Monday, August 15, 2016

Ioin Lom - Highland Bards: Rambling Recollections of My Schools and School Days

Article XI written by Alexander Gunn was printed in the Northern Ensign 24 March 1881 – Part B

Ioin Lom aka Iain Lom

"Ioin Lom (aka Iain Lom) took an active part in the struggles of Charles I and II. Bane John (how so called is not very clear) belonged to the Keppoch family, who dwell on the Spean behind Ben Nevis. His connection with the best blood in the country brought him into public notice, which was increased by his poetical talent, great vigour, and decision of character. The young heir of Keppoch had been sent abroad for his education; but in 1663 he was foully assassinated. Ioin Lom, standing on a hill-side, condemned the murderers and then fled to Sir Alexander McDonald, of Skye, and here he wrote a denunciation against them."

"He gave the Royal Commander information regarding the Campbells from the east. All poets are not soldiers, and neither was Ioin. When he was asked to be guided by the commander to the battle, as he had guided him to the enemy, Ioin stood first dumb for a moment, then said “Fight, of course, Sir Alexander; that’s only natural, but if I go along with them to-day and fall in battle, who will sing the victory to-morrow?” “Though art in the right, John,” said the chief, “let the shoemaker stick to his last. I will fight the battle today and you will sing the victory to-morrow.” The chief of the Campbells offered a reward for his head, because his satires had been so stinging. Ioin went to Inverary, marched to the audience hall of the Marquis, announced himself as John McDonald and claimed his reward."

Iain Lom’s memorial
Although the bard Iain Lom died in the the early 18th century, his memorial in Cille Chorille kirkyard was erected only in 1873. It was designed by John Rhind and features a tall cross and elaborate ornamentation in the Celtic style, with a brief Gaelic inscription at the foot.

This is the base of the memorial
Iain Lom's grave / Uaigh Iain Luim
John MacDonald, more usually known as Iain Lom the Gaelic bard of Keppoch, lived from around 1624 to 1710 and is buried in the churchyard at Cille Choirille.

Translation of the inscription:

Here in Dun-aingeal ("the stronghold of the angels") in Brae Lochaber
The Bard of Keppoch is sleeping heavily:
His name was Ian Lom ("bald John") MacDonald
But some would call him Ian Mann...

More Noted Poets

"Mackenzie mentions about a dozen noted poets who flourished before Alister McDonald of Ardna-murchan, who took part in the rebellion of ’45. 

The first, Archibald McDonald or Gilleasping (Bishops Boy).  

Ruadh McDombmull, surnamed “An ciaran Mabach,” was the illegitimate son of Sir Alex McDonald, sixteenth baron of Sleat, in Skye. Mabach means “stutterer” (cearan brawn). He was contemporary with Bane John, and he helped him to bring the murderers to justice. His father gave him an estate in North Uist for this and other public services."

My Comments:

A Google search will find a lot more information about Iain Lom. 

The hand witten page above, which is a page of a poem, has an informative commentary with it:
While historical documentary evidence on his life is nearly non-existent, what we do know is largely based on oral tradition. Much of the information on this site is based on 'Orain le Iain Lom Mac-Dhomhnaill. Poems by John Lom Macdonald' by Maclean Sinclair. A page of the poem.
 After being involved in the notorious events commemorated in 'Murtadh na Ceapaich', Iain Lom was forced to flee from Lochaber and seek protection under the MacKenzies of Seaforth in Kintail. Once the hostility against him had cooled down and after living a dangerous life full of political and domestic troubles, he finally returned from exile but died in extreme poverty in about 1710. He was buried in Cille Choirill in a place named 'Tom Aingeal' in the braes of Lochaber. In the early 20th century a monument was erected to commemorate him but unfortunately, it was mistakenly placed over the grave of another Lochaber bard, Dòmhnall Mac Fhionnlaigh nan Dàn.
Iain Lom's grave lies further up on the hill known but it's been largely forgotten now. The grave has been verified by the information that the renowned folklorist and ethnologist Calum Maclean collected which he later wrote about it in his book 'The Highlands' published in 1959:
'Farther on to the right is the church of St Cyril (Cille Choirill). It stands high on the slope of a hill overlooking the railway line. Here it is that lain Lom, the Bard of Keppoch, has found his last resting-place. The tradition is that he expressed a wish to be buried with his face towards his beloved Corrour.
A stone taller than all others in the graveyard has been raised in his honour. All other headstones face due east; lain Lom's headstone looks southwards to Corrour. The actual spot where his remains lie is not known now. It will never be known, for the last tradition bearer who knew for certain is long dead. My kind friend, Mr Archibald Maclnnes, caretaker of the graveyard and the most accurate authority on the history of Lochaber, does not know where lain Lom lies although he knows every other grave marked and unmarked in St Cyril's.'

Cille Choirille Church and Graveyard Looking west.
The memorial stone can be seen to the left of the church.

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