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appreciated by the leaders, who held the bard in the
highest esteem not only for his great poetical gifts
but also for his sincerity and consistency of his advo-
cacy of the royal cause. He was received with
marked distinction at Duart, Duntulm, and Glen-
garry, and in his elegy on the Marquis of Huntly,
who was beheaded in Edinburgh in 1649, he says —

" Bha mi eolach a' d' thalla
'S bha mi steach ami a' d' sheomar."

On the Restoration of Charles II., whose return
from exile John sings in lofty strains, the King
showed his gratitude by appointing him his poet-
laureate in Scotland, with a salary of £100 sterling
a year, which the niggardly Scottish Exchequer
reduced to £100 Scots. In his " Eeturn of the
King," he rejoices at the turn the tide of fortune has
taken, and gives " glory and praise, as is meet, to
the King Most High that Argyll is to get his


The next event of im])ortance In tlic l)ar(rs life is
tlie punishment of the nnu'derers of Ke[)[)ocli. The
Keppoch miu'der was conimitted in 1663, but some
considerable time elapsed before any attempt was
made to brino- the murderers to justice. It was
owini; to the indefatigable and persistent eftbrts of
John Lorn that steps were at length taken to punish
them. He, in the first instance, appealed to Glen-
garry, l)ut without success. He then appealed to
Sir James Macdonald of Sleat, in whose Castle of
Duntulm the murdered young Chief of Keppoch
and his brother had been fostered, but he also hesi-
tated, and John now enlisted the sympathies of Sir
James's brother, the Ciaran Mabach, of whom he
seems to have stood in doubt when he protested,
" Cha chreid mi n rud a their an t-Eileineach, ach
creididh mi 'n rud a ni e." Finally, a royal com-
mission was granted in June, 1665, to Sir James
Macdonald to apprehend the murderers, and sum-
mary vengeance followed, when five of the principal
actors in the tragedy were put to death. Tradition
avers that John Lom carried their heads to Inver-
garry Castle, and laid them at the feet of Lord
Macdonald. They were certainly sent to Edin-
burgh, whether by Invergarry or some other way,
and " affixit on the gallows standing in the Gallowlie
betwixt Leith and Edinburgh."

In his " Mort na Ceapaich," John appears at his
best. He stands before us, as has been well said, as
a tender-hearted and faithful friend, a preacher of
truth and righteousness, a man of firm faith in a
just God. His " Cumha " to the young chief and
his brother is in ecjually tender strains, and is a com-
position of striking power and pathos. After the
Keppoch murder, John incurred the wrath of" Siol


Dhughaill," and being, as he puts it, " mar ghearr
eadar chonaibh," he was obliged to flee for his life to
Kintail, where he remained until the murderers
were punished. Here he composed at least two of
his poems.

The Bard of Keppoch was destined to witness
another dynastic upheaval in Scotland. The Revo-
lution of 1688 brought him again into the arena of
party politics, and his great poetical gifts as of old
were exercised in behalf of the Stuarts. It is the
common behef in Lochaber that John was present at
the battle of Killiecrankie. His poem on the battle
seems to indicate his presence in the field. One
song attributed to him makes it certain that he
was there. The turn of events which followed in
the advent of William and Mary brought from him
a fierce appeal to the passions of the clans favour-
able to the Stuart cause, while the Dutch king and
his queen come in for a rough handling. The last
production of his muse is his poem against the
Union between England and Scotland. It shews
the keen interest he took to the last in the politics
of his time, and how intelligently conversant he was
with the views of parties and their plots. No High-
land bard of any time had so intelligent a grasp of
contemporary history, none excelled him in his own
line of composition. As a satirist he is first. He is
fai'-seeing, incisive, and clear-headed. He uniformly
displays a bold original cast of genius and ex-
pression. He imitates none. He walks freely and
with unconstrained steps among the wilds of Par-
nassus. His poetry has suffered much in the trans-'
mission, as oral poetry must through the multitude
of reciters.

The year of the bard's deadi is uncertain. He
lived to a great age, and, according to the best


authorities, died in tlie year 1710. A monument to
his memory in the form of a cross witli Celtic oi-na-
mentation was erected over his grave at Tom-Aingil
in Killiechoirill a few years ago by his admirer,
Charles Fraser-Mackintosh of Drummond.

John Macdonald, known patronymically as Iain
Dabh Mac Iain 'ic AUein, was of the Morar family,
and lived at Gruilean, in Eigg. We have not been
able to trace his descent, or find, indeed, any trace
of his identity among the tacksmen either on the
Morar or on the Clanranald estates. Tradition and
his own songs which have come down to us are our
only sources of information regarding him. He was
born about the middle of the 17th century, and is
said to have been a man of good education for the
time in which he lived. One of his descendants,
living in Benbecula, assured us, on the authority of
his father, that Iain Dubh lived for a considerable
time at Ormiclate, in South Uist. He is said to
have left many songs of his own composition in a
manuscript, which, according to the Benbecula
descendant, fell into the hands of RaonuU Dubh,
tlie editor of the Collection of Gaelic Songs pub-
lished in 1776. In this Collection appeared seven
of his songs. These are, " Gran do Mhac 'ic
Ailein," during his exile in France after the battle
of Killiecrankie ; " Marbhrinn do Mhac 'ic Ailein,''
on the death of Allan of Clanranald at Slierifihnn'r
in 1715 ; " Cumha Chloinn Domhnuill," in which he
laments the deaths of Allan of Clanranald. Sir
Donald Macdonald of Sleat, his son, Donald, and
Alastair Dubh of Gleno-arrv ; " (^ran do Mhac-
Shimidh,"' in praise of Simon, Lord Lovat, during
his exile in France after 1715; " Oran do dh'


Aoiighas Bhailfhionnlaidh," Angus Macdonald of
Belfinlay, in Beubecula ; " Trod nam Ban Eigeach,"
and " Oram nam finneachan Gaidhealach." There
is also another of his songs, " Oran air cor na
rio^hachd 'sa bhliadhna 1715," in Turner's Collec-
tion, and " Oran do Mhorair Ghlinne-garadh," is in
the Glengarry MS. Collection of Gaelic Songs. As
a poet John Macdonald ranks high among the
Gaelic bards. He is always happy in his choice of
language, musical in his rhythm, and lofty in senti-
ment. His elegies are all in good taste, and show
tender feeling. His best effort is probably " Oran
nam finneachan Gaidhealach," composed in the
heroic strain. His only song in the humorous vein,
" Trod nam Ban Eigeach," is a clever satire, without
any bitterness such as often mars the compositions
of some of his contem.poraries. The year of his
death is not known.

Cecilia Macdonald — Silis Nighean He Raonuill,
the Keppoch poetess — was born at Bohuntin, in
Lochaber, in 1660. She was a daughter of Archi-
bald 9th of Keppoch, and inherited a full share of
the poetic talent for which he was distinguished,
and in which this branch of the Clan Donald has
been peculiarly rich. She composed a number of
poems, some of which possess conspicuous merit.
The best known, and probably the most meritorious
of her effusions are two elegies, one composed to her
husband, who died in Inverness from tlie effects of
undue conviviality, and another to Alastair Dubh
Ghlinne-Garaidh. Both these are characterised by
strength and tenderness, and stand high among the
productions of the elegaic muse. In her latter days,
when sorrow and sickness clouded her life, she


sought consolation in religion of tlie Eoman type,
and this found expression in the composition of
hynnis, many of which liave been preserved! She
was of course a strong, indeed a violent, Jacobite,
and lived to denounce the Hanoverian dynasty in
the person of George I. in the lines with the refrain,
" Tha mi am chadal 's na duisgibh mi." She died in

The only Clan Donald bard of Irish origin of
whom we have any record was John Clarach
Macdonald, who was born near Charleville, County
Cork, in the year 1691. He was known as Mac-
donald Clarach, either from his broad cast of
countenance or because his ancestors came from
Clare. Little is known of his early history, but he
appears to have received a good classical education,
and to have occupied a distinguished place among
the later Irish minstrels. His reputation as a poet
soon spread over the country far and near, and in
due time he became Chief Ollamh of Munster. He
was one of the last, if not the last, to maintain the
ancient practice of holding bardic conventions, and
for many years he presided as chief bard, or Ard
Ollamh, at the yearly gatherings at Rathluirg,
where, in tenderest verse, he often laments the woes
and wrongs of his native Ireland. He loves his
" Old Erin " with passionate affection, because fate
has oppressed her, and he sings —

'• The very wuves that kiss the caves,
Chxp their huge hands in glee
That they sliould guard so fair a sward
As Erin by the sea."

He, on the other hand, lashes with fierce satire tlie
oppressors of his country and is often obliged to fly



for his life for his unflinching devotion to "Old
Erin. '

He watched from afar with deep interest the
progress of the Rising of 1745 in Scotland, and one
of his best songs, a fine lyric in the vein of the
Highland ballads of the period, is his lament for
Prince Charles on the failure of the enterprise. He
composed much, but many of his songs, though pre-
served in manuscript for a hundred years after his
death, have been lost. From thirty to forty pieces
have been preserved, and of these it may be said
that they exhibit exquisite taste both as regards
language and sentiment. Some of his best known
pieces are " Clarach's Dream," " Old Erin in the
Sea," and " Lament for Prince Charles." Of his
earlier efforts are the satire on Philip, Duke of
Orleans, Regent of France, who died in 1723, the
Elegy on Sir James Cotter in 1720, and the Elegy,
one of the most beautiful in the language, on James
O'Donnel. John Clarach possessed in a high degree
all the distinguishing characteristics of the Gaelic
bard. He was full of pathos and fancy, and the fire
of impetuous poetic genius. He is described by a
contemporary as " a man of great erudition and a
profound Irish antiquarian." He collected much
valuable material for a Gaelic history of Ireland, but
owing to a long illness he left the work unfinished.
He had also made some progress with a translation
into Irish of Homer's Iliad, pronounced by competent
authorities to have been " as respectable in Gathelian
as in a Greek dress."

Macdonald lived in easy circumstances, and was
a great favourite throughout Munster, not only for
his poetic gifts but for his generous disposition and
manly character. He died 1754, and was buried in


the churchyard of Ballyslough, outside Charleville,
County Cork, where an unpretentious head-stone
marks his ij^rave hearing the following insci-iptioji : —


Johannes Macdonald cogno
Minatus Clarach vir vere
Catholicus et tribus linguis
Ornatns nempe Gr?eca Latina
Et Hybernica non Vulgaris
Ingenii poeta tuniulatur
Ad Mene cippum obiit totatis
Anno 63. Salutis 1754
Requiescat in pace.

Alexander Macdonald, the famous Jacohite
bard, was the second son of the Kev. Alexander
Macdonald, minister of Island Finnan, who was the
son of Angus of Balivanich and Milton, son of
Ranald 1st of Benbecula, His father is frequently
referred to by writers on Highland subjects as
minister of Ardnamurchan, but in the records of the
Clanranald Charter Chest he always appears as
minister of Island Finnan. As a matter of fact, the
cure served by the Rev. Alexander consisted of
three pre-Reformation parishes, namely, Island
Finnan, Kilchoan, and Kilmorie. Kilchoan, which
contains Ardnamurchan proper, was indeed a
separate parish as late as 1030, but it was after-
wards combined with the other two. Island Finnan
Parish was so called after the beautiful little islanri
of that name in Loch Sheil, where a church stood of
old, and where the Clanranalds buried many of theii-
dead. It was probably to Island Finnan that
Maighistear Alastair received Episcopal institution,
though the other two charges were afterwards com-
mitted to his care.


Mr Alastair lived at Dal ilea, in the district of
Moidart, which was a part of the ancient Parish of
Island Finnan. The place of his residence seems to
have heen regarded as a special perquisite of the
parsons of Island Finnan, as we find a predecessor of
his — " Johne Ronnaldsoun, persoun of Ellanfinnan "'
— receiving a tack of Dalilea and other lands from
John Macdonald, Captain of Clanranald, in 1625.
We have no precise details as to the date of his first
connection with Island Finnan, but as his Divinity
course must have terminated ]iot later than 1680,
he would have received institution as minister of the
parish shortly after that date. Alastair Mac
Mhaighistear Alastair was born at his father's resi-
dence in Dalilea, but while we are morall}^ certain
of his birthplace, there is no information available as
to the precise date. It is usual, in the absence of
definite authority, to fix it at 1700, but taking all
the circumstances into consideration, we are disposed
to make it little later than 1690, the year following
the Revolution.

There are very few details surviving as to
Alastair's early life. It is very doubtful if in his
early days there were any schools in his native
district, and it may be safely assumed that he
received more than the rudiments of an excellent
classical education from his father, who, in addition
to ability and force of character, w^as like all the
clergy of his generation — -a scholar. Alastair after-
wards attended the University, and the tradition
is highly probable that his father intended him to
follow his own vocation. Whether the peculiar
bent of his mind would have won distinction for
him in the ministry need not here be discussed ;
l)ut fate forbade tlie experiment, and his Divinity


course either did not begin or came to a premature
close. After the Revolution, his father, with a
tenacity which suggested great strength of mind,
i-efused to conform to the dominant type of Church
government, and he may not have been keen that
his son should take orders in a Church to whose
polity he was so much opposed. Be this as it may,
Alastair did not adopt the ministerial vocation, but
settled down to the profession of a schoolmaster.
He never was, as has been incorrectly stated by
Mackenzie and others, parochial schoolmaster of
Ardnamurchan. At that time few, if any, of the
Highland Chiefs had implemented their legal duties
by providing parochial schools and schoolmasters ;
and it was this neglect — for which a variety of
reasons could be alleged — that led to the formation
of a society to whose beneficent activities the High-
lands owed much in the 18th century — the Society
for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Under the
auspices of this body he acted for many years, com-
bining the functions of a teacher and catechist.
His employment in these capacities doubtless in-
volved a certain compliance, probably sincere enough
at the time, with the established Presbyterian creed
of Scotland. Being the only teacher in the immense
district contained within the modern Parish of Ard-
namurchan, he, like other teachers of the society,
itinerated from place to place, the principal scenes
of his jDedagogic labours being Island Finnan, Kil-
choan, and Corryvullin. As the scene of his labours
varied, so did also his salary, but always in the
wrong direction. In 1729 his emoluments amounted
to £16, in 1738 to £15, and in 1744 he was passing
rich on £14 a-year. In abandoning the ferula for
the sword, in 1745, the pecuniary sacrifice does not


strike us as serious, but the value of sterling money
was at that time much greater than it is now as an
instrument of exchange. Besides, Alastair supple-
mented his living by farming, being tenant of the
farm of Corryvullin, while he followed the calling of
a teacher.

That Alastair took an active interest in the
ecclesiastical affairs of his native parish under the
Presbyterian regime is amply vouched by the Church
records of the day. It is not directly stated that lie
was an elder, but during a vacancy that occurred in
1732, in his native parish, he appeared before the
Presbytery of Mull as Commissioner, with a petition
signed by the gentlemen, heritors, and elders of
Ardnamurchan, and craving that a member of Pres-
bytery should be appointed to moderate a call for a
new minister. The term " Commissioner " in this
connection seems to imply that he was at that date
an office-bearer of the Church of Scotland, and
tradition supports that view. The Rising of 1745
worked a mighty revolution in his outer and inner
life. It naturally terminated his scholastic career,
and threw him into more intimate connection with
those influences which led towards Romanism. The
fact that his brother, Angus of Dalilea, who was out
hi the '45, was a lioman Catholic, is said to have
greatly determined this ecclesiastical departure on
the part of Alastair. But apart from this, his whole
type of character, no less his literary genius than
his general temperament, was impulsive and even
vehement, perhaps prone to exaggerate the realities
and possibilities of things. The poetic idiosyncrasy
dominated his personality so much that when his
mind was captivated by the dream of a Stuart
Restoration he was, almost unconsciously, swept


iuto a current which embraced absohitisni In Church
and State, the leading feature of the poHtical ideal
of the Stuart dynasty. It is quite unnecessary to
charge his memory with insincerity for having
performed what looks to us now as a religious
somersault, but was really the result partly of
environment and partly of a spontaneous psycho-
logical movement. Still we can admire the smart
couplet of the Mull hard —

"Cha b 'e 'n creidimh ach am brosgul
Cliuir thu ghiulau crois a Phapa."

Only once or twice do we find any notice of him
on record during the '45, though Ave have no doubt
his enthusiasm for the Jacobite cause, and his soul-
stirring effusions, must have greatly moved the
Clanranald country.

During the Rising he held the commission of a
Captain in the Prince's army under Macdonald,
younger of Clanranald. When the frigate which
conveyed Charles was in Lochnanuagh, Alexander
went on board without knowing that H.R.H. was
present, the latter being very plainly dressed. Thus
ignorant, " Captain " Alastair made up to the
Prince without any manner of ceremony, conversed
in a very familiar way, and indulged in a social
glass. The poet gave some valuable infoi-mation to
Bishop Forbes, which, with much other material,
has been embodied in the " Lyon in Mourning," and
at the end of the document containing his narrative
there is the quaint and characteristic couplet —

Bheir mi nis a chorra shiamain dhxiit foin
Gu8 a faigh mi tuilleadh gaoisid.

Alastair is reticent about his own share In the
exploits of the Clanranald contingent. He, how-


ever, suffered much in outward estate through his
Jacobite devotion, all his effects having been plun-
dered down to his cat 1 He and his wife wandered
among the hills until the Act of Indemnity was
passed, and during this trying time his wife gave
birth to a daughter. Bishop Forbes sheds an
interesting side light upon the poet's tastes and
attainments. " He is a very smart, acute man,
remarkably well skilled in Erse. He reads and
writes the Irish language, and declares that Old
Clanranald is the only other he knows who can
do so in the Highlands."

After the '45 he got the farm of Eigneig, on the
Glenuig Estate of Clanranald, and in 1751 — the
year in which he published liis vocabulai'y — we find
him Bailie of Canna. As the Clanranald Estates
were at the time forfeited, and under Commissioners
of the Crown, these positions must have been con-
ferred in entire ignorance of the denunciations he
was continually breathing against the hated Hano-
verian dynasty. His political antipathies, however,
continued so inveterate, and his invectives against
the Government so scurrilous, that the Clanranald
authorities had to banish him for a time from the
district. He then moved to Inverie, in the district
of Knoydart, where he lived for some years. He
also lived at Morar, in praise of which he composed
one of his finest songs. Eventually he was allowed
to return to the Clanranald Estate of Arisaig, where
he settled down for the remainder of his life. He
died at Sandaig about 1770, and was buried at
Arisaig Churchyard, close by the present B.C.
Church of St Mary.

No Gaelic bard has strung his lyi'e with greater
force and skill than the subject of this sketch. Be


his political or ecclesiastical attitude what it may,
these were entirely dominated by an all-powerful
poetic impulse. As a matter of fact, little of his
religious history appears in his works which might
have been written by a consistent Protestant. Song
was the real spontaneous expression of his heart —
whatever for the moment touched him deeply took
wings to it and soared upwards to the Ionian
Mount. As to his outlook upon Nature — and it
is interesting to note his participation in the
poetic movement affecting the English literature
of his day — there was one region of the Clan-
ranald country which was to him the embodi-
ment of the beautiful and the lovable — the
district of Morar. Tradition says tliat his song in
its praise was composed, not from his love for Morar,
but from sjoite against the people of his native
Moidart, which he had perforce to leave. We
cannot test the accuracy of the tradition — we can
only take the poem as it stands. A son's love to
his mother, a lover's to his mistress, find their
parallel in this poetic gem. There was no beauty
or comeliness with which the bard's vision did not
invest the subject of his eulogy. To him it lived ;
its heart beating, its eye flashing, its ear hearken-
ing, like a bride adorned for her husband, decorated
with many jewels. In the bonnie month of May,
with its woods under foliage, the salmon in its
streams gleaming in the sunlight, its hills and
straths in their summer glory, the bee tickling the
thorns and plucking honey murmuringly — all is a
picture painted by a consummate artist. Again, was
ever stream immortalised like " Allt an t-Siucair"?
It was no real, but an ideal stream that he handed
down to the future. The whole world of Nature


was laid under contribution in its every note and
melody ; the murmuring of streams, the song of
birds, as well as the colour and fragrance, born of
the sun, which make summer so winsome. He
stood not by the real rivulet that passed by his
homestead, but one that flowed through the Arcadia
of his dreams, where on a May morning the grass
was girdled with a close necklace of dewy pearls,
and the robin, the cuckoo, the mavis, and all the
little warblers of the grove made the wood vocal
with their songs.

His companion poems to summer and winter
present exquisite delineations. The apostrophe to
the primrose springing pale-yellow from the dust,
bravely lifting up its head in the early springtime,
while other flowers have their eyes shut in a torpid
slumber; his living pictures of birds, those with and
without the gift of song, joyful in their citizenship
of the woods, are all full of genuine poetic insight.
His images are original, striking, and picturesque.
His address to the heather in the ode to winter
beginning —

" A fhraoich bhadanaich ghaganaich uir,"

is of this character. To this plant of Caledonia the
sun was as a valet coming in the morning to dress
its hair with the unguent and powder of honey,
causing every ringlet to glisten with rarest gems
•of light. The power of bringing everything alive,
quickening nature, and causing it to palpitate with
a new life, the great attribute of poetic art which
projects the inner self into nature, is seen here in

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