A Gaelic Poem on the Massacre of Glencoe

Content has been moved to this webpage.


Published by Michael Newton

Michael Newton was awarded a B.A. in Computer Science from the University of California (San Diego) in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Celtic Studies from the University of Edinburgh in 1998. He is a leading authority on the literature and cultural legacy of Scottish Highland immigrant communities in America. He has written several books and numerous articles on many aspects of Highland tradition and history, and has given lectures at venues such as the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, Slighe nan Gaidheal in Seattle, and the Toronto Scottish Gaelic Learners' Association. He has also been creating digital content since the early 1980s in the form of computer games (having been on the FTL Games team that produced Dungeon Master in 1987), hypermedia (creating the Celtic History Museum in HyperCard in 1991), and on-line digital collaboratories (creating Finding the Celtic in 2008).

Join the Conversation


  1. Interesting, how much later do you think the poem could be after the event? The ‘placenames’ do not appear in any Glencoe lists I have seen but, it was never a large estate and MacDonald of Glencoe also held extra land in the form of a tack of land on the Appin Estate.
    I am also intrigued by where the verse 6 in your version came from? The impression I had formed was that the McHendrich family including the piper Donald only came into the area after the massacre when there were a number of incomers as the place was re-populated.
    The main tenants who were not directly related to the family in the post 1745 rental were mostly in Carnoch, Apart from Carnoch the other holdings mentioned were Tayfort, the Tack of the Corn Mill of Glencoe and Millcroft thereof and somewhere called Polrig which had at one time been held by the piper before he moved to Carnoch.
    At the time of the 45′ there was a cadet member of the Glencoe family called Donald MacDonald described as a ‘Poet’ who was out in the Glencoe Regiment.

    1. You have asked some complex questions that touch on the problematic nature of reconciling oral tradition with conventional forms of history/historiography.

      First, the easy question: verse 6 is attested in both the Dornie Manuscript and in the Northern Chronicle variant.

      Note that your question, “how much later do you think the poem could be after the event” does not represent the complexity of the process of oral tradition. First there is the event; then there is the composition of the poem; then there is oral transmission of the text, in any number of “branches”; then there is the transcription of the text from oral transmissionl … etc. It’s not a single, linear thing.

      It is particularly during the process of oral transmission that “interpolations” can occur, i.e., words, phrases, ideas, etc., that were not part of the original composition but which “make sense” to the performer and audience. And you can imagine how people and ideas and things can enter into the text during the period of transmission that were not present in the original text because they accord with the lived reality of those involved in the process of oral transmission.

      Thus my comments to you in the past that one of my interests is the complexity of reconciling literary representations of events / people / things with “conventional” historical sources.

      Thanks for your comments! I hope that that was helpful, Keith.

  2. Peter Macintyre, R.M. (1786 -1855) mentions some apparently lost Glencoe place-names in one of his songs called Cnuasachd Caillich Dhonnchaidh ‘ic Uilleam (26 verses). He grew up at Camas na h-Eirbhe (various spellings) which is next to Callart on the north shore of Loch Leven almost opposite Glencoe village (A’ Charnaich).
    Creag Bhadan (also known as the Allan Breck Rock) is a heather-topped boulder in the An t-Sron area of Glencoe east of the Gleann-leac-na-muidhe road end. It is marked on some modern maps. An t-Sron was certainly inhabited in the 1700s at least.
    I grew up at Taigh a’ Phuirt, Glencoe, directly opposite Callart. The native wood behind my old house is mostly alder and hazel but also birch and ash. At a guess, I think Peter might be sitting on top of Mam na Gualainn behind Camas na h-Eirbhe.
    The song is included in Am Filidh by Seumas Munro (1840). Here are a few verses:

    Cnuasachd Caillich Dhonnchaidh ‘ic Uilleam.
    Fonn – “Comhachag bhochd na Sròine”. A’ Cheud Earann.

    Mi ‘m shuidhe air Meall-an-fhuarain,
    ‘Sealltuinn mu’n cuairt air Loch-lìobhann,
    (Far an robh mi aotrom uallach,)
    ‘S air na glinn ‘s na ghluais mo shinnsre,

    Chi mi ‘n t-Inbhear agus Comhann,
    A’ Chàrnach, ‘s na Maola-dubha,
    (Cha b’ iad ach na Maola buidhe,)
    A dh’ fhàs gu bainnear, braonach, cluthor,

    Agus Coir’-fhioghain nam fuaran,
    As an tric an d’ fhuair mi deoch,
    ‘S am minic an robh ‘n damh cluas-dhearg
    ‘Dol ‘nä ghailc le luath’s nan con;

    ‘S Acha-trìochadain nam beann,
    A’s àrd ceann ‘an iarmailt nan spéur;
    Is colgarr’ greann ri slignich shneachd, –
    Creaga glas mu’n cinn am féur;

    ‘Us aghaidh riabhach Sgùr-na-cìche
    ‘Sealltuinn dìreach air a’ Chaillich;
    Ge riabhach brucach, gur brìgheal,
    Seamragach, mìllteachail, failleil. . .

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: