Monday, 4 March 2013

Seanfhacail is Gnathsan-cainnte a Tiriodh / Gaelic Proverbs and Idiomatic Phrases from Tiree






With the exception of a small number of sayings followed by an asterisk, all the material in this collection was gathered by my grand-uncle, Charles MacDonald, 'Coll View', Caolas, Tiree. Born in 1874, Charles was the third son of Euphemia MacLeod and Hector (Eachann Bàn)  MacDonald. Having served his time as a shipwright/ joiner on Clydeside, he found employment in the area, before emigrating to South Africa for a brief period. Thereafter he spent two longish periods in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, and returned finally to Tiree in 1949. He died in 1961. An acknowledged authority on island genealogies and local history, he left behind him some MS material, of which the greater part is a collection of proverbs.   See Chapter Four of my autobiography (on this website) for further discussion of Charles MacDonald.


The collection is contained in two quarto note-books. One of these is written mainly in pencil, and would appear to contain the original jottings. The second note-book, written in ink, is a fair copy of the fisrt, and it was transcribed by several different people, including my father, Hector MacDonald Meek, who began the new book under my grand-uncle's supervision sometime around 1920. The first note-book contains some material which appears to have been added after the fair copy was completed.


It is not known when Charles started to collect proverbial material, but it seems likely that he was at work in the late nineteenth cenury. The collection is thus another indication of the general interest in such material in the later part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. Most of the collectors of the period were minister, priests, or schoolmasters (or men with some scholarly background). It is a measure of the enthusiasm for proverbs and proverbial lore during this time that the collector on this occasion was a crofter's son, with no formal education beyond the village school. This is reflected to some extent in the MS orthography, which is basically that of normal Gaelic, but which shows the influence of English rather markedly in places.


The purpose of Charles's collection is not clear. He may have intended to publish it as a book; on the other hand, he may have compiled it simply for his own pleasure. Over and above the material published here, the collection contains some five or six hundred proverbs already published in Nicolson, in slightly variant forms. It therefore seems likely that the collection was not meant to supplement Nicolson, although the latter may have acted as a stimulus; certainly there are no indications that Nicolson was consulted. On the other hand, Charles may have felt that variants of the material in Nicolson were worthy of inclusion in their own right. The opposite view is taken in the present edition, and sayings which occur in variant form in Nicolson are retained here only when they show a particularly interesting local variation, or when they shed light on Nicolson's forms.


There seems little doubt that the majority of sayings published below were collected by Charles in Tiree, or from Tiree contacts, although it is not unlikely that some were derived from natives of other parts of the Highlands with whom he came into contact on Clydeside. Many of the sayings can still be heard in Tiree; indeed the majority have been checked out by the editor in the island. The quantity and variety of the material is remarkable, particularly since extensive collections of Tiree sayings were made earlier in the nineteenth century by the Rev. John Gregorson Campbell, who passed his material on to Nicolson.


The sayings in this collection which are followed by an asterisk bear witness to the continuing use of proverbs in Tiree. These have been collected gradually by the editor since 1970; probably many more remain to be gathered.


Translations and notes are by the editor. In this connection, I would like to acknowledge my debt to my father, who not only preserved the note-books, but also explained the significance of many of the sayings.






1. A' chas as moille, a' chas as diumbaiche.

    The slowest foot is the most spiteful foot.


2. A chomalladh fhèin do gach neach; an sin bidh iad coltach.

    Let everyone find his equivalent; then they will be like one another.


    The first part of this saying is frequently used on its own.


3. A' falbh le a teang' air a gualainn.*

    Going about with her tongue on her shoulder.


   Said of a gossip.


4. A' fàs mar isean a' gheòidh.

    Growing like the goose's chick.


   Said of a young person who is growing fast.


5.  A' gearradh bhoc mar choileach-gòthan.

    Leaping like a wind-cock.


   A coileach-gòthan was a child's toy. It was made by fixing hen feathers to a potato. When it was released on a windy day, it would travel with the wind at great speed, bounding off the ground.


6. A' ruith a dh' ionnsaigh na tanalaich.

   Runing into the shallows.


   The image is drawn from sailing, and the saying is used of a person who is heading for trouble.


7. Aghaidh fhlaitheil, fòghnaidh dhi suathadh de chlùd.

   A noble countenance needs only a wipe with a cloth.


8. Air a ghabhail sin da-san!

   Let him take it!


   Used when something unusual happens to a person you don't like.


9. Aithnichear an duin'-uasal air a ghnìomh.

   You can tell a gentleman by his action.


10. Am fear a dh' itheas mil, ithidh esan sprochd dha fhèin.

   The man who eats honey will eat sorrow for himself.


   Presumably a warning against eating too many sweet things.


11. Am fear a ghleidheas a long, gheibh e latha.

     The man who keeps his ship will get a day to sail it.


12. Am fear as luaithe làmh, is leis a' ghobhar bhàn san fhèith.

    The man with the quickest hand will get the white goat (stuck) in a bog.


   Cf. BP no. 112.


13. Am fear a thèid a ghnàth a-mach le linn, gheibh e eòin air uairean.

   The man who always fishes with long lines will catch birds sometimes.


    i.e., exceptional things can happen. Nicolson in his  note to N 17, 4, seems to havae misunderstood the significance of Mackintosh's original saying, which had eun for eòin of the present version, and he preferred the version which read iasg ('fish') instead. My father informed me that he occasionally found cormorants attached to the hooks of long lines set for flounders.


14. Am fear nach cuireadh na crùin, chuireadh e na bilean.

    The man who wouldn't send the crowns would send the bills.


    i.e., a mean person is eager to get money for himself.


15. An ceann seachd bliadhna innsidh an t-iasgair fhortan.

    A fisherman will announce his fortune at the end of seven years.


    A reference to the unpredictability of fishing.


16. An ceum seo gu Galldachd.

    This (is a ) step towards the Lowlands!


   Presumably used when a person adopts Lowland ideas or ways of work.


17. An duine a bhrath e, 's e marbh e.

    The man who betrayed him was the man who killed him.


18. An duine nach bi olc 'na chridhe, cha bhi olc air aire.

    The man who is not evil at heart will contemplate no evil.


    Cf. N 20, 1.


19. An duine nach toir turas don bhaile mhòr, bheir e turas as.

    The man who will not journey to the city will journey from it.


    Cf. N 17, 6; BP no. 11. This version could mean that a person who is unwilling to go to a city is glad to get out of it.



20. An galar a bhios sa mhàthair, is gnàth leis a bhith san nighinn.

    A mother's disease will usually be carried by her daughter.


21. An leanabh a thèid a bhaisteadh 's ann air a bhios an t-ainm.

    The name will be borne by the child who receives it in baptism.


    Cf. C no. 74.


22. An neach leis an cumhang, teicheadh e.

    The person who considers the situation dificult, let him flee.


23. An searrach a bu chòir a bhith aig an làir bhàin, 's ann a tha e aig a' ghearran.

    The garron has the foal which the white mare ought to have.


    Cf. C no. 84.


24. An t-uan a' cadal ann am broilleach na leòghainn.

   The lamb is asleep in the lion's bosom.


    This could be applied to various situations, e.g. a person in a dangerous position of which he is unaware, or a reconciliation betwen two unlikely people.


25. Aontachadh Brìonaig le Breunaig.

   Untruthful's agreement with Nasty.


    Cf. C no. 115. Used of companions in crime.


26. Atharrachadh tric air na h-uile.

    All things alter frequently.





27. Bainne cìche circe an an adharc muice, 's ite cait ga suathadh ris.

      Milk from a hen's breast in a pig's horn, being stirred by a cat's feather.


            i.e. an unlikely situation.


28. Barail a' choin air a mhàthair - barail bhochd.*

      The dog's opinion of its mother - a poor one.


     Cf. N 382, 5. The second part of the saying can vary in intensity!


29. B' e sin an sgriosadail gòrach de bhean òg a thighinn gu taigh duine còir sam bith.

      That would be the coming of a silly, destructive young wife to the house of some kind man.


30. B' e sin an t-srathair a chur an àite na dìollaid.

      That would be to put the harness in the place of the saddle.


       i.e. putting a cart on a horse instead of riding it.


31. B' e sin dol eadar a' chaora 's an rùsg.

      That would be to go between the sheep and its fleece.


      Cf. N 48, 10; BP no.


32. B' e sin garadh na seana bhean.

      That would be (like) the warming of the old wife.  


       i.e. something difficult to accomplish.


33. B' fheàrr leam gu robh 'B' fheàrr leam' beò, 's e pòsd' aig 'Mura bitheadh'.

      I wish that 'I wish' were alive, and maried off to 'Were it not'.


34. Bheir e an t-eàrr 's an t-urball dheth.

      He will take his extremities and his tail off.


     i.e. skin him completely. Seiche ('hide') is often used in place of eàrr.


35.Bidh an uaisle 'na gille-trannsa far nach freagair i.

     Gentility will be like a lobby-boy (?) where it is inappropriate.


    Gille-trannsa (tentatively translated as 'lobby-boy') is not known to me in any other context. Presumably it refers to some kind of menial servant who worked in the trannsa ('entrance porch, corridor, lobby') of big houses. The meaning of the saying would seem to be that people with grand ideas sometimes have to swallow their pride.


36. Bidh losgadh na caillich 'na cuimhne.

      The old woman's burning will remain in her memory.


      Cf. N 359, 7.


37. Blianach chaol, gum bi riadh (?) oirre.

     Very lean meat will have a streak through it (?).


     I am not sure whether riadh is an accurate restoration of MS reaig. If so, I take it as a variant of riadhan, which has 'streak' as one of its meanings (Dw. s.v.).


38. Brògan beaga do chasan mòra.

      Small shoes for big feet.


39. Bu dùthchas dha sin; cha b' e a cheannach a rinn e.

    He obtained that by heredity; he did not buy it.


     The second part of this saying is frequently used on its own, with clear reference to hereditary traits.


40. Buail an fhearsaid air!

     Strike him with the spindle!


    Used of a young person who is growing too fast. It was thought that a blow with the spindle would arrest his growth!


41. Buail thall 's coinnich a-bhos e.

      Strike it over yonder, and meet it over there.


      i.e. do something and wait for the consequences.


42. Buille air a' chù is buille air a' chat!

     Strike the dog and strike the cat!


    i.e. clear everything out of the road.

Tiree Proverbs



 43. Cagar an cluais - chuala triùir e.

      A secret whispered in the ear has been heard by three.


     i.e. a secret ceases to be such as soon as it has been passed on, however quietly.


44. Ceannaich seann rud is bi gun aon rud.

      Buy an old thing and have nothing.


45. Ceò earraich - thig sneachd as a dhèidh cho cinnteach 's ged an robh e glaiste sa chist' agad.

     Mist in spring-time will be followed by snow; you can be as sure of it as you would be if you had it locked in a chest.


46. Cha b'ann air a thòin a bha an claidheamh.

      The swoed was not positioned on his bottom.


      i.e. he was ready for a fight.


47. Cha b' fhiach an tràigh-shìolag dol thuice an oidhche nach robh Ceit a-mach.

      It wasn't worth going to the shore for sand-eels the night that Kate wasn't there.


      Presumably used of a person who 'never missed a chance'.


48. Cha b' fhuilear dha a bhith seachdain air thodhar, bàrr odhar Bhail'-a- Phuill.*

      The dun-coloured grain-crop of Bailephuil would be the better of a week on the bleach.


    The village of Bailephuil in the south-west corner of Tiree has a considerable amount of marshy ground, as its name ('The Town of the Mud') suggests. This probably affected the quality and the colour of its grain-crop.


49. Cha bhi cuid agam den bhodach chaol.

     I will have no part of the thin cod.


     My father suggsts that bodach caol is possibly an alternative name for the dog-fish or for the eel.  Both fish are still taboo to some people in Tiree.


50. Cha bhi dìcheall air deireadh.

     Diligence will not lag behind.


51. Cha bhochd am beagair thusa.

      You are no poor beggar.


       Presumably said to someone who pretended to be worse off than he actually was.


52. Cha bu mhagadh sin air cù a mharbhadh fèidh.

     A dog that could kill a deer would not suffer ridicule through that.


      i.e. a person whose reputation is proved can sit light to ridicule. Cf. BP no. 38.


53. Cha bu mhath leam searrach a reic riut air latha fliuch.

       I would not like to sell you a foal on a wet day.


54. Cha bu toigh leam a bhith nam each aig ceàrd.

      I would not like to be a tinker's horse.


      This probably refers to the tinkers' propensity for buying and selling horses, rather than to their treatment of the animals, which is usually very good.


55. Cha chuir bainne cait mòran uachdair dheth.

       A cat's milk will not produce much cream.


        Cf. N 88, 8.


56. Cha chuir mise don'-fheòraich ort.

       I'll not make evil enquiries about you.


      i.e. I'll not enquire about your reputation.


57. Cha dèan 'B' fheàrr leam'  feum.

     'I wish' will not do.


     Cf. no. 33.


58. Cha dèan cas shiùbhlach tràthach.

      A nimble foot will not let long grass grow.


       In Tiree tràthach is used particularly of the long grass which grows through a road or pathway.


59. Cha dèan corrag ghoirt (or mhilis) ìm.

      A sore (or sweet) finger will not make butter.


      i.e. a finger which is continually on one's mouth.


60. Cha dèan mogam toiram iasgach.

       A dry trouser-leg will not catch fish.


       A variant of this saying has dubhan falamh ('an empty hook') instead of mogan tioram.


61. Cha dèan sinn feum le Lachain, 's cha dèan sinn feum gun Lachainn.

      We cannot manage with Lachlan, and we canot manage without him.


       i.e. more than one helper is required, but he cannot be dispensed with, in spite of his inadequacies.


62. Cha dèan thu maorach nuair a tha an làn ann.

      You cannot gather shellfish at high tide.


63. Cha do mharbhadh lucha bheag fo mhulan mòr riamh.

      A little mouse was never killed under a big corn-stack.


64. Cha do mhilleadh math ri olc.

      Good was never spoilt through contact with evil.


65. Cha do rinn Thugam ceum 's cha do chailleadh Theab riamh.

      'Come to me'  never walked a step, and 'Almost'  was never lost.


66. Cha duine tàillear, 's cha duine dhà dhiubh.

      A tailor does not amount to a man, nor do two tailors.


      Cf. C no. 249.


67. Cha nigh am breamag e fhèin ach a h-uile reothairt.

       The dirty fellow will wash himself only at every spring tide.


68. Cha tèid nì sam bith san dòrn dhùinte.

      Nothing will go into the closed fist.


69. Cha tig de chuileagan ach na thàinig.

       No more flies will come than have already come.


       Presumably this means that matters will become no worse.


70. Cha tig duine carach fad an uidhe.

      A wily man will not come the length of the journey.


71. Cha togadh e ceò air an uisge.

      He would not cause mist to rise from the water.


72. Cha toir a cheòl an cuideachd e.

       His music-making will not take him into company.


73. Cha toir na tha de dh'fhòghlum fon ghrèin sròn a' ghadhair don tarbh.

      All the erudition under the sun will not give the greyhound's nose to the bull.


74. Cha toirinn pòg an aghaidh dùirn do dhuine sam bith.

      I would not give any man a kiss in return for a punch.


75. Cha tug e an corc às a' bhotall.

      He didn't take the cork out of the bottle.


      i.e. he obtained nothing.


76. Chaill thu an t-soag a' ruith an t-suip.

      You lost the wisp in chasing after the straw.


      A local variant gives the opposite sense: a' call an t-suip a' ruith na siobhaig ('losing the straw in pursuit of the wisp').


77. Chan e cas, ach an culaidh fhaotainn.

     It's not the foot that's wanted, but the covering (?).


     Presumably the reference is to an animal being butchered; the saying could apply to a person who was anxious to get the best part.


78. 'Chan e coilich a h-aon agaibh a th'ann, ach na coilich agamsa,' ars am madadh-ruadh.

      'The cockerels don't belong to any one of you; they are mine,' said the fox.


      This saying looks as if it once formed part of a fable.


79. Chan e an saor, ach a shliseag.

      What matters is not the joiner, but his shaving.


80. Chan eil Achadh nan Tulach

          nan cnocan buidhe bòidheach

       nach eil latha gu subhach

          is latha gu dubhach, brònach.

     Achadh nan Tulach of the fair, yellow hills is not without a happy day or a day of gloom and sorrow.


         Cf. N 116, 6.


81. Chan eil aig duine ach maorach a thoirt  às a' chladach dha fhèin.

      One has no alternative but to fetch shellfish from the shore for himself.


      i.e. it's a case of every man for himself.


82. Chan eil an sin ach buille beag air bàrr na crudha.

      That is nothing more than a light blow on the tip of a horseshoe.


83. Chan eil ann ach sgarbh na faile.

     He is only a smelly cormorant (?).


84. Chan eil carraig air nach caochail sruth, ach carraig dhubh Liosmòir.*

      There is no headland where the tide does not turn, except the black hjeadland of Lismore.


      Tidal currents from the Firth of Lorne, Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull converge close to the western tip of Lismore (where the lighthouse is situated). This creates a whirlpool which is noticeable at all states of the tide.


85. Chan eil deur air an t-sùil, ged tha 'n cù caoineadh.

      There's no tear in the dog's eye, although it's crying.


       Often used of children who cry frequently and for very little reason. The saying can also be extended to crocodile tears.


86. Chan eil do dhuine sona ach a bhreith; chan eil do dhuine dona ach  a bhreith is àrach.

     A lucky mam needs only to be born; an unlucky man needs to be born and brought up.


      Cf. C, no. 296.


87. Chan eil dùthchas aig bean no ministear.

      A woman and a minister have no patrimony.


     The substitution  of ministear for sagart ('priest'), which is normally used in this saying, is interesting.


88. Chan eil gealladh air latha.*

     No day is guaranteed.


     i.e. there is no certainty about the future.


89. Chan eil fhios dè as fheàrr do cheann carrach, fuachd no teas.

      Nobody knows what best suits a scabby head, whether it be cold or heat.


     Cf. C, no. 310.


90. Chan fhaca long mòr riamh gun gheòla bheag aice.

      No big ship has ever been seen which hasn't had a little boat (on board).


      i.e. precautions ought to be taken, however large the enterprise.


91. Chan fhaigh a' ghortag cnàmh.

       A penurious woman will not get a (single) bone.



92. Chan fheàrr an cat cam air fiosachd na mi fhèin.

     The one-eyed cat is no better at telling the future than I am.


93. Chan fheàrr duine falamh na duine air a' chuthach.

     A man who possesses nothing is better than a mad-man.


94. Cho amh ri iasg.

      As raw as fish.


95. Cho bodhar ri crann-tarruing.

      As deaf as a wooden pin.


96. Cho bog ri cailleach-cheòsach.

      As soft as a wood-louse.


97. Cho cam ri cù a mhùin air sneachd.

      As squint as a dog that relieved itself on snow.


98. Cho carrach ri craiceann dallaig.

      As rough as the skin of a dogfish.


99. Cho daor ris an aran mhilis.

     As expensive as sweet bread.


100. Cho lom ris a' chearc bhon chòcaire.

        As bare as a hen which has come from the cook.


101. Cho searbh ri sùgh na sealbhaig.

       As bitter as the sap of common sorrel.


102. Cho sèimh ris an uachdar.

        As unruffled as cream.


103. Cho siùbhlach ri srannachan.

        As fast-moving as a humming board.


       In Tiree, a srannachan was usually a piece of rounded leather with a serrated edge. A string passed through two holes in the centre of the piece, and when the string was wound up and pulled, the srannachan could be kept in perpetual motion at high speed.


104. Cho tioram ri tòn an t-sagairt.

       As dry as a priest's bottom.


105. Cho trang ri triùir ann an leabaidh.

       As busy as three in a bed.


106. Cho trang 's nach eil suidhe ri cas.

      So busy that no foot can rest.


     For cas ('foot'), tigh is often substituted, giving a meaning, 'So busy that there's no time to sit at home'.


107. Chuir ceòl bho chèile sinn, 's thug ceòl gu chèile sinn.

        Music caused us to separate, and  music reconciled us.


108. Clach a bhios air thurraman, tuitidh i uaireigin.

        A stone which keeps rocking will fall sometime.


109. Comharradh na gaillinn, eòin na mara air tìr.

       It's a sign of a storm when seabirds come inland.


110. Cù gramach, each breabach, tè bheulach is fear sgeulach - bi nad earalas orra.

       A dog that bites, a horse that kicks, a plausible woman and a gossiping man - be on your guard with them.


111. Cuid a bha is cuid nach robh, mar a bha iasgach Dhòmhnaill Bhàin.

        Some that were, and some that weren't, like Fair Donald's fishing.


112. Cùm thusa an giadh is spiònaidh mis'  e.

       You hold the goose and I'll pluck it.


113. Cùm thusa sin romhad, mar a bha am fear a ghoid a' mhuc.

       Keep that in front of you, like the man who stole the pig.


114. Cut! Cut! a chait, 's do chraiceann air a ruadhadh!

       Get out of the way, cat - your coat has been singed!


       Said of people who have gone close to a source of danger, and have been slightly scathed.






115. Dàil aon oidhche, dàil ceud bliadhna.

        To delay for one night is to delay for a hundred years.


116. Dèan gu math is geibh thu gu math.

       Deal well, and you will be well dealt with.


117. Deireadh an latha Di-sathurna, 's ann a nì an fheannag a mùn.

       It's at the end of the day, on a Saturday, that the crow relieves itself.


        This saying is used when a person from whom help is expected turns up late, and then does very little.


118. Deoch-slàinte a' mhinig nach tig,

            is tric a' mhinig a thàinig;

        ach b' fheàrr leam gur h-e minig nach tig

            bha 'n àite a' mhinig a thàinig.

       Here's a health to what has frequently not happened, and often (a health) to what has frequently happened; but I wish that what has often not happened were in the place of what has happened. (?)


119. Duine gun dòigh, duine gun rath.

       A man without means is a man without luck.


120. Duine nach toir an aire air a' ghnothach, nach toir a ghnothach an aire air.

       If a man doesn't attend to his business, his business will not attend to him.







121.  Each sa chlaisich 's each air bhàin.*

         A horse in the furrow and a horse on the turf.


       This gives the correct positions for a team of two horses in a plough.


122. Eadar an dorus 's an ursann.

        Between the door and the doorpost.






123. Fada caol, mar a bha laogh a' mhinistir.

        Long and lanky, like the ministers's calf.


124. Falbh a-nis, is falbh le fois.

         Go now, and go in peace.


125. Faodaidh gum faigh mise latha foghair orr' fhathast.

        It may yet be that they will give me a day's help with the harvest.


       Said when a person helped another; the saying is based on the co-operation of neighbours in the main activities of the farming year.


126. Far am bi a chaora, bidh an t-uan.

         Where the sheep is, the lamb will be too.


127. Far am bi an gaol tana, bidh na lochdan lìonmhor.*

        Where love is thin, faults are plentiful.


128. Fear falmh 's e gun nì, suidhidh e fada shìos o chàch.

       A poor man with no possessions will sit far down from other people.


       Cf. C no. 37.


129. Fhuair iad athair do Rob.

       They have found a father for Rob.


       Used, rather sarcastically, when people discuss the paternity of an illegitimate child.








130. Gabhaidh gach dath dubh, ach cha ghabh dubh dath.

        Every colour will absorb black, but black will not absorb another colour.


       Cf. N 298, 1.


131. Gach uan nas gile na mhàthair, s a mhàthair cho geal ris an t-sneachd.

        Every lamb is whiter than its mother, and its mother is as white as snow.


       Cf. C no. 490.


132. Ge bith cò a bhios san fhèith, bidh fear na bò fhèin an.

        Whoever (else) is in the bog, the owner of the cow himself will be there.


133. Ge bith cò a dh' òrdaich an ceòl, pàigheadh e e.

       Whoever called for the music can pay for it.


134. Ge bith dè gheibh cearac a' sgrìoban, chan fhaigh cearc a' crùban dad.

        Whatever a hen may get by scraping, it will not get anything by crouching.


135. Gealltanas math 's droch phàigheadh.

        A good promise and a poor pay.


136. Geàrr an toiseach e, 's geàrr a rithist e; an treas uair bidh e ceart.

       Cut it to begin with, and cut it again; the third time it will be right.


137. Gearra-ghobaich gun mhodh, gun oilean, coillearan Mhucàrna.*

        The foresters of Muckairn are mannerless, uneducated, short-snouted fellows.


138. Ged is ionnan cladach, chan ionann maorach.

        Although the shore is the same, the shellfish are different.


       Cf. C no. 506.


139. Ged nach eil mi nam dhùthaich, is math leam  bhith ma coinneamh.

        Although I don't live in my own country, I like to live opposite it.


140. Geilt rionnaich is geilt ròin, geilt muice mara mòir; ach bheir giomach beag nan casan cama rubha ainneamh far an sròin.

         The fearful rushes of the mackerel and the seal are equivalent to (?) the fearful rush of a great whale; but the little lobster with the crooked legs will beat them round an occasional headland.


141. Geuraichidh cruaidh cruaidh eile.

        One sharp thing will sharpen another.


       Cf. 'Iron sharpens iron'.


142. Ghearradh e coinnlean caol coirce roimh 'n toiseach le ro-fheabhas a stiuiridh.

        He could cut a slender stalk of straw with the ship's bow - such is his excellent steering.


143. Guma buan an làmh sin rinn mi earbadh aisde!

        Long life to the hand on which I depended!






144. Iasgairean bun an ruic.*

        The fishermen of the bottom of the fishing-bank.


        Probably a saying of disparagement, referring either to hooks which get caught in the seaweed of the fishing-bank, or to boats sinking on the bank.


145. Iomadh sgobadh na Faoiltich, caoilt' is gearran.*

       The Faoilteach is a time of many snatches, starvation and discontent.


      The Faoilteach was 'the last fortnight of winter and first fortnight of spring (Old Style), proverbial for variableness' (Dwelly).


146. Ionnsaichidh bean gu bàs is fear gu aois.

       A woman will keep on learning until death, and a man until old age.


147. Is ann a tha mise ga cheannach mi fhèin.

        It is I myself who is buying it.


148.  Is ann aige a tha 'n oifig.

         He holds a great office. (?)


        i.e. he thinks a lot of himself. (?)


149. Is ann air eagan nan adhaircean as aithnichte aois a' chruidh.

        You can tell the age of cattle by the notches on their horns.


150. Is ann às a beul a shileas a'  bhò.

        A cow gives milk from her mouth.


       Alternatively, air a ceann ('from her head'). Cf. C no. 545.


151. Is ann mu dheireadh a rugadh an t-oighre.

        The heir was born last of all.


        i.e. the normal order has been inverted.


152. Is blianach Nollaig gun sneachd.

        Christmas without snow is like lean meat.


       Cf. C no. 555.


153. Is coimheach am fear am foghar.

        Harvest time is a surly character.


        People have little time to talk to each other when the harvest is under way.


154. Is dlùithe glùin na uileann.

       The knee is nearer (the main part of the body) than the elbow.


       Cf. N 197, 5; C no. 568.


155. Is dlùth don tòin a thilg, ubh innisgeach.

        An egg full of insult keeps close to the bottom that laid it. (?)


156. Is dona an dithis nach foghainn do aon duine.

        It is a bad pair that will not satisfy one man.


157. Is e a' bhèist an aois - tha glag na ceum.

        Old age is a beast - it clanks as it walks.


        The reference, presumably, is to joints which creak because of old age.


158. Is e a' cheud bhrùchd den mharaig a' chuid as teotha dhith.*

        The hottest part of a pudding is the first consignment of it.


159. Is e a' chrois as ùire daonnan as searbha.

        The most recent trial is always the sorest (to bear).


160. Is e am balach am bodach!*

        The old man is really the youngster!


       Used when the older person does more than a younger man.


161. Is e an latha bagarrach a nì an obair thogarrach.*

        A forbidding day makes people work with a will.


       i.e. to avoid bad weather.


162. Is e cuileag ruadh as àirde srann nuair dh' èireas i.

        A 'brown fly' makes the greatest noise (of all) when it rises.


       The cuileag ruadh is generally seen on dung-hills and drains.


163.  Is e tomhas as fheàrr na tuaimeas.


164. Is eigin dol far am bidh 'n fhòid.


165. Is e gàire as còir a dhèanamh ri losgadh.


166. Is e gaol a bhith mòr a tha 'n fheòil a' sireadh.


167. Is e mo mhac mo mhac gus am pòs e, ach is e mo nighean fad 's is beò i.


168. Is e na fir a bhith gann a chuir fèill air fir nam bram an Eirinn.


169. Is e sin a bhith a' cur port Nèill 'ic Anna oirre a-nis.


170. Is e teanga an rud as fheàrr do t' fhar-aire.


171. Is fhada a shìneas duine a chasan na thigh fhèin.


        Cf. N  236, 2.


172. Is fhada do shùil o d' ghoile.

        Your eye is far removed from your stomach.


173. Is fhad' eadar do cheann 's do chasan.


       Used when a person is talking about an event that happened a long time previously, as if it had just happened.


174. Is fhasa dol do rudha na tighinn.


175. Is fheàrr a bhith mall na bhith tuilleadh is clis.


176.Is fheàrr an òige na 'm pension.*


177. Is fheàrr aon sgobadh de bhean an tighe na fad an latha de shearbhanta.


        Cf. N 250.


178. Is fheàrr a' mhiùg a bhios sa Ghàidhealtachd na 'm bainne blàth a th' ann am Peairt.


179. Is fheàrr sgil na sgoil.


180. Is fheàrr suidhe air an ùrlar ann ad thigh fhèin na air cathair ann an tigh duin' eile.


181. Is foghar gach geamhradh gu Nollaig.*


       Cf. N 132, 1.


182. Is fortanach am fear a gheibh bean ghlic.


183. Is goirid meamhair an amadain.


184. Is iomadh cridhe uasal a tha a' bualadh fo chòta luideach.


185. Is iomadh rud a tha fo chrathadh na làimhe.


186. Is lom an t-achadh nach atharraich an ceapainn.


187. Is math an dàil cho fad 's a gheibhear i.


188. Is math gu seòladh an rathaid am fear nach bi math air aoigheachd.


189. Is math nach bàthar na thèid an cunnart.*


       Cf. N 87.


190. Is milis corrag a losgadh.


       Cf. N 276, 2.

191. Is minig a bha rath air mall.


192. Is minig a dh' fhàs bruidhinn bheag na seanchas mòr.


193. Is minig a rinn balaich iasgach.


194. Is minig a thàinig an Rìgh rathad tigh a' bheagair.


195. Is mise fear-an-tighe nuair bhios m' athair anns an Rois.


196. Is reamhra na ròn tòn eadar dà thigh.


197. Is sleamhainn an grèim air an fheasgainn an t-earball.


198. Is toigh leis a' chat a chomalladh.


199. Is trian obair tòiseachadh.





200. Lùghdaichidh eòlas urram.

Tiree proverbs




201. Ma bhios aon chron san eòlach, bidh dà-dheug san aineolach.


202. Ma bhios rud aig fear sa mhogan, gheibh e bean daonnan.


203. Ma cheansaicheas tu bò, ceannaich tè air am bì earball.


204. Ma thig e air tìr an àit'-eigin, thig e dhachaidh uair-eigin.


205. McPhèidein na circe glaise, ged a dh' fhan e ri bruich, cha d'fhan e ri h-ithe.*


206. Maighdeann Sàbaid is each Samhainn - bì nad earalas orra.


       Cf. N 309, 5.


207. Mar a bha 'n làir bhàn a bh' ann san dorus. [-a' feitheamh 's ag èisdeachd.]


       Cf. N 310, 2.


208. Mar an giadh glas, an seo an diugh 's am màireach an àit' eile.


209. Mar as fhaide an t-slat, 's ann as fhasa a lùbadh.


210. Mar as luaithe, 's ann as fhaisg a' mhoille.


211. Mar chat a' dol troimh sheileasdair.*


212. Math air fad mar a bha am port.


213. 'Meal is caith e.' 'Gum mealadh sibh-s' bhur slàinte.'


      Cf. N 313, 10.


214. Miann an duine lochdaich, càch uile bhith amhluidh.


       Cf. N (M) 315, 1.


215. Mol gach neach mar a gheibh.


216. Moladh duin' uil' thu, ach na mol thu fhèin.


217. Mura bheil mo chachalaith a' còrdadh riut, cha leig thu leas an rathad a ghabhail.


218. Mura h-ionnsaichear ris a' ghlùin, chan ionnsaichear leis an uilinn.






219. Na biodh sgeadach a' choin ort daonnan.


220. Na caill do rèis an dèidh do bharail.


221. Na cuir cùl ris an t-seann fhear gus am faigh thu 'm fear òg.


       Cf. N 331, 2. 


222. Na dean tàir air loth pheallach, no balach luideagach, no nighean breac lurgannan.


       Cf. N 331, 9.


223. Na iarram bhuat; na tagair orm.


224. Na meas duine air coltas aodaich.


225. Na mùthadh thusa comhairle.

        Do not reject advice.


226. Na tarruing nì an aghaidh a ranna.


227. Na toir gaol gu bràth ann an àite nach gabhar e.


228. Na trì rudan as mò as buailteach do chaochladh - mnathan, soirbheas is sìd.


229. Nach e tha fada thall.


       A 'fly' person.


230. Nach tu a tha a' ruith air an fheisd.


231. Nach tu a thionndaidh air do làimh thoisgeil.


232. Nach tu nach do sheall air do thapadh.


       Someone who did (not?) look ahead.


233. Nam b' e mòine sin ach ploc.


234.Nan dèanadh iarratas each, bhiodh na bochdan a' marcachd.


235. Nì làmh an dìchill beartas.


236. Nì smaointinn mionaid corr-uair obair uairean a cheartachadh.*


237. Nuair a bhios na fleasgaich air falbh, togaidh a' ghràisg a-mach.


238. Nuair a chailleas duine a chuid, caillidh e a chàirdean.


239. Nuair a thèid an t-seann mhaighdeann air an spiris, bidh càil a sheasamh aic. [?]


240. Nuair a thèid thu dh' iarraidh bean, na tèid nas fhaide na gleodh coilich. [glaodh cullaich, MS]


241. Nuair a thig thu a rithist, thig eadar Nollaig is Fèill Bhrìghde.






242. Obair leth dhèante, na leig fhaicinn do bhean no do bhurraidh e. [do bhean no do dh' amadan.]


243. Olaidh e a' ghaoth as a dèidh.


244. Pàigheaadh mun chlàr.


245. Pàpanaich a mhuinntir Mhùideirt, tiodhlaiceadh iad an cuideachd fhèin.*


246. Pearsan pabach mergadh (mudhe/modhe ?) lònain. [mogadh Lonan MS]


247. Pòsadh na luid airson a cuid; dh' fhalbh a cuid is dh' fhan an luid.


248. Priob do shùil no crath do cheann, 's e 'n aon rud a th' ann do each dall.


        Cf. Eng.: 'a nod's as good as a wink to a blind donkey'.


249. Rathad Hogh à Hoighnis gu Beinn Chenn-a'-Bhara.*


250. Seachd bliadhna na sgarbh, seachd bliadhna na learg, seachd bliadhna na *bhallan-bò, 's an còrr na bhuna bhuachaille.*


        *Large cormorant, with white spat on its side.


251. Seann each airson an rathaid fhada.


252. Sgriob mhòr a' bhonnaich bhig.


253. Sin agad sliseag den t-seann ealag.

       That is a shaving from the old chopping-block.


       < Eng.: 'a chip off the old block'.


254. Sin mar a chaidh an tàillear a Ghleanne Cuaich, mar shodan ris a' chuideachd.

        [Mar shodan ris a' chuideachd. - Cf. N 311.]

       Cf. N 340, 6.


255. Slatag ann am beul uaimh.


256. Snàthainn fada ann an snàthaid an tàillear leisg.










257. Tha a' bhriogais ruadh shuas a Luan 's a Dhòmhnach.


258. Tha a thoit fhèin às gach similear.


259. Tha cabar còrr air an taigh seo.

        Every beam rested on this. [?]


       Used of a person who maintains others in a household.


260. Tha caraid do charaid air a mheas mar do charaid fhèin.


261. Tha Carghas air fear an taighe a-nochd.


262. Tha e cìnnteach as a ghradan.


263. Tha gaol nam ban à beagan tioram is gaol nam fear à beagan fliuch titheach air tigh a chur ma sgaoil.*


264. Tha mo sgillin-sa cho math ri d' sgillinn fhèin.


265. Tha seana n-each an geall air searrach.*


266. Tha teas an teine na lurgainn.


        'He moves fast'.


267. Teasach na caillich 's i na seasamh.


268. Thàinig mise troimh mhuileann romhainn.


269. Thig an càirdeas far an eòlais.


       Cf. N 364, 9.


270. [Thig] làn seachd bolla de shneachd earraich troimh aon toll-tora.


271. Tomhais romhad mar a th' agad....[cia mheud adharac a th' air a' mhuic].


272. Trì buinn odhar is fàirdinn, is dàil gu latha na sluasaid.*


       Cf. N 161, 5.


273. Trì casan-deiridh air coileach mo sheanamhar.*







274. Ubh aig eireig, bean aig sgalaig, 's uan aig beul oithisg - triùir air am bi meas.






1. An rud a chaitheas an beagair air falbh, cuiridh an duin'-uasal na phòca e.


2. An rud a fhliuchas a' ghrian tiormaichidh an t-uisge e.




3. An rud nach eil 's nach bi gu bràth, sìn do làmh is chì thu e.


4. Bidh e a-stigh, 's bidh e a-mach, bidh e am broinn obair; bidh an cruachan air ruadh, is e a-stigh is cròic air.


5. Chì mi thall air àilleagan, air barr na lice ruaidh, am mac a' tighinn bho mhàthair, 's a mhàthair a' tighinn uaidh.


6. Cò an cùl cinn as fheàrr leat? Am fear a tha thu a' faicinn, no am fear nach eil thu a' faicinn?


7. Craobh dhìoganach, ghàganach, ghuaganach, 's a bun suas 's a bàrr sìos, 's i a' fàs mar sin.


8. Dig fhada lom,

    toll domhainn dubh,

    duine ga chur ann,

    is meall air a mhuin.


9.  Dòdaman, dòdaman, gille beag dubh; trì casan iaruinn, is mullach de dh' fhiodh.*




10. Each dubh is each donn bonn ri bonn; cò as luaithe an t-each dubh na 'n t-each donn. 'S e 'n t-each donn as math feirg.


     Teine is Toit.


11. Ged tha mi cho dubh ri dubh, 's iomadh bean uasal a thig 's a bheireas air làimh orm.


12.  Gobhar iubhar adhair a thug m' athair às an Ros; ged rachadh a bheul fodha, cha tigeadh deur às.*


    Ugh mairt.


13. Is cruinne e na ball,

      is àirde e na long,

      dà earbal air ball,

      's an ceann ris an talamh.


14. Muc dhubh, dhubh aig ceann tigh Fhearchair; dithis na ceann is triùir na h-earball.*




15. Thèid e a-null far na h-abhainn, thig e a-nall far na h-abhainn; innsidh e naidheachd, 's cha labhair e diog.




16. Tigh beag soilleir, 's a dhà dhorus dùinte.







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