Bàird Ghàidhlig na Ceapaich Gaelic Bards of Keppoch

Iain Lom
ca.1624 – ca.1710

Iain Lom, Bàrd na Ceapaich was a native of Lochaber and was born about the year 1624. He was a descendent of Iain Àlainn or 'Handsome John', the deposed chief of Keppoch.

While historical documentary evidence on his life is nearly non-existent, what we do know is largely based on oral tradition. Much of the information on this site is based on 'Orain le Iain Lom Mac-Dhomhnaill. Poems by John Lom Macdonald' by Maclean Sinclair (Library shelfmark: NE.731.c.36).

The accepted edition of Iain Lom's work is 'Orain Iain Luim. Songs of John MacDonald, bard of Keppoch' by Annie M. Mackenzie (Library shelfmark: H3.200.5515). Both books can be consulted at the National Library of Scotland.

Iain Lom had extensive knowledge of the Bible, Scottish history and was well acquainted with all the political and contemporary events of his day. He was a man of strong convictions and sincerity who had a vast amount of influence over the Jacobite chiefs of his time. He had superior poetic abilities and was a renowned Gaelic bard.

It is thought by some that he had a good education, but it's more likely that he could neither read nor write. It's not clear whether he was married but he had a son who fought under John Graham, 7th Laird of Claverhouse better known as 'Bonnie Dundee' in the Battle of Killecrankie in 1689 and had considerable poetic skills himself.

After being involved in the notorious events commemorated in 'Murtadh na Ceapaich', Iain Lom was forced to flee from Lochaber and seek protection under the MacKenzies of Seaforth in Kintail. Once the hostility against him had cooled down and after living a dangerous life full of political and domestic troubles, he finally returned from exile but died in extreme poverty in about 1710. He was buried in Cille Choirill in a place named 'Tom Aingeal' in the braes of Lochaber. In the early 20th century a monument was erected to commemorate him but unfortunately, it was mistakenly placed over the grave of another Lochaber bard, Dòmhnall Mac Fhionnlaigh nan Dàn.

Iain Lom's grave lies further up on the hill known but it's been largely forgotten now. The grave has been verified by the information that the renowned folklorist and ethnologist Calum Maclean collected which he later wrote about it in his book 'The Highlands' published in 1959:

'Farther on to the right is the church of St Cyril (Cille Choirill). It stands high on the slope of a hill overlooking the railway line. Here it is that lain Lom, the Bard of Keppoch, has found his last resting-place. The tradition is that he expressed a wish to be buried with his face towards his beloved Corrour.

A stone taller than all others in the graveyard has been raised in his honour. All other headstones face due east; lain Lom's headstone looks southwards to Corrour. The actual spot where his remains lie is not known now. It will never be known, for the last tradition bearer who knew for certain is long dead. My kind friend, Mr Archibald Maclnnes, caretaker of the graveyard and the most accurate authority on the history of Lochaber, does not know where lain Lom lies although he knows every other grave marked and unmarked in St Cyril's.'