Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland

© Ronald Black, 2011

Adv. MS 72.1.39


Mackinnon, pp.91, 118 f., 152 f., 206 f.; Mackechnie, 191 f.

17th cent. Paper. 19.5 x 14 cms. Ff.32. “Pot” watermark (containing initials N A) throughout. Written c.1690 or later (cf. f.31r) by unknown scribe in practised Gaelic hand with ornamented capitals. Scribal probationes pennae at ff.22r, 23r, 32r (‘cionnus sin pinn na fion’; ‘amen’). There remain here only the last 4 of the 15 or so tales of which the international romance of the “Seven Wise Masters” is comprised, and we may conclude from this that the present manuscript is the end portion of an original of over 80 ff. (The sole foliation is modern, pencilled.)

In or around 1739 many of the leaves were written upon in longhand by Alexander McDonald, Finart, Rannoch, Perthshire. Some of his jottings are of a pious or proverbial nature, or declare his ownership of the book. These are rather repetitious. There are also drafts of bills of discharge (f.16v), exchange (ff.22v, 34v) and receipt (f.29r) and one vernacular Gaelic poem (f.28r). Of those jottings which may be described as marginalia, the following are the basic items.

(f.12v) ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’

(f.16v) ‘Discharge Alexr McDonald to Duncan Kenedy for the sume of two Hundred merks Scots Money Fionart Janury the twenty fouth 1739 years’

(f.17v) ‘Thee Hunderd and third Psalm
O thow my my soul bless God the Lord
and all that in me is
be stired up his Holy Nam
to magnify and bless’

(f.19v) ‘Alexander McDonald aught this Book [ ] the Laufully of it written by my hand Alexander McDonald’ (cf. f.32v, etc.)

(f.23v) ‘Good manners are an orinament the man’

(f.29v) ‘A flattering Companion is comonly a dangerous thing’ (also ff.8v, 12v).

The manuscript was no.3 of the collection deposited by John Mackenzie in the Advocates’; Library on 5th January 1803. ‘London 5th January 1803 / John Mackenzie’ appears on ff.1r and 32r. Also on f.1r are ‘J McH No.6’, ‘No.3 – / D.M.’ (i.e. Donald Mackintosh), ‘N. McK. No.12.’

J.L. Campbell prints marginalia (completely misread) in An Gaidheal vol.39, p. 27. Only useful thing is his refs. to Macmeal taking MacMhuirichs mss viz. Sàr Obair p. 64 & Lachlan’s Declaration. Cover inscription: see 72.1.40, hand 17.

Between ff.28 and 29 a leaf was cut out close to the spine. At the end there remain traces of five further leaves. The first three of these were similarly removed, but the other two were carelessly torn out, leaving stubs of their upper portions. These are noticed below as ff.[33] and [34]. Donald Mackintosh reported in 1806 (H. Soc. London’s Poems of Ossian, iii pp. 566f.) that the manuscript then contained 35 leaves of which two were loose. It seems likely that these two may have been the ones torn out, but Mackintosh’s view that these contained matter much older than the rest is not borne out by what is visible on the stubs. Aside from this, the remaining manuscript has stayed in sound condition. The manuscript was no.3 of the collection deposited by John Mackenzie in the Advocates’ Library on 5th January 1803. ‘London 5th January 1803 / John Mackenzie’ appears on

ff.1r and 32r. Also on f.1r are ‘J McH No 6’, ‘No 3 – / D.M.’ (i.e. Donald Mackintosh), ‘M. McK. N o 12’. In the 20th century it was freshly bound (along with its former cover of hide-covered pasteboard) and boxed. Note that “The vii sages” in Irish was in the library of the Earl of Kildare in 1560, O’Gr. cat. p.154.


1 r THE SEVEN WISE MASTERS. Extant text commences soon after beginning of fourth-last tale of the cycle. (Tales identified below by the Latin titles conventionally applied to them, cf. Killis Campbell, The Seven Sages of Rome, p.xxxv.) Ed. Greene, Béaloideas 14 (1944) p. 219.

( 1 r1) ‘Vidua’, beg. (acephalous) A bainntighearna, ar said, gabh inntinne maith chugad oir is ben og uasal thu.

( 5 r5) ‘Roma’, beg. Do bhi cathair an Roimh uair eigin gan a díol a lucht coimhéada innti.

( 8 v2) ‘Inclusa’, beg. Ro baci ridire andso tighearnusa so fein uair eigin darb comhainm Munbersier.

( 16 r15) ‘Vaticinium’, beg. Do bi ridire uasal neartmhar andso tirsi 7 do bhi mac glic aigi.

22 v1 Tug ar ceim ar gcul, 4½ qq. Elegy on Aonghus, evidently a Clanranald cleric. There is an erasure in the first line. The scribe breaks off with another erasure at §4c, and the page is completed in Alexander McDonald’s hand with the following bill of exchange:

‘Sir against the term of mertimas next
‘Sir, Fionart Janr. 20(?) 5 1739

Against the term of mertimas next to come plase pay to me Duncan Kenedy son to Donald oge Kennedy in wester Finard or my order within the House of George Small Writter in Dull the sume of twenty merks Scots money the value Recived of mine in your hand hands make thankfull paymt and obli’

23 r1 [Ó Dubhagáin.] Bliaghuin so solus dath, 87 qq.

27 r5 Tadhg Óg [Ó Huiginn]. Ata an saogal ag seirmoir, 23 qq. Incomplete. See MS.14872, f.123v.

28 r10 O gur mich gho dusgadh, 2½ stt. Vernacular love poem written semi-phonetically in Alexander McDonald’s hand, corresponding to GU MacLagan no.75 Gur mithich dhamh dusga §§la la-h, 2a-d, 3a-h.

28 v Blank.

29 r1 Meisneach mileadh a mac Eóin, 26 qq. (possibly acephalous). On the return from exile of Domhnall, son of Eoin of Clanranald, c.1650. In the lower half of f.30r the scribe wrote ‘Fan’. On top of this McDonald scribbled ‘Alexander McDonald aught this Book

the grace of God upon him Look
to make him wise and understand
to keep the Holy Lords Comands
Finnard in Ranock / Janr 15 1738 years’

(the rhyme appears also at ff.13r, 20r, 29r).

In the space remaining above this McDonald inserted ‘Sir Fionart January the twenty forth 1739 years

Recived from Duncan Cameron the sume of twenty [pounds] Scots money the value recived of mine in your [hand] make thankfull paymt and oblidge your Most [humble] Servant

Alexander McDonald’

30 v1 [Tadhg Óg Ó Huiginn]. Iomdha ród direch ag Dia, 10 qq.

31 r1 Dual freasdal air bfeirg flatha, 22 qq. Poem of conciliation to Eoin, chief of MacLeod, c.1690.

32 v Alexander McDonald’s hand. ‘[ ] Book belongs to me Alexander [ ] and is the Laufully ouner of it.

‘Alexander McDonald aught this Book and if this Book being be amissing Send it home with god and if you do no [as] I say Remember on the Letter days and if you do not as I say Remember on the pains of hell

Remember man as thow goes by

to see the Dead as they do lay

as thow art now so once was I

as I am now so must thow be

Remember man that thow most Die

(these 5 lines repeated)

and so most I’.

(The following ff. are fragmentary.)

[ 33 r] Traces of an ornamental initial.

[ 33 v] Traces of (a) a bardic poem in hand of chief scribe; (b) material similar to that on f.32v.

[ 34 r] Fragment of English sermon in Alexander McDonald’s hand.

[ 34 v] Bill of exchange in Alexander McDonald’s hand: ‘[ ] please pay to me Alexr [ ] my order within the House [ ] Dull the of ten [ ] yow in ready Cash your thankfull [ ]an Kenndy’.

© Ronald Black, 2011