Friday 21 January 2011

St Columba, St Moluag and Oran

Now and again when the opportunity arose Alexander Carmichael would make periodic visits to his native island. Such visits would have allowed the young exciseman not only to reconnect with the place of his birth but also afforded him the opportunity to pick up some of the local lore from the older inhabitants. Here, for example, is something which Carmichael picked up from Duncan Carmichael (fl. 1870) on 2 September 1870 while they travelled by boat from Oban to Lismore. It reflects the tenacity and sheer opportunism of Carmichael’s curiosity and of a collector who would be loath to miss any chance that came by his way to get something down on paper, a habit that had already stood him in good stead and which would continue to do so in the remaining years of his collecting career. Both these traditions have been recorded elsewhere but it must have been satisfying for Alexander Carmichael to have got them from a fellow islander, who, given their shared surnames, might have been related to him:

Mr Duncan Carmichael
in the boat who told me Calumcille
Maoluag and Ordhean were brothers
M[aoluag] & C[alumchille] were making for Lismore
& each try[ing] who sh[ou]ld be ashore first M[aoluag]
put his finger on the tobht
& cut it off and when near
shore threw it ashore say[ing] Tha m
fhuil us m fheoil eir tir agus
s lioms an t eilean & then Maol[uag] got Lismore
& Cal[umchille] went to Iona (Ithona).
Lismore got its name from having
been a garden for Macdonald of the Isles,
who had tai[gh] eir le[th] Alaba (Baile ’s le[th] Alaba?)
All the sur[rounding] country was then a wilderness.
Orran [sic] was bur[ied] alive & on the 4 day
Col[m]kill[e] open[ed] his grave to see if he was still
alive – which he was. Cal[umcille] asked him
how he felt during his three days in the
grave. Oran rep[lied] that Ifrin[n] was not so
bad as aledg[ed] whereupon Cal[umcille] said Uir eir
eir suil Odhrain mur la[bh]uir e tuille
cob[h]air[idh] when the earth was shovelled back
upon him again Col[mcille] fear[ed] that such
lang[uage] com[in]g fr[om] Or[an] might injure[?] the com[passion?]
he had at heart.

CW107, fols. 5r–5v
Carmichael, Alexander, ‘The Barons of Bachuill’, The Celtic Review, vol. V (1908–09), pp. 356–75
McDonald, Fr Allan, ‘Calum-Cille agus Dobhran a Bhrathair’, The Celtic Review, vol. V (1908–09), pp. 107–09.
St Moluag’s Cathedral, the Isle of Lismore

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]