22. Islay History – Comparative Approaches

22. Islay History – Comparative Approaches

22. Islay History – Comparative Approaches

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by D. Caldwell and R. Black


The documentary history of the Highlands and Islands can be augmented in various ways, including archaeology and Gaelic oral tradition. This session will consist of two mini-lectures, followed by discussion. First David Caldwell will review some of the main conclusions from his forthcoming report on excavations at Finlaggan. He will comment on Finlaggan’s claim to be a centre of power and ritual from prehistoric times onwards, its role in the Kingdom and Lordship of the Isles and continuing importance in the 16th century. Then Ronald Black will attempt to summarise the ‘people’s history’ of Islay as found in the Dewar MSS, and to explain the methods used to align it with other sources. John Dewar, a Gaelic-speaking native of Arrochar, travelled around the West Highlands between 1862 and 1872 at the expense of the 8th duke of Argyll, visiting Islay in 1870. With some exceptions, his Islay stories begin with the massacre at Mulindry in 1586, and end with the foundation of Port Wemyss in 1833.

Image caption: Dunyvaig Castle

About the speakers

David Caldwell worked for 38 years as a curator for the National Museum of Scotland, and directed excavations at Finlaggan in the 1990s. He is the author of the standard history of Islay, Islay: The Land of the Lordship (Birlinn, 2017), and his monograph on The Archaeology of Finlaggan, Islay will be published by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 2024. Ronald Black was a lecturer in the Department of Celtic, Edinburgh University, from 1979 to 2001. He is the author of The Campbells of the Ark (John Donald, 2017) and is now director of the Dewar Project, whose first volume, John Dewar’s Islay, Jura and Colonsay (John Dewar Publishers, co-edited with Christopher Dracup) will appear early in 2024.

How to participate

This talk will begin at 7.30 pm (GMT) and last up to one hour, followed by questions. As the audience for each talk will be limited to 100, please register in plenty of time by e-mailing us (click either on the ‘Register for Events’ button above, or click here click here ). You will then be sent a code to allow you to join the talk.

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Date And Time

14-Mar-2024 @ 19:30

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