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John Lorne Campbell

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John Lorne Campbell 

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John Lorne Campbell was born in Edinburgh on 1 October 1906 and an interest in Gaelic was nurtured through his upbringing in Argyll on the family lands of the Campbells of Inverneil and Taynish. After school in Edinburgh and at Rugby, he studied Rural Economy at St John’s College, Oxford, and studied Scottish Gaelic with Professor John Fraser, Professor of Celtic in Oxford, who also encouraged him in his research which bore fruit in the ground-breaking Highland Songs of the Forty-Five (1933). This set a pattern with scrupulous editing and scholarship and a robust setting straight the record for Highland and Hebridean history which was to mark his career of research and publication in Celtic Studies. 

John Lorne Campbell moved to Barra in August 1933 and began the recording of the everyday language of the community and, with the latest mechanical recording equipment, pioneered live-recording in the field. He met the American musician, Margaret Fay Shaw, in Lochboisdale, South Uist (the same setting for WikkedWillisSaga), and they were married in Glasgow in May 1935. Together they bought the Island of Canna in 1938 and set up a hospitable house which drew to it their Hebridean friends and a worldwide following over more than half a century. Together John and Margaret built up an archive of Gaelic song and story, a library for Scottish and Celtic Studies and a unique record of farming and entomology in the islands. His intense scientific study of flora and fauna included, naturally for him, the close observation of the domesticated animals of Canna and those who knew John and Margaret remember their fondness and respect for cats and the eponymous hero, ‘Wicked Willie’.




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