About

Elgin Cathedral, burned by King Robert II’s rebellious son
Alexander Stewart, ‘the Wolf of Badenoch’, in 1390.
Source: Shutterstock

PRESIDENT
Nicholas Maclean-Bristol

TRUSTEES
Ronald Black
David Caldwell
Alison Cathcart
Alastair C. H. Gordon
Tòmas MacAilpein
E. Mairi MacArthur
Aonghas MacCoinnich
Allan Maclean of Dochgarroch
Hector MacQueen
James Petre

SECRETARY
Viv Sutherland-Kemp

TREASURER
Tòmas MacAilpein

About 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 and Islands of Scotland and to make this research available to the general public. 

It is a registered charity (OSCR number SC051933). You can consult our annual report and accounts here:

Meet the trustees

Ronald Black
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: John Donald, 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. His articles on Gaelic tradition in The West Highland Free Press are now on the web as www.querndust.co.uk

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
Dr Alison 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 (2006)) focused on the central and eastern Scottish Highlands; her more recent work has been on plantation in the north of Ireland and south-west of Scotland (Plantations by Land and Sea: North Channel Communities of the Atlantic Archipelago, c.1550–1625 (2021)).  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.

Alastair Gordon
Dr. 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. 

Tòmas MacAilpein
Tòmas MacAilpein is the society’s Treasurer. He works for the Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic and Celtic & Gaelic at the University of Glasgow. He completed a PhD thesis on Gaelic cultural history in Islay (2017) and co-edited a reference book on the 20th-century periodical Gairm (2021). He is interested in Gaelic literature, folklore and history from below.

E. Mairi MacArthur
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 Scottish 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
Aonghas MacCoinnich is a lecturer in Celtic History at the University of Glasgow. He has an interest in the history and culture of Gaelic Scotland, tending to focus on the 1400–1750 period. Publications include an article, ‘Maritime dimensions to Scotland’s Highland Problem, 1540–1630’ (2019), a monograph, Plantation and Civility in the North Atlantic World: The Case of the Northern Hebrides, c.1570–1639 (2015) and most recently, an article on Gaelic in Galloway and the south-west, 1400–1805 (2022).

Allan Maclean
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.

Hector MacQueen
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. 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 http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/people/hectormacqueen.

James Petre
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.