Friday, 3 June 2011

Plague in Mingulay II

Neil Gillies, Niall Mhìcheil Nìll
Chan eil e idir na iongnadh nach do leig cuid de na seanchaidhean Bharrach air dìochuimhne na thachair ann am Miughalaigh. Mu thrì fichead bliadhna as deaghaidh do MhacGilleMhìcheil an naidheachd fhaotainn bho Ruairidh an Rùma mun phlàigh ann am Miughalaigh (anns a’ bhlog mu dheireadh), fhuair Calum Iain MacGilleathain an dearbh rud ann an 1947 bho Niall MacGillÌosa, no mar a theirear ris Niall Mhìcheil Nìll (1887–1965), iasgair agus croitear a bha uaireigin ann an Gearraidh Gadhal faisg air Bàgh a’ Chàisteil, Barraigh. A rèir teist an t-seanchaidh fhèin, bhuineadh a phàrantan do Mhiughalaigh agus phos iad ann an sin. Chuir iad an cùl ri Miughalaigh mun bhliadhna 1912 dar a dh’fhàg na daoine air fad an t-eilean agus chaidh iad a-null a Bharraigh. B’ ann bho athair fhèin agus Ruairidh Ruairidh Mhòir a chuala Niall a chuid sheanchais agus naidheachdan. A rèir Chaluim Iain, rachadh Niall gu taigh Ruairidh Ruairidh Mhòir a h-uile h-oidhche gheamhraidh thar air barrachd na dusan bliadhna gus a sheanchas a chluinntinn agus gur gann a chualadh e an aon naidheachd!

Well, tha naidheachd eile ann an seoachd air a dhèanamh mun àm a bha MacNèill ann am Barraigh, MacNèill Bharraigh mar a bh’ air a ghràdha ris: agus bha daoine a’ fuireach ann a Miughalaigh an uair sin, mar a bha iad as a dheoghaidh; agus trup a bha seoachd bha iad a’ gabhail fadachd nach robh eathair a’ tighinn a-nall à Miughalaigh idir, MacNèill, agus dheònaich e sgoth agus sgiobadh a chur a-null gu ruige Miughalaigh feuch am faiceadh iad gu dè bha ceàrr, agus rinn e seoachd. Fhuair e sgoth agus sgiobadh agus chuireadh a-null a Mhiughalaigh iad agus ràinig iad thall Miughalaigh agus cha robh duine beò ri fhaicinn ann am Miughalaigh. Cha robh duine rompa air creig, ach nuair a chunnaic iad sineachd chuir iad air tìr fear dheth na gillean a bha san sgothaidh, fear Mac a’ Phì, agus dh’iarr iad air a dhol suas feuch am faiceadh e gu dè bha ceàrr nach robh duine ri fhaicinn; agus dh’fhalbh am fear sa suas, agus chaidh e dhan chiad taigh a thachair ris, agus nuair a chaidh e a-staigh cha robh duine beò a bha san taigh nach robh marbh a-staigh. Chaidh e an seo a thaigh eile, agus bha iad sin air an nòs cianda – o thaigh gu taigh gus na chuir e cuairt air a h-uile taigh a bh’ ann a Miughalaigh, is cha robh duine beò ann am Miughalaigh nach robh marbh a-staigh. Nuair a chunnaic e seoachd dh’fhalbh e agus thill e sìos a dh’ ionnsaigh na sgothadh, agus dh’innis e dhaibh mar a bha an grothach, nach robh duine beò ann am Miughalaigh nach robh marbh as na taighean: agus thuirt iad sin ris: (ri leanntainn…)

It comes as no surprise that some of the Barra storytellers did not forget about what had happened in Mingulay. Some sixty years after Alexander Carmichael collected the story from Roderick MacNeil about the plague visiting Mingulay (posted in a previous blog), Calum Iain Maclean recorded the very same story in 1947 from Neil Gillies (1887–1965), styled Niall Mhìcheil Nìll, a crofter fisherman from Garrygall near Castlebay, Barra. According to the storyteller’s own testimony, his parents belonged to Mingulay where they were married. They left the island around 1912 along with everyone else and settled in Barra. Neil heard all his stories and anecdotes from his father and Roderick Mòr MacNeil. According to Calum Maclean, Neil would go to listen to the latter’s storytelling almost every winter’s night for a space of fifteen years and maintained that he hardly ever heard the same tale told twice!

Well, there’s another story here that happened in the time of MacNeil of Barra as he was called: people stayed in Mingulay then just as they did after that; and one of these times they were getting anxious that there was no sign at all of a boat coming over from Mingulay and so MacNeil of Barra was willing enough to send over a boat and crew to Mingulay to try and find out what has gone wrong. This was done. A boat and crew were found and sent over to Mingulay and when they reached Mingulay they found that there was no one alive there. No one was standing before them on the rock [to greet them] and when they saw this they put one of the lads from the boat on land – a MacPhee – and they asked him to go up and to see what was wrong as there was no one to be seen; the lad went up and he entered the first house he encountered and saw that no one was alive in the house: they were all dead. He then went to another house and met with the same sight – from house to house he went until he had been in all the houses in Mingulay; there was not one left alive in Mingulay as they were all dead. When he saw all of this he returned to the boat and told them what he had seen: that no one was left alive in Mingulay – they were all dead and they then said to him: (to be continued…)

Reference:
IFC MS 1029, pp. 413–16, Am Plàigh ann am Miùlaidh.
Image: Neil Gillies.

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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). [© carstenflieger.com]