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most famous and / or beloved Scottish Gaelic poet

As "Burns night" is upon us I like to know who actually is the most famous and / or beloved Scottish Gaelic poet? Can someone enlighten me, please?

January 24, 2020



Probably Sorley MacLean


Tapadh leat, found this homepage in case anyone else is interested: http://www.sorleymaclean.org/english/


His most famous poem is Hallaig. The poem is named after a deserted township located on the south-eastern corner of the Hebridean island of Raasay, the poet's birthplace. It is a reflection on the nature of time and the historical impact of the Highland Clearances leaving an empty landscape populated only by the ghosts of the evicted and those forced to emigrate.


I don’t know much Gaelic poetry, but I listen to some Gaelic music and from the songs I listen to, I believe Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna is also quite known (his An Eala Bhàn, The White Swan, is a popular 1. World War love song).

Many other popular Gaelic songs trace back to older (17th, 18th century) poets, whose poetry didn’t survive to these days except for those single songs (an example would be Sìne NicFhionnlaigh and her famous Fear a’ Bhàta or The Boatman).


I love these melancholic songs. Listened to the versions sung by Karen Matheson, sgoinneil.


I love Aonghas MacNeacail. http://www.aonghasmacneacail.co.uk/

He may not be the most famous Gàidhlig poet, but I love his work... much of which is also translated into English, which is useful for us learners

I got to play clàrsach between him reading his poetry once, which I loved doing.. having said that, I got to do the same for Sorley MacLean years ago on Skye... I promised him at the end of the evening that I would do my best to learn Gàidhlig well enough to able to read his poetry.... a promise I’m working on..


Aonghas lives very near me and I know him and his family a bit. We were all "out" together in 2014 as it were. I've heard him reading his poetry several times, including at his 70th birthday party in the village hall opposite his house. I can't (yet) read the meaning of his work, but the rhythms and atmosphere are strong.

When my cat vanished, a friend gave me a copy of this poem by Aonghas.

bha 'n oidhch' ud nuair a dh'fhàg an cat

bha 'n oidhch' ud nuair a dh'fhàg an cat a'chagailt 's

nach fhacas i 'son mios

a' chlann go caoidh

is bean an taighe

biathadh an t-soithich san t-sabhal gach ciaradh

le bainne blàth bleoghainn

na luchainn a' dannsa sna tarsannain

agus fear an taighe sgrìobadh nan dig

aison closach

is na h-eòin a' ceilearadh ceilearadh

gàire nan guth

is an cù ris a' ghrìosaich

na aonar, air faondradh

gus an do thill an cat

gun leisgeul gun adhbhar

a thairgsinn gun chruth a dhealbh

air na làithean a dh'fhàg i falamh

(Sorry this software doesn't seem to do single line breaks.)

I often see Aonghas in the village and I'm wondering if I can work up the nerve to ask him for a basic conversation one day when I've finished the course and done all the revision topics about ten times!


I just love his poetry, even in english, which had me hoping so much that I’ll be able to fully appreciate its nuances in Gàidhlig one day.

He uses rhythm and rhyme in a way that reminds me of the ancient bardic poetry. Not that I’m an expert, but it does something to my soul.

I doubt he’ll remember me... we shared an evening together, him reading his poetry and me playing, singing and telling old Celtic legends. I told one story that I wrote myself and Aonghas said he would have thought it was traditional, it really felt that way to him. That meant so much to me, I can hardly say...


He's a lovely guy. Maybe he does remember.


I imagine that was a fantastic experience. Such a great memory and best motivation ever!!!

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