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Clan Donald Magazine No13 (1995) Online

Litir do Fhear-deasachaidh Irisleabhar Chlann Domhnaill bho fhear-deasachaidh Leabhraichean Chlann Raghnaill by Professor William Gillies, Dept. of Celtic, University of Edinburgh A Thormoid choir

 Leabhraichean Clann Raghnaill

Tha mi fhathast an sas anns an obair a ghabh mi os laimh a liuthad bhliadhnaichean air ais. (Faic Irisleabhar Clann Domhnaill. 12 (1991), 75-80.) Is beag a shaoil mi aig am toiseachaidh gum biodh an t-uallach seo orm coig bliadhnaichean roimh dheireadh an fhicheadamh linn. Se rud mdr a bh'ann, ceart gu leor, a bhith a' deasachadh sgnobha idhean a rachadh san aonsreath leabhraichean ri obraichean an da Uilleim eile: an cruinneachadh grinn a rinn Uilleam MacBhatair de Bhardachd Albannach a Leabhar an Deadhain, agus Orain Iain Mhic Fhearchair agus An Clarsair Dall aig Uilleam Mac Mhathain. Ach aig deireadh an latha chan e gnothach gun chrich a bh'ann. Cha b'e 's chan e, agus ruigidh an t-each mall am muileann fhathast. Gu dearbh, chan eil fada ri dhol aige a-nise. Cha bhiodh e doirbh dhomh obrachadh a-mach ann an uairean a thide de na tha ri dheanamh fhathast. Se a' cheist, ge ta, cuin a gheibh sgoilear ann an oilthigh anns an latha a th'ann na h-uairean a thide ud - an deidh meadhon oidhche? Am madainn La na Sabaid? Oidhche na Nollaig no Oidhche na Bliadhn'Uire? Dh'fhas cuisean cho riaslach, ann an saoghal Ard-fhoghlaim air fad, 's tiach urrainn don mhor-chuid againn a bhith cinnteach cuin a bheirsinn na proiseactan pearsanta rannsachaidh againn gu crich.

Chan ann a' sireadh leisgeulan a tha mi: sann a shaoil mi nach bu mhisde dhomh cur air shuilean do dhaoine ciamar a tha cuisean o thainig an creideamh meallta 'nar measg gun tig blath air foghlum agus sgoilearachd fo riaghailtean a bhuineas ri gniomhachas agus cunntasachd. A dh'aindeoin sin uile tha mi a' cumail orm. Tha mi a' cur arm is eideadh air cuid de mo bheachdan ann am paipearan sgoilearail, agus bidh mi fhathast a' faighinn tide airson cur ris an leabhar mhdr nuair a theid each a chadal. Cha leid mi fodha gun spairn.

One of the little puzzles which I have not yet solved to my satisfaction was mentioned in Newsletter No 157 of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh (September 1992), after I had mentioned it to members attending a talk I gave then. Perhaps I may explain it again, in case readers may be able to see a solution. In the so-called 'Red Book of Clanranald', on which I base my forthcoming edition of the Clanranald Histories, the scribe, Niall MacMhuirich, consistently writes a catchword at the foot of each page of the manuscript. That is, he writes in at the end the word that will appear first on the next page. This is a useful aid to concentration when one is copying from another source, and can prevent confusion should leaves subsequently come apart and be in danger of losing their correct sequence. So far, so good. I have also been aware for a good while that there are a number of instances in Niall's text where he writes a word twice in the middle of a page. I never thought much of this at first, since Niall is apt to be careless at times, making false starts which he then corrects. More recently, when I was entering the text into the computer, I noticed that these doubled words seemed to be coming up at regular intervals. In places I could pick up sequences of two or more such doublets with closely equivalent numbers of words between them. That suggests that Niall has been copying from an exemplar with catch­words, and copying them in intermittently. This, if true, is extremely useful evidence for Niall's methods and may even have a bearing on the question of the missing 'real' Red Book. I reckon that the pages of the exemplar must have been a little larger than those of the surviving 'Red Book', or perhaps the writing was a little smaller. At all events, our manuscript is, on my hypothesis, a copy of another, at least with respect to the early history of Clan Ranald and the period of the Lordship of the Isles. But I still wonder a little: why on earth would Niall have thought it was a good idea to copy his exemplar's catchwords into the body of his text? Various ideas have occurred to me, but none is completely satisfactory. Perhaps someone else can come up with the definitive answer. I hope I will not have to fall back on the remark that was made by Standish Hayes O'Grady, in his Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the British Museum, to characterise the aberrations of one particular scribe - namely, that he begged leave to 'doubt that ink was the only liquid available' on the writer's desk as he wrote.

Is mise   Best wishes
Le meas  Yours sincerely
Uilleam MacGill'Iosa  William Gillies

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