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Monday, 29 April 2013

Lochaber Strongman: A. A. Cameron

Even these days many folk might be familiar with A. A. Cameron who hailed from Lochaber. In his own day, his fame spread far and wide as being one of the best athletes to have ever competed at heavy events. Calum Maclean recorded three items about the Lochaber strongman from John MacDonald of Highbridge and here is one which was transcribed on the 4th of January 1951:
 
Tha fhios gun cuala iomadh duine fora(fh)ais air a’ ghaisgeach a bha ’s an dùthaich seo, mar a theireadh iad A. A. Cameron, an Camaranach. B’ eòlach air mi, ri mo thaobh, agus duine còir agus duine coibhneil. Bhiodh e a’ falabh thall is a-bhos aig na cleasan agus e a’ dèanadh a’ ghrõthaich orra anns a chlach nearst agus anns a chuile car a bhitheadh ann (F610.). Ach bha e turas a’ dol ro Siorrachd Pheairt. Is bha na Pearstaich a’ smaoineachdainn nach robh a’ nearst aige idir a bh’ aige. Agus bha clach mhór ann an sin aig taobh balla taobh an rathaid mhór. Agus thuirst iad gum b’ àbhaist daoine a bh’ ann a Siorrachd Pheairst a chlach a bha sin a thogail dìreach rud beag fos cionn an talaimh, cho àrd ri ’m brògan agus feadhainn nach togadh cho àrd sin fhéin i  (H1562.2.). Agus thuirst iad ris a’ Chamaranach a fiachainn. Cha robh an Camaranach air son seo a dhèanadh.
“O,” thuirst iad, “chan eil umat ach an gealtaire cha téid agat air.”
Agus thug e dìreach leum far an rathaid mhóir agus rug e air a’ chlach agus thilig e taobh thall a bhalla i (F624.2.).
 
And the translation goes something like this:
 
Many folk have heard mention of our local hero who was called A. A. Cameron. I knew him as well as myself and he was a decent, kind fellow. He would travel far and wide to attend Highland games and he used to win at putting the stone and every other type of heavy event. But one time he was travelling through Perthshire. The Perthshire folk didn’t believe at all that he was as strong as all that. There was a big boulder besides the dyke next to the highway. And they said that folk in Perthshire used to lift this boulder as high as their shoes and a few others who couldn’t lift it quite so high. They said to the Cameron to try it but he didn’t want to.
“Oh,” they said, “you’re such a coward if you can’t manage it.”
And he jumped from the highway and he caught hold of the boulder and threw it over the other side of the dyke.
  
There is also catchy two-part strathspey entilted A. A. Cameron and is a popular tune in music sessions and has been recorded by various pipers, and other musicians besides, over the years:
 
 
Alexander Anthony Cameron (1877–1951), to give him his full name, was one of the all-time great strongmen and athletes and hailed from Dochanassie in Brae Lochaber. He was sometimes known as the Mighty Mucomir and was indubitably the greatest heavy of his time. He dominated the heavies from the turn of the century until the First World War when many of Dinnie’s and Johnstone’s records fell before the onslaught of the strongman from Inverness-shire. A native of Dochanassie, Cameron was a true Highlander in every respect and although he did his share of travelling and sampled the bright lights of the entertainment world he preferred his native land. Farming meant more to Cameron than anything else and it is a farmer that his friends knew him best. Indeed to this day the good folks of Fort William refer to him as “Mucomir”, following the old Highland custom of naming a person the property he owns. As well as a farmer and professional athlete A. A. was for a time a member of the Partick Police and being over 6 feet 1 inch in height and 17 stones of muscular bodyweight, a better upholder of law and order would be hard to find. There were times, however, when he would have appeared to be on a hairline between lawful and lawless. At a fair ground in Aberdeen for instance he pulled the handle off a grip machine intended for testing the strength of lesser men than himself. At Turriff Games he proved “grippy” in quite a different way for he was the leader of a strike for better cash prizes. The athletes on this occasion refused to compete unless the prize money was raised.
 
Alex was a natural strong man; he came of hardy stock who had been tillers of the soil for generations. His father was quite a small man but his mother was a MacMillan, a clan renowned for their great strength and fine physiques. One of A.A.’s MacMillan ancestors was casting peat one day when the horse and cart got well and truly stuck in a bog. The horse struggled and strained but its efforts only succeeded in getting it more firmly embedded in the peat. Muttering at the horse he loosened the harness, freed the animal and practically heaved the terrified horse out of the bog and on to firmer ground. Going back to the cart he carefully selected foot-holes and after a titanic struggle he finally pulled the cart back on to the track. Perspiring and panting he gently patted the horse’s neck. “I dinna wonder ye couldnae pull it oot horse,” he puffed, “it was a struggle even for me.”
 
From such stock came the Lochaber athlete and he rarely indulged in proper training. The best training, he maintained, was swinging a scythe and he could work day after day at this task. This was an exercise Cameron enjoyed until the hour of his death for he died as he was happily cutting grass in front of his cottage on the Letterfinlay estate at Speanbridge.
 
The tales of Sandy Cameron reached the ears of English entrepreneurs who immediately made tempting offers to entice Cameron to their stages. The era of the strong man was at its height and Sandow, Cyr, the Saxon Brothers and many others were commanding huge salaries. The modest country lad was reluctant to leave his native heath but decided life in front of the footlights was at least worth trying. He didn’t stay long. The greensward, he felt ,was the place for him to demonstrate his strength and those who wished to do battle with him could meet him there, and although such notables such as C. B. Cochrane and George Hackenschmidt the great wrestler made attractive offers, he simply refused point blank. Hackenschimidt, The Russian Lion, who once wrestled Mucomir was particularly impressed with the Scot. He described him as the strongest man he had ever handled and went into a bout and left him to think over a particularly good offer to go on tour with Hackenschmidt’s team. Returning to the dressing room after the contest the Russian again brought up the subject of the tour. “You’ll be going to take it,” said Hack, never dreaming for a minute that anyone would turn down such a good chance.

“Aye, I’ll be going,” answered Cameron, adjusting his bowler hat, “back to Lochaber.” And matching his words he picked up his umbrella and made for the door.
At the Highland games, the Highland Adonis displayed similar determination and confidence. Often he would only take his first attempt in an event and leave the remainder of the heavies to battle it out for second and third places. On one occasion he got a particularly good throw of the hammer and J. J. Miller who was judging the competition complimented him on his efforts. “You’re good for another five feet,” Miller said encouragingly. “Na, na” replied Cameron. “If I do that they’ll expect it every time.”
 
In the late 1900s he toured Australia and New Zealand and later was a great success on a sensational tour which took him as far as Russia. Although best known for his feats in the heavy events Mucomir was extremely agile and actually established a record on the standing high jump with a leap of 4 feet 11 inches in a competition against Marsh, a great American jumper. No mean feat for 17 stone man-mountain. A. A. Cameron retained his strength and fine physique to the very end. He was a popular judge at the games and officiated right up until the year of his death. Just a few weeks before he died he attended Glenfinnan Games where he was seen talking to the athletes in Gaelic and shaking hands with friends. A handshake from A. A. incidentally was described as a “shattering experience.”
 
Although this great athlete finally passed the last tape on 18th September 1951, at the age of 76, his memory will be evergreen in the minds of Scottish strength lovers and admirers of the virile Highland character. His championship belt and several photographs can still to be seen in the museum at Fort William.
 
His obituary from The Oban Times reads as follows:
 
THE DEATH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY of Mr Alexander Anthony Cameron, the well-known Lochaber former heavy-weight athlete who, in his day, held ground records at practically every Highland Games in the country.
 
“A. A.” as he was called by his friends, had been living for the past five years in a cottage at Letterfinlay on the shore of Loch Lochy and was cutting hay on Tuesday when he collapsed and died. He was 75 years of age.
 
Although retired from athletics for thirty years, he still took a keen interest in the performances of the heavy athletes of to-day, and regularly assisted at the athletic events at the Lochaber Games–the Games at which he first made his name.
 
It was at the beginning of the century that A. A. Cameron was in his prime and at one time he held 16 records, some of them still unbeaten. These included the light and heavy hammer, the 56 and 28 lb. weights, and the 22 lb. ball. His Canadian record 16 lb. ball putt of 56 ft. was only broken last year. His Scottish record standing leap of 4 ft. 11 ins. is still unbeaten by a heavyweight.
 
As a young man he joined the Patrick Police and while he was on the Force he toured the Highland Games making his name as an outstanding athlete. He toured America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
 
A tall, fine figure of a man, he looked much younger than his years. His hand-shake still retained that strength which made him famous as a wrestler in his youth.
 
He was the son of the late Mr and Mrs Donald Cameron of Mucomir. Before going to stay at Letterfinlay, Mr Cameron farmed at Fassifern at Lochielside.
 
References:
Anon., ‘Lochaber’s Famous Athlete: The Late A. A. Cameron’, The Oban Times, no. 5045 (22 Sep., 1951), p. 3
SSS NB 5, p. 480
 
Image:
A. A. Cameron, c. 1890s.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Tom an Dealachaidh – The Hill of Parting

Folk etymologies of place-names are a fairly common genre that collectors often come across. Calum Maclean was no exception as here is an example recorded on the 7th of August 1952 from James Dunbar, styled Seamus Barrach, a fifty-year old farmer, who belonged to Tomatin in Strathdearn. The following story has as its background the Jacobite Rising of 1715 which started with the raising of the royal banner in Braemar and which ended somewhat inconclusively at the Battle of Sheriffmuir which would sound the death-knell for the Jacobite cause at that time:
 
That’s the hill further down there. It’s supposed to be that there where Lochiel and the Earl of Mar parted after the Rebellion of 1715. Now the Earl of Mar was very hungry and we heard that seemingly Lochiel got meal from the mill and he had no place to cook it, but he took his shoe, put water in the shoe and put meal, barley meal, into the shoe and Earl of Mar said that it was the best food that he ever tasted.
Now there’s a Gaelic poem, a verse:
 
“Is math on còcair’ an t-acras:
Có dhèanadh tàir air a’ bhiadh?
Fuarag min eòr’ as sàil a’ bhròg
Am biadh a b’ fhearr a fhuair Morair Màr riamh.”
 
Now there’s another story told about that when some other Cameron parted hundreds of years before that. But it means Tom an Dealachaidh, the Hill of the Parting. And there was another story told about it that it was the parting between the peaceable men of this country, of this parish and then down. But it’s only tradition, of course. Well, there’s a stone on the top and it is called Séithir Morair Màr [The Earl of Mar’s Seat], as they say in this country. It is supposed to be that the Earl of Mar sat on that stone watching a battle of the clans down at Tom an Tuirc [The Hill of The Boar], between Tom an Dealachaidh and Tom an Tuirc. My father was a good story teller. I don’t know the quarter of what he knew.
 
This story of the Earl of Mar here been conflated with the first Battle of Inverlochy that took place in 1431 which saw a victory for Clan Donald, led by Donald Balloch, against the combined forces of the Earls of Mar and Caithness who had tried to check the ascendency of the Lordship of the Isles. The forfeiture of the Lordship eventually came in 1491.
 
This story was once well-known in Lochaber and a version was recorded from Archibald MacInnes, a seventy-year old pensioner from Achluachrach, Brae Lochaber, by Calum Maclean on the 7th of September 1951:
 
A’ chiad bhaiteal a bha aig Ionbhar Lòchaidh eadar Dòmhnall Ballach agus Iarla  Mhàrr, bha Iarla Mhàrr air an ruaigeadh is e a’ dol a-mach ri Gleann Ruaidh. Ràinig e fear ris an abradh iad Ó Biorain a bha a’s a’ Bhriagaich:
“Thig mi oidhche ’na thaigh,” thuirst e:


“Air mhóran bidhidh is air bheagan aodaich,
Is math an còcaire an t-acras,
Is mairig a dheànadh tailceas air biadh,
Fuarag eòrna sàil mo bhròige
Am biadh is fheàrr a fhuair mi riamh.”

 
Glé choltach gun do mharbh Ó Biorain marst. ’N uair a ràinig an duine feadh na h-oidhche, bha e ’ga marabhadh. Fhuair e am pailteas de bhiadh. Bha a’ marst mór. Agus chuir e a chadal ann an t-seiche a mharst e. Agus ’s ann mar sin a labhair e na briathan. Cha robh móran aodaich air. Rinn e an uair san ga dhachaidh. Thug e cuireadh do’n duine uair ’s am bith a bhitheadh nicheann a dhìth air a dhol a choimhead air-san. Duine ’s am bith a chaidh an rathad a bhuineadh dha’n àite, bha e uamharaidh mór man déidhinn an deadhaidh na tìm sin.
 
And the translation goes something like this:
 
The first battle of Inverlochy was fought between Donald Balloch and the Earl of Mar in which the Earl was defeated and he fled to Glenroy. He arrived at a place called Briagach and met a man they called Ó Biorain.
“I’ll stay the night in his house,” he said:
“Plenty of food but scanty of clothing
Hunger is a good cook
Woe to him who disdains food
Barley brose from the heel of my shoe –
The best meal I ever got.”
 
It’s more than likely than Ó Biorain slaughtered the cow. When the man came in during the middle of the night, he was in the process of slaughtering it. He got plenty of food as it was a large cow. He went to sleep in the cow hide. And that is why he spoke these words. He had but little clothing on. He then made for home. He invited the man that if he ever needed anything then he should go and see him. Anyone who belonged to this place, he was very pleased to see them after that.
 
When the pursuing MacDonald host heard that Cameron had sheltered the Earl he and his family had to remove themselves to the Braes o’ Mar. When the wretched Ó Biorain and his family reached the Earl of Mar’s Castle at Kildrummy they received a warm welcome with the following words:
 
               ’S ionmhuinn am fìrean a-muigh,
                Ó Biorain às a’ Bhreugaich,
                Bha mi oidhche ’na theach
                Air mhóran bìdh, ach beag aodaich. 
 
Outside is the loveable little man
O’ Bryne [Cameron] from Briagach
I was a night in his house
With plenty food but scanty of clothing.
 
It is said that the progeny of Ó Biorain Cameron are still left in this area of Highland Aberdeenshire, which lends credence to the folk tradition. According to Somerled MacMillan, Mar granted him the land of Brucks.  Alasdair Cam Forbes of Drimonvir and of Brucks married O’ Bryne’s only child, and their descendants retained the property down to the latter part of the nineteenth century.
 
References:
SSS NB 5, pp. 396–97
SSS NB 16, pp. 1442–43
Somerled MacMillan, Bygone Lochaber: Historical and Traditional.  Glasgow: K. & R. Davidson, 1971), p. 112
Iain Dìleas MacShomhairle, ‘Legend of Stewart; Sgeul air Alasdair Stiùbhart Iarla Màr’, Cuairtear nan Gleann, no. 3 (May, 1840), pp. 65–67; later reprinted and abridged as ‘Iarla Mhàrr agus Fear na Briagach’ in W. J. Watson (ed.), Rosg Gàidhlig: Specimens of Gaelic Prose (Glasgow: An Comunn Gàidhealach, 2nd. ed., 1929), pp. 99–102
 
Image:
Kildrummy Castle, Strathdon, near Braemar

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Battle of Invernahavon (c.1380)

A clan battle fought between the Camerons and the MacIntoshes with a little help from the Davidsons and MacPhersons was but one story recorded by Calum Maclean on the 9th of June, 1952, from Willie MacKillop, a retired baker then aged 75, from Laggan, Badenoch:
 
The clan battle at Inch is well enough known, but what led up to it is not so well known. That was namely the battle of Eilean na h-Abhann fought in the vicinity of the junction of the Truim and the Spey. And strange to say, though this battle took place a matter of about seven hundred years ago that the mark of the graves are still to be found on the ground quite clearly – quite clearly to be seen after that long period, where the dead of that battle was buried. The Camerons raided the cattle of the MacIntoshes on the Spey and the MacPhersons and the Davidsons rallied to their help. The usual dispute took place as to who was to be on the right hand of MacIntosh. And as he gave the position to the Davidsons, the MacPhersons withdrew to the north side of the Spey and stood watching the fight. The MacIntoshes and the Davidsons were defeated and, I suppose, their cattle would be driven off. They were down further down the Spey to the south side. I expect they would be placed up in what is now, known as Milton of Nuide and, of course, set on what is now the wooded hill of Briagach. And the Macphersons perhaps knowing that they had a good deal of cattle with them followed them and struck their blow in the early dawn and chased the Camerons right back to Lochaber. And the names [of] all the hills and burns were known by the names of [the] many who fell on these rear guard fights that took place as the survivors of the Camerons were making their escape by Loch Erichtside. 
 
The above account covers all of the salient points about the battle and also mentions that it led to the Battle of the North Inch which took place at Perth in 1396. A fuller version given below was printed in Cuairtear nan Gleann from the pen of a Badenoch native. More details are given and when the MacIntosh decided to insult the MacPhersons into supporting him in his fight against the Camerons, the phrase that since became proverbial is given. There is also a Tarintinoesque scenario given when both archers face one another and fired simultaneously thereby killing one another.
 
Agus seo na sgrìobh ‘S.’, cuideigin a bhuineas do Bhàideanach fhèin, mu dhèidhinn a’ bhaiteil a bha seo:
 
Chuireadh am blar ainmeil so, mu’m bheil sinn an dràsda gu eachdraidh aithghearr thoirt seachad, o cheann teann air cùig ceud bliadlina. Tha an t-àite anns an do chuireadh e ann an siorramachd Inbhirneis; agus faodar ’fhaicinn o’n rathad mhòr leò-san a bhios a’ siubhal troimh Bhàideanach. Tha e thall mu choinneamh na creige mòire gruamaich ris an abrar crag Dhubh, fagus do’n chrìch eadar sgìreachd Lagain agus sgìreachd Cinn-a’-ghiùsaich, far am bheil an Spé agus Truim a’ coinneachadh a cheile.
 
B’ iad Clann Mhuireich, Clann an Tòiseich, Clann Dhaibhidh, agus Clann Chamshroin na fineachan a bha ’s a’ chomhraig so, agus bha ’n t-aobbar o ’n d’ éirich a’ chomh-strì ni-eiginn mar leanas:─Bha fearann aig Mac-an-Tòiseich ann an Lochabar, mar tha aige fathasd; agus aig an àm sin, an uair bha gnothuichean air an deanamh le làmhachas làidir, a chionn ’s nach robh lagh no binn a’ cur eagail air daoinibh, bha na Camshronaich, a bha ’n an tuathanaich air oighreachd Mhic-an-Tòiseich, air uairibh a’ diùltadh a’ mhàil a phàigheadh dha. Co dhiùbh bha iad ’s a’ chòir no ’s an eucoir ann bhi cumail a nach nach robh na bha e tagradh dligheach dha fhaotainn theagamh nach ’eil e nise glé fhurasd a dhearbhadh. Ach bha so ’n a aobhar strì agus cònsachaidh eutorra ’s an àm. Mu dbeireadh thug Mac-an-Tòiseich air falbh cuid do chrodh na tuatha mar aicheamhail, agus is e so bu cheann-fàth do bhlàr Inbhir-na-h-Amhann. Chuir na Camshronaich rompa gu’n cuireadh iad dioghaltas an gnìomh air Mac-an-Tòiseich air son an cuid feudalach. Thionail iad féin agus na ghabhadh am pàirt, thog iad orra fo ’n armaibh, agus dh’ imich iad air an aghaidh gus an d’ thàinig iad gu Inbhir-na-h-Amhann. Air do Mhac-an-Tòiseich fios a bhi aige gu’n robh na Camshronaich a’ tighinn, chruinnich e a chuid sluaigh, agus rinn e deas gu garbh chòmhdhail a thoirt dhoibh. Bha Clann Mhuireich, agus Clann Dhaibhidh le chéile gu bhi còmhnadh nan Tòiseach an aghaidh nan Camshronach; ach dìreach ’n uair bha iad gu dhol an ordugh baiteil thuit e mach gu mi-shealbhach gu’n d’ éirich eas-aonachd eutorra mu dhéidhinn a’ chinnidh bu chòir a bhi air an làimh dheis, agus o nach faigheadh tighearna Chluainidh an t-urram sin tharruing e féin ’s a chuid dhaoine air an ais, agns shuibh iad air cnoc a’ gabbail beachd air a’ chòmbraig, gun bhuille bhualadh fad an latha. Dhlùthaich na fineachan a nis air a chéile, Clann Chamshroin, Clann an Tòiseich, agus Clann Dhaibhaidh, ann an ordugh catha fo an cinn-fheadhna fa leth, agus:
 
“Bha bratach aig triath dha féin,
’S a ghaisgich bu treun m’a chruaidh.”
 
Bhuail iad air a chéile gu garg, a’ cogadh leis an treubhantas ghàbhaidh sin air son an robh ar sinnsire na Gàidhil riamh cho iomraideach. Mhair an iomairt ghailbheach so ùin fhada, agus is iomadh ceatharnach calma a bha ’n a shìneadh air an àraich mu’n do bhuadhaich taobh seach taobh. Mu dheireadh ghéil Clann an Tòiseich, agus Clann Dhaibhaidh. Cha b’urrainn iad seasamh ni b’fhaide roimh ionnsuidhean sgatharra Chloinn Chamshroin, agus theich iad ris a’ mhonadh a tha air taobh tuath na Spé, and an ruagadh leis an h-Abraich.
 
An déidh do Chloinn Chamshroin pilltinn o bhi leantuinn an nàimhdean chaith iad an oidhche air Creagan na Breagaich, am bràigh Noide Mòire, gun fhiamh gun eagal. Cho luath ’s a thàinig an t-anmoch chuir Mac an Tòiseich roimhe gu’n d’thugadh e oidheirp le seòltachd air an ni a dh’fhairslich air le spionadh. Chum ’s gu’n cuireadh e Clann Mhuireich agus Clann Chamshroin ’s a chéile dhealbh e car innleachdach a shoirbhich leis. Chuir e a bhàrd gu tighearna Chluainidh g’a bhrosnuchadh, mar gu’n d’thigeadh e o Mhac Dhòmhnuill Duibh, leis na briathriabh a leanas:─
 
“Tha luchd na foille air an tom,
’S am bad-shuileach donn ’n a dhraip:
Cha b’e bhur càirdeas ruinn a bh’ ann,
Ach bhur làmh féin a bhi tais.”
 
Air do thighearna Chluanaidh a’ chainnt thàireil so chluinntinn o’n bhàrd a thàinig, mar shaoil esan, o Mhac Dhòmhnuill Duibh, thog e air gun dàil le’ chuid feachd, agus thàinig e air na Camshronaich gun fhios gun fhaireach. “Fhuair Mac Dhòmhnuill Duibh,” tha e air a ràdh, “seòrsa caismeachd an oidhche sin ann aisling. Am feadh ’s a bha e’n a chadal, ’s a chasan am broilleach a bhràthar altruim, ’g an cumail blàth, bhruadair e gu’n robh na mucan ’g a thionnadh, agus mhosgail e le leithid do bhriosgadh ’s nach mòr nach do mharbh e a bhàthair altruim leis a’ bhreab a thug e dha. “Ged bha Clann Mhuireich ’n an tàmh an dé,” arse san air dha dùsgadh, “cha bhi an duigh.” Theich Clann Chamshroin an sin a mach ris a’ mhonadh. Rugadh air aon diubh a bha air dheireadh air càch, a thaobh a shean aois, agus mharbhadh e aig taobh sruthain a bha ’m bràigh Noide, d’an geirear o’n àm sin “Caochan-a’-Bhodaic.” Chum iad suas rathad Dhruim Uachdair, seachad air Coire Theàrlaich, Coir Uilleim, agus Coire nan Cisteachan, far an do thuit mòran diubh. Thionndaidh iad an sin a stigh gun Ceann Loch Eireachd, agus chum iad air an aghaidh suas ri taobh tuath an luich. ’N uair ràinig iad Ceann-Loch-Pataig, dh’fheuch iad aon uair eile ri iad féin a dhion, agus ri bacadh a chur air an luchd tòrachd. Am measg nan laoch a bha tilgeadh bha Ceann Dubh Mac Iain, duine treun a bha taghta aig cuspaireachd. ’Nuair bha e dol seachad fo Chrag Dhubh, an latha roimh sin, dh’fharraid e d’ a cheann-cinnidh, cò chas bu mhaith leis a chur deth eun beag a bha ’n a seasamh air craoibh. Fhreagair a cheann-cinnidh gu’m bu mhaith leis a churn a coise deise dheth, agus rinn Cann Dubh sin air ’iarrtas. Air an taobh eile bha Teàrlach Mór Mac Ghill Onfhaidh, a bha mar an ceudna ’n a dhuine treum aimeil, agus ’n a cheann-tighe. Choinnich an dithis so, agus thilg iad an saighdean, ach cha robh iad deònach a chéile chuimseachadh. ’S e b’ aobhar do so gu’n robh gnè chàirideis eutorra a thaobh comhaltais. Bha Ceann Dubh Mac Iain ’n a sheasamh air Meall-Ard-Laoich, agus an gaisgeach eile thall m’a choinneamh. Air an do thigherna Chluainidh umhail a chur nach robh iad da rìreadh chronaich e Ceann Dubh Mac Iain. “Chuimsicheadh tu ’n dé,” arse san, “cas deas an eoin bhig, an uair a dh’iarr mi ort, agus an diugh cha chuimisich thu Teàrlach Mór Mac Ghill Onfhaidh!” Bha Teàrlach Mór gu so ag eigheach,─“Tharam is tharad a Cheann Duibh,”─agus a nis dh’éigh Ceann Dubh ris,─ “Annam is annad a Theàrlaich,”─agus air dha so a ràdh thilg iad ’n an dithis, agus thuit iad le chéile aig an aon àm. Thogadh càrn far an do thuit Teàrlach, ris an abrar “Càrn Mhic Ghill Onfhaidh” gus an latha ’n diugh. Cha robh Ceann Dubh Mac Iain fhathad marbh ’n uair thog a chàirdean leò e, ’ga thoirt dhachaidh, an dùil gu’m biodh e beò; ach cha robh iad ach mu mhìle air falbh leis ’n uair thilg e ’n deò, aig allt ris an abrar o sin “Caochan Cheann Duibh.”
 
Tha cuid am barail gu’n do mharbhadh Mac Ghille Onfhaidh aig monadh a tha os ceann Fhorais, d’an ainm Coire Theàrlaich, ach o’n chaidh ràdh a cheanan chithear nach ’eil e cho coltach gur ann an sin a thuit e. Gidheadh feudaidh e bhi gur ann uaith-se a fhuair an Coire so ’ainm; oir tha e air aithris gu’m bu tric leis a bhi fantuinn feadh nam monaidhean eadar Lochabar agus Authol, far am faiceadh e féin iomchuidh, agus gu’m b’ àbhaist dha ràdh, gu’m b’ iad féidh nam beann a chuid-se feudail.
 
Air do Mhac Ghill Onfhaidh tuiteam, thàir Clann Chamshroin as a rìs, a’ cumail suas ris na beanntaibh, ’s na nàimhdean fathasd air an tòir, gus an d’ ràinig iad fagus do’n amhainn Tréig, air criochaibh Lochabair. Thuit mòran diùbh air an t-slighe, gu h-àraidh aig na uchdaich d’ an goirear Sliabh Loraig; agus bu cho dian a leanadh an ruig mu thimchioll deich mile fichead, ’s nach robh ach àireamh ro dheag dhiubh a fhuair beò dhachaidh, a dh’innseadh an sgeòil.
 
Is coir dhuinne bhi taingeil gu’m bheil ar crannchur againn ann an làithaibh a’s fear; gu’m bheil sìth agus sàmhchair a nis a’ riaghladh eadar na fineachan Gàidhealach; agus nach ’eil sinn air ar gairm, mar bha ar sinnsire o shean, gu bhi deargadh ar làmh ann am fuil ar cinnich, agus ar càirdean féin.
 
S.
 
Bàideanach.
 
Donald MacIntosh (1743–1808) in his Collection of Gaelic Proverbs (1785) gives the following explanation for one of the well-known proverbs to which the combat on the North Inch (Perth), also known as the Battle of the Clans, gave rise:
 
“Mackintosh, being irritated and disappointed by this behaviour of the  Macphersons, on the night following, sent his own bard to the camp of the Macphersons, as if he had come from the Camerons to provoke them to fight, which he accomplished by repeating the following satirical lines:– 
“Tha luchd na foille air an tom,
Is am baIg-shuileach donn na dhraip;
Cha b’ e bhur càirdeas ruinn a bh’ ann
Ach bhur làmh a bhi tais.”
 
i.e.–“The false party are on the field, beholding the chief in danger; it was not your love to us that made you abstain from fighting, but merely your own cowardice.” “This reproach so stung Macpherson that, calling up his men, he attacked the Camerons that came night in their camp, and made a dreadful slaughter of them, pursued them to the foot of Binn-imhais [Ben Nevis], and killed their chief, Charles Macgilony, at a place called Coire Theàrlaich, i.e.,Charles’s Valley.”
 
Perhaps a better translation would be:
 
                                    The traitors stood on the hillock,
                                    Whilst the brown bug-eyed one (i.e. MacIntosh) is in danger;
                                    It was not your friendship
                                    But your cowardice that stayed your hand.
 
References:
(Sir) John Foulis (of Colinton), ‘An Account of a Combat between the Macphersons and the Davidsons, Archaeologica Scotica or The Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 1 (1792), pp. 188–91
James D. G. Davidson, ‘The Battle of the North Inch of Perth, 1396’, Clan Chattan, no. 2 (1996), pp. 65–69
Graeme M. Mackenzie, ‘“The rarest decision recorded in history”: The Battle of the Clans in 1396’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. LIX (1994–96), pp. 420–87
Donald MacIntosh, Collection of Gaelic Proverbs (Edinburgh: John Gillies, 1785)
Allan Maclean, ‘1396: The Battle of the North Inch’, Clan Chattan, vol. x, no. 3 (1997), pp. 142–45
Alexander Macpherson, ‘The Battle of Invernahaven in 1386, and the Conflict on the North Inch of Perth in 1939’, in Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands in Olden Times (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1893), pp. 474–78
Euan Macpherson, ‘The Battle of North Inch’, The Scots Magazine, vol. 145, no. 3 (Sep., 1996), pp. 266–71
S., ‘Battle of Invernahavon in Badenoch; Blàr Inbhir na h-Amhann, Cuairtear nan Gleann, no. 36 (Feb. 1843), pp. 331–34
Alexander M. Shaw, History of the Clan Battle at Perth, 1396 (London, 1874)
SSS NB 15, pp. 1311–12
 
Image:
Craig Ruadh, near to where the Battle of Invernahavon took place.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Sweetest Bite: Cameron of Lochiel and the English Officer

Sir Ewen Dubh Cameron (1629–1719) who was referred to by the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay as the Ulysses of the Highlands was undoubtedly the greatest of the Cameron chiefs. Many of his exploits were documented by his biographer John Drummond of Balhaldie. During his long-life, Sir Ewen lived to see a great many changes in the political and social landscape of the Highlands in which he was himself one of the prime movers. Historical anecdotes are predicated upon heroic behaviour and the following story of single combat is but one example of many. It was recorded by Calum Maclean on the 6th of November, 1952, from John MacGillivray who was then residing in Conon Bridge (Drochaid Suigdeil), Wester Ross:
 
Camashronach Loch Iall an am Ionbhar Lòchaidh – bha Sasannach a-bhos. Agus tha e col(t)ach na robh a’ Sasannach, gun a ghreamaich e fhéin is Camashronach Loch Iall an greim. Agus cha robh an Camashronach a’ faighinn as a’ ghreim aig an t-Sasannach agus ’s ann a dh’fhiach e air le fhiaclan ’na amhaich agus mhill e gu mór e. Agus bliadhnaichean an déidh sin bha Camashronach ann a Lunnainn, agus chaidh e a-staigh air son gu faigheadh e an fhiasag dheth gu taigh borabair. Agus bha a’ fear seo a-staigh:
“Well," ors eisean, “bha m’ athair-sa aig Blàr Ionbhar Lòchaidh agus dh’fhiach Gàidheal air choireigin a mharaadh le greim a thoirt as an amhaich aige. Na robh e agam-sa an-dràsda,” agus e a’ giarachadh a’ ràsair, “cha bhitheadh e fada beò.”
Bha an Camashronach a’ smaoineachadh gu robh fios aige air gur e fhéin a rinn e. Agus bha eagal a bheatha air. Bha e a’ smaoineachadh. Bha e ag innseadh ’n uair a thàinig e dhachaidh nach d’fhuair e an fhiasag a thoir’ dheth riamh, a leithid de dh' eagal a ghabh e a’ smaoineachadh gu robh deireadh a latha gus a bhith ann.
“O, bha e an àite cunnartach.” 
“Bha e an àite cunnatach,” ’n uair a bha am bodach, an gille a' giarachadh a’ ràisar “’N robh e agam-sa an-dràsda!”
 
And the translation goes something like this:
 
Cameron of Lochiel was in Inverlochy [i.e. at the Battle of Inverlochy] – and there was an Englishman. And it appears that the Englishman and Cameron of Lochiel wrestled one another. Cameron of Lochiel was unable to get out of the Englishman’s grip and so he bit him in his throat and grievously injured him. Many years afterwards Cameron of Lochiel was in London and he went to get his beard shaved in a barber’s shop. And the man said:
“Well,” he said, “my father was at the Battle of Inverlochy and some Highlander or another tried to kill him by biting out his throat. And if he was here right now,” as he sharpened the razor, “then he wouldn’t live very long.”
Cameron of Lochiel thought the man knew that he that had done it. He took a great fright. He was thinking. It is said that when he reached home that he never ever shaved again such was the fright that it took when he thought that his life was nearing its end.
“Oh, he was in a dangerous place.”
“He was in a dangerous place,” when the old man, the lad was sharpening the razor: “If only I had him just now.”
 
In this book The Highlands (1959), Calum Maclean gives a short version of the event:
 
During the occupation of Scotland the English soldiery were stationed in Lochaber. One day a party of Camerons under Eoghan Dubh encountered a band of English soldiers out gathering firewood by Locheilside. Eoghan Dubh and his men were not the kind to shun a scrap. In the ensuing fight Eoghan Dubh grappled with an enormous English officer. They wrestled and the Englishman threw Eoghan on the flat of his back and held him to the ground. Eoghan’s hands were pinioned but like a flash he caught the Englishman’s throat in his teeth and did not let go until he had torn out his windpipe. Some years after the Restoration, Eoghan visited England and happened to go into a barber’s shop to be shaved. The barber, noticing his strange dress and appearance, asked him if he hailed from Scotland. Eoghan replied in the affirmative. As he held the razor to Eoghan’s throat the barber said: “There are some terrible savages in Scotland. Do you know that a Highlander tore the windpipe out of my father with his teeth. If I had the throat of the villain who did it, I’d waste little time slitting it with this razor.” Eoghan never again entered a barber’s shop.
 
Also his nineteenth century biography, John Drummond of Balhaldie gives the following graphic account (with original spelling intact) of that famous encounter:
 
It was his chance to follow a few that fled into the wood, where he killed two or three with his own hand, non having pursued that way but himself. The officer who commanded the party had likewayes fled thither, but concealing himself in a bush, Locheill had not noticed him. This gentleman, observing that he was alone, started suddenly out of his lurking-place, and attacked him in his return, threatning, as he rushed furiously upon him, to revenge the slaughter of his countreymen by his death. Locheill, who had also his sword in his hand, received him with equall resolution. The combate was long and doubtfull; both fought for their lives; and as they were both animated by the same fury and courage, so they seemed to manage their swords with the same dexterity. The English gentleman had by far the advantage in strength and size, but Locheill exceeding him in nimbleness and agility, in the end tript the sword out of his hand. But he was not allowed to make use of this advantage; for his antagonist flyeing upon him with incredible quickness, they inclosed and wrestled till both fell to the ground in other's arms. In this posture they struggled, and tumbled up and doun till they fixt in the channell of a brooke, betwixt two straite banks, which then, by the drouth of summar, chanced to be dry. Here Locheill was in a most dismall and desperate scituation; for being under most, he was not only crushed under the weight of his antagonist, (who was an exceeding big man,) but likewayes sore hurt, and bruized by many sharp stones that were below him. Their strength was so far spent, that neither of them could stirr a limb; but the English gentle man, by the advantage of being uppermost, at last recovered the use of his right hand. With it he seized a dagger that hung at his belt, and made severall attempts to stab his adversarey, who all the while held him fast ; but the narrowness of the place where they were confyned, and the posture they were in, rendering the execution very difficult, and almost impracticable, while he was so straitly embraced, he made a most violent effort to disingadge himself ; and in that action, raiseing his head and streaching his neck, Locheill, who by this had his hands at liberty, with his left suddently seized him by the right, and with the other by the collar, and jumping at his extended throat, which he used to say, “God putt in his mouth,” he bitt it quitt throw, and keept such hold of his grip, that he brought away his mouthfull! This, he said, was the sweetest bite ever he had in his lifetime! The reader may imagine in what a pickle he would be, after receiving such a gush of warm blood, as naturally flowed from so wide ane orifice.
 
Almost half-a-dozen versions of the tale were recorded by Calum Maclean indicating something of its popularity and its spread throughout the Highlands. In addition many others were printed in various Celtic periodicals during the nineteenth century. Some of the versions later recorded may have been influenced by these printed accounts. The event is also said to have inspired a classical piece of pipe music entitled Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel’s Salute. If these stories are based upon an actual historical event then they have grown in the telling which was a most natural thing to do for any storyteller worth their salt.
 
References:
Anon., ‘Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel’, The Celtic Monthly, vol. XII, no. 3 (Dec., 1903), pp. 51–54
Anon., ‘Eachdraidh an Ridire Urramaich, Sir Eóghann Camshron, Triath Loch Iall; History of Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, Part I’, Cuairtear nan Gleann, no. 38 (Apr., 1843), pp. 38–41
John Cameron, ‘The Sweetest Bite: An Incident in the Life of Sir Ewen Cameron’, The Celtic Monthly, vol. IV, no. 3 (Dec., 1895), pp. 63–64
John Drummond (of Balhaldie), Memoirs of Sir Ewen Cameron of Locheill (Edinburgh: Abottsford Club, 1842), pp. 118–119
Andrew J. Macdonald, Glen-Albyn or Tales and Truths of the Central Highlands (Fort Augustus: The Abbey Press, 1920), pp. 24–27
Calum I. Maclean, The Highlands (Inbhirnis: Club Leabhar, 1975), p. 30
SSS NB 21, pp. 1705–06
 
Image:
Sir Ewen Cameron

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Last Wolf

There are many traditions about the killing of the last wolf throughout the Highlands.  Here is but one example of a few taken down by Calum Maclean from the recitation of Allan MacDonald who hailed from Bunroy, Brae Lochaber, but who latterly stayed in Inverlochy, near Fort William. The recording was transcribed on the 17th of January 1951:
 
Tha àite shuas an Gleann Ruaidh an sin agus ’s e Achadh a’ Mhadaidh a their iad ris. Bha boireannach anns a’ mhòine a’ toirst dachaidh cliabh mòna. Dar a thog i a ceann gu falbh, bha madadh-gala is a bheul fosgailte gu bhith aic(hc)e. Chuir i a làmh a-mach ’ga chumail bhuaithe. Chuir i a lamh ’na bheul agus thachd i e. Bhrùgh i a làmh a-staigh gus an do thachd i e. Achadh a’ Mhadaidh ann an Gleann Ruaidh.
 
And the translation is as follows:
 
There’s a place up in Glenroy which they call Achadh a’ Mhadaidh [The Wolf Field]. There was a woman on the hill taking home a creel of peats. When she lifted her head to go there was a [she-]wolf with its mouth agape ready to lunge. She put her hand out to keep it at bay. She put her hand into its mouth and strangled it by thrusting her hand into it and choking it. Achadh a’ Mhadaidh in Glenroy.
 
Many of the traditions surrounding the killing of the last wolf contain certain motifs were the sole protagonists―in many cases this happens to be a woman―who encounter a wolf and in fear of their lives attack and kill the wolf with any weapon that they may have had to hand. A legend from Perthshire tells of the Wolf’s Bridge in Dalguise and it is said have been the last wolf to have been killed in this particular district. She is said to have encountered the wolf and managed to stab the ferocious animal.
 
Similar types of legends were recorded through the Highlands such as in Glassary, Argyllshire and in Strathglass, where, it is said, the last wolf met its death near St Ignatius’s Well. Other legends contend that a local hero was the one to have killed the last of the wolves such as a Lochaber tradition where a hunter-bard Dòmhnall MacFhionnlaigh nan Dàn (Donald MacKinlay of the Lays) was given the credit of doing so. A near-contemporary of this hunter-bard, and a famous wolf-slayer in his own right, was said to have been Andrew MacGillivray, Anndra Mòr nam Madadh-allaidh (Great Andrew of the Wolves) who ‘won a name and fame for himself by killing wolves.’ He is said to have been the last of the great wolf-slayers in Scotland and was born around 1600.
 
One of the most famous historical legends of the last wolf is connected with Sir Ewen Dubh Cameron (16291719), probably one of the most famous Highland chiefs. His biographer, John Drummond of Balhaldie, relates that: ‘His greatest diversion was hunting, whereof he was so keen, that he destroyed all the wolfs […] that infested the country. He killed […] the last wolf that was seen in the Highlands.’ It is claimed that the Cameron chief killed the last wolf at Killiecrankie in 1680. Apparently, an auction catalogue for a London Museum in 1818 had this stuffed wolf for sale, where an entry stated: ‘Wolf—a noble animal in a large case. The last wolf killed in Scotland by Sir Ewan Cameron’. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of this piece is now unknown. By the late seventeenth-century wolves in the Highlands were becoming less than a familiar sight and in all probability became extinct around 1680 after centuries of human persecution.
 
References:
SSS NB 1, p. 22
Andrew Wiseman, ‘‘A Noxious Pack’: Wolves in the Scottish Highlands, History Scotland, vol. 12, no. 6 (Nov./Dec., 2012), pp. 28–34 [a popular version of the article below]
Andrew Wiseman, ‘‘A Noxious Pack’: Historical, Literary and Folklore Traditions of theWolf (Canis Lupus) in the ScottishHighlands’, Scottish Gaelic Studies, vol. 25 (2009), pp. 95–142 
 
Image:
Sir Ewen Cameron (1629–1719), Chief of Clan Cameron. The portrait is in Achnacarry House.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Sweet Singer of Rahoy: Dr John MacLachlan

Undoubtedly one of the greatest Gaelic bards of the nineteenth century was Dr John MacLachlan who belonged to Morvern. The following biographical sketch was recorded from the recitation of John MacDonald of Highbridge, Brae Lochaber, by Calum Maclean on the 21st of January 1951:


Doctair Rath Thuaidh a theireadh iad ris an duine a bha seo. Iain MacLachlainn a b’ ainm dha. Agus Rath Thuaidhe, tha e shìos rathad Àird nam Murchan na sìos mu na h-àiteachan sin. Agus ’s e lighiche sònraichte math a bh’ ann an àm aiseadadh cloinne. Bha e an oidhche a bha seo – chuir iad fios air – a choimhead air boireannach anns an Òban. Ach bha e glè dhèidheil air mac na braiche. Agus thachair e fhèin is mac na braiche is bha tuillidh is a’ chòir aige dheth. Agus ’s ann a stad e ann am Port Rìgh. Bha seo pìos mòr far a’ chuirs’. Agus chaidh e staigh don taigh-òsda ann an sin feuch am faigheadh e drùdhag de dh’uisge-beatha. Dh’aithnich e gun robh mulad anns an taigh. Dh’fhaighnichd e an robh dad tuathal. Dh’innis iad dha mar a bha a’ chùis: gun robh bean, iad a’ feitheamh oirre is i air saothar cloinne.
“An d’fhuair iad lighiche idir?” thuirt e.
“Fhuair. Tha dithist dhiubh ann.”
"Faigh fear an taighe a-nuas an seo ’us am faigh mise bruidhinn deth.”
Cha tigeadh fear an taighe a-nuas.
Abair ris tighinn an seo glè allamh,” thuirt e.
Dh’innis e dhà mar a bha a’ chùis: am faigheadh esa’ a-staigh dhan t-seòmbar san robh am boireannach.
“O, tha dà lighiche ann.”
“Chan eil math sam bith orra,” thuirt e. “Leig mise a-staigh.”
Chaidh e a-staigh. Chuir e a-mach an dà lighiche a bha sin agus dhùin e an dorast. Dhùin e an dorast agus ann am mionadean, bha leanabh gille ann an sin. Agus bha an t-òstair cho toilichte agus bheireadh e dha rud sam bith.
“Chan eil dad a dhìth orm,” thuirt e, “ach na phàigheas am fàradh agam air ais don Òban.”
Na bu dè thug e dha, chan urrainn domh a bhith cinnteach. Ach ’s e bh’ ann gun d’fhalbh e ’an Òban. Agus bha e a’ cheart-chùis roimhe anns an Òban thar an robh aige ri dhol. Bha dà lighiche a-staigh an sin a’ feithemh air a’ bhoireannach a bha seo. Agus leis gun do chuir iad fios air fhèin, chuir e dìreach a-mach iad. Agus bha a’ cheart-chùis ann an sin. Bha leanabh gille eile ann. Agus thug an duine sin dhà fichead nòt’. Agus ghabh e sin. Dh’fhalbh e dhachaigh gu toilichte. Agus bha a’ chùis uamhasach fàbharach aig an duine sin. Cha robh mòran dhe leithid anns na crìochan airson a bhith ag aiseadadh cloinne. Turas eile teann air an Òban agus e a’ gabhail sràid a-mach. Agus thachair duine air agus e a’ caoineadh: rud a chuir mulad glè mhòr air:
“O! a dhuine,” thuirt e, “dè tha tuathal?” thuirt e.
Dh’innis e mar a bha tuathal: gun robh a bhean air saothar cloinne agus nach tigeadh an lighiche ’un a’ bhothain bhochd a bh’ aige leis gur h-e ceàrd a bh’ ann:
“Thèid mise ann,” thuirt an duine seo.
Cha robh fhios aige cò bh’ aige, ach ’s e Dotair Rath Thuaidhe a bh’ ann, Iain MacLachlainn. Agus chaidh e ’un a’ cheàrd agus bha a h-uile nithean ceart agus mar bu chòir dha a bhith. Agus bha an ceàrd cho toilichte.
“Dè th’ agam ri thoirt dut?” thuirt an ceàrd.
“Chan eil dad agad ri thoirt domh-sa. Cha ghabh mi e. Ach innsidh mi dè nì thu,” thuirt e. “Thèid thu a-màireach,” thuirt e, “aig a leithid seo a dh’uair, agus bidh mise an sin agus bidh mi a’ bruidhinn ris an lighiche eile. Agus bith thu air do sgeadachadh cho math ’s is urrainn dut ann an èididh.”
“O, chan eil aodach agam nas fheàrr na seo,” thuirt e.
“Mura h-eil, bheir mi fhìn dhut deise.”
Thug e dha deise. Thug e ’un an taighe e is thug e dhà deise. Is thàinig an duine seo ann an èididh coltas duine-uasail agus bha an dà lighiche a’ bruidhinn. Chuir e fàilte cho gasda orra agus:
“Thigibh a-staigh agus gheibh sibh drama.” – a’ chùis a dh’iarr am fear eile air: “Bidh gu math fialaidh an sin agus òlaidh am fear seo am pailteas agus òlaidh mi fhìn. Ach na leig leotha aon bhoinne òrdachadh ach na dh’òrdaicheas tu fhèin.”
Bha an ceàrd ag òrdachadh na deoch.
“O! is uamhasach coibhneil an duine thu,” thuirt an lighiche eile.
“O, seagh,” thuirt Dotair Rath-Thuaidhe, “tha e glè choibhneil. Agus òla’ tusa agus ithe’ tu na gheibh thu bhuaith ged nach rachadh tu don bhothan aige ’n raoir thar an robh a bhean airson a bhith aiseadadh cloinne,” thuirt e. “Agus ’s e th’ annad duine suarach. Is beag a bheireadh orm,” thuirt e, “agus casaid a dhèanadh agus gun rachadh lùireach an lighiche a shlaodadh dhìot uile gu lèir. ’S e rinn thu rud suarach.”
Bha duine-uasal a ghabh an t-sealg ann an Àird nam Murachan agus bha e gu math dèidheil air an t-sealg. Agus cha robh aige ach aon nighean. Dh’fhàs i gu math tinn, easlainteach truagh. Agus an àite a bhith a’ tighinn ’huige ’s ann a bha i a’ sìor-dhol air ais. Agus chuir e a dh’iarraidh ollamhachan, mar a their iad professor. Agus cha robh e a’ dèanadh feum, ach thuirt e air an turas mu dheireadh a bha e ann:
“Cuiridh mi botal air adhart an-dràsda. Agus nì am botal sin feum.”
Ràinig am botal a bha seoach, ach cha robh i ach glè bhochd a’ mhadainn sin agus iad a’ meanaigeadh a dhol ’un an t-sealg.”
“Chan eil mi a’ dol chun an t-sealg an-diugh,” thuirt e ris a’ gheamair.
“Nach eil?” thuirt e.
“Nach cuir sibh a dh’iarraidh an dotair a tha feadh seo,” thuirt e, “an Lighiche Iain MacLachlainn.”
“O!” thuirt e, “nuair nach dèanadh an àrd, feadhainn gu h-àrd an Dùn Èideann e, dè nì am fear sin?”
“Cuire’ sibhse fios air.”
Ràinig e:
"Tha mi dìreach rud beag fada,” thuirt e, “ach tha aon dòchas agam fhathast gun tig i bhuaidh.”
Agus ’s e seo: ma bheir sibh dhomh-sa cead, bheir mi dhi stuth agus caidlidh i airson trì uairean a thìm. Agus ma chaidleas i seachad air na trì uairean a thìm, caidlidh i feasda. Ach ma dhùisgeas i, bidh i ceart gu leòr. Bheir mi ’huige i. Is bidh mi fhìn an àirde,” thuirt e, “agus bidh mi ann aig an àm ’s an dùisg i. Agus cumaidh sibh an taigh sàmhach.”
’S ann mar seo a bha.
Thàinig an Lighiche agus dhùisg i ann an ceann nan trì uairean a thìm.
“Tha i ceart gu leòr agus bheir sibh dhi an stuth a tha seo.”
Dh’innis e mar a bheireadh e dhi. Agus bha iad a’ dèanadh a rèir mar a bha an Lighiche ag iarraidh orra. Ach cò thàinig an ath latha an deaghaidh seo ach am professor.
Thuirt e: “Dh’aithnich mi gun dèanadh am botal mu dheireadh feum.”
“Shin agad am botal is cha tàinig an corcas às fhathast,” thuirt a h-athair. “Agus theirg thusa a-mach thu fhèin is am botul às an seo. Na cuir do ghrùidh a-staigh tuillidh. Tha dotair againn ann an seo fada air thoiseach ort. Agus ’s e tha a’ dol a leigheas an nighean agam.”
Agus leighis e an nighean aige agus cha robh dad oirre. Is dh’fhaighnichd e:
“Cha toir thu dhomh-sa,” thuirt e, “ach rudan beag airson mo dhragh.”
Agus thug e dha ceud nòt. Agus dh’fhalbh e bhon darna ceann don bhaile as an robh e a’ fuireach agus dar a ràinig e an ceann eile aige a’ toirt an airigid seachad do dhaoine bochda na feadhainn a bha feumach, cha robh aige ach còig nothaichean dhen airigid. Bha e cho trom air an deoch air mac na braiche mar a thuirt e fhèi’:

“A Mhic na poite duibhe,
A tha na suidhe an bun a’ ghealbhain;
’S e an t-eòrna buidhe a b’ athair dhut,
’S e an atharnach do sheanamhair."

Ach bha e a’ gabhail tuillidh is a’ chòir dheth agus bha athair a’ dol ga chuir thairis a-nunn do na rìgheachdan thall. Agus chaidh e an àirde a’ mhonaidh agus rinn e òran. Bha e na bhàrd uamhasach agus rinn e an t-òran. Bha e ga ghabhail taobh an teine. Dar a chuala athair an t-òran tiamhaich a bha e a’ gabhail taobh an teine, thòisich e a chridhe cho mòr agus gun tuirt e:
“Cha tèid thu às an seo bhon a bha uiread sin de mheas agad air an dùthaich. Fana’ tu ann an seo olc air mhath mar a thachras dhut.”

And the translation may be rendered as follows:

The Doctor of Rahoy they’d call this man, John MacLachlan was his name. Rahoy is over by Ardnamurchan, over by those places. He was an extraordinarily good physician, especially during childbirth. This night was – they sent for him – to see a woman in Oban. However, he was very fond of whisky. And he and whisky met one another a bit too often. He stopped over in Portree. This was a good bit out of his way. He entered the hotel to try and get a dram of whisky. He noticed that there was sadness in the place. He asked what was wrong. They told him how things were: that there was a woman and that they were still waiting as she was in labour.
“Did they fetch a physician at all?” he asked.
“Yes. There are two of them.”
“Get the man of the house down here so I can speak with him.”
The man of the house wouldn’t come down.
“Say to him to come here and to be quick about it,” he said.
He told him how things were: and if he could get into the room where the woman was.”
“Oh, but there are two physicians.”
“They aren’t any good,” he said. “Let me in.”
He entered. He put out the other two physicians and he closed the door behind him. He closed the door and in a few minutes there was a baby boy. The hotelier was so pleased that he’d give him anything he wanted.
“I don’t need anything,” he said, “expect only if you pay my fare back to Oban.”
Whatever he gave him I can’t be sure. But whatever he left for Oban. And the very same thing faced him in Oban where he had to go. There were two physicians attending this woman. And since they knew who he was, he sent them out. And the very same thing happened. There was another infant boy. And the man gave him forty pounds. And he took that. Happily he left to go home. And circumstances were extremely favourable for him. There were not many of his like in these parts for delivering children. And one time near Oban he was wandering about. And he met a man and he was crying: something that made him very sad:
“Oh, my dear man, what’s wrong?” he asked.
He told him what was wrong: that his wife was in labour and that the physician wouldn’t come to the poor hovel he had as he was a tinker.
“I’ll go,” said this man.
He didn’t know who he had, but it was John MacLachlan, the Doctor of Rahoy. And he went with the tinker and everything was as right as it should be. And the tinker was so happy.
“What do I owe you?” asked the tinker.
“You don’t have anything to give me. And so I’ll not take it. But I’ll tell you what you can do,” he said. “You’ll go out tomorrow,” he said, “at such and such a time, and I’ll be there and I’ll be speaking with the other physician. And you’ll be dressed as well as you can in a suit.”
“Oh, I haven’t got any better clothes than this,” he said.
“If you haven’t, I’ll get you a suit.”
He gave him a suit. He took him to the house and he gave him a suit. And this man came out dressed like a gentleman and the two physicians were speaking. He gave them such a pleasant welcome and:
“Come in and we’ll get a dram.” – the very thing that the other man asked was: “Be quite generous then and this man will drink pretty much as I will. But don’t allow them to order one drop only that which you order yourself.”
The tinker was ordering the drinks.
“Oh, you’re a very generous fellow,” said the other physician.
“Oh, indeed,” said the Doctor of Rahoy, “he’s very generous. And you would drink and eat what you would get from him though you wouldn’t go to his hovel last night when his wife was about to be in labour,” he said. “You’re a despicable man. And it would be nothing to me,” he warned, “to issue a complaint against you so that you were struck off as a physician altogether. You did a despicable thing.”
There was a gentleman who went stalking in Ardnamurchan and he was quite keen on hunting. He had only one daughter. She fell ill, weak and poorly. And instead of getting better she was getting far, far worse. And he sent for a professor. But he was unable to do anything, and he said on his visit:
“I’ll send up a bottle just now. And this bottle will help.”
This bottle arrived, but she was very poorly that morning and they wished to go out stalking.
“I’m not going to the hunt today,” he said to the keeper.
“Aren’t you?” he said.
“Won’t you go and fetch the doctor here,” he asked, “Doctor John MacLachlan.”
“Oh!” he said, “if the high and mighty, those up there in Edinburgh, can’t do anything, then what good can that man do?”
“Send word to him.”
He arrived.
“I’m just a bit late,” he said, “but I still hope that she can be cured.”
And it was this: if you permit me, I’ll give her stuff and she’ll sleep for three hours. And if she sleeps longer than three hours, then she’ll never wake up again. But if she awakes, she’ll be alright. I’ll give it to her. And I’ll remain there,” he said, “and I’ll be there at the time when she awakes. And you must keep the house quiet.”
This is how things turned out.
The Physician came and she awoke after three hours:
“She is alright and you’ll give her this stuff.”
He told him who he should give it to her. And they did accordingly as the Physician asked of them. But who should arrive the very next day after this but the professor.
He said: “I knew that the last bottle would of use.”
“There’s your bottle and the cork hasn’t been removed yet,” said her father. “And be off with you and your bottle out of here. Don’t let me see your face here ever again. We’ve got a doctor here who is far ahead of you. And it is he who is going to cure my daughter.”
And he cured his daughter until there was nothing wrong with her. And he asked:
“You’ll not give me,” he said, “but a few little things for my trouble.”
And he gave him a hundred pounds. And set out from one side of town to the other where he stayed and by the time he reached the far side he had practically given away all his money to the poor and needy folk, but had only five pounds remaining to this name. He was heavliy dependant on drinking whisky as he himself said:

“O son of the black pot,
That sits on the lower hearth,
The yellow barley is your father,
And the second crop your grandmother.”

But he was drinking far too much of it and his father was going to send him overseas. And he went up to the hill and composed a song. He was a great poet and he composed the song. He was singing it by the fireside and when his father heard the plaintive song he was signing by the fire, he was affected so much that he said: 
“You’ll not leave this place as you have such a love for your native land. You’ll remain here for good or ill.”

No greater authority and no mean poet himself, Sorley MacLean was of the opinion that Dr John MacLachlan’s poetry was the best that nineteenth-century Scottish Gaelic literature had to offer. MacLachlan was born on the farm of Rahoy (Rathuidhe or Rath Thuaidhe) in Morvern in 1804. His kindred, the MacLachlans of Dunadd, originally belonged to mid-Argyll. His father sold the Dunadd farm for fishing and shooting interests. Between 1824 and 1828, MacLachlan undertook a medical degree at the University of Glasgow, and, although tempted by an offer to work overseas, he declined and returned to his native land to practice medicine there. Although he may have had the reputation of being a heavy drinker and a womaniser, his reputation as a skilled physician (especially with regard to midwifery) and his generous spirit and moral probity stood him in good stead. Some of his songs are still sung to this day reflecting that his poetic output has stood the twin tests of both time and taste. Worn out by his exertions and experiences, he died aged seventy in Tobermory, Mull, in a poor-house, in 1874. 

References:
Hugh C. Gillies (ed.), The Gaelic Songs of the Late Dr John MacLachlan, Rahoy (Glasgow: Archibald Sinclair, 1880)
SSS NB 2, pp. 17987


Image:
Dr John MacLachlan (1804–1874)