Iargain fàtha

/iərgɛNʲ Faːa/


Raghnaid Sandilands



See Also

A term that could speak to a specific kind of sorrow, one that has a thread of joy running through it; a smart of longing felt when a piece of wisdom or detail is found, one you wish you had always known - in this case, relating to the meanings held in the names and lore of the landscape.

Further Reading

Scottish Gaelic Dictionary by Edward Dwelly

Various works by Keith Basso


In his seminal ethnography based on fieldwork with the Western Apache of Arizona, anthropologist Keith Basso speaks of the ‘wisdom that sits places,’ expressing the idea that land and language holds precious wisdom through names and narratives past and present. In Gaelic culture, Dinnseanchas is the term for the lore of how places came to be named.


One definition in Dwelly’s Gaelic dictionary of iargain is ‘to bewail the loss of a friend’. One might consider a knowledge gleaned from a language indigenous to place – a place name meaning, story, song – as a friend you wish you’d always known. Fàth has various meanings: cause, reason, opportunity, perspective and the lesser meanings of poem or breath – all of which could be thought of as expansive and essential to connection.


Such details can enrich our vista or illuminate our understanding into another time. Finding these details, these connections, is its own salve.



Tingwall Gateway Sign, Image: Eileen Brooke Freeman

Questions & Provocations

Through the link in Further reading, listen to Iain MacDhùghaill’s 19th century song of longing “Òran Bhràigh Rùsgaich,” sung by Megan Henderson of the band Breabach - it describes the rich bird life in the forest by Loch Ness. Fragments of the old forest described in this song remain today about a river gorge at 'Allt nan Saighead' (stream of the arrows), surrounded by plantation trees.
Raghnaid Sandilands