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Leisure and Recreation in an Age of Clearance: The Case of the Hebridean Michaelmas

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCeltic Cosmology: Perspectives from Ireland and Scotland (Papers in Mediaeval Studies)
EditorsJacqueline Borsje, Séamus Mac Mathuna
Place of PublicationToronto
PublisherPontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies
ISBN (Print)978-0888448262
Publication statusPublished - 2012


A review of the evidence for the Hebridean celebration of Latha Fhéill Mìcheil (Michaelmas) during the early modern and modern eras, tracing the evolution of the event from the major public festivities of the seventeenth century to the vestigial domestic event of today. Beginning with the virtuoso and idealised description of the feast day given in Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica, I propose a series of socio-economic and religious causes behind observable shifts in practice, arising both from long-term trends and from specific contingent events. The paper reveals a perhaps more raucous and less governable Gàidhealtachd than is met with in the usual historiography, and concludes with suggestions as to how this example might aid in aligning the study of the Scottish Highland past with more mainstream social history.

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