A window on the late eighteenth century Scottish Highlands: the songs of Mairearad Ghriogarach

Byrne, M. (2011) A window on the late eighteenth century Scottish Highlands: the songs of Mairearad Ghriogarach. In: Boon, E., McMullen, A.J. and Sumner, N. (eds.) Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 30: 2010. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, pp. 39-60. ISBN 9780674062429

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This paper presents the work of a neglected Early Modern Scottish Gaelic poet, Mairearad Ghriogarach (Margaret MacGregor) of Rannoch, c.1750-1830. MacGregor’s extant work (35 compositions) was published by her grandson in 1831, along with a handful of compositions by her daughter and poems by a male relative. Copies of the volume are very rare, but it is now available online. In addition to the book’s historical and literary interest, its erratic orthography may evidence dialectal features of interest to linguistic scholars. Margaret MacGregor’s name is absent from the literary histories, but attention was first drawn to her work in 2003 by North American Gaelic scholar Michael Newton. The very varied topics of her songs (reflections on her schooling, her faith, her marriage and her family life in Atholl, clan praise, addresses to her brothers caught up in the American War of Independence) offer a tantalisingly rounded portrait of a woman of the minor clan gentry, and provide a valuable window onto the Central Highlands at a time of fundamental economic and social change. The presence of major female voices in the bardic canon pre-Culloden has long been noted, but MacGregor’s work is a surprisingly late and prolific manifestation of accomplished female composition in the Early Modern period, at a time hitherto thought to mark the waning of secular female poetry.

Item Type:Book Sections
Additional Information:First presented as a paper at Harvard Celtic Colloquium 2010, October 2010, Harvard, USA.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Byrne, Dr Michel
Authors: Byrne, M.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Celtic and Gaelic
Publisher:Harvard University Press

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