Dàna Oisein Mhic Fhinn is the title of the Gaelic translation of Macpherson’s Ossian and I was very fortunate to have picked up a copy of the 1818 publication in a second-hand bookshop in Edinburgh. For a long time I wanted to record this as an audio book and so I started the process to produce an audio version. Firstly I had to transcribe the text from the book and I also matched this up in a side-by-side text with the original English published in Macpherson’s own version. His English version was very controversial but it was based on the old Gaelic tales of Fionn mac Cumhail and his band of warriors known as the Fianna. The first of the tales in both the English and Gaelic editions I have was the story of the Battle of Loda (Cath Loda in Macpherson and Cath Loduinn in Gaelic) in which Loda is actually a name of a people in Scandinavia who were worshipers of the Norse God Loda or Odin. The story begins when Fionn (who is known as Fingal in Macpherson’s English version) is forced to take shelter from a storm in a bay in Lochlin, the old Gaelic name for the land of the Norse. His past enemy Starno invites him to a feast but knowing his treacherous nature Fionn refuses and the rest of the story relates the conflict between them with a few sub-plot stories which are included for context. The fascinating thing about it is that the action takes place in Scandinavia which is unusual for a Gaelic tale and the descriptions of Odin and his Hall of Heroes are very detailed and evocative, so it is also of interest for fans of Norse mythology.
My intention was to record the spoken part with a native Gaelic speaker and to also record an accompanying soundtrack of Celtic harp (Clàrsach) to create an atmosphere similar to that which would have been in the halls of the heroes as described in the texts. I was very fortunate to have connected with the very talented Clàrsach player Siannie Moodie who as well as performing the music on the recording composed many of the pieces herself. After some initial mishaps I ended up recording the first Duan (the word means song or poem in Gaelic which indicates that it possibly would have been sung originally) reading the text myself. This was not ideal as I’m not a native speaker and am only a learner with intermediate proficiency, but still it gave an idea of what the project was setting out to achieve. I also asked Peter Mackay, a native Gaelic speaker, poet and broadcaster to read the introduction to the book which was recorded. All of these have now been made available on Bandcamp and it would be great to eventually have all the Duan of the Cath Loduinn recorded. However for now I have put the project on hold until more support becomes available.
If you would like to have a listen to the recordings please use the players below or visit the Bancamp page.
2 replies on “Dàna Oisein Project”
Please keep us posted of your progress. I seem to recall some poems were originally, or at least inspired, by MacMhuirich poetry.
Commander of the Name and Arms of Currie
Thanks for your feedback. The project is paused for the time being but please feel free to check in from time to time on any updates. I believe you are right about the inspiration being in part from the manuscripts of MacMhuirich poetry. They had one of the manuscripts on display at the National Museum of Scotland during the “Wild and Majestic” exhibition which featured MacPherson. I may be mistaken but I possibly met you after one of the lectures at that exhibition.
All the best!