“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…

Interview with Dr A. R. MacKinnon about Gaelic in Bruce County

The Charles William Dunn Collection of Scottish Gaelic Fieldwork Recordings from Gaelic Canada contains an extensive and invaluable set of audio recordings from the mid-twentieth century. Although most of the fieldwork was conducted by Prof Dunn himself, one set of materials – recorded in Bruce County, Ontario, between 1958 and 1964 – was done by Dr….

Interview with Prof Charles Dunn of Harvard in 2002

Professor Charles W. Dunn (1915-2006) taught Celtic Studies at Harvard University for many years and is probably most celebrated for his fieldwork amongst Scottish Gaels in North America. See biography here. Interview with Professor Charles W. Dunn In his home in Cambridge, MA By Michael Newton, 4 April 2002 (beginning at circa 9:30 PM) MN: Would…

Further Thoughts on the History of Dance in Scottish Gaeldom: Part 2

An Appalachian Detour Anyone wishing to produce an account of vernacular dance in North America would do well to read the recent volume Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics by Phil Jamison (2015, University of Illinois Press). Jamison integrates a huge amount of information and personal experience into this book: the various distinctive genres of dance in Appalachia;…

Defining and Invigorating Scottish Gaelic Identity in the Modern World

I recently learned of three events oriented around the Scottish diaspora community happening in North America this summer which I would like to attend but do not expect to: the Scottish North American Leadership Conference 2017 (Guelph, August); and the 2017 COSCA Clan Leaders Caucus (this week at Lees-McRae College in North Carolina); and the Summit of Gaelic…