Scottish Gaelic scholar and translator; b. Arisaig, Scotland, 1769; d. Tombae, Scotland, Sept. 9, 1849. Ordained in 1798 at Scots College, Valladolid, Spain, he was sent to the seminary of Lismore, Scotland in 1806 as a professor. In 1814 he was appointed to the mission of Aigeas in Strathglass, and was transferred in 1818 to Braemar in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Nearly all the devotional literature extant in Scottish Gaelic before 1850 came from MacEachen's pen. He translated The Abridgement of Christian Doctrine (1815); Lorenzo Scupoli's Spiritual Combat (1835); Thomas à Kempis's The Imitation of Christ (1836), of which an earlier Gaelic translation had been published in 1785 by Robert Menzies; the Declaration of the British Catholic Bishops (1838); the New Testament (published in 1875 after revision by C. C. Grant); and Bishop Challoner's Meditations (still in manuscript). There is reason to believe that MacEachen was the original editor of the Scottish Gaelic prayer book Iùl a' Chrìosdaidh, which first appeared in 1834 (8th ed.1963). He also published (1832) a treatise (in English) on arithmetic and a Gaelic-English dictionary, based on his native dialect of Arisaig, in 1842.
From 1814 MacEachen lived and worked in the eastern district of Scotland, though the great majority of Gaelic-speaking Catholics (about 13,000 as against 3,000) were in the western district. Bitter criticism by certain western-district clergymen of MacEachen's Gaelic orthography and style led Bishop Scott of the western district to insist that MacEachen's writings be revised by two of the bishop's clergy before publication, a step that MacEachen resented. Some of MacEachen's usages show a reaction against the influence of literary Irish and Argyllshire Gaelic in favor of his Invernessshire dialect.
Bibliography: d. maclean, Typographia Scoto-Gadelica (Edinburgh 1915). The Dictionary of National Biography From the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 1885–1900) 12:513.
[j. l. campbell]