Eoghan MacGilleoin, Mr Lachlann Campbell, and Col. Cailean Campbell: Manuscript production in Kintyre c. 1690-1698 (PhD Thesis)

The thesis can be found via the University of Glasgow’s Enlighten: Theses repository.

Abstract (originally published in the thesis)

This thesis is a study of the production of four Gaelic manuscripts in Kintyre, Argyll, Scotland from 1690-1698. These were written by scribe Eoghan MacGilleoin (Hugh MacLean) for two patrons, Colonel Cailean Campbell of the Campbells of Kilberry (d. 1714) and Mr Lachlann Campbell (1675-1708), son of Iain Campbell of Kildalloig. The manuscripts were produced at a key moment in the transition of literary production within the classical Gaelic tradition, once shared with Gaelic Ireland, and a modern Scottish Gaelic vernacular tradition. This thesis argues that MacGilleoin, whose skill as a scribe has been dismissed in scholarship, is in fact a quality scribe influenced by the contemporary linguistic and literary transitions between the older classical Gaelic tradition and emerging standards of written Scottish Gaelic. Furthermore, MacGilleoin’s manuscripts include unique copies of poems and prose tales and represent a significant portion of the surviving corpus of Early Modern Scottish Gaelic manuscripts.

To understand how and why MacGilleoin’s manuscripts were produced, they must be contextualised within details of their patrons’ lives and contemporary manuscript culture. The study utilises an interdisciplinary approach. Both literary and historical approaches are used through thematic analysis, close-reading, and comparison of texts alongside use of hitherto unpublished archival materials, including estate papers and Church records, to build a well-rounded picture of the patrons’ lives and the manuscripts’ contents. The analysis reveals continuing interaction between Gaelic communities in Ulster and Argyll and connections to England, Wales, and the European continent. Mr Lachlann is shown to be an amateur Gaelic scholar, part of a wider European scholarly culture. He participated in the production and transmission of Gaelic texts and manuscripts and corresponded with the pioneering antiquarian and Celtic scholar Edward Lhuyd. Col. Cailean’s manuscripts are shown to contain a variety of texts which reflect his political and social cultures, such as poems in support of the Marquis of Argyll, religious and moral poetry, prose tales from the Finn and Ulster Cycles, and poems about women. Altogether, the manuscripts, scribe, and patrons help reappraise and re-evaluate our understanding of late seventeenth-century scribal activity in Gaelic-speaking Kintyre.