This ode to the Clan Donald (who ruled as Lords of the Isles and were also known by the name Clann Cholla for their ancestor Colla) was composed during the reign of Eòin (aka “John,” 1434– 1503), the last Lord of the Isles. It may have been composed for his inauguration c.1450. The poet claims for the Clan Donald Ceannas nan Gàidheal “the Headship of the Gaels,” a seemingly honorific title referring to their supremacy and leadership in the Scottish Highlands and Irish seaboard.
The following text was adapted by Michael Newton from the edition of McLeod and Bateman, Duanaire na Sracaire, 104-7.
§ 1. The Headship of the Gaels for Colla’s descendants – proper it is to pronounce: they are again in their same battle ranks, those princes of Fódla [Ireland].
§ 2. The headship of Ireland and Scotland of the sunlit soil is held by that bloodied, bladed people, full of heroes and poet-scholars.
§ 3. Eòin of Islay holds the headship of that entire kindred; Alasdair [aka Alexander, his father], generous prince, won the fortune of sovereignty.
§ 4. Donald, Eòin, and two Aonghas’s embodied generosity – four men who held the kingship to whom the Gaels yielded.
§ 5. Donald and Ranald, during their kingship, never relinquished; Somhairle [aka, Somerled] deserved praise, that leader of warriors.
§ 6. Four generations from blue-eyed Somhairle up (the family tree) to Suibhne [aka, Sweeny]; those four never betrayed their status – it is proper to recall them.
§ 7. Six generations from Suibhne – a lucky number – up to King Colla; they had wine round about the banks of the Bann in pointed cups.
§ 8. Even if I were to enumerate all of those noble Gaelic ancestors all the way back to Adam, not a single blemish on a generation could anyone find.
§ 9. As I have promised, here is an account of Gaelic ancestry; that people who are without peer and who deserve headship.