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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.

It is with the deepest regret that we report the passing of the distinguished historian Professor Edward J. (Ted) Cowan, who died at his home in New Galloway on 2 January.

Professor Cowan was to be our speaker on 7 April. We are most grateful to Prof. Kevin James of Guelph University, Ontario, for stepping into the breach. He will speak on “The Highland Hotel in Victorian Travel Writing” at the same day and time agreed for Prof. Cowan’s lecture, 7.30 p.m. GMT on Thursday 7 April.

The next Zoom lecture is 

"Roderick Maclean of Iona: A Renaissance Humanist from the Western Isles"and will be given by

Dr Alan Macquarie on Thursday 10th February 2022 at 7:30 GMT.

Synopsis:   Roderick MacLean’s Latin poems on St Columba, the Ionis or Ionidos Liber, ‘Book of the Song of Iona’, published in Rome in 1549, have received less attention than they deserve.  They and their author are difficult to categorise: Roderick MacLean appears from the poems to be a model of Catholic orthodoxy, yet we know that he had earlier spent time studying under Luther and Melanchthon at Wittenberg in the 1530s.  His subject-matter, Columba as portrayed in Adomnán’s Vita Columbae (c. 700) , is very medieval, while his language is that of the Renaissance, with a good knowledge of Greek, skill at using the verse forms of Horace, and a quite remarkable vocabulary. The poems contain a number of interesting Latinisations of Gaelic names, some incidental information about farming practice on Iona, and some hints about MacLean's manuscript of Vita Columbae and its relationship to the surviving MSS. As well as Ionis, MacLean wrote psalm paraphrases (of which only one survives) and some court poetry which came to light very recently during the course of our research.

Alan Macquarrie - was born in Glasgow and is a graduate of Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities.  He worked for ten years in the Department of Scottish History at Glasgow University, then for 18 years in the Education Faculty at the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of a number of books, including Scotland and the Crusades (1985), The Saints of Scotland (1997), Medieval Scotland: Kingship and Nation (2004), Legends of Scottish Saints (2012), and Scottish Supplications to Rome, 1471-1492 (2017). He is also involved in the series of Calendars of Papal Letters to the British Isles published by the Irish Manuscript Commission. His edition of the Poems of Roderick MacLean, jointly edited with Roger P H Green, will appear in 2022.

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. Kevin James. ‘The Highland Hotel in Victorian Travel Writing.’ 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

James Petre

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, is Emeritus Professor of Private Law in the Edinburgh University Law School, where he served as a member of staff from 1979 to 2021, having also completed his LLB(Honours) and PhD there.  He was appointed to the Chair of Private Law in 1994, 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

Dr James Scott Petre FCIS, FSA Scot, is an independent researcher having retired from a career working for professional, chartered institutes in the UK, primarily in the law.  He holds degrees in history from the universities of Wales, of London and of the Highlands and Islands and a PhD in archaeology from Cardiff.  His interests focus on highland and island history, castellologie, medieval Cyprus and the Anglo-Scottish Border wars. His most recent publications include Tiree and the Dukes of Argyll 1674 – 1922 (2019) and Dun Ara: a Norse-period harbour in Mull? for the Society of Antiquaries in 2020.  His current projects include the history and archaeology of the castles of Strome and Roxburgh and developing a 2nd edition of his book of 2012 Crusader Castles of Cyprus.

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 Cathedral, Oban, and he was one time Chairman of the Argyll Friends of the National Trust for Scotland.  He is the present Chairman of the Clan Maclean Heritage Trust. His most recent publication is a chapter on The Church in Scotland 1829–1928: The Impact of Ecclesiology in Scotland in Places of Worship in Britain and Ireland 1829-1929 [forthcoming]. He is also author of the society’s booklet Telford’s Highland Churches. 


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