Key roles seek to widen appeal of Gaelic

A renowned expert in Gaelic and Gaelic language policy has been appointed to Scotland’s oldest Professorial Chair of Celtic.

Leading researcher Professor Robert Dunbar is the University’s new Chair of Celtic Languages, Literature, History and Antiquities, which was established in 1882.

The appointment is one of two which strengthens the University’s commitment to Celtic and Scottish Studies, and the promotion of Gaelic language and Scottish culture in, and beyond, the University.

Also taking up a new post is Professor Wilson McLeod who has been appointed to a personal chair in Gaelic. Dr McLeod is the current head of Celtic and Scottish Studies.

Professor Dunbar

Professor Dunbar is recognised as one of the world's foremost experts on Gaelic language policy. Prior to his appointment at Edinburgh he was Senior Research Professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

There he acted as Research Director of Soillse, a £5.29 million inter-university project in which Edinburgh is also involved. The initiative was established to investigate various aspects of current Gaelic language policy and planning.

He holds a PhD from Edinburgh in Celtic, in which he focused on the life and secular poetry of John Maclean, 'Bàrd Thighearna Cholla' ('The Poet to the Laird of Coll) (1787-1848), a significant Tiree poet who emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1819. His research interests include Gaelic in Canada and 19th century Gaelic society.

Professor McLeod

Professor McLeod joined the University in 2001. He has research interests in language policy and planning issues in Scotland and in Gaelic literature and culture in Ireland and Scotland from the Middle Ages to the present.

Professor McLeod is a graduate of Haverford College and Harvard Law School and holds two postgraduate degrees from Edinburgh. He has authored or edited eight books and is currently completing a comprehensive study entitled Gaelic in Modern Scotland: Policies, Movements and Ideologies.

Significant appointments

Professor Jeremy Robbins, Head of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures said the appointments will strengthen the University’s unrivalled expertise in world languages and cultures.

These are exciting and significant professorial appointments for Celtic & Scottish Studies. Professor Dunbar's acceptance of the historic Chair of Celtic Languages, Literature, History and Antiquities will further our research leadership in Gaelic and I look forward to working with him and Professor McLeod to take forward Celtic and Scottish Studies at Edinburgh.

Professor Jeremy RobbinsHead of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Historic Chair

Provision of Gaelic at the University began with the historic Chair of Celtic in 1882 following a campaign led by John Stuart Blackie (1809-95) Professor of Greek at the University.

The first Professor of Celtic, Donald MacKinnon (1839-1914) was followed by a distinguished succession of scholars, including William J. Watson (1865-1948), Kenneth Jackson (1909-91), and most recently William Gillies, who retired in 2009.

Supporting language development

Today, the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies teaches Gaelic at all levels, covering modern and medieval language and literature, as well as aspects of Gaelic culture. It was recently recognised in the EUSA (Edinburgh University Students’ Association) Teaching Awards as the Best School or Subject Area.

The opportunities for language development are supported by rich Gaelic resources, including the School of Scottish Studies Archives, which hold several thousand hours of Gaelic field recordings, and a large and diverse manuscript collection.

Gaelic moving forward

In Autumn 2014 the University will launch its Gaelic Language Plan, a commitment to the objectives set out in Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s National Gaelic Language Plan, 2012-2017.

The plan will set out how the University will use Gaelic in the operation of our functions, how it will enable the use of Gaelic when communicating with the public and key partners, and promote and develop Gaelic.

At the beginning of the year the University recruited its first Gaelic Officer to oversee the implementation of the University’s Gaelic Language Plan, a post part funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig

Related Links

Celtic and Scottish Studies

Gaelic Language Plan