Who are the (Scottish) Gaels? Or is it Highlanders?

 Who are the Scottish Gaels? Are they the same as Scottish Highlanders? How are they related to Scots as a whole? Questions of identity may seem simple at first but become increasingly complex as we both zoom into details and zoom out across space and time. Such issues often become more fraught when we consider…

My Tribute to Iain MacAonghuis (Dr. John MacInnes)

No one seriously interested in the culture, heritage and history of the Scottish Highlands can avoid engaging with the scholarship of Iain Aonghuis (“Dr. John MacInnes”, as he was known in English), who passed away into the Otherworld yesterday (10 May 2019). A great deal has been said about Iain as a scholar, public intellectual,…

“Race, Whiteness and the Myth of Celtic Appalachia”

A talk delivered to Asheville WordFest April 14, 2019. (Video of talk and audience response available here on Vimeo.) If there is one non-native ethnic group who are invoked to explain the history and character of Appalachia, it is the so-called “Scotch-Irish.” From the mid-nineteenth century to the present, a stereotype of clannish, stubborn, bellicose,…

From Rannoch to Iowa in 1875, with Gaelic Books in tow

The internet has the ability to connect people in strange and surprising (and sometimes disturbing) ways, and every once in a while I get an interesting query from someone that helps to fill out elusive details about the migration of Gaels to North America and their experiences on this continent. One such message came into…

The Funeral of the Megantic Outlaw, Quebec, 1894

The Eastern Townships of Quebec were home to thriving immigrant Gaelic communities in the second half of the nineteenth century, as thoroughly explored by Margaret Bennett in her book Oatmeal and the Catechism (1998, 2003). One of the most symbolically-charged episodes relating to their history was the story of the “Megantic Outlaw” – known in…

The Fading, Untranslatable Words of the Gaelic Mindscape

Robert Macfarlane has been exploring two very interesting and inter-related phenomena in recent years: words that are tied to features or perceptions of the landscape that are highly culturally specific, and the extinction of those words from common usage because of the changing relationship between people and the landscape that they inhabit. Such words are…

2018 International Gaelic Award

I have much to be grateful for, and I was given another reason on November 14 when I was recognized with the 2018 International Gaelic Award, an award given at an annual celebration in Glasgow. Given the cost of plane tickets and short notice, I was unable to attend in person, but was delighted that my…

The Zen of Gaelic Nature Poetry

Although I’ve known about transcendental meditation since I was a teenager, it was only when I had a personal crisis at the age of 40 that I had cause to do a deep dive into the latest manifestations of these spiritual techniques. I took a Mindfulness course offered by an Integrated Medicine program at the…