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Carmina Gadelica, Volume 2, by Alexander Carmicheal, [1900], at

p. 212

AM BREID [215]

'AM BREID,' the kertch or coif, was a square of linen formed into a cap and donned by a woman on the morning after her marriage. It was the sign of wifehood as the 'stiom,' snood, was the emblem of maidenhood. The linen of the kertch was pure white and very fine. The square was arranged into three angles symbolic of the Trinity, under whose guidance the young wife was to walk. From this it is called 'currachd tri-chearnach'--three-cornered cap. The kertch was fastened to the hair with cords of silk or pins of silver or of gold. It is said to have been very becoming and picturesque. It is mentioned in many of the sayings of the people as:--'breid ban'--white kertch; 'breid cuailean'--hair kertch; 'breid beannach'--pinnacled kertch; 'breid an crannaig'--kertch on props; 'breid cuimir nan crun,' the shapely coif of the crowns; and 'breid cuimir nan tri crun'--the shapely coif of the three crowns. It is also spoken of in many songs.

'Nar a faicear ort breid
La feille no clachain,
’S nar a faicear do chlann
   Doi gu teampull baistidh.'

'Na ’m faighinn dhomh fein
Thu le beannachd na cleire,
Gur a mis a bhitheadh reidh
Ri bhi faicinn do bhreid
   An ceud Domhnach.'

'A cul dualach, camlach, cuachach,
Ann an sguaib aig m’ eudail,
’S ge boidheach e ’s an stiom a suas
   Cha mheas an cuailean breid e.'

'Gur a math thig breid ban
Air a charamh beannach dhut,
Agus staoise dh’ an t-sioda mhin,
   ’G a theannadh ort.'


Never on thee be seen kertch
Upon feast-day or church-day,
And never be seen thy children
   Going to the temple of baptism.

Were I to obtain to myself
Thee with the blessing of the clerics,
It is I who would be joyous
At seeing on thee thy kertch
   The first Sunday.

Her hair in coils, curled, curved,
And in clustered folds has my beloved,
And though beautiful it seems within the snood,
   It would not look worse beneath the kertch.

Well becomes thee the white kertch,
Placed pinnacle-wise,
And cords of the fine silk
   Binding it upon thee.

[paragraph continues] The song from which this last verse is quoted had curious wanderings and narrow escapes--from Lochaber to Lahore, from Lahore to Lochalsh, and from Lochalsh to Skye and Uist. It was taken down at Howmore, South Uist, from Peggie Macaulay, better known as Peggie Robertson and 'Peigi Sgiathanach'--Skye

p. 213

[paragraph continues] Peggie. She came from 'Sleibhte riabhach nam ban boidheach,'--brindled Sleat of the beautiful women, and well upheld the reputation of her native place, for she was a tall, straight, comely brunette, with beautiful brown eyes and hair 'like raven's plumage, smoothed on snow.' She had accompanied her master and mistress, Captain and Mrs Macdonald, Knock, Skye, on a visit to Sir John Macrae, Airdantouil, Lochalsh. Sir John was famed for his symmetry, bravery, and accomplishments. He inherited the musical talents of the Macleods of Raarsey, and could play a phenomenal number of musical instruments. He was wont to say that there was no music for the house equal to Highland music, nor instrument for the field equal to the Highland bagpipe. Sir John had been military attaché to his cousin, the Marquis of Hastings, when he was Governor-General of India. From Sir John Macrae, Peggie Macaulay heard the words of this song and an account of how he got them. Sir John said that when in India he was sent with despatches to a distant fort. As he was nearing the gate under cover of night, he was surprised to hear a Gaelic song once heard in childhood and often sought since. When he reined in his horse to listen, the sentry stopped his song and challenged. The answer was given in Gaelic, and the sentry was surprised in his turn. Macrae was just in time to rouse the Governor from his fancied security and to lead the garrison to repel an attack, in which the singer Eoghan Cameron fell after killing seven sepoys single-handed.

Sir John Macrae died soon after Peggie Macaulay heard him singing the song, and she died soon after the song was taken down from her dictation by the present writer. Sir John Macrae called this song, 'treas taladh na h-Alba,'--the third lullaby of Alban, and as sung by bright Peggie Robertson it merited praise.

[pp. 214-215


Next: 215. The Kertch. Am Breid