PS 084 – MacNeil of Barra’s March

      An Spaidearachd Bharrach

Primary Sources

C1 Dougald Mac Raneils Lament C1.83: 189
Spaidsearachd Bharroch / the pride of Barroch A.7: 19
KB Spaidseaireachd Mhic Neile a’ Bhara / MacNeil of Barra’s March KB.29: 72
SC Spaidrich Bharich SC.36
Angus MacKay, ‘Specimens of Canntareachd’ (c. 1854), no. 36

Notes on Gaelic Titles

Spadaireachd Bharrach. Spaddarich Bharach C1; the pride of Barroch A; Spadderachd Bharach D2; Spadaireachd Bharra / The Pride of Barra KK; The Pride of Barra JK. Barra’s boasting. This title is attached two pibrochs, PS 8 and PS 84. Neither is related musically to the song of the same name, translated as ‘The Barra boastfulness’ in A. & A. MacDonald, The MacDonald collection of Gaelic poetry, Inverness (1911), p. 230; and as ‘The Barra boasting’ in J.L. Campbell and F. Collinson, Hebridean Folksongs, 3 vols. Oxford, (1979-1981), vol ii, p. 124. The song describes a contest between the Barra poetess Nic Iain Fhinn, and the South Uist poetess Nic a’ Mhainich. The South Uist poetess stated that none of the three daughters of John MacDonald, 12th of Clanranald (m. 1613), would go to ‘miserable’ Barra. Nic Iain Fhinn protested that young Gilleonan MacNeil, the future 17th of Barra was worthy of any lady – and in fact he did marry Clanranald’s second daughter, Catrìona. The contest can therefore be dated to a few years before their marriage in 1653.

Colin Campbell’s title for one of the two pibrochs claiming this name – Dougald Mac Raneils Lament (PS 84 may be connected because the MacDonalds of Clanranald were also referred to as MacRanald. We can exclude Dougall, 6th of Clanranald as unlikely to have received the honour of a musical memorial: he was assassinated in 1520 owing to his cruelty to his own kinsfolk. His sons were barred from succession. Instead, Frans Buisman suggests one of two bailies in South Uist: either Dougall, 1st of Bornish (appointed by John, 12th of Clanranald), or Dougall, 4th of Bornish (active in 1699). See F. Buisman, A. Wright and R Cannon, The MacArthur-MacGregor Manuscript of Piobaireachd (1820). Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen (2001), p. 76.

Spaidearachd Bharrach. Spaidsearachd Bharroch A; Mac niels of Barraws March Dj; Spaidseaireachd Mhic Neile a’ Bhara / MacNeil of Barra’s March KB; Spaidrich Bharich SC. Barra’s strutting. As there is nothing ‘proud’ or ‘stately’ in any of the dictionary definitions of Latin spatiārī, English spatiate, Irish spaisteóirecht, or Scottish Gaelic spastaireachd, spasdaireachd, spaistearachd, spaisdearachd, spaistreachd, spaidsireachd, spaidseireachd or spaidsearachd, it is possible that the idea of pride entered this word in the minds of Scottish Gaels from spaideil (posh) and the ‘stately Step of a Piper’ which has been proverbial since at least the 1730s (E. Burt, Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland, Vol. 2, Letter XXI. Second Edition, London, 1759, p. 163). Before 1991, dictionaries only gave meanings like walking, strolling, promenading, sauntering and parading. The first lexicographer to shift the central meaning to proud walking was Richard Cox in Brìgh nam Facal: faclair ùr don Bhun-sgoil (Brig o Turk: Clann Tuirc, 1991, 2007) in his entry spaidirich. This may reflect a twentieth-century shift in usage. In 1904, Henry White wrote that the hereditary pipers to MacDougall of Dunollie had a school for pipers at Kilbride, and ‘a flat strip of green sward behind it is called Iomaire na Spaidsearachd – the Marching Furrow’ (“Fionn”, The martial music of the clans. Glasgow, 1904, p. 140). See R. D. Cannon, ‘Gaelic names of pibrochs: a classification’. Scottish Studies, 34 (2000–2006), p. 36.

Roderick Cannon (2009), rev. Barnaby Brown 2016

Other Material

2006 William Donaldson: Set Tunes Notes

1 thought on “PS 084 – MacNeil of Barra’s March”

  1. simonchadwick

    I am thinking the waulking song “A’ Bhradag Dhubh” or “An Spaidsearachd Bharrach” is related to this melody. See e.g. Kate MacDonald 1956

    The waulking song is a flyting between MacNeil & Clanranald poets which would fit with the “boasting” interpretation of the spaidearachd title. Both Marjory Kennedy Fraser (Songs of the Hebrides v1 p3) and Annie Johnson (1938) suggest the song dates from the time of Ruairi MacNeill 35th of Barra (early 17th century)

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