Michael Newton: Scottish Gaelic scholar and writer, digital artisan, programmer, dance enthusiast, minoritized language activist, father to Gaelic-speaking daughter.

Performing with Scottish folk ensemble Drumalban in Edinburgh.

Born in El Centro, California. My first career was in computer programming; worked for some 6 years at FTL Games, where I was on the team that made the popular computer game Dungeon Master.

Changed careers into Celtic Studies by moving to Glasgow, Scotland, taking Gaelic courses, then doing a Ph.D. in Celtic Studies at Edinburgh University. Graduated 1998.

In Elgol, Isle of Skye, where I did fieldwork during Ph.D. training.

Written several books and numerous articles on Scottish Gaelic Studies. See here for a full CV and partial set of publications. Spent 5.5 years in Nova Scotia teaching Celtic Studies at St Francis Xavier University 2008-13. Became a Canadian citizen in 2014.

Currently working in software engineering.


Join the Conversation


    1. If you wish to offer an actual critique about the historical or cultural evidence I use, or my methodology, I am happy to engage in dialog, gu h-àraid ma théid agad air sin a dhèanamh anns a’ Ghàidhlig fhéin.

      The place of a person’s birth does not give them automatic authority to analyse the history or culture of that place, or invalidate their ability to do so for other places. If that was the case, everyone would be born an expert on the culture and history of their own countries, and wouldn’t be able to become able to examine or appreciate that of other places.

      It would also mean that all Scottish scholars of, say, French literature, Russian history, American economics, German art, etc, would have to cease and desist their activity.

      If that’s your philosophy, Awa ‘n bile yir head ya stumur.

  1. Hello Michael, I think that you may not have seen my articles in “Archaeology Ireland” magazine. I would be very interested in your comments. They can be seen via my website http://www.timedance.org.uk . I see you are in N.C.. I used to work for Measurements Group in Raleigh.

    1. Actually, yes, I have seen them. The speculation that people formed human knotwork (as depicted in stone monuments and manuscripts) is an interesting one, and may be correct. However, given that ring and chain dances are nearly universal, I would find it hard to believe that they weren’t in use in early medieval Gaeldom.

      1. Sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that ring and chain dances weren’t present in medieval Ireland. It is reasonable to assume that they were.

      2. There are connections between these forms and ideas, of course. Conceptually, the “knot” dances of (let’s call them) guilds and the ring dances of communities embody the inter-connectedness and interdependence of all members involved. After all, with the contortions involved in those human knots, each member is vulnerable without the stability and bonds afforded by the others.

        In terms of form too, as anyone who has done Balkan dancing knows, one of the most common group holds for ring dances is the “basket hold” which forms human interlace. See for example: http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/07/bulgarian-dances-and-their-greek.html

  2. Men working in the same trade on the same site may have had daily opportunities to dance together and many young men would have been fitter, lighter and more flexible than I ever was. I need to see the Royal School of Ballet’s version of my dance reconstruction to get a better appreciation of the possibilities. I will be in London in June and will meet my contact, Simon Rice. He cann’t release video without the school’s permission but he can show me it on his tablet.

  3. Delighted to find your blog! I’m just about to start Immersion Gaelic with Finlay McLeoid. I’ve also applied to do a four year course in Scottish Cultural Studies& Gaelic at UHI. I’m nearly 60 and only wish I’d embarked on this journey sooner.

  4. Chan eil fios agam ma bha fios agaibh mu thràth, ach tha làrach-lìn a bheil “pirating” ur leabhar “A Handbook of the Scottish Highland Gael”


    Tha mi a’ cuireadh suim ‘nur blog ‘s ‘nur pàipearan acadaimigeacha (“cited” mi “Becoming Cold-hearted like the Gentiles Around Them” sa pàipear na colaiste) is cha bu choir duine sam bith goid ur obair!

  5. Wondering if in your research – you’ve ever come across information about a ship called “Crewlew”? The story I heard: Neil MacNeil, son of Chief Roderick, Dove of the West, used his inheritance to buy the “Crewlew” and made 3 voyages from Barra to North America. Two voyages were to a location off the Cape Fear River in North Carolina (now Fayetteville) and later one voyage was made to Canada. Neil’s son, Jonathan, fought in the American Revolution and was granted land in Laurel County, Kentucky in payment for his military service. Neil’s grandson, James MacNeil was a captain of the militia in the war of 1812. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1p7ybtbMEmmOXhieRHu1vGrv6VekPCbFL_Z7-_fzOKP4/edit?usp=sharing

  6. Just finished – and enjoyed – Bho Chlaidh gu Calasraid. My maternal grandfather was born in the shepherd’s cottage at Corrieachan (various spellings) on the shores of Loch Arklet, which belonged to the Garrison Farm at Inversnaid, and as a child I had various relatives dotted around the area. One distant relative drove the coach and four which transported tourists from Inversnaid to Stronachlachar. The only hint of Gaelic that survived was my mother’s habit of referring to our son Duncan as (her pronunciation) ‘Doachie’, because as she explained, her own brother Duncan had been so-called in her childhood. Many thanks for your very useful – in fact essential – publication.

    1. Tapadh leibh gu mór! Thanks so much! Yes, it’s shocking and sad how quickly the memory and trace of Gaelic culture has vanished in these areas, but I hope that that can be reversed.

  7. Thank you so much for your work! I am part Scottish Canadian and currently studying Gaelic songs with a teacher who taught Celtic studies at the University of Ottawa. I would love to buy your book “Warriors of the Word” as a gift for her but having trouble finding a bookstore that carries your book. Would you happen to know where I might purchase a few copies? Thank you!

      1. Unfortunately the publisher says into is out of print and no longer available and I’ve been combing used book websites to try and find even one copy to no avail. Would you consider selling digital copies? This important work needs to be out in the world! 🙂

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: