The life and work of Fionn Mac Colla: determining a Gaelic experience

Macdonald, Iain (2013) The life and work of Fionn Mac Colla: determining a Gaelic experience. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
Download (2MB) | Preview
Printed Thesis Information:


This thesis is the first extensive consideration of the life and work of Fionn Mac Colla (1906-1975). In particular, it considers the influence of Gaelic language, culture and nationalism on Mac Colla’s corpus. Until now, critical reception of Mac Colla’s writing has been dominated by the legacy of the latter stages of his career, meaning that he has been seen solely as an embittered and polemical writer, motivated only by an angry reaction to what he saw as the negative impact of Scotland’s Reformation. This study argues that such criticism fails to acknowledge that Mac Colla’s creative output was, in fact, far more wide-reaching and complex.
The thesis first considers Mac Colla’s genealogy and biography – placing his novels within their cultural and political context – in order to establish the first comprehensive portrait of the man and his work, and to establish the relevance of his writing to a modern readership. Attention is then turned to The Albannach (1932) in the conviction that this is a major work in the canon of modern Scottish literature and deserves extensive reassessment with regard to its political and Gaelic cultural contexts. This study then focuses on the work that Mac Colla contributed to the periodical The Free Man. This impassioned and polemical writing has neither been fully researched nor explored and its analysis makes a significant new contribution to our understanding of Mac Colla’s achievement. Lastly, the examination of And the Cock Crew (1945) highlights the peak and the turning point of his legacy in critical terms.
This study contends that Mac Colla’s representation of the relationship between Scottish nationalism and Gaelic culture from the Highland Clearances to the 1930s was both politically and culturally radical. It is concluded that his writing, when examined in this context, proves him to be a novelist whose early work offers more sophistication than has hitherto been explored, and ultimately extends his reputation far beyond that of a promising writer of unfulfilled early potential.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Independence, Gaelic, The Albannach, And the Cock Crew, Fionn Mac Colla, Neil Gunn, Hugh MacDiarmid, Edward Baird, Montrose, Portrait of a Young Scotsman, SNP, Independent Labour Party, David Morrison, John Herdman, Nationalism, Snellman, The Free Man, Jacques Maritain, Skye, Palestine, At the Sign of the Clenched Fist, Scottish Noel, Highland Clearances, Tom Macdonald, Scots, Scottish literature, Angus, Mearns, Black Isle
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Supervisor's Name: Riach, Prof. Alan and Carruthers, Prof. Gerard
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Iain Macdonald
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4207
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2013 08:58
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2016 12:34

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year