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It is exactly a year ago that our 15th Volume was placed in the hands of our members, and the Publishing Committee have much pleasure in issuing this, the 16th Volume, at anyrate as early as any of its predecessors. It was expected to be finished at the beginning, rather than at the end, of the winter session of this year, but the usual causes of delay proved too strong. This Volume contains the record of the Society's proceedings for exactly one year, from the Annual Assembly held on the 11th of July, 1889, to the last literary meeting of the Society for the winter of 1890, namely, the 7th of May. The Volume will, it is hoped, be found to be equal to any of the preceding ones in variety of subjects and quality of work.
Still another of our Gaelic literary stars sunk to rest! Mrs. Mary Mackellar, the bard of the Society, died in Edinburgh on the 7th of September of last year, at the comparatively early age of fifty-five. She had been ailing for some time : a cold in the winter of 1890 had not been shaken off, and this, aggravated by heart disease, finally brought the poetess to her grave. Mrs Mackellar's body was laid in the churchyard of Kilmallie, among her own native hills, and in the land of the Clan Cameron, to whom she belonged, and whom she loved so well. Mary Cameron -the Mary Mackellar that was to be—was born at Fort-William, on the 1st October, 1834. Her father was a baker there, but Mary's younger days were spent at Corrybeg with her grandparents, and here she imbibed the lore of her country, and laid the foundation of that wealthy store of tradition which she possessed. She married early a John Mackellar, who was captain and joint owner of a coasting vessel, and with him she visited many places throughout Europe. Finally, she settled in Edinburgh from all sea-wanderings in 1876, where she had her principal abode till her death. The last ten years of her life was clouded by domestic sorrow, husband and wife parting by “judicial separation ;” and Mrs Mackellar had to make her living and fight the battle of life alone. She was a brilliant conver. sationalist in both languages, but her writings scarcely do justice to her powers and wealth of lore. Mrs Mackellar was a woman of warm heart, high spirit, and fine intellect. Her poems, Gaelic and English, were published in 1880, and she wrote much poetry for periodicals and newspapers since then. Much of her prose and her lore has appeared in the volumes of this Society, and this one contains her last contribution, which is incomplete owing to the death of the authoress. She also wrote some fiction for the weekly press, notably the “White Rose of Callart;” she composed a book of Gaelic phrases, and described her native Lochaber in her guide to Fort-William. She also translated the Queen's latest volume into excellent Gaelic. It is hoped that the Clan Cameron Society will collect and publish her works in a complete and handy form.
A good deal has been done since May of last year in the way of publication of works connected with Gaelic and the Highlands. A new edition of Paterson's Gaelic Bards has been published by Mr Sinclair, Glasgow. He also publishes the poetical works of Mr John Macfadyen, a new star in the poetic firmament, whose work -and an excellent work it is—is entitled An t-Eileanach. As we write there is issued from the press the collected works of another bard, those of the Skye poetess, Mrs Mary Macpherson. Besides being racy poetry, full of the love of scenery and natural beauty characteristic of the Celtic bard, Mrs Macpherson's work is a well of Gaelic undefiled, which is none the worse of being very carefully edited. Mr Sinclair, ex-M.P. for the Ayr burghs, has published a racy work on the “Scenes and Stories of the North of Scotland," and Mr Alexander Mackenzie has added another to his popular works on the Highland clans, this one being the History of the Chisholms, which has been very favourably received by the clan and by the public. Dr Mackintosh, of Aberdeen, has written Scotland for the Story of the Nation” series. Much activity is displayed in periodicals and newspapers. The Highland Monthly is doing good work in all departments of Gaelic and Highland literature ; and the northern papers contain much Gaelic matter, including history, antiquities, and poetry. Even the People's Friend has opened its columns for Highland song, and “Fionn” is contributing an interesting series of articles to that periodical on the songs of the Gael.
In general Celtic literature, the progress has also been good. Moore's Place Names of Man deserve a position equal to any of Dr Joyce's volumes, which means high praise. In Ireland matters are going well. Dr Atkinson's edition of Keatings' Three Shifts of Death is an excellent work with a valuable vocabulary. Dr Douglas Hyde has published some dozen Irish folk-tales under the heading of Fireside Tales (Nutt), and their bearing on Gaelic tales is fully explained. Dr Whitley Stokes is still pursuing his studies in Celtic philology, and besides an edition of the Lives of the Saints in the Book of Lismore, he has lately issued a brochure, included in the Philological Society's Transactions, dealing with the Irish Annals, where he discusses the Pictish Question, and gives a valuable vocabulary of Pictish words. It is probably the most important contribution yet made to the subject. He views the Picts as Celts belonging to the Cymric branch. Gaelic philology is fully and excellently represented in Brugmann's great “Grammar of the Indo-European Languages” now in course of publication. Professor Rhys has issued from the Clarendon Press a learned and suggestive work entitled Studies in the Arthurian Legend, which ought to be of interest to all Gaels, especially at a time like this, when Professor Zimmer is doing his best to prove that Fionn and his Feinne were merely Norsemen masquerading as Gaels! This new piece of German perversity is argued in a work of close on two hundred pages, which was noticed in the Ácademy of last February the 14th by Mr Nutt, and there given in a condensed form.
The Highlands have benefited much by the remission of fees, for it means money found, the fees being formerly nominal as a rule. The relaxations in the New Code cannot also fail to be beneficial. The scheme whereby the old S.P.C.K. funds have come under the control of a “ Trust for Education in the Highlands” came into operation last November. The new Governors number nineteen, and are appointed by the two Churches, the Colleges, the northern School Boards, and the old directors of the S.P.C.K., each having nearly an equal number. The money is to be mostly devoted to encouraging central schools, but a sum considerably over £1000 annually will be available for bursaries.
The North has been all agog during the last twelve months with schemes and rumours of schemes for harbour and railway developments. The practical result has been that something like £50,000 of public money is to be expended on harbours and roads mostly on the West Coast, and especially in the Lews. Nothing definite has been arrived at in regard to the rival railways proposed, whether to Ullapool or Aultbea.
The Mackintosh's offer of a £10 prize for the best essay on the “Social Condition of the Highlands since 1800” brought the minimum number of essays requisite for a competition, that is to say, three essays only were sent in! These will be adjudicated on soon, and the result will be announced at the forthcoming Annual Assembly.
INVERNESS, May, 1891.