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Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition
By Lord Archibald Campbell (1889)

Scottish Myths and Legends
A video by The Great British Channel

Volume I


THESE Tales open with contributions from three reverend gentlemen belonging to the Church of Scotland, all of them accomplished Gaelic scholars, namely, the Reverend D. Machines, than whom no better Celtic scholar could be named, nor one more capable of extracting the ore from that rich mine of hidden wealth, the traditions of the people of the country among whom he lives and by whom he is much beloved.

The same applies to the Reverend Jas. McDougall Duror, Ballachulish, Appin, whose charge lies close to the solemn glen made famous by the inhuman massacre of Glencoe.

It will be acknowledged that the fairy tale supplied by the Reverend Duncan M. Campbell of Tynribbie, Appin, is of great quaintness, for the rapid flight of the Highlander to Rome beats the performances of the famous Peter Schlemihl. The questions put by "Finn", or "Fionn", and the answers supplied by the ready "mother-wit" of the maiden, were sent by Mr. George Clark, head-keeper at Roseneath, who lived in former years in Glen Shira, near Inverary, and who is a Highlander, a man whose heart and soul lay in his profession. When in his prime, the boldest poacher of the Clydeside thought twice before coming to grips with this man, whose stern face and flashing eye reminds one of the description given by Scott of the Covenanter. He thought little, gun in hand, and his trusty dog by his side, of emerging from the sombre pine woods, and tackling any boat landing, no matter how dark the night, or how far from help he might be. Some tales I have been unable to include in this series, to my regret; but I hope, in a second and later series, to include what I am unable to publish now.

Without plunging into the abyss of Ossianic controversy—for there will, perhaps, be many, in the years to come, who will read Macpherson's Ossianic, believing that the poems he gave out were handed down in that shape—I will give, in one sentence, the opinion of the late Campbell of Islay on this point, than whom no one was better fitted to judge.

In a letter dated July 3, 1881, Niddry Lodge, Kensington, he says: "I am not thanked for proving MacPherson's Ossian to be his compositions, founded upon old Heroic ballads."

I could now, with ease, get poems, a la MacPherson's Ossianic poetry, written out by certain Highland gentlemen, "founded on heroic ballads". Most publishers would demur to publishing any more Ossianic poetry, however. Campbell of Islay valued true translation of the Gaelic Tales and Poems, collected by Mr. Peter Dewar, and done into English by Mr. Hector Maclean, more than volumes of Macpherson, and so would most, if not all, Gaelic scholars.

The notes on Celtic war dress are given as a contribution to the question as to what the garb of the Highlander was langsyne.

A. C.


  • Introduction
  • Craignish Tales
  • How Michael Scott obtained knowledge of Shrove-Tide from Rome
  • The Good Housewife and her Night Labours
  • The Fairies' Hill
  • The Skull in Saddell Church
  • Traditions of the Bruce
  • The Stag-Haunted Stream
  • Fionn's Questions
  • Notes on the War Dress of the Celt

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Volume II
Folk and Hero Tales
By The Rev D. MacInnes


The following Folk Tales, forming a volume by themselves, have been included in the series of Waifes and Stays of Celtic Tradition, through the kindness of my friend, the Reverend D. Maclnnes, who has made over the entire collection for this purpose.

Efforts were made to secure the first nine tales of this collection for the late John F. Campbell, of Islay, but they were unsuccessful. When these Tales were narrated, as they were, without a hesitation in their recital, the narrator was in his seventy-fourth year. Like many others possessing fairy-lore, he has passed away within the last few years; and it is probable that before long the land will be ransacked in vain for the legendary folk-lore or for the fairy- lore pure and simple with which it once was teeming.



Introduction (By The Rev. D. MacInnes)

(Gaelic and English on opposite pages.)

  • Chapter I. The Son of the King of Erin
  • Chapter II. Feunn Mac Cauil and the Bent Grey Lad
  • Chapter III. A King of Albainn
  • Chapter IV. The Herding of Cruachan
  • Chapter V. The Kingdom of the Green Mountains
  • Chapter VI. The Ship that went to America
  • Chapter VII. Koisha Kayn, or Kian's Leg
  • Chapter VIII. Lod, The Farmer's Son
  • Chapter IX. The Two Young Gentlemen
  • Chapter X. The Tale of Young Manus, Son of the King of Lochlann
  • Chapter XI. Leaon Creeach, Son of the King of Eirin and Kaytav, Son of the King of the Cola
  • Chapter XII. A IBattle, Fought by the Lochlanners in Dun-nac-Sneeachain

(Chiefly by Alfred Nutt)

  • List of Authorities
  • The Development of the Ossianic or Fenian Saga
    Mr. Skene's views.—Formal cIasification of the Saga.— The L.U. and L. L. mentions of Finn.—Cormac's mentions of Finn—Dcduction from preceding facts—The Irish Annals.—Agallamh na Senorach.--Highland Ballads.—Lochlann in the Fenian Saga— the Annals and the Second Stage of the Saga. —Later and Popular Development of Saga.—The Saga in Scotland—Criticism of Mr. Skene, of Mr. MacRitchie, of San Marte, of Mr. Duncan Campbell.—The Pictish origin of the Saga discussed and criticised.—Fenians and Fairies—Brian Boru and the Saga—Early traces of the Saga in Scotland.— Columba and the Saga.—Conclusion.
  • Notes to Tale I
  • Notes to Tale II
  • Notes to Tale III
  • Notes to Tale IV
  • Notes to Tale V
  • Notes to Tale VI
  • Notes to Tale VII
  • Notes to Tale VIII
  • Notes to Tale IX
  • Notes to Tale X
  • Notes to Tale XI
  • Notes to Tale XII
  • Addenda
  • Index of Incidents
  • Index of Runs

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Volume III
Folk and Hero Tales
By The Rev. J. MacDougall


IN the year 1890, my friend, the Reverend JAMES MacDOUGALL, of Duror, Ballachulish, generously made over to me his fine collection of "Folk-lore Tales", taken down by him from the lips of the narrator, whose whole stock came from what he had orally received in childhood, and from no other source. With indefatigable patience, Mr. MacDougall, has rescued these Tales herein given. They are a splendid contribution to the folklore of the Western highlands, and second to none in picturesque and graphic description of events herein detailed.



Introduction - James MacDougall
Introduction - Alfred Nutt
Aim and objects of folk-tore study.—Necessity for scientific methods of investigation.—The nature-myth theory of interpretation; reason for the discredit into which it has fallen—Sketch of the development of folk-lore studies.— Indication of the nature-myth theory within certain limits. —The Elysium of the Gael according to the oldest Irish texts and according to modern folk-belief.—The value of Celtic evidence for the solution of the folk-lore problem.— The value of Celtic folk-lore as a key to the Celtic temperament.

  • Chapter I. How Finn kept his Children for the Big Young Hero of the Ship, and How Bran was found.
  • Chapter II. Finn's Journey to Loch Lan, and How the Grey Dog was found again.
  • Chapter Ill. The Lad of the Skin Coverings.
  • Chapter IV. How Finn was in the house of Blar-Buie (Yellow-Field) without the Power of Rising up or of Lying Down.
  • Chapter V. The Smith's Rock in the Isle of Skye.
  • Chapter VI. The Bare-Stripping Hangman.
  • Chapter VII. A Tale of the Son of the King of Ireland and the Daughter of the King of the Red Cap.
  • Chapter VIII. The Son of the Strong Man of the Woods, who was Twenty-One years on his Mother's Breast.
  • Chapter IX. The Farmer of Liddesdale.
  • Chapter X. A Tale about the Son of the Knight of the Green Vesture, performing Heroic Deds which were famed on Earth seven years before he was born.


  • Tale I
  • Tale II
  • Tale III
  • Tale IV
  • Tale V
  • Tale VI
  • Tale VII
  • Tale VIII
  • Tale IX
  • Tale X

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Volume IV
The Fians, or Stories, Poems and Traditions of Fionn and his Warror Band
Collected entirely from Oral sources
by John Gregorson Campbell, Minister of Tiree


This volume has been made over to Lord Archibald Campbell for his Argyllshire Series, in full confidence that every justice the writer requires will be given to himself, and to the book, and in appreciation of his Lordship's ardent and judicious services to Gaelic literature in continuing the work so well begun by J. F Campbell, of Islay; a work that has broken down the prejudices which existed against Gaelic matters, and has gone far to make them valued and esteemed. Having seen other volumes of this Argyllshire Series, the writer is still more assured, not only by the energy and aptness shown in their preparation, but also by the learned precision and knowledge of the annotations connected with the work. He also considers his Lordship more likely to be acquainted with the best means of forwarding the object desired—that of making these subjects known— than anyone in his remote and uninfluential position.


JUNE, 1891.


  • Introduction.—J. G. Campbell

  • Introduction.—Alfred Nutt
    The nature and antiquity of Gaelic folk-tales and songs; traces of the same in the earliest Irish literature; discussion of d'Arbois de Jubainvilles and Dr. Hyde's views concerning the Slim Swarthy Fellow—The Fenian cycle: summary of Professor Zimmer's new theory respecting the same; objections to it.—Classification of the texts composing the Fenian cycle.—Parallelism of the Ossianic and Welsh ballads—Neglect of the Fenian cycle in Scotland; its national and scientific importance.

  • The Fians
    Conlaoch and Cuchulain
    I. Fionn Mac Cumhail
    II. Oscar
    Battle of Gavra
    Ill. Goll
    IV. Dermid
    V. Caoilte
    Lay of the Smithy
    VI. Conan
  • The Cattle of the Fians
  • End of the Feinne
  • Ossian after the Fians
  • Lay of the Red Cataract
  • Stormy Night
  • Manus
  • Alvin
  • Conn, Son of the Red
  • The Muileartach
  • The Lay of the Smithy
  • Brugh Farala
  • The Day of the Battle of Sheaves, in the True Hollow of Tiree

  • Fin Mac Coul, in the Kingdom of the Big Men
  • How Fionn found his missing men
  • Fionn and his men
  • How Fionn found Bran
  • Fionn and Bran
  • Ceudach, Son of the King of the Colla Men
  • How Fionn was in the House of the Yellow Field
  • Fionn's Ransom
  • Numbering of Duvan's Men
  • The Lad with the Skin Coverings
  • Notes

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Volume V

Clan Traditions and Popular Tales of the Western Highlands and Islands
Collected from Oral Sources
By The Late Rev. John Gregorson Campbell, Minister of Tiree
Selected from the Author's MS Remains and Edited by Jessie Wallace and Duncan Ban Isaac
With Introduction by Alfred Nutt


IT has been thought well and due, by those who knew the late J. G. Campbell of Tiree, to give to the public more tales collected by him, and his sister has made over the following collection, selected by herself from among the tales gathered in the course of many years. We send them forth as a fitting memorial to his memory, and as another stone added to the cairn lovingly erected by old friends. At the end will be found a few letters which passed between the late minister and the late lain Campbell of Islay, showing the methods of collecting followed by these two lovers of the folk-lore of their native land, and which in consequence cannot but prove of interest and value to those who have followed the steps of the gleaning of folk-tales throughout the British Isles—we may add throughout the world. These patient labourers in such fields were the true pioneers of the movement in Scotland.

Notes, where not otherwise stated, are the author's or editors's those signed A.N. are due to Mr. Alfred Nutt; those signed A.C. to the undersigned.


Feb. 11, 1895.


Introduction by Alfred Nutt
Memoir of the late Rev. John Gregorson Campbell. His work as folk-lorist. The present work.


  • MacLeans of Duart
  • Death of Big Lachlan MacLean
  • MacLeans of Coll
  • Browns of Tiree
  • The Story of Mac an Uidhir
  • Steeping the Withies
  • Little John of the White Bag
  • The Killing of Big Angus of Ardnamurchan
  • The last Cattle Raid in Tiree
  • Lochbuie's two Herdsmen
  • Finlay Guivnac
  • Big Dewar of Balemartin
  • The Big Lad of Dervaig
  • Donald Gorm of Sleat
  • Donald Gorm of Moidart
  • The Black Raven of Glengarry
  • The Old Wife's Headland
  • A Tradition of Islay
  • Fair Lachlan of Dervaig


  • Princess Thyra of Ulster and her Lovers
  • Garlatha of Harris


  • A Housewife and her Fairy Visitor
  • The Wise Women of Duntulm and the Fairies


  • The Two Brothers
  • The Two Sisters and the Curse
  • How the Daughter of the Norse King thinned the Wood of Lochaber
  • How O'Neil's Hair was made to Grow


  • The Wolf and the Fox
  • The Fox and the Bird
  • The Wren
  • The Two Deer
  • The Two Horses
  • The Two Dogs
  • The Cat and the Mouse


  • King and Kite
  • Parson's Mare has gone amissing
  • Hide and Seek


  • I.—Finlay Guivnac
  • II.—Port Nan Long
  • III.—A Tradition of Morar
  • IV.—Letters from the Late Campbell of Islay

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Folk Tales and Fairy Lore
In Gaelic and English

Collected from Oral Tradition
By Rev. James MacDougall (1910)

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Ancient Scottish Ballads
Received from Tradition and Never before Published with Notes Historic and Explanatory

This publication also contains an appendix which provides sheet music of some of these ballads.

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Superstitions of the Highlands & Islands of Scotland
By John Gregorson Campbell (1900)

This volume is the result of many years' labour by the late Rev. JOHN Gregorson Campbell, while minister of Tiree during the years 1861— to 1891. Much of the material was already collected before Mr. J. F. Campbell of Islay published his Popular Tales of the West Highlands in i860, and readers of Lord Archibald Campbell's volumes on Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition are already acquainted with the valuable work contributed to that series by the Rev. J. Gregorson Campbell.

It is hoped that this volume on the Superstitions of the Scottish Highlands, full as it is of racy stories, may throw fresh light on an extremely interesting subject. The MS. of a corresponding work by the same author •on Witchcraft and Second-Sight in the West Highlands, is in the editor's hands, and in the event of the present "work meeting with the reception which the editor thinks it deserves, the volume on Witchcraft will be published next year. Mrs. Wallace, Hynish, Tiree, the author's sister, has kindly read the proofs.


The object aimed at in the following pages is to put before the reader a statement, as complete and accurate as the writer can attain to, of the Superstitions and Antiquities of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. In other words, the writer has endeavoured to gather full materials relating to that subject, and to arrange them in a form that may prove of some scientific value. In pursuit of this object, it has been deemed advisable to derive information solely from oral sources.

Books have been purposely avoided as authorities, and a rule has been laid down, and strictly adhered to, not to accept any statement in print regarding a Highland belief, unless also found current among the people. In the few books there are, having any reference to Gaelic lore, the statements have been so frequently found at variance with popular beliefs that this rule has been a necessity. There are a few honourable exceptions, but in general what is to be found in print on this subject is not trustworthy.

A want of acquaintance with the Gaelic language or with Highland feelings and modes of thought, is usually the cause of error. The writers think in English, and are not careful to eliminate from their statements thoughts derived from English or classical literature, or to keep from confusing with Celtic beliefs ideas derived from foreign sources, and from analogous creeds existing elsewhere. This gives an unconscious tinge to their statements, and (what is more to be regretted) sometimes makes them fill up with extraneous and foreign elements what seems to them gaps or blanks in beliefs they but imperfectly understand.

The writer's information has been derived from widely separated districts in the North, West, and Central Highlands, and from the Islands. Naturally, the bulk of the information was obtained in Tiree, where the writer had most opportunity of making inquiries, but information from this or any other source has not been accepted without comparison with the same beliefs in other districts. The writer has not been able personally to visit all parts of the Highlands, but his informants have spent their lives in districts far apart. The reader will fall into a mistake who supposes that the whole information is within the belief, or even knowledge, of any one individual, or of any one district.

The beliefs of one district do not differ essentially from those of another. In one or two cases several versions of a tale are given to show to some extent the nature of the variations of popular tradition. The writer has thankfully to acknowledge, and he cannot but remember with pleasure, the readiness and courtesy, and in very many cases the great intelligence with which his inquiries have been answered. Some of his informants have shown a quickness and retentiveness of memory which he could not but envy, and an appreciation of, and an acquaintance with ancient lore that seemed to him to indicate in those who were strangers to the world of letters powers of mind of a high order.

The objection to books and print as authorities has also been extended to written correspondence. No doubt much that is additional and interesting could be obtained through these channels, but if the account given is to serve any purpose higher than that of mere amusement, strict accuracy is of such importance that all these sources of possible error have been avoided; they cannot be sifted by cross-examination and further inquiry so readily or thoroughly as information obtained by word of mouth. The whole has thus passed through the writer's own hands directly from what he has found current among the people.

Care has been taken that no statement be made conveying an idea different in the slightest from what has been heard. A popular Gaelic saying can be quoted as applicable to the case:

"If it be a lie as told by me, it was a lie as told to me" {Ma's breug bh'uam. e, is breug dhomh e). It is as free to another as it has been to the writer, to draw his inferences from the statements given, and it is thought no genuine tale or oral tradition will be found to contradict the statements made in the following pages.

In the translations given of Gaelic, the object aimed at has been to give the corresponding English expression, that is, one conveying the same meaning to the English reader that the Gaelic expression conveys to the Gaelic reader. Accuracy has been looked to on this point rather than grace of diction. Where there is anything striking in the Gaelic idiom the literal meaning is also given. In poetry there is consequently a baldness, to which the original is a stranger; but this, it may be urged, is a fault inherent in all translations, however carefully executed. The transference of ideas from one language to another weakens the force and beauty of an expression; what is racy and witty, or musical and expressive in one, becomes tame and insipid in another. This trite observation is made to deprecate unfavourable opinions being formed of the genius and force of the Gaelic language from the translations given.

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Witchcraft & Second Sight in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland
By John Gregorson Campbell (1902)

Download the pdf file here (9.2Mb)

See also...

Folk Lore in Lowland Scotland
By  Eve Blantyre Simpson (1908)

Andrew Lang as Man of Letters and Folk-Lorist
By Joseph Jacobs

The Folk-Lore of Plants
By T. F. Thiselton Dyer (1889)

Folk Lore
Superstitious beliefs in the West of Scotland within this century by James Napier (1879) (pdf)

Folk Lore Journal
Volume 1 (1883)
Volume 2 (1884)
Volume 3 (1885)
Volume 4 (1886)
Volume 5 (1887)
Volume 6 (1888)
Volume 7 (1889)

Folk-Lore Society
Volume 1 (1878)
Volume 29 (1918)

A Chapter in the History of Culture by William George Black (1883) (pdf)

Folk-Lore and Legends
Scotland (1889) (pdf)

Essays on the Superstitions of the Highlanders of Scotland
To which are added translations from the Gaelicl; and letters connected with those formerly published in two volumes by Mrs Grant of Laggan (1811)

Off the Chain
Notes and Essays from the West Highlands
By “Gowrie” (W. A. Smith) (1868)

The following notes were written out at the time of my visit, and express the exact feelings with which the various districts mentioned impressed me; they ought thus to be more trustworthy than if viewed through a veil of memory, however slight. Dealing with scenes and subjects somewhat out of the usual track, I hope to have drawn some little information and amusement therefrom, for the benefit of kindred lovers of nature, and at any rate to have succeeded in securing for these parts some of that superabundant attention at present lavished upon the remainder of the “Land of brown heath and shaggy wood.”

Choice Notes from "Notes and Queries"
Folk Lore (1859) (pdf)

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