We posted an update on social media recently regarding the database which will eventually house all the songs we have catalogued as part of the Language in Lyrics project. We are delighted to be working with the technical team at the Digital Archives of Scottish Gaelic (DASG) who are building a very exciting database prototype for us as we speak. We will be sharing updates on this as the project progresses, but in the meantime we thought we would release one of our completed spreadsheets of song metadata on Google Sheets every week in hope they will be helpful to folks until we get the full database up and running.

The first of these is the Angus R. MacDonald manuscript, housed at the Beaton Institute. Below, you will find links to the song metadata in the collection, information about the bàrd himself and a link to the full MS text (our gratitude to Jane Arnold, head archivist at the Beaton, for uploading a scanned copy of the text at our request).

These indexes are still a work-in-progress, so if you see any mistakes or you can provide any additional information we haven’t included, please let us know by leaving a comment in the Google Sheet!

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Angus R. MacDonald Manuscript

The poems of Angus R. MacDonald, French Road, Cape Breton

Index of song metadata available on Google Sheets via Language in Lyrics.

Full manuscript text available online via the Beaton Institute.

Recording of Angus R. singing a song of his own composition, ‘Oran do Bheinn Chlann-Domhnuill’.

Biographical information below from a post by the Beaton Institute:

“Angus R. MacDonald [1884-1973] was a bard from the French Road area in Cape Breton. A carpenter ‘by nature’, he was particularly skilled in the construction of churches. Aside from his labour it is clear that Angus R. strongly valued Gaelic language and culture. He served as president of the Gaelic Society of Boston, where he lived for [-] years, and spent his spare time composing Gaelic poetry. His composition ‘Oran do Bheinn Chlann-Domhnuill,’ like many of his compositions, praises the community where he was reared. In his song the mountain is brought to life. We hear the mountains perspective on its own body, the surrounding landscape and how it provides for the Gaelic settlers on it’s lands.

Angus R. was an enthusiastic and consummate singer and when new verses were needed he began to write them, as he said, “to sing for my friends.” Not literate in Gaelic, his compositions remained unrecorded until Angus married his second wife, Mary Lizzie MacNeil, who taught him to read and write the Gaelic language. Once literate he began transcribing his compositions and a number of his songs were published in Achadh nan Gaidheal, the Gaelic column of The Casket newspaper.

MacDonald’s compositions were often simple in nature, reminiscing on characters, ceilidhs and weddings from his youth on the French Road. However, he also reflected on more serious subjects with compositions exploring rural outmigration, mining accidents, young men leaving for war and death in general. ‘Everything written is a reflection, and they show something of a writer who has greatness within himself, a philosophy built on honour, truth and good will to all, a faith and spirit that always looks up, and a wise humility.’ As Angus himself humbly stated: “I never thought much of my barding, but I’ll be very glad if others enjoy singing and reading it.”

A recording of Angus R. MacDonald can be found through our digital archive: https://beatoninstitute.com/angus-r-macdonaldTranscriptions of all MacDonald’s songs are housed at the Beaton Institute: MG 6.33 A transcription and translation of Oran do Bheinn Chlann-Domhnuill may also be found on Pg. 200 of Fergusson’s ‘Fad air Falbh as Innse Gall.’”

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