A project led by Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, Dr Katherine Forsyth and with Dr Aonghas MacCoinnich as main researcher, will explore the history of Gaelic and Gaels at the University of Glasgow.  Gaels have been present at the University since its foundation in 1451 both as students and as members of staff.  Gaelic however, was not taught at the University as a subject which contributed to an MA degree until session 1906-1907.   This project will look at aspects of the story of Gaels and Gaelic connected  to the University over the longer period as well as Gaelic as a subject, under the auspices of Celtic, at the University

After a long campaign Gaels in Edinburgh succeeded in getting a chair for Celtic established at the University in that city in 1882.  Glasgow, however, to a greater extent than Edinburgh, was seen as the major city and hub for Gaeldom, with a much larger Gaelic community, and it was a source of considerable disquiet that there was no provision at the University for Gaelic.  As it often the case, funding was an issue and the logjam was broken by the Rev. Dr Archibald Kelly MacCallum, a Baptist minister, who left a bequest of £3000 to the University in 1893, on the condition that the money be used to set up a Celtic lectureship.  Professor Magnus Maclean was employed, 1900-1903, on a part-time basis, to deliver a series of lectures. He was followed by Professor Kuno Meyer, who delivered six lectures per annum over three years, 1903-1906, finishing off his final lecture with a call for the establishment of a chair of Celtic at Glasgow, a wish that was not to be fulfilled for fifty years.

Left to right: Professor Magnus Maclean (image courtesy of Prof. Tormod Domhnallach), Prof. Kuno Meyer (image, Wikipedia Commons), Rev. Dr George Henderson (Celtic Review, viii)

In the meantime, however, Maclean and Meyer’s lectures, well attended by members of the public and students alike, and widely reported in the press, generated great interest in the question of Celtic and Gaelic at the University. Kelly-MacCallum’s bequest was insufficient to pay a full-time lecturer but a public subscription from a range of individuals and organisations in 1905 soon raised the necessary funds. As a result of this the Rev. Dr George Henderson was hired on a full-time basis as a Celtic lecturer in 1906. Celtic became a subject which could qualify for the degree of MA in session 1906-07.

A variety of pages on this website aims not only to explore the process by which Celtic and Gaelic came to be taught at the University of Glasgow in the century since the first Celtic lecture in 1901 and the establishment of Celtic as a subject of study in 1906 but also to investigate the largely forgotten experience of Gaelic speakers at the University over the first four and a half centuries, 1451-1901.



Sgeul na Gàidhlig aig Oilthigh Ghlaschu / The Gaelic story at the University of Glasgow

This research was funded by the University of Glasgow, the Chancellor’s fund at the University of Glasgow, the R.L. Thomson endowment and Soillse.


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