Bàrdachd Boireannach ann an Alba / Women’s Poetry in Scotland
UPDATE 5/10/15 We are experiencing some technical difficulties with successful play-back of the sound file, which we hope to have resolved as soon as possible! Apologies for any annoyance caused.
6/10/15 - technical difficulties (hopefully!) resolved - please notifiy one of the project team should you experience further problems with accessing the sound-file.
Earlier this summer, Sarah and Kate were delighted to be asked to speak at Glasgow Women's Library in Bridgeton (founded 1991), one of the finest resources for women's social history and culture in the country, on the subject of 'Bàrdachd Boireannach ann an Alba (Women’s Poetry in Scotland)'. During the evening we introduced the wider aims of our project and discussed the particular contribution to textual culture made by women in medieval and early modern Scotland, composing poetry in both Scots and Scottish Gaelic. We were also privileged to be accompanied by Alasdair C. Whyte, who performed live three of the Gaelic songs discussed by Kate.
The venue's acoustics proved to be ideally suited to sound-recording, so we are very pleased to be able to share part of the evening's proceedings with you all...
Many thanks again to Alasdair, to Laura Dolan for arranging our visit and making us so welcome at the library, and to everyone who came along on the night. Special thanks are also due to Stuart Robinson of the School of Scottish Studies for his assistance with the recording, and to Duncan Sneddon and Bria Mason for their help preparing the event publicity.
NB: due to technical difficulties, the section after 09:50 cuts straight from the general introduction to the Gaelic part of the discussion - a transcript of Sarah's presentation on Scots women poets is provided below, along with some further information on the primary sources and secondary literature referred to throughout.
Scots & Anglo-Scots women’s poetry: Introduction
As Kate was saying, we have fewer numbers of female poets composing in Scots or Anglo-Scots in the Lowland tradition. We know that there were women who transmitted the oral Scots song and ballad tradition (such as Anna Gordon and Agnes Lyle in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries), and their repertoire of songs and ballads come down to us because of the collectors and transcribers, almost all men, who preserved and published their work. But for this evening I’d like to think about those Lowland female poets who were creating outside the oral tradition in the sense that they didn’t conceive of themselves as tradition-bearers or carriers, but tried to articulate their own individual poetic voice. This, as we’ll see, is sometimes a fraught task in a culture which is not always immediately receptive to women’s poetic creativity. But we’ll see how, from the late sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, female poets carve out their own literary space, and locate themselves within ‘communities’, both established and of their own making.
Those voices we hear at the start of the period ─ i.e. from the archives/records that have survived — are those of aristocratic women: women of privilege, with access to the then centres of power and privilege. So the story of women and poetry in Scotland is also a story of class and education. In ‘Lady Lothian’s Lament’, from the early 1600s, which we think is by Lady Ann Ker, we find the statement:
‘The waikenes of a womans witt / Be not in natures ffault / ffor lack of education ffit / Makes nature oft to hault’.
Here, she says: don’t blame me for the poor quality of this poem but rather the lack of ‘proper’ educational opportunity which would have schooled and taught me in the art of poetry. On one level, this seems heart-breaking; on another, we have to realise that this was also a kind of skilful ploy — a means to avoid being blamed for what could be viewed as the morally suspect practice of a woman speaking and creating art. So in our earlier period in Lowland Scots poetry we find women creating in what might be called the ‘margins’ and ‘corners’ of the dominant literary culture. Our earliest examples of Scots poetry by women are a handful of poems found in manuscripts linked to the court of James VI in Edinburgh (James, of course, being the son of that famous poet, Mary Queen of Scots, herself a staunch defender of women’s right to learning and education — note, however, the absence of records of any women known to have produced poetry at her court during her brief reign [1562‒1567]). But at James’s court, in the 1580s and 90s, we find women articulating their poetic voice by means of the praise poem (e.g. ‘E.D. in praise of Mr Wm. Foular hir freind’).[i] ‘E.D.’ may be the Elizabeth Douglas who was daughter to Sir William Douglas of Lochleven. To us, the anonymity might seem in a way like composing in the shadows, not really ‘owning’ your voice; but we should also recognise that for these female poets it was also a way — as Elizabeth Douglas does in this text — of demonstrating your own knowledge and learning; of understanding and taking part in (and arguing for your right to be part of) mainstream learned culture.
You can begin to see how these early Scots women poets were quite ‘crafty’, quite skilful and ingenious, in making their voices heard. Elizabeth Melville (ca. 1578‒ ca. 1640) is the first woman poet to be published in Scots, in 1603. The earliest print edition of ‘Ane Godlie Dreame’, a spiritual poem, tells us that it was ‘compylit in Scottish meter be M. M. gentelvvoman in Culros, at the requeist of her friends’. So publication becomes a Christian act, which does not exceed or transgress notions of feminine morality and conduct – God grants her permission to speak. So we too, coming to recover these women, have to be quite skilful; peering, as it were, into the corners. Such is the case of a young woman called Marie, or Mary, Maitland, living in the East Lothians in the 1580s, whom we know of only by virtue of the survival of a manuscript called the Maitland Quarto. The Maitlands were a prominent noble family with links to the royal court, and the Quarto is a collection of Scots poems by various authors — an unpublished book or manuscript which was obviously Mary’s, or ‘owned’ by her, as her name appears on the flyleaf. The handwriting throughout is broadly the same as the signature, so it is likely that she had chosen and gathered all these poems herself (including some by her father), transcribing or copying them personally. So, overall, she collects rather than creates poetry, but in the midst of the manuscript is an otherwise anonymous poem dedicated ‘To your selfe’ ‘M.M. [Maistres Marie]’. This item seems to describe Marie as a poet herself, making comparisons to two eminent female figures:
‘To yourself. M.M.’
If sapho saige for saphic songe so sueit
did pleid for prais & place amangs the nyne
if trustie talk with taillis so trew do meit
amids the gods dois duell that dame devyne.
And now of lait that lustie ladie rair
Olimpia o lampe of latine land
so doeth thy works unto this day declair
for lyflie art Who list thy Vers to scand.
A third o Maistres Marie maik I pray
& put in vre your Worthie vertewis all
for famous is your fleing fame I say
hyd not so haut a hairt in sluggish thrall.
Sappho, of course, is the famed female poet of ancient Greece; ‘Olimpia’ may refer to an Italian woman writer and scholar, Olympia Fulvia Morata (1526‒1555), who composed poetry in Latin and Greek (and was companion and tutor to Anna d’Este, daughter of the duchess of Ferrara, her place of birth). In one of her poems, Morata declares: ‘I, a woman, have dropped the symbols of my sex,/ Yarn, shuttle, basket, thread,/ I love but the flowered Parnassus with the choirs of joy./ Other women seek after what they choose./ These only are my pride and delight’. The third stanza of our poem ends by urging Marie not to conceal her gifts, not to ‘hide her heart’. Is she then a Sappho in the shadows, and a poet in her own right, who may have been responsible for composing at least some of the anonymous, unsigned poetry copied throughout the Maitland Quarto?
Having begun with the notion of seeking ‘hidden’ voices and ‘fragments’ of unassigned text, the necessity of continuing to look carefully for the presence of early modern Scotswomen in textual culture continues into the eighteenth century (famed, primarily, as the century of Robert Burns). I shall refer here to two poets, one from Ayrshire, one from Perthshire, who differ hugely in terms of class and culture. Both, however, demonstrate through their work the ways in which Scots women poets did find a way of self-articulation, self-expression and / or self-‘engendering’, as it were, and that the very means of creating poetry itself enabled them to find a place in the culture at large. These poets are Isabel Pagan (Ayrshire) and Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne, both of whose work demonstrates how women’s poetry is ‘relational’, permitting the exploration of their locality and wider ideas of ‘community’.
Isabel Pagan (1742‒1821), an Ayrshire poet and songwriter of the later eighteenth-century period, composed in both Scots and English. Her work is almost unknown now, glimpsed in only one or two footnotes in general histories of Scottish literature. She lived most of her life, from what we can glean, in the village of Muirkirk. But she comes into vivid relief in this posthumous account from 1840 by James Paterson, a prolific collector, historian, and antiquarian of Ayrshire, apparently from contemporary acquaintance: -
“Whether sober or tipsy she was a woman of violent temper, and her crutch was always ready to obey the impulse of the moment. However much her character and mode of life might be reprobated, few were willing to offend her by their expostulations or remarks; and she attained a sort of ascendency, which the fear of her sarcasm and her crutch alike combined in enabling her to maintain”.
Pagan’s apparent fierceness, according to Paterson, was linked to her habit of being drunk, especially around midnight. His account also describes her as being of ‘very unearthly appearance’, ‘the most perfect realisation of a witch or hag’ — saying more about the assumptions of her Victorian biographer in relation to female conduct and the role of the woman poet than Pagan herself.
So, Pagan may be the ‘anti-heroine’ of Paterson’s litany of Ayrshire writers ─how different from the lionisation of Burns and his appetite for drink and debauchery!. But she was perhaps more poignantly ordinary than this account suggests ‒ an unmarried woman, living in a small community and coping with a physical impairment. What she achieved is actually quite remarkable. Significantly, a volume of her poetry was published in her lifetime. It appeared first in an edition of 1803 by the Glasgow Trongate press Niven, Napier, and Khull, and was reprinted in 1808. This contains 46 poems, ‘[p]rinted on extremely thin paper and containing only seventy-six pages in all, [hence] the volume was just the right size to fit in [the] pocket’;[ii] it was both cheap and portable. On its first printing, Pagan would have been 62 years old, though an autobiographical lyric tells us that, far from being a late developer, she began ‘making’ song and verse at the age of 14. We can see her as part of a tradition of autodidactic poets argued to be especially in strong eighteenth and nineteenth-century Scottish culture. One of her poems offers an account of her education: the nurturing guidance of an older woman in the community spurring her desire to read beyond scripture: -
My learning it can soon be told,
Ten weeks when I was seven years old.
With a good old religious wife,
Who liv'd a quiet and sober life;
Indeed she took of me more pains
Than some does now of forty bairns.
With my attention, and her skill,
I read the Bible no that ill;
And when I grew a wee thought mair,
I read when I had time to spare.
‘Account of the Author's Lifetime’
This particular ‘revelation’ is very interesting – Pagan constructs herself within a ‘matriarchal’, female lineage of learning, and one which is non-familial. It situates her within a culture of ‘self-improvement’, and of self-motivated or self-directed learning and literacy. These are her ‘trade’, often portrayed as being exchanged with wealthier or obliging ‘patrons’ in exchange for drink. So Pagan vividly presents her poetry and song-making as part of a spirit economy. In another poem she locates herself at the heart of this economy of social circulation, which trades on the exchange of poetry and song, tobacco as well as drink: -
I'll sing a song with noble glee,
And tune that I think canty,
But I sing best, it is no jest,
When the tobacco's plenty.
‘The Spinning Wheel’
She portrays her poetry and song-making as an act of survival, but clearly wanted her art to survive too: -
Were I in power to publish them,
To be sung when I'm dead,
And while I am upon the stage,
Might help to merit bread.
‘The Spinning Wheel’
Pagan often portrays herself in the traditional role of female ‘storyteller’, delighting in being the traditionally loquacious ‘tale-telling’ female gossip with a poetic twist. In this regard, however, we should also consider the opening stanza of the same poem: -
When I sit at my spinning wheel,
And think on every station,
I think I'm happiest mysel,
At my small occupation.
No court, nor freet, nor dark debate,
Can e'er attend my dwelling,
While I make cloth of diff'rent sorts,
Which is an honest calling.
Pagan constructs herself here in an interesting way. The spinning wheel is an appropriate symbol, representative of a female craft and trade but also evocative of the creative ‘spinning’ of stories. But that she weaves and cards cloth whilst she narrates also makes this a kind of ‘working song’ too. Pagan’s persona draws attention to location, task, and place; to the social and economic imperatives which underpin this ‘honest’ trade; and to her ‘small’ but intense and productive means of activity. What you notice in Pagan’s work is how she oscillates between languages and registers, resisting a fixed poetic location. And she does so in a period in which Scots and English as literary choices each had their own social and cultural associations. Of the 46 poems in Pagan’s published collection which are written exclusively in either language, there are more English than Scots texts. Surprisingly, perhaps, it demonstrates her poetic fluency in conventional English-language amatory and pastoral verse. A significant number of Pagan’s poems are linguistically hybrid ‒ she can weave Scots words into standard English. And with this ‘bivocality’, as it were — her use of Scots and English, and all that this culturally implies — she also sometimes subverts expectations, using Scots for serious subjects and English for comic or parodic verse.
In fact, this fluency and literary ‘shape-shifting’ gives her poetry the power to be located at the heart of her community. This is the small village of Muirkirk in Ayrshire ‒ where she remains an important part of their local heritage ‒ but her verse is also strongly rooted in the cultural traditions and practices of wider Ayrshire communities. There’s a wealth of poems in her published collection which commemorate the seasonal huntings, visiting regiments to the area, and other kinds of communal, shared rituals and topical events (none of which, perhaps, would normally be associated with women).
Pagan is a bold poet, and is not afraid to use her poetry as a means of satire: a means of criticising what she feels is wrong in society. She notes the effects of the contemporary war between Britain and France, begun in 1793, in terms of the poverty and bereavement glimpsed in the families around her: -
There is such taxations
We scarcely can bear,
Which makes the whole country
To be in a steer.
For men to be made soldiers,
The trade is broken down,
And leaves families mourning
In many a town.
‘A New Song’
What makes Pagan so forthright a poet? She may have felt free to speak in this way because she is an outsider – an unmarried woman who, on the face of it, has very little standing within society but who also considers herself ‘empowered’ by reason of her single status: -
I have no reason here to fret,
That I was never married,
Since I a free possession get,
Of freedom I'm not wearied.
‘The Spinning Wheel’
As a single woman she is free of the legal, social, and moral obligations of marriage, and may take, thus, possession or ‘ownership’ of herself.
Our other late-eighteenth-century poet, like Isabel Pagan, remained creative well into later life, enjoying a lengthy literary career to which she never admitted in public [more of which shortly]. Some of her songs’ titles may well be familiar ─ ‘The Rowan Tree’; ‘Aikin Drum’; ‘Charlie is my Darling’. They were composed by Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne (1766‒1845), who may not be so familiar. She is one of the writers often hidden from view in our usual understanding of the flourishing of Scots song in the eighteenth century, remaining in the shadow of Burns and other male Scottish songwriters and collectors – quite unjustly, when more than eighty songs and poems are ascribed to her authorship. Her words are set to some of the popular tunes of the day; she herself played the harpsichord and guitar – feminine accomplishments befitting her aristocratic status – and played the fiddle so well that she earned the praise of Niel Gow, the most famous fiddler and dancer of the day. Amongst her work are some beautiful love songs and laments. ‘The Land of the Leal’, for example, is couched in the voice of a male speaker who is about to make his final journey to the place of the ‘leal’ (i.e. Heaven, home of the ‘loyal’ and faithful, good and true), from which there’s no return until his wife, Jean, should get there too: -
I'm wearing awa', Jean,
Like snaw when its thaw, Jean,
I'm wearing awa'
To the land o' the leal.
There's nae sorrow there, Jean,
There's neither cauld nor care, Jean,
The day is aye fair
In the land o' the leal.
Ye were aye leal and true, Jean,
Your task's ended noo, Jean,
And I'll welcome you
To the land o' the leal.
Our bonnie bairn's there, Jean,
She was baith guid and fair, Jean;
O we grudged her right sair
To the land o' the leal!
To understand Carolina Oliphant, we need to turn to the very site of her birthplace. She was born at Gask House, in the parish of Gask in Perthshire in 1766, the third daughter in a family of six children. For Oliphant, this wasn’t just any landscape or any house. This is an extract from her poem, ‘The Auld House’:
Oh, the auld house, the auld house,
What tho' the rooms were wee?
Oh! kind hearts were dwelling there,
And bairnies fu' o' glee;
The wild rose and the jessamine
Still hang upon the wa',
How mony cherish'd memories
Do they, sweet flowers, reca'.
The setting sun, the setting sun!
How glorious it gaed doon;
The cloudy splendour raised our hearts
To cloudless skies aboon!
The auld dial, the auld dial!
It tauld how time did pass;
The wintry winds hae dung it doon,
Now hid 'mang weeds and grass.
We can see here how the space of the house and the garden become signs and symbols of a childhood past ‒the old sundial in the garden measuring out the passage of time, of scattered memories and lives. By this time the building was a ruin, although another ‘House of Gask’ was built in the grounds in 1801. Oliphant’s poem, like the garden-in-shadows, is full of ghosts. But it also acknowledges strongly that the ‘Auld House’, its people and its voices belong now to a past which can’t ever come again, except in her own songs. Those precious times are recalled, along with her family identity, memory and allegiance. Oliphant came from a long line of staunch Jacobites, a fact which is crucial to the understanding of her poetry (her parents were married at Versailles when Oliphants were still attached to the court of the ‘Old Pretender’, James Francis Edward Stewart, at St Germains). Charles Edward Stuart himself visited Gask House, Carolina’s father and grandfather having been ‘out’ in both the 1715 and 1745 rebellions, alongside many of their neighbours. With her birth in 1766, Carolina is a retrospective Jacobite: the cause had long been fought and lost twenty years before. But it’s as though she views the medium of poetry and song as a still-powerful means of communicating the passion and intensity of the Jacobites’ cause. Take this poem, for instance: -
Now the bricht sun, and the soft summer showers,
Deck a' the woods and the gardens wi' flowers---
But bonny and sweet though the hale o' them be,
There's ane aboon a' that is dearest to me;
An' oh, that's the white rose, the white rose o' June,
An' may he that should wear it come back again sune!
It's no on my breast, nor yet in my hair,
That the emblem dear I venture to wear;
But it blooms in my heart, and its white leaves I weet,
When alane in the gloamin' I wander to greet,
O'er the white rose, the white rose, the white rose o' June,
An' may he that should wear it come back again sune!
Mair fragrant and rich the red rose may be,
But there is nae spell to bind it to me---
But dear to my heart and to fond memorie,
Tho' scathed and tho' blighted the white rose may be,
O the white rose, the white rose, the white rose o' June,
O may he that should wear it come back again sune!
An' oh! may the true hearts thy perils who share,
Remember'd wi' tears, and remember'd in prayer,
Whom misfortune's rude blast has sent far awa,
Fair breezes bring back sune to cottage and ha';---
Then, O sing the white rose, the white rose o' June,
An' may he that should wear it wear Scotland's auld croun!
from ‘The White rose of June’
This is spoken in quite a conventional female voice – private, full of romantic longing. But it challenges our expectations of eighteenth-century women’s poetry because it can also be considered as a cryptic political intervention. The white rose is an emblem of romantic love, but also a symbol of support for the Jacobite cause – and the lover whom the speaker longs to return is, of course, the king in exile, Charles Edward Stuart. In fact, almost all of her pro-Jacobite poems are written from a perspective, or are concerned with, feminine desire for either the cause or the prince himself (or a loyalist soldier). Female love is seen in a different and far less conventional light than usual because it is also shown to be capable of desiring a politically transgressive cause. Oliphant’s poems depict women going against the grain of feminine ‘norms’ and decorum. Another song, rather mischievously, concerns a beleaguered husband lamenting the collective transgressiveness of the women in his community: -
The women are a' gane wud, [mad]
Oh, that he had bidden awa!
He's turn'd their heads, the lad,
And ruin will bring on us a'.
I aye was a peaceable man,
My wife she did doucely [soberly] behave;
But noo, dae a' that I can,
She's just as wild as the lave [rest].
Oliphant is a strong, passionate, committed, and often witty songwriter. But she wasn’t really known for her poetry in her own day, and nor, apparently, did she want to be. Her songs and poems circulated by means of oral performance, and were never publicly attributed to her. Even though she contributed material to one of the most famous Scots song collections, The Scots Musical Museum (six volumes, 1787‒1803), she did so under a pseudonym, ‘Mrs Bogan of Bogan’. In The Songs and Songstresses of Scotland (1871, pp. 112‒13), Sarah Tytler and J.L. Watson tell us that: -
‘Not only was she a woman – and authorship was counted unfeminine by these great ladies, - she was also a lady, an Oliphant, a Nairne. Lady Nairne did not so much as confide to Lord Nairne the secret which would have made his heart proud, if he were a match for his wife in genius and feeling. She did not even tell him that she was the author of “The Land o’ the Leal”, lest his honest gratification should tempt him to betray the truth!’
Carolina Oliphant was married in 1806 when she was 41; two years later she had a son, her only child. She seems to have been a primarily secret and covert writer, anxious that she might somehow bring her husband’s name and lineage into some kind of disrepute. As Carol McGuirk points out (2006, p. 258), William Murray Nairne, Carolina’s husband, may have stemmed from a once pro-Jacobite family but ‘personally he had moved on, serving from his youth in the British Army … Some professional embarrassment might have ensued had it become known that Mrs. Major Nairne had been writing new songs honouring the mid-century rebels …’. But she managed to find support elsewhere – and here I will draw to a close, with the example of the woman poet who found her own kind of alternative community. Whilst living in Edinburgh, Oliphant was lucky enough to find the patronage and support of two women who happened to be ‘the head of the musical society of Edinburgh, the Misses Hume’, according to Tytler and Watson’s account (as above). This lovely-sounding pair were sisters, Elizabeth and Agnes Hume. Tytler and Johnson continue (1871, pp. 134‒5): ‘They were consulted by Mr Purdie, music dealer, when he proposed, about 1821, to bring out a collection of national airs with suitable words. The Misses Hume consulted in turn their friend Mrs. Nairne, with whose own aspirations the scheme fitted in admirably. The result was the formation of a ladies’ committee, the proceedings of which were meant to be shrouded in mystery, and were really long kept in concealment. The members of this committee either supplied Mr. Purdie’s songs or revised them. It is almost unnecessary to say that the presiding genius was Carolina Nairne’.
Touchingly, it was her own sister who finally put Carolina’s name, after her death, to the volume entitled initially Lays of Strathearn (1850). Oliphant, then, had a career which was ‘closely supported by other women’ and ‘so closely guarded from men.’ (McGuirk loc. cit.). So I’ll end on this note: for male writers, there are plenty of historical models and precedents, but for female writers often very few. It’s interesting to look at the poetic models which all of these women cite – notably those eighteenth-century (male) behemoths Burns and Scott! But their real, and pragmatically helpful, sources of affinity and inspiration are often, in fact, the local communities in which they lived and worked, and the networks they forged, especially with other women – the female friends, acquaintances, and mentors to whom they also allude (e.g. the subscription-list published by Christian Carstairs [fl. 1763‒86] in her Original Poems, by A Lady , containing sixty female names alongside only one or two male).
‘Isabel Pagan’, in British Women Poets of the Romantic era, ed. FELDMAN, Paula; pp. 539‒55 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins). 2000
MCGUIRK, Carol. (2006). ‘Jacobite History to National Song: Robert Burns and Carolina Oliphant (Baroness Nairne)’, The Eighteenth Century 47/2; pp. 253‒87.
References cited & further reading
The poems attributed to Aithbreac inghean Corceadail and Isabel Ni Mheic Cailein from the ‘Book of the Dean of Lismore’ are printed in WATSON, W. J. (1937). Scottish verse from the Book of the Dean of Lismore. Edinburgh.
For further information about the manuscript and its orthographic style see MEEK, Donald E. (1989). ‘The Scots-Gaelic scribes of late medieval Perthshire: an overview of the orthography and contents of the Book of the Dean of Lismore’, in Bryght Lanternis: Essays on the language and literature of medieval and renaissance Scotland, eds. MCCLURE & SPILLER; pp. 387‒404. Aberdeen (also MACGREGOR, M. . ‘The view from Fortingall: The worlds of the Book of the Dean of Lismore’, Scottish Gaelic Studies 22; pp. 35‒85).
At 14:06 a small error slipped in – the brother of the Dean of Lismore is not Donnchadh Caimbeul of Glenorchy, author of several poems included in the Dean’s Book, but Donnchadh MacGhriogair, who may have been one of its scribes. For the poetry of Donnchadh Caimbeul (d. 1513) see GILLIES, W. (1977). ‘Courtly and satiric poems in the Book of the Dean of Lismore’, Scottish Studies 21; pp. 35‒53, and GILLIES, W. ‘The Gaelic poems of Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy’ – part I, Scottish Gaelic Studies 13/1 (1978), pp. 18‒45; part II, SGS 13/3 (1981), pp. 263‒88; part III, SGS 14/1 (1983), pp. 59‒83.
For Mòr Chaimbeul / Marion Campbell and ‘Grioghal Cridhe’ see MACGREGOR, Martin. 1999. ‘“Surely one of the greatest poems ever made in Britain”: The lament for Griogair Ruadh MacGregor of Glen Strae and its historical background’, in The Polar Twins, eds. COWAN, E.J. and D. GIFFORD; pp. 114–53. Edinburgh [contains a text of an early version of Alasdair’s first song].
An excellent overview of the development of Gaelic poetry in the seventeenth century (and the politics behind it) may be found in Ó BAOILL, Colm & Meg BATEMAN. (1994). Gàir nan Clàrsach: The harp’s cry. Edinburgh. For Alasdair Mac Colla MacDonald see STEVENSON, D. (1980). Alasdair MacColla and the Highland problem in the seventeenth century. Edinburgh [rpr. 2003 as Highland Warrior: Alasdair Mac Colla and the Civil Wars]. The fullest collection of anti-Campbell poetry is printed in MACKENZIE, A. (1964). Orain Iain Luim: Songs of John MacDonald, bard of Keppoch. Edinburgh [also contains a text of Alasdair’s second song, ‘Cumha Ni Mhic Raonuill’, at p. 281].
The definitive collection of the poetry of Sìleas na Ceapaich is Ó BAOILL, Colm. (1972). Bàrdachd Shìlis na Ceapaich: Poems and songs by Sìleas MacDonald, c. 1660-c. 1729. Edinburgh: Scottish Gaelic Texts Society (see also Ó BAOILL, Colm. . ‘Sìleas na Ceapaich’, in The Edinburgh history of Scottish literature vol. I: From Columba to the Union [until 1707], eds. CLANCY et. al.; pp. 305‒14). Professor Ó Baoill’s other ground-breaking collections of Gaelic women’s poetry are Ó BAOILL, Colm. (2014). Màiri nighean Alasdair Ruaidh: Song-maker of Skye and Berneray. Edinburgh [including a longer version of Alasdair’s third song, ‘Gaoir nam Ban Muileach’], and Ó BAOILL, Colm. (2009). Mairghread nighean Lachlainn: Song-maker of Mull. Edinburgh.
The description of waulking songs as offering a glimpse into the ‘frank, unbuttoned underworld’ of Gaelic women’s literature derives from GILLIES, W. (2006). ‘Gaelic traditional women's songs’, in Alba Litteraria: New essays on Scottish literature, ed. FAZZINI, M.; pp. 163‒76. For a contemporary discussion of waulking by a celebrated singer, see MACKELLAR, Mary. (1886‒7). ‘The Waulking day’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 13; pp. 201‒18 [available online here: https://archive.org/details/transactions13gaeluoft]. Further waulking songs collected in the early twentieth century are printed in CAMPBELL, J. L. & Francis COLLINSON. (1969, 1977 & 1981). Hebridean Folksongs: Waulking songs from Barra, South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula. Oxford (three volumes).
The documentary clip audible distantly from 32:11 to 35:53 is taken from Werner Kissling (1934). ‘Eriskay: A poem of remote lives’, available in full at the Scottish Screen Archive (http://ssa.nls.uk/film/1701).
Further details concerning our splendid singer, Alasdair C. Whyte, may be found here: http://www.struileag.com/en/The-Show/Singers/Alasdair-Whyte and here: http://www.watercolourmusic.co.uk/Alasdair%20Whyte.html. The Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o’ riches project is here: http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/, including Rev. Willie Matheson’s version of ‘Grioghal Cridhe’ (http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/85852/1). His recording of ‘Gaoir nam Ban Muileach’ may be found on Gaelic bards & minstrels (Scottish Tradition Series vol. 16 http://www.greentrax.com/music/product/william-matheson-gaelic-bards-and-minstrels-scottish-tradition-series-vol-1) – the Series overall is an excellent resource for Scots and Gaelic song.