A poet, a fighter, a preserver; innovative, visionary, extraordinary; an old Gaelic voice still to be heard. Alexander MacDonald, in his language better known as Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, born around 1695, died in 1770 in Arisaig.
His body should have been laid to rest on Eilean Fhìonain but heavy storms made transport to the island impossible so the great bard of the Gaelic language was put to rest where he died, in Arisaig. The exact place of his burial is unknown, a sign was put up to commemorate the versatile Highlander who was first to publish in the Gaelic language.
Alexander MacDonald was very much involved in politics. The cousin of Flora MacDonald was a fervent supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite course, he served as an officer in the army and taught the young pretender his beloved language, the beautiful Gaelic tongue.
It ran in the family. The poet to be was educated by his father, the reverend Alexander MacDonald, who had a degree from Glasgow University. His father taught him the classics of Greek and Roman literature as well as the Gaelic ones. Like his father he went to Glasgow University and later to Edinburgh but left early to get married and work as a teacher.
Alexander MacDonald published the very first Scottish-Gaelic vocabulary. He then became a man of action and joined the rallying of the clans, being one of the first to arrive at Glenfinnan to witness the raising of the standard. The Clanranald bard had become a warrior and was right in the middle of the great events of his time.
It was during this time of political unrest and amidst hopes of a new beginning that he converted to the Catholic faith.
After the disastrous defeat of Culloden he had to hide in the wilderness for some time but he never gave in in spirit. Years after Culloden he published Ais-Eiridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich — “The Resurrection of the Ancient Scottish Language”, rebellious poems in times of brutal persecution. A brave bard, indeed.
Alexander MacDonald ist one of the best of his Nation. The famous poet – Am Bàrd Aainmail.
Sources and further reading