SGÌR LATHARN – A Forgotten Gaeldom

Fàilte chridheil, chàirdeil oirbh.

It is my intention in beginning this new blog to expand on the current understanding of the ancestral Gaelic culture of south-western Caithness, namely Latheron Parish, by sharing monthly excerpts of my great-grand-uncle David MacLeod’s diaries, which appear to have been composed during the years 1876-1892.

The diaries contain a considerable amount of information on the people of Latheron Parish, especially those from the Strath of Latheronwheel, as well as on the religious and economic circumstances of the time.  What they do not include is anything more than a cursory mention of the Gaelic language, which at the time of the writing of the diaries was under concerted attack from the British Establishment.

Gaelic was David MacLeod’s first language and that of every discernible ancestor before him.  Throughout the diaries however, my great-grandfather’s brother goes out of his way to mould himself to what he perceives as being the expectations of the British society of the time, passing himself off at every possible turn as anything but a Gael.

Poor David (b.1853) succeeds only in coming across as a very confused, pained young man, caught between worlds, wrestling with constant religious guilt and suffering much in the way of heartbreak and disappointment in the run-up to his tragic death in 1892 which also put a premature end to his 18 years of diary writing.

My intention is to pad out David’s account with the real culture of the people from whom he sprang; from whom I have likewise come through his brother John (1869-1948), John’s daughter Laura (1909-2009) and her daughter, my late mother Marjorie (1943-2015).  I wish to honour my Gaelic People as our tradition dictates and as my grandmother insisted upon.  As the saying goes: lean gu dlùth ri cliù do shinnsear – follow closely to the repute of your ancestors.

I hope you enjoy the fruits of this labour, both David’s and mine.  There are 16 years worth of diaries to get through meaning that I could be writing this blog for as long, sharing a month’s entries with you at the beginning of each month of the coming years.  If this succeeds in getting the necessary information out there about Gaelic Caithness, it will have been worthwhile.

Copies of the three diaries can be viewed in full at the Nucleus Archives, Wick, to whom I must offer my warmest thanks for the work done to digitise the material, thereby making it safe for future generations.

Gach beannachd air an àm,

Àdhamh MacLeòid

Whiteinch, Glasgow

St Andrew’s Day, 2023


  1. ‘Bithidh u cuiridh ead shuas annseo san Ghàilig a bhràthair? Bithidh gu gast’ air fad mà cuiridh u / sibh an nòtaidhean Daigh MacLeòid suas annseo san Ghàilig, agus ann an Gàilig Sgìre Latharn gu h-àiridh.

    • Cha bhith aid as Gàilig, a charaid. Chan ail an ùin agam air son sin a dhéanamh. Tha ‘m fios seo do na daoin aig nach ail focal Gàilig gus am fóghlamachamh ar eachdraigh na Gàilig as an dùthaich. Bithidh cuid mhór de Ghàilig ann, ge-ta, gun teagamh.

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