In the year 2000, Clan Gregor Society reinstated the ancient post of bard, to ensure that our history does not fade in the 21st century. The Society appointed professional storyteller Paraig MacNeil of Dunblane, to become its first bard for more than 200 years. The appointment was, symbolically, a most important move in centuries.
Under the old Scottish clan system, the bard – seanchaidh (or sennachie) in Gaelic – was second in importance only to the chief, of whose household he was a part. He was responsible for the preservation of the clan tradition in a society which depended upon oral history. The bard was used to praise the chiefly lineage, recite the genealogy of the clan and diminish the opposition, through words, in times of conflict. Paraig says the bard was so important that, in battle, even opponents would “pass the sword over his head” to avoid killing off a clan’s history.
There was a time when bards were very highly valued. The bard was the oral custodian of the clan’s history and was exempt from combat. Bards would have to fulfil a 12 year apprenticeship before they qualified. They would also have to commit to memory more than 3,000 works of poetry. Much of the MacGregor history was lost after Culloden in 1746 – when the old system ceased to exist – although story telling persisted as a fireside tradition.
For details of Paraig’s repetoire of Clan Gregor, in story and verse, please visit his website at www.scotsbard.com.