Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland

© Ronald Black, 2017

Adv. MS 72.2.3


Mackinnon, p.158; Mackechnie, p. 214.

16th cent. Vellum. ii + 52 pp. Folio, 29 x 22 cms. Written in double columns.


1. Text; “Ihc”, “Maria”, etc. (passim). A simple, attractive hand tending to squareness. At pp.17, 31 and 37 a much finer point appears. Another part of p.37 is written with a broader point, differently sloped: perhaps by a different hand. A scored-out entry in fine point at p.17bz reads “Is bocht muinter an livairsi .i. Gilla R. 7 Dubt ach”, and this suggests some possible identities. In detail, if not overall, the hand resembles that of An Gilla Riabhach Ó Cléirigh, fl. 1512, illustrated in Flower, Cat. of Ir. MSS. in BM 3, plate 9. It is also broadly similar to that of Dubhthach Ó Duibhgeannáin, d. 1511: Bodleian MS. Rawl. B 512, f.73r. Farther, there are some close correspondences to that of Tórna mac Tórna Uí Mhaol-Chonaire, d. ?1532: BL MS. Add. 30,512, ff.10r-15r. Elaborately decorated initial D at p.1; capitals and tailpieces in “Oidheadh Chloinne Uisneach” coloured maroon. Cf. Adv.MS.72.1.15, hand 7.

2. Note, p. 21.

3. Notes, pp. 42-3.

4. Notes in reddish ink, pp. ii, 9, 11, 17, 34, 48, 52. John MacTavish. His secretary hand is 17th cent., and his Gaelic hand can be compared with Hugh MacLean’s. He may have been responsible for bringing the manuscript from Ireland. His surname is common in mid-Argyll and Cowall. A John MacTavish, M.A., was minister or assistant to the Rev. Donald Omey (d. 1640), first charge at Campbeltown (Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae vol. 4, p. 48).

5. Notes in Roman hand, pp.18, 51. Robert Campbell, Glensluan (near Strachur, Cowall). This may have been the learned Roibert Caimpbél Fear Foraiste mhic Chailin an Cómhal who wrote an ode in Gaelic script to Edward Lhuyd c.1700, printed in the preface to the latter’s Archaeologia Britannica 1. Cf. TCD MS. 1392, no. 2, f.8. He is said to have been of the Campbells of Skipness, and is associated by Dewar with Coir-an Tí, six or seven miles down Loch Eck-side from Glensluan (Mackechnie, The Dewar MSS., p. 315; cf. also C. Ó Baoill, "Robert Campbell, Forsair Choire an t-Sìth", Scottish Gaelic Studies xxiii (2007), 57-84.) He probably got the manuscript directly from MacTavish, cf. p.18.

6. Notes in a crude Gaelic hand at pp. ii, 17, 19, 29, 33, 34, 51, and Roman hand at p. 51, etc. Rev. William Campbell (1713-93). Missionary at Strachur, 1743-4; minister of Kilchrenan and Dalavich, 1745-93. Grand-nephew of preceding (Mackinnon, p. 159). His father, William, son of Dougal Campbell of Glensaddell, Kintyre, was minister of Kilmodan (Glendaruel).

7. Notes, p.17. Jean Campbell, wife of preceding; perhaps also their son Robert?

8. Notes, pp. 13, 52; ?glosses, passim. James MacIntyre (? of Glenoe).

It may be said in summary that the manuscript appears to be a product of a school conducted by An Giolla Riabhach Ó Cléirigh and Dubhthach Ó Duibhgeannáin, and that it circulated for a hundred years and more in Cowal. Rev. William Campbell’s formalised note at p.ii, giving the place Glenmasan and the date 1268, has provided the name by which it is generally known. It may have been at Glenmasan, which is two miles over the hill behind Coir-an-Tí, that he recovered it from his grand-uncle’s beneficiaries, and in view of the difficulty he experienced in the 1760s or 1770s in writing the date at p.29, one is entitled to suspect that 1268 is in error for 1768, as if he had omitted the D from MDCCLXVIII. If 1768 is the year he obtained the manuscript, his interest in it may be seen in the light of the controversy regarding Ossian raging at that time. He seems to have thought that MacTavish had written it (p. 19). Glenoe appears to have borrowed it about 1778 for his work on the “Highland Gentlemen’s” dictionary (see Adv.MS.73.3.5). It is described by MacNicol as in the MacIntyre chief’s possession (Remarks, 1779, pp. 263, 302). It contains, he says, “the History of Clanuisneachain, or the sons of Usnoch, a fragment in Fingal”. About 1780 Glenoe showed it to Rev. William Shaw, who “turned it about several times, and at last fixed his eyes upon it, with the wrong end of it up.” Shaw appears to have purloined most of Glenoe’s lexicographical work, but, notwithstanding the note “James McIntyre aught this book” at p. 52, it seems to have been returned to Campbell, for it was eventually acquired by Rev. John MacKinnon of Kilmodan (Campbell’s native parish) “from some country people in his neighbourhood” (Ossian Report, Appendix, p. 283). According to MacKinnon, as reported by Bannatyne, these people believed the manuscript to have come from the Kilbride collection, but in view of the evidence cited above this seems unlikely. MacKinnon passed the manuscript to Bannatyne, who gave it to the Highland Society of Scotland. It was laid before the Ossian Committee on 27 March 1799 by the keeper of its manuscripts, Donald Mackintosh. It is described in Sederunt Book 3, pp. 333-4, as “a curious ancient Gaelic M.S., consisting of many leaves, appearing to be wrote in the 13th Century. This was communicated by Mr. MacLeod Bannatyne, and appears to consist partly of Poetry, and partly of historical deductions.” It was examined for the Committee by Dr. Donald Smith, and is described in their Report, p. 91, and Appendix, p. 296; the poem Inmain tír an tír út thoir is there cited and translated, with a facsimile of its beginning (plate 3, no. 4). Ewen MacLachlan had the manuscript 1811-13. His description is at Adv.MS.72.3.4, p. 81, and his transcript at Adv.MS.72.3.5, p. 164. He numbered the columns, and added notes on the order of leaves at the foot of pp. 5, 7, 9 and 11.

The manuscript consists of three gatherings (pp. i-14, 15-34, 37-52) and a single folio, pp. 35-6, whose conjunct is excised without textual loss. A chasm in the text indicates that the central bifolium of the first gathering is missing, and the two neighbouring bifolia have been bound in unlayered, thus disturbing the order of the surrounding text and necessitating MacLachlan’s footnotes. The whole was bound by stout thread and thongs. A broad strip of coarse paper, used to reinforce the spine, was removed as part of extensive repairs carried out in 2014 and is kept with the volume; at this time, the torn inner corners of some of the folios were also repaired and the volume cleaned and re-bound. This could not address the permanent discolouration of some of the leaves, however, and some loss of text also results from the opposite corners of its first and last leaves (pp. i-ii, 13-14) having been cut out. P. i is blackened and illegible, while pp.49-50 have been additionally stained by the application of a chemical reagent – perhaps by William Campbell, who seems to have been responsible for copying part of the text of p. 50 at p. 51. Paginated, probably by Dr. Smith; columns numbered 1-101 by Ewen MacLachlan. As Mackechnie uses a foliation, this is added below in brackets for reference; it was not entered on the manuscript.

Described by Stokes in Irische Texte 2.ii (1887), p. 109, by Mackinnon in The Celtic Review 1 (1904), p. 3, and by Thurneysen, Die irische Helden- und Königsage (1921), p. 327.


No. of hand given in brackets after entries.


ii (1v) Numbers (4); “……book” (?); “Gleannamasain an Cuige la deug don…….Mi : : : do bhlian ar Ssaorrse……..Mile da cheud trichid sa hocht” (6).

3 (3r) “Echtra so clan Uisnidh” (U.V., ?4).

8 (5v) “Fechain glesa” (1).

9 (6r) Gaelic script in right margin, largely illegible (4).

11 (7r) Numbers (4); “Ma Mary” (?).

13 (8r) “James MacIntyre his……” (8); “….who….” (?).

17 (10r) Gersum liath ni haithes damh, 1 q. (1); “Is bocht muint er an livairsi .i. Gilla E. 7 Dubtach” (1); “Eoin mac Tavish” (4, upside-down); “Eoin mac Tavis” and part of text copied (6); “Jean Campbell”, “Robert Cam” (7).

18 (10v) (?) Bhid olc an toisg, 1 q. (1); “Robert Campbell at Glensluan / John McTavis” (5, upside-down).

19 (11r) “Leabar eachdra” and part of text copied (?6); “Leabhar Echdra ata ann so ar a scriobha le Eoin mac Tavis” (6).

20 (11v) “Nasarenus” (1).

21 (12r) “Ihc”, “Nasarenus”, “Rex Iudiorum” (1); “amen dico vobis” (2, upside-down).

23 (13r) Gaelic script in right margin, illegible.

25 (14r) Letters of alphabet (4 or 6).

26 (14v) Part of text transcribed (?6).

27 (15r) Part of text transcribed (?6).

29 (16r) “Maister Uilliam Caimbeull Minister an Tsoisgeul ann a Cilleachreanan 7 ann an Dailaithich Maister an leabhir so (?)aon an m(h?)ile Seacht c. 2(?) trichid 7 …..” (6).

30 (16v) Erasure (longhand).

32 (17v) Illegible scrawl in left margin (U.V.).

33 (18r) Part of text copied (6).

34 (18v) “Eridh Uaithi a Dhubhghoine re chur acha Concubhair” (4); part of text copied (6).

35 (19r) Erasure.

37 (20r) Part of text (37b30) transcribed (?6).

42 (22v) Erasure (3); monograms “R”, “JC”?

43 (23r) “Muire” (3).

44 (23v) Illegible word.

48 (25v) “Banntigerna dar badh comhainm Cliramond” (4); letters of alphabet (4 or 6).

51 (27r) “…..others… me Robt C……..Campbell at Glen…..Glensluain……Robert Campbell of Glensluan…… (5). See also text.

52 (27v) Notes, largely illegible, in various hands, Gaelic and Roman, including; “….Tavis is the owner of this book and noe other bodies and them that shall Steall this book he shall be hanged on a tree” (4); “James McIntyre aught this book” (8); “Anna”; “……Campbell”.


1 (2r)a1 (Col.1). OIDHEADH CHLOINNE UISNEACH. Beg. Do comoradh fledh morchain moradbal la Conchobar mac Fachtna Fhataigh . Correct order of pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8. Ends incomplete, due to missing bifolium, “In fir sin, ar Conall. Is fír ón”. Ed. Stokes, op. cit ., p. 122; Cameron, Rel. Celt. 2 (1894), p. 464; Mackinnon, Celtic Review 1 (1904-5), pp. 3, 104. Cf. Thurneysen, op. cit., p. 327; Dillon (ed.), Irish Sagas, p.60.

9 (6r)a1 (Col.17). TÁIN BÓ FLIDAIS, recension 2. Beg. acephalous Secht muca marbta, miad ngle. Correct order of pages: 9, 10, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13 etc. At 44(23v)a25 (in col. 87) is sub-heading “Toraigecht Tana Bo Flidais”. Ends 51(27r)a15 “Gurub hi Tain Bó Flidais cona Toruighect go ruici sin. Finit. Amen”. Ed. Mackinnon, Celtic Review 1, pp. 208, 296; 2, pp. 20, 100, 202, 300; 3, pp. 10, 114, 198, 294; 4, pp. 10, 104, 202. Cf. Ériu 8, p. 133; Thurneysen, op. cit., p. 334.

51 (27r)b1 (Hand 6). Attempted transcript of p. 51a, ll. 1-2, and p. 50a, ll. 26-7, 30-1. Headed in Gaelic script “Muiredach Menmach m ac Oilella Find”, probably reflecting an inscription now concealed by flap of paper backing.

52 (27v) See Notes and Marginalia.

© Ronald Black, 2017