A famous Gaelic song Ailein Duinn a shiùbhlainn leat (Brown-haired Allan, I would go with you) seems to have captured Alexander Carmichael’s imagination for he recorded around a half a dozen versions of it. One particular reciter from whom he got at least one version of this song was Kate Urquhart (1830–1927), Taransay, wife of Donald MacKinnon (the very same man who had guided Carmichael around the island). The following song narrative behind this tragic accident compares favourably with other versions that are scattered throughout many Gaelic journals and song anthologies. This note is also interspersed with some Campbell family history as, presumably, Anne Campbell, styled Annag nic Dhòmhnaill ’ic Iain Òig, was of this stock:
This song comp[osed] by An[n]a ni[c] Dho[mh]n[u]i[l]l ic Iain
Oig Chaimbeul. Iain Sheilebost was
the Duke of Argyle son cal[led] who came to Har[ris].
It was tho[ugh]t he and MacLeoids son kil[le]d a
young man at col[lege] & they ran here. He
was heir to the Duke his fath[er], but he nev[er]
went back. He went fr[om] Seilebost to Scapa
fr[om] which the Campbells of Scalpa came
The Camp[bells] of Strannd de[scended] fr[om] one
of the Barra breac fam[il]y who came to see
Iain Sheil[ebost] See here. Iain Sheile[bost]
came to Harris ab[ou]t 200 y[ea]rs ago.
The composer of the song was eng[aged] to a ship
Capt[ain] & had been drown[e]d near Scalpa or else
where. When she died soon after of a broken
heart she was to be bur[ied] at Rodail. On the
way thither the funeral boat kept close to land
The one cont[aining] the boy was furth[est] out & a storm
came which sever[ed] it fr[om] the rest They gave them
up for lost & set crainn which fell upon a dying
man An old man said We sill not throw
out the living till we throw out the dead.
They then threw out the corpse when it was
washed in again. They then took out the foot
end and all the body to slid[e] out when it w[en]t
to the bot[tom] & im[mediately] a dead calm en[sued] It was Miss
Camp[bell] own req[uest] that she sh[ou]ld be bur[ied] near
the place where he lover had been lost. She
was the dau[gh]t[er] of Don[ald] Camp[bell] who entertain[ed]
CW 116, fos. 2v–3r.
Carmina Gadelica, ii, p. 282.
Gillies, Anne Lorne, Gaelic Songs of Scotland (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2006), pp. 50–53.
Image: Scalpay, Harris © Copyright David Wake and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.