Notes on Gaelic Titles
Cumha Taoitear Chlann Dòmhnaill Cumha Tuitear Chlann Domhnuill / Lament for the Macdonald’s Tutor K2; Failte Teter McDon[al]d SC. Lament for the Tutor of Clan Donald. In this context taoitear implies not teacher or tutor but a senior relative administering affairs when the titular head of the clan is unable to do so because he too young or incapacitated. The individual commemorated here is William MacDonald of Aird in Trotternish, Skye (d. 1730). He was a veteran of Killiecrankie (1689) and led the clan in the 1720s during the minority of his nephew, Sir Alexander MacDonald (J. G. Gibson, Old and New World Highland Bagpiping (2002) pp. 136–8). James Boswell recorded the following memory while sailing with Sir Alexander MacDonald’s factor, Allan MacDonald of Kingsburgh, on 13 September 1773: “The old tutor of Macdonald always eat [= ate] fish with his fingers, alleging that a knife and fork gave it a bad taste” (The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 1785, p. 246).
Tarraing a-mach bàta Mhic Leòid Tharrin Mach bhat Mhic Cload C2. Haul out MacLeod’s boat – out to sea or out of the water? Both toir a-mach and tarraing a-mach are ambiguous without further context. It is conceivable that a distinction can be made between tarraing/thoir a-mach and tarraing/thoir ás, where the first would refer to launching, the second to beaching. Assuming that Tarraing a-mach bàta Mhic Leòid is or was the first line of a song, and that the song must therefore be about a voyage, it probably means ‘launch’ in this case. For beaching, one might expect Thoir/Slaod gu tìr or Thoir/Slaod/Tarraing air tìr. Tarraing gu tìr would mean ‘pull for land’ i.e. row towards land.
Colin Campbell frequently uses ‘h’ with an orthographic meaning precisely the opposite of what we might expect. His spellings Tharrin, bhat, Fhailte and Chumh in contexts where a Gaelic speaker would not lenite the initial consonant are possibly an attempt to represent aspiration, prompted by the English usage of ‘h’ to distinguish words like Wales and whales, or witch and which. If this is so, then his spelling Tharrin indicates an aspirated ‘t’ (with a puff of air), as in the word ‘till’ but not ‘still’ in most dialects of English. The fact is that there have always been two ways to spell Gaelic, an Irish-based system and an English-based system. The English-based system is what appears on maps: Cumbernauld, for example, or Aberdeen, or Glasgow, as opposed to Comar nan Allt, Obar Dheathain or Glascho. ‘Cumbernauld’ is not the ‘English’ for Comar nan Allt: it is the same Gaelic name exactly, spelt according to English orthographic principles as opposed to Irish ones, and perhaps also telling us something interesting about how ‘Comar’ was pronounced in the Gaelic of East Dunbartonshire. The Book of the Dean of Lismore and the Manx language are other examples of Gaelic being spelt according to English orthographic principles rather than Irish ones. See D. E. Meek, ‘Gaylick, Gaidhlig or Gaelic? Non-Gaelic spelling systems of the Gaelic world’ (2013) and A. MacCoinnich, ‘Where and how was Gaelic written in late medieval and early modern Scotland’ (2008).