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Home | Books | Other Publications | West Highland Notes & Queries | Links | Join the Society

The Society of Highland & Island Historical Research, which was founded in 1972 as the Society of West Highland & Island Historical Research, aims to encourage research into the history of the Highlands & Islands of Scotland and to make this research available to the general public.  

Its main publication is West Highland Notes & Queries.

Over the years some of the most distinguished and knowledgable historians have contributed to West Highland Notes & Queries, sometimes to try out a theory but always to enhance our knowedge of the Highlands and Islands.  Others, not necessarily professionals,  have contributed to see if anyone can help out with their question.  All have added a depth to this extraordinary archive which goes back forty-nine years.

Subscribers are encouraged to add to this archive of knowledge. If you are doing research, and you want to find out if anyone knows anything more about your subject, write a query.  If you think you know the answer to a query, write a reply.  And if you have done some original research and welcome others to read it, write a note or a longer article.  All contributions, from historians and interested amateurs are very welcome, and the editor will add them to an issue of West Highland Notes & Queries when he has space.

All we ask is that your contributions are not too long and you follow the style of the most recent issue.

There is a wealth of other material available: in particular we would commend our 'glossy' booklets about the area, all written by historians about the Highland and islands.  See the 'other publications' section of this website.

The illustrated Zoom lecture

The Highland Dimension to Empire with a Jacobite Twist, 1707-53

will be given by Professor Allan I. MacInnes on Thursday 9th December 2021 at 7.30 p.m. GMT.

This is the third in our series of Zoom talks to be given by leading specialists in Highland history. To view a recording of the first lecture in the series, Dr David Caldwell’s “The Origins of Plaid Wearing in Scotland” (7 Oct. 2021), click

A rcording of the second lecture in the series, Dr Alison Cathcart's 'James VI and the Creation of a "British" Maritime Policy: The View from the West' is availble to members of SHIHR and to anyone who attended the lecture.  To obtain the link e-mail [email protected] .    

Professor Macinnes' talk will begin at 7.30 pm GMT and last up to one hour, followed by questions. Please book your place by e-mailing [email protected].  You will be sent a code to allow you to join the talk.  (If you don't seem to have received it within a couple of days, check your Junk folder.)  Participation is free to members of SHIHR and to students.  Non-members other than students are politely requested to make a donation of £5 to society funds – to do so please e-mail our treasurer Tòmas MacAilpein [email protected] .

Synopsis: While the Union of 1707 is particularly identified in Scotland with the Whigs and the Presbyterians, the predominantly Episcopalian and Jacobite Highlands also took advantage of the political and commercial opportunities opening up in the British Empire in the first half of the eighteenth century. This paper explores the incursions of leading clans and satellite families in America, Asia and Africa, not just in terms of their acquisitive geographic presence but also of their colonial engagement in commodity exchange. Case studies, drawn from different Highland districts, will examine the integral and the peripheral participation of clans in Empire and how this participation impacted on political support up to the last Jacobite plot in 1753.

Professor Allan I. MacInnes began his academic career as a lecturer in Scottish History at the University of Glasgow and went on to hold chairs in History at the Universities of Aberdeen and Strathclyde. He has also held a visiting chair in British History at Chicago University. He has written extensively on Highland clans and clearances; Scottish Jacobitism; and British state formation. His current research has tended to focus on Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire. He is now an emeritus Professor of History at the University of Strathclyde. 


From Mull to Munlochy: Stepping from the Known to the Unknown Background in Understanding Local History 

 will be given by Jo Currie on Thursday 13th January 2022 at 7:30p.m. GMT.  


Back numbers of WHN&Q

The price of digital copies of back numbers of WHN&Q has now been reduced from £7.50 to £5 (click West Highland Notes and Queries above). These may be ordered through the website using PayPal. Orders for more than ten back numbers will be charged at half price, ie. £2.50 per copy. To take advantage of this offer please contact the treasurer, Tòmas MacAilpein, on [email protected]

SHIHR Zoom Talks

This autumn, SHIHR is launching a series of illustrated Zoom talks to be given by leading experts on Highland and Island historical research. It is intended that these will continue indefinitely, with a break each summer.

The programme for the 2021–22 season is as follows:

Dr David Caldwell. ‘The Origins of Plaid Wearing in Scotland.’ Thurs. 7 Oct. 2021.
Dr Alison Cathcart. ‘James VI & I and the Creation of a “British” Maritime Policy: The View from the West’ (provisional title). Thurs. 11 Nov. 2021.
Prof. Allan MacInnes. ‘Highland Dimension to Empire with a Jacobite Twist, 1707–1753.’            Thurs. 9 Dec. 2021.
Jo Currie, author of Mull: The Island and its People. ‘From Mull to Munlochy: Stepping from the Known to the Unknown Background in Understanding Local History.’ Thurs. 13 Jan. 2022.
Dr Alan Macquarrie. ‘Roderick Maclean of Iona: A Renaissance Humanist from the Western Isles.’ Thurs. 10 Feb. 2022.
Prof. Katherine Forsyth. ‘Ogham: Lost Script of the Highlands and Islands.’ Thurs. 10 March 2022.
Prof. Edward J. Cowan. ‘The Quest for New Caledonia: Nineteenth Century Gaels in Western Canada and the Arctic.’ Thurs. 7 April 2022.
Dr Alison Rosie. "Something sensible for a change”: The National Register of Archives for Scotland.’ Thurs. 5 May 2022.
Unless otherwise stated, each talk will begin at 7.30 pm GMT and last up to one hour, followed by questions. Please keep an eye on this website (and future issues of N&Q) in case any changes have to be made to the schedule. As the audience for each talk will be limited to 100, kindly book your place in plenty of time by e-mailing [email protected]. You will be sent a code to allow you to join the talk. (If you don't seem to have received it within a couple of days, check your Junk folder.)  Participation is free to members of SHIHR and to students. Non-members other than students are politely requested to make a donation of £5 to society funds - to do so e-mail our treasurer Tòmas MacAilpein [email protected] .  


Nicholas Maclean-Bristol


Ronald Black

David Caldwell

Alison Cathcart

Màiri MacArthur

Aonghas MacCoinnich

Hector MacQueen

Alastair C H Gordon

Rev. Allan Maclean of Dochgarroch

Secretary: Viv Sutherland-Kemp,  [email protected]

Treasurer: Tòmas MacAilpein,  [email protected]

The Society’s postal address is:

Ms Viv Sutherland-Kemp, Secretary,

SHIHR, 57 Belmont Road, Portswood,

Southampton, SO17 2GD, Hampshire



Ronald Black (Raghnall MacilleDhuibh) is a retired Senior Lecturer in Celtic at the University of Edinburgh.  His latest book is The Campbells of the Ark: Men of Argyll in 1745 (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2017).  He is director of the Dewar Project, whose aim is to publish the Gaelic historical tales collected in the 1860s by John Dewar, beginning in 2022 with John Dewar's Islay, Jura and Colonsay.  

Dr David Caldwell After graduating with a degree in archaeology from Edinburgh University Dr Caldwell spent 38 years working for the National Museums of Scotland, latterly as keeper of two of the curatorial departments – Scotland and Europe, and Archaeology. He has a strong interest in the history and archaeology of the West Highlands and Islands. From 1990 to 1997 he directed excavations at Finlaggan, Islay, and has published extensively, including A Historical Guide to Islay, Jura & Colonsay (2001 and 2011); Islay The Land of the Lordship (2008 and 2017); and (with M A Hall and C M Wilkinson) The Lewis Chessmen Unmasked (2010, 2011). He has served as President of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology and as President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He is chair of Fife Cultural Trust and a board member of the National Trust for Scotland.

Ali Cathcart is Associate Professor of Early Modern Scottish History at the University of Stirling.  Her earlier work (Kinship and Clientage: Highland Clanship 1451 to 1609) focused on the central and eastern Scottish Highlands; her more recent work has been on plantation in the north of Ireland and southwest of Scotland (Plantations by Land and Sea: North Channel Communities of the Atlantic Archipelago, c.1550-1625 – forthcoming).  Increasingly she describes herself as a historian of the so-called ‘periphery’ and current focus is on local and insular communities who live at the interface of land and sea, and their interaction with ‘central’ authorities, while drawing on economic, environmental, legal, and maritime dimensions to such relationships.

E. Mairi MacArthur was born and educated in St Andrews where her father, a native of Iona, was University Librarian.  After a degree in French she worked abroad for some years before returning to settle in Edinburgh.  There, in the late 1980s, she undertook a PhD in Sottish Ethnology titled: "The Social and Economic History of Iona, 1750-1914".  This led to several publications, to her own local history imprint "The New Iona Press" and to the establishment of the Iona Heritage Centre, to which she remains a consultant.  She recently helped catalogue the collection held by the Iona Cathedral Trustees in the Abbey Library and is currently a part-time researcher for Iona's Namescape, a 3-year study of the island's place-names based in Celtic & Gaelic at Glasgow University.  She now lives in Strathpeffer.  

Aonghas MacCoinnich is a lecturer in Celtic History at the University of Glasgow. He has published on various aspects of the history and culture of Gaelic Scotland, 1400-1700. Recent publications include an article, ‘Maritime dimensions to Scotland’s Highland Problem, 1540-1630’ (2019) and a monograph, Plantation and Civility in the North Atlantic World. The case of the Northern Hebrides, c.1570-1639 (2015).

Hector MacQueen CBE, FBA, FRSE, has been a member of the Edinburgh Law School staff since 1979, having also taken his LL.B and Ph.D at Edinburgh. Appointed to the Chair of Private Law in 1994, he was Dean of the Law School 1999-2003, and Dean of Research and Deputy Head of the College of Humanities and Social Science in the University 2004-2008. He was a Scottish Law Commissioner 2009-2018.  Professor MacQueen's research and teaching focus on three major areas: (1) the history of law (in which the history of Celtic law is a particular interest); (2) the private law of obligations; and (3) intellectual property.  His university website is

Alastair Gordon FRCP, is a retired Consultant Physician.   Born in Aberdeen of a highland father, he graduated from Edinburgh University and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.  He has an abiding interest in Scottish history and culture.  He supports the study and conservation of the language, literature, tradition and culture of the Highlands and Islands.  He is Secretary of the Royal Celtic Society. 

Allan Maclean of Dochgarroch, is a founder member of SWHIHR.  For fourteen years he was Provost of St John's Cathedreal, Oban.  He is author of the society's booklet Telford's Highland Churches.  


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