Celtic & Scottish Studies

Staff publications

Our staff in Celtic and Scottish Studies publish regularly on a variety of topics.

The Elizabeth Ross Manuscript - Original Highland Airs Collected at Raasay in 1812.

Edited by Peter Cooke, Morag Macleod and Colm Ó Baoill.

This important manuscript was discovered and bought for the School by Francis Collinson in 1954. It contains 150 airs of which about 100 are vocal airs, the others being instrumental dance tunes or slow airs. Dating from 1812 it is the earliest manuscript collection of Highland music: now typeset with the addition of texts, translations and detailed commentaries it is freely available for downloading as a pdf file (5.1 MB). The author Elizabeth Jane Ross left the manuscript behind in the library of Raasay House when she departed in 1813 to travel with her sister to India where she later married Baronet Charles D’Oyly.

Elizabeth Ross was a competent transcriber and her settings represent well the wide range of Hebridean music known to the islanders and in Raasay House, home of James MacLeod, laird of Raasay - Elizabeth’s uncle and guardian.

Click on RossMS.pdf. for the 190 page edition. A facsimile of the manuscript itself is also available. Click on ERossfacsimilesm.pdf for a small version.


The print version of the manuscript is now available for sale through the Scottish Music Centre.



The Life and Legacy of Alexander Carmichael

Edited by Domhnall Uilleam Stiubhart

This important volume, 'The Life and Legacy of Alexander Carmichael', contains papers presented at a very successful conference held in Benbecula in July 2006, and arranged by the Islands Book Trust. The academic impetus for the conference was supplied by the Carmichael Project currently being undertaken at the University of Edinburgh, by the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies and Edinburgh University Library. The Project's Principal Researcher, Dr Domhnall Uilleam Stiubhart, has edited the volume meticulously.

Alexander Camichael's labours as the collector of the material in the six-volume work, Carmina Gadelica, are well known, but also highly debatable. Speakers at the Benbecula conference examined the controversial issues surrounding Carmichael's legacy, as well as his motives, the background to his activities, and the methods and processes that shaped his overall collection and, in particular, Carmina Gadelica.

The contents of the volume are as follows:

  • John Randall, 'Introduction and Conclusions'
  1. Domhnall Uilleam Stiubhart, 'Alexander Carmichael and Carmina Gadelica'
  2. Donald Black, 'The Influence of Lismore'
  3. Calum Macneil, 'Carmichael in Barra'
  4. Ronald Black, 'I Thought He Made It All Up: Context and Controversy'
  5. Donald E. Meek, 'Alexander Carmichael and "Celtic Christianity"'
  6. William Gillies, 'Alexander Carmichael and the Folklore of the MacMhuirich Poets'
  7. Hugh Cheape, '"Every Treasure You Chanced On": Alexander Carmichael and Material Culture'
  8. Murdo MacDonald, 'The Visual Dimension of Carmina Gadelica'
  9. Jean-Didier Hache, 'Neil MacEachen, Marshal MacDonald, the Uists and Alexander Carmichael'
  10. Cathlin MacAulay, 'Uist in the School of Scottish Studies Archives'
  11. Meghan Cote, 'Future Plans for the Carmichael Watson Collection'
  12. Calum Laing, Isa MacKillop, Norman Johnson, and Peter Morrison, 'Memories of Families who gave Carmichael material'
  13. The Very Rev. Angus John, Canon MacQueen, 'Under the Mantle of Holy Bride'

This very handsome book (price £15.00), which contains finely reproduced illustrations, is available from: The Islands Book Trust, 10 Callicvol, Port of Ness, Isle of Lewis, Western Isles HS2 0XA Tel. 01851.820946


Dr D U Stiubhart contact details


William Gillies and Abigail Burnyeat

New journal, 'Aiste', from the Department of Celtic, University of Glasgow features articles from William Gillies and Abigail Burnyeat.

William Gillies, '"Merely a Bard"? William Ross and Gaelic Poetry', pp. 123-169.

William Gillies's paper on William Ross first seeks answers to some pressing questions about the transmission of Ross's poetry and the reliability of the texts and biographical information we rely on. Professor Gillies then proceeds to evaluate the relationship between Ross and the Gaelic tradition as a whole, making new suggestions about his models and the nature of his originality as a poet.

Abigail Burnyeat, 'The Early Irish Grammaticus?', pp. 181-217.


Dr W Gillies profile

Ms Abigail Burnyeat contact details

Gàidhealtachdan Ùra/Nua-Ghaeltachtaí

Wilson McLeod

Chaidh an leabhar Gaidhealtachdan Ùra: Leasachadh na Gàidhlig agus na Gaeilge sa Bhaile Mhòr/Nua-Ghaeltachtaí: Cur Chun Cinn na Gàidhlig agus na Gaeilge sa Chathair fhoillseachadh fo sgèith na Roinne san Dùbhlachd 2007. Is e Wilson McLeod, Àrd-Òraidiche ri Ceiltis, an neach-deasachaidh. Is e th' ann ach cruinneachadh de dh'aistidhean air a' Ghàidhlig agus air a' Ghaeilge anns a' cho-theacs bhailteil, le Alasdair MacCaluim, Iain MacLeòid, Aodán Mac Póilin, Janet Muller, Nóra Ní Loingsigh, Joan NicDhòmhnaill, Seán Ó Gallchóir, Brian Ó hEadhra, Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh agus Helen Ó Murchú. Tha 7 de na caibideilean sa Ghàidhlig agus 4 sa Ghaeilge.

Gheibhear an leabhar (127 duilleagan) bhon Roinn airson £4.50 + 75sg airson cosgaisean postachd.

Gaidhealtachdan Ùra: Leasachadh na Gàidhlig agus na Gaeilge sa Bhaile Mhòr /Nua-Ghaeltachtaí: Cur Chun Cinn na Gàidhlig agus na Gaeilge sa Chathair, which looks at the complex challenges that arise in connection with efforts to develop Gaelic and Irish in urban contexts, was published by the department in December 2007. The book is edited by Wilson McLeod, Senior Lecturer in Celtic, and contains 7 essays in Scottish Gaelic and 4 in Irish by Alasdair MacCaluim, Iain MacLeòid, Aodán Mac Póilin, Janet Muller, Nóra Ní Loingsigh, Joan NicDhòmhnaill, Seán Ó Gallchóir, Brian Ó hEadhra, Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh and Helen Ó Murchú.

The book (127 pages) is available from the Department for £4.50 + 75p for postage.


Dr W McLeod profile

Geàrr-iomradh an Dr Wilson MhicLeòid

The Blue Mountains and Other Gaelic Stories from Cape Breton

Recorded, translated, and edited by John Shaw

The author has been documenting Cape Breton's Gaelic traditions since the 1960s. In The Blue Mountains and Other Gaelic Stories from Cape Breton he presents thirty tales recorded between 1964 and 1989. The collection includes popular tales such as The Dragon Slayer, hero-tales of Fionn Mac Cumhail and his warrior band, accounts of the famed carpenter Boban Saor, stories of robbers and thieves, comic tall tales, historical legends, and accounts of clan traditions brought over from the western Highlands.

Shaw provides both the Gaelic texts and English translations. When possible, he identifies both the original Gaelic storyteller and the local reciters. Reciters in the collection include Joe Neil MacNeil, a major Canadian storyteller, as well as others whose stories have never before been published. The Blue Mountains and Other Gaelic Stories from Cape Breton showcases a unique and neglected storytelling tradition.

"Shaw is the leading expert on Cape Breton Gaelic storytelling. This splendid collection of tales helps maintain a remarkable legacy, bringing an awareness of Cape Breton heritage to a wider public." Diarmuid Ó Giolláin, senior lecturer, folklore, University College Cork


Dr J Shaw profile

The Fiddle in Scottish Culture: Aspects of the Tradition

Katherine Campbell

Edinburgh: John Donald, 2007; pp. xix, 204; 24 figures; 48 tune illustrations.


  • Preface
  1. The Itinerant Fiddler in Imagination and Reality
  2. The Blind Fiddler
  3. The Lost Art of Singing While Playing
  4. Leading Processions
  5. The Fiddler at Weddings
  6. The Fiddler at Dances
  7. The Fiddler and the Trows
  • Afterword

Also contains: Glossary, Bibliography, Subject Index, Index of Poetry Titles (or First Lines), and Index of Tune Titles.


The book explores the functions and place of the fiddle in society, using a variety of relatively untapped sources such as poetry by little-known writers (e.g. Jamie McQueen, the "Moray Minstrel"), newspaper accounts, oral legends, and works of art. The book takes as its starting point the introduction of the modern instrument in the latter part of the seventeenth century, examining fiddling at fairs and in processions, blind fiddlers, and the lost art of singing while playing. The role of the fiddler at weddings and dances is also discussed, as are legends about fiddlers and the trows or fairy people of Shetland.


Dr K Campbell profile

An Historical Ethnography of Rural Perthshire, 1750-1950: Farm, Family and Neighbourhood

Gary J West

November 2007 ISBN 978-0-7734-5228-2

In this book Gary West adopts an ethnological approach to the study of changing patterns of social organisation within his native county in Scotland. As a discipline, European ethnology can be said to stand at the intersection of history and social anthropology, and investigative techniques from both of these have been adopted here. Through a process of historical ethnography using both documentary and oral source material, the issue of belonging is examined at the level of family, farm unit and neighbourhood, three layers of identity which it is argued were more meaningful to those working the land than the rather more 'imagined' community of 'nation'. In that sense, the author challenges the prevailing scholarly pre-occupation with the study of national identity, and argues for a return to more community-specific studies and an emphasis on locality.

Within a Scottish context, the long-standing obsession with a highland/lowland dichotomy model is rejected as being overly simplistic, and an alternative approach based on the principles of cultural ecology is suggested as a more meaningful discourse. The specific themes addressed - the working roles of men, women and children, housing provision, communal labour, neighbour-based reciprocity and charity - relate to 'every-day' farm life in Perthshire. The result represents a detailed ethnographic study of a period of great change in rural Scotland, but one in which a strong emphasis on tradition ensured a degree of continuity underpinned the daily and seasonal lives of those who earned their livelihoods directly from the soil.


Dr G West profile

The Form and Function of Ritual Dialogue in the Marriage Traditions of Celtic-Language Cultures

Neill Martin

ISBN 978-0-7734-5328-9

The study examines the form and function of ritual dialogue in marriage traditions, paying particular attention to the betrothal ceremony or rèiteach in Gaelic Scotland, along with analogues in Brittany and Wales, while also exploring the relationship between the ritual dialogues and traditions such as flyting and bardic contest. What emerges is a picture of the multi-referential potential of this form of ritual speech and the symbolic significance which lies behind the surface meaning. The human drama of marriage is seen to be submerged within an all-encompassing symbolic event which adopts as its structure the spirit of conflict, dramatising the give and take of the relationship the community both desires and fears. Dr Martin's book remains the only full-length study of the phenomenon of ritual dialogue in any context.


Dr N Martin contact details

Tourism, Festivals and Local Identity

Edited by Neill Martin and Bertalan Pusztai

This collection of essays brings together the results of a four year project which set out to investigate the phenomenon of invented traditions in the Great Plain region of Southern Hungary. With the end of Soviet rule, ‘socialist’ holidays and festivals were replaced by the return of public festivals related to religious observance in communities where the population was ethnically and religiously homogenous. In non-homogenous areas (such as the area under study) where diverse ethnic groups live side by side, an invented, secular option for festivals had to be found which was acceptable to all groups. Interestingly, the utility of these festivals as a means to assert and promote multi-ethnic harmony is mixed with a desire to promote tourism. The book is edited by Dr Martin and Dr Bertalan Pusztai from the University of Szeged and features contributions from the editors as well as a selection of essays from students who participated in the project. The volume is published in English and Hungarian.

This book is available on request from Celtic and Scottish Studies


Dr N Martin contact details

'A Game of Two Halves: Guising and Contest in Scotland' in Border-Crossing: Mumming in Cross-Border and Cross-Community Contexts

ed. by A.D.Buckley, C. Mac Cárthaigh, S.Ó Catháin & S.Mac Mathuna.

Dundalk, Dundalgan Press 2007 ISBN 0-85221-147-7

Dr Martin's study (pp.171-201) examines the relationship between the Scottish traditional drama Galoshins and seasonal contests such as the ba' games of Southern Scotland and Orkney. Notwithstanding the emphasis in both traditions on the dramatisation of opposed groups and categories, the author argues that the ultimate aim of these traditional forms is the expression of interdependence and reconciliation. The book was launched by Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney in November 2007.Contributors include Henry Glassie and Jack Santino.

For centuries, mumming has formed an essential part of the celebration of seasonal festivals, particularly around the Christmas period. Masked individuals visited private homes, often giving performances of music, song and dance, and sometimes enacting a rudimentary play as part of the proceedings.

While mumming occasioned revelry and temporary upheaval, it also provided an opportunity for positive social interaction and community engagement. For a great many people, mumming and masking provided a first, perhaps startling brush with dramatic art. Such performances demonstrate how popular customs, for all their apparent simplicity, can serve as vehicles for powerful theatrical expression.

Playwright Frank McGuinness, in recalling his own first encounter with folk drama in his native Donegal, sets the scene for this absorbing collection of essays which explores the world of mumming and masking in Ireland and Britain, northern Europe and North America.

Details of the background to the publication may be found on the University College Dublin website.


Dr N Martin contact details

Masks and Mumming in the Nordic Area

Dr Emily Lyle, contributor

Terry Gunnell, editor. Acta Academiae Regiae Gustavi Adolphi 98. Uppsala: Kungl. Gustav Adolfs Akademien för svensk folkkultur, 2007.

ISSN 0065-0897; ISBN 978-91-85352-70-8.

Masks and Mumming in The Nordic Area is the first detailed introduction to the costume and disguise traditions of the Nordic area past and present. It not only analyses the nature, history and development of these customs, but also presents a number of case studies demonstrating different way of dealing with this material. The combined work of twenty-three scholars from the fields of drama, folkloristics, cultural studies and ethnology, it hopes to open new doors into a field of folkloristics that has been neglected for decades.

Scotland is represented by Dr Emily Lyle’s article (pp. 733-41) on “Galoshins: The Scottish Death-and-Revival Play Performed by Boys at Yule and Hallowe’en”.


Dr E Lyle profile

Fairies and Folk: Approaches to the Scottish Ballad Tradition

Emily Lyle

Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, BASE (Ballads and Songs - Engagements), No. 1, 2007. ISBN 978-3-88476-957-7.

Fairies and Folk brings together the results of many years of research by the eminent Scottish scholar, Emily Lyle. As the title indicates, the first part is focussed on a group of fairy ballads, namely "Thomas the Rhymer", "The Wee Wee Man", "King Orpheus", "Sir Colin", "Tam Lin" and "The Queen of Elfan's Nourice", and sets them in the context of traditional beliefs and of Scottish Culture, present (sung performances) and past (the medieval world of romances). The second part, Folk, treats Scottish antiquaries, scholars, and singers (many of them women) who were involved with the ballad heritage in the rich century of collection and research from Motherwell's first field-work in South-West Scotland in 1825 to the publication in 1925 of ballads from the North-East gathered by Greig and Duncan.


Dr E Lyle profile

Emily Lyle: The Persistent Scholar

Dr Katherine Campbell and Dr John Shaw, contributors

Edited by Frances J. Fischer and Sigrid Rieuwerts

Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, BASIS (Ballads and Songs - International Studies), No. 5, 2007. ISBN 978-3-88476-995-9.

This Festschrift was presented to Emily Lyle on the occasion of her 75th birthday in December 2007. It contains appreciations by Dr Sigrid Rieuwerts, Dr Frances J. Fischer and Professor Donald E. Meek, and a set of twenty-six articles on ballads, songs and music by international scholars, two of whom are from Celtic and Scottish Studies: Dr Katherine Campbell writing on "Betsy Johnston's 'Tam Lin' (Child 39)" and Dr John Shaw on "Between Two Waves: The Mythical Origins of the Kantele and How Music First Came to the Western Isles".


Dr K Campbell profile

Dr J Shaw profile

The Ritual Year and Ritual Diversity: Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference of the SIEF Working Group on The Ritual Year, Gothenburg, June 7 - 11, 2006

Dr Emily Lyle, contributor Edited by Lina Midholm and Annika Nordström

Gothenburg, 2007. ISBN 978-91-7229-039-6; obtainable from Institutet för sprak och folkminnen.

The book contains forty-one papers including the opening address (pp. 15-21) on "The Ethics of Knowledge and the Case of the Ritual Year" by Emily Lyle, who is President of the SIEF Working Group on the Ritual Year.


Dr E Lyle profile

The Making of Am Fasgadh - An Account of the Origins of the Highland Folk Museum by its Founder

Edited by Mark A. Mulhern

Dr Isabel Frances Grant (1887-1983) was a pioneer who, early in life, was intrigued by the lives and ways of living of her fellow Highlanders. She eventually pursued this interest by collecting items from across the Scottish Highlands and presenting them to the public, initially as an exhibition in Inverness, later in a dedicated museum Am Fasgadh (The Shelter). Am Fasgadh continues as the Highland Folk Museum at Kingussie and Newtonmore. This personal account of the experiences of an early innovator in the field of museums reveals much about the personality of the author, the thought processes of an early museum curator, as well as providing an insight into the thoughts and feelings of the Highlanders themselves.

The book is available from National Museums Scotland Bookshop and at other book sellers.


M Mulhern contact details

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The Food of the Scots - Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, volume 5

by Alexander Fenton

This book explores the nature of food in the past, including game and wild plants, cereals and dairy products, flesh and drink, whether home-brewed ale or wines from abroad. Through extensive research and examination of long-held customs, Alexander Fenton provides a detailed appraisal of the realities and complexities of the Scottish diet. Food such as the everyday oatcakes and cheese, prepared in a special way for seasonal or work (especially harvest) occasions, and for the personal occasions of birth, baptism, marriage and death, is discussed in a major section of the book.

The adoption of hot drinks - chocolate, coffee and tea - from the end of the seventeenth century marked an economic upswing, at first at high social levels. The resulting change in the composition and timing of meals was reinforced by the industrial age a century later. Dependence on rural products was gradually reduced by imports and by preservation techniques, - canning, refrigeration, etc, - which have facilitated the consumption of foods from any part of the world, at any season. The apparent monotony of the past diet is now replaced by an embarrassment of choices, in which health considerations play a considerable role.

The book is available from Birlinn and at other book sellers.

Oral Literature and Performance Culture - Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, volume 10

Edited by Mark A. Mulhern et al

Whether participant or spectator, all Scots are active in the oral literature and performance culture of Scotland. This volume examines the stories, songs, verse, ballads, drama, music and dances of Scotland as experienced in a variety of settings such as the intimate setting of the home or the communal setting of the theatre or cinema. From Cú Chulainn and Finn mac Cool to broadsides and bothy ballads, to Galoshins and the Foursome Reel, the oral and performance culture of the Scots is explained and discussed. This volume marks a contribution to European ethnology in providing an understanding of the regional and national pattern of cultural expression across Scotland, providing an insight into phenomena such as the Folk Revival of the 1950s and the collection and collectors of 'folk' stories and songs. It also points the way towards further research and study.

The book is available from Birlinn and at other book sellers.