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It is quite true that this persecuted language may flee from her manslayers to cities of refuge in America, Australia, New Zealand, and other distant colonies, and there live in vigour and power for centuries to come. It is equally true, however, that steamboats, railways, Sasanach sportsmen and their English gillies, tourists, and even School Boards, unite in one powerful phalanx to secure the ruin and eventually to cause its total extinction in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. While Sheriff Nicolson has no desire to embalm the beloved tongue which he first lisped in childhood, and which is dear to his honest Highland heart, because he will never witness its demise (for it will not take place in his nor in our day), yet he is grieved for its gradually increasing weakness, believing that it must eventually end in death. But thanks to him, for although he is unable to prevent the ultimate demise of his favourite tongue in this country as a spoken language, yet he has provided and secured in his Book of Proverbs a suitable, efficient recipe for embalming it, and so far preserving it, even when dead, as that its features, and sinews, and bones may to all ages be recognised This recipe, with many others, will be found securely recorded in the Pharmacopoeia of Professor John Stuart Blackie's Celtic Chair; and the Celtic chirurgeon who shall sit thereon for a revolution of ages, will preserve the remains of our noble tongue more intact and secure than ever was a royal mummy in the imperishable pyramids of Egypt!
But there is one particular point in which we must really rebel against the natural modesty of our author. While he has brought his great learning and his profound philological acquirements to bear upon his invaluable work, he has humbly designated it as "A Collection of Gaelic Proverbs, and Familiar Phrases, based on Mackintosh's Collection." In this he is committing literary felo de se as to his masterly attainments in the framing of such a valuable volume. The book might with justice be entitled simply, "A Collection of Gaelic Proverbs and Familiar Phrases; by Alexander Nicolson, M.A., LL.D., Advocate." It is almost a misnomer to describo this learned production as founded upon the small volume published many years ago by Mackintosh. We would be sorry to depreciate Mackintosh's little book, or to express a single syllable derogatory to it; far otherwise, as indeed he deserves much commendation for his labours in the face of many adverse circumstances. Yet it hardly merits to be described as the foundation on which our learned sheriff founded his volume. It might almost be said with equal propriety, that the splendid castle of Her Majesty at Balmoral was founded on the small circular tower that existed for ages on its site; or that the magnificent Colosseum at Borne, with its gigantic dimensions and colossal frame-work, was based by Vespasian and Titus, on the diminutive amphitheatre, on the site of which this wondrous structure was reared to accommodate sittings for fifteen thousand Roman citizens!
Let the learned Sheriff, therefore, have the full credit of his own indefatigible labours. The work as now presented to the world is his own, it is a structure of his own rearing, and an admirable structure it is. He had a number of willing coadjutors in those gentlemen mentioned in his preface, all of whom acted with hearty goodwill as "hewers of wood and drawers of water" for the building of the work which has been so handsomely finished.
Facts are chieldu that winna ding.
The author has all along very prudently made use of pure idiomatio Gaelic, except in some few instances where he has properly allowed some proverbs to remain in the provincial phraseology in which he received them.
"We hope that the publication will be attended with the eminent success it so richly merits. Every Highlander of character and of genuine patriotism, every philanthropic gentleman who feels any pleasure in promoting the intelligence and welfare of the hardy sons of the mountains and the glens, every philologist and lover of Highland folk-lore, every Gaelic-speaking person ought never to rest satisfied until he furnishes his home with a copy of the work, which gives in thousands the wise sayings of his remote ancestors. Nor is this the duty and privilege of Highlanders alone—by no means. The Lowlanders—the Saxons and the Sasanach literati—will find the volume one of deep interest and of no small source of enlightenment Professor Blackie must have long ere now rejoiced over its beautiful pages. We indeed fancy the distinguished Grecian, reading proverb after proverb, glancing rapidly over them, and chuckling with genuine delight, as he expresses his own translation into English, without waiting to consult that given in the book before him. It is true that many of these Saxon savants may not be able, as Professor Blackie is, to understand these wise sayings in their Celtic attire, but still they cannot fail to be benefitted by these gems of ancient times, having before them literal equivalents in their own vernacular, as well as their force and meaning in a horde of other European tongues. The volume, in short, is one of universal interest, and its intrinsic value merits a circulation co-extensive with the great importance and variety of its instructive details. We cordially join with the thousands of Highlanders who will unite in tendering cend mille beannaehd to the learned author, and in cherishing the confidence that his pure Celtic gems will meet with the eminent success they so well deserve.
CELTIC LITERATURE.—A series of papers on the Literature of the Highlands has been commenced in the Glasgow Weekly Herald, by Mr Nigel Macneill, which promises to be the most complete and comprehensive account of every phase of the subject yet published. Mr Macneill is not unknown to the readers of the Celtic Magazine, and we have no hesitation in saying that few if any of our literary Celts are better qualified to do justice to Celtic literature and the Gaelic bards than he. He is one of our most accurate and best informed Gaelic scholars, well up in all the forms of our literature, and a very pleasant writer. In the papers which are to appear from week to week in the Herald, we understand that no less than one hundred and fifty Highland bards will receive biographical and critical notices, along with a brief survey of Welsh and Irish literature. It is to be hoped that Highlanders will show such an appreciation of the step taken by the Herald as will justify a continuation of the good work so well begun.
THE INVERNESSTAN has been enlarged to sixteen pages—price One Penny ; One Shilling per annum ; by Post, One Shilling and Sixpence. COLIN C HIS HOLM.
I'll ne'er forget the nicht I spent
Wi' canty Colin Cliisholm;
Is pawkie Colin Chisholm;
Is gallant Colin Chisholm.
Tho' unco auld, yet ever young
Is hardy Colin Chisholm,
Fills noble Colin Cliisholm;
0' doughty Colin Chisholm.
The Gaelic wimples like a burn
Frae honest Colin Chisholm,
Frae homely Colin Chisholm;
0' couthie Colin Chisholm. Sunderland. \VM. A LI AX.
THE DEAN OF LISMORE'S OSSIAXIC POETRY.
TO THE EDITOR OP THE CELTIC MAGAZINE.
Sir,—I find that my statements (page 170 of your last number) regarding the indebtedness of Dr Maclauchlan to Ewen Maclauchlan are not sufficiently precise, and suggest that the former owes more to the lattei than he really does. The facts are as follows :—(1) Ewen Maclauchlan's transcript of the Dean's book did not come into Dr Maclauchlan's hands until his own work of transcribing was all but complete. (2) Ewen Maclauchlan merely transcribed in modern characters the old phonetic Gaelic without in any way changing the spelling, and gave no English translation.
Thus Dr Maclauchlan had to master the old handwriting, had to give the modern equivalent for the oid Gaelic, and had to translate it into Euglish, independently of extraneous help. Honour to whom honour is due.
There is a misprint at the foot of page 176, which makes the sentence absurd. For inspired read insipid.—I am, &c.,
SlIUTHWUAN. A. C. SUTHERLAND.
THE CHISHOLMS AND THE FRASERS—DISPUTED VASSALAGE.
TO THE EDITOR OP THE CELTIC MAGAZINE.
Sir,—In the Celtic Magazine for February, p. 124, yon quote a passage from Lord Lovat's "Account of the taking of Inverness," in 1715. In a portion of this passage his Lordship says that " Alexander Mackenzie of Fraserdale, whose assumed command of the name Eraser, and his lady, had forced four hundred of that name, which, with the hundred men that Chisholm (who is a vassal to that family) had made up five hundred under Fraserdale's command." Further on his Lordship writes, "But the four hundred Frasers that Mr Mackenzie had brought there four days before to Dunblane, hearing that the Lord Lovat was come home, deserted that cause, and came home full armed, with their affection to their natural chief and their love to the Protestant interest."
Presumably the vassalage here alluded to is military service, in which case it looks as if it contradicted itself. Had the Chisholms been vassals to the family of Lovat, the Frasers would have commanded them, probably would have compelled them to do as they had done themselves—return home from Dunblane without offending their olfractory organ-* by the unsavoury smell of gunpowder on the field of Sheriffmuir; but the Chisholms—over two hundred in number—took their place there and acted their part in the far-famed Highland line, under the Earl of Mar. Even The Chisholm's piper, Ian Beng, distinguished himself at Sheriffmuir. After the Highlanders carried all before them down the declivity towards Dunblane, a halt was called, and the pipers were ordered to play "Buaidh-larach," but, strange to say, the only piper among them who could play a note was the little, cool, hardy John Beag from Strathglass. It was at that moment that the whole line fiom end to end (pipers only excepted) shouted in admiration—"Sud suas e piobaire an t-Siosalaich." In consequence of the action of the Chisholms at Shcriffimu'r, the lands of their chief were forfeited to the Crown and sold. Twelve years afterwards, however, he obtained a pardon under the Privy Seal, dated 4th of January 17'27.
President Forbes, writing of The Chisholm, says—" His lands are held of the Crown, and he can bring out two hundred men." In an old family manuscript I find the following :—" The men from Strathglass, headed by John Chisholm of Knockh'n, were united with 300 Erasers, and formed one body or regiment at the battle of Sheriffmuir, under the command of an ancestor of Eraser, Lord Saltoun." I have examined authentic copies of the charters in possession of Lord Lovat and The Chisholm, and failed to discover the remotest allusion to vassalage from beginning to end in any of these documents. We all know that Lord Lovat came home from France smarting under some real or imaginary slight he had received at the Court of St Germains. On his arrival in Scotland he found his clansmen were at Dunblane under another leader and all his estates poising in the balance, likely to slip through his hands for ever. In this frame of mind, heaving and surging in a sea of turmoil and anxiety, and trembling between fear and hope, he began to curry favour with the Court of England. His Lordship wrote strange and imaginary things. Among them all I see nothing that makes so heavy a demand on the credulity of his readers as the statement that Mr Forbes of Culloden hurled a successful defiance at the combined might and forces of the Earl of Seaforth, Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat, the Laird of Mackinnon, Mackenzie of Fraserdale, and The Chisholm.
On the eve of the mismanaged battle of Culloden, when Prince Charles Edward met the assembled Highlanders and their chiefs a little to the west of Inverness (I think on Dail-an-eich), Lovat ordered Kory, The Chisholm's youngest son, who commanded the Strathglass men—and who held the rank of Colonel in the army of Priuce Charles—to come under the Fraser standard with the Chisholms, wliich order Rory peremptorily and indignantly refused to obey; and, going to Prince Charles and his staff, complained of Lovat's attempt to deprive him of his own standard. After a long argument between the Erasers and young Colonel Kory Chisholm, the case was decided by the Prince in favour of the Chisholms, who retained their own standard. Lovat, annoyed at this decision, went over to the Chisholms, where he had noticed a man of the name Fraser, and, taking him by the arm, led him over to his own followers. Seeing this young Colonel Rory did the same thing to a Chisholm whom he observed among the Frasers; and this interchange of civilities continued until no Chisholms were left among the Frasers, nor Frasers among the Chisholms. It was on this (KOMion that yuung Kory pk£ed,hi» standard. In the hands of William Cbisholns, Fewiimis-nan-ceann, who fell so gloriously on the following day at Culloden, together with iiis spirited young commander, Colonel Rory, and too many other brave followers of tliu Ghisholm in defending it. For a beautiful elegy and memoir of this heroic standard-bearer, see John Mackenzie's "Beauties of Gaelic l'oetry,'' pp. 373-374.
I have no wish to say one word in support of the chorus of abuse heaped on the memory of the famous Lord Lovat of 1746, but so far as my knowledge goes, I think his iiordship'H statement relative to the vassalage of the Chisholms to the Frasers has no foimdation in fact. If, however, it can be proved that such a thing as a bond of manrent, or any other bond indicating vassalage, ever existed between the two clans, no one will be readier than I to acknowledge the obligation of fulfilling its conditions. —I am, &c,
Inverness, March 1881. COLIN CHISHOLM.
THE GAELIC UNION OF IRELAND.—A most interesting little pamphlet has just reached us, being a report of the proceedings of the Gaelic Union brought into existence about a year ago for the preservation and cultivation of the Irish language, and thereby promote its extension as a spoken tongue. They have established a publication and prize fund to encourage teachers and pupils in all schools where the language is taught, and to publish or assist in the publication of Gaelic books for the use of schools, and such other means of forwarding the movement as the funds subscribed will admit of. This is practical as well as patriotic work, and we are glad to find that already considerable success has been attained. In 1879 only 19 students presented themselves in Celtic at the Intermediate Examinations, while in 1880 not less than 117, or more than six times the number, came forward; and of these 13 secured prizes from the Union, ranging from £1 to £5, while not less than 49 made a very excellent appearance in thu Education Commissioners' Report. Full information is given regarding the subjects for examination in 1881 and a long list of places and associations where and by whom Irish is taught throughout the country in addition to a great amount of other valuable and most interesting information. How such an amount ot real good work can be performed for the small sum of £82 Is tid placed at the disposal ot the Union by the subscribers is difficult to understand, until we discover the tact that the association mainly consists of the gentlemen who had previously founded the well-known "Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language," among them the most active members of the council of that Society. Among the subscribers here, as in all other good Celtic work, we meet with the name of "John Mackay, Esq., Rogart House, Swansea.'' But the list of subscribers is most instructive in another direction. It positively only includes the name of one Irish Member of Parliament, Mr George Errington. Where is Mr Parnell and his followers in the House of Commons? We always believed in their patriotism, however much we may have differed from their manner of displaying it. But a patriotism which ignores the language and the literature of the Irish people, and the efforts made in tneir interest by the Gaelic Union of Ireland, is in our view very lobsided and not at all like the genuine article. A very excellent and eloquent speech made by Mr John O'Connor Power in the House of Commons in favour of the Celtic language on the second reading of the "Intermediate Education Bill" for Ireland is reproduced from JJannui d at length, but the hon. gentleman's nam e is not to be found among the subscribers to the fund. Possibly this apparent want of interest on the part of the Irish Home Ride Members may be attributed to pure oversight. If so, we shall have done good service by calling attention to the damaging fact. Next year's list will show how they come up to our ideas of real Irish patriots. We could take some really practical lessons from the Irish Gaelic Union in the Scottish Highlands. What has, for instance, become for several years back of the prizes instituted by the Gaelic Society of Inverness, for proficiency in Gaelic in Schools throughout the Highlands? That tM) practical work.
THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES; Ob, A Strange Retcrn By The HighLand Chiefs Fob The Fidelity Of The Clanb.—A Pamphlet, in paper cover, by Alexander Mackenzie, F.S.A., Scot., Editor of the Celtic Magazine, &c, &o., in the press, and will be issued almost immediately-price 6d, by post 7d, A. 4 W. Mackenzie, publishers, Inverness.