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Donald Mackinnon

Rare Gaelic pamphlets and manuscripts.

Donald Mackinnon (1839-1914) was born in Kilchattan on Colonsay, in the Hebrides. He was educated locally and then later, from the age of eighteen, at the Church of Scotland Training College, Edinburgh, which was a popular route to studying at Edinburgh University. Between 1860 and 1863 he was engaged as a school-teacher in Lochinver, Sutherlandshire, where he made a close study of the dialects and literature of the North Highlands. Mackinnon studied at Edinburgh University where he obtained the degree of M.A. in 1870. In 1882, he became the first Professor of Celtic at Edinburgh University, and he held the chair until 1914. His experience and acquaintance with the North Highlands served him in his capacity as member of the Crofters Royal Commission chaired by Lord Napier in 1883. Mackinnon's contribution to the Commission's Report was impressive enough to speed up subsequent legislation for the improvement of conditions for Scotland's crofters. Among his publications were the 'Reading book for the use of students of the Gaelic class at Edinburgh University' (1883), and 'On the dialects of Scottish Gaelic'.

The papers are substantial, in 38 boxes, and include a 15th century manuscript on medieval physiography; a 16th century summary or abstract of the Treatise of Maighstir Ricairdi compiled from Hippocrates and others; and tales and verse written in the 18th century. There are bundles of papers of different sizes with unrelated contents, notebooks containing lecture notes on Gaelic grammar and Gaelic literature, notebooks containing transcripts of Gaelic poetry, Gaelic versions of classical epics, notes on the history of Scotland, newspaper cuttings and draft copies of work.

There are also some 1,700 books and 300 pamphlets on Celtic studies and Scottish theology, mainly published in the 19th or early 20th centuries, from MacKinnon’s library. The bulk of the collection was bequeathed to the Library by Dr. Roger McNeill, Medical Officer of Health for Argyllshire, in 1924. All the books appear in the Library's pre-1985 main catalogue and there are manual author and shelf lists available via staff. There are also basic online records for some of the books. The shelfmark is Mackinnon Coll.