Warriors of the Word (WotW) by Michael Newton was a great book to introduce me to the academic world in regards to the Scottish Highlands. It’s long, dense, and thorough while covering topics from dancing to Gaelic poetry to war to women to clans to family and back again.
And all of this yummy information is preceded by an overview of the meaning of the word “Celtic” and the history of Scotland. I liked what he had to say about the word “Celtic” so much that I quoted him in my senior capstone paper about a medieval Welsh text.
“In theory, the many Celtic languages (and their associated cultures) are derived in some way from a Celtic parent. The relationships between ‘parent’ and ‘child’ cultures, however, are complex and prevent us from making simplistic assumptions about a unified Celtic culture existing anywhere at any time” (9).
Newton’s coverage of All Topics Relating to Highlanders comes with sources to look at for further information, including primary sources. It’s better than Wikipedia as a starting point for information, as long as you’re willing to comb through 26 pages of bibliography—26 pages that includes 7 MacKenzies, 7 MacLeods, and 7 MacDonalds.
If the extensive bibliography doesn’t give you an idea of the ethos of the book, then Newton’s credentials will. Newton started in computer programming, but he moved to Glasgow, took Gaelic classes, and then got his PhD in Celtic Studies from the University of Edinburgh in 1998. To learn more about him, you can head over to his blog, The Virtual Gael. It’s also a good place to grab some Gaelic linguistic analysis, see new Gaelic literature (and translations), and learn some fun facts to share at parties.
WotW is a good place to figure out what you want to learn more about because it is so extensive. I have lists upon lists of things taken from this book that I want to research and read, although I do have to pick and choose since I don’t have unlimited time before I start my Celtic Studies program in Glasgow.
You’ll probably see this book referenced in a significant number of blog posts until my program starts, and even after. I’m definitely bringing the book to Glasgow.
I will say that WotW required concentration to read much of the book, at least for me. It certainly wasn’t skimming material. It was a lot of new information/names and the first time I had seen that much Gaelic written at once.
If you’re looking for an easy text, this isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for something interesting that takes some effort and time to digest, then WotW is definitely worth having or borrowing.
If fact, there’s only one reason I removed half a kilt from the ratings:
It took so much concentration to think about the text that when I tried to read it at night, I often fell asleep, which meant re-reading multiple pages in the morning.
I suppose that’s not his fault, but I’m keeping it at 4.5 anyway.
Your Bonnie Celtophile,