Rob Donn Mackay.
A volume of songs of Rob Donn Mackay (1714-1778). According to a note at the front (f.iiir) it was taken down from the recitation of the poet, who could not write, by a daughter of the Rev. John Thomson, minister of Durness (1764-1811), possibly Janet (1766-1785). However, the paper of the volume is dated 1813-1815, and this, together with the presence of a lament for Rob Donn in it, suggests that it is a later copy of the original manuscript or parts thereof.
Dr. Hew Morrison, in his edition of the poetry of Rob Donn, Songs and Poems in the Gaelic Language by Rob Donn (Edinburgh 1899), p. xiiv, gives the following information: "Two manuscript collections of his songs were made during his life time and to his own dictation. One of these was written by the Rev. Aeneas Macleod, who was minister of Rogart from 1774 to 1794. It was this manuscript that was used for the most part by Dr. Mackintosh Mackay in preparing the first edition of the poems. The other manuscript collection was by one of the daughters of the Rev. John Thomson, who was minister of Durness from the death of the Rev. Murdoch Macdonald to 1811. This collection had the advantage of being written with the poet himself at hand to consult, but on the other hand it was revised by the Rev. William Findlater. It also was in the possession of Dr Mackay at the same time as the Macleod MS. It is to it that many emendations in the present edition are due."
The Rev. Aeneas Macleod's manuscript is now believed to be lost. A fragment now surviving in Glasgow University Library, MS Gen 1090/14/30 (cf. Mackechnie's Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts vol. 1, p. 372), may have a connection with it. It contains some songs of Rob Donn copied out by Mackintosh Mackay with directions for the printer, although the order of the songs does not correspond with Mackay's edition of Rob Donn's songs of 1829.
The present manuscript, which is wanting the first 15 folios, seems to be a revised copy of the Thomson manuscript made by the Rev. William Findlater, and is written in his hand (for further samples of his handwriting cf. e.g. New College Library, Edinburgh, CHA 5.11.125 and CHA 4.308.23). Findlater (1784-1869) was the Rev. John Thomson's successor in Durness from 1811 and minister of the Free Church from 1843; he was married to Mary Thomson, another daughter of the Rev. John Thomson. It was probably through contact with Findlater's oldest son Eric (1813-1886), minister of Ardentinny, that Findlater's manuscript later became the property of Hew Morrison; cf. Morrison's papers, MSS.14953-14955.
While Morrison states that the Rev. Mackintosh Mackay was aware of the present manuscript while he prepared his edition of Rob Donn's songs of 1829, there are three songs in it (ff. 28r, 35r, 55r) that do not appear in Mackay's edition. However, the sequence of songs contained on ff. 17r-37r in the present volume – which includes two of the songs not in Mackay's edition - was printed in Patrick Turner's song collection, Comhchruinneacha do dh'orain taghta, ghaidhealach (Edinburgh 1813), pp. 350-371. A number of other songs, including that beginning on f.55r, were printed in Alexander and Donald Stewart's Cochruinneacha Taoghta de Shaothair nam Bard Gaëlach. A choice collection of the works of the Highland Bards, collected in the Highlands and Isles, 2 vols. (Edinburgh 1804), passim. Morrison's edition makes no mention of either of these books. Apart from consistent minor orthographical changes, the texts printed in these two collections correspond exactly with those in Findlater's manuscript.
iii + 82 ff. In a modern red cloth binding. Written only on the recto pages, except where stated otherwise. Foliated 16-82, 82-94 by the scribe, with two unnumbered folios at the end. The more recent library foliation, ff. 1-82, has been followed below, with the original foliation given in brackets. Publication references are to Hew Morrison's edition, Songs and Poems in the Gaelic Language by Rob Donn Mackay (1899), and the collections of the Stewarts and Patrick Turner.
Donated in 1935 by the Trustees of the late Dr. Hew Morrison.
Folio (scribal foliation in brackets)
17 (32)r- 20 (35)r "Oran do Sheorus Mac Aoidh Fear Eilean Shannda", beg. Siubhal mar-ri Seorus dhuinn (cf. Morrison, p. 156; Turner, Comhchruinneacha, pp. 350-352). F. 17(32)v contains notes and names of persons called Mackenzie, dated 1825.
80 (94)v Verse in English, beg. How lovely thy household & childeren dear
© Catalogue record by National Library of Scotland (UH)