FR. ALLAN MACDONALD OF ERISKAY
@John Lorne Campbell of Canna
John Lorne Campbell
of Canna carried out a great deal of research into the life and of
Father Allan MacDonald. Through various publications he brought the work of
Father Allan as a Gaelic scholar, poet and folklorist to the
attention of the wider community. In 1954 he published a pamphlet on
the life and work of Father Allan (1859 - 1905). The full text of
the pamphlet is given below.
FATHER ALLAN MCDONALD
was born in 1859 at Fort William in Lochaber, which is in the heart
of the Scottish Highlands. He belonged to the Keppoch branch of the
Macdonald Clan. He gave signs of a vocation in early youth, and
entered Blairs College in Aberdeenshire in 1871. Blairs College in
those days was run on very Spartan lines, with plain living, stern
discipline and hard work, and Fr Allan was heard to say in later
life that the training he received there had the great advantage of
making any hardships connected with parochial work in the Hebrides
seem luxurious by comparison. At Blairs one of Fr Allan's teachers
was Fr James A. Smith, later to be Archbishop of St Andrews and
Edinburgh, who noted early the abilities of his young pupil and
encouraged in him an interest in philology and languages which Fr
Allan kept up throughout his life. In those days there was no formal
teaching of Gaelic at Blairs : Gaelic-speaking boys were given Fr
MacEachen's Gaelic Dictionary and a copy of the translation of
Imitatio Christi and encouraged to pursue the study of Gaelic in
their spare time, such as it was. This was less training than might
be desired, but at the same time the education given in the study of
Latin and Greek trained their minds to undertake the study of their
own language, and many priests educated in this way, like Fr Allan,
learned Gaelic well and used it effectively.
From Blairs Fr Allan
went to the venerable Scots College at Valladolid in Spain, where he
continued and completed his studies in an atmosphere that to him was
more congenial than that of Blairs. The main influence on Fr Allan's
life at Valladolid was that of the Rector, Monsignor David
Macdonald, a man remarkable for piety and learning, who spent nearly
forty years of his life at the College and improved it greatly. At
Valladolid there were several Highland students and they used to
produce a holograph Gaelic magazine, of which at least one copy has
been preserved. Fr Allan contributed to this, apparently under
several different pseudonyms, for his handwriting appears frequently
in the surviving copy. Fr Allan later wrote of Valladolid
Thug sinn greis le
chéile ‘sa Spàinte,
Aite nach bu ghann ar sòlas,
‘S bhuain sinn an dearcag fhiona,
‘S chaisg sinn ar miann le h.-ubhlan òrbhuidh;
‘S chan-eil teagamh nach do dh'fhàs sinn
An geurad inntinn mar bu chòir dhuinn."
"We spent a while
together in Spain, a place where our happiness was not little; we
picked grapes and ate our fill of oranges, and, no doubt, we grew in
keenness of mind as we should have done."
The friend to whom he
refers here was Fr John Mackintosh who was later priest of Bornish
in South Uist, near Fr Allan, and was famed for his efforts on
behalf of the Uist crofters during the days of the land agitation.
He was known locally as " Sagart Már nan Each".
In 1882 Fr Allan
returned from Spain and was ordained at Glasgow Cathedral by
Archbishop Eyre. He was offered a teaching post at Blairs, which he
refused: and he was then appointed by Bishop Angus Macdonald to the
mission at Oban, where he had to minister to a widely scattered
population. Here a warm respect and regard grew between Fr Allan and
his Bishop, a Gaelic-speaking Highlander like himself, and here and
in the countryside around Oban Fr Allan got full opportunity for
practising his Gaelic. The only Catholic family then living in the
town of Oban itself was that of Donald McLeod, a native of the Isle
of Eigg, and from Donald McLeod Fr Allan recovered traditional
hymns, some of which were later printed in the hymn book he
published in 1893. This was the beginning of an interest in oral
tradition to which Fr Allan applied his energies in his spare time
for the next seventeen years, taking down the traditional Gaelic
oral lore, prayers, hymns, songs, stories, place names, customs and
history, whenever he got the chance.
In 1884 Fr Allan was
appointed to the mission of Dalibrog in South Uist, then the most
populous, as well as the poorest, island in the Diocese of Argyll
and the Isles. Dalibrog in those days could only be reached by
steamer from Oban or Glasgow - a full day's sail in the first case.
Here Fr Allan landed in July 1884. His congregation was one living
on the very margin of existence. Nearly all the best land in the
island had been taken, within the preceding three generations, for
big sheep farms, and the people had either been evicted or forced,
in many cases, to occupy miserable holdings near the shore with a
view to pursuing the kelp or fishing industries, the first of which
had long ago failed, while very few of them had enough capital to
pursue the fishing. The then owner of South Uist, Lady Gordon
Cathcart, was an absentee who is said to have visited the island
only once in her life. She was obsessed with the idea that the only
way the people could benefit themselves was by emigration, and with
that idea fixed in her mind she was very unwilling to spend money on
improving conditions in South Uist, feeling that anything she did in
that line would have the effect of encouraging the people to stay
there, which she did not want them to do.
In her absence the
island was, like other such estates, ruled by a tight little
oligarchy, composed of her factor or agent, the large farmers, and
the parish minister. In bodies connected with local government, the
representatives of the Catholics, who formed about 80 per cent. of
the population, were carefully kept in the minority.(*1) This did
not prevent friendly relations between individuals in many cases,
and it is much to the credit of South Uist that at the height of the
land controversy, when very strong feelings were aroused on both
sides, no violent actions took place.
When Fr Allan arrived
in South Uist, this controversy was at its strongest. The Crofters'
Commission had visited many places in the Hebrides, including South
Uist, during the preceding year, and had taken much evidence on
rack-renting, evictions, oppressive estate managements, obligatory
sale or barter, inadequate small-holdings, lack of medical services,
and so on. Conditions in Uist, where Fr John Mackintosh had made a
strong statement to the Commission on behalf of the crofters, were
particularly bad. Legislation was expected, and did follow two years
later. Meanwhile the people still had no security of tenure, and
without it were terrified of taking an independent line, and often
even were afraid to support their own representatives in public.
There was also the
question of the local schools. South Uist was and is an
overwhelmingly Catholic island, but Lady Gordon Cathcart was not a
Catholic, and the minority who were running the island and who
composed the great majority of the then School and Parochial Boards
had systematically refused to select any Catholic teachers for the
national schools on the island set up by the Education Act of 1872.
Not until 1888 did the Catholic majority in South Uist obtain its
rightful representation on the local School Board. In both the land
question and the schools question, Fr Allan and his fellow priests
had to explain to a Gaelic-speaking population what its rights were,
and had to encourage them to overcome fear of eviction and habitual
diffidence and to make a stand and demand these rights - which in
practice often meant voting against the factor or the big farmers at
Parochial or School Board elections - while on the other hand they
had to explain to a not always understanding or sympathetic outside
world the position and point of view of a Gaelic-speaking Catholic
peasant population. It was a difficult task which often demanded
heroic patience, tact, and self-restraint, yet Fr Allan carried it
out so well that in South Uist his memory is to-day as warmly
regarded by Protestants as it is by Catholics.
In spiritual matters
there were equally great difficulties to be overcome. The present
generation, even in the Isles themselves, can hardly visualise the
difficulties involved in the work of a priest in the days before the
coming of the motor car, motor boat, the telephone and the
telegraph. Fr Allan's parish, about forty square miles, is
completely exposed to the wild storms which sweep across the
Mar bu dual dhith ‘san Fhaoilleach
Sìoban geal nam bruach
‘Ga fhuadach feadh an t-saoghail,
‘Na ruaig thar a' chaolais,
Sgrath is sgliot ‘gam fuasgladh
Le luathbheum na gaoithe.
Frasan garbh a tuath
Toirt crathadh air gach stuagh,
Clachan meallain cruaidh
A bheumadh barr nan cluas;
Daoine laithte fuar,
Nach fhaod iad sealltuinn bhuap',
A stigh an oir a' luaith
"Ceann na beinn' ud
Air a shuaineadh ‘san anart,
Bho na mharbhadh leis an fhuachd
Na bha bhuadhannan oirr' an ceangal;
Chaill i gu buileach a tuar,
Thàinig suain a' bhàis ‘na caraibh,
‘S chan-eil coltas oirre gluasad,
Mur fuasgail am blàths a h-anail."
weather, as is usual in early February; white spindrift off the
sandbanks driven everywhere; spray like ashes driven across the
Sound; sod and slate loosened by the quick blows of the wind. Fierce
squalls from the north shaking every gable, hard hailstones which
would cut the top off one's ears, men so chilled with cold that they
cannot look outside, huddled indoors at the edge of the ashes. The
head of yonder hill above is sheathed in a shroud, since the cold
has killed her natural virtues. She has lost her appearance
entirely, the sleep of death has come on her, and there is no
likelihood of her moving until the warmth of spring unbinds her."
(Written on 13th February 1898.)
His parishioners were
scattered, some villages being only approached by rough tracks;
three hundred or so of his congregation of 2300 lived on the Island
of Eriskay, separated from South Uist by half a mile of reef-strewn
sea with strong tidal currents. To answer a sick call on Eriskay Fr
Allan had to walk six or seven miles, often in the rain, to Eriskay
Sound and there make a fire on the shore so that the Eriskay boatmen
would know to sail over and fetch him. On one of these crossings he
was in danger of being drowned. All the duties which fall on the
shoulders of a parish priest in a large, poor, scattered and exposed
rural parish were on Fr Allan's shoulders: Sunday work, confessions,
instructions, sick calls, the repair of Dalibrog Church, the
teaching of the children (in which Fr Allan was particularly
interested). The foundation of Dalibrog Hospital, built by the
Marquis of Bute, sprang from a suggestion put forward by Fr Allan
and Fr Mackintosh.
Fr. Alexander Campbell
When Fr Allan first
came to South Uist an old priest, Fr Alexander Campbell, a native of
the island, was living in retirement at Dalibrog. Fr Campbell was a
mine of information on the traditions of South Uist and it was
probably he who interested Fr Allan in them. At any rate from 1887
on, once he was settled in and had mastered the local Gaelic
dialect, Fr Allan kept a series of note-books in which he jotted
down whatever of interest he heard and had time to record, for
instance, when spending nights away from home after sick calls to
remote places. In 1889 he printed a little book containing the words
of the sung Gaelic Mass, part of which he recovered traditionally
and part of which he seems to have translated himself. In 1893 this
was reprinted with the addition of many Gaelic hymns. Some of these
were composed by known writers who lived before Fr Allan, some were
traditional, and others again appear to be his own work or his
translations from Latin or English. He was quick to see the immense
interest, both religious and secular, of the vast but sometimes
ignorantly despised Gaelic oral tradition, of which Uist was then,
as it is now, the main storehouse, and his efforts to rescue what he
could from the danger of oblivion and to incorporate the traditional
religious material into modern devotional literature were worthy of
the greatest praise.
All his labour, both
mental and physical, could have only one effect: within ten years at
Dalibrog, Fr Allan had worn out his strength and impaired his
constitution. His health broke down: and after a vacation and rest,
he was transferred to the Island of Eriskay as its first resident
priest. Here he was destined to spend the remaining twelve years of
his life, and to have considerably greater opportunity for the
pursuit of his literary and folklore researches than hitherto. From
some points of view it was unfortunate that at the same time Bishop
Angus Macdonald left Oban to become Archbishop of St Andrews and
Edinburgh and was followed by a successor who, although a man of
holy personality, knew no Gaelic and took little, if any, interest
in Fr Allan's work in this field.
Fr. George Rigg
In Dalibrog Fr Allan
was succeeded by Fr George Rigg, a most promising young priest who
died heroically in the fever epidemic of 1897, having caught the
infection while looking after a case - an old woman, one of his
parishioners, whose neighbours and relations did not dare to enter
the house to help her. This incident affected all Uist deeply, and
no one more than Fr Allan, who commemorated Fr Rigg in a touching
poem, still unpublished, of which four verses are quoted here:
"Bha am pobull-sa
Féill Moire na Buana,
Gur h-obann a fhuair iad 1èireadh;
Bhuail beum a bha cruaidh iad,
Là dh'eug an sàr-uasal,
Là thrèig an deagh-bhuachaill' treud' iad.
"Thu shiubhal nad'
Chuir buileach gu bròn sinn,
Am mullach do threòir is t'fheuma;
An sagart glan bòidheach,
Ar taic is ar dòchas,
‘Ga fhalach fo'n fhòid, b'e ‘m beud e.
Cha tillte le sgràth
Bho shaothair do Shlànair,
Is chìte gach là ‘nad leum thu
Thoirt sòlas dha'n fhàrdraich
‘N robh còmhnuidh na plàighe,
Tigh brònach gun bhlàths, gun chéilidh.
"Thu ‘d ghaisgeach
Gun neach reachadh còmh riut,
Air faiche na tròcair ‘s feum air
Gun d'fhuair thu trom-leònadh,
‘S bàs cruaidh mar bu deòin leat,
‘S breith bhuadhach na glòir ‘na éirig."
"The congregation was
sad for it, on the day of the Assumption (15th August 1897) suddenly
they were sorely hurt; a hard blow struck them the day the true
noble died, the day the good shepherd of his flock forsook them.
"Your death, in your
youth, at the height of your strength and capability, made us all
sorrowful; the handsome fine priest, our stay and our hope,
concealed beneath the sod, it was a disaster.
"Fear would not deter
you from the work of your Saviour, every day you would be seen
active; giving consolation to the household where the plague was
dwelling, a cold house without warmth or company.
"You were a hero, all
alone, without anyone who would go with you on the path of mercy
when needed; you were sorely stricken, and earned the martyr's death
you desired, and the triumphant judgment of Glory as its
In 1894 a lady, Miss
Goodrich Freer, who was enquiring into the survival of belief in
second sight on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research,
visited the Outer Hebrides, and apparently then made Fr Allan's
acquaintance. She appreciated the interest of the folklore which he
had collected and encouraged him to note down more, which he did
until he had filled six quarto note-books with material of this
kind, the last four being written between 1893 and 1898. Later on
Miss Freer was to publish, under her own name, a good deal of the
English part of this material in various lectures and articles and
finally in her book on the Outer Isles which appeared in 1902. This
free use of Fr Allan's material - his help was acknowledged, but
there was nothing to show that he really was the collector - aroused
the resentment of Fr Allan's friends, particularly of Alexander
Carmichael the folklorist and of George Henderson, lecturer in
Gaelic at Glasgow University, 1906-1912. The resulting quarrels must
have been deeply painful to a person of Fr Allan's sensitive nature
and he did little, if any, work on folklore after 1899 until the
summer of 1905, the last year of his life, when no fewer than three
ladies, two of them Americans, visited Eriskay in search of
folksongs. One of these, Miss Amy Murray, later wrote a book on Fr
Allan and his island, and could have collaborated most fruitfully
with him had he survived, for she had greater ability in taking down
the intricate old Gaelic airs than any other transcriber, but even
the collection of 100 airs she made on Eriskay in 1905 is now lost,
except for a few published examples.
The inhabitants of
Eriskay, which is a small bare island in the Sound of Barra, about
four miles long and two broad, were fishermen, descended from
evicted inhabitants of Hellisay and South Uist. The population was,
and is, entirely Catholic; being fishermen, they were less affected
by the land question: the Estate management did not bother with them
(except negatively - it refused to assist the building of a jetty
there). Fr Allan loved Eriskay, which was thoroughly congenial to
him after the contentious politics of South Uist. He settled down
there happily, although always in indifferent health. His best known
and first published poem is in praise of the island; but it is an
unpublished poem of his on the same subject that I would prefer to
Eirisgeidh Mhic lain
Nan cnoc riabhach ‘s nam tràigh glègheal
‘S ann a gheibhte na fir threuna
Nach gabh gioraig ‘s muir ag éirigh
Mnathan còire fonnmhor feumail,
Gruagaichean a luaidheas eudach,
Sheinneas binn seach ianlaith géige.
Chaoidh cha chluinnt' ann sgread na Beurla-
Ghàidhlig bhriagh ‘s i riamh bu bheus dhuinn,
‘S trom bha Calum Cille ‘n déidh oirr';
Smior na h-uaisle, rìgh na Cléire,
‘S math gum foghainn i dhuinn ‘na dhéidh-san.
"Eilean ghrinn an
Gilead barr nan stuadh mu t'éideadh;
Gaillionn geamhraidh cha dian beud ort,
‘S coltach ri Naomh Eaglais Dé thu,
Creag na dìlinn ‘s i do stéidh-sa.
Gaoth an earraich
Bian a' chuain le ruinn ‘ga reubadh,
Cumaidh Micheil mìn fo sgéith sinn
Saor bho ghàbhadh ‘s bho chruaidh-éiginn.
làn thu dh'éibhneas,
Leug an domhain thu maduinn Chéitein,
‘N driùchd ‘na chaorain geala sheudaibh,
Boillsgeadh bristeach ‘nad ghorm éideadh,
Dealbh nan reul air cluain nan speuran.
"Eriskay of Mac lain
‘ic Sheumais (a seventeenth century MacDonald hero), of the speckled
knolls and the bright white strands; ‘tis there one finds strong men
who are not afraid when the sea rises, and kindly, tuneful, diligent
women who sing more sweetly than the birds on the trees.
"A friendly, kindly,
graceful island, where never was heard the screech of English -
beautiful Gaelic we always used, greatly loved by St Columba, heart
of nobility, king of clerics; and well it sufficed us after his
Beautiful island of
whitest strands, the whiteness of the wave tops around thy edge,
winter storm cannot hurt thee, thou art like the Holy Church of God,
the everlasting rock is thy foundation.
"When the chill wind
of springtime blows, and the surface of the ocean is torn by its
darts, St Michael will protect us, and preserve us from danger and
thou art full of happiness, thou are the jewel of the world on a May
morning, the dew shining like white diamonds, glittering brokenly on
thy green clothing, the picture of the stars on the plain of the
Fr Allan obtained
special permission from the appropriate department in Rome to say
Mass on one of the Eriskay fishing boats every year in the month of
May for five years. The fishermen at his request thoroughly cleansed
out their boats and gave them the names of Saints. He then gathered
them together and blessed them. They cast lots to decide on what
boat Mass would be celebrated. An altar with a canopy overhead was
erected on the lucky boat, and the others gathered in a circle round
it, all gaily festooned and decorated with flags and banners. Some
of the flags came from as far away as Hammersmith, others were
provided by the fishermen owners. He had the pleasure of celebrating
three Masses in this way before his death.
Building of the Eriskay
(c) N.A.Gillies 2002
One of Fr Allan's
first objects was to build a suitable church for his people to
replace a wretched thatched building, leaky, seatless, and
overcrowded, that had done duty for many years. The people joined
eagerly in helping him, giving freely of their own labour in
quarrying and dressing stone and procuring sand, and in carrying all
the material on their backs to the top of the selected site, Cnoc
nan Sgrath, which dominates the western side of the island and has a
beautiful view looking southward over the Sound of Barra and
northward to South Uist.
The Eriskay fishermen
themselves offered to devote the proceeds of one night's fishing
towards the cost of the church, and after fervent prayer caught a
record catch, worth nearly £200,*2 no small sum in those times. Fr
Allan himself wrote and circulated a pamphlet on behalf of the new
building and this, coupled with his own growing reputation outside
Eriskay, led to many subscriptions being received from sympathisers,
some not of the Faith, who came generously to aid the project. Fr
Allan sold his MSS to his friend the late Walter Blaikie and devoted
the money to the same purpose. With this help the church was
finished far sooner than expected, and was solemnly opened on 7th
May 1903 by the Bishop of the Diocese, and dedicated to St Michael,
patron of the Outer Hebrides. It was a day of great rejoicing on
Besides this work Fr
Allan laboured incessantly for the good of his island parishioners.
Fortified by security of tenure at last achieved through the
Crofters Act of 1886, the people began to improve and enlarge their
small single-roomed thatched cottages under his encouragement. He
pleaded the cause of Eriskay with the Congested Districts Board and
got the telegraph extended to the island and a road made there. He
exerted his influence, successfully, to keep the Eriskay fishermen
from getting into debt, with the result that the fishing there was
put on a sound financial footing and survived the crisis of the
First World War, which was not the case in every Highland community.
He often had to act as medical adviser to his people. He shared
their poverty, for at the best his income never exceeded £120, and
part of that was earmarked to pay interest on money borrowed to
complete the new church there. Throughout his life Fr Allan's
character was one of modesty, sincerity and unselfish devotion to
duty, and it is not surprising that his memory is revered by
everyone in Uist, Barra and Eriskay.
collection of Island folklore
collections, much of which have still to be published, run to
hundreds of thousands of words, probably the greatest collection of
folklore connected with one definite locality ever made by one
person. He enjoyed the friendship and respect of many noted scholars
in Scotland and Ireland who did not hesitate to ask him frequently
the kind of questions that can only be answered by the man on the
spot. He left, amongst other things, a vocabulary of South Uist
Gaelic and a short diary in Gaelic, which has been printed in the
quarterly magazine Gairm, and many original poems.
Fr Allan was not to
survive the opening of the new church on Eriskay by many years. In
October 1905 he was prostrated by a severe cold. Medical help was
not immediately sought - there was only one doctor for the whole of
Uist and Eriskay - and this developed into acute pneumonia from
which, with his old cardiac trouble, he died. He was only forty-six
at the time of his death but he had done more in his lifetime than
most who reach the allotted span. In his own words:
"Thig am bàs oirnn
nuair nach saoil sinn,
Fear gun eismeal, aois no òige,
Bochd no beairteach ar cor saogh'lta,
Chan-eil saod dol as bho thòrachd.
Cha tug Dia dhuinn aont' dhe'n bheatha -
‘N am duinn dol gu tàmh na h-oidhche
Chan-eil cinnt gum faic sinn latha.
Ionad-bhàis co e
Muigh air aineol no measg chàirdean,
‘N e dol sìos an craos na mara,
No bàs leapa bhios an dàn duinn?
"Bàs le d' ghràsan
bhith mu m' thimchioll
‘S e mo ghlaodh ri Rìgh na Cathrach,
Mìcheal mìn aig uair mo thriall-sa
Bhith ‘gam dhìon bho nimh na nathrach.
"Iosa, na dian mise
‘S daor a dhìol thu air mo cheannach,
Air sgath ùrnaigh Moire mìne,
Thug dhut bainne cìch ad leanabh.
Iosa, Mhoire, agus
Dhuibhse tha mi tairgse m'anam;
Na cur cùl rium, ach dian tròcair,
Tha mo dhòchas ‘nad bhàs fala."
"Death comes to us
unexpected, independent, young or aged; though our state be poor or
wealthy, his pursuit we cannot evade.
Let us be watchful
always, God has not given us a lease of life ; when we go to rest at
night we cannot be sure we will see the day.
"Who can tell his
place of dying? away abroad or amongst friends ; is it to be
engulfed by the waves or a death in bed that is in store for us
"A death with thy
graces around me is my cry to the King of Heaven; may St Michael at
the hour of my departure protect me from the serpent's poison.
"Jesus, do not Thou
refuse me, dearly Thou paid'st to redeem me, for the sake of the
prayer of Sweet Mary who nursed Thee when Thou wast a babe.
"Jesus, Mary and
Joseph, to you I offer my soul; turn Thou not from me but have
mercy, my hope is in Thy crucifixion."
FR ALLAN McDONALD,
Lone is the Isle
where our hero priest slumbers,
Wild are the waves that encompass its shore
Broken the hearts of the faithful it numbers -
Peace to his ashes, Loved Allan's no more."
Cold now the Autumn
blasts come from the ocean,
Black now the land that the Reaper hath mown;
Death's cruel hand stills a heart of devotion,
Harvesting angels have made him their own.
His was the hearth
where the poor found a corner,
His was the heart that could lighten their cares,
His was the tongue that could silence the scorner,
His were the gifts bringing credit to " Blairs ".
Fearless he sailed
o'er the tempest-tossed billows,
(Child of the tempest and sea-beaten strand)
Angel of comfort, to smoothen the pillows
Of sick ones departing to God's better land.
Shades of Iona - thy
light hath not vanished,
Saintly Columba keeps vigil and guard;
Tyrants thro' envy thy true servants banished
God's " one true Faith " still remained their reward.
Caritas Christi ", O
Taught from the Cross on sad Calvary's hill,
Born ‘mid the snowdrifts of Bethlehem's Grotto,
Thank God Love's lesson's in Eriskay still.
FR. ALLAN MACDONALD - A BIBLIOGRAPHY
ORIGINAL WRITINGS (a) IN
Eilean na h-Oige
(Isle of Youth, a poem in praise of Eriskay), published in Am Bolg
Solair,p.21 (1907); Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig, p. 1.
Biodh an Trianaid ‘ga moladh (Let the Trinity be praised), Christmas
hymn printed in St Peter's College Magazine, December 1951, with
translation by J. L. C.
‘S i Moire tha truagh (Sad is Mary), Christmas hymn printed in the
Mercat Cross, December 1952, with translation by J. L. C.
Cliù Dhia ‘sna flathas (Fame to God in Heaven), Christmas hymn
printed in the Mercat Cross, December 1953, with translation by J.
Leabhar-Latha, Gaelic Diary for March 1898, printed with
illustrations in the quarterly magazine Gairm in 1952 and 1953.
Eirisgeidh Mhic lain ‘ic Sheumais (poem on Eriskay, quoted in part
here) in Gairm, Spring number, 1954.
Dhìt Pìolat gu bàs Thu (Pilate condemned Thee), a Passiontide poem,
in the Glasgow Observer, 16th April 1954.
The play An Gaisgeach
fo Uidheam Réitich by Fr Allan was broadcast in 1952. It has not yet
UNDER FR ALLAN'S OWN NAME
IN THE CELTIC REVIEW
An Sìthein Ruadh (The
Red Fairy Mound), iii, 77.
Calum Cille agus Dobhran a bhràthair (Calum Cille and Dobhran his
brother), V, 103.
Tarbh mór na h-Iorbhaidh (The Great Bull of Norway), V, 259.
(The Pipers of Smercleit), V, 345.
Cluich na Cloinne (Children's Game), vii, 371.
Thugainn a dh'iomain (Come to Drive), viii, i66.
IN GUTH NA BLIADHNA
Boban Saor, i, 316.
Fionn Mac Cumhail, ii, 55.
air son Chloinne (Catholic Hymns for Children), 1889, reprinted
Comh-Chruinneachadh de Laoidhean Spioradail, 1893 (the same greatly
extended). These hymns are by various authors. Some are by Fr Allan
himself and others were translated by him.
ORIGINAL WRITINGS (b) IN
The Norsemen in
Fenian Tales (Saga Book of the Viking Club, ~ 416).
Appeal for Eriskay Church (Leaflet printed in 1902).
Letter to Alexander Carmichael on Michaelmas Customs (Carmina
Gadelica, 111, 140).
Letter to Folklore,
Most of the
translations in the Collection of Gaelic Hymns published in 1889 and
1893 are by Fr Allan. His translation of the hymn "O Sacred Heart,
our home lies deep in thee" was printed in the Mercat Cross of
August 1952. His translation of the Compline Service into Gaelic has
not yet been printed.
AUTHORS WHO USED FR.
1. Miss Goodrich
Miss Freer apparently
met Fr Allan in 1894, when she was conducting an inquiry into the
survival of belief in second sight in the Highlands and Islands on
behalf of the Society for Psychical Research. She encouraged Fr
Allan to continue collecting, and had free access to his note-books,
which she utilised extensively in articles and lectures, published
under her own name with acknowledgment of Fr Allan's assistance. It
can be taken, however, that all the folklore relating to Uist,
Eriskay, Barra and Benbecula in these publications was taken
directly from Fr Allan's note-books, Miss Freer's part being limited
to condensation and arrangement.
Her publications were
The Norsemen in the Hebrides, Saga Book of the Viking Club, read
26th November 1897.
Christian Legends of the Hebrides, Contemporary Review, 1898, p.
The Powers of Evil in the Outer Hebrides, Folklore, 1899, p. 259.
Eriskay and Prince Charles, Blackwood's Magazine, 1901, p. 232.
Footprints of the Past from the Outer Hebrides (lecture to the
Gaelic Society of Glasgow, November 1901).
Second Sight in the Hebrides (lecture to the Scottish Society of
Literature and Art, 15th November 1901).
More Folklore from the Hebrides, Folklore, 1902, p. 29.
The Outer Isles, her book published in 1902, contains much material
previously used in these articles and lectures.
2. Dr George Henderson
The late Rev. Dr
George Henderson, lecturer in Celtic at Glasgow University, was a
friend and contemporary of Fr Allan, and shared his interest in the
Gaelic oral tradition, in search of which he visited the Outer
Hebrides, a thing no holder of any Celtic Professorship or
lectureship in Scotland was to do again for many years. The
following publications of Dr Henderson contain material contributed
by Fr Allan :—
Leabhar nan Gleann (The Book of the Glens), published in 1898,
contains at least fourteen poems collected by Fr Allan, including
some of those by the Rev. Angus MacDonald, parish priest of Barra
from 1805 to 1825; Ronald MacDonald, Smercleit, South Uist; and John
Campbell, South Lochboisdale, South Uist. Some of Fr Angus
MacDonald's poems were reprinted by Colm O Lochlainn, in
Deoch-Slàinte nan Gillean.
Dr Henderson printed in the Celtic Review, ii, 263 et seq. " The
Fionn Saga", some of which had been taken down by himself, but the
greater part by Fr Allan, from Alasdair Ruadh Johnston, Eriskay, in
Dr Henderson also utilised material provided by Fr Allan in his
books, The Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland (1910) and Survivals
in Belief among the Celts (1911).
3. Alexander Carmichael
In the preface to the
first volume of Carmina Gadelica, p. xxxv, the late Alexander
Carmichael stated that he had had the loan of a collection of
religious folklore made by Fr Allan, which he had been unable to use
as he had so much material of his own. This disclaimer was supported
by Fr Allan's letter to Folklore, xiv, 87, dated 7th January 1903,
in reply to Miss Goodrich Freer's assertion that he had been a
common source of information both for herself and for Alexander
Carmichael, a remark which Carmichael had resented.
Nevertheless it is a fact that Fr Allan's MS. collections of
folklore were frequently lent to Carmichael, whose practice seems to
have been to dovetail different versions of traditional poems, etc.,
in order to produce the best possible literary version, and who used
frequently to consult Fr Allan about variant readings and the
meanings of particular words. The third volume of Carmina Gadelica
reproduces part of a letter from Fr Allan on Michaelmas customs (p.
140). The fourth volume contains some anecdotes which bear a very
close resemblance to material in Fr Allan's papers.
Alexander Carmichael, whose biography should certainly be written,
collected Gaelic folklore on a remarkable scale and over a long
period of years. He was helped by many friends and correspondents,
and his papers could well form the basis of a Scottish National
4. William MacKenzie
The late William
Mackenzie, secretary of the Crofters' Commission, was a folklorist
who has not altogether received the recognition his work merits. He
published a long paper on " Gaelic Incantations, Charms and
Blessings of the Hebrides" in the Transactions of the Gaelic Society
of Inverness, xxviii, 97, read to the Society on 23rd March 1892, in
which he acknowledges much indebtedness to Fr Allan for information.
The list he gives of the signs used by seers in divination, the poem
Duan an Dòmhnaich,'' ‘‘ Sloinneadh Brighde ‘‘(St Brigit's
Genealogy),the Origin of the Fairies, and the hymn " Dia bhith
timchioll air an sgothaidh"
included in this paper all come from Fr Allan's collections.
5. Amy Murray
Amy Murray visited
Eriskay in the summer of 1905 and made a considerable collection of
folk tunes there with the help of Fr Allan. The bulk of this
collection has unfortunately been lost, which is regrettable as she
was a competent and sensitive transcriber of folk music. A number of
tunes are printed in the Celtic Review, ii, 201, 314, and also in
her book Fr Allan's Island, which was printed in America in 1914 and
in Scotland in 1920. This book contains a good deal of information
about Fr Allan and a number of anecdotes contributed by him.
6. Mrs Kennedy Fraser
Mrs Kennedy Fraser
was indebted to Fr Allan for help on the occasion of her first visit
to Eriskay, which took place in the summer of 1905. See A Life of
Song (1929), pp. 112, 118, 119 and 130. She records Fr Allan's sound
judgment in disapproving of "the graceless*3 versions of many
(Gaelic) tunes as they appear in print".
7. Evelyn Benedict
Miss Benedict, an
American folksong collector, but not as capable a transcriber as Amy
Murray or Mrs Kennedy Fraser, also visited Eriskay in the summer of
1905, and was indebted to Fr Allan for help in her researches.
8. Frederic Breton
published in 1893 an improbable two-volume novel called Heroine in
Homespun, the scene of which is set in South Uist. Fr Allan appears
in this novel as Fr MacCrimmon" and some of the folklore collected
by him is used to give the story an appearance of local colour. See
Scots Magazine, June 1952, p. 234.
9. Neil Munro
Neil Munro knew and
admired Fr Allan and portrayed him as "Fr Ludovic" in his novel
Children of the Tempest.
TRIBUTES TO FR ALLAN
By Rev. A.
Mackintosh: Obituary in Catholic Directory of 1906.
By Neil Munro: The Brave Days, p. 302.
By Rev. Dr George Henderson: Celtic Review, ii, 263.
By ‘Gilleasbuig mac Dhòmhnaill mhic Eoghain': Guth na .Bliadhna,
vol. ii, autumn number. (In Gaelic.)
By Dom Odo Blundell, O.S.B., F.S.A. (SCOT.): Catholic Highlands of
Scotland, ii, 55 (quotes obituary in Catholic Directory).
By "Alasdair Mór" (John N. MacLeod): Stornoway Gazette, 27th
October, 3rd, 10th and 17th November 1933. (In Gaelic.)
Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, iv, 237 (review of Gaelic hymn book).
Celtic Monthly, xiv, 8 (obituary).
Celtic Review, v, 192 (notice of proposed memorial).
Oban Times, May 1903 (opening of Eriskay church); 14th October 1905
(obituary); 21st October 1905 (tribute by Neil Munro, and report of
funeral); October 1909 (unveiling of memorial on Eriskay).
REFERENCES IN TEXT
*1 See statement of Rt. Rev. Bishop Angus Macdonald, D.D., Bishop of
Argyll and the Isles, to the Crofters' Commission, Appendix to the
Report, p. 97.
*2 It has been said that a single night's fishing brought in about
£300 for the church on Eriskay, but the building fund accounts which
Fr Allan kept, and which have been preserved, show that on 10th
January 1902 there were sums of £102, 5s., £180 and £20 on deposit.
Which of these corresponded to the night's fishing is not stated,
but it may have been the second figure.
*3 i.e.. lacking in the grace-notes used by good folk-singers.
Contact with any
comments, suggestions or just to say hello!
John A. Galbraith
Songs of the
Collected mainly in the Western
Isles of Scotland by
MARJORY and PATUFFA KENNEDY-FRASER
Pages 1 - 53 |
Pages 55 - 113 |
Pages 155 - End
Series | Third Series