[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #3 1924]



12th February, 1920.

In the year 1875 Mr.H. Jenner, of the Manuscript Department of the British Museum called attention to a Manx poem bearing the title of 'Fin and Oshin' preserved in the Museum Library, which he described as 'a fragment of a real Ossianic poem.' It relates how Orry, who had incurred the displeasure of the daughter of Fin, was by the latter, aided by Oshin's daughter, tied by his hair to a harrow as he lay asleep. To avenge this insult he burned down Fin's house, and was in consequence slain by Fin and Oshin on their return from hunting.

Fin is the Fin Mac Cooil of Gaelic tradition. Oshin was his son. The narrative is similar to an old Scottish legend, the best-known version of which is that of the vitrified camp of Knock Ferril given by Hugh Miller in 'Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland.' I am informed that there is also an Irish version. In the Isle of Man the legend does not appear to have survived except as embodied in this poem.

Mr. A. W. Moore, who was unaware of Mr. Jenner's paper, re-discovered this poem in the British Museum and printed it with modernised spelling in the 'Manx Note Book ' of 1886 (p. 80). The poem was stated by Mr. Jenner to have been taken down in the year 1789 by one Peter John Heywood from the recitation of an old woman of the parish of Kirk Michael, but in this he was in error, for, in a letter which forms part of the Museum MSS. Deemster Heywood states that it was 'taken down by a reverend clergyman of his acquaintance, who was engaged in correcting a translation of the Scriptures at Bishop's Court.' The clergyman referred to was undoubtedly the Revd. Philip Moore, and the date, as shown by a remark as to the recent publication of Macpherson's 'Ossian,' was not much later than 1762.

I have had in my possession for some years two old MSS. Of the poem obtained from a Manx source, and on showing them recently to my friend Mr. C. I. Paton, whose interest in Manx matters is equal to my own, he propounded the theory that one of these was probably the original draft of the poem as taken down by the Revd. Philip Moore. It is written on the back of a leaf of an old copy book, and the handwriting exactly resembles that of the Archdeacon.

Some of the lines which appear in the Museum copy are missing from mine, but on the other hand the last line, describing the fate of Orree, which is missing in the Manx of the Museum copy, is given in one of my MSS., and another line, which Mr. Moore appears to have overlooked in the Museum copy - that concerning the young women left at home in Oshin's house - is in my other MS.

The second MS., which is in a different handwriting from the rougher draft, appears to be an amplification of the latter, but is still not so complete as the copy sent by Deemster Heywood to Professor Thorkelin.*

Inasmuch as the British Museum MS. has hitherto been considered the only copy of the poem in existence, the versions in question, which are undoubtedly of older date, have been thought worthy of being placed on record.

Streatham. G. W. WOOD.

*The British Museum copy. It may be a fair surmise that the rougher draft was the one first taken down from the lips of the old woman, other lines being added on some subsequent occasion as her memory served. The translation of the first MS. is in the same handwriting as the Manx original; that of the second version has been just made. The corrections and erasures in the former are as they appear in the MS.

The handwriting of MSS., of which the following is an exact facsimile, is of an old type, probably about 1770. It much resembles that of Archdeacon Philip Moore It is written on thick hand-made paper. On the reverse side is a boy's Latin exercise written in half text, with the two following additional lines of the above poem scribbled between two of the lines.

Spheer liam dy mie quoi ren ny trickyn shoh
Agh Orry Beg eh daag shin ec v thie.


The following translation, as shown in the facsimile below, is in much the same handwriting as the foregoing, but smaller and written with a finer pen. The paper is thinner.


Another copy, handwriting somewhat later (?) or by a younger hand ( ?). Hand-made paper, a little stouter than the last. Except for a few words and spelling, this agrees remarkably with the preceding.


Hie Fin as Ossian magh Laa dy Heilg
Ha row ad Dooiney ayn sloo ny Chead
Quoi daa- ad eg y Thie agh Gorrey beg
Doort Inneen Fin rish Inneen Ossian
Crys nee mayd Craaid mysh Ree Gorrey
Kiangle mayd y Olt seose gys ny Chlein
As Greesee mayd yn Ile magh gys y. Eill
Moostey dy dug Gorrey beg ass
Dennee eh yn Smuirr roie ass v Chass
Hie Gorrey beg er son ny Cheillagh
As y Speih Chonnee er y Gheallyn
Hoght Bhuirt hug eh lesh ass
Hoght Chonnanyn va ayns dagh Bart
Hug eh Bart ayns dagh Innhag
As Bart ayns dagh Dorrys.
Er main y Lhaare hug eh'n Bart Sollys
Va Fin as Ossian rish y Tra shoh sheilg
As ha row ad Doomey ayn sloo ny Chead
Jeagh woar haink orroo as y ghlen Nhear
As lheen ee orroo lesh y Ghea hoie
Fin as roie Ossian
Tra va Ossian skee beign da soie
Agh Fin moar hene sodjey
Chum risp roie Dyllee Fin back gys Ossian
Cha vel ayns shoh agh Toltanyn follym
Quoi ren ny Trickyn shoh agh Gorrey beg
Chossyn eh vow ayns Thoul fo Chregg
Cha row ad able Gorrey beg y gheddin ass.
Agh Phluck ad eh magh er Chass.
*Lesh Cabbyll keoie esht reap ad eh dy Baase.

N.B,-In singing the above song, fallallee and fallalleu are repeated after every line.

* This line has been added in different ink and by a different hand, but probably of the same period.


Fin and Ossian went out to hunt [one] day
There were not less than a hundred men
Whom left they at home but Gorrey beg
Said Fin's daughter to Ossian's daughter
' How may we make a mock of King Gorrey'?
'Let us tie his hair up to the harrows
And let us raise fire against his flesh '
Gorrey beg started up (lit : out)
He felt the marrow running out of his foot
Little Gorrey went to the wood
And his gorse-hack on his shoulder
Eight burdens brought he out
Eight bundles were in each burden
He put a burden in each window
And a burden in each door
In the midst of the floor he put the blazing burden
Fin and Ossian were hunting up to this time
And there were not less than a hundred men
Great smoke came on them from the west glen
And overspread them with the wind.
Fin ran and Ossian ran
When Ossian was weary he was forced to sit [down)
But the great Fin himself continued running
Fin shouted back to Ossian
' There is nothing here but empty ruins
Who did these tricks but Gorrey beg '
He escaped from them into a hole under a rock
They could not get Gorrey beg out
But they plucked him out by the feet
With wild horses they then tore him to death.

The 'Fin as Ossian' MSS. are now in the Manx Museum.


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