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Irish Bible


In 1690 Mr Kirk edited in Roman letters an edition of Bedel's Irish Bible, with O'Donell's New Testament, for the use of the Highlanders. Kirk says in the title-page of the work, "Nocha ta anois chum maitheas coit-cheann na nGaoidheil Albanach athruighte go hair-each as a litir Eireandha chum na mion-litir shoileighidh Romhanta " which is now for the common good of the Highlanders changed carefully from the Irish letter to the small readable Roman letter. At the close of the book there is a vocabulary of Irish words with their Gaelic equivalents. Many of the equivalents are as difficult to understand as the original Irish.

In 1694 the completed Psalm-book of the Synod of Argyle appeared. It was very generally accepted, and although some editions of Kirk's Psalter appeared, the Synod's Psalter became the Psalter of the Church, and was the basis of all the metrical versions of the Gaelic Psalms that have appeared since.

The Shorter Catechism was published in Gaelic by the Synod of Argyle about the same time as their first fifty Psalms. Numerous editions have been printed since, and perhaps there is no better specimen of the Gaelic language in existence than what is to be found in the common versions of it. The earlier versions are in the dialect so often referred to, called Irish. The title of the book is "Foirceadul aithghearr cheasnuighe, an dus ar na ordughadh le comhthional na Ndiagaireadh ag Niarmhanister an Sasgan, &c." That may be called Irish, but it was a Scottish book written by Scottish men.

In 1725 the Synod of Argyle, who cannot be too highly commended for their anxiety to promote the spiritual good of their countrymen in the Highlands, published a translation of the Confession of faith into Gaelic. It is a small duodecimo volume printed at Edinburgh. The Larger and Shorter Catechisms, with the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the Creed follow the Confession. The book is well printed, and the language is still the so-called Irish. The title runs :- "Admhail an Chridimh, air an do reitigh air ttus coimhthionol, na nDiaghaireadh aig Niarmhoinister as sasgan; &c....ar na chur a Ngaoidheilg le Seanadh Earraghaoidheal." The Confession of Faith &c., translated into the Gaelic by the Synod of Argyle.

It is interesting with respect to the dialect in which all the works referred to appear, to inquire whence the writers obtained it, if it be simply Irish. Carsewell's Prayer-book appeared before any work in Irish Gaelic was printed. The ministers of the Synod of Argyle were surely Scottish Highlanders and not Irishmen. Mr Kirk of Balquhidder was a Lowland Scot who acquired the Gaelic tongue. Now these men, so far as we know, were never in Ireland, and there were no Irish-Gaelic books from which they could acquire the tongue. There might be manuscripts, but ti is not very probable that men would inspect manuscripts in order to enable them to write in a dialect that was foreign to the people whom they intended to benefit. Yet these all write in the same dialect, and with the identical same orthography. Surely this proves that the Scottish Gael were perfectly familiar with that dialect as the language of their literature, that its orthography among them was fixed, that the practice of writing it was common, as much so as among the Irish, and that the people readily understood it. It is well known that the reading of the Irish Bible was common in Highland churches down to the beginning of this century, and that the letter was, from the abbreviations used, called "A'chorra litir," and was familiar to the people. At the same time, the language was uniformly called Irish, as the people of the Highlands were called Irish, although there never was a greater misnomer. Such a designation was never employed by the people themselves, and was only used by those who wrote and spoke English. In the title of the Confession of Faith published in Gaelic in 1725, it is said to be translated by the Synod of Argyle.