Gaelic’S aithnichte Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair mar sin leis gur e ministear a bha na athair ann an Cille Chòmhainn; duine air a bheil an t-uabhas seanchaidh is a bha na thidsear do a mhac, a rèir choltais. Theagaisg e litreachas bàird na Gàidhlig dha, an dà chuid Èireannach is Albannach, a bharrachd air oideas Clasaigeach, mus an do chuir e e a dh’ionnsachadh ann an Glaschu is, às dèidh sin, ann an Dùn Èideann.
B’ e co-ogha Fhlòraidh NicDhòmhnaill a bh’ ann an Alasdair agus bha dlùth-dhàimh aig an teaghlach ri Clann Raghnaill, an fheadhainn as làidire air taobh siar na h-Alba, ro bhlàr Chùil Lodair.
Sguir e aig an oilthigh gus a bhith na mhaighstir-sgoile is, ann an 1741, chruthaich e proto-fhaclair Gàidhlig-Beurla de 200 duilleag a dh’fhaid.
Mar thidsear, bha e ann an trioblaid, an toiseach airson a chuid obrach fhàgail ann an làmhan a mhic, fhad ’s a bha e an sàs ann an trèanadh shaighdearan airson Ar-a-mach nan Seumasach, agus an uairsin, le tuilleadh fathannan a’ dol is gun robh e a’ sgrìobhadh bàrdachd connain. B’ ann air sgàth sin a fhuair e a’ bhròg.
B’ e Ar-a-mach nan Seumasach a bhrosnaich a chuid liricean, agus sgrìobh e mòran de na rannan is dàin-mholaidh as ainmeile aige don Phrionnsa Teàrlach, a ghabh riutha ann am Paireas, a rèir seanchais. Chuala am Prionnsa iad ann an eadar-theangachadh agus b’ e seo a bhrosnaich a bhith dol thar chuain. Nuair a ràinig e, b’ e Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair a bha am measg ciad fheadhna a chuir fàilte air. Rinneadh Caiptean dheth agus “Tyrtaeus Feachd na Gàidhealtachd – am barrabhàrd aca – mar a chaidh a chuid òran a chleachd gus saighdearan a thrusadh fhad ’s a bha Alasdair fhèin an sàs ann an Gàidhlig ionnsachadh don Phrionnsa.
Thathar an dùil gun do theich Alasdair leis an Stiùbhartach òg às dèidh blàr Chùil Lodair agus an uairsin, leis a’ Phrionnsa air ais air taobh eile a’ chuain, bha e fògarrach a bh’ ann. Chaidh creach a thoirt air a thaigh is bàs air a’ chat.
Nuair a thàinig sìth air an fhòineart, bha e comasach dha fasgadh fhaighinn – thugadh earann fearainn dha air oighreachd Chlann Raghnaill, far an do dh’obair e fad bhliadhnaichean mus deach e a Dhùn Èideann gus bàrdachd fhoillseachadh a bha fo leasachadh aige.
B’ ann an-sin a dh’fhoillsich e Ais-eridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich ann an 1751, co-chruinneachadh de aoirean riaghladh nan Rìghrean Seòrasach, cumhachan nan uamhasan a thugadh air na Gàidheil is fantasachd bhàrdail dìoghail. Chn iongnadh gun deach leth-bhreacan a ghlacadh is losgadh leis a’ chrochaire ann an ceàrnag a’ bhaile, ach mairidh dusan leth-bhreac fhathast san là an-diugh.
B’ ann tric a chaidh fhuadachadh air sgàth a chuid poilitigs, a’ dol mun cuairt Alba an Iar mus tugadh fearann dha ann an Arasaig, far an robh e na chòmhnaidh fad nam bliadhnaichean mòra, a’ leantainn leis an sgrìobhadh. B’ ann an sin a fhuair e bàs sìtheil. B’ iad Ais-eridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich is Alasdair fhèin a thug spionnadh do bhàrdachd na Gàidhlig, rud a bhrosnaich gach bàrd chun an là an-diugh.
EnglishAlasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair simply means ‘Alasdair, son of the Reverend Alasdair’, for indeed, his father was the Minister in Kilchoan; a man of whom many tales abound and who seems to have been his son’s teacher, versing him in the literature of the Gaelic bards, both Irish and Scottish, alongside a Classical education, before sending him on to study in Glasgow and then Edinburgh.
Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair was also a cousin of Flora MacDonald and his family were closely tied to Clan Ranald, perhaps the most powerful clan in Western Scotland before the battle of Culloden.
He quit University to become a school teacher, then, in 1741, he produced and had published a 200-page Gaelic-English proto-dictionary.
As a teacher, he got into trouble, first for abandoning his work to his son whilst it was rumoured he was dragooning troops for the Jacobite uprising, then again, with further rumours circulating that he was writing erotic verse, for which he was duly fired.
The Jacobite Rebellion certainly brought out his lyrical side, for he wrote many of his most famous verses as panegyrics to the Bonnie Prince, who is said to have received them in Paris, and on hearing them read in translation, was brought to his conviction for sailing over the water. On his arrival, Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair was one of the first to meet him. He was made a Captain and “Tyrtaeus of the Highland Army” – basically, the Makar – his songs being used far and wide to inspire further recruits whilst Alasdair himself was charged with teaching Prince Charlie the Gaelic.
Alasdair is thought to have fled with the young Stewart after fighting at Culloden, then, with the Prince back across the water, he became a fugitive, his house plundered, his cat killed.
As the violence died down, he was able to find shelter – given a piece of farmland on a Clan Ranald estate, which he worked for a number of years before heading to Edinburgh to publish the poems he had been working on.
These were published as Ais-eridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich (The Resurrection of the Old Scots Canon) in 1751, a collection of broadsides against Hanoverian rule, laments for the various atrocities they had committed and associated poetic revenge fantasies. Not surprisingly, copies of the book were seized and burned by the hangman in the town square, yet twelve copies remain extant to this day.
He was again displaced due to his politics, moving around Western Scotland until he was granted land in Arisaig where he lived for many years, continuing to write, and died there peacefully. Both Ais-eridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich and Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair himself are reputed to have brought about a flourish of Gaelic poetry, a line of inspiration that can be traced all the way through to the present time.