“Stad is éisd ri guth bho’n uaigh” [Stop and listen to a voice from the grave]: The Deathways and Deathscapes of Canada’s 18th- and 19th-Century Scottish Gaels

A special issue of Genealogy (ISSN 2313-5778).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 February 2020) | Viewed by 27108

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of History, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, NS B2G 2W5, Canada
Interests: history of Scottish immigrants in Canada; death culture in 19th-century Maritime Canada; Canadian cultural and religious history

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Guest Editor
Department of Celtic Studies, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, NS B2G 2W5, Canada
Interests: history, culture, and literature of the Scottish Gaels in Canada; historical development of Gaelic and Celtic Studies; medieval Irish and Welsh narrative tradition

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Guest Editor
Retired University Research Administrator and Academic Librarian
Interests: Irish history and genealogy; Irish immigration in 19th-century Canada; scholarly and academic editing

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Guest Editor
Department of Social Sciences & Cultural Studies, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Interests: American and British visual and material culture and social and cultural history, with a focus on gravemarkers, funerary statuary, and cemeteries of the 17th through the 19th centuries; scholarly and academic editing

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Genealogy invites papers on the subject of the deathways and deathscapes, both tangible and intangible, of Canada’s 18th- and 19th-century Scottish Highland immigrants. Although the history of Scottish immigration in Canada has been extensively documented in terms of politics, education, religion, sports, literature, publishing, settlement, and folk culture, scholarship on the role of death among Highland immigrants is virtually non-existent. It is difficult to understand why so little academic attention has been given to their death rituals, either material or immaterial, as a window into the broader significance of their group identity/ies within commemoration behavior. The objective of this Special Issue is to show how death for Highland Scots in Canada was more a “counterpoint” of life than a “contradiction”. For example, their poetry, folklore, and family stories were all deeply enmeshed in death traditions, which linked kin and community over time and space. In sum, Highland immigrants felt a profound connection with the afterlife, and many expressed their identity as vividly in death as they did in life. This proposed publication promises to make a significant contribution to a field of untapped potential and to offer an important corrective to a historiography which fails to acknowledge the centrality of this human experience to Scottish immigrants who came to Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The topics enumerated below will be considered for inclusion in this Special Issue; however, other relevant topics are welcome.

  • Ethnicity and identity related to Scottish deathways;
  • Mortality and transatlantic connections: continuity and adaptation;
  • Wake traditions;
  • Bardic laments;
  • Second-sight stories and other death-related folklore;
  • Burial customs;
  • Memorialization (e.g., headstones, obituaries);
  • Religion and death;
  • Music and death;
  • Role of women and gender in death rituals and burial customs;
  • Influences and interaction with other cultures (Indigenous, Irish, French, English, etc.) in connection with burial practices, funeral customs, and death;
  • Death imagery in Scottish-Canadian literature;
  • Family narratives and death.

Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell
Dr. Michael Linkletter
Mr. John D. Blackwell
Dr. Elise M. Ciregna
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Genealogy is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • gravestone studies
  • necroethnicity
  • memorialization
  • Scottish diaspora
  • Scottish deathways
  • Scots in Canada
  • immigration
  • Highlands
  • Gaelic

Published Papers (7 papers)

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25 pages, 329 KiB  
Article
Elegies and Laments in the Nova Scotia Gaelic Song Tradition: Conservatism and Innovation
by Robert Douglas Dunbar
Genealogy 2022, 6(1), 3; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy6010003 - 31 Dec 2021
Viewed by 3070
Abstract
Gaelic-speaking emigrants brought with them a massive body of oral tradition, including a rich and varied corpus of song–poetry, and many of the emigrants were themselves highly skilled song-makers. Elegies were a particularly prominent genre that formed a crucially important aspect of the [...] Read more.
Gaelic-speaking emigrants brought with them a massive body of oral tradition, including a rich and varied corpus of song–poetry, and many of the emigrants were themselves highly skilled song-makers. Elegies were a particularly prominent genre that formed a crucially important aspect of the sizeable amount of panegyric verse for members of the Gaelic aristocracy, which is a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. This contribution will demonstrate that elegies retained a prominent place in the Gaelic tradition in the new world Gaelic communities established in many parts of Canada and in particular in eastern Nova Scotia. In many respects, the tradition is a conservative one: there are strong elements of continuity. One important difference is the subjects for whom elegies were composed: in the new world context, praise for clan chiefs and other members of the traditional Gaelic aristocracy were no longer of relevance, although a small number were composed primarily out of a sense of personal obligation for patronage shown in the Old Country. Instead—and as was increasingly happening in the nineteenth century in Scotland, as well—the deaths of new community leaders, including clergy, and other prominent Gaels were recorded in verse. The large number of songs composed to mark the deaths of community members is also important—particularly young people lost at sea and in other tragic circumstances, occasionally in military service, and so forth. In these song–poems, we see local poets playing a role assumed by song-makers throughout Gaelic-speaking Scotland and Ireland: that of spokespeople for the community as a whole. Full article
19 pages, 2543 KiB  
Article
Markers to Emigration from North West Sutherland: The Presbyterian Cemeteries of Lot 21 of Prince Edward Island
by Malcolm Bangor-Jones
Genealogy 2021, 5(2), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5020035 - 2 Apr 2021
Viewed by 3226
Abstract
A number of studies of emigrant communities in Canada have utilized the evidence from gravemarkers to indicate place of origin. This investigation of gravemarkers from five Presbyterian cemeteries on Lot 21 of Prince Edward Island demonstrates emigration from an area of the north [...] Read more.
A number of studies of emigrant communities in Canada have utilized the evidence from gravemarkers to indicate place of origin. This investigation of gravemarkers from five Presbyterian cemeteries on Lot 21 of Prince Edward Island demonstrates emigration from an area of the north west Highlands of Scotland to a particular community over a period of approximately 50 years. The chronology of emigration as revealed in the gravemarkers is analysed in the light of what is known about tenurial change within the homeland. Emigrant histories of several individuals or families recorded in two of the cemeteries have been compiled to examine their family and communities in the homeland, to set out the circumstances under which they emigrated and to outline the challenges they faced in Canada. An examination of the evidence from gravemarkers alongside a study of extant surnames and family reconstitution suggests that, in this case, gravemarkers provide a valuable but only partial indication of precise origin. Full article
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18 pages, 271 KiB  
Article
‘Bidh mi Cumha mu d’ Dhéibhinn gu Bràth’ [I Shall Grieve for You Forever]: Early Nova Scotian Gaelic Laments
by Effie Rankin
Genealogy 2020, 4(4), 118; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy4040118 - 21 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3510
Abstract
Gaelic laments played an integral role in the deathways of the Highland Scots of Nova Scotia. These often passionate outpourings of grief served as lasting obituaries for the dead and epitomized the richness and vigour of the Gaelic language. As sincere emotional responses, [...] Read more.
Gaelic laments played an integral role in the deathways of the Highland Scots of Nova Scotia. These often passionate outpourings of grief served as lasting obituaries for the dead and epitomized the richness and vigour of the Gaelic language. As sincere emotional responses, they gave a poetic and performative dimension to the deaths of clergy and other noted community members, as well as beloved relatives and victims of sudden, unexpected deaths, such as drowning and even murder. A casual scan of Gaelic printed sources from newspapers and anthologies will immediately impress the reader with the prolific number of extant elegies. It is therefore necessary to confine the scope of this article to the earliest examples in Nova Scotia, focusing primarily on the creations of the better known, established poets. Several works by less familiar bards have also been included in this study. Full article
20 pages, 3329 KiB  
Article
Men and Place: Male Identity and the Meaning of Place in the Nineteenth-Century Scottish Gàidhealtachd
by Elizabeth Ritchie
Genealogy 2020, 4(4), 97; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy4040097 - 26 Sep 2020
Viewed by 4790
Abstract
The perfunctory noting of name, dates, family relationships and a location on gravestones initially suggests that such details are unprofitable sources for evidence of male identity. However the sheer commonplaceness of stating a placename, particularly when it is noticeably associated with men rather [...] Read more.
The perfunctory noting of name, dates, family relationships and a location on gravestones initially suggests that such details are unprofitable sources for evidence of male identity. However the sheer commonplaceness of stating a placename, particularly when it is noticeably associated with men rather than women, and when not all cultures do the same, indicates that it may reveal something of how men thought of themselves and how they felt. Canadian and Australian studies have suggested that recording placenames on a headstone was a marker of Scottish ethnicity, like an image of a thistle. However, in the nineteenth-century Scottish Highlands ethnicity was not a key component of identity. Indications of place, at least in the ‘home’ country, must therefore signify a different element of identity. This article examines headstone inscriptions of men from across the Gaelic-speaking Highlands and Islands of Scotland who died in the nineteenth century. The resulting evidence indicates that place was a significant element of male identity, indicating personal or ancestral connection with a particular location; a regional affiliation; professional success; social status; national and international mobility; an imperial or patriotic mindset; or even geographical dislocation. In short, place was highly significant to nineteenth-century Highland men, and was a key element of their personal identity. Full article
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12 pages, 270 KiB  
Article
With Respect to the Dead: Reconstructing a Historic View of Death in Gaelic Nova Scotia
by Shamus Y. MacDonald
Genealogy 2020, 4(2), 66; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy4020066 - 24 Jun 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 4599
Abstract
Drawing on a combination of oral history and archival research, this article reconstructs a historic view of death and dying in areas of the province settled by Scottish Gaels. It discusses beliefs and customs associated with death, giving special attention to traditional house [...] Read more.
Drawing on a combination of oral history and archival research, this article reconstructs a historic view of death and dying in areas of the province settled by Scottish Gaels. It discusses beliefs and customs associated with death, giving special attention to traditional house wakes. Inspired by studies in culturally related communities in Ireland, Scotland, and Newfoundland, this study highlights insider perspectives of local customs and beliefs in order to develop a clearer understanding of the relationship previous generations had to death in Gaelic Nova Scotia. This study concludes by suggesting why some mortuary customs were abandoned during the second part of the twentieth century. Full article
12 pages, 1160 KiB  
Article
Patriarchs, Pipers and Presidents: Gaelic Immigrant Funerary Customs and Music in North America
by Barry Shears
Genealogy 2020, 4(2), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy4020063 - 4 Jun 2020
Viewed by 4098
Abstract
One of the most moving tributes to the dead is the playing of the Highland bagpipes during funeral services, whether in the church or at the graveside. This custom has a long history both in Scotland and in areas of North America settled [...] Read more.
One of the most moving tributes to the dead is the playing of the Highland bagpipes during funeral services, whether in the church or at the graveside. This custom has a long history both in Scotland and in areas of North America settled by Scottish immigrants over the past 300 years, and for lovers of bagpipe music it is an essential part of the funeral ritual. Throughout its history the piper’s lament has transcended social class structure and has been performed for paupers and presidents alike. Despite being deeply rooted in tradition, the music and function of this musical practice have changed over time. Drawing from printed texts of the 19th and 20th centuries, recent scholarship and local folklore surrounding funeral customs and music, this paper examines the origins of the funeral piping tradition in Gaelic Scotland and its evolution in North American society. Full article
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10 pages, 271 KiB  
Essay
Converses with the Grave: Three Modern Gaelic Laments
by Chelsey MacPherson, Brian James MacLeod, Lodaidh MacFhionghain and Laurie Stanley-Blackwell
Genealogy 2021, 5(1), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5010022 - 15 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2777
Abstract
Within Scottish deathways, the Gaelic lament has long served as a poignant and powerful outlet for loss. In this creative piece, three Canadian-born, Gaelic-speaking poets present their previously unpublished Gaelic laments along with English translations. This collaborative article is designed to demonstrate, in [...] Read more.
Within Scottish deathways, the Gaelic lament has long served as a poignant and powerful outlet for loss. In this creative piece, three Canadian-born, Gaelic-speaking poets present their previously unpublished Gaelic laments along with English translations. This collaborative article is designed to demonstrate, in a creative rather than an academic format, that the venerable lament tradition continues to enjoy longevity and vitality in the present day as a literary expression of grief among Gaels. This article further demonstrates that modern Gaelic laments are not constrained by a strict fidelity to literary rules but strive instead to work creatively within tradition while reaching their audiences in a relevant and resonant way. For each poem, the author offers a personal contextualization for his/her lament, which serves to explain the source of inspiration and demonstrates how the work draws upon and reflects its literary roots. In recognition of the strong oral tradition present within Gaelic poetry, this article includes an audio recording of each of the three authors’ laments. Full article
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