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Papers obtained by William Forbes Skene from the Reverend Mackintosh MacKay of Laggan (1800-1873).

Identifier: Adv.MS.73.1.14

Scope and Contents

Mackintosh MacKay was a native of the Reay Country, the son of Captain Alexander MacKay of Duard Beg. In 1828 William Forbes Skene, then nineteen, was sent by his father, at Sir Walter Scott’s recommendation, to study Gaelic with him at Laggan. MacKay had then just finished his work on the Highland Society of Scotland’s Dictionary.

The contents are as follows.

(i) (John Mackechnie, number 1). A note recording the return of Adv.MS.72.1.33, pages 41-42, formerly here, to its proper place. (Folio 1.)

(ii) (Donald Mackinnon/John Mackechnie, number 2). Ossianic verse headed “Copy, Sir James Grant’s MS”. This may be Sir James Grant of Grant (1738-1811), or possibly in error for James Grant of Corriemony, Advocate (1743-1835; see Adv.MS.72.2.9). The original is unknown, but it was clearly related to (though not directly derived from) the MacMurchy manuscript Adv.MS.73.2.2. Mackintosh MacKay’s hand. Watermarked 1821. (Folios 2-15.)

(iii) Cuchulainn and Laoighre. “Goirt leam an ghaoth tre ‘m chneas cuana”, 15 quatrains + introduction. Cf. Adv.MS.73.2.2 (a), page 103, whence printed in ‘Reliquiae Celticae’, volume 2, page 360. (Folio 3 recto.)

(iv) Eimhir. ‘Och an lamh so och an lamh’, 13 quatrains + introduction. Cf. Adv.MS.73.2.2 (a), page 105, whence printed in ‘Reliquiae Celticae’, volume 2, page 362. (Middle of folio 4 verso.)

(v) Conall Cearnach. ‘Cuchulain bu shoieabh gean’, 15 quatrains. Cf. Adv.MS.73.2.2 (a), page 108, whence printed in ‘Reliquiae Celticae’, volume 2, page 364. (Middle of folio 6 recto.)

(vi) Eimhir. ‘Chonail cia shealbhidh na cinn’, 31 quatrains. Cf. Adv.MS.73.2.2 (a), page 111, whence printed in ‘Reliquiae Celticae’, volume 2, page 365. (Folio 8 recto.)

(vii) ‘A lamh fhoineach air is oighre’, 21 stanzas. “Dan Mhic Dhiarmaid. Descended from Arthur Mór Mac Mortaugh”. Cf. Adv.MS.73.2.2 (a), page 39, whence printed in ‘Reliquiae Celticae’, volume 2, page 326. (Middle of folio 11 recto.)

(viii) ‘Taogh a bhean a bhios maith’, 7 quatrains. ‘Moladh; no taogha nam Ban’. (Folio 13 verso, line 2.)

(ix) (Donald Mackinnon/John Mackechnie, number 3). Fair copy of above, with English translation on opposite page as far as stanza 4 of ‘Dan Mhic Dhiarmaid’. Acephalous and incomplete due to loss of two outer sheets (4 folios): begins at translation of quatrain 8 of “Goirt leam an ghaoth tre ‘m chneas cuana” and ends at quatrain 3 of ‘Taogh a bhean a bhios maith’. Mackintosh MacKay’s hand. (Folios 16-25.)

(x) (Donald Mackinnon/John Mackechnie, number 4). Gaelic translation by Hugh MacKay of Skerray, Sutherland, of Isaac Watts’ ‘Divine Songs attempted in Easy Language for the use of children’. Hugh MacKay died in April 1816 while a 3rd-year student at Aberdeen (cf. Angus MacKay, ‘Book of MacKay’, page 465). Watermarked 1812. Holograph? (Folios 26-41.)

(xi) (Donald Mackinnon/John Mackechnie, number 5.) Interleaved proof copy of 'Fingal', Book I, a retranslation into English from James Macpherson’s ‘originals’, or, as the title has it, ‘A new translation from the original Gaelic’. By Robert MacFarlan, Master of Arts, schoolmaster at Walthamstow. Watermarked 1801. Titled, in Sir John Sinclair’s hand, ‘Fingall / With The Corrections of George Sinclair Esqr’; ‘George Sinclair Esqr’ is deleted and ‘The Revd Dr Ross’ substituted. Most of the many adverse comments and corrections are indeed by the Reverend Thomas Ross, later of Lochbroom. The work was never published under MacFarlan’s name, as he was struck by a coach and killed in London in 1804. As revised by Ross it was printed, under the latter’s name, facing Macpherson’s original English version and with notes by Ross, in Sir John Sinclair’s ‘Dissertation on the Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian’, prefaced to volume 1 of ‘The Poems of Ossian in the original Gaelic’ (London, 1807). See Adv.MSS.73.4.1-73.4.3. (Folios 42-67.)

(xii) (Donald Mackinnon/John Mackechnie, number 6.) Sermons and prayers in anonymous Roman hand of late 17th century. It should be noted that, despite the probable Sutherland origin of the manuscript, it is clear from the orthography that these are not the work of the Reverend John Mackay of Lairg, whose sermons are printed in ‘Scottish Gaelic Studies’, volume 9, pages 176-202. Watermark appears to be ‘fleur-de-lis’ of type resembling some found on English and French papers of last quarter of 17th century. (Folios 68-91.)

(xiii) Prayer beginning ‘O Thiearna agus o Dhe Glo[rmhair] ata uile chochiug[ht] uile lersanach’. (Folio 68 recto.)

(xiv) Prayer beginning ‘O Thighearna Is Tussa an Tighearna, an Tighearna trocaireach agus grasmhul’. (Folio 69 recto.)

(xv) Sermon beginning “She Daibhi Righ Israel scriobh ‘n Psaallim sho, mar chaodis faicsin o Thidil ‘n Psallim”. On Psalm CXXII. (Folio 70 recto.)

(xvi) Prayer beginning ‘O Thierna agus Dhia glormhair Biobhuan agus uile bheanniught’. (Folio 77 recto.)

(xvii) ‘Math: 25, 1-13’. Sermon beginning ‘She Ni aright va air S: B. cuir roimh fein, neighs va i ar an Taomhal Sho peccaraibh filtin o drochliabh’. (Folio 79 recto.)

(xviii) ‘Ps: 119-1-’. Sermon beginning “Cha neul Kindachsi smbi hagguin có scriobh an Tallm sho”. On Psalm CXIX: 1-16. (Folio 86 recto.)

(xix) (Donald Mackinnon/John Mackechnie, number 7). Headed ‘Anecdotes’. Mackintosh MacKay’s hand. Watermarked 1826. (Folios 92-99.)

(xx) Accounts in English of (a) Blàr Léine, (b) an incident at a Cameron funeral (c) the traditional method of dealing with a changeling, (d) a prophecy regarding Glengarry, (e) Iain Abrach, (f) a Sutherlandshire character. (Folio 92 recto.)

(xxi) “Thainig sgeula o ‘n armailt”, 5 stanzas. Cf. folio 123. (Folio 95 verso.)

(xxii) Blank. (Folios 96-99.)

(xxiii) (Donald Mackinnon/John Mackechnie, number 8). Inventories of papers left by Donald Gregory at his death in 1836. (Folios 100-111.)

(xxiv) (John Mackechnie, number 8). Copy letter of William Forbes Skene (as interim Secretary of Iona Club) to John Gregory, 12 November 1836, communicating the Club’s terms for purchase of Donald Gregory’s papers. With subscribed conditional acceptance and Skene’s note of agreement. (Folios 112-113.)

(xxv) (John Mackechnie, number 9). “Remarks on Lieut. Campbell’s Pamphlet on Ossian”. This refers to Lieutenant Donald Campbell’s ‘Essay on the authenticity of Ossian’s poems’. Mackintosh MacKay’s hand. Watermarked 1822. (Folios 114-121.)

(xxvi) Blank. (Folios 115-121.)

(xxvii) (John Mackechnie, number 10). Gaelic inscription (the composition of Dr Donald Maclean, Ardnamurchan) on the monument to the Raising of the Standard at Glenfinnan, erected 1815. Mackintosh MacKay’s hand. Watermarked 1817. (Folio 122.)

(xxviii) (John Mackechnie, number 11). “Thainig sgeula o ‘n armailt”, 11 stanzas. On battle of Mulroy. A reference is given to Patrick Turner’s ‘Comhchruinneacha’ (1813), page 143, but this is an independent version. Mackintosh MacKay’s hand. Watermarked 1827. (Folio 123.)

(xxix) ‘Nach tursach fir Alba uile’, 32 stanzas. ‘Oran na Brataichean’. Elegy on Hstean mac Aoidh ‘ic Dhomhnaill, chief of MacKay (died 1614). The banners referred to are those of six septs: Sliochd Eoin Abraich, Sliochd Uilleam mhic Ruairi, Sliochd Eoin Mhoir, Siol Thomais, Sliochd a’ Chruinfhear, Sliochd Eoin ‘ic Huistean (stanzas 17-22). Hand anonymous. At folio 127 verso are jottings in MacKay’s hand dated Keoldale, 5 July 1824, with the name William Macintyre and sketches. Watermarked 1823. (Folios 124-127.)

(xxx) (John Mackechnie, number 13). ‘Thainig Dubh neul air na speuraibh’, 12 lines. Elegy, apparently on Lachlan MacPherson of Cluny (died 1746). Mackintosh MacKay’s hand. (Folio 128.)

(xxxi) (Donald Mackinnon, number 7; John Mackechnie, number 14). A witness’s statement concerning “Call Ghàig”, the Badenoch avalanche disaster of December 1799. Incomplete. Mackintosh MacKay’s hand. (Folios 129-132.)


  • Creation: 17th century-19th century.

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132 Leaves

Language of Materials

Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic


132 folios.

Custodial History

Formerly Gaelic MS.CIX.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented, 1925, by the Faculty of Advocates to the nation on the foundation of the National Library of Scotland.


The manuscripts have been previously catalogued in: John Mackechnie, ‘Catalogue of Gaelic manuscripts in selected libraries in Great Britain and Ireland’ (Boston, 1973), page 272, and Donald Mackinnon, “Descriptive catalogue of Gaelic manuscripts in the Advocates' library, Edinburgh, and elsewhere in Scotland” (Edinburgh, 1912), page 272 (Skene MS. A 5: XVII. I. 5. Portfolio A).

Also in F.R.192, ‘Scroll Catalogue of the Gaelic Manuscripts in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates, compiled in 1861 by W. F. Skene’, folio 88.

Anonymous [Derick Thomson?]. "The Reverend John Mackay’s Gaelic sermons", in ‘Scottish Gaelic Studies’, volume 9 (Aberdeen, 1962), pages 176-202.

Campbell, Donald (Lieutenant). "Essay on the authenticity of Ossian’s poems" (Ayr, 1825.)

MacKay, Angus. ‘Book of MacKay’ (Edinburgh, 1906).

‘Reliquiae Celticae, texts papers and studies in Gaelic literature and philology left by the late Reverend Alexander Cameron, L.L.D.’, volume 2, ‘Poetry, History, and Philology’ (Inverness, 1894), edited by Alexander Macbain, and the Reverend John Kennedy.

Sinclair, John, Sir. ‘The Poems of Ossian in the original Gaelic’ (London, 1807).

Turner, Patrick. “Comhchruinneacha do dh’órain taghta, Gháidhealach nach robh riamh roimhe cló-bhuailte gus a nis, air an tional o mheodhair, air feadh gaidhealtachd a’s eileine na h-Alba” (Dunedin, 1813.)

Watts, Isaac. ‘Divine songs attempted in easy language for the use of children’ (London, 1715.)
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