Letters from Alexander Carmichael to Captain F.W.L. Thomas

There is a treasure-trove of correspondence between these two men to be read here:

It is significant that reference is made to three wives (obviously those of Carmichael and Thomas, plus Mrs Otter whose husband Admiral Otter was Fred Thomas’s superior), ably amplifying the impression I have of these men immersing themselves in the islands in ways way beyond those called-for merely by their duties.
I’d venture to say that we have seldom (if ever) attained such a degree of involvement in investigations in the succeeding 150 years!

One of my favourite passages is this from Carmichael:

I believe the ministry in Skye have been torturing the place-names there, which are three fourths if not seven eights Norse into all sorts of forced Gaelic names. Could the Government not be got to employ a competent Gaelic scholar to go carefully over the land and writing down each name as it is spoken on the spot? I would have no forcing either for Gaelic or Norse meaning best – just the sound given to the name [by] the people in the place. This would be I think a great gain. At present you have no guarantee that the name on the Ordnance map is the name used by the people of the place. Take my own native island of Lismore for example, for whose map I am just indebted to the kindness of Capt. MacPherson. Every name in the Island is quite familiar to me and on the map I can hardly recognise one of them – I can only wonder indeed how they managed to distort them out of their form. Very few names are given however – not more than ten per Cent I should think.

It could be slipped, seamlessly, between the leaves of the excellent Togail Tir

Note: A biography of Alexander Carmichael can be read here: http://www.carmichaelwatson.lib.ed.ac.uk/biographies.php?lang=eng


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