Michael Newton

We were lucky enough to receive recordings of the MacLullich brothers of north Craignish from our friend Michael Newton, an author and scholar who has spent many years studying Gaelic language and culture in Scotland and N. America. In his own words, he gives us an introduction to his connection with the language which led to recording these Dalriada speakers who are sadly no longer with us.

“I was born and raised in Southern California, near the border with Mexico, in a mixed family. I grew up somewhat bilingual in English and Spanish, with a strong sense of the importance of social justice. I went to Scotland in 1992 in order to learn Gaelic and experience Gaelic culture firsthand, having become intoxicated by the music and literature. I couldn’t have wished for a better set of tutors for my immersion experience.


To mention only a few of my teachers and allies, I soon struck up strong friendships with Maighread (Margaret) Bennett, Ailean Dòmhnallach (Allan MacDonald), and Iain MacAonghais (John MacInnes), amongst others, who imparted invaluable perspectives and skills in understanding the languages and cultures of Scotland. To fully imbibe all of the possibilities, I ended up doing a PhD in Celtic Studies under Uilleam MacGillÌosa (William Gillies) and others.

I felt a particularly strong attachment to the Perthshire Highlands and was always interested in the Gaelic legacy there. When I lived in Glasgow and went bicycling around Loch Lomondside, it was obvious to me that Gaelic had been spoken there recently, yet people would always deny it. That drove me to attempt to recover what I could from there and elsewhere. The almost unconscious impulse to silence and repress even the memory of Gaelic came from an easily-recognisable colonised mindset.


There seemed to be very little active recording of Gaelic speakers going on during the time I did my PhD (1994-1998), so I was always seeking them out, at the very least so that I could become acquainted with them. I sought them out in retirement homes in places like Fort William and often found them far from where they were born and raised. Sometimes I actually heard them first on BBC Alba and tracked them down from that!

I was friends with Martyn Bennett at the time and one of the people he played music with (Deirdre MacLullich) mentioned that she had Gaelic-speaking uncles from Argyll. although they had been living for many years in Pitlochry. Such people were very hard to find even then, so naturally I went to visit them as quickly as I could.

I hope that what little I have been able to do contributes to the greater good of Gaeldom and a recognition of its inherent worth and dignity.