Society of Highland and Island Historical Research / Comann Rannsachaidh Eachdraidh na Gaidhealtachd : A Conversational Research Model

Society of Highland and Island Historical Research homepage

Formed in 1972 (originally the ‘Society of West Highland and Island Historical Research) this charitable organisation promotes research and research-led discussion in short article format aimed at the general reader.   It hosts a long-standing newsletter, West Highland Notes & Queries, which from time to time includes music-related research.  The society has also published booklets on a range of topics, and since last year (2021) has been offering zoom lectures.   Articles in their newsletter are short-format and are designed to encourage dialogue and responses; looking at the list below, you can see discussions about pipers, harpers and singers unfold over several issues, allowing room for small pieces to be joined into wider rivers.  There is clear evidence here of painstaking close-up engagement with the kind of documentary primary sources which can be difficult to summarise and circulate.  What this reader particularly admires is the space for dialogue and refinement: an interesting model of a collaborative community of researchers.  Back-copies of WHN&Q can be ordered for a modest payment; new copies are free to members.   The Society’s interest in Highland families and clan structures make this a potentially useful starting point for research into the patronage contexts of Highland music making.

Articles in West Highland Notes &Queries with relevance to Scottish musicians include the following.

Series 1

R W Munro, ‘Heralds in the Isles’. issue 4 (May, 1977), 20

Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, ‘O’Muirgheasain Bardic Family’, issue 6 (March, 1978), 3-7

Keith Sanger, ‘Murdoch Macdonald the Harper’, issue 10 (Dec, 1979), 16-18

Davidina L Rankin, ‘The Rankins’ School of Piping’, issue 11 (March 1980), 23)

J E Macpherson, ‘The Poems of Ossian’, issue 12 (May, 1980), 25

Colm Ó Baoill, ‘The Rankins’, issue 12 (May, 1980), 27

Keith Sanger, ‘The Rankin Pipers’, issue 13 (Sept, 1980), 25

R W Munro, ‘The Rankin Pipers’, issue 13 (Sept, 1980), 25

Keith Sanger, ‘The Maclean-Clephane Harp Music’, issue 15 (May, 1981), 20-23

Keith Sanger, ‘An Attempt to Re-Introduce the Highland Harp, 1784-1786’, issue 17 (March, 1982), 8-16

A B W MacEwen, ‘The Rankins’, issue 19 (Dec, 1982), 27

R W Munro, ‘Highland “Flowers of the Forest”?’, issue 25 (Dec, 1984)

Colm Ó Baoill, ‘Lament for Niall Og’, issue 26 (April, 1985), 4-13

Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, ‘Highland Flowers of the Forest’, issue 26 (April, 1985), 2627

Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, ‘Lament for Niall Og’, issue 27 (Aug, 1985), 23

Keith Sanger, ‘Auchinbreck’s Harper’, issue 30 (Feb, 1987), 3-7

Keith Sanger, ‘A Campbell Lament for Inverlochy’, issue 30 (Feb, 1987), 20

Series 2

Donald Whyte, ‘The MacCrimmon Pipers’, issue 13 (Feb, 1995), 9-17

Keith Sanger, ‘The MacCrimmon Pipers’, issue 14 (July, 1995), 17-20

Marion Lees, ‘MacCrimmon Pipers’, issue 18 (Aug, 1997), 16

Series 3

Keith Sanger, ‘Maclean Harpers. Some Loose Ends’, issue 15 (Oct, 2010), 15-18

Allan Maclean of Dochgarroch, ‘John MacLean Johnston, Piper to the Clan Maclean 1899-19087’, issue 18 (Jan, 2012), 21-22

Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, ‘John MacLean Johnston, Piper to the Clan Maclean 1899 to 1908′, issue 19 (May, 2012), 16

Keith Sanger, ‘Ascaoin Moladh na Pioba’, issue 20 (2012), 21

Roderick Cannon & Keith Sanger, ‘The 84th Royal Highland Emigrant’s Pipe Banner, issue 21 (2013), 20-23

Keith Sanger, ‘Pipe Music of the Clan Maclean’, issue 21 (2013), 34-35

Ronald Black, ‘The 84th’s Pipe Banner’ issue 22 (May, 2013), 31

Keith Sanger, ‘A Girl, A Piper and a Shipwreck’, issue 24 (2014)

Keith Sanger, ‘Home is Where the Harp Is’, issue 26 (2014)

Series 4

Keith Sanger, ‘Ranald MacAllan Og’, issue 1 (2016), 24-26 (*a piper, not a harper)

Keith Sanger, ‘Some Musical Notes from Skye’, issue 2 (2016), 11-12

Keith Sanger, ‘A Pyper and his Man’, issue 3 (2017)

Keith Sanger, ‘Notes from the Ark’, issue 4, (2017)

Roger Knight, ‘Highland Folk Music recalled in Indonesia in 1836’, issue 4 (2017)

Keith Sanger, ‘More on the McEwens’, issue 9 (2019)

Keith Sanger, ‘Maclean of Brolass and a ‘air of virginals’, issue 13 (2020)

Series 5

Keith Sanger, ‘Alexander Menzies, the harper of Logierait’, issue 3 (2021), 11-14

… and ongoing!  Have a look!


  • Eric Creegan & Donald W Mackenzie, Tiree Bards and their Bardachd: the Poets in a Hebridean Community (1978)


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