Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 35.djvu/12

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MacCoisse
MacCoisse
6

North Uist,and is known as the North Uist bard. His youth was spent on his father's farm, and he received no sort of education. When a youth a fancied insult at a wedding led him to compose his first verses. The song gave much offence, and the author did not declare himself, but his father, happening to have overheard MacCodrum recite the verses before they became known, exacted a promise from the boy to do nothing of the kind again. The promise appears to have been faithfully kept until the father's death, when he again began to compose satirical verses. One of his lampoons so irritated the tailors of the district that they refused to make clothes for him. Sir James MacDonald, the proprietor of the island, happening to meet the poet in rags, inquired the reason of his poverty, and having heard the objectionable verses recited, forthwith appointed MacCodrum his bard, with a grant of free land and an annual gratuity of meal and cheese. MacCodrum enjoyed this patronage under successive lairds until his death, about the close of the century. He is buried at Houghary, a hamlet in North Uist.

MacCodrum was the last bard of the MacDonalds. His verses are mostly satirical and political, and his work has never been collected. Two of his best poems ('Old Age' and 'Whisky') appear among the poems of his contemporary Alexander MacDonald [q. v.] He has been frequently referred to in connection with the Ossianic controrenty. Sir James MacDonald, in a letter to Dr. Blair in 1783, mentioned the great number of legendary poems similar to those published by Macpherson which MacCodrum could recite, and in one of the declarations (Ewan Macpherson's) published in the Highland Society's' Report on the Poems of Ossian' it is said that when Macpherson was travelling in North Uist he met MncCodrum and asked him if he knew any Fingalian poems. The request was couched in such bad Gaelic that the poet made fun of hisqueetioner, who left him in a passion.

[The Celtic Magazine vol. iii, vii contains critical papers on MacCodrum and specimens of his verse in Gaelic, See also McKenzie's Beauties of Gaelic Poetry; Report of the Highland Society on Ossian's Poems.]

J. R. M.

MACCOISSE, ERARD, or URARD (d. 1023), Irish chronicler, was brought up at the court of King Muircheartach, ‘of the leather cloaks’ (919–41), and became tutor to his son Domnall, afterwards king of Ireland. He was subsequently poet to Maelsechlainn or Malachy II (d 1022). Five poems and one prose composition, all in the Irish language, are attributed to him. The first is a poem of twenty-seven stanzas in praise of Malachy II and the principal Irish chieftains of his time. It was written after the death of Brian Boroimhe [see Brian], who is mentioned in it. The second, of fifty-two stanzas, is in the form of a dialogue between himself and MacLiag, chief poet to King Brian, each praising the chieftains of his own side and enumerating the favours received from them. The third, of twenty-six stanzas, is addressed to a host and benefactor of his, Maelruanaidh, chief of Magh Luirg, in the present barony of Boyle, and second son of Tadg of the Tower, king of Connaught. The fourth piece, of twenty-two stanzas, presents considerable difficulties. It purports to relate to a Fergal O'Ruairc, assumed to have been killed at the battle of Clontarf. There are only two persons of the name mentioned in Irish history, one of whom, known as sen-Fergal, or the earlier Fergal, died in 964: the other, Fergalog, or the later, in 1157; but as the battle of Clontarf took place in 1014, the poem cannot apply to either of them. Dr. O'Donovan comes to the conclusion that this poem was originally composed as an elegy on Malachy, and at a later period was altered and interpolated, the name of Fergal being substituted throughout for that of Malachy by a partisan of the O'Ruaircs after they had purchased a tomb at Clonmacnois, and wished to represent their connection with that famous burial-place as of earlier date.

MacCoisse's prose tale relates to an attack on the poet's house at Clara in the King's County adjoining Westmeath, when the O'Neills carried off his furniture and cattle and destroyed his house. After the outrage the poet presented himself at the palace of Ailech, near Derry, and being graciously received by King Domnall, offered to recite a new tale entitled ‘The Plunder of the Castle of Mael-milscothach,’ or ‘Mael of the honeyed words,’ in which MacCoisse told the story of the plunder of his house in a Rabelaisian style and under assumed names. The poet finally informed the king that he himself was the person wronged, and that it was the king's followers who had done the deed. Flann, head of the school of Clonmacnois, was then called on by the king to assess the damages, and he ordered full restitution to be made, together with a fine of fourteen cumals, equivalent to forty-two cows, and also ‘the breadth of his face in gold.’ A strange legend of MacCoisse is told in the Irish ‘Nennius.’ He is there said to have restored to her friends a woman who while very ill was spirited away by demons and changed into a swan.

MacCoisse's date presents some difficul-