I. TEXTS AND BIOGRAPHIES
Former editions of
Macintyre’s songs are described in the list of references. These six
editions are denoted by A, B, C, D, E, F.
Perhaps it was the
example of Alexander MacDonald that inspired Macintyre to have his songs
published. He was fortunate in securing the services of Rev. Dr Stuart
of Luss, probably through the good offices of Rev. Joseph Macintyre, Dr
Stuart’s father-in-law. The first edition is carefully done and in
general is followed in the present text, except where revision extends
to several lines. Some English words in Gaelic form—e.g. dreasadh (dressed),
shears (charged)—were altered in the second edition. Macintyre
used such expressions quite naturally.
In the interval between
the first and the second edition the poet had some new pieces printed as
leaflets. Tjypographia Scoto-Gadelica lists the following poems,
each on octavo leaflets of four pages, bound up with an uncut copy of A:
do ‘n Chomuin a tha gabhail curam do na Ghaelic, agus d’n Phiob
do ‘n Ghaoidhuig: s do ‘n Phiob Mhoir.
(1784) Oran do ‘n Aodach
do Reisimeid Earra-Ghael.
All these were included
in the text of B; but Oran lain Faochag, printed as a leaflet in
1768, was excluded from the text of B (see notes on this poem).
It should be noted that
publishers left a portion of an edition unbound until there was a demand
for more copies. It would thus be easy to insert leaflets in later
bindings, as apparently happened in the copy of A referred to above.
The list of subscribers
appended to B contains 1,483 names. Tjpographia notes that 1,000
copies of C were printed at a cost of £36 15s.—and that the binding
of 306 copies cost £3
16s. 6d. In C we find both acute and grave accents; only the acute
accent appears in A and B, while D in the second half employs the macron
over long vowels.
The second edition, which
has forty-seven poems as against the twenty-six of the first, is well
edited and is the main source of the text. It was dedicated to John,
fourth Earl of Breadalbane. It omits two poems published in A and makes
considerable changes in Moladh
The third edition (C) was
also dedicated to the fourth Earl. Verses by John Macintyre were
inserted after the list of 683 subscribers. The fourth edition (D) has
no list of subscribers but includes the song to John Wilkes, and the
fifth edition (E) adds a second poem on the Battle of Falkirk.
The introduction to E
remarks that "in former editions the songs as printed look more
like prose than poetry, but this has now been put right." This
statement is nonsense: it may refer to a few lines in Song of Summer,
where the division is unusual though quite correct metrically. New
issues appeared in 1858, 1865, 1871, 1875, 1877 and 1892.
Edition F (1912) follows
the text of E closely. Dr Calder gives a translation in verse, metrical
and historical notes, variant readings of the text, and indexes of
personal names and place-names.
Each edition except the
first has a biographical introduction. These contain almost all the
information available about the poet’s life, and the record is
scrappy, as the following summary shows.
The one page of biography
in the second edition runs thus:
Duncan Maclntyre Author
of the following Poems, was born in Glenorchy, Argyleshire, in the
year 1724. The only amusement of his youth was fowling and fishing. He
was for some time in the army: Afterwards a Forester to the Right
Honourable the Earl of Breadalbane in Coire-Cheathaich, and
Beinn-Dourain; and thereafter to his Grace the Duke of Argyle, in
Buachill-Eite. He was likewise for a considerable time in the City
guard of Edinburgh. He began to compose Songs in the twenty third year
of his age. Though he has received no education
nor been assisted by any person, yet the following Songs, etc., are
wholly of his own composition.
The preface to the third
edition (1804) reads:
. . . the Duke of
Argyle for Buachill-Eite. He has since served in one of the Earl of
Breadalbane’s Fencible Regiments, raised in the year 1793; and now
lives a retired life, rendered not uncomfortable by the beneficence of
The preface to the fourth
edition, 1834, adds:
. . . raised in the
year 1793, wherein he continued until it was discharged in the year
1799, and from that period until his death, he lived a retired life,
rendered not uncomfortable by the beneficence of that Nobleman.
The fifth edition (1848)
. . . Our author
afterwards served six years in the Breadalbane Fencibles, in which
regiment he held the rank of sergeant; and on its being broken up in
1799, he became one of the city-guard in Edinburgh. . . . He remained
in the city-guard till about the year 1806. . . . He died about the
14th of May 1812.
introduction to the sixth edition (1912) shows that the lands of Dalness
were not part of the Argyll estates in Macintyre’s day; it quotes
extracts from the minutes of the Highland and Agricultural Society
relative to Macintyre’s candidature for the office of bard to the
Society; and it gives a list of the poet’s children.
With reference to the
statement that the poet was a sergeant in the Breadalbane Fencibles, it
may be stated here that his discharge describes Duncan Macintyre as
II. HISTORICAL AND
The seventeenth century
witnessed the decline of Celtic feudalism. The Massacre of Glencoe
(1692) was a cruel incident in the attack by the Government on the
system: the absolute
power of chiefs within their own domains had to be challenged, and the
right to muster private forces to menace or rob neighbours could not be
conceded by a national authority.
The clans had been
fighting each other at intervals for generations, but the forces engaged
were never large, and their training was directed to develop personal
prowess. Attack meant a quick raid to gain or recover booty; a battle
became a charge followed by individual combat; and the waging of one
battle was the whole art of war. Thus a coalition of clans was liable to
be weakened by jealousy and to disintegrate after a defeat. The Gaelic
bards represent each clan as always victorious, and excuse defeat by
reference to unfair conditions, numerical superiority of the enemy, or
the use of new weapons.
a chunnairc na saoidHean
An tùs iorghail na dòrainn,
Bhith ‘gan spadadh le luaidhe
‘S gun tilgeadh
buachaille bhó i.
[Alas that one saw the heroes
at the start of the woeful tumult
being smitten by lead
when a cowherd could fire it.]
A society that attached
such great importance to fighting honoured and rewarded the warrior but
held the land worker in low esteem. Accounts of rural conditions in the
eighteenth century give many instances of wasteful processes and
adherence to traditional methods, however inefficient. Animal husbandry
was equally primitive. Lambs were separated from their mothers at night
so that ewes could be milked in the morning. Cattle were kept indoors in
winter and so poorly fed that they were too weak to rise when spring
came; nor was their condition improved by bleeding, when their owners
found it necessary to mix the blood of cattle with oatmeal for food.
The Celtic feudal system
of land tenure was general in the Highlands. Tacks or leases of
farmlands were granted to gentlemen, not by reason of skill or interest
in agriculture, but because they were related to the chief’s house or
to one of its numerous cadet families. Those tacksmen let the whole or
part of the land to sub-tenants who paid rent, mainly in kind, and
rendered such dues and services as the conditions of let required.
Common pasture and souming, outrun and shieling, were features of the
run-rig system of cultivation. That dues and customs were often
burdensome cannot be doubted, as we deduce from bardic praise for such
landlords as were not strict in enforcing demands. Far-seeing men like
Duncan Forbes of Culloden realised that agriculture could make no
progress under the old system. In April 1739, as commissioner for the
Duke of Argyll, he gave tenants in Bunessan, Mull, leases for nineteen
years, with fixed rents, abolishing all "herezelds casualitys and
other prestations and services . . . except the services of tennents for
repairing harbours, mending highways or repairing milnleads for the
generall benefite of the Island . . ."
(Scotland as it was and as it
is, Vol. II, p. 326)
At the beginning of the
eighteenth century a community of tenants or sub-tenants
farmed the lands of Druim Liaghart on the southern shore of Loch Tulla.
The rental of Druim Liaghart amounted to £8 in 1751. The population was
probably larger then than the total of thirty souls recorded in 1792.
Duncan Macintyre was born in this clachan on 20th March, 1724. Dorothy
Wordsworth tells how pleased she and her brother were to find the
"little lake. . . bounded on the opposite side by a green grove of
Scotch firs, two or three cottages at the head of it . . ." (they
had come from Kingshouse through the Black Mount on the west side of
Loch Tulla). One of the huts was the Inn of Inveroran— a thatched
house, without an inn sign. The scene inside is vividly described by
Seven or eight drovers
with as many dogs were sitting in a complete circle round a large peat
fire in the middle of the floor, each with a mess of porridge in a
wooden vessel on his knee. A pot suspended from one of the black beams
was boiling on the fire. Two or three women were pursuing their
household duties on the outside of the circle, while children played
on the floor.
There was nothing
uncomfortable in this confusion; happy, busy or vacant faces—all
(Recollections of a Tour made in
The inn of Inveroran had probably changed little since
bhàn òg was wooed there, some forty years
before, by the Glen Orchy bard, Duncan Bàn Macintyre. This thatched house
would be larger than the houses occupied by the tenants of Druim Liaghart,
but the internal scene depicted by Miss Wordsworth was typical. The
inhabitants led a busy and happy life. In Macintyre’s poems we find
references to ploughing and harvest; fishing with rod or spear; spinning
and weaving; cheese-making and butter-making; life at the shieling; fairs;
hunting; social life—with singing, fiddling, piping, dancing.
Some notes on the last four items may be added here.
(a) Removal of stock from the common pasture during the
summer months was necessary for the protection of unfenced crops and in
order to give the well-cropped village outrun a chance to recover. The
annual trek to the shieling ground had many happy associations, and
references to the practice are frequent in Gaelic song. The word dirigh
denoted the moor or hill area on which cattle
pastured: hence the phrase air dirigh. The
hut occupied during the season was bothan àirigh, later reduced in speech to
àirigh. Duncan Macintyre, like other village boys in the
Highlands, would have spent several seasons at the shieling. He may have
acted as herd for a group of shielings when he was older, and in his old
age he had happy memories of those summer days.
The practice of taking cattle to summer pasture goes
far back. At a Baron Court sitting at Kenmore, 21st April, 1623, inter
alia "it was statute and ordanit that every
tennent sail put out thair heall ky hors, nolt and scheip outwith thair
heid dykes fra the first of Maii and remane quhill the aucht day of Junii
yearly, and fra the 8 day of Junii to pass to scheillingis and remane
quhill the fyftene day of Julii yeirly. .
. ." (Black Book of Taymouth, p.
1686 the Scottish
Parliament granted warrant to the Earl of Breadalbane to hold six fairs
annually, each to continue for three days, on the following fixed days:
First Monday in September at Kirk of Dysart,
First Monday in September at Achanrier;
First Tuesday in September at Soy (Suie), in Glendochart;
Second Tuesday in October at Strathfillan;
First Tuesday in October at Kirk of Dysart;
First Tuesday in December at Killin.
The Earl had power to uplift and exact "all tolls,
customs and casualties" in connection with these fairs; but there is
no evidence that fairs were held in Glen Orchy on the specified dates.
Here the recognised fairs were St. Conan’s on the third Wednesday of
March, and St. Andrews on the fourth Tuesday of November.
(Oban Times, 23rd
(c) The following extracts
relate to the preservation of game and hunting.
"In the court haulding at Finlarig on 12th March
1623 it is statuit and ordanit be the advyse of the heal! commons and
tennentis that there be ane poindfauld biggit in Badour, and ilka kow
that beis fund in the forrest of Mamelorne or within the bounds or
merchis thairof to pey xis and ilk hors fund thairin to pey fyve merkis
of unlaw. . ."
(Black Book, p.
Commission by John Earl of Breadalbane
to John Mclntyr in
Glacsgour, to be forrester on the south side of the forest or Corichiba
for keeping the marches thereof he being bound not to have any sheillings
nor to pasture any goods within the old limits thereof and to stop all
passengers travelling through it with guns .
. . ; to kill in seasonable time of year, that is,
from Midsummer to Hallowmas, the number of sixteen deer to be sent to the
officer of Finlarig.
Signed at Castle
March, 1687.(Black Book, p.
Some sixty years after this date, Duncan Macintyre, who
was born at Druim Liaghart two miles south of Claisgour, became forester
to another Earl of Breadalbane. The two Macintyres may well have been
(d) Col. T. Thornton, who
visited Dalmally in 1784 and attended a harvest-home dance at the inn,
remarks on the strong inclination of Highlanders for the favourite
amusement of dancing. "So goodly a scene," he notes in his journal, "and so motly a set exceeded anything I had
before met with. They were dancing a country dance when we entered. The company
consisted of about fourteen couples, who all danced the true ‘Glen Orgue kick.’
I have observed that every district of the Highlands has some peculiar cut; and
they all shuffle in such a manner as to make the noise of their feet keep exact
time." (Oban Times, 16th
Dr Joseph Macintyre, who wrote the article on the United
Parish of Glenorchy and Innishail in the Statistical Account (1792), testifies
to the good manners and sober habits of his parishioners. It is a friendly and
happy community that the poet describes in Oran Dùthcha and Oran Ghlinn
the poet does not mention them, there must have been in the long autumn and
winter evenings many an informal gathering or céilidh, at which songs were sung and old tales recited. Local
gossip and topics of the day provided additional subjects for discussion, so
that the céilidh was an
important educational institution. Through this medium, people in the remotest
places acquired a culture that was derived from old Gaelic tales in which
fortitude, generosity, resource and fair play were ever lauded; and in formal
narrative reciters made use of an extensive vocabulary. Thus it was perfectly natural for Duncan Macintyre to speak of Caoilte
and Cù Chulainn, while his reference
to Mars and Neptune are merely imitative and not particularly happy. Yet apart
from one reference to the warriors Fionn, Goll and Garadh and to Conan as a
type, Macintyre’s poetry is not directly influenced by the ancient stories. If
he had been interested, he had in Glen Etive the traditional Scottish haunts of
Deirdre and the sons of Uisneach. Here he had the setting and material for an
epic poem, but the great tale of sorrow did not appeal to him. A narrative poem
would require a development of plot and delineation of character for which the
poet had no training and no model.
It is probably the case that the old romances were gradually
passing out of favour by 1745,
though of course some seanchies were still left. In 1780 Thomas Hill was supplied with some Ossianic poetry by one
of the MacNabs in Barrachaistealain, but later gleaners were not so
successful. Dr Joseph Macintyre, writing of his parishioners in 1792, says, "Formerly much of the time which is now
passed in useful industry was passed in indolence, in the favourite chace, or in
listening to the tales of other times." This is the modern
"practical" view: the romantic story of the daughter of the king of
Greece and the marvellous adventures of the son of the king of Lochlann became
time-wasting nonsense by comparison with "useful industry."
The céilidh would
certainly have made Duncan Macintyre familiar with the events of the Jacobite
rising of 1715, when a
contingent of four hundred men from the Breadalbane estates had fought for the
Stuart cause at Sheriffmuir. The wily lain Glas had kept one son at home while
the other commanded the Campbell regiment. Had not the hapless Lord Ormelie
retired to Ach-innis-Challain after the battle? There was still considerable
support in the Breadalbane country for the Jacobite cause. The summoning home of
Lord Glenorchy by the aged second Earl, the anxious correspondence between
Campbell of Barcaldine and Lord Glenorchy, and the garrisoning of Finlarig
Castle reveal real alarm. But in the event it was the Government that received
support from the Campbell country. The Argyll Regiment
of Militia was formed towards the end of 1745 and, after a short period of
training, joined Hawley’s force at Falkirk, some 800 strong.
Duncan Macintyre was a young militiaman, presumably in the
Glen Orchy company. They approached Falkirk Moor confidently, expecting to gain
an easy victory. Macintyre gives no hint that he was reluctant from the first to
serve as a substitute for Fletcher of Crannach Farm, or that he would have
preferred to fight in the Jacobite army. Only afterwards, when he had to make
explanations, does he appear to favour the Prince. Indeed, his unstinted praise of the might and valour of the MacDonalds
may be a measure of his own discomfiture and an excuse for his own conduct.
Correspondence between Col. John Campbell and his father,
General Campbell, gives first-hand information about the morale of the Argyll
militia after the battle. Writing on the evening of
18th January, 1746, Col. Campbell says: "Our
militia was not engag’d; but as half of them dispers’d and deserted, we
have been terribly fatigued . ."
On 27th January General
Campbell writes: "The bad behaviour of near half of our Argyllshire
Militia is in a great measure owing to the officers. . . . The Lord Glenorchy
and Duncan Campbell are very much vex’t at the behaviour of some of their
men and swear they shall all be sent back to Dumbarton." (Argyll in
Forty-five, pp. 75, 78, 79)
The Argyll militiamen who
remained with or rejoined the army were on the march towards Stirling within
four days, and some companies of the Argyll Militia marched with Cumberland
north to Aberdeen. At Culloden one of the Nether-Lorn companies, the
Benderloch company and the Glen Orchy company, rendered good service, not only
by their accurate fire but also by pulling down the park walls protecting the
Prince’s right flank. After Culloden, Captain Duncan Campbell, as noted by
the poet, policed the district of Moidart in a manner that pleased even Mac
Duncan Macintyre was not
present at Culloden, nor does he appear to have followed his company. He may
have been drafted to garrison duty, or he may have simply straggled home. We
do not know where he went after he lost Fletcher’s sword at Falkirk Moor, or
whether he arrived home before the Argyll Regiment of Militia was disbanded at
the end of August 1746. The episode is briefly and vaguely passed over in the
biographical sketch prefaced to the second edition— "He was for some
time in the army."
The next statement in the
sketch is hardly more definite: "Afterwards a forester to the Right
Honourable the Earl of Breadalbane in Coire Cheathaich and Beinn Dourain"
does not mention dates or periods of service; nor does it inform us whether he
had charge of these forests in the order given or at the same time.
According to the generally
accepted tradition, the poet’s first post was at Badour at the head of Glen
Lochay, a convenient centre for Coire a’ Cheathaich, which was
certainly included in the forest he had to oversee. Macintyre mentions Badour
in Oran Sùgraidh, and it was regarded of old as a strategic centre for
the supervision of the Forest of Mamlorn, as the quotation above from the Black
Book of Taymouth (p. 363) shows.
On the other hand, Mr Wm.
Mackenzie (Oban Times, 16th April, 1904) states that Macintyre was an
under-forester in Mamlorn to the third Earl of Breadalbane and that he
was stationed at Ais an t-Sithein in Auch Glen, the chief forester
being Patrick Campbell of Auch.
Now Macintyre tells us that the
stalker’s gun was his partner for twenty years, and we may fix this period
approximately as 1746—66, as we know that he was in Edinburgh in 1767. But
the second Earl of Breadalbane lived till 1752, and it would appear that he
was the poet’s first employer. In the song to his gun Macintyre mentions
that he went to Glen Lochay and purchased Nic Còiseim. He must have
done so very soon after he returned home, and probably used a part of the
service fee he had received from Archibald Fletcher, to buy the gun. He was
happy as the gamekeeper of Coire a’ Cheathaich, and referred to his
successor in such contemptuous terms as to indicate resentment at MacEwen’s
appointment. It may also be noted that though Ais an t-Sithein could
not be a convenient base for a keeper of Coire a’ Cheathaich it was
an excellent centre for Beinn Dóbhrain, and a viewpoint from which the
poet could note, as he does, the prominent physical features to the west,
north and east. Thus, internal evidence suggests that Duncan Macintyre was
superseded in Glen Lochay by MacEwen, though the biographical introductions
make no mention of dismissal or transfer to Beinn Dóbhrain. His
removal from Coire a’ Cheathaich would have been ordered by John
Campbell of Achallader, who succeeded his father as factor of Breadalbane and
resided at Auchmore near Killin.
The following extract from Records
of Argyll (p. 339) was recorded at Ballygrant, Islay, on 23rd November,
1883, by Catherine MacFarlane, a native of Kuhn:
Duncan Bàn was forester in
the upper part of Glenlochay. 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 Kuhn Fair and Achallader saw
him, struck him hard with his staff, and said to him: "Make a song to
"Well, Sir Achallader"
[sic], 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
Bha mi latha ‘siubhal
S fhuair mi tàmailt ro mhór;
o fhear na h-amhaich
S e lain claon an Achaidh-mhóir.
Fear geoc-shuileach—hòthaill eò:
Gur coltach thu—haothaill-hothainn
Ri crochadair—hòthaill ò.
[One day walking on the street
I received a gross insult;
it was from him of the thin neck—
‘tis squinting John of Auchmore.
A cross-eyed man—hu-il, ho-in;
a skew-eyed man—ho-il-o;
you resemble—hu-il, ho-in
a public hangman—ho-il o.]
The introductions to E and F name Fletcher of Crannach as
the wielder of the stick; and John Campbell, cashier of the Royal Bank, is
also associated with the stick, as mentioned in the notes to the poem to
John Campbell (see F, p. 494).
The factor was a learned gentleman, greatly esteemed for
his integrity and wholly trusted by the tenants; but he had absolute power
and may be imagined as intolerant of criticism, especially if cleverly
expressed in a popular song. It has to be recorded, however, that the
portrait of John Campbell does not tally with Macintyre’s sketch: the
painter may have been as generous as the bard was unkind.
The first biographical sketch of the poet gives the third
forest in which Macintyre was keeper as Buachaill Eite. The site of the poet’s cottage is still
pointed out at Dalness. Dr Calder (F, p. xxvi) has shown that the lands of
Dalness were acquired in 1694 by
Alexander MacDonald from Archibald Campbell of Inverawe; but B names the
Duke of Argyll as the poet’s employer. The two great Gaelic poets of
Argyll are both associated with Dalness, for Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair married
Jane MacDonald of the family of Dalness, cadets of MacIan of Glencoe. In Oran
d’a Chéile (AMD p. 238) he says:
Air Allt Ghartain ghlacas
Ban-iasg ghasda, làn-mhaiseach.
We do not know when Duncan Macintyre was appointed to
Glen Etive or whether he resided continuously at Dalness. Apart from a list
of place-names in two songs, Glen Etive has left no trace on his work.
Probably the duty of providing for a wife and young family, either in
Dalness or in Claisgour, made heavy demands on the roving bard and hastened
At the memorial festival held in Dalmally in
1855, Rev. D. MacCoil, minister of the parish, said that Rev. Joseph
Macintyre "was in all probability the official who united the bard in
the honourable bands of matrimony with the far-famed Màiri Bhàn Og."
But Dr Macintyre was inducted to the parish in 1765, when Duncan Macintyre was over forty years of age
and apparently married for some time.
According to the MacNicol MSS., Macintyre, accompanied by
his wife, spent some time in Lismore to have his poems written down by Rev.
Donald MacNicol (see note on Oran do Charajd Tàilleir). Whether the minister of Lismore wrote
many or few of these poems, it is clear that the whole was revised and
rewritten by the poet’s first editor, Dr John Stuart, minister of Luss.
Macintyre’s visit to Lismore could not be later than 1766, for we know he
was settled in Edinburgh in the following year.
The change from Glen Etive to the capital could not have
been lightly undertaken; but the poet was a restless man, and regular farm
work never attracted him. Gamekeepers were making way for shepherds, and
though the poet found pleasure in the high and lonely places, he might have
exclaimed, as did the Glendaruel emigrant, "Cha chum ceileir na
cuaich rium Iòn."
Mr William MacKenzie (Oban
Times, 16th April, 1904) apparently assumed that the Torr a’ Mhuilt of
Oran Ghlinn Urchaidh was in Glen Etive, but no such place can be
identified in the district. Dr Calder took this name to be the bard’s
rendering of Multer’s Hill, the rising ground to the north of the east end
of the modern Princes Street. In any case, Duncan Macintyre, at the age of
43, left his native glen and took his family to Edinburgh, where he was
enrolled in the City Guard through the good offices of Breadalbane and the
interest of Captain Duncan Campbell.
Largely composed of elderly
Highlanders, dressed in a dingy red uniform and cocked hat, the Guard had
latterly a roll of twenty-five privates, two sergeants, two corporals, and
two drummers under two captains. The Guard was not held in great esteem in
Edinburgh. Robert Ferguson described the appearance of the "black
banditti, the City-guard" as follows:
Their shanks, erst used to
Are dight in splatterdashes,
Whose baillant hides scarce fend their legs
Frae weet and weary splashes
O’ dirt that day.
(Traditions of Old
Edinburgh, p. i 80)
The pay of a "soldier" in
the City Guard was small but regular, and the service provided congenial
company and ample leisure. Curiously enough, the biographical introduction
to C, written to Macintyre’s own instructions, makes no mention of his
service in the City Guard; neither does D, and according to E his period of
service was 1799—1806, while D states that he lived in retirement from
1799. It us certain he was not in the City Guard from 1793 to 1799; but
before we discuss this period it may be convenient to set down what we know
of his family.
The document given below was obtained
by Mr William MacKenzie and published by him in 1904 in the Oban Times. The
same document was printed in F, p. xxix, in 1912. It was received from Mr
James MacNaughton, Edinburgh, and had been written by his
father, apparently before the monument to Duncan Macintyre was erected in
Edinburgh. James MacNaughto11’s grandfather, Dr James MacNaughton, was the
husband of Ann, a daughter of the poet. It is of interest to learn that Dr
Stuart of Luss, who translated much of the Bible into Gaelic (1783—1801),
sent James MacNaughton from Breadalbane to Edinburgh to supervise the
printing of the Gaelic scriptures. This young man took the opportunity of
studying medicine at the same time, eventually qualified as a doctor and
practised in Kuhn.
The portions of the text
shown in brackets were illegible in the original document.
(Duncan) Maclntyre alias
(Ban nan) Orain and his wife
(Mary) Maclntyre alias
Og (lie bu)ried in the
Churchyard Edinr._They lie
side by side in front of
stone a grave’s length
them and it.—Their 3 sons
Peter and Donald, and 2 of their
Daughters Mary and Elizabeth
3 of their grandchildren,
and Duncan MacNaughton are all
at the same spot as near each
other as circumstances at the
of their decease would admit.
They also had
I son named Donald and one daughter
C(atherine)* buried at Clachan
(—) Peter buried at Kuhn.
(John)t . . . at Coldstream
(Ar)chibald died in England
i Daughter named Ann bu(nied at)
(F has Christine (*) and Cohn (t).)
From other sources it is
possible to attach a few dates to this document. The editor is indebted to
Mr R. L. Lorimer for the following extracts from the Edinburgh Baptismal
1. 29th April, 1767. Duncan McIntyre
soldier in the city guard
and Mary McIntyre his spouse a son named Donald. Witnesses Archd. McPherson,
soldier in said guard and Wm. Stuart chairmaster both in said parish. The
child was born 28th curt.
2. 16th October, 1768. Duncan McIntyre
soldier in City Guard and Mary McIntyre his spouse in Old Kirk parish a son
named Peter. Witnesses Duncan Alice and James Menzies soldiers in said
Guard. The child born 11th curt.
3. 25th July, 1770. Do. do. in Old
Kirk parish a daughter named Anne. Witnesses: Malcolm and James McIntyre
indwellers in Edinburgh. The child born 24th inst.
4. 30th July, 1773. Do. do. a son
named Archibald. Witnesses, Archd. McIntyre candlemaker in West Kirk parish
and Duncan Cameron in New North Kirk parish. The child was born 26th curt.
These extracts identify four
of the poet’s children, but there is no certainty in regard to the
(a) Ardchattan Parish records
show that Duncan MacIntyre and Mary Maclntyre in Craig had a son born 8th
March, 1761, baptised 15th March, called Patrick.
The only place of this name that can
now be identified in the parish is situated on the north shore of Loch Etive,
opposite Glen Noe, where we might expect the name Maclntyre to be common. It
is an isolated place some fourteen miles from Dalness. If the entry refers
to the poet, his sojourn in Craig must have been brief, as he could not act
as gamekeeper in Buachaill Eite from such a remote place. It should
be noted, however, that he had two sons named Peter. (Pàdraig, Pàraig,
Pàra are all rendered Peter or Patrick in English.)
the Parish Register of Glen Orchy, 12th June, 1762: "Donald to Duncan
Maclntyre, foxhunter, resident in Druimliart."
It is by no means certain
that "foxhunter" and "forester" were interchangeable
terms; but if the entry refers to the poet he may have been temporarily
employed as a fox-hunter.
Glen Orchy record of baptisms, under date 28th May, 1765, we find the entry:
"Donald to Duncan MacIntyre in Claisgower." Here again we have no
certainty that this entry refers to the poet. MacNaughton’s list has only two
Donalds, one of whom was born in Edinburgh.
(Oban Times, 16th April,
1904; 21st May, 1904)
Of the poet’s family, Anne,
as already noted, married Dr James MacNaughton and Elizabeth married Mr
Joseph Hutcheson, who had shipping interests on the west coast of Scotland.
(F, p. xxviii.)
From various sources we get a
few glimpses of Macintyre’s life in Edinburgh in the period 1766—93.
The first edition of his poems was
received so well that he began to accumulate material for the second. Some
of the poems composed in this period were printed as leaflets and probably
sold directly by the author. He was the successful competitor for the prize
offered by the Highland Society of London for a poem on Gaelic and
Bagpipe, in the years 1781, 1782, 1783, 1784, 1785, 1789. (See notes,
The Highland and Agricultural Society
in its early days meant to give some encouragement to Gaelic poetry and
included among its officials a Gaelic professor and a bard. On 28th
December, 1784, the committee of the Society heard Macintyre sing his poem On
the Restitution of the Forfeited Estates and sent a copy of the song to
the Highland Society of London. In the following September the prize of 50
merks awarded by the latter was delivered to the "Bard Duncan Maclntyre."
After the death of Alexander Cameron,
the Society’s bard, Donald Shaw and Duncan Macintyre were candidates for
the office in 1789. Each submitted a poem On the Warlike Exploits of the
42nd Regiment, and the committee decided that Shaw's poem
"possessed the highest degree of comparative merit." With such a
solecism did the committee of the Highland and Agricultural Society prefer
Donald Shaw to the author of Moladh Beinn Dóbhrain, but "felt
called upon, from a sense of justice, to declare that Duncan Maclntyre’s
poetic genius as appears from his present and other compositions deserves
encouragement, and . . . to recommend him to the liberality and patronage of
the Highland Society of London, as well as to bestow on him some mark of
their own approbation." The Society voted a grant of 100 merks to
Macintyre, and in due course found Shaw so unsatisfactory that the office of
bard was discontinued in 1799 (see F, p. xxxii-xxxv).
Macintyre received publicity on
another occasion, being charged with the manufacture and sale of illicit
whisky. According to the testimony of her great-grandson, Màiri bhàn òg
was an expert distiller of whisky, and the little shop kept by her in the
Lawnmarket was a "howff" not only for members of the City Guard
but for other citizens of repute.
The poet answered the charge
preferred against him by declaring that he had drunk more whisky than he had
ever made. The magistrates evidently did not take a very serious view of the
matter, and the case was dismissed.
Was Duncan Macintyre a member
of the City Guard throughout the whole period 1766—93? The Guard was
divided into three squads; Macintyre’s name does not appear on the roll of
the second or the third squad; unfortunately the records of the first squad
have been lost, and there is no information available from other sources. He
is said to have attended the old Gaelic church during the ministry of Rev.
James MacLauchlan, father of the famous Dr Thomas MacLauchlan, who was
Moderator of the Free Church in 1876.
In a letter to the Oban Times (7th
October, 1939) Mr Dugald Macintyre refers to a family tradition that his
great-grandfather, Allan Macintyre, the last foxhunter in Kintyre, had
annual visits from his fellow clansman, Duncan Macintyre, and that the two
had many happy hunting expeditions together. Allan is said to have committed
to writing some of Duncan’s songs.
These visits to Kintyre could
have taken place when the poet had normal leave from the City Guard; but the
more extended journeys undertaken by him to
canvass for subscriptions to the second edition of his works involved
prolonged absence from Edinburgh. Macintyre either obtained indefinite leave
or had retired from the Guard. In the Gaelic and Bagpipe series of
poems there is no entry for the years 1786, 1787 and 1788,* and the poet may
have been travelling in the Highlands and Islands during this period.
* No information about awards
in these years is available in the minutes of the Highland Society of
From Edinburgh and Glasgow he
journeyed through Perthshire and Argyll, Inverness-shire and Ross, north to
Sutherland; but there is no record that he crossed the Minch, though we note
a number of addresses in Skye, Lewis and the Uists in the list of
subscribers to B. There is a tradition that he visited Islay; and he
certainly visited Mull and lona after the publication of B, and probably
before. Some references to these journeys are recorded.
(a) Sàr Obair, p. 38, quoted
in F, p. xxxvi, records a description of the poet by Rev. Mr McCallum of
Arisaig, who saw the poet travelling slowly with his wife. "He was
dressed in the Highland garb, with a checked bonnet over which a large bushy
tail of a wild animal hung; a badger’s skin fastened by a belt in front, a
hanger by his side, and a soldier’s wallet was strapped to his shoulders.
He was not seen by any present before then, but he was immediately
recognised. . ."
Shairp has the following account from a lady who had seen him in her father’s
house in Mull. "He was wandering about with the wife of his youth, Fair
Young Mary, still fair though no longer young. He then wore, if I remember
aright, a tartan kilt, and on his head a cap made of fox’s skin. He was
fair of hair and face, with a pleasant countenance and a happy, attractive
manner. . ."
a record of proceedings in connection with the laying of the foundation of
the poet’s monument at Loch Awe on 2nd September, 1859, published by James
Fraser, 25 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow:
"It was my privilege," said
Rev. John Macintyre, minister of Kilmonivaig, "when very young to have
seen him at my father’s house, accompanied by Màiri Bhàn Og. I remember
the warm and even respectful welcome with which the venerable bard and his
Mary were received by my father, and how he placed them on either side of
him at the dinner table. Duncan Bàn was then an old man of eighty years,
but stalwart still, hale and hearty. He was dressed in full Highland
costume. Main Bhàn Og wore a most becoming and beautiful scarlet mantle of
fine cloth. She appeared so gentle and amiable and retained much of that
personal beauty which the bard so happily and sweetly described." (Mr
Macintyre’s father was minister of Kilmallie and his mother was Jean,
daughter of James Macintyre of Glen Noe. See F, p. xxxvii.) If the bard was
80 years of age, his visit to Kilmallie took place in 1804, two years after
his last visit to Beinn Dóbhrain. He did make journeys to obtain
subscribers to the third edition of his poems, but did not go so far north
as on the former occasion. Added to his journeys with the Fencible regiment,
these tours made Duncan Macintyre a much-travelled man, but the effect of
travel on his poetry is negligible.
If the poet did not wish to give
details of his service in the City Guard, as might appear from the absence
of reference in B and C to this period, he certainly stressed his service
with the Breadalbane Fencibles from 1793 to 1799. Details of the movements
of the regiment are given in the notes to the four poems numbered 54—57.
The poet was obviously happy to escape from Edinburgh and undertake such
duties as a septuagenarian could perform. Whether he was a batman or an
assistant in the regimental canteen, the life suited him so well that he
viewed with regret the disbandment of the regiment. The discharge paper of
"Duncan McIntyre, Soldier," bears the bard’s signature in a
shaky hand, so that he must have learned at least to write his own name. The
discharge paper is reproduced in F; a photograph of the paper was reproduced
in the Oban Times on 25th February, 1939. The original was at that
time in possession of Mr Neil C. Coiquhoun, Glasgow.
The poet’s reference to nighean
Deòrsa in the song Cead deireannach nam beann suggests that he
returned to the City Guard of Edinburgh in
1799, as stated in E, p. vi, and F, p. xxxv; but this may well be doubted if
we consider his age, his peregrinations in the Highlands and the statement
in D that he lived in retirement from 1799. This statement first appeared in
the Scots Magazine and Edinburgh Literary Magazine for October 1812
in a notice of Macintyre’s death. The notice is copied by D (pp. iv, v),
and is printed in full by F. It is not, as stated by F, the first attempt to
write the poet’s life; it merely repeats the biographical details given in
B and C and adds nothing new, not even the date of the poet’s death, which
occurred about 14th May, 1812.
The records of burials in Old
Greyfriars Churchyard show the following entries:
Date of Burial, Lies
Duncan McIntyre .. 19th May,
1812 3 P E* of Bertram’s headstone (*
Three paces east.)
Mary McIntyre .. 28th Feb., 1824
In the records of this churchyard the
wife’s maiden name is invariably entered. Màiri bhàn òg was a
Macintyre by birth.
According to C, "a gentleman of
learning" had a biography of the poet in hand. It is a matter of regret
that such a biography was not published while the poet could have furnished
information of himself. Again in 1855 a pamphlet published in Glasgow, in
connection with the proposal to erect the monument at Loch Awe, intimated
that an "ample memoir was shortly expected to appear with a new edition
of his works." At that time there were people alive who had seen the
poet and a full account of his life might have been given.
Authentic records of Duncan
Macintyre’s life are scanty indeed, but this is not surprising. There is
scarcely a mention anywhere of anyone who was his contemporary in Glen Orchy;
and in Edinburgh he was but one of many humble Highlanders who migrated to
the city to find work. Even among the small circle of people who could
understand his songs he was but one of several Gaelic bards, and no one
thought at the time that the bard of Glen Orchy was worthy of a biography.
Some anecdotes recorded in Sar
Obàir, E and F, are supposed
to illustrate the bard’s ready wit, but the poor puns here quoted are not
to be compared with MacCodrum’s. The remark made by Macintyre to one who
ventured to hint that Màiri bhàn òg
was not as fair as she had been described is worthy of repetition: chan
fhaca tusa i leis na sùilean agamsa. Beauty is proverbially in the
observer’s eye, and fancy is "engendered in the eye." Duncan
Macintyre expressed the same idea in his own words.
It is natural that readers of
poetry should be interested in the poet’s life and relationships, in his
character and appearance, and in all those people who may have influenced
him. Yet though such interest is legitimate, a great deal of research may be
devoted to matters that do not help in the study of the poet’s work. Where
persons or events have had an obvious effect on the poet’s thought or
attitude, all information we can obtain is useful; but where the poetry is
mainly descriptive and objective, such detailed knowledge is of no real
Duncan Macintyre’s poems
are of course related to his circumstances. Dr Calder places his convivial
poems in the period of his military service; but his Verses on Thirst,
Song of the Brandy and Song of the Bottle were published in 1790,
three years before the Breadalbane Fencible regiment was raised. These songs
may have been composed during his service in the City Guard, as were his
songs to the halbert and musket. Many of his songs are occasional poems in
which the poet’s own personality does not obtrude.
His poems on men—almost all
Campbells—are largely objective, though genuine appreciation is expressed
in his songs to Lord Glenorchy, Captain Campbell and John Campbell "of
the Bank"; while his attacks on the piper, the tailor and the tailor’s
friend reveal him in jealous, angry or contemptuous mood. Of his songs to
women, one is a lively ditty, one a short lyric, one a humorous account of a
damsel in distress through pilferage, one a dutiful compliment to his
fosterchild, one an unworthy attack on an ill-mannered innkeeper, and best
known of all, his Oran d’a Chéile. Macintyre obviously took great
pains with the composition of this poem. Writers and speakers follow Sâr
Obair in selecting the sixth and seventh stanzas for special praise. But
the geug metaphor is familiar to all readers of Gaelic poetry, and
the gealag figure had been employed by Alexander Macdonald (see
quotation above). Nevertheless the song is a sincere, affectionate tribute
to his bride.
It is significant that the two stanzas
mentioned should have been selected as illustrations of his best work, for
they are based on metaphors from nature, and here Macintyre was splendidly
sure. His descriptions of Coire a’ Cheathaich and Beinn
Dóbhrain show not only the comprehensiveness of the poet’s vision but
his faithful attention to detail. In his sympathetic observation of the wild
life of the countryside, and particularly in his admiration for deer, both
roe and red, Macintyre is supreme. He would have agreed with the tribute
paid to the red deer by Isodorus (Bk. XII) quoted in Hunting and Stalking
the Deer (p. 11):
He is accompted of divers
writers to be the most stateliest beast in his gait that doth go upon the
earth, for he doth carry majesty in his countenance.
In all these faithful
descriptions we see little of the poet himself. In two poems composed to
his old age we meet him in somewhat sombre mood, contemplating the
approach of death with sadness but with composure. These homiletic verses
are not to be compared with Dugald Buchanan’s didactic poems in depth or
clarity of thought, but Macintyre was long past his poetic prime when he
composed the Epitaph and Verses in Conclusion. It would be
interesting to know if Macintyre ever met Buchanan. The latter often
visited Rev. James Stuart in Kuhn, and he went to Edinburgh in 1766 to
supervise the printing of the New Testament for the Society for the
Propagation of Christian Knowledge. At that time the two poets could have
had little in common if they did meet.
There is a tradition that
Macintyre and MacMhaighstir Alasdair crossed each other’s paths and that
the older poet expressed profound contempt for the work of an unlettered
man. MacDonald was a rude, jealous man; he was a reckless Partisan and a
violent propagandist; but because he felt so Passionately, his work has a
depth and a range that
Macintyre could not match.
In spite of turgidity and lack of humour, MacDonald’s poetry occupies a
special place in modern Gaelic literature. No doubt Macintyre heard some
of his poems and received inspiration from them in respect of metre and
Macintyre is more akin to
MacCodrum in the swift and natural flow of his verse, but the Uist bard,
in respect of wit and shrewd reflection, takes precedence; while, of the
remarkable group of Gaelic bards who flourished in the eighteenth century,
Rob Donn is outstanding as the stern moralist who could find in his native
Durness ample material for his satires.
Macintyre was known, not
without reason, as Donnchadh bàn nan òran—a maker of songs to
sing. His poems were composed in general to tunes known to the poet; his
language was the speech of the people; his style was simple and direct,
and his verses singable. So did Burns compose or rewrite songs to old
tunes, not necessarily great poetry set to great music. Macintyre’s
songs, once they are heard sung to their special air, lose part of their
appeal when recited. But all his poetry does not depend on a tune for its
effect; his art can set the verse swaying to its own inherent music.
Man has been susceptible
from early times to the music of words; and certain sounds by repetition
tend to produce a sort of hypnosis that lulls the mind and diverts
criticism. Now Gaelic poetry, by its very structure, built on repeated
vowel sounds giving both terminal and internal assonance, is particularly
adapted to produce this hypnotic effect. The reader’s mind is prone to
ignore sense and be satisfied with sound. The editor has heard a native of
Glen Orchy recite with great spirit and obvious enjoyment several stanzas
from Oran an t-Samhraidh. When the reciter was asked what certain
lines meant, he was quite unable to explain. For years he had known and
loved these lines, but had never troubled to express them in his own
vocabulary, in English or Gaelic. If the reader is liable to fall into
this acquiescent and uncritical state of mind, the poet himself may be
subject to the same peril and produce sonorous verse of little sense or
Native estimates are apt to
be uncritical. Thus a speaker at the Dalmally ceremony of 1859 said of
"I beg to remark
that his poem on Ben Dorain is equal, I should say superior, to any
other poem ever given to the world, as is shown by the fact that it
defied and will still defy even the best linguists to render it into any
spoken language in any degree equal to the original. There is a want in
every other language of corresponding terms and words to convey the
identical idea of the instinct and habits of the deer and salmon and of
the other animals and scenes as graphically described by the poet."
The clergyman who
pronounced this muddled eulogy did not know all poems in every language;
nor is the difficulty of literal translation the supreme test of poetic
merit. His judgment is therefore both presumptuous and irrelevant.
Nevertheless the speaker was right in his assumption that translation may
retain the general sense of the original but miss the exact connotation of
terms, as it certainly fails to reproduce the assonances on which the flow
of Gaelic verse depends. Who could resist the rush of such a crescendo
passage as this, or pause to scrutinise words?
Ged thig Caoilte
‘s Cü Chulainn,
‘S gach duine de ‘n t- seòrs’ ud,
Na tha dhaoine ‘s a dh’ eachaibh
Air fasdadh Righ Deòrsa,
Nan tèarnadh a craiceann
O luaidhe ‘s o lasair
Cha chual’ is chan fhac’ i
Na ghlacadh r’ a beò i;
‘S i gradcharach fadchasach
Gealtach roimh mhadadh,
Air chaisead na Ieacainn
Cha saltradh i còmhnard;
‘S i noigeanach gnoigeasach
A’ fuireach ‘sa’ mhunadh
An do thuinich a seòrsa.
In passages like these we
have excellent illustrations of the poet’s craft, as Tennyson describes
The fairy fancies range, and
Ring little bells of change from
word to word.
Now, if this is all we seek
in poetry—fidelity of description in appropriate language—Macintyre
will meet our needs, No Gaelic poet excels him in the composition of
mellifluous verse. He seems sometimes to be carried away on the stream of
his copious vocabulary. The stream puns and wimple~ softly, sometimes
chatters, and not infrequently cascades melodiously. And yet we are not
satisfied, haunting though the word-music may be. The poet himself does
not emerge from the mass of his work with any system of philosophy; he can
describe objectively with all the precision of Celtic ornamentation; but
he does not play with ideas, nor do we find evidence of "capacity for
pain" in any of his composition. Hence, if in poetry we require
sublimity of thought, a philosophy of life or compelling emotion, we shall
find Duncan Macintyre wanting. If we look for a revolutionary, a zealot or
a visionary, we shall be disappointed in the bard of Glen Orchy.
We must accept him as he
was—a peasant who could not read but had a wonderful memory and a wide
knowledge of Gaelic poetry; a poet who could compose readily about people
and places and objects; one whose thought was not deep but who rose to
great heights in descriptive composition. No other Gaelic poet has had so
many editions of his poems published, and he is certainly the best known
of the eighteenth-century group.
There are many gaps in his
record as we know it, and there are many questions to which no answer has
been found. He does not mention any of his children or any relative, but
this need not betoken callousness: he just did not consider there was any
occasion to praise or lament anyone but Campbells of Breadalbane or their
cadet families, and King George III. Here we have no Jacobite, but the
laureate of the clan that Alexander MacDonald regarded as the most
powerful enemy of the Stuart cause in the Highlands. MacDonald was
especially incensed at the Oban poetess, òsdag
mhi-nàrach an Obain, while local tradition
avers that Macintyre was no stranger to her premises. The two poets were
in fact in opposite camps, and the older would have regarded the younger
as a sycophant of the Campbells.
In his Oran do ‘n bhriogais, a
strong indictment of Hanoverian policy in Scotland, Macintyre hopes to
disarm criticism and make his peace in advance by introducing a stanza in
which he resents the fact that the Clan Campbell was treated like other
clans. Even so, the song was suppressed, either by order or by advice. It
has been said that the poet was imprisoned for publishing this song in his
first edition; but no one has stated when or where the poet was tried and
sentenced. Without further evidence Macintyre cannot be included among the
Again, in his lament for
Glenure, he is a rabid partisan, as impatient for revenge as lain Dubh of
Barcaldine himself. He shows scant sympathy for the Stewarts, nor does he
ever mention how MacGregors and Macintyres were thrust aside as the lairds
of Glen Orchy "birzed ayont" from Lorn to Tayside. He would
certainly have heard detailed and gruesome tales, both in Glen Orchy and
in Glen Etive, of the massacre of the MacDonalds of Glen Coe. On the
long-planned treachery of this event he is silent, but he is loud in his
condemnation of the treachery of the man who shot Colin Campbell from
behind. From such omissions we conclude that he was unwilling or afraid to
offend the house of Breadalbane. He was never economically independent and
could not afford to estrange those who employed or recommended him. By
training and disposition he was ill fitted for regular employment; the
ceaseless toil of farm service repelled him, and we are not surprised to
learn that he regarded soldiering as the best of occupations (see line
5445), especially when the soldiering was in a Fencible regiment that
moved at regular intervals from one part of Scotland to another, and only
threats could be hurled at the enemy.
If the Act for the Pacification of
the Highlands roused resentment, it affected all alike—gentry and
peasantry, landords and tenants; and it was imposed by an external and
remote authority, against which all the people could make common cause.
Before the Act was repealed the "clearances" had begun, causing
greater bitterness among the people than the "Disclothing" Act
had done, because the policy was initiated by their own landlords and
chiefs, and acute hardship had resulted in many places. It was claimed
that "clearances" were economically necessary and that removal
from their poor huts and small patches of arable land would benefit the
people ultimately; but the immediate results were patent—increased
income from rents, the disruption of many communities, and the
introduction of southern shepherds to the Highland glens. John Campbell of
Achallader could not have been happy in planning evictions to prepare the
Breadalbane estates for sheep farms. In Oran nam balgairean Macintyre
hints at the deterioration of rural life under the new conditions; and in Cead
deireannach nam beann he laments the absence of game on his beloved
mountain and the disappearance of the people, but he does not blame
Breadalbane. It would, indeed, be unfair to hold up any individual
landlord to obloquy; his own chief James Macintyre of Glen Noe, had taken
up sheep-farming, as we learn from the following verses (Sàr Obair, p.
‘N uair dhìreadh
tu na Làirigean
Le d’ ghunn’ ad laimh ‘s le d’ mhiolchoin,
Gun leigte féidh ‘san fhireach leat
‘S do ghillean bhith toirt bhian diubh.
Ach ‘s éigin domh
seo innseadh dhuit,
‘S o ‘s fior e, na gabh miothlachd,
On shin thu ris a’ chiobaireachd
Gun leig thu cheàird-s’ air dIochuimhn.
Nam bithinn-s’ anns
a’ chùirt a nis,
‘S gach cùis a bhith gu m’ riaghladh,
Bhiedh Cruachan le chuid leitrichean
A’ tighinn a staigh fo d’ chrIochan.
B’ e sud an rud bha
‘S tha cinnt aig càch gum b’ fhior e,
‘S on leig sibh uaibh le gòraich e
Bu chòir dhuit bhith ‘ga iarraidh.
Ach sguiridh mi dhe
‘S nach bum dhomh bhith ‘ga dèanamh,
Gun fhios nach gabh iad àrdan rium
Am fine dh’ àraich riamh mi.
These verses, composed in
praise of the Chief of the Macintyres, hint at unfair treatment of the
clan by the Campbells and suggest that a claim for restitution would be
in order. It would have been appropriate if this poem, which is highly
complimentary to James Macintyre and refers to clan fortunes, had been
the work of Duncan Macintyre; but the author was James Shaw, who also
was indebted to the Campbells. Shaw ventured to risk their displeasure
but Macintyre would not, though on one occasion at least he had his
opportunity, when he visited Glen Noe and composed the poem on his clan’s
coat of arms.
In spite of the weaknesses
referred to in these paragraphs, Duncan Macintyre was a favourite with
the people. On his journeys throughout the Highlands his fame preceded
him, and he was generally well received. His handsome presence and frank
bearing, his cheerful countenance and sociable disposition, were all
conducive to hospitable entertainment. Of a peaceable, happy-go-lucky
disposition, he was mild-mannered as a rule but merciless in retaliation
for insult, and uncharitable to opponents. He apparently enjoyed the
tours he made through the Highlands and Islands. In his younger days he
was, by choice or by chance, a wanderer, a welcome minstrel in different
places—toirt òrain ùra ‘s rannachd dhaibh—and so
became known and loved as Donnchadh bàn
The bard of Glen Orchy
had known wild and lonely places, he lived in shielings and gamekeepers’
huts, and he was familiar with all phases of farm work and rural
pastimes. He had observed men toiling and striving all their days and
came to the conclusion gur e ‘n duine diomhain as fhaide mhaireas (that
‘tis the idle man that doth last longest). He had followed his own
recipe for longevity long before he left Glen Orchy; and we may rejoice
it was so, for sustained poetic composition requires leisure and
contemplation and the mental concentration that weariness makes
difficult. He hoped that his duties in the City Guard would leave him
many spells to be "in vacant or in pensive mood." Actually,
Conditions in the capital were not favourable: there were too many
opportunities for company and too few for privacy.
Macintyre made his home in the
capital for half his life-time; here some of his children were born and
some died; and here he himself passed away in 1812, and his wife in
1824. The poet and his wife, and some of their children and
grandchildren are buried in Old Greyfriars churchyard. His monument here
marks a spot that will ever be sacred to all who speak the Gaelic
language and appreciate the grace and grandeur of the songs bequeathed
to them by Duncan Ban Macintyre.