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107 6. Gaelic Tradition and the Celtic Revival in Children’s Literature in Scottish Gaelic and English SÌM INNES AND KATE LOUISE MATHIS This chapter discusses and contextualises a selection of literature composed for Scottish children during the latter part of the long nineteenth century, specifically the period of the Celtic Revival (c. 1880–c. 1920), which was composed in Gaelic, or else composed in English but based upon Gaelic heroic characters of the Finn (Fionn) and Ulster Cycles. The cycles, centred respectively upon the notable deeds of Fionn mac Cumhaill and Cù Chulainn, were known and circulated throughout the Gaelic-speaking regions of both Scotland and Ireland from at least the medieval period, and are represented by a significant collection of manuscripts composed and preserved upon either side of the Irish Sea (their heroes, within the tales themselves, travel just as freely back and forth). Both Fionn and Cù Chulainn, moreover, are said to have begun their remarkable careers in early childhood, and other children play similarly important roles within both Cycles; yet, it is not until the nineteenth century that examples of literature describing the feats of these children are repackaged overtly as literature for children. Lingering awareness of the so-called Ossianic Controversy, arising from the claims of James Macpherson (1736–1796) to have rediscovered three-thousand-yearold poetry composed by Fionn mac Cumhaill’s son, Oisean (‘Ossian’), may have been partly responsible for fostering this development, but factors underlying the galvanisation of the Celtic Revival itself, and central to the ideals of its devotees, were also significant. Examples of these factors particular to Scottish writers, expressed by their works for children, will be considered, as will the impact of increasing suppression of the Gaelic language within the Scottish education system after the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act, and its consequent decline among younger speakers. At the same time, writers whose own Gaelic was limited, but whose sympathy for Revivalist ideals of a reimagined Celtic past stimulated their interest in the deeds of its 108 sìm innes and kate louise mathis traditional heroes, focused their attention upon presenting these deeds to a wider, English-speaking audience, via the medium (and resulting influence) of a limited collection of existing translations. Common to literature in both Gaelic and English, though more pronounced in the former, is the adoption of a didactic tone, hectoring its readers to pay heed to the apathy that has nurtured a climate of political injustice, and fostered the deterioration of their own language among younger generations of Gaels. The first section of this chapter, by Innes, will focus upon literature for children composed in Gaelic, exploring two plays: Dùsgadh na Féinne (‘The Awakening of the Fèinn’), published in 1908 by Catrìona NicGhilleBh àin Ghrannd (Katherine Whyte Grant); and Am Mosgladh Mòr (‘The Great Awakening’), by Calum MacPhàrlain (Malcolm MacFarlane), published seven years later.1 Its second half, by Mathis, will discuss a number of late-nineteenth-century items based upon Gaelic sources for traditional characters’ deeds, but composed in English, chiefly those by Eleanor Hull, William Sharp (‘Fiona Macleod’), and Louise Charlotte Jack (‘Louey Chisholm’) – all of which acknowledge the influence of Alexander Carmichael’s Deirdire, collected in the 1860s from the oral tradition of the island of Barra. I. Literature in Gaelic: Dùsgadh agus Mosgladh (‘Awakening and Rousing’) During the Celtic Revival in Scotland it was common for Scottish Gaels, and Scots more generally, to be portrayed as awakening, or on the verge of awakening; sometimes they were told it was high time for them to awaken. Lachlan Macbean (1853–1931) delivered a lecture to The Gaelic Society of Inverness in 1896 entitled ‘The Mission of the Celt’. Macbean, raised in Kiltarlity, was the editor of The Fifeshire Advertiser. He was also a Gaelic writer and translator.2 His lecture started with an historical overview of the Revival: The Gael suddenly awoke to the alarming fact that his native tongue, which more than anything else was the distinguishing mark of his tribe, was dying out before the tongue of the Southron. The thought 109 gaelic tradition and the celtic revival touched his sensitive and melancholy nature as nothing else could. […] Having now glanced over this heaving tide of new Celtic life which has overflowed the fields of literature, music, customs, and social progress, it remains for us to ask, What of the future? The Gaels are awakening to consciousness, and as a man when he becomes...


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