original Gaelic appeared in the Northern Chronicle in 1883. I have had the pleasure of hearing Alexander Cameron sing several of his own songs, and can testify to their graceful intonation. He is tall, and rather slenderly built, and has the courteous manner of a true Gairloch Highlander.


Alexander Bain, who is a crofter, thatcher, and dyker at Lonmor, was born about 1849. He has composed a number of excellent poems and songs in his native tongue. He is a much-respected and very worthy man, and is a sergeant in the Gairloch volunteers. He is of middle height and good physique.

Alexander Bain has composed the following elegy on the late well-known Dr Kennedy of Dingwall, who died in 1884, and who might be termed the bishop of the Free Church in the north-west Highlands. The doctor's fervid eloquence was often to be heard during sacramental services in the Leabaidh na Baine at Gairloch. Appended is an English rendering of the elegy, mainly contributed by Mr Good :—


 


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