Nils M. Holmer

(1905-1994)

Holmer ann an Éirinn 01Nils Holmer was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1905. He studied Russian at Lund University and became interested in Indo-European linguistics. During a year as a guest student in Prague during the 1920s he became acquainted with Celtic languages and decided to switch from Slavic to Celtic linguistics.

He took part in the Marstrander group working with Gaelic during the 1930s and developed a special fondness for Argyll and its dialects which lasted his whole life. He published monographs on the Gaelic of Arran and Kintyre as well as a treatment of the south Argyll dialect family as informed by fieldwork in Islay, Jura and Colonsay.

Despite also having undertaken fieldwork in the Dalriada dialect area, the resulting material did not make it to publication. Holmer spent three months in Cowal and Mid-Argyll during the late 1930s collecting all manner of lore and vocabulary from the last habitually Gaelic-speaking generation, most of whom had passed away by 1950. His work is literally invaluable in providing us with the largest body of evidence for how the dialect was spoken.

After retirement in tHolmer ann an Éirinn 02he 1970s he returned to Argyll, where he spent a few years living near Oban collecting further data from the remaining speakers of Loch Etive-side Gaelic.

Nils Holmer passed away in Sweden in 1994.

The revival of the Dalriada Gaelic dialect would simply not be possible without the work of this wonderful man and the generosity of his family in sharing it with us. It is a debt that simply cannot be put into words but we will no doubt continue to attempt its articulation as the years wear on!