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Significant Scots
Father Allan MacDonald

@John Lorne Campbell of Canna 

John Lorne Campbell of Canna carried out a great deal of research into the life and  of Father Allan MacDonald. Through various publications he brought the work of Father Allan as a Gaelic scholar, poet and folklorist to the attention of the wider community. In 1954 he published a pamphlet on the life and work of Father Allan (1859 - 1905). The full text of the pamphlet is given below.


FATHER ALLAN MCDONALD was born in 1859 at Fort William in Lochaber, which is in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. He belonged to the Keppoch branch of the Macdonald Clan. He gave signs of a vocation in early youth, and entered Blairs College in Aberdeenshire in 1871. Blairs College in those days was run on very Spartan lines, with plain living, stern discipline and hard work, and Fr Allan was heard to say in later life that the training he received there had the great advantage of making any hardships connected with parochial work in the Hebrides seem luxurious by comparison. At Blairs one of Fr Allan's teachers was Fr James A. Smith, later to be Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who noted early the abilities of his young pupil and encouraged in him an interest in philology and languages which Fr Allan kept up throughout his life. In those days there was no formal teaching of Gaelic at Blairs : Gaelic-speaking boys were given Fr MacEachen's Gaelic Dictionary and a copy of the translation of Imitatio Christi and encouraged to pursue the study of Gaelic in their spare time, such as it was. This was less training than might be desired, but at the same time the education given in the study of Latin and Greek trained their minds to undertake the study of their own language, and many priests educated in this way, like Fr Allan, learned Gaelic well and used it effectively.

From Blairs Fr Allan went to the venerable Scots College at Valladolid in Spain, where he continued and completed his studies in an atmosphere that to him was more congenial than that of Blairs. The main influence on Fr Allan's life at Valladolid was that of the Rector, Monsignor David Macdonald, a man remarkable for piety and learning, who spent nearly forty years of his life at the College and improved it greatly. At Valladolid there were several Highland students and they used to produce a holograph Gaelic magazine, of which at least one copy has been preserved. Fr Allan contributed to this, apparently under several different pseudonyms, for his handwriting appears frequently in the surviving copy. Fr Allan later wrote of Valladolid

Thug sinn greis le chile sa Spinte,
Aite nach bu ghann ar slas,
S bhuain sinn an dearcag fhiona,
S chaisg sinn ar miann le h.-ubhlan rbhuidh;
S chan-eil teagamh nach do dh'fhs sinn
An geurad inntinn mar bu chir dhuinn."

"We spent a while together in Spain, a place where our happiness was not little; we picked grapes and ate our fill of oranges, and, no doubt, we grew in keenness of mind as we should have done."

The friend to whom he refers here was Fr John Mackintosh who was later priest of Bornish in South Uist, near Fr Allan, and was famed for his efforts on behalf of the Uist crofters during the days of the land agitation. He was known locally as " Sagart Mr nan Each".


In 1882 Fr Allan returned from Spain and was ordained at Glasgow Cathedral by Archbishop Eyre. He was offered a teaching post at Blairs, which he refused: and he was then appointed by Bishop Angus Macdonald to the mission at Oban, where he had to minister to a widely scattered population. Here a warm respect and regard grew between Fr Allan and his Bishop, a Gaelic-speaking Highlander like himself, and here and in the countryside around Oban Fr Allan got full opportunity for practising his Gaelic. The only Catholic family then living in the town of Oban itself was that of Donald McLeod, a native of the Isle of Eigg, and from Donald McLeod Fr Allan recovered traditional hymns, some of which were later printed in the hymn book he published in 1893. This was the beginning of an interest in oral tradition to which Fr Allan applied his energies in his spare time for the next seventeen years, taking down the traditional Gaelic oral lore, prayers, hymns, songs, stories, place names, customs and history, whenever he got the chance.


In 1884 Fr Allan was appointed to the mission of Dalibrog in South Uist, then the most populous, as well as the poorest, island in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles. Dalibrog in those days could only be reached by steamer from Oban or Glasgow - a full day's sail in the first case. Here Fr Allan landed in July 1884. His congregation was one living on the very margin of existence. Nearly all the best land in the island had been taken, within the preceding three generations, for big sheep farms, and the people had either been evicted or forced, in many cases, to occupy miserable holdings near the shore with a view to pursuing the kelp or fishing industries, the first of which had long ago failed, while very few of them had enough capital to pursue the fishing. The then owner of South Uist, Lady Gordon Cathcart, was an absentee who is said to have visited the island only once in her life. She was obsessed with the idea that the only way the people could benefit themselves was by emigration, and with that idea fixed in her mind she was very unwilling to spend money on improving conditions in South Uist, feeling that anything she did in that line would have the effect of encouraging the people to stay there, which she did not want them to do.

In her absence the island was, like other such estates, ruled by a tight little oligarchy, composed of her factor or agent, the large farmers, and the parish minister. In bodies connected with local government, the representatives of the Catholics, who formed about 80 per cent. of the population, were carefully kept in the minority.(*1) This did not prevent friendly relations between individuals in many cases, and it is much to the credit of South Uist that at the height of the land controversy, when very strong feelings were aroused on both sides, no violent actions took place.

When Fr Allan arrived in South Uist, this controversy was at its strongest. The Crofters' Commission had visited many places in the Hebrides, including South Uist, during the preceding year, and had taken much evidence on rack-renting, evictions, oppressive estate managements, obligatory sale or barter, inadequate small-holdings, lack of medical services, and so on. Conditions in Uist, where Fr John Mackintosh had made a strong statement to the Commission on behalf of the crofters, were particularly bad. Legislation was expected, and did follow two years later. Meanwhile the people still had no security of tenure, and without it were terrified of taking an independent line, and often even were afraid to support their own representatives in public.

There was also the question of the local schools. South Uist was and is an overwhelmingly Catholic island, but Lady Gordon Cathcart was not a Catholic, and the minority who were running the island and who composed the great majority of the then School and Parochial Boards had systematically refused to select any Catholic teachers for the national schools on the island set up by the Education Act of 1872. Not until 1888 did the Catholic majority in South Uist obtain its rightful representation on the local School Board. In both the land question and the schools question, Fr Allan and his fellow priests had to explain to a Gaelic-speaking population what its rights were, and had to encourage them to overcome fear of eviction and habitual diffidence and to make a stand and demand these rights - which in practice often meant voting against the factor or the big farmers at Parochial or School Board elections - while on the other hand they had to explain to a not always understanding or sympathetic outside world the position and point of view of a Gaelic-speaking Catholic peasant population. It was a difficult task which often demanded heroic patience, tact, and self-restraint, yet Fr Allan carried it out so well that in South Uist his memory is to-day as warmly regarded by Protestants as it is by Catholics.

In spiritual matters there were equally great difficulties to be overcome. The present generation, even in the Isles themselves, can hardly visualise the difficulties involved in the work of a priest in the days before the coming of the motor car, motor boat, the telephone and the telegraph. Fr Allan's parish, about forty square miles, is completely exposed to the wild storms which sweep across the Atlantic:

Sde chorrach ghruamach,
Mar bu dual dhith san Fhaoilleach
Soban geal nam bruach
Ga fhuadach feadh an t-saoghail,
Marcan-sne luaithreach
Na ruaig thar a' chaolais,
Sgrath is sgliot gam fuasgladh
Le luathbheum na gaoithe.

Frasan garbh a tuath
Toirt crathadh air gach stuagh,
Clachan meallain cruaidh
A bheumadh barr nan cluas;
Daoine laithte fuar,
Nach fhaod iad sealltuinn bhuap',
A stigh an oir a' luaith
Gan caibhleachadh.

"Ceann na beinn' ud shuas
Air a shuaineadh san anart,
Bho na mharbhadh leis an fhuachd
Na bha bhuadhannan oirr' an ceangal;
Chaill i gu buileach a tuar,
Thinig suain a' bhis na caraibh,
S chan-eil coltas oirre gluasad,
Mur fuasgail am blths a h-anail."

"Rough, gloomy weather, as is usual in early February; white spindrift off the sandbanks driven everywhere; spray like ashes driven across the Sound; sod and slate loosened by the quick blows of the wind. Fierce squalls from the north shaking every gable, hard hailstones which would cut the top off one's ears, men so chilled with cold that they cannot look outside, huddled indoors at the edge of the ashes. The head of yonder hill above is sheathed in a shroud, since the cold has killed her natural virtues. She has lost her appearance entirely, the sleep of death has come on her, and there is no likelihood of her moving until the warmth of spring unbinds her." (Written on 13th February 1898.)

His parishioners were scattered, some villages being only approached by rough tracks; three hundred or so of his congregation of 2300 lived on the Island of Eriskay, separated from South Uist by half a mile of reef-strewn sea with strong tidal currents. To answer a sick call on Eriskay Fr Allan had to walk six or seven miles, often in the rain, to Eriskay Sound and there make a fire on the shore so that the Eriskay boatmen would know to sail over and fetch him. On one of these crossings he was in danger of being drowned. All the duties which fall on the shoulders of a parish priest in a large, poor, scattered and exposed rural parish were on Fr Allan's shoulders: Sunday work, confessions, instructions, sick calls, the repair of Dalibrog Church, the teaching of the children (in which Fr Allan was particularly interested). The foundation of Dalibrog Hospital, built by the Marquis of Bute, sprang from a suggestion put forward by Fr Allan and Fr Mackintosh.

Fr. Alexander Campbell

When Fr Allan first came to South Uist an old priest, Fr Alexander Campbell, a native of the island, was living in retirement at Dalibrog. Fr Campbell was a mine of information on the traditions of South Uist and it was probably he who interested Fr Allan in them. At any rate from 1887 on, once he was settled in and had mastered the local Gaelic dialect, Fr Allan kept a series of note-books in which he jotted down whatever of interest he heard and had time to record, for instance, when spending nights away from home after sick calls to remote places. In 1889 he printed a little book containing the words of the sung Gaelic Mass, part of which he recovered traditionally and part of which he seems to have translated himself. In 1893 this was reprinted with the addition of many Gaelic hymns. Some of these were composed by known writers who lived before Fr Allan, some were traditional, and others again appear to be his own work or his translations from Latin or English. He was quick to see the immense interest, both religious and secular, of the vast but sometimes ignorantly despised Gaelic oral tradition, of which Uist was then, as it is now, the main storehouse, and his efforts to rescue what he could from the danger of oblivion and to incorporate the traditional religious material into modern devotional literature were worthy of the greatest praise.

Failing health

All his labour, both mental and physical, could have only one effect: within ten years at Dalibrog, Fr Allan had worn out his strength and impaired his constitution. His health broke down: and after a vacation and rest, he was transferred to the Island of Eriskay as its first resident priest. Here he was destined to spend the remaining twelve years of his life, and to have considerably greater opportunity for the pursuit of his literary and folklore researches than hitherto. From some points of view it was unfortunate that at the same time Bishop Angus Macdonald left Oban to become Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and was followed by a successor who, although a man of holy personality, knew no Gaelic and took little, if any, interest in Fr Allan's work in this field.

Fr. George Rigg

In Dalibrog Fr Allan was succeeded by Fr George Rigg, a most promising young priest who died heroically in the fever epidemic of 1897, having caught the infection while looking after a case - an old woman, one of his parishioners, whose neighbours and relations did not dare to enter the house to help her. This incident affected all Uist deeply, and no one more than Fr Allan, who commemorated Fr Rigg in a touching poem, still unpublished, of which four verses are quoted here:

"Bha am pobull-sa truagh dheth
Fill Moire na Buana,
Gur h-obann a fhuair iad 1ireadh;
Bhuail beum a bha cruaidh iad,
L dh'eug an sr-uasal,
L thrig an deagh-bhuachaill' treud' iad.

"Thu shiubhal nad' ige
Chuir buileach gu brn sinn,
Am mullach do threir is t'fheuma;
An sagart glan bidheach,
Ar taic is ar dchas,
Ga fhalach fo'n fhid, b'e m beud e.

Cha tillte le sgrth thu
Bho shaothair do Shlnair,
Is chte gach l nad leum thu
Thoirt slas dha'n fhrdraich
N robh cmhnuidh na plighe,
Tigh brnach gun bhlths, gun chilidh.

"Thu d ghaisgeach nad nar,
Gun neach reachadh cmh riut,
Air faiche na trcair s feum air
Gun d'fhuair thu trom-lenadh,
S bs cruaidh mar bu dein leat,
S breith bhuadhach na glir na irig."

"The congregation was sad for it, on the day of the Assumption (15th August 1897) suddenly they were sorely hurt; a hard blow struck them the day the true noble died, the day the good shepherd of his flock forsook them.

"Your death, in your youth, at the height of your strength and capability, made us all sorrowful; the handsome fine priest, our stay and our hope, concealed beneath the sod, it was a disaster.

"Fear would not deter you from the work of your Saviour, every day you would be seen active; giving consolation to the household where the plague was dwelling, a cold house without warmth or company.

"You were a hero, all alone, without anyone who would go with you on the path of mercy when needed; you were sorely stricken, and earned the martyr's death you desired, and the triumphant judgment of Glory as its recompense."


In 1894 a lady, Miss Goodrich Freer, who was enquiring into the survival of belief in second sight on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research, visited the Outer Hebrides, and apparently then made Fr Allan's acquaintance. She appreciated the interest of the folklore which he had collected and encouraged him to note down more, which he did until he had filled six quarto note-books with material of this kind, the last four being written between 1893 and 1898. Later on Miss Freer was to publish, under her own name, a good deal of the English part of this material in various lectures and articles and finally in her book on the Outer Isles which appeared in 1902. This free use of Fr Allan's material - his help was acknowledged, but there was nothing to show that he really was the collector - aroused the resentment of Fr Allan's friends, particularly of Alexander Carmichael the folklorist and of George Henderson, lecturer in Gaelic at Glasgow University, 1906-1912. The resulting quarrels must have been deeply painful to a person of Fr Allan's sensitive nature and he did little, if any, work on folklore after 1899 until the summer of 1905, the last year of his life, when no fewer than three ladies, two of them Americans, visited Eriskay in search of folksongs. One of these, Miss Amy Murray, later wrote a book on Fr Allan and his island, and could have collaborated most fruitfully with him had he survived, for she had greater ability in taking down the intricate old Gaelic airs than any other transcriber, but even the collection of 100 airs she made on Eriskay in 1905 is now lost, except for a few published examples.


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The inhabitants of Eriskay, which is a small bare island in the Sound of Barra, about four miles long and two broad, were fishermen, descended from evicted inhabitants of Hellisay and South Uist. The population was, and is, entirely Catholic; being fishermen, they were less affected by the land question: the Estate management did not bother with them (except negatively - it refused to assist the building of a jetty there). Fr Allan loved Eriskay, which was thoroughly congenial to him after the contentious politics of South Uist. He settled down there happily, although always in indifferent health. His best known and first published poem is in praise of the island; but it is an unpublished poem of his on the same subject that I would prefer to quote here:

Eirisgeidh Mhic lain ic Sheumais
Nan cnoc riabhach s nam trigh glgheal
S ann a gheibhte na fir threuna
Nach gabh gioraig s muir ag irigh
Mnathan cire fonnmhor feumail,
Gruagaichean a luaidheas eudach,
Sheinneas binn seach ianlaith gige.

Eilean cirdeil cridheil ceutach,
Chaoidh cha chluinnt' ann sgread na Beurla-
Ghidhlig bhriagh s i riamh bu bheus dhuinn,
S trom bha Calum Cille n didh oirr';
Smior na h-uaisle, rgh na Clire,
S math gum foghainn i dhuinn na dhidh-san.

"Eilean ghrinn an fhaithim ghlgheal,
Gilead barr nan stuadh mu t'ideadh;
Gaillionn geamhraidh cha dian beud ort,
S coltach ri Naomh Eaglais D thu,
Creag na dlinn s i do stidh-sa.

Gaoth an earraich crainntidh sideadh,
Bian a' chuain le ruinn ga reubadh,
Cumaidh Micheil mn fo sgith sinn
Saor bho ghbhadh s bho chruaidh-iginn.

"Eilein bhidhich, ln thu dh'ibhneas,
Leug an domhain thu maduinn Chitein,
N drichd na chaorain geala sheudaibh,
Boillsgeadh bristeach nad ghorm ideadh,
Dealbh nan reul air cluain nan speuran.

"Eriskay of Mac lain ic Sheumais (a seventeenth century MacDonald hero), of the speckled knolls and the bright white strands; tis there one finds strong men who are not afraid when the sea rises, and kindly, tuneful, diligent women who sing more sweetly than the birds on the trees.

"A friendly, kindly, graceful island, where never was heard the screech of English - beautiful Gaelic we always used, greatly loved by St Columba, heart of nobility, king of clerics; and well it sufficed us after his time.

Beautiful island of whitest strands, the whiteness of the wave tops around thy edge, winter storm cannot hurt thee, thou art like the Holy Church of God, the everlasting rock is thy foundation.

"When the chill wind of springtime blows, and the surface of the ocean is torn by its darts, St Michael will protect us, and preserve us from danger and difficulty.

Beautiful island, thou art full of happiness, thou are the jewel of the world on a May morning, the dew shining like white diamonds, glittering brokenly on thy green clothing, the picture of the stars on the plain of the heavens."

Fisherman's Mass

Fr Allan obtained special permission from the appropriate department in Rome to say Mass on one of the Eriskay fishing boats every year in the month of May for five years. The fishermen at his request thoroughly cleansed out their boats and gave them the names of Saints. He then gathered them together and blessed them. They cast lots to decide on what boat Mass would be celebrated. An altar with a canopy overhead was erected on the lucky boat, and the others gathered in a circle round it, all gaily festooned and decorated with flags and banners. Some of the flags came from as far away as Hammersmith, others were provided by the fishermen owners. He had the pleasure of celebrating three Masses in this way before his death.

Building of the Eriskay Church

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(c) N.A.Gillies 2002

One of Fr Allan's first objects was to build a suitable church for his people to replace a wretched thatched building, leaky, seatless, and overcrowded, that had done duty for many years. The people joined eagerly in helping him, giving freely of their own labour in quarrying and dressing stone and procuring sand, and in carrying all the material on their backs to the top of the selected site, Cnoc nan Sgrath, which dominates the western side of the island and has a beautiful view looking southward over the Sound of Barra and northward to South Uist.

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The Eriskay fishermen themselves offered to devote the proceeds of one night's fishing towards the cost of the church, and after fervent prayer caught a record catch, worth nearly 200,*2 no small sum in those times. Fr Allan himself wrote and circulated a pamphlet on behalf of the new building and this, coupled with his own growing reputation outside Eriskay, led to many subscriptions being received from sympathisers, some not of the Faith, who came generously to aid the project. Fr Allan sold his MSS to his friend the late Walter Blaikie and devoted the money to the same purpose. With this help the church was finished far sooner than expected, and was solemnly opened on 7th May 1903 by the Bishop of the Diocese, and dedicated to St Michael, patron of the Outer Hebrides. It was a day of great rejoicing on Eriskay.

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Besides this work Fr Allan laboured incessantly for the good of his island parishioners. Fortified by security of tenure at last achieved through the Crofters Act of 1886, the people began to improve and enlarge their small single-roomed thatched cottages under his encouragement. He pleaded the cause of Eriskay with the Congested Districts Board and got the telegraph extended to the island and a road made there. He exerted his influence, successfully, to keep the Eriskay fishermen from getting into debt, with the result that the fishing there was put on a sound financial footing and survived the crisis of the First World War, which was not the case in every Highland community. He often had to act as medical adviser to his people. He shared their poverty, for at the best his income never exceeded 120, and part of that was earmarked to pay interest on money borrowed to complete the new church there. Throughout his life Fr Allan's character was one of modesty, sincerity and unselfish devotion to duty, and it is not surprising that his memory is revered by everyone in Uist, Barra and Eriskay.

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Important collection of Island folklore

His folklore collections, much of which have still to be published, run to hundreds of thousands of words, probably the greatest collection of folklore connected with one definite locality ever made by one person. He enjoyed the friendship and respect of many noted scholars in Scotland and Ireland who did not hesitate to ask him frequently the kind of questions that can only be answered by the man on the spot. He left, amongst other things, a vocabulary of South Uist Gaelic and a short diary in Gaelic, which has been printed in the quarterly magazine Gairm, and many original poems.

Fr Allan was not to survive the opening of the new church on Eriskay by many years. In October 1905 he was prostrated by a severe cold. Medical help was not immediately sought - there was only one doctor for the whole of Uist and Eriskay - and this developed into acute pneumonia from which, with his old cardiac trouble, he died. He was only forty-six at the time of his death but he had done more in his lifetime than most who reach the allotted span. In his own words:

"Thig am bs oirnn nuair nach saoil sinn,
Fear gun eismeal, aois no ige,
Bochd no beairteach ar cor saogh'lta,
Chan-eil saod dol as bho thrachd.

Bitheamaid nar faicill daonnan,
Cha tug Dia dhuinn aont' dhe'n bheatha -
N am duinn dol gu tmh na h-oidhche
Chan-eil cinnt gum faic sinn latha.

Ionad-bhis co e dha'n aithne?
Muigh air aineol no measg chirdean,
N e dol sos an craos na mara,
No bs leapa bhios an dn duinn?

"Bs le d' ghrsan bhith mu m' thimchioll
S e mo ghlaodh ri Rgh na Cathrach,
Mcheal mn aig uair mo thriall-sa
Bhith gam dhon bho nimh na nathrach.

"Iosa, na dian mise dhobairt,
S daor a dhol thu air mo cheannach,
Air sgath rnaigh Moire mne,
Thug dhut bainne cch ad leanabh.

Iosa, Mhoire, agus Ioseiph
Dhuibhse tha mi tairgse m'anam;
Na cur cl rium, ach dian trcair,
Tha mo dhchas nad bhs fala."

"Death comes to us unexpected, independent, young or aged; though our state be poor or wealthy, his pursuit we cannot evade.

Let us be watchful always, God has not given us a lease of life ; when we go to rest at night we cannot be sure we will see the day.

"Who can tell his place of dying? away abroad or amongst friends ; is it to be engulfed by the waves or a death in bed that is in store for us

"A death with thy graces around me is my cry to the King of Heaven; may St Michael at the hour of my departure protect me from the serpent's poison.

"Jesus, do not Thou refuse me, dearly Thou paid'st to redeem me, for the sake of the prayer of Sweet Mary who nursed Thee when Thou wast a babe.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to you I offer my soul; turn Thou not from me but have mercy, my hope is in Thy crucifixion."

R.I.P. 1905

Lone is the Isle where our hero priest slumbers,
Wild are the waves that encompass its shore
Broken the hearts of the faithful it numbers -
Peace to his ashes, Loved Allan's no more."

Cold now the Autumn blasts come from the ocean,
Black now the land that the Reaper hath mown;
Death's cruel hand stills a heart of devotion,
Harvesting angels have made him their own.

His was the hearth where the poor found a corner,
His was the heart that could lighten their cares,
His was the tongue that could silence the scorner,
His were the gifts bringing credit to " Blairs ".

Fearless he sailed o'er the tempest-tossed billows,
(Child of the tempest and sea-beaten strand)
Angel of comfort, to smoothen the pillows
Of sick ones departing to God's better land.

Shades of Iona - thy light hath not vanished,
Saintly Columba keeps vigil and guard;
Tyrants thro' envy thy true servants banished
God's " one true Faith " still remained their reward.

Caritas Christi ", O heavenly motto
Taught from the Cross on sad Calvary's hill,
Born mid the snowdrifts of Bethlehem's Grotto,
Thank God Love's lesson's in Eriskay still.




Eilean na h-Oige (Isle of Youth, a poem in praise of Eriskay), published in Am Bolg Solair,p.21 (1907); Brdachd Ghidhlig, p. 1.
Biodh an Trianaid ga moladh (Let the Trinity be praised), Christmas hymn printed in St Peter's College Magazine, December 1951, with translation by J. L. C.
S i Moire tha truagh (Sad is Mary), Christmas hymn printed in the Mercat Cross, December 1952, with translation by J. L. C.
Cli Dhia sna flathas (Fame to God in Heaven), Christmas hymn printed in the Mercat Cross, December 1953, with translation by J. L. C.
Leabhar-Latha, Gaelic Diary for March 1898, printed with illustrations in the quarterly magazine Gairm in 1952 and 1953.
Eirisgeidh Mhic lain ic Sheumais (poem on Eriskay, quoted in part here) in Gairm, Spring number, 1954.
Dht Polat gu bs Thu (Pilate condemned Thee), a Passiontide poem, in the Glasgow Observer, 16th April 1954.

Broadcast Play

The play An Gaisgeach fo Uidheam Ritich by Fr Allan was broadcast in 1952. It has not yet been printed.



An Sthein Ruadh (The Red Fairy Mound), iii, 77.
Calum Cille agus Dobhran a bhrthair (Calum Cille and Dobhran his brother), V, 103.
Tarbh mr na h-Iorbhaidh (The Great Bull of Norway), V, 259.

Pobairean Smearcleit (The Pipers of Smercleit), V, 345.
Cluich na Cloinne (Children's Game), vii, 371.
Thugainn a dh'iomain (Come to Drive), viii, i66.


Sgialachd Gharaidh, i, 215.
Boban Saor, i, 316.
Fionn Mac Cumhail, ii, 55.


Gaelic Hymns

Laoidhean Caitliceach air son Chloinne (Catholic Hymns for Children), 1889, reprinted 1936.
Comh-Chruinneachadh de Laoidhean Spioradail, 1893 (the same greatly extended). These hymns are by various authors. Some are by Fr Allan himself and others were translated by him.


The Norsemen in Fenian Tales (Saga Book of the Viking Club, ~ 416).
Appeal for Eriskay Church (Leaflet printed in 1902).
Letter to Alexander Carmichael on Michaelmas Customs (Carmina Gadelica, 111, 140).

Letter to Folklore, xiv, 87.


Most of the translations in the Collection of Gaelic Hymns published in 1889 and 1893 are by Fr Allan. His translation of the hymn "O Sacred Heart, our home lies deep in thee" was printed in the Mercat Cross of August 1952. His translation of the Compline Service into Gaelic has not yet been printed.


1. Miss Goodrich Freer

Miss Freer apparently met Fr Allan in 1894, when she was conducting an inquiry into the survival of belief in second sight in the Highlands and Islands on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research. She encouraged Fr Allan to continue collecting, and had free access to his note-books, which she utilised extensively in articles and lectures, published under her own name with acknowledgment of Fr Allan's assistance. It can be taken, however, that all the folklore relating to Uist, Eriskay, Barra and Benbecula in these publications was taken directly from Fr Allan's note-books, Miss Freer's part being limited to condensation and arrangement.
Her publications were
The Norsemen in the Hebrides, Saga Book of the Viking Club, read 26th November 1897.
Christian Legends of the Hebrides, Contemporary Review, 1898, p. 390.
The Powers of Evil in the Outer Hebrides, Folklore, 1899, p. 259.
Eriskay and Prince Charles, Blackwood's Magazine, 1901, p. 232.
Footprints of the Past from the Outer Hebrides (lecture to the Gaelic Society of Glasgow, November 1901).
Second Sight in the Hebrides (lecture to the Scottish Society of Literature and Art, 15th November 1901).
More Folklore from the Hebrides, Folklore, 1902, p. 29.
The Outer Isles, her book published in 1902, contains much material previously used in these articles and lectures.

2. Dr George Henderson

The late Rev. Dr George Henderson, lecturer in Celtic at Glasgow University, was a friend and contemporary of Fr Allan, and shared his interest in the Gaelic oral tradition, in search of which he visited the Outer Hebrides, a thing no holder of any Celtic Professorship or lectureship in Scotland was to do again for many years. The following publications of Dr Henderson contain material contributed by Fr Allan :
Leabhar nan Gleann (The Book of the Glens), published in 1898, contains at least fourteen poems collected by Fr Allan, including some of those by the Rev. Angus MacDonald, parish priest of Barra from 1805 to 1825; Ronald MacDonald, Smercleit, South Uist; and John Campbell, South Lochboisdale, South Uist. Some of Fr Angus MacDonald's poems were reprinted by Colm O Lochlainn, in Deoch-Slinte nan Gillean.

Dr Henderson printed in the Celtic Review, ii, 263 et seq. " The Fionn Saga", some of which had been taken down by himself, but the greater part by Fr Allan, from Alasdair Ruadh Johnston, Eriskay, in 1893.
Dr Henderson also utilised material provided by Fr Allan in his books, The Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland (1910) and Survivals in Belief among the Celts (1911).

3. Alexander Carmichael

In the preface to the first volume of Carmina Gadelica, p. xxxv, the late Alexander Carmichael stated that he had had the loan of a collection of religious folklore made by Fr Allan, which he had been unable to use as he had so much material of his own. This disclaimer was supported by Fr Allan's letter to Folklore, xiv, 87, dated 7th January 1903, in reply to Miss Goodrich Freer's assertion that he had been a common source of information both for herself and for Alexander Carmichael, a remark which Carmichael had resented.

Nevertheless it is a fact that Fr Allan's MS. collections of folklore were frequently lent to Carmichael, whose practice seems to have been to dovetail different versions of traditional poems, etc., in order to produce the best possible literary version, and who used frequently to consult Fr Allan about variant readings and the meanings of particular words. The third volume of Carmina Gadelica reproduces part of a letter from Fr Allan on Michaelmas customs (p. 140). The fourth volume contains some anecdotes which bear a very close resemblance to material in Fr Allan's papers.

Alexander Carmichael, whose biography should certainly be written, collected Gaelic folklore on a remarkable scale and over a long period of years. He was helped by many friends and correspondents, and his papers could well form the basis of a Scottish National Folklore Archive.

4. William MacKenzie

The late William Mackenzie, secretary of the Crofters' Commission, was a folklorist who has not altogether received the recognition his work merits. He published a long paper on " Gaelic Incantations, Charms and Blessings of the Hebrides" in the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, xxviii, 97, read to the Society on 23rd March 1892, in which he acknowledges much indebtedness to Fr Allan for information. The list he gives of the signs used by seers in divination, the poem Duan an Dmhnaich,'' Sloinneadh Brighde (St Brigit's Genealogy),the Origin of the Fairies, and the hymn " Dia bhith timchioll air an sgothaidh"
included in this paper all come from Fr Allan's collections.

5. Amy Murray

Amy Murray visited Eriskay in the summer of 1905 and made a considerable collection of folk tunes there with the help of Fr Allan. The bulk of this collection has unfortunately been lost, which is regrettable as she was a competent and sensitive transcriber of folk music. A number of tunes are printed in the Celtic Review, ii, 201, 314, and also in her book Fr Allan's Island, which was printed in America in 1914 and in Scotland in 1920. This book contains a good deal of information about Fr Allan and a number of anecdotes contributed by him.

6. Mrs Kennedy Fraser

Mrs Kennedy Fraser was indebted to Fr Allan for help on the occasion of her first visit to Eriskay, which took place in the summer of 1905. See A Life of Song (1929), pp. 112, 118, 119 and 130. She records Fr Allan's sound judgment in disapproving of "the graceless*3 versions of many (Gaelic) tunes as they appear in print".

7. Evelyn Benedict

Miss Benedict, an American folksong collector, but not as capable a transcriber as Amy Murray or Mrs Kennedy Fraser, also visited Eriskay in the summer of 1905, and was indebted to Fr Allan for help in her researches.

8. Frederic Breton

Frederic Breton published in 1893 an improbable two-volume novel called Heroine in Homespun, the scene of which is set in South Uist. Fr Allan appears in this novel as Fr MacCrimmon" and some of the folklore collected by him is used to give the story an appearance of local colour. See Scots Magazine, June 1952, p. 234.

9. Neil Munro

Neil Munro knew and admired Fr Allan and portrayed him as "Fr Ludovic" in his novel Children of the Tempest.


By Rev. A. Mackintosh: Obituary in Catholic Directory of 1906.
By Neil Munro: The Brave Days, p. 302.
By Rev. Dr George Henderson: Celtic Review, ii, 263.
By Gilleasbuig mac Dhmhnaill mhic Eoghain': Guth na .Bliadhna, vol. ii, autumn number. (In Gaelic.)
By Dom Odo Blundell, O.S.B., F.S.A. (SCOT.): Catholic Highlands of Scotland, ii, 55 (quotes obituary in Catholic Directory).
By "Alasdair Mr" (John N. MacLeod): Stornoway Gazette, 27th October, 3rd, 10th and 17th November 1933. (In Gaelic.)
Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, iv, 237 (review of Gaelic hymn book).
Celtic Monthly, xiv, 8 (obituary).
Celtic Review, v, 192 (notice of proposed memorial).
Oban Times, May 1903 (opening of Eriskay church); 14th October 1905 (obituary); 21st October 1905 (tribute by Neil Munro, and report of funeral); October 1909 (unveiling of memorial on Eriskay).

*1 See statement of Rt. Rev. Bishop Angus Macdonald, D.D., Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, to the Crofters' Commission, Appendix to the Report, p. 97.
*2 It has been said that a single night's fishing brought in about 300 for the church on Eriskay, but the building fund accounts which Fr Allan kept, and which have been preserved, show that on 10th January 1902 there were sums of 102, 5s., 180 and 20 on deposit. Which of these corresponded to the night's fishing is not stated, but it may have been the second figure.
*3 i.e.. lacking in the grace-notes used by good folk-singers.

Contact with any comments, suggestions or just to say hello!
John A. Galbraith

Songs of the Hebrides
Collected mainly in the Western Isles of Scotland by

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