William Gillies

Honorary Fellow


  • MA (Edinburgh)
  • MA (Oxford)
  • Hon. DLitt (Ulster)
  • FSA (Scot)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Some recent external activities and appointments

  • Visiting Professor of Celtic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University 2009-10 and 2013-4
  • President, International Congress of Celtic Studies, 2003-11
  • Chairman, Board of Celtic Studies (Scotland) 2000-09
  • Chairman of Governors of Catherine McCaig's Trust 1996-2009

Areas of interest for supervision

PG supervision: many successful PhD theses ranging from the Celts in Classical times through Medieval and Early Modern language, literature and culture to the present state and future prospects of Gaelic. Recent and current supervisions include PhDs on Early Gaelic wisdom literature, Early Medieval North Atlantic settlement history, the Early Modern Fenian literature, the Highland and Gaelic Societies of London, the poetry of Sorley MacLean, inter-relationships between the Goidelic dialects, and the Gaelic of Colonsay.

Research summary

Long-standing research interests in both Scottish and Irish Gaelic language, including linguistic development and variation through the centuries; literature and literary tradition, including the practitioners and their audiences, and the interplay between written and oral medium.

Current personal projects include study and edition of the Red and Black Books of Clanranald, a revised edition of William Matheson’s The Songs of John MacCodrum, and continuing studies and editions of material from the Book of the Dean of Lismore.

Current involvement in major research projects includes Faclair na Gàidhlig (the inter-University Historical Dictionary of Scottish Gaelic), the life and work of Alexander Carmichael (University of Edinburgh), and the Gaelic work of the Linguistic Survey of Scotland (University of Edinburgh).

  • ‘The Book of the Dean of Lismore: the literary perspective’, in Fresche Fontanis: Proceedings of the 2008 Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Languages and Literatures Conference, ed. by J. Hadley Williams and J. D. McClure (Cambridge, 2013), 179-216
  • ‘Reflections on Alexander MacDonald and Canna’, in Alexander MacDonald: Bard of the Gaelic Enlightenment, ed. by C. Dressler and D. U. Stiùbhart (Kershader, 2012), 115-22
  • ‘Dàn le Eòin Mac Mhuirich ann an Leabhar an Deadhain’, in Féilscríbhinn do Chathal Ó Háinle, ed. by E. Mac Cárthaigh and J. Uhlich (Indreabhán, 2012), 317-46
  • 'Tuilleadh air na Gearailtich: eachdraidh, beul-aithris agus litreachas', in Sean, Nua agus Síoraíocht: Féilscríbhinn in ómós do Dhaithí Ó hÓgáin, ed. by Ríonach Ní Ógáin et al. (Dublin, 2012), 408-17
  • (with L. Pike), 'Part II: Gaelic lexicography', in Scotland in definition: a history of Scottish dictionaries, ed. by I. MacLeod and J. D. McClure (Edinburgh, 2012), 199-261
  • 'The Gaelic of Niall MacMhuirich', Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, 65 (2006-2009 [2011]), 69-96
  • 'Some eighteenth-century developments in Scottish Gaelic poetry', in Language and power in the Celtic World, ed. by A. Ahlqvist and P. O’Neill (Sydney, NSW, 2011), 61-96
  • (revised version) 'Scottish Gaelic', in The Celtic Languages, 2nd edition, ed. by M. J. Ball (London, 2010), 230-304
  • 'A note on naming in Comrac Líadaine ocus Cuirithir', in Scritti in onore di Eric Pratt Hamp per il suo 90. compleanno, ed. by G. Belluscio and A. Mendicino (Rende, 2010), 131-37
  • 'Clan Donald bards and scholars', in Cànan agus Cultar / Language and Culture: Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 4, ed. by G. Munro and R. A. V. Cox (Edinburgh, 2010), 91-108
  • 'Studying Gaelic in the 21st Century', in Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 5 / Fifth Scottish Gaelic Research Conference, ed. by K. E. Nilsen (Sydney, CB, 2010), 9-30
  • 'Music and Gaelic strict-metre poetry', Studia Celtica, 44 (2010), 111-34.
  • 'The poetry of William Ross', in Crossing the Highland line: Cross-currents in Eighteenth-century Scottish writing, ed. by C. MacLachlan (Glasgow, 2009), 195-215
  • '"No bonnier life than the Sailor's": A Gaelic poet comments on the fishing industry in Wester Ross', Studies in Scottish Literature, 35-36 (2008), 62-75
  • 'Créad fá seachnainn-sa suirghe? ', Scottish Gaelic Studies, 24 (2008), 215-43
  • 'Alexander Carmichael and the folklore of the MacMhuirich poets', in The life and legacy of Alexander Carmichael, ed. by D. U. Stiùbhart (Port of Ness, 2008), 96-114
  • 'A poem on the Land of the Little People', in A Grey Eye Looks Back: A Festschrift in honour of Colm Ó Baoill, ed. by Sharon Arbuthnott and Kaarina Hollo (Brig o’ Turk, 2007), pp. 33-52
  • '"Merely a bard"? William Ross and Gaelic poetry', Aiste, 1 (2007), 123-69
  • 'Geography and didaxis in Early Gaelic literature', in Calliope's Classroom: Essays on didactic literature, ed. by M. A. Harder, A. A. MacDonald and G. Reinink (Groningen, 2006), pp. 173-202
  • Gaelic traditional women's songs' and 'Sorley MacLean: Writing in a dying tongue', in Alba literaria. New Essays on Scottish Literature, ed. by Marco Fazzini (Trieste, 2006), pp. 163-76 and 551-65
  • 'The Lion's tongues: Languages in Scotland to 1314' and 'Gaelic literature in the Later Middle Ages: The Book of the Dean of Lismore and beyond', in The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature, ed. by I. Brown, T. O. Clancy, S. Manning and M. G. Pittock (Edinburgh, 2006), 1, 52-62 and 219-25
  • 'Gun ann ach an ceò: "Nothing left but their Mist": Farewell and Elegy in Gaelic poetry', in Older Scots literature. Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference of Scottish Language and Literature Medieval and Renaissance, ed. by Sally Mapstone (Edinburgh, 2005), pp. 370-96
  • 'The Land of the little People in Medieval Gaelic Literary Tradition', in Rhetoric, Royalty, and Reality: Essays on the literary culture of Medieval and Early Modern Scotland, ed. by A. A. MacDonald and K. Dekker (Leeuven, 2005), pp. 51-68
  • 'A seventeenth-century linguistic and metrical tract', in A companion in linguistics: A Festschrift for Anders Ahlqvist, ed. by B. Smelik, R. Hofman, C Hamals and D. Cram (Nijmegen, 2005), pp. 66-79
  • 'On the study of Gaelic literature', in Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 2002, ed. by M. Byrne and S. Kidd (Glasgow, 2005), pp. 1-32
  • 'DOST: Envoi', in Perspectives on the Older Scottish Tongue, ed. by C. Kay and M. Mackay (Edinburgh, 2005), pp. 199-203
  • (joint ed., with D. Harding), Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Celtic Studies: Volume 2: Archaeological papers (Edinburgh, 2005)
  • (with D. Harding), 'Celts and Celticity', in D. Harding and W. Gillies (eds), Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Celtic Studies: Volume 2: Archaeological papers (Edinburgh, 2005), pp. 1-14
  • June 2013 Sydney (Australian Celtic Conference)
  • October 2012 (with Valerie Gillies) Cambridge MA (32nd Harvard Celtic Colloquium)
  • July 2012 Edinburgh University (Duncan Bàn Conference)
  • February 2012 Universität Bonn (Rudolf Thurneysen Lecture)
  • February 2011 Edinburgh University (John Bannerman Seminar)
  • December 2010 Glasgow University (Angus Matheson Lecture)
  • September 2010 Sydney (Australian Celtic Conference)
  • April 2010 Antigonish (Inaugural Sr Margaret MacDonell Memorial Lecture)
  • March 2010 Toronto (St Michael’s College Celtic Studies Lecture)
  • June 2009 Glasgow (International Association for the Study of Irish Literature)
  • July 2008 Antigonish (St Francis Xavier University: Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 5)
  • June 2008 Edinburgh (Medieval and Renaissance Languages and Literatures)
  • July 2006 Skye (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig: Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 4)
  • July 2006 Lìonaclait, Benbecula (Alexander Carmichael: Life and Work)