This is a story which I came across in an old school book called
Leabhraichean Leughaidh Leabhar 1 (Reading Books Book 1).
I have already posted the whole story for those who would like to try
translating it for themselves. Every week I will post one or two sections at
a time with a literal and an idiomatic translation. All accents, spelling
and punctuation are (or should be :-) )as they were in the book, except that
I have used obliques (\ and /) to represent grave and acute accents
respectively. But note that I haven't given too literal a translation, so as
not to distort the sentences too much.
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11. Ged a bha Clann Lir an riochd nan eala bha bruidheann aca agus
sheinneadh iad an ceo\l bu bhinne chualas riamh le cluais. Bha Lir agus
Tuatha De/ Danann uile ag e/isdeachd agus ag cainnt riu. Chaith iad tri\
ceud bliadhna air an loch ud, agus an sin b' fheudar dhaibh imeachd gu sruth
na Maoile eadar Alba agus E/irinn. Bu mho/r am bro\n a bha air na h-ealachan
agus air an ca\irdean an uair a b' fheudar dealachadh.
Though the children of Lir were in [the] shape of the swans there was speech
at them and they would sing the music what was sweetest that was ever heard
by an ear. Lir and the people of De/ Danann were all listening and talking
to them. They spent three hundred years on that loch, and then they had to
move to the North Channel between Scotland and Ireland. It was great the
sorrow which was on the swans and on their friends when they had to part.
Though Lir's children were in the shape of swans, they had speech and they
used to sing the sweetest music ever heard by ear. Lir and the people of De/
Danann all listened to and talked to them. They spent three hundred years on
that loch, and then they had to move to the North Channel between Scotland
and Ireland. Great was the sorrow felt by the swans and their friends when
they had to part.
a) Ged a bha ---- 'Ged', meaning 'though' or 'although', is followed by the
relative pronoun 'a' with the verb in its relative form which is the same as
the affirmative form, except in the future where a special 'relative future
form' is used. In the verb 'to be' this is 'bhitheas' / 'bhios'.
Ged a bhios an t-eun seo ri fhaicinn ann an Alba uaireannan, tha e nas
cumanta ann an Sasainn.
Though this bird is to be seen in Scotland sometimes, it is commoner in
an riochd nan eala You may have noticed that, earlier in the story, (Clann
Lir - Earrann a h-ochd. Section eight) Finuella says:
"De/ cho fada is a bhios sinn an riochd eala?"
So why 'an riochd eala' in one place, and 'an riochd nan eala' in another?
I cannot be absolutely certain about this, but it may be that when Finuella
asked the question, she was thinking of each person, individually, being in
the shape of a swan. However, in the later example it is 'clann' that is
being spoken about. This is a collective noun i.e. a singular word, but with
But why 'na eala' and not 'nan ealachan'? Well, this is a far more complex
problem. With most types of noun, one may lay down rules about how the
genitive plural is formed, but with others, it is rather more difficult.
Sometimes it seems, too, that this is a matter of personal choice (or
perhaps dialect). But, later on in this story (in the part I haven't given
you yet) the writer uses 'nan ealachan' for no particular reason I can see.
c) sheinneadh iad - This is the imperfect use of the imperfect / conditional
form 'they used to sing' / 'they would sing'.
d) an ceo\l bu bhinne - the relative pronoun 'a' is commonly omitted before
e) chualas riamh le cluais. - and here it's omitted because of the final
vowel of 'binne'.
f) b' fheudar - the 'fh' is not pronounced and, for that reason, you will
often find this phrase represented as *b' eudar*. Note that it is followed
by a prepositional pronoun of 'do' e.g. 'is eudar dhomh' 'I must' 'is eudar
dha' 'he must etc. Note also tha it may be followed by the infinitive of the
verb as in the last sentence:
an uair a b' fheudar dealachadh.
Is i a' Ghàidhlig Cànan mo Dhùthcha.
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