It was not until 1801 that a full translation of the bible into Gaelic, by the Rev John Stuart of Luss, was published but, by the time that Victoria ascended to the throne, even if there were no other books in a West Highland household, there would always be a bible, normally in Gaelic, sometimes in English. Early Gaelic bibles were produced by the SSPCK (Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge), and The Scottish Bible Society (founded in 1809, later developing into The National Bible Society of Scotland). William Collins & Sons, Glasgow, made a fortune out of printing bibles in English, some richly illustrated. Other bible publishers included Francis Orr & Sons, Glasgow and Morrison & Gibb, Edinburgh.
A bible was considered to be a suitable prize for a range of worthy activities. The Lismore archive includes an undated Gaelic bible with the inscription: “Special prize awarded by William R Paterson to Malcolm MacColl. The unmarried ploughman who has held his present position for the longest period of time competing at the annual ploughing match in connection with the Lismore and Appin Agricultural Society”.
The archive has three prized Victorian Bibles.
In 1841, Gilbert (25) was one of three joiner brothers, living in Balure, Lismore, with their widowed mother, Ann McCallum. In the 1840s, Ann took her family to the USA, and the bible must have accompanied them. They eventually settled in Minnesota.
LISDD:2014.214. Undated edition Francis Orr & Sons Gaelic bible. Rebound. Detached original bookplate recording that this was a gift from the “Auchuran Sunday School scholars” in 1868 to John McDugald. Associated embroidered bookmark, presumably sewn by one of the pupils “To J McDuga They Soul Well Wisher. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Jesus died for us.”
John McDugald (MacDougall), hand loom weaver in Balimakillichan, Lismore, had, for 30 years, been supervisor of the Sunday School held in the Congregational Meeting House at Achuran. His son, also John, emigrated to the USA in the early 1870s, joining his McCallum relations in Minnesota in 1874. John married his cousin, Isabel McCallum, founding a highly successful dynasty.
CELM is very grateful to the McCallum MacDougall Foundation, which not only repatriated these bibles to Lismore, and donated them to the museum, but also continues to provide financial support to the Centre. We are particularly grateful to Margaret Carasik for her continuing loyalty to, and interest in, CELM.
This bible would have been a wedding present for Hugh Carmichael, farmer in Achinduin, when he married Mary Campbell in 1854. They carefully recorded the birth of their children in the bible and there are family entries up to the 21st century.
Fiona Mackay, a descendant of Hugh and Mary, presented the bible to the Centre on behalf of her family in March 2016. The family records will be of great value in our genealogical work.