An early Gaelic manuscript

The manuscript Original Highland airs collected at Raasay in 1812 by Elizabeth Jane Ross, which is preserved in the archives of the School of Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, is now available for downloading at no cost, both in facsimile and in an extensively annotated typeset edition prepared by Peter Cooke, Morag MacLeod, and Colm Ó Baoill.

The earliest known staff-notated manuscript collection of Scottish Gaelic music, it contains  92 songs,  51 dance tunes, and 6 pibrochs; it probably represents well the musical repertory of Raasay, one of the islands of the Inner Hebrides. A major task for the editors involved locating, documenting, translating, and underlaying song texts which might have been known to Ross; she provided titles or first lines of verses or refrains for her airs, but not the texts themselves.

The Raasay residents James Macleod and his wife Flora were excellent musicians, and their niece Elizabeth Ross, who lived with them, was clearly a competent transcriber. Raasay was also the home of the great piper John MacKay, from whom Ross learned to play several pibrochs.

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8 responses to “An early Gaelic manuscript

  1. Pingback: Take six: Early folk song manuscripts | Bibliolore

  2. Very interesting indeed. But note also that Lauchlan Maclaine’s notebook in Gloucestershire Archives is early 19th Century albeit maybe not as early as the Archive catalogue suggests (Gloucestershire Archives: the transcriptions are recorded as Ref. D3330, box 17: ‘a volume of songs and poetry chiefly in Gaelic with some music, c.1800, with a bookplate of Lauchlan Maclaine’.) And there are also the Maclean-Clephane MSS, some of which may be contemporary – Maclaine AND the Maclean-Clephanes were all from the island of Mull.


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