The visual dimension of Carmina Gadelica

Murdo Macdonald

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter pioneered visual study of the one of the outstanding Scottish Gaelic publications of the last 150 years. It is an outcome of the AHRC-funded project ‘Window to the West: Towards a Redefinition of the Visual within Gaelic Scotland’ (PI Macdonald). It draws attention to the neglected significance, as a work of visual art, of the first edition of Alexander Carmichael’s ‘Carmina Gadelica / Ortha nan Gaidheal’ (1900), a high point of both Celtic Revival and Art and Crafts book design. The chapter reflects on the role of Alexander’s wife Mary, as an artist, and of his daughter Ella, as a cultural activist linking to the Celtic Revivalist painter John Duncan. The chapter results from an invitation from Dr Dòmhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart of the AHRC-funded Carmichael-Watson Project (PI Professor Donald Meek) at the University of Edinburgh to speak at the seminal conference on Carmichael’s work held in Benbecula in 2006. The paper was described by the Gaelic scholar Raghnall Macilledhuibh (Ronald Black) in his conference review as follows: ‘to me the biggest revelation of the conference was a paper ... on the visual dimension’ (West Highland Free Press, 4/8/2006, p 12). The work was further developed in ‘The Visual Preconditions of Celtic Revival Art in Scotland’ a paper in the Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History, Vol. 13, ‘Highlands’ issue, 2008-2009; 16-21. ISSN 1362-248. Context was further developed through the co-convening by Macdonald of the session ‘Rethinking Celtic Revivals’ at the Association of Art Historians Annual Conference 2010. The chapter linked, and continues to link, three AHRC-funded projects, Window to the West (Dundee), Carmichael-Watson (Edinburgh), and Islands Cultural Archives Network (Univ. of Paisley). Through that network the work was taken further in Macdonald’s keynote in June 2011 to the Sorley MacLean Centenary Conference, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe life and legacy of Alexander Carmichael
EditorsDomhnall Stiubhart
Place of PublicationPort of Ness
PublisherThe Islands Book Trust
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780955542008
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • (Gaidhealtachd, Gaelic, Highland, Visual, Art, Scottish)


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