A Portrait of Eighteenth-Century Gaelic Scotland

A Portrait of Eighteenth-Century Gaelic Scotland

Issued: Fri, 09 Sep 2016 12:00:00 BST

Two University of Glasgow lecturers have brought to light a little-known portrait of the Rev James McLagan (1728-1805), chaplain to the Black Watch, who is the focus of a research project focused on his significant and early collection of Gaelic manuscripts, held by the University of Glasgow.

McLagan imageC‌redit: Black Watch Museum

The painted probable likeness of the Church of Scotland minister, poet and scholar is found on an oval gold mount preserved in the collections of The Black Watch Museum, Perth.

It serves as a reminder of the significance of the University’s McLagan Collection to scholars of Gaelic language and literature and also to those interested in Scotland’s military history and eighteenth-century Enlightenment Scotland.

Dr Sìm Innes and Dr Geraldine Parsons, lecturers in Celtic and Gaelic at the University of Glasgow, were delighted to put a face to the name of the focus of their research project.

They have organised the first ever conference on McLagan and his collections (September 9) at the University of Glasgow in order to stimulate new research into McLagan and his international networks, and early interest in folklore and Gaelic literature.

McLagan, from Ballechin, Perthsire, was ordained by the presbytery of Dunkeld in 1760 after studying at the University of St Andrews. He was appointed chaplain to the 42nd regiment (the Black Watch) and served in America, Ireland and the Isle of Man. During that time McLagan had contact with military personnel from all over Gaelic Scotland.

A poet himself, he seized the opportunity to collect songs and poems from the Highland soldiers under his care. He also developed links with other gentlemen scholars in a number of countries.

The McLagan Collection (University of Glasgow, Special Collections, MS Gen 1042) contains 630 items found on 1650 manuscript pages, produced in 47 hands. The material is primarily in Gaelic, but English and Latin language works also appear.

The collection is a key resource for many of the most well-known 17th- and 18th-century Gaelic poets such as Iain Lom MacDonald, Màiri nighean Alasdair Ruaidh and Alasdair mac Mhaighsir Alasdair. It is a diverse collection, including but not limited to satire, battle-poetry and Ossianic ballads from many areas of Highland Scotland and also from Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Dr Innes said: “It has long been known that James McLagan had an extraordinary career and that the collection of mainly Gaelic materials amassed by him is a remarkable asset for understanding eighteenth-century Scotland.

“James MacPherson’s Ossian publications and ensuing scandal are often seen as having given rise to the birth of Gaelic folklore collecting in Scotland. Yet McLagan collected before the 1750s and supplied MacPherson with material. The Gaelic song and poetry collected by McLagan gives further insight into Scotland’s Gaelic literary canon as it is today.”

Dr Parsons added: “Consideration of the Black Watch Museum’s holdings has brought into focus the extent to which the McLagan Collection serves as an alternative, predominantly Gaelic-language, archive for the Black Watch.

“A good deal of the early regiment’s records were lost by the end of the eighteenth century, but here in the University of Glasgow we have an important snapshot of the preoccupations and culture of many of its personnel during the period of McLagan’s chaplaincy.”

Richard Mackenzie, archivist for the Black Watch Museum, added: “I welcome the interest of researchers from Celtic and Gaelic at the University of Glasgow in our holdings, and look forward to the conference and further collaboration that will undoubtedly enhance our understanding of both the history of the Black Watch and the contents of the University's McLagan Collection."

Among the topics to be explored at tomorrow’s conference are the links between the University of Glasgow’s holdings relating to McLagan and those at other institutions, among them the National Library of Scotland and Dundee City Archives.

Dr Innes and Dr Parsons see this conference as the first step in a largescale research project on McLagan and his manuscripts.

The conference ‘An t-Urr. Seumas MacLathagain (1728-1805) agus a làmh-sgrìobhainnean | The Rev. James McLagan (1728-1805)’ takes place at the University of Glasgow on Friday, September 9, 2016.

 

 

Dh’amais dithis òraidiche bho Oilthigh Ghlaschu air portraid bheag-aithnichte den Urramach Seumas MacLathagain (1728-1805) a bha na sheaplain anns an Fhreiceadan Dubh. Tha na làmh-sgrìobhainnean Gàidhlig aig MacLathagain air an cumail aig Oilthigh Ghlaschu agus tha pròiseact ùr gan rannsachadh. Gheibhear a’ photraid air cùl ugh-chruthach òrdha bho Thaigh-Tasgaidh an Fhreiceadain Duibh agus thathar a’ meas gu bheil i a’ riochdachadh a’ mhinisteir. Tha i na samhla air cho cudromach ’s a tha Cruinneachadh MhicLathagain  an dà chuid do sgoilearan na Gàidhlig fhèin agus dhaibhsan aig a bheil ùidh ann an eachdraidh armailteach na h-Alba agus Alba an t-Soillearachaidh anns an ochdamh linn deug.

Tha an Dr Sìm Innes agus an Dr Geraldine Parsons, òraidichean ann an Ceiltis is Gàidhlig aig Oilthigh Ghlaschu, air an dòigh glan coltas an duine fhaicinn a tha aig cridhe am pròiseact-rannsachaidh. Tha iad air a’ chiad cho-labhairt a bh’ ann a-riamh a stèidheachadh air MacLathagain agus a làmh-sgrìobhainnean air 9 Sultain aig Oilthigh Ghlaschu gus obair sgoileireil ùr a bhrosnachadh air MacLathagain, a lìonraidhean eadar-nàiseanta agus an ùidh thràth a bh’ aige ann am beul-aithris agus litreachas na Gàidhlig. Dh’òrdaicheadh MacLathagain, a bhuineadh do Bhaile Eachainn ann an Siorrachd Pheairt, na mhinistear le clèir Dhùn Chailleann ann an 1760 an dèidh dha a bhith na oileanach ann an Cill Rìmhinn. Chuireadh ann an dreuchd e mar sheaplain don 42na Rèisimeid (Am Freiceadan Dubh) agus bha e còmhla riutha ann an Aimeireagaidh, Èirinn, agus Eilean Mhanainn. Anns an obair sin bha co-luadar aig MacLathagain le muinntir an airm bho air feadh na h-Alba. Ghabh an duine, a bha na bhàrd e fhèin, an cothrom òrain agus bàrdachd a chruinneachadh bho na saighdearan Gàidhealach a bha fo chùram. Bha e cuideachd ann an conaltradh le àireamh mhòr de daoine foghlamaichte a bha ri cruinneachadh ann an iomadh dùthaich.

Tha luach nach beag anns a’ chruinneachadh de làmh-sgrìobhainnean aige anns a bheil 630 nì air 1650 duilleagan, agus beachd ann gu bheil an làmh-sgrìobhaidh aig suas ri 47 neach ann. ’S e stuthan Gàidhlig as motha a th’ anns na làmh-sgrìobhainnean ged a tha beagan ann am Beurla agus ann an Laideinn a’ nochdadh cuideachd. Tha e na ghoireas iongantach airson saothar nam bàrd Gàidhealach bhon 17mh agus 18mh linn mar Iain Lom, Màiri nighean Alasdair Ruaidh, Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair. Gu dearbh, tha bàrdachd de gach seòrsa sa chruinneachadh bho aoir gu dàin-cogaidh agus laoidhean na Fèinne agus iad a’ buntainn do dh’iomadh sgìre den Ghàidhealtachd agus do dh’Èirinn agus do dh’Eilean Mhanainn.

 Thuirt an Dr Innes: "Tha fhios aig an t-saoghal gun robh beatha fìor inninnteach aig Seumas MacLathagain is gu bheil a chruinneachadh na mhaoin bheairteach airson cur ri ar tuigse air Alba san ochdamh linn deug. Sa bhitheantas thathar den bheachd gun do thòisich cruinneachadh beul-aithris is litreachas na Gàidhlig an dèidh do Seumas Bàn MacMhuirich a chuid eadar-theangachaidhean Oiseanach a chur ann an clò. Ach bha MacLathagain a’ cruinneachadh ro na 1750an agus gu dearbh thug e stuthan do MhacMhuirich. Le bhith a’ toirt sùil gheur air na chruinnich MacLathagain gheibh sinn tuigse nas fheàrr air mar a tha sinn an-diugh a’ dèanamh breithneachadh air litreachas na Gàidhlig."

Chuir an Dr Parsons ri seo le bhith ag ràdh gun robh obair ann an Taigh-Tasgaidh an Fhreiceadain Duibh a’ cur fon phrosbaig mar a dh’fhaodamaid Cruinneachadh MhicLathagain a chleachdadh mar thasglann eile airson na rèisimeid. Chaidh a’ chuid as motha den tasglann tràth aig an Fhreiceadan Dubh a chall aig deireadh an ochdamh linn deug. Ach an seo aig Oilthigh Ghlaschu gheibhear sealladh cudromach air dualchas agus beachdan muinntir an airm ri linn seiplineachd MhicLathagain.

Thuirt tasglannaiche bho Thaigh-Tasgaidh an Fhreiceadain Duibh, Ridseard MacCoinnich: "Tha mi a’ cur fàilte mhòr ron luchd-rannsachaidh bho Cheiltis is Gàidhlig aig Oilthigh Ghlaschu agus an ùidh a th’ aca sna clàraidhean againn. Tha mi a’ dèanamh fiughair ris a’ cho-labhairt agus ri co-obrachadh a bharrachd. Chan eil teagamh agam ach gun cuir seo uile ri eachdraidh na rèiseamaid agus ris an dealbh a th’ againn air Cruinneachadh MhicLathagain an Oilthigh." 

Am measg nan cuspairean aig a’ cho-labhairt Dihaoine bidh sùil air ceanglaichean eadar na th’ aig Oilthigh Ghlaschu a bhuineas do MhacLathagain agus na tha aig ionadan eile mar a tha Leabharlann Nàiseanta na h-Alba agus Tasglann Baile Dhùn Dè.

Ann an sùilean an Dr Innes agus an Dr Parsons ’s e ciad cheum a tha sa cho-labhairt air slighe gu pròiseact-rannsachaidh nas motha air MacLathagain agus a làmh-sgrìobhainnean.

Thèid a’ cho-labhairt ‘An t-Urr. Seumas MacLathagain (1728-1805) agus a làmh-sgrìobhainnean | The Rev. James McLagan (1728-1805)’ a chumail aig Oilthigh Ghlaschu Dihaoine 9 Sultain. 


For more information contact Jane Chilton, University of Glasgow Communications and Public Affairs Office on 0141 330 3535 / email jane.chilton@glasgow.ac.uk

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