We All Remember Katie Morag

macdonaldi04pic1.jpg We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve been asked for the Katie Morag books in Gaelic. Sometimes we’ve been assured they existed, even if we didn’t know about them! Well, now they really do – three of them, at least. Tormod Caimbeul has rendered Mairi Hedderwick’s highly popular originals fairly freely, and they have been issued by Acair as Ceitidh Mòrag agus Balaich Ruadh a’ Ghlinne, Ceitidh Mòrag agus an Dà Sheanmhair and Ceitidh Mòrag aig a’ Chuirm-Chiùil. In paperback, with the familiar illustrations, they are £4.99 each – they’re the ones about the big boy cousins, the two grannies and KM’s performance at a concert.

Yet another translated book from Acair is An Gille Bragail, Norma Nicleòid’s version of Malachy Doyle’s The Bold Boy. This is a £9.99 hardback illustrated in familiar storybook style by Jane Ray. It would be suitable for the younger child, with its repetitions, and it would also be an attractive story to read to a child unable to read yet.

Third up from Acair is Donald Alasdair Macdonald’s collection of stories. His collection of poems was simply Bàrdachd Dhòmhnaill Alasdair (Acair, 1999), and he’s just called this book Sgeulachdan Dhòmhnaill Alasdair. In his eighties now, Mr Macdonald has published much prose and poetry in Gairm and in his local newspaper, the Stornoway Gazette, in the last two decades, and it’s good to see his work in book form. Excellent value as a £6.99 paperback of 126 pages, this collection has twenty-four stories in all.

They are not literary short stories in the modern idiom – they feature the story as yarn rather than as lyric or epiphany, say – and they are a very good read. He tells them with integrity and with an attractive, understated humour, and more than once sets up highly intriguing scenarios. Several of the stories also have a strong element of surprise or a twist in the tail, with an occasional injection of the poignant. Some of them appear to have a basis in fact (or do they?), and that in no way diminishes their interest. Highly enjoyable – try not to read through them at one sitting!

Copyright Ian MacDonald 2005.


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