Hither our forefathers came, with their utter impossibility of enduring a spy, with their marrow-bred loathing of informers, with their thousand-year-old incapacity for servility. . . . MacDonald and his ' yellow-stick' disregarded; their beloved mountain land, with its passionate seas, resigned; for God's sake, they crossed the Aiseag Mòr, the 'Great Ferry,' the Atlantic, and sought new homes for themselves; always, however, without asking sympathy, without complaint, still resolute, unsung, unmentioned in speeches, their deep woes known to their God and to them, known and remembered by both."
I leave your readers to judge the merits of "Iain Sealgair's" verses. To me, at least, they seem not unworthy of a place in Guth na Bliadhna.
In them the feelings of an exile from Scotland find a voice. They tell of the heart-hunger of our Highland forebears for the old home they loved so well—the hunger that distance did but deepen and time could not allay.
Alex. MacDonald, P.P.
St. Andbews, Antigonish Co., Nova Scotia. Ionndrainn Alba
Thoir soraidh bhuam a nunn thar chuan
'S air chuairt gu bràigh nan gleann,
Gu tir na buadh, ged's fhada bhuam i
Tìr na fuar bheinn àrd ;
'S e bhi tàmh an àite Phoor
A dh' fhàg mo shùilean dall
'Nuair sheòl mi 'n Niar's a thrial mi 'n tir
A Righ ! gur mi bha 'n call.
Dh' fhàg mi 'n dùthaich, dh' fhàg mi 'n dùchas, Dh' fhan mo shùgradh thall Dh' fhàg mi 'n t-àite bàidheil, caomh, 'S mo chairdean gaolach ann ; Dh' fhàg mi 'n tlachd, 's an t-àite am faicte Tìr nan glac, 's nan càrn 'S be fàth mo smaointinn, 'nuair nach d'fhaod mi, Fuireach daonan ann.
Dh' fhàg mi cuideachda nam breacan, B' àlainn dreach's tuar Armuinn ghrinne, làidir, inich Gillean bu ghlaine snuadh Fir chalma, reachdach, gharg, 's iad tlachd-mhòr Bu dearg-daite an gruaidh, Luchd-an-èileidh 'nam an fheuma Leis an èireadh buaidh.
Bhiodh Dòmhnullaich 'nan èideadh gasda.
'S cha cheum air ais bhi o dh ann
Luchd-fhèileidh's ghartan, 's chota 'n tartan
Osain bhreachd nam ball.
Le'm boineid ùra dhubh-ghorm, dhait',
Air thus am mach 'nan ranc
B" iad fèin na seòid nach geil's iad beò
'S bu treun an comhraig leam. A nis o'n thrèig gach cuis a bh' ann
'S mi seo am fang fo cheò,
An tìr an t-sneachda, 's na fir sheacaihd
Cha b' e 'chleachd mi fèin;
S' e' bhi ga faicinn, na fir chairtidh
Chrainntidh, ghlas, gun bhrìgh
Triusair farsuinn, sgiùrsair easag.
'S cha b' e 'fusan grin. Chi thu còisreadh aca ag òl
'S a 'stòir, ma theid thu ann
Daoine bòsdail, 's iad ri bòlaich
Gòrach leis an dram
An àite rapach, poll fo 'n casan
Stòpan glas ri 'n ceann
A rùsgadh dheacaid dhiu, 's ga srachadh
'S iad mar phaca chèard. B' e sud m' aighearsa's mo shòlas
Crònanaieh na' fiadh,
Mu Fhèill-an-roid, bhi tighinn a chòir
An fhir bu bhòidhche fiamh
Bhi falbh nam bac, 's ga sealg's na glacan
Nuair bu daite am bian
'S tric a tholl mi mac-na-Eildeag
Seall ma 'n èireadh grian.
The Tree and the Man
Air maduinn dhriuchd bu mhiannach leam Bhi falbh's mo chù ri m' shàil, Le m' ghunna dubailte nach diult Nuair chuirinn suil ri h-eàrr Luaidh's fudar, chur na smùid B' e cheard dha 'n tug mi gràdh Feadh lùban cam's aig strath na beann 'S am bi 'n damh seang a fàs.
'S truagh a Righ ! nuair chuir mi cùl Ri m' dhùthaich le m' thoil fèin Bha mi 'n dùil, ma 'n àite as ùr Nach faighte cùis 'gam dhìth Ach còir air fearann, òr, 's earras Aig gach fir a bh' innte Bha chùis ad ballach orm a falach Mheall mo bhanail mi.
Thug mi gion nuair bha mi òg, 'S gur e bhi 'n còir nam beann Ach am bliadhna bho 'n a thriall e Dh fhàg sud liath mu cheann Saoilidh cach gu robh mi gòrach Nach robh eòlach ann Thug mise spèis do dhamh na cròic 'S a chaoidh ri m' bheò cha chiall
O 'n chuir gach cùis a bh' ann rium cùl
Ged thug mi rùn dhaibh riamh
Cha chluinn mi dùrdan maduinn driùchd
Am barran dlùth na sliabh
Cha loisg mi fudar anns na stucan
'S cha chuir mi cù ri fiadh
'S tinn dhomh 'bhi na's tric air m' ùrnaigh
'S leannachd dluth ri Dia. THETREEANDTHEMAN
The same " scientific " spirit which is at the root of the best modern historical inquiries is traceable in the investigations of those who strive to treat of genealogy and the cognate topics from an impartial point of view. It is highly desirable, of course, that the study of heraldry, which may be said to embrace genealogy, should be cleared of the mass of fiction and legend with which the writers of a less discriminating, more credulous and more partial age than our own, had encumbered it, and that a man's pedigree should be assessed according to its true value, and not in accordance with the fictitious estimate which interested parties were the means of placing on it. But whilst a spirit of candour and searching criticism is a manifestation much to be encouraged in connection with heraldic studies (inasmuch as it was long conspicuously wanting to them), yet it is no doubt true that the tendency to attach importance to the deed, in contradistinction to tradition? may be carried too high; and that the " comparative method" may overstep the limits of prudence in arrogating to itself a measure of infallibility which experience may easily show that it has not the smallest title to possess.
That the strictures of Mr. Horace Round, and Others of that school, are somewhat in the nature of a mixed blessing—that is to say, are not without
'" Scepticism regarding ancient traditions may be carried too (ar, as well as a too credulous faith in their truth, and is often more dangerous to science. Every legend, every myth, contains a kernel of truth, if we could only remove the husk of fable which envelops it."—O'Curry, Introduction, p. 61.
their corresponding disadvantages—is sufficiently proved, we think, by that author's attitude with respect to Welsh pedigrees, which, in a recent number of TheAncestor,were the subject of some interesting remarks by Mr. H. J. T. Wood, and of some somewhat uncomplimentary ones by Mr. Horace Round. The latter antiquary, with a precipitation which contrasts disagreeably with his usual deliberation and carefulness and coolness of statement, objects to Celtic pedigrees on the old familiar but, we should have thought, now sufficiently discredited ground that they supply no more satisfactory evidences of authenticity than "a string of meaningless names" can serve to impart to them.
For our parts, we do not know that we should be much concerned with Mr. Horace Round or with his opinions touching Celtic pedigrees, were it not that there would appear to be something extremely infectious about them. Mr. Round is not a Celtic " subject," and his observations (wheresoever obtruded) upon Celtic topics are necessarily in the nature of a negligible quantity; but, fortunately or unfortunately, Mr. Horace Round is a person of consequence in that world which, like Alexander, he evidently aspires to survey as sole monarch; and, as we have said, his example is apt to be extremely infectious. The " scientific school I of genealogists (of which he is in some degree the industrious protagonist) has evidently " caught on "—and in many respects justly so—with a number of writers who more from love of vogue than regard to knowledge, we suspect, are all agog to prove themselves knowing persons, and who are, by consequence, in that dangerous state of mind in which the dearest compliment they can pay themselves is easily discovered to be but a pale reflection of the attitude of the beloved " master ". That this pious hypothesis of ours is not without substantial foundation is proved, we think, by a paper recently published in one of our daily newspapers, in which the author made what was no doubt intended to be a serious and damaging attack upon the authenticity of Celtic pedigrees, which were impeached as unworthy the slightest consideration and credit. It may seem curious that views so well calculated to appeal to the prejudices of the South, should have found even a temporary asylum—though but in a news sheet— in the North; but, evidently, great is the force of example, and where fashion conspires with vanity to incline a writer to a particular course of literary conduct, there is no saying, of course, where his servility may begin, or his absurdities end.
The old familiar view alluded to above, namely, that Celtic pedigrees consist in " a string of meaningless names" was, of course, the accepted view of the literary dark ages; and it is a little disappointing to find that, in spite of all their boasted knowledge, their "comparative methods," "scientific progressiveness," and what not, Mr. Horace Eound and his friends have, in respect of one important particular at least, not yet emerged from that unlovely obscurity. Let us do Mr. Round the justice of saying that he is no Celtic scholar. But even then, his presumption, if not his ignorance, must strike us as astounding; and our quarrel with him is not so much on account of what he said—better was scarce to be expected of him—as on account of the fact that he should have presumed to say it at all. His so presuming was a signal to others—his disciples—to go and
258The Tree and the Man
The Tree and the Man
do likewise, and therein lies the aggravation of his original offence. The reviver of a fashion may well be esteemed foolish, but his want of sense becomes irritating and assumes the proportions of a nuisance when it is a cause of folly in others.
Those who are familiar with Celtic pedigrees know that, like those of other European nations, ' they are formed upon the Hebrew plan, which, for the most part, eschews dates, and ignores females. Our Gaelic pedigrees are indeed faithfully modelled upon those which will be found in the Holy Scriptures;1 and one of their characteristic features, the tacking on of the eponymous of the race or family to some Scriptural personage whose descent is traced to Adam shows how religiously minded our ancient genealogists were. It may seem strange to us that this peculiar feature of our pedigrees should excite the resentment and derision of men like Mr. Horace Eound, seeing that it requires but little knowledge and even less discernment to discover the point at which the Scriptural line ends and the Gaelic pedigree begins. No doubt, in a Catholic country, nothing at all untoward would be thought of so laudable a desire to prove a Scriptural original for the beginnings of great families; for where religion enters intimately into the life of a people, tinging and controlling their private actions and public conduct in a manner quite unimaginable to a Protestant community, its resulting manifestations are necessarily as numerous as they are diversified, and as varied as they are frequent. So that what strikes Mr. Bound as 3 Consult the pedigree of our BleBsed Lady in the Gospel according to St. Matthew i. 1.
absurd, and evidently spurious—as a fit subject for ridicule—will appear to Catholics as eminently natural and appropriate, the more so as we know how deeply indebted our ancestors were to the Church which instructed them, and how much religion entered into their lives. It appears to us, moreover, that the reasoning which seeks to make light of Celtic pedigrees by reason of the circumstance mentioned above, and which endeavours to impugn their authenticity on that ground, is singularly weak, not to say inept. The early histories of most countries are obscured by fable, or are carried to an antiquity which investigation shows cannot be supported by fact. Yet are we at liberty to stigmatise as spurious, and as absolutely devoid of all foundation in truth, the whole of the history of that people or nation, by reason of the vanity or credulity of its early chroniclers and historians? Obviously, to do so would not only be highly absurd, but it would amount to a positive injustice as well. It is the duty of historians—" scientific " and otherwise—to separate the chaff from the wheat, to show what is fabulous or doubtful in the early histories of countries, and what may be partly, or implicitly, relied on. A precisely similar process should hold good with respect to pedigrees, which are to individuals what the more extended and important forms of historical narrative are to nations and peoples. They should be tested in just the same way, and what is spurious, doubtful, or fabulous about them should be duly noted and commented upon, with a view, of course, to its rejection. The fact that many of our Celtic pedigrees are carried to Adam does not in the least degree take off from their undoubted value and authenticity, strange (and even absurd) as, at first sight, such a proceeding may seem. As we have said, the point at which the Scripture line ends and the Gaelic genealogy begins is easily discovered; and provided the genealogist be honest, unprejudiced, and possesses the requisite learning, the accuracy, or otherwise, of the Celtic "tree" is as much a solvable problem (being every whit as amenable to what is known as the " comparative method") as the pedigrees of any other people or country are likely to be. Indeed, for our parts we are inclined to think that Gaelic genealogies enjoy a decided advantage in this respect—a superiority, by the way, which, in the case of many English pedigrees, would, we imagine, operate somewhat destructively in respect of their claims to antiquity. For, unlike English pedigrees under the feudal system, the Gaelic genealogies were most strictly kept,1 and inasmuch as no title to land could be made out without their assistance, it follows of a consequence from thence that the law itself provided their most effectual check, whilst preserving them from those fantastic and frequently fabulous accretions whose exposure constitutes at once the employment and the delight of the " scientific genealogist". " The genealogies of the principal families were most 1" In considering the genealogies of the Highland clans we must bear in mind that in the early state of the tribal organisation the pedigree of the sept or cian, and of each member of the tribe, had a very important meaning. Their rights were derived through the common ancestor, and their relation to him, and through him to each other, indicated their position in the succession, as well as their place in the allocation of the tribe • land. In such a state of society, the pedigree occupied the same position as the title-deed in the feudal system, and the sennachies were as much the custodiers of the rights of families as the mere panegyrists of the cian."—Celtic Scotland, vol. iii., pp. 334-335.
faithfully preserved in ancient Ireland.1 There were several reasons for their anxiety to preserve their pedigrees, one very important motive being that in the case of dispute about property, or about election to a chiefship, the decision often hinged on the descent of the disputants; and the written records, certified by a properly qualified historian, were accepted as evidence in the Brehon Law Courts."
As to the charge that Celtic pedigrees consist of "a string of meaningless names," it is obvious that reasoning of this sort is more popular than profound, and reflects little credit on the intelligence of those who employ it. It is surely no mark of a liberal education to affect to despise what is not understood, and objections to languages or peoples based on nothing more substantial than mere prejudice and ignorance of the same are apt to provoke our pitying remark.
So far as Scotland is concerned, our Gaelic pedigrees are nearly all derived from Irish sources. The Irish seanachaidh was generally esteemed superior to those of native birth ; and before the correspondence between the two countries was interrupted owing to the downfall of the Lordship of the Isles, Irish poets and genealogists were constantly passing and re-passing between Scotland and Ireland for the purpose of perfecting the Scottish bards and seanachaidhean in the manifold mysteries of their art. We have comparatively few pedigrees of native manufacture, for the political convulsions which swept over the Highlands and Isles proved fatal to literature, and insomuch so 1A Social History of Ancient Ireland, by P. W. Joyce, vol. i., p. 528.
that of the very considerable collections which we know to have been made, little, indeed, has come down to us.1 The MS. of which Skene made great use in his Highlanders ofScotland and which he styled "MS. 1450" is now known to have been largely "lifted" from the pages of the Book of Ballymote and similar Irish compilations; whilst the purely Scottish portions of that MS. are to be accepted with considerable reserve.
In 1597 a most important Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament. It bore the short but pregnant title, "That the inhabitants of the His and Hielandis shaw their haldings ". The effect of this momentous act on Gaelic pedigrees is now well known, and does not call for extended mention here.2 Suffice it to say that it introduced an entirely novel principle into the construction of Gaelic genealogies, which from this time forward will be found taking veritable leaps into the dark of fable and romance—a succession of imaginative flights, by the way, of which, judging by the pages of "Douglas," "Burke," "Debrett," etc., they have by no means yet recovered. Previous to 1597 Scottish Gaelic pedigrees, save in a few cases, present features which argue strongly in favour of their general truthfulness and accuracy, in so far as they admit of proofs drawn from historical times.
"The latter portion of these pedigrees (says Skene, vol. iii., p. 339) as far back as the eponymous or common ancestor from which the cian takes its