Lachann Dubh a’ Chrogain
(Lachlan Livingstone and his Grandsons)
Lachann Dubh a’ Chrogain (Lachlan Livingstone and his Grandsons) Bards of Mull and Lismore by Margaret MacDonald Lobban (New Iona Press) 2004
Margaret Lobban’s fascinating book on the Bards of Mull and Lismore is not just a work of painstaking scholarship but a complete labour of love. The bards are her great grandfather Lachlan Livingstone, known as Lachann Dubh, (Black Lachie), her two uncles John and Lachlan MacDonald, and her father James MacDonald. Black Lachie was born in Croggan Mull in 1819 and died there in 1901. His Obituary in the Oban Times noted that “he possessed the true Bardic repartee which he could easily clothe in incisive language”. He earned this reputation when, after some years at sea, he was employed as a bard, fisherman and piper to the MacLaines of Lochbuie whom he served all his life as the last of the official bards. Sadly many of his songs have been lost but those Margaret has saved show his great love of nature, of the sea and of animals; his sharp satire; his vivid and often entertaining recording of local events; and his acute sense of social justice. So sharp was his tongue, Margaret writes, that people were wary of incurring his displeasure. But, she adds, he was scathing with just cause as in the song of the minister who abused his horse, while elsewhere his humour was gentle as in the song about Ludovic’s badly built boat.
Lachlan’s grandsons grew up in Lismore after Lachlan’s daughter Sarah married John MacDonald, a Liosach. Although Margaret didn’t know her great grandfather she grew up listening to her father and his brothers singing his songs as well as their own which they composed prolifically. Her uncles’ songs each have their own character but here again is a deep love of place and people, the humorous recording of events (the coming of gas, farming subsidies and the Lismore Fire brigade) and great out pourings of passion and yearning. Printed in Gaelic and English with words and music at the back, this is a book for everyone interested in the everyday history, culture and beauty of the area. It will fill a gap in the Gaelic archive and provide material for Gaelic singers everywhere while serving as an entrée to the songs for newcomers. The accompanying CD has recordings of many of the songs sung by Margaret, her brother Lachlan and others. It is available from the New Iona Press or online from www.gaelicbooks.net