Just published – Iain mac Mhurchaidh: the Life and Work of John MacRae, Kintail and North Carolina

Iain mac Mhurchaidh front cover

Màiri Sìne Chaimbeul brings together, for the first time, the full surviving corpus of songs attributed to the celebrated eighteenth-century Kintail and North Carolina poet, Iain mac Mhurchaidh, or John MacRae. Leaving his native Kintail in the early 1770s, the poet emigrated to North Carolina in search of a better life, only to find himself fighting with the Loyalist forces in the American War of Independence and spending time as a prisoner of war. The editor situates Iain mac Mhurchaidh in both his Scottish and North American historical and social contexts, and contributes to the debate surrounding the poet’s authorship of songs such as the well-known ‘Dèan cadalan sàmhach, a chuilein mo rùin’ (Sleep quietly, my darling young one). Drawing on both published texts and oral tradition this volume provides the first authoritative account of a prominent, yet enigmatic, figure in the Gaelic literary canon. Numbering thirty in total, Iain mac Mhurchaidh’s songs offer an unparalleled view of the social and political dilemmas faced by the poet and his contemporaries in both the Highlands and North America and encompass a range of themes including love, eulogy, hunting, drinking, and social change, as well as the ‘emigrant experience’.

Màiri Sìne Chaimbeul comes from Plockton, Lochalsh. She was a lecturer for over twenty years in Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, mainly focusing on folklore and traditional culture. She has written three books for children and young adults, and has published articles on various aspects of Gaelic song in which she has had a lifelong interest. She was the winner of the Gold Medal for Traditional Singing at the Royal National Mod in Oban in 1992.