Camille Dressler

Location: West Highland Peninsulas
the jacobites, gaelic language and placenames

Alexander MacDonald: poet and Jacobite

It was at Dalilea in Moidart that the Prince arrived on foot on the 18th of August, 1745, on his way to the raising of his standard.

Dalilea was also the birthplace of Alexander Macdonald (1700-1780), schoolmaster at Kilchoan in the daytime, compiler of the first Gaelic-English dictionary in the evening, ardent Jacobite songster throughout. Armed with gun and pistol, Alexander rushed to join him. Kneeling in front of the Prince at Glenfinnan, whereupon Charles used his knee as a seat, Macdonald there and then composed a song in his honour.

Sent to recruit in Moidart, he then captained '50 cliver fellows who pleased the Prince' throughout the campaign, which he chronicled together with its bloody aftermath, when his hair turned white from hearing about his home being burnt and his wife and children left starving.

In 1749, MacDonald, better known as Alaisdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair (Alexander, son of the Reverend Alexander) published the first ever volume of Gaelic poetry in Edinburgh whilst living on Canna as Clanranald’s baillie. But the Jacobite sentiment in his Ais-Eiridh na Sean Chánoin Albannaich (The Resurrection of the Old Scottish Tongue) caused it to be burnt by the public hangman and him to lose his position.

Alexander then moved about between Moidart and Knoydart, falling out with the local clergy on account of the sometimes 'lewd' nature of his verse and despite being the finest of classical Gaelic poets, ended up his colourful life in obscurity in Arisaig where he is buried in Kilmory church.

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