Gaelic Events at St Giles ImageGaelic at
St Giles’

Gaelic is an important part of
Scottish culture and heritage and has a long history in the city. St Giles’ Cathedral is glad to be contributing to the promotion and continued life of the Gaelic Language.

With the support of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, St Giles’ now have Gaelic walk around leaflets on sale for £1 at our welcome desk!

Gaelic Beginners Classes – 5th to 26th June 2018

Thinking of learning Gaelic? St Giles’ is offering a follow-up series of Gaelic post beginners classes on Tuesday Mornings, 9:30am – 11am on 5th – 26th June. Classes are led by Ann McCluskey and suitable for beginners and those looking to refresh their beginners Gaelic.

Entry is by recommended donation of £3 per class. To book your place, please contact:

Exploring Gaelic Lecture Series 2018

Come along for our second Exploring Gaelic Lecture Series as we continue our venture into Gaelic history and heritage. Lectures are delivered in English and light refreshments are available. Free entry, but donations are gratefully received towards future Gaelic events at St Giles’.

Monday 4th June – Duncan Sneddon

The Life of St Columba

Written in Latin around the year 700 at the island monastery of Iona, Adomnán’s Life of Saint Columba is not only one of the most important sources for studying early Scottish history, it is also a fascinating and highly sophisticated work of literature.  This talk will give an introduction to this intriguing text, looking at what it can tell us about Columba the historical man, the developing legend of Saint Columba, and the mind and world of his kinsman and successor, Adomnán, the ninth abbot of Iona.

Duncan Sneddon is a PhD candidate in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, researching Adomnán of Iona’s “Life of St Columba”.  He completed his MA with Honours in Celtic and Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh in 2012, before undertaking a Masters in Celtic Studies at the University of Oxford.  He is a member of Greyfriars Kirk, where he attends the Gaelic services.

See the highlights from this lecture here

Monday 11th June – Dr Kate Louise Mathis

Gaelic Women’s Poetry in Early Modern Scotland 

More than two hundred Gaelic poems are attributed to female authors in the period c. 1500 – c. 1750, many of which survived in the oral tradition or were printed in anthologies of the later eighteenth century. Addressed to members of the poets’ families, to their husbands, children, or friends, their work may also praise their chieftains, provide advice for their clan in times of violence, or criticise contemporary events (chiefly the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the 1640s, and the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745). Poems of grief for the dead were especially common, describing both the private realm of personal loss, and public tribute for famous deeds. This lecture will summarise the corpus of Gaelic women’s poetry from late-medieval to Early Modern Scotland, and will discuss the preservation of women’s work in both oral and written sources.

Kate Louise Mathis received her doctorate from the University of Edinburgh, and has taught in the Celtic departments of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. From 2013-16 she was research assistant for ‘Women’s Poetry in Ireland, Scotland, & Wales, 1400-1800’ (funded by the Leverhulme Trust). Her research interests include grief and violence in medieval Gaelic literature, and the reception of the Ulster Cycle in later-medieval Scotland. She is preparing a monograph on the development of Deirdre from the early medieval period to the Celtic Revival.

See the highlights from this lecture here

Monday 18th June – Paul Kavanagh

Gaelic Place-names and Mapping

When Paul was 8 he asked his mother for a Gaelic map of Glasgow for his birthday. His mother laughed and replied that there was no such thing. Many years later, he decided to take the advice his mother was always giving, which is “If ye want something done, ye need tae dae it yersel.”  So he decided to do a Gaelic map himself.  These are not maps of Scotland when Gaelic was the dominant language of most of the Lowlands, these are modern Gaelic maps for modern Gaelic speakers.  If we believe that Gaelic is truly a national language of Scotland, then the language and its speakers need the resources to support it as such.  Maps of the territory to which Gaelic is proper are a vital part of that, and the territory to which Gaelic is proper is the whole of Scotland.

Paul Kavanagh is a writer and blogger who writes as the Wee Ginger Dug.  His blog is one of Scotland’s most read politics websites, and he is a regular columnist in The National newspaper.  Paul was born in Glasgow in the 1960s and went to school in North Lanarkshire. He became fascinated by Gaelic place names as a child when he made the discovery that these seeming collections of nonsense syllables in place names actually meant something in a language which people once spoke in the district he was born and brought up in.  The discovery prompted a life-long interest in language and linguistics, and particularly the linguistic history of Scotland.

See the highlights from this lecture here

Monday 25th June – Joy Dunlop

Song and Dance in Gaelic Tradition

In this lecture, Joy Dunlop will look at the history of Scottish Gaelic song and step dance and explore both in the context of modern Gaelic society. Using live and recorded material, she will demonstrate the richness of the Gaelic heritage and the cultural wealth that it brings. 

Joy Dunlop is one of today’s leading Gaelic singers and Scottish step dancers. She is a frequent presenter on television and radio, including BBC Alba & Radio nan Gàidheal, and also teaches Gaelic at Glasgow University and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

See the highlights from this lecture here

Monday 2nd July – POSTPONED to 16 July

Monday 9th July – Dr Alison Cathcart

The Statutes of Iona 

This lecture will explore the place of clan society within sixteenth and early seventeenth century Scotland.  Widely described as the ‘Age of Forays’, this description confirms general assumptions of Highlanders as ‘barbarous’ and lawless.  There is no denying that a level of unrest existed within the region, but this paper seeks to look beyond stereotypes to examine the nature of clan society and its relationship with the Scottish crown.  It will conclude with a focus on the Statutes of Iona of 1609, and subsequent legislation, and the implications this had for clan society, its culture, and the Gaelic language.

Dr Ali Cathcart is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Strathclyde.  Her book Kinship and Clientage: Highland Clanship 1451-1609 (Brill, 2006) focused on clanship in the central and eastern Highlands.  Since then her work has concentrated on clans in the western Highland and Isles during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, examining relations with the crown and locating this within wider North Channel and archipelagic contexts.  Much of her work seeks to challenge general assumptions that view clan society as backward, ‘barbarous’ and peripheral; she also incorporates environmental and maritime perspectives to highlight the nature of clanship during this time.

Monday 16th July – Prof. Steve Boardman

A species of Celtic Attila’?: The posthumous reputation of Alexander Stewart, the’Wolf of Badenoch

The career of Alexander Stewart, earl of Buchan (d.1405), third son of the first Stewart king of Scotland, Robert II (1371-90), was a stormy story. Alexander was at the centre of a series of violent incidents in late fourteenth-century Scotland, including the infamous destruction of Elgin cathedral in 1390. Tonight’s talk traces the way in which Alexander’s reputation as the so-called ‘Wolf of Badenoch’ developed and changed from the early fifteenth century until, eventually, it became tied up with the negative views of Gaelic and Gaelic culture espoused by nineteenth- and twentieth-century ‘Teutonist’ historians such as P.F.Tytler. It was Tytler who memorably described Alexander as ‘the scourge of God’ and a ‘species of Celtic Attila’.

Steve Boardman is Professor of Medieval Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh. His main research interests are Scottish kingship and the political culture of late medieval Scotland, the lordships of Gaelic Scotland, the political and social significance of saints’ cults, and the use of heraldry and heraldic display. His most recent publication was (as co-editor) Barbour’s Bruce and its Cultural Contexts: Politics, Chivalry and Literature in Late Medieval Scotland (2015)


Past Events:

Gaelic Lecture Series 2017 (now ended)


Tuesday 6th June 7:30pm – Dr Ewen Cameron

“The Political History of Gaelic Scotland”

See the highlights from this lecture, including video, here

Tuesday 13th June 7:30pm – Duncan Sneddon

“Gaelic in Scotland: the early middle ages”

See the highlight’s from this lecture here

Tuesday 20th June 7:30pm – Dr Anja Gunderloch

“A Gaelic poet in Edinburgh:  Donnchadh Bàn Macintyre”

See the highlights from this lecture here

Tuesday 27th June 7:30pm – James MacDonald Reid

“Scottish Storytelling”

Tuesday 4th July 7:30pm – Gary Innes

“Gaelic Shinty and Traditional Music”

See the highlights from this lecture here

Tuesday 11th July 7:30pm – James Beaton

“Music in the Gaelic World”

See the highlights from this lecture here

 Tuesday 18th July 7:30pm – Dr Rob Dunbar

“18th – 20th Century Gaelic Literature”

See the highlights from this lecture here

For further information or general enquiries about Learning Gaelic at St Giles’ Cathedral, please contact:

Fiona Murray Urquhart
Heritage and Culture Coordinator