Highlands & Islands

Lost Scottish folk tales published online

Alexander Carmichael
Image caption Carmichael spent 50 years collecting legends, songs, curses and oral history from Gaelic-speakers

The notebooks of the Scottish folklore pioneer Alexander Carmichael have been prepared for publication.

It will be the first time Carmichael's work has been available in its entirety.

From 1860, he spent 50 years collecting legends, songs, curses and oral history from Gaelic-speakers.

Researchers and archivists have worked for two years preparing the notes for publication by the University of Edinburgh.

Carmichael's work has led to him being likened to the brothers Grimm in Germany.

His volume Carmina Gadelica, published in 1900, is estimated to have included only a tenth of his original research material.

Senior researcher Dr Donald William Stewart said: "Alexander Carmichael tirelessly, even obsessively, recorded the culture, lore and beliefs of his native Scottish highlands.

Folklore jukebox

"By the end of his life in 1912, he was both Celtic guru and folklore jukebox, the internationally-recognised authority on Scottish Gaelic songs, stories, traditions and beliefs.

"Carmichael's voluminous papers, now preserved in Edinburgh University library, form one of the foremost folklore collections in the world."

Carmichael carried out his research while working as a tax collector on Lewis, Argyll, Uist and the west highlands. Researchers said the transcription of his notes was hindered by his "notoriously bad handwriting".

The work has been published online at the Carmichael Watson project website.

An exhibition called Unlocking the Celtic Collector will run at Edinburgh University library until 22 July.

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