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Historic and valuable research collection is gifted to Sabhal Mòr’s Library

The renowned scholar and researcher, Professor Kenneth MacKinnon, has gifted a large collection of his own personal manuscripts and research papers dating from the 1970s to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s library, and he attended a special event at the college on Wednesday (28 November) this week to mark the occasion.

Professor MacKinnon’s papers will make an invaluable addition to the college’s research resources and include not only many original manuscripts, but a host of other documents associated with the professor’s Gaelic research over the years. Professor MacKinnon also delivered a lecture on ‘Research on the Gaelic Community and its future Implications’ on Wednesday.

Professor MacKinnon has been involved in research related to Gaelic in communities since the early 1970s, and his work has contributed in no small way to efforts to save and revitalise the language. His research over the years has consistently provided a clear picture of attitudes and language movements and trends with regard to Gaelic, and how the language was and is being used in communities. Many of the questions that are being asked consistently today in research, were raised, perhaps for the first time in some cases, by Professor MacKinnon in his work. As well as being a tireless researcher, Professor MacKinnon has been involved in many of the efforts to revive and strengthen the language over the years, as an adviser on language planning and policies, and as a board member of organisations such as Bòrd na Gàidhlig and MG ALBA.

Speaking on Wednesday, Professor MacKinnon commented: “I have been very fortunate in the support and funding I have received over the years from many bodies, e.g. SSRC, ESRC, EC, Gaelic bodies and local sources. I can only hope that the research which resulted has had some purpose in helping to guide policy and action on behalf of Gaelic, its speakers and users. Today the language and its community face crucial circumstances, but what exists now compared to what little existed when I first set out on this course encourages us that today’s challenges can be met and overcome.”

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Principal, Professor Boyd Robertson, said: “We are greatly indebted to Professor Kenneth MacKinnon for this generous donation of his research manuscripts to the Library. This is a truly valuable collection of papers related to research studies undertaken in different parts of Gaeldom. It is a treasure trove which will add to the impressive resources already housed in the Library and it will form a foundation for further scholarship and research of the kind for which Kenneth MacKinnon rightly became so well known.”

Christine Cain, College Librarian, said: “We are extremely grateful for the donation of this important collection of papers, covering decades of research on the Gaelic language by such an eminent scholar, which will enrich the Library’s collections and be of great value to researchers interested in the language’s maintenance and development.”

The collection provides witness to the efforts and results of the Professor’s work and includes: research tenders, primary data from socio-linguistic research carried out in Cape Breton, the Western Isles and on Skye, notebooks, letters, articles, conference papers and much more. It ranges from the analysis of a questionnaire – on Gaelic retention in families and language use in the community – which was distributed in Harris, Barra and Cape Breton’s two Gaelic-speaking communities in the 1970s, to papers related to the research entitled ‘Scottish Opinion on Gaelic’ which Professor MacKinnon carried out in 1981 as he asked people in Scotland what they thought of matters connected with Gaelic, and especially the question of official status for the language.

This historic and important collection is now part of the library at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and if anyone is interested in accessing Professor MacKinnon’s papers, or if they would like to donate resources to the library, they can contact the library on 01471 888 431/447 or

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