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…

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…

Donald Currie’s address to the New York Gaelic Society (c.1892)

There were a surprising number of organizations created and organized by Scottish Gaels in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the United States, mostly all in large cities. Probably the most active center of activity for Scottish heritage societies in general was New York city (see more details in section 5.2 of this…

Rory McSween of Rockingham, NC: an old Carolina Highlander

There are lots of untapped sources which can help us fill out our knowledge of Scottish Gaelic immigrant communities in North America, especially local newspapers. I recently came across this account of local history from the newspaper The Rocket (June 3, 1897) from the city of Rockingham, North Carolina. In this article, the author (L. H. W.) recalls people from his…

African and Gaelic Identities in the Diasporas

Before we reach the end of this month of celebrating African-American heritage in the US, I want to share an important historical anecdote that illustrates perfectly how complex identity and culture really are in lived experience. Scottish Gaelic surnames (“Mac-”anything, Campbell, Cameron, etc) are nearly as prevalent where I am currently residing in North Carolina as…

A Gaelic Valentine from 1909 L.A.

If there were a Gaelic equivalent to Paul MacCartney’s “Silly Love Songs,” this would be it. Even more remarkably, it was composed in Los Angeles no later than 1909 by Domhnall MacAoidh, apparently an emigrant from one of the Western Isles (though that is as specific as I can currently guess). This is one of many…

Bardic Visions in North Dakota

The song-poem by this Scottish Gaelic poet, Domhnall Aonghas Stiùbhart, who spent the latter part of his life in North Dakota, harkened back to the idyllic days of his youth in the Highlands. Like many of his contemporaries, his life’s path consisted of many stages of migration: he was born on the Isle of Skye…

Scottish Gaels of the Pacific Northwest

Although most Scottish Highlanders migrated in extended families or entire communities in the 18th and early 19th centuries, changes in social structures and socio-economic patterns changed how and where they migrated in the later 19th and 20th centuries. More individuals moved from Gaelic communities in Scotland and North America to centers of economic activity and opportunity, particularly large…

A Better Scottish Diaspora is Possible

Scottish Highland Games may be fun and entertaining, but if we are to judge them by the standards of historical accuracy and cultural authenticity, they are little more than a sham circus. People wearing tartan kilts celebrate their Lowland Scottish ancestors who would have looked down on Highanders for their clothing and language. Dancers – mostly…

Scottish-American Pride: Only Skin Deep?

One of the “celebrities” in the virtual Scottish-American Hall of Fame is Andrew Carnegie, an immigrant who made millions (mostly by exploiting other immigrants). He did establish important philanthropic charities that continue to do good work to this day. Carnegie Mellon University carries his name as well as that of Andrew Mellon, the son of a Scotch-Irish immigrant and another…