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…

“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…

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 Role of a Scholar in Gaelic and other Marginalized Cultures

This is a difficult, sensitive, complex, and multilayered topic. It’s hard to write about and it’s not surprising that so few people have tried (“I am a ‘white linguist’” by Dr. Cassie Smith-Christmas being one of the few examples). I am only human, as are the members of the communities I’ve worked with, so we…

18th-Century Praise of Gaelic by Iain MacGriogair of Glenlyon

As I’ve said in a previous blog post, it is exciting to see a resurgence of interest in Gaelic in Perthshire, a region of Highland Scotland that was once home to thriving Gaelic communities and prolific Gaelic scholars and poets. I have a large collection of Gaelic literature from Perthshire that I would like to…

A 1828 Plea on Behalf of Gaelic in Scotland

Anyone who studies sociolinguistics knows that languages live or die not according to their own merits, but according to the circumstances of the communities that speak them. Communities that are marginalized, denigrated, and denied the ability to govern themselves and access resources also see their languages and cultures compromised. This has long been the case…