A Year In Hindsight: Living in Disruption, Disease, and Uncertainty

It’s just over a year since I established Hidden Glen Folk School and began a string of blogs about the contemporary relevance and need for tradition. Samhain – the Gaelic New Year – is fast approaching and seems an appropriate time to look back on the last twelve months.

This last year has been challenging to most of us in many ways, sometimes ways that we could not have possibly predicted a year ago. The pandemic put my own life into financial jeopardy, so I’ve had to delay offering courses until next year while I try to gain some stability – and I’m sure most people have similar experiences, and much worse.

Still, I’d like to share a few of the things about the last year for which I’m grateful personally. First of all, it was very rewarding for me to find so many people who are passionate about Scottish Highland heritage, and enthusiastic about being engaged in it, for a whole host of reasons I’ve outlined in previous blog posts (here’s the first one, from 2019 Sept 22). Given that there are currently about 500,000 people currently learning Scottish Gaelic on DuoLingo – who would have guessed such an enormous crowd – perhaps there is even more interest than anyone expected.

Late last year a volume edited (and largely translated) by my friend and colleague, Prof. Wilson McLeod, and I was released, and in September (2020) we were honored with an award for the best non-fiction Gaelic book of 2020. This volume, The Highest Apple / An Ubhal as Àirde, is the first comprehensive anthology of Scottish Gaelic literature, from its early medieval beginnings to the present day.

Winners of the 2020 Gaelic Book Awards
Names “Wilson McLeod” and “Micheal Newton” inscribed into Donald Meek award for annual best non-fiction Gaelic book award.

Early in 2020, I published the book The Everyday Life of the Clans of the Scottish Highlands, which is available in both print and eBook formats. I’ve received enthusiastic responses from readers in many different countries around the world.

I’ve also got a very significant chapter about an important Gaelic figure in Canadian history – Alexander Fraser, the first provincial archivist of Ontario – in the volume North American Gaels: Speech, Story, and Song in the Diaspora, which will be published in the next few weeks. I’m very excited to see this book, which contains many substantial and important contributions about the Gaelic legacy in North America.

I started a podcast series about the Gaelic legacy in North America – the Hidden Glen Podcast (the FaceBook group is here)– and did some pretty great interviews with people.

I’ve started a series of blogs researching previously ignored recordings of Scottish Gaels in the San Francisco Bay area in 1939-40. These blog posts (see the first one here) will form the basis of a talk I’ll be offering in the summer of 2021 at the next conference about Gaels in North America in Halifax – assuming that COVID is not still disrupting our lives.

I’m currently finishing a new book that I expect to publish early in 2021. I won’t say too much about it at the moment, only to say that it is meant to explain many previously unexplored aspects of the Gaelic legacy around us for a general audience, and it will be heavily illustrated with fun and cheeky cartoons. I’m currently lining up talks and book launch events for 2021.

I expect to start offering courses again in early 2021 – one at a time – and would like to hear from you which you are most interested in taking. The courses I offer will correspond to the level of interest.

Keep an eye on this blog, and please share with friends!

Tha mi an dòchas gum bi cùisean nas fhearr dhuinn uile anns an àm ri teachd!

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