THERE are several Gairloch men now living who essay
the poetic vein in their own language.
One of them is Alexander
Mackenzie, of Oban, or Opinan, near Mellon Udrigil. He is called "the
bard' and has composed, it is said, some good songs. He lives the
ordinary life of a crofter.
Perhaps the best known of living Gairloch bards is
Duncan Mackenzie, the Kenlochewe bard. He was born in 1831, on the
Culinellan farm near Kenlochewe. His father Hector was a weaver at
Kenlochewe, and composed some poems, but his muse was neither so prolific
nor so notable as that of his son. Duncan's mother was of the Loch Carron
Mackenzies, some of whom were also poets. Duncan Mackenzie was never at
school, and only learned to read Gaelic after attaining manhood. He had a
brother named Malcolm, who was a piper, and died some years ago. The bard
displayed his talents at an early age, for he composed several pieces when
only eleven years old. The first which attracted public attention to his
talents as a bard was a dialogue in verse between himself and Fionnla
Leith, which he composed at the age of fifteen. The bard is a -crofter at
Kenlochewe. Like his father he is a good weaver; at times he has also
proved himself an efficient shoemaker, mason, and carpenter. He is not a
great singer, but he sometimes, though rarely, renders his own songs in a
low voice but with expression. He has composed a large number of songs. A
dozen of them have been published by Mr Alexander Mackenzie, under the
auspices of the Gaelic Society of Inverness. Many of his pieces are
forgotten by himself, though remembered by his neighbours. He has over
fifty in manuscript. He excels in satire, and a vein of sometimes rather
strong humour pervades his poems. He is a tall slender man, with plenty of
beard, and still frequently dons the kilt.
The following poem was composed by the Kenlochewe
bard on the marriage of Sir Kenneth S. Mackenzie, Bart, of Gairloch.
Appended is an English version of the song which Professor Blackie has
kindly made for this book. It is a close translation:—
Alexander Cameron, who may be called "the Tournaig bard," is a native of
Inverasdale, on the west side of Loch Ewe. He was born about 1848. He has
been manager of Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie's farm at Tournaig for some sixteen
years, and has been on the Inver-ewe estate since he was a boy of fifteen.
He is the author of a number of songs and poems of considerable merit.
Perhaps the best of them is a poem in twenty verses in praise of Tournaig.
The song in its original Gaelic appeared in the Northern Chronicle in
1883. I have had the pleasure of hearing Alexander Cameron sing several of
his own songs, and can testify to their graceful intonation. He is tall,
and rather slenderly built, and has the courteous manner of a true
Alexander Bain, who is a crofter, thatcher, and dyker at Lonmor, was born
about 1849. He has composed a number of excellent poems and songs in his
native tongue. He is a much-respected and very worthy man, and is a
sergeant in the Gairloch volunteers. He is of middle height and good
Alexander Bain has composed the following elegy on the late well-known Dr
Kennedy of Dingwall, who died in 1884, and who might be termed the bishop
of the Free Church in the north-west Highlands. The doctor's fervid
eloquence was often to be heard during sacramental services in the
Leabaidh na Baine at Gairloch. Appended is an English rendering of the
elegy, mainly contributed by Mr Good :—