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MS 19304

MS 19304, ff. 87-90

Sgt. Alexander Forbes, Elegy on the death Patrick MacLeod of Geanies, 1807.

© Catalogue record by National Library of Scotland

A lament by Alexander Forbes, a sergeant in the 78th Highland Regiment who was discharged in 1808 because of ophthalmia. Forbes was born in the parish of Dull, Perthshire, in ca. 1782, and is recorded in the Census of 1851 and 1861 as living in Perth as a Chelsea Pensioner. A further song of his was published by Paul Cameron in "Perthshire Gaelic songs", Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness xvii (1891): 126–70, at pp. 158-159. See also John G. Gibson, "A blind Perthshire sergeant’s lament for his colonel who died in 1807", International Review of Scottish Studies xxxvi (2011): 93-106, which includes the text of the lament with a translation.

The manuscript of Alexander Forbes's song is bound in a volume of miscellaneous papers of Patrick MacLeod of Geanies. Patrick MacLeod, third son of Donald MacLeod, 3rd of Geanies, joined the army in 1790 as an ensign in the 42nd Regiment. After attending the Brunswick Military Academy he became a captain in the newly-formed 78th Highlanders and later attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died at the battle of El Hamed, 1807. The volume forms part of the MacLeod of Geanies papers (NLS MSS.19295-19308 and Ch.15326-15347)

87 - 88 A quarto-sized bifolium containing a prose translation of Forbes's elegy, headed "An Elegy for Col. MacLeod who was killed at El-hamed in Egypt". In the hand of the Rev. William Forbes, minister of Tarbat (1767-1838), who is identified in the docket title. He signs with his initials at the end and states: "In two or three of the verses, the orthography is so incorrect that I can not give their meaning." f. 88 is blank except for the docket title.

89 - 90 A large bifolium, containing, in a different hand:

89 Verses beginning: Righ gur mis tha fo eislean / On la chualas n' sgeula / Thug a phacail o'n Ephait. Headed "Marbhrann Chorneil Mhic Leoid chuaidh mharbhadh aig El-Hamed san Ephait". 16 stanzas of 5 lines. The last line in each verse, to be sung twice, has three stresses while the other lines have two.

90 Letter of Alexander Forbes, now blind and a Chelsea Pensioner. The letter is dated Drumcharry, 1817, and addressed to a sister of Patrick MacLeod, explaining the poet's situation and the circumstances in which he composed his elegy.