As always the personality of the year is a difficult choice being that Scotland has produced numerous people who have promoted and preserved the attributes on which we base our award. This year’s recipient is a society which is long established being based in Inverness since 1871. The specific purpose of the society is both cultivating and preserving the culture and heritage of Gaelic. The society promotes Gaelic through language, poetry and music of the Scottish Highlands and generally furthering the interests of the Gaelic speaking people. Having survived some difficult periods including two world wars the society never gave up its fight to continue to promote and preserve Gaelic culture in fact the Society has undergone a revival in recent years. This year’s winner is again undoubtedly worthy of receiving the Crann Tara award due to all the hard work, commitment and perseverance put in over the years to preserve tradition, culture and heritage.

This year’s winner is The Gaelic Society of Inverness

The Gaelic Society of Inverness


The establishment of the society came into being by two unrelated people replying to a letter in the Inverness Courier 15th December1870.

Prior to reading the letter in the Courier and only a school boy in Glenuquart at the time William MacKay had the passion to preserve the folk-lore of his own district, unbeknown to him another school boy William MacKenzie from Raining’s School had a similar urge. When William MacKay wrote in support of a letter written by a Mr Campbell (content unknown at this time ) the reply obviously inspired William MacKenzie to make his mind up to visit William in Glenuquart. The result of the meeting was that a friendship began which flourished into firm relationship. Both feeling so strongly that Gaelic needed to be promoted and preserved the idea of founding a Gaelic Society occurred to both so they decided to start a newspaper correspondence on the subject.

The first letter from Mr.MacKenzie, signed “U. MacC,” appeared in The Courier in May, 1871. This was answered by Mr. MacKay, signed “Mealfourvonie.” Other letters subsequently appeared from Mr.MacKenzie, Schoolmaster, Maryburgh — “Caberfeidh,” Mr. Alex. MacKenzie — “Clachnacuddin,” and others. The result of this correspondence was that Mr. MacKay inserted a Gaelic advertisment in a few Inverness papers inviting those favourable to the idea to meet on the evening of 4th September, 1871, and issued circulars to those thought to be particularly interested. Thirty-five gentlemen attended the meeting — and thus the Gaelic Society of Inverness came into being. There were many who poured scorn on the whole idea, laughing it off as the brainwave of a few youngish idealists who would never bring their scheme to fruition. It was considered that only a burning love for the Highland way of life, its language, music and tradition, and a feeling of pique that information on matters Highland could only be got from The Gaelic Society of London, which had been founded in 1777, a similar story to that related to politics of today. On hearing this it only impelled the pioneers to push on with their task and institute a worthwhile Gaelic Society in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. How successful their effort was can best be judged by scanning the pages of a few of the Society’s Transactions, where the names of Highland Chiefs, Highland politicians, Highland literary pundits, poets, musicians, soldiers, sailors and scholars alike.Whilst the majority of members are in the north of Scotland, it has members all over the world including Europe, North America, Japan and Australia. Since it began the Society has been active in supporting Gaelic in many ways, including:

  • Campaigning in the 1870s for the Chair of Celtic at the University of Edinburgh— the first such chair in Scotland
  • Proposing the appointment of a commission to investigate the appalling conditions in the crofting districts of the Highlands and Islands. The Napier Commission report was to result eventually in the Crofter’s Act of 1886, the cornerstone of the modern crofting system
  • Close involvement in the first Gaelic question in the 1881 Census and the Education Act of 1918, the first time provision was made for the teaching of Gaelic
  • More recently, supporting the establishment of a Gaelic Language Board and providing financial assistance for FaclairnaPàrlamaid (Parliamentary Dictionary of Terms) published in May 2001

Today the Gaelic Society of Inverness continues to grow, holding numerous various events mainly across the Highlands, these include the annual commemoration on Culloden Battlefield every April, lectures and field trips. The Society also has an archive of papers and documents which contains a wealth of invaluable information related to Gaelic subjects.

To read more on the Gaelic Society of Inverness below is a link to their website

 The Gaelic Society of Inverness

Having recognised the “Gaelic Society of Inverness” as worthy recipients of the Crann Tara personality of the year award.

The award was gratefully accepted by Chairman Murdo Campbell & Secretary Shona Campbell at the Lettach Cottage, Culloden visitors centre prior to the annual commemoration.

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© Crann Tara 2014