‘Better to be a mistress than a wife’

One of the highlights of my research to date has been interviewing the Gaelic scholar John MacInnes. Allan MacDonald took me to visit him on 22 April 2015, knowing that John would be able to cast light on some linguistic questions that were troubling us. An excerpt from our first interview was published in October, on Gesto’s digraph “ie”.

Today, I updated that post, adding images and links. Here is a second snippet, interpreting Colin Campbell’s title for the tune Angus MacKay called The Old Woman’s Lullaby (PS 51).

This was recorded in Edinburgh on 17 December 2015 looking at Colin Campbell’s spelling in his index to C1:


I have lightly edited the audio, deleting some of our “ums”, a few repetitions, and my cues for his pronunciation at different speeds (at the end). I have added silent pauses so that John’s pronunciation can be repeated by Gaelic learners. Here is how they would be spelled in modern Gaelic orthography:

B’ fhearr a bhith dìolain na a bhith pòsda  (It were better to be a mistress than a wife)

S’ fhearr a bhith dìolain na a bhith pòsda  (It is better…)


1 thought on “‘Better to be a mistress than a wife’

  1. After listening to his explanation, I wonder if another translation would be “Better to be a Single Girl than a Married Woman”?

    I was going to recommend, “Better to be Single than Married”, but the feminine is elided by generic language.

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