Angus J. Macdonald: Radical Gaelic Voice

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Published by Michael Newton

Michael Newton was awarded a B.A. in Computer Science from the University of California (San Diego) in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Celtic Studies from the University of Edinburgh in 1998. He is a leading authority on the literature and cultural legacy of Scottish Highland immigrant communities in America. He has written several books and numerous articles on many aspects of Highland tradition and history, and has given lectures at venues such as the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, Slighe nan Gaidheal in Seattle, and the Toronto Scottish Gaelic Learners' Association. He has also been creating digital content since the early 1980s in the form of computer games (having been on the FTL Games team that produced Dungeon Master in 1987), hypermedia (creating the Celtic History Museum in HyperCard in 1991), and on-line digital collaboratories (creating Finding the Celtic in 2008).

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3 Comments

  1. Having published my comments on the first two of these volumes, and having read Donald Ferguson’s justifiably irritated reply which came after the first installment, I continue to feel sorry for Ferguson who was, no doubt at all, animated by the best of motives. Unfortunately for him, A. J. MacDonald was one in a considerable line of Gaels who felt, quite rightly, that Gaelic culture and literature were being lost — perhaps a better word for what happened would be cultural genocide — and that the only thing to do to right the wrong was to “prove” that Gaelic culture had every bit as much antiquity (and thus value) as that of “the ancients” i.e. Greek and Rome, which every upper-class schoolboy spent years learning to revere as the acme of cultural achievement and the hallmark of upper-class refinement. That this enterprise required the wholesale fabrication of material, and thus the disparagement (having been unmasked) of the very culture that it sought to glorify, did not appear to bother these men. How ironic is it, then, that a colleague of mine has recently demonstrated that a couple of Gaelic tales — one collected from oral tradition in Cape Breton — bear a thematic relationship with Homer’s Odyssey. Truth is much more interesting than fiction!

  2. A very interesting post that reminds me of others who tried to creatively re-imagine a cultural identity by “filling in the gaps” with forgeries – most notably Iolo Morganwg, who did for Wales (and Glamorgan) on a grand scale what A.J. MacDonald apparently attempted for Gaelic Scotland.

  3. You could argue that JRR Tolkien attempted something similar with his “Mythology for England” which encapsulated his first writings in what was to become the literary world of Middle-earth. Except of course he never denied their fictional nature albeit creating literary and historical conceits to explain their real world origin. Macdonald was not so very far away from Tolkien in his impulses. Both wished to preserve or recreate what was “lost”.

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