The Carmichael Watson Project

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Carmichael's Legacy

Carmichael is chiefly remembered today for his great work Carmina Gadelica, illustrating the charms, blessing, and prayers of the Gaelic speakers from whom he collected a great deal of oral material. Carmina made an immediate impact on reviewers, one of whom stated it was 'a great religious work, piously perfected by man, every fibre of whose body and being vibrates to the beauty of holiness'.

Niggling doubts remained, however, concerning just how much Carmichael had edited and polished the original texts he had collected in order to present them in print. During the mid-1970s these doubts came to the fore in a heated scholarly debate over Carmina's authenticity: the fiercest debate in Gaelic scholarship since Macpherson's 'Ossian'.

The Carmichael Watson Project has for the first time identified original field and transcription notebooks. They are available as images and as full transcriptions in the hope that this will encourage more scrutiny of Carmichael's editorial methods but also to research the texts as they appeared originally. All these notebooks allow a better understanding of Carmichael's achievement in recording and preserving for posterity he remarkably rich Gaelic cultural heritage of the people of the Highlands and Islands.