AM BIOBULL: The Gaelic Bible

Professor Donald Meek

Professor Donald Meek

Professor Meek holds a Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) degree from the University of Glasgow, awarded (by examination) in November 2011 for what the examiners regarded as an ‘outstanding’ range of publications on Gaelic literature and society in the nineteenth century.  He is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

He was Professor of Scottish and Gaelic Studies at Edinburgh University from 2002 until 2008, when he took early retirement.  In his own words, he ‘escaped’ from universties in order to find a ‘manager-free zone’ where he could develop his creative interests.  These include photography, building and sailing radio-controlled model boats (which were recently exhibited in Falkirk) and maritime art, showing ships and boats with which he has been familiar across the years, from puffers to contemporary car-ferries.  He is well known for his interest in the history of David MacBrayne and Caledonian MacBrayne, reflected most recently in From Comet to CalMac: Two Hundred Years of Hebridean and Clyde Shipping, which he co-authored with Dr Bruce Peter, Reader in Design Theory at Glasgow School of Art.  In addition, he composes poetry in Gaelic and English, most commonly humorous and satirical verse, often in limerick form.  He was founding editor of the Gaelic periodical, Gath, and he is currently President and Supervisory Editor of the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society, which is the main publisher of Gaelic-related academic texts.  His most recent Gaelic books have been editions of the prose writings and autobiography of the Rev. Dr Thomas M. Murchison, published in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Born in 1949 and brought up in the island of Tiree, Professor Meek was educated at Cornaigmore Junior Secondary School, Tiree, and Oban High School.  Graduating with First Class Honours in Celtic Studies from Glasgow University in 1971, he proceeded to Emmanuel College, Cambridge,  where he gained a First Class Honours BA degree in 1973 with Distinction in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.  Returning to Glasgow University, he became Assistant Editor of the Historical Dictionary of Scottish Gaelic.  In 1982, he gained a PhD from Glasgow University on ‘The Corpus of Heroic Verse in the Book of the Dean of Lismore’, a sixteenth-century Scottish manuscript, written in Scots orthography but containing a particularly fine collection of medieval Gaelic poetry.

From 1979 he was Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader in Celtic at Edinburgh University, moving to Aberdeen as Aberdeen’s first Professor of Celtic in 1993.  He has been involved in many aspects of Gaelic cultural development, including broadcasting (Member and Secretary, Gaelic Advisory Committee to Broadcasting Council for Scotland, 1976-78), learned societies (particularly the Gaelic Society of Inverness, of which he was Chief in 1998 and 1999), the Gaelic Books Council (Chairman 2002-4), and Gaelic language politics, chairing the Ministerial Advisory Group on Gaelic of the Scottish Executive (2001-2), which established Bòrd na Gàidhlig in 2003.  Having published numerous articles on different aspects of Highland and Hebridean church history, he was also President of the Scottish Church History Society (2001-4), the first Professor of Celtic or Gaelic languages ever to hold this position.

Brought up within a Baptist family in Tiree, Professor Meek has always been keenly interested in religious texts, and especially the Gaelic Bible.  In addition to articles about the language and styles of the Gaelic Bible, he undertook a computer-assisted orthographic revision of the standard edition, published in 1992, and he edited a diglot Gaelic-English New Testament, which appeared in 2002.

Among Professor Meek’s many books and other publications are:  Màiri Mhòr nan Oran, 1977, second edition 1998; The Campbell Collection of Gaelic Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings, 1978; Island Harvest: A History of Tiree Baptist Church, 1988; Sunshine and Shadow: the story of the Baptists of Mull, 1991; A Mind for Mission: essays (Editor), 1992; Tuath is Tighearna: Poetry of the Clearances and the Land Agitation (Editor), 1995; The Quest for Celtic Christianity, 2000; Caran an t-Saoghail: Anthology of Nineteenth-century Gaelic Poetry, 2003; Scottish Gaelic Studies, vols. 18, 19, 20, 21 (Editor); Os Cionn Gleadhraich nan Sràidean: Taghadh de Sgrìobhaidhean Thòmais MhicCalmain, [selection of the Gaelic writings of the Rev. T. M. Murchison], 2010; Steamships to St Kilda, 2010; Mo Là Gu Seo [autobiography of the Rev. T.M. Murchison], 2011; and most recently a major article on the role of church and faith in St Kilda, in Rewriting St Kilda: New Views on Old Ideas, 2011.

NOTE:  This event is in English

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