1st June 2016: Lost Horizon or Living Landscape? Place, Time and People in Gaelic Scotland by Virginia Blankenhorn

Come along to the community hall on the side of St John’s Church Edinburgh at 6.30pm for a talk and film screening by Virginia


Title of talk:

Lost Horizon or Living Landscape? Place, Time and People in Gaelic Scotland

Virginia Blankenhorn

Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • The Highlands of Scotland – the Gàidhealtachd: why visitors come, and what they are looking for
  • How what the tour operators provide is far from the whole story
  • The daily life of Gaelic-speaking people through the first half of the 20th century
  • Native traditions relating to the Glencoe Massacre, the Loch Ness Monster, and other events
  • Place-names and what they tell us about the people who named the places
  • The economy of the Highlands, especially the importance of cattle
  • Places and stories associated with local events, beliefs, and otherworld lore
  • Daily life in the Gàidhealtachd today


A few paragraphs on your subject:

James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon, set in the mountains of Tibet, created the fictional ‘Shangri-La’ – a place of the spirit, seemingly outside time, where people lived long lives in a fastness far removed from a world beset by war. For most visitors and many Scots, the Highlands of Scotland – the Gàidhealtachd – seem to suggest a similar refuge: a region of misty mountains, with the odd ruined castle perched on the edge of a loch – perfect for a holiday (if the weather holds up), and a blank canvas for the romantic imagination.
Left out of the tour commentaries and the guidebooks are the people who lived in the Gàidhealtachd up to quite recently. In this lecture, stories and songs from the Scottish Studies Archives at Edinburgh University will be used to illustrate the relationship of ordinary Gaels with the lands they inhabited – the people and events that shaped them, the spirits that inhabited them, and the memories of them taken abroad by those forced to emigrate from home.

This talk, which was first developed for and delivered during the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in 2014, will be profusely illustrated with photographs and audio excerpts.


A few paragraphs about you:

Virginia Blankenhorn is a post-doctoral fellow in Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She is fluent in Irish (Gaelic), can hold her own in Scottish Gaelic, and pursues a long-held interest (45 years and counting) in the traditional culture and song of Gaelic-speaking Ireland and Scotland. She has published a number of articles and books; see edinburgh.academia.edu/VirginiaBlankenhorn for a list of these and full curriculum vitae.

What free internet knowledge resources would you recommend to others if they wish to explore your chosen theme further?


What are your weblinks?

Facebook – Virginia Blankenhorn

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