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The MacNicol collection, comprising Gaelic songs and other papers collected by the Reverend Donald MacNicol, minister of Lismore, and his son Dugald MacNicol, with some added papers and listings of later owners and users of the collection.

Identifier: MSS.14850-14864

Scope and Contents

A collection of Gaelic songs and associated papers, brought together by the Rev. Donald MacNicol (1735-1802), minister of Lismore, and continued by his son Dugald (b. 1791), an army officer. The Gaelic songs are from a range of periods and include Ossianic verse, waulking songs and songs by contemporaries of the collectors, such as Dugald Buchanan, Donnchadh Bàn Macintyre and Seumas Mac Gille-Sheathanaich (Shaw). The Ossianic verse was published in John Francis Campbell's 'Leabhar na Feinne' (London 1872), and the collection contains notes and listings of its contents made by Campbell. A manuscript copy of MacNicol's 'Miscellaneous observations upon the language & antiquities of the Highlands of Scotland' (published 1779), and Dugald MacNicol's Gaelic journal of 1809-1813 are also part of the collection. There is also some scattered correspondence of MacNicol and of later owners or keepers of the collection.


  • Creation: 1752-ca. 1900 and undated, with most of the material dating from the later 18th and early 19th century.


Language of Materials

The material is mainly in Gaelic, but also contains correspondence and other papers in English as well as some Latin verse.

Conditions Governing Access

Normal access conditions apply.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal reproduction conditions apply, subject to any copyright restrictions.


15 Folders


The collection in its entirety was catalogued as Acc.2152 in John Mackechnie's 'Catalogue of Gaelic manuscripts in selected libraries in Great Britain and Ireland' (1973), vol. 1, pages 325-337.

For a number of decades, until its return in 2023, a part of the collection was missing. As a result, the collection is currently divided into two parts: Acc.2152 and MSS.14850-14864.

Acc.2152 contains the items that had been missing, but can now be consulted again. Following Mackechnie's catalogue, their reference numbers are Acc.2152/4, 6, 9-19, 21, 22, 25, 33, 34, 36, 38, 39, 43, 47, 57-65, 72. These items have been catalogued separately in this catalogue under reference number Acc.2152.

MSS.14850-14864 (catalogued here) are the items that remained in the Library. They were given new reference numbers, as follows:

MS.14850 - Acc.2152/1

MS.14851 - Acc.2152/2

MS.14852 - Acc.2152/3

MS.14853 - Acc.2152/5, 7, 8

MS.14854 - Acc.2152/20

MS.14855 - Acc.2152/23

MS.14856 - Acc.2152/24

MS.14857 - Acc.2152/26-32, 35, 37, 40-42, 44-46, 48-56

MS.14858 - Acc.2152/66-68

MS.14859 - Acc.2152/69-71, 73-74

MS.14860 - Acc.2152/75

MS.14861 - Acc.2152/76

MS.14862 - Acc.2152/77 (part)

MS.14863 - Acc.2152/77 (part)

MS.14864 - Acc.2152/78

Custodial History

The collection remained in the MacNicol family until 1871, when Ludovick Cameron, a son of Donald MacNicol's youngest daughter Alice and Ludovick Cameron, writer in Inverness, lent it to John Francis Campbell of Islay, for whose description of the collection see 'Leabhar na Feinne', pp. xv-xvi. Kept in a metal box, described by Campbell as a 'tin tea chest 10 x 7 x 7 inches', it was placed in the Advocates Library and into the care of the Gaelic scholar Donald Campbell Macpherson, a librarian there. Macpherson assisted Campbell with his research on the collection for his 'Leabhar na Feinne'.

Campbell, whose information came from Ludovick Cameron, mentions that some of the contents of the collection was believed to have 'passed through the hands of the authors of Lays of the Deer Forest' (Charles Edward and John Sobieski Stuart) around the year 1824. He further says: 'In 1836 Mr. Dugald Mac Nicol of the 1st Royals, a son of the collector, had the papers in the West Indies, and made some notes upon them. ... An elder brother of Dugald, who went to Calcutta and Australia, may have had some of his father's papers. But the tin tea chest seemed to contain a fair sample of the collection mentioned in Mac Nicol's published works.'

In 1874 a note by Ludovick Cameron states that the collection was still in the Advocates Library, and that he was happy to leave it in its safe-keeping for the time being. At some later stage the collection seems to have been returned to the family. It was deposited in the National Library of Scotland in 1951.

National Library of Scotland Catalogue of Manuscripts
National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division
Description rules
International Standard for Archival Description - General
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division Repository

Archives and Manuscript Division
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EJ
0131 623 3700