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

p. 276


Eala, eal, ai, swan. 'Eala bhan,' fair swan; 'eala-gheal,' white swan; 'eala ghlas,' grey swan; 'eala-dhonn,' brown swan, cygnet.

There is no bird of passage so welcome in the Western Isles as the swan. Its size, its beauty, its mysterious, plaintive melody, give it a semi-sacred character in the eyes of the people. It is interesting to see swans feeding, and varieties of small ducks, chiefly teal, jerking in and out among them, busily picking up the animalcula and fragments brought up by the swans. The swans take no notice of the ducks, but treat them with dignified indifference, even when the ducks pass under their bills and necks.

In severe winters swans come in large flocks to the Western Isles. When the freezing of the water seems imminent the swans will flap the water with their wings to keep an open space, taking the work in turn. When they are frozen out of the lake they betake themselves to the estuaries of the sea. Swans, like geese, fly in wedge-shaped flocks, often at a high altitude. But even when the flock is only an indistinct haze their striking melody fills the air. To see several hundreds of these beautiful birds together, as they sail rather than fly overhead, is a sight one would not willingly forget, while their liquid voice is like the music of the long-ago echoing through the cloistered cells of memory.

But the swan sings its most beautiful melody as its own death dirge. The following imitations of the swan's song were taken down from old people in Uist who lived beside lakes on which swans remained for half the year, and to whom swans and their ways were familiar:--

'Guile, guile! guile, guile!
Mo chasa dubha,
Guile gi, guile gi!
’S mi fein gle gheal,
Guile go, guile go!
Turas mo dhunaidh,
Guile, guile! guile, guile!
Thug mi a dh’ Eirinn,
Guile go, guile go!
Spuilleadh mo chulaidh,
Guile gi, guile gi!
Struilleadh mo leine,


My feet so black,

And myself so white,

Journey of ruin,

That took me to Erin,

Robbed was my robe,

Spoiled was my shirt,

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Guile, guile, guile go!
Ruisgeadh mo bhothan,
Guile gi, guile gi!
Lotadh mo cheile,   [cheud ghaol
Guile go, guile go!
Leonadh mo phiuthar,
Guile, guile, guile gi!
Muirneig na feile,
Guile gi, guile gi!
Leonadh ’s mo bhrathair,
Guile, guile, guile, guile!
’S mo mhathair chan eirich,
Guile go, guile go!
Sgeula mo mhulaid,
Guile gi, guile gi!
Thug mi a dh’ Eirinn.
Guile, guile! guile, guile!
Guile gi! guile gi!
Guile, guile! guile, guile!
Guile go! guile go!


Bared was my bower,

Torn was my spouse, [first love

Wounded my sister,

Maiden of joy,

Yea, and wounded my brother,

And my mother may not rise,

Tale of my sorrow,

That took me to Eire.

[paragraph continues] Another version is:--

'Gu bhi gi,
Gu bhi go,
Mo thuras dubh,
Mo thuras dubh,
Mo thuras dubh,
Mar dhealaich sinn!
Mo thuras dubh
A thug mi dh’ Eire,
Mo chruaidh leir,
Mar dhealaich sinn!

Gu bhi gi, gu bhi go!
Guth na h-eala, guth an eoin,
Gu bhi gi, gu bhi go!
Gu na h-eala air an loin.'


Gu vi gi,
Gu vi go,
My black journey,
My black journey,
My black journey,
How we parted!
My black journey
I took to Erin,
My hard pain,
How we parted!

Gu vi gi, gu vi go!
Voice of the swan, voice of the bird,
Gu vi gi, gu vi go!
Voice of the swan on the lake.

[paragraph continues] Probably the mention of Ireland is in reference to the story of 'The Children of Lir,' one of the three great 'Sorrows of Story-telling.'

Although the singing of the swan is not generally acknowledged by ornithologists, it is a widespread and an old belief. Several of the Latin poets speak of it, and mention of it is also to be found in German and Russian authors. Cf. Müllenhoff's Altertumskunde, where an interesting account is given of the song of the swan.

p. 278

There are many references in Gaelic poetry to the song of the swan:--

'Bithidh mi tuillidh gu tursach deurach,
Mar eala bhan an deigh a reubadh,
Guileag bhais aic air lochan feurach,
’S each uile an deigh a treigsinn.'


I shall henceforth be sorrowful, tearful,
Like to the white swan after she is wounded,
Singing her death dirge on a reedy lake,
When all the others have forsaken her.

[paragraph continues] This is true to nature.

'Is binn na h-eoin an coir na mara,
Is binn na h-eala tha air an lon,
Is binne leam-sa guth mo leannain
’N uair a theannas i ri ceol,'


Sweet are the birds beside the sea,
Sweet are the swans upon the lake,
Sweeter to me the voice of my love
When she sings a melody.

[paragraph continues] Vows were made upon the swan. In Uist the vow took a negative form. Vows of constancy were made on 'righinn na h-ealt,' the queen of the bird-kingdom:--

'Feumaidh mi mo ghruag a ghearradh,
Is m’aithreachas a dhubladh,
Mo bhoid gu gramail thoir dh’ an eala,
Feuch am mair mo chliu mi.'


I must needs tonsure my hair,
And double my repentance,
My vow give firmly to the swan,
To see if my fame will cleave to me.

[paragraph continues] Dunbar, Court poet to James IV., speaks of vowing upon the swan:--

'I wad gif all that ever I have,
To that condition, so God me save,
That ye had vowit on the swan
Ane year to be Johan Tamson's man.'

[paragraph continues] The swan was vowed upon in England also:--'Edward vowed on the swan.'--Green's History.

The word 'eala,' is also applied to a pillared stone, a sanctuary, but probably in this case it is old Gaelic 'elad,' 'ealadh,' a tomb. There are stones so called in Lismore, Iona, Crinan, Fortrose, and elsewhere. That in Lismore is near the church, formerly the choir of the cathedral. A criminal who reached the 'eala' was safe for a year and a day, or until he paid the ransom. If the ransom was not paid by the expiry of that time, the criminal was tried at 'Druim na Bithe,' ridge of judgment, a few hundred yards west of the 'eala.' After the trial the accused was led back to the stone. If acquitted he was led sunwise round the sanctuary and liberated. If condemned, he was led three times withershins round the stone and then taken to 'Druim na croiche,'

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ridge of the gallows, a few hundred yards to the south. In Iona, at 'Port nam marbh,' port of the dead, where the dead were landed for burial in the holy isle, there is a raised platform called 'eala.' The platform is in the form of an altar, and the dead were carried three times sunwise round it and placed upon it before burial. All the stones known to me called 'eala' were places of sanctuary. The poetess Mairearad NicLachuinn has 'dhol air tir air an Ealaidh,' to land at the 'eala,' in Iona.


Ear, east. The old people paid much attention to the orientation of their dwellings and temples.

'An ear ’s an iar
An dachaidh is fearr.'


Eastward and westward
The best homestead.

'Mo bhruthain bheag fein
’S a shuil ’s a ghrein,
Is teampull De
’S a cheann ’s an ear.'


Mine own little bower
With its eye in the sun,
And the temple of God
With its head in the east.


Eararadh, seeking, searching. 'Air eiriridh,' on the search; 'eiriridh maidne,' morning search; 'eiriridh chloimh,' wool-seeking; 'eiriridh dhaoine,' seeking people.


Eararach, eiririch, parched grain. When corn, especially bere or barley, is dried it is beaten to take off the awn. This used to be done with the naked feet, generally by women, so as not to bruise or break the grain. Hence the reference in the dance song:--

'Ta chuile te cho togarrach
’S i bogadh ris na beiririch,
’S gun dannsadh i cho sodanach,
’S ge d’ bhiodh i pronnadh eiririch.

'’S e Domhull, ’s e Domhull,
’S e Domhull a rinn a bhanais!
’S e Domhull, ’s e Domhull,
A rinn a bhanais ainmeil!'


Each damsel is so blithely
Bowing to the 'beiririch,'
And she would dance as lightly,
As if tramping parched corn.

’Twas Donald, ’twas Donald,
’Twas Donald made the wedding!
’Twas Donald, ’twas Donald,
That made the famous wedding!

[paragraph continues] In Shetland the parched grain and the meal from it are called 'burstin,' probably from the tendency of the grain to burst in the process of drying.


Earasaid, a wide mantle that used to be worn by women in the Highlands. Occasionally it was made of tartan, but generally of 'iomairt.' The 'earasaid' is mentioned in a song sung by Boswell at Rararsay. The subject of the song is Prince Charlie, over whom Highlanders lost their heads and their hearts.

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'Is ioma maighdean sparasach,
Dha math dh’ an tig an earasaid,
Eadar Baile-mhanaich's Caolas Bharr
  An deigh ort;

Tha tighinn fotham, fotham, fotham,
Tha tighinn fotham, fotham, fotham,
Tha tighinn fotham, fotham, fotham,
  Tha tighinn fotham eirigh.

Tha cuid ’s an Fhraing ’s an Eadailt dhiubh,
Tha cuid an Eilean Bheagram dhiubh,
’S chan eil la teagaisg nach bi
  An Cille-pheadair treud dhiubh.'


There is many a haughty maiden,
To whom becomes the 'earasaid,'
From Monkstown to Barra Sound
In love of thee;

I must arise, arise, arise,
I must arise, arise, arise,
I must arise, arise, arise,
I must arise and wield the claymore.

There are some in France and Italy,
There are some in Isle of Beagram,
Nor is there a preaching day
But is in Killpheadair a band of them.


Earc, a heifer, cow, beast of the cow kind; 'earc iuc,' notched cow, from 'earc,' a cow, and 'iuc,' a notch, possibly applied to the Caledonian cattle.


Earnach, arnach, red-water in cattle, red pleura, bloody flux.


Earrlait, rich soil, ground manured one year and productive the next, productive animals, prosperous undertaking.


Eidhion, iadhain, eidh-shlat, iadh-shlat, and eidhion mu chrann, ivy. 'Iadh-shlat' is more often and more correctly applied to the honeysuckle.

Ivy is one of the many sacred shrubs of the Celts. It is used as a protective for milk, milk products, flocks, and by lovers as an emblem of fidelity. An old man in Uist said that he used to swim to an islet in a lake in his neighbourhood for ivy, woodbine, and mountain ash. These, sometimes separately and sometimes combined, he twined into a three-plied 'cuach,' ring, which he placed over the lintel of his cow-house and under the vessels in his milk-house, to safeguard his cows and his milk from witchcraft, evil eye, and murrain.

The term 'iadh-shlat' is used by old people, and occurs in old poetry.

'Thug an dithis dh’an ainnir gaol,
Ach air Goll bha a gorm-shuil chaon,
B’e fath a h-aislig e ’s an oidhche,
’S fath a broin an cos nan coilltean.


The two to the damsel gave love,
But on Goll was her lovely blue eye,
He was the subject of her dreams by night,
And the cause of her sighs in the depths of the woods.

p. 281



A Dhuarain c’uim a sheas!
A Ghoill c’uim a thuit!
A Dhuarain c’uim an cualas riamh
  Luaidh air do shliochd!

Fhuaradh an ailleag, ’s i bronach,
Is beo cha bhuainte bho a gaol i,
A beul r’a bheul, a h-uchd r’a uchd,
A ruighe geal ’g a iadhadh
  Mar iadh-shlat mu stoc aosda.


Duaran, why didst thou stand!
Goll, why didst thou fall!
Duaran, why was ever heard
Praise of thy race!

The lovely damsel was found, and she in grief,
And living would not be torn from her lover,
Her lips to his lips, her breast to his breast,
And her white arm twining round him
As the twining-wand around the aged tree.

This fragment was taken down in 1860 from Kenneth Morrison, Trithion, Minginis, Skye. Kenneth Morrison was then blind and old, but he remembered many beautiful and rare old poems with more or less completeness. These he heard when a boy at the 'ceilidh,' of which he gave many graphic descriptions.


Eigir, Aegir, a god, a deity, a king. In Norse mythology Aigir is king of the sea, god of the ocean. In Celtic mythology he is king of the dwarfs, god of the misers.

In Arran, 'iasg eigir' is a small fish, a dwarf fish, and 'iasgach eigir' is a poor fishing, whether for the night or for the season. In Barra, 'ubh eigir' is a small egg, a dwarf egg, while 'uibhean eigir,' dwarf eggs, is a term applied to the eggs of the smallest sea and land birds.

'Eigir,' wrongly 'seigir,' is applied to the little gull, an occasional visitor, and more commonly to the kittiwake, the smallest permanent British gull.

'Eigire giullain' is a puny boy; 'eigire bodaich,' a miserly Carle; 'eigire truagh duine,' a mean, miserable man. 'Teom eigir' is a small dole; 'deirc eigir,' miserable alms; 'tiodhlac eigir,' a miserly donation. 'Tiodhlac eigir' is applied to an illiberal religious oblation. 'D uair bha an duine ann an gabhadh bais agus ann an anradh cruaidh thug e boid agus briathar gun toireadh e tiodhlac toighe agus nasga deirce. Fhuair an duine as a ghabhadh bais agus as an anradh chruaidh agus thug e tiodhlac agus deirc ach b’e sin deirc a bhroin agus tiodhlac eigir!'--'When the man was in death straits, and in hard plight, he

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vowed and asseverated that he would give oblation and free alms. The man got out of the death straits, and out of the hard plight, and he gave oblation and alms, but that was the alms of sorrow and the puny oblation!'

Besides 'Lioc a Eigir' in South Uist, there is 'Laimrig Eigir,' landing-place of Aigir in North Uist, and there are in Benbecula 'Loch Eigir,' lake of Aigir, 'Eilean Eigir,' island of Aigir, 'Sgeir Eigir,' the reef of Aigir, and 'Iol Eigir,' the fishing-place of Aigir.

The lake is small and full of small brown trout. The island is merely a rock on which some grass grows. It is the resort of the black-headed gull and of the Arctic tern in their season.

An old 'clachan,' path of stepping stones, connects the rock with the shore, and indicates that the fishing-place was known to people in olden times.

'Leac Eigir' is mentioned in a secular poem taken down in 1870 from Fearachar Beaton, shepherd, Corradale, South Uist. The poem is old and of geological interest. It describes scenes and changes which have occurred in the relative position of sea and land, and in the climatic and economic conditions of Uist. The poet had either a prophetic eye for the future or an observant eye for the past. The poem professes to have been composed by a woman of whose age even tradition failed to account. The woman was known during the centuries as 'Cailleach bheag an f hasaich,' little carlin of the wild. The oldest 'seanachie,' historian, in Uist remarked to the woman that she had been an old woman when his great-great-grandfather was a boy. The woman did not take offence at her implied great age, and she said

'When I was a "marcag mullaich," little summit-rider, Heisgeir was the peninsula of Ei, in Benbecula, and joined to South Uist and to North Uist. South Uist was joined to Barra, and North Uist was joined to Harris, and this Long Island was called "Innis Cat," Island of the Cat or Caty. I would leave my little brown bower beneath the shelter of "Creag nam brath," in Heisgeir, when the little brown brindled lark of Mary bounded to the ear of heaven to herald the dawn, and I would ride my white sturdy garron and reach my green grey bothy in Corradale as the swift russet stag rose from his lair to shake the dew-drops from his horns.'

This and much more had been in verse, but the fragment that

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follows is all that the narrator could remember in the original form:--

'Duair bha an f hairge mhor
'Na coille choinnich ghlais,
Bha mis am mhuirneig oig,
Bu bhiadh miamh maidne dhomh
Duileasg Lioc a Eigir,
Agus creamh an Sgōth,
Uisge Loch-a-Cheann-dubhain,
Is iasg an Ionnaire-mhoir,
B' iad siud mo ragha beatha-sa
Am fad ’s a bhithinn beo.

Chuirinn mo naoi imirean lurach lin
An gleannan grinn Chorradail,
Is thogainn mo chrioslachan chno
  Eadar dha Thorarnis.'


What time the great sea
Was a grey mossy wood,
I was a joyous little maiden,
My wholesome morning meal
The dulse of the Rock of Agir
And the wild garlic of 'Sgōth,'
The water of 'Loch-a-Cheann-dubhain,'
And the fish of 'Ionnaire-mor,'
Those would be my choice sustenance
As long as I would live.

I would sow my nine lovely rigs of lint
In the little trim glen of Corradale,
And I would lift my skirtful of nuts
  Between the two Torarnises.

All the places mentioned are in South Uist. Corradale is a deep green glen between Hecla and Benmore facing the Minch. There are several underground dwellings and rock caves of much interest in the neighbourhood of Corradale. One of these caves is 'Uamh nan Tighearnan,' the cave of the gentlemen, where the gentlemen of South Uist met once a year for sport and enjoyment. Lower down is 'Uamh a Phrionnsa,' the cave of the prince, where Prince Charlie and some of his followers lived for several weeks after the disasters of Culloden. It is a small cave, being only a few feet in depth and breadth. The floor is a steep slope. There are no crofters in Corradale now nor within many miles, but during the time of the Prince the whole of this region was full of crofter families. I have the names of eighty-two crofter families who were evicted from the district of Corradale some years afterwards. The Prince and his followers lived there on such homely fare as these hospitable people could give, and moved about among their houses. Occasional supplies of linen and other luxuries were brought to them by the gentlemen of Barra, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, and Skye. While the Prince was in Corradale all the people not only of South Uist but of all the neighbouring islands knew that he was there. The writer saw and spoke with men and women whose fathers and mothers had seen and succoured the Prince. The whole of these faithful people of Corradale, and hundreds more were evicted and driven to all ends of the earth--many of them to die moral and physical deaths in the slums of Glasgow

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and other cities--in order to add their land to the already extensive lands of tacksmen, one of these being the parish minister.

Torarnis, Torrarnis, Torrannis, is the point of Thor, the point of the thunderer. There are two places of this name in South Uist, and in the neighbourhood of one another, both famed for bere.

There are no nuts there now, nor anywhere in Uist, nor bushes nor trees of any kind nothing but long reaches of sessile sand here and there overlying long stretches of compacted peat. Hazel-nuts in great quantities have been found in Uist lying on the glacial rock. In many places round the west side of the Outer Hebrides the remains of trees of various sizes have been found at low-water embedded in the hard peat moss underlying pure sand.

Torrarnis is mentioned in a poem taken down in 1869 from a woman at Lianacuith, South Uist. The poem purports to foretell the overflowing of the Atlantic and the submerging of certain places, including

'Torrarnis an eorna,
’S am muir mor m’a meadhon.'


Torrarnis of the bere,
With the great sea round its middle.

'The walls of the churches shall be the fishing-rocks of the people, while the resting-place of the dead shall be a forest of tangles, among whose mazes the pale-faced mermaid, the marled seal, and the brown otter shall race and run and leap and gambol--

'"Like the children of men at play."'

[paragraph continues] This prophecy is to some extent verified, for vast tracts of lands and woods, and in some places the remains of dykes, houses, and churches, can be seen along the coast at low-water.

Carlyle speaks in Heroes and Hero-Worship of the boatmen on the Yorkshire Ouse calling out when the river is in flood--'Eager is coming! Eager is coming!' 'Eager' is also known on the Severn. In this case the idea is that of the Norse giant. A deity of this name is also god of the muses in Celtic mythology.


Eimir, the wife of Cuchulainn. She is the type of beauty in Gaelic story. (Vol. i. p. 8.)


Eoir, spell, charm, incantation. 'Eoir' in Lewis, 'eolas' in Uist.


Eolas, eoilse, eoisle, a spell, charm, incantation, magic, exorcism, knowledge.


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Eorlain, earlain, arlain, floor, bottom, lower part, a glen that slopes to a narrow compass, from 'earr,' limit. The three planks on each side of the keel of a boat are called 'eorlain,'--'eorlain na h-eithir'--bottom of the boat, in this case from 'earrlain,' keel.


Eunarag, snipe, little goat-bird, from 'eun,' bird, 'gobharag,' little goat. As many as thirteen Gaelic names are applied to the snipe, some of them in reference to the kid-like cry of the bird. The snipe is one of the seven dormant birds, of the people. It is 'sained,' and more feared than liked by nightfarers. (See Meannanaich.)


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