Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba – Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland – Blog

by eilidh – 16:49:14 on 2013-11-14

The author of the first comprehensive Gaelic map of Scotland has been appointed as Chair of Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA), the national authority on Gaelic place-names in Scotland.

Former councillor, life-long supporter of the Gaelic language and place-name enthusiast Roy Pedersen has taken up the position as AÀA’s new Chair. Roy is taking over from Donald Morris of Comann na Gàidhlig, who was significant in making AÀA the successful organisation it is today.

AÀA provides guidance to a wide variety of organisations for various purposes including bilingual and Gaelic road signs, commercial signs, maps, presentation and research, and receives core funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig with both financial and in-kind support from Highland Council.

Also launched this past month was a new guide to place-names in Lochaber.

The bilingual booklet, Gaelic in the Landscape: The Rough Bounds of Lochaber, was produced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA).

Roy Pedersen’s life-long interest in Gaelic and place-names led to his publishing the first comprehensive Gaelic map of Scotland in 1969, which in its various editions sold some 30,000 copies. In its day it opened the public’s eyes to the fact that Gaelic was of Scotland-wide relevance and that Gaelic could readily be used in formal situations, including Gaelic and bilingual signage, which is now a normal part of daily life.

In accepting the post of Chair of Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba he said, “I am honoured to serve AÀA in this capacity. Excellent progress has already been made by AÀA at minimal cost, in researching and establishing consistent standard forms for Gaelic names on signs, maps, in education, official transactions and in the media. Much remains to be done, however, in making Gaelic place-names, and their significance, accessible to a wider public.”

Roy Pedersen, a graduate of Aberdeen University, was formerly Head of Community, Culture and Transport with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and more recently a Highland Councillor. Since standing down from the council he has served on a number of committees and has found time to write both fiction and non-fiction books, the most recent being Who Pays the Ferryman?, a critical analysis of Scotland’s ferry services.

Dr Simon Taylor, of the Scottish Place-Name Society and University of Glasgow, Vice-chair of AÀA said, “I am delighted that Roy has accepted this post, and I think AÀA is very fortunate to have at its head someone with his wide range of relevant skills and experience.”

Bòrd na Gàidhlig Chair, Iain Campbell said, “Bòrd na Gàidhlig welcomes Roy Pedersen to his new role as Chair of Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba and we wish him and the organisation every success for the future. AÀA plays an integral role in the standardisation and awareness raising of Gaelic place-names across Scotland and Roy Pedersen’s knowledge of Gaelic place-names will prove most useful to the organisation.

Councillor Hamish Fraser, Chair of Highland Council’s Gaelic Implementation Group said, “Roy Pederson has both a vast knowledge and experience in the Gaelic place-names sector, this I know will strengthen and benefit AÀA as his enthusianism and ideas will develop the organisation as it embarks on its second development phase. I wish him and the Committee every success at this crucial time in language promotion as many public sector organisations are implementing their Gaelic Language Plans.”

Lochaber Place-names Booklet (Gaelic in the Landscape: The Rough Bounds of Lochaber)

The booklet has been produced as part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013 celebrations and received additional funding from Soillse.

The booklet celebrates the specific cultural and natural heritage of Arisaig and Loch Shiel. Local volunteer Dr Heather Clyne, with training and support from Dr Jacob King of AÀA, collected information on more than 100 place-names from members of the community.

Many of the place-names and associated stories have never appeared in print before.

Project co-ordinator, Emily MacDonald of SNH, said, “Understanding the meaning behind place-names gives a real insight into the landscape and its links with people and the Gaelic language. This new bilingual publication, which focuses on local place-name knowledge passed down through generations, really highlights these connections.”

Eilidh Scammell of AÀA said, “The preservation of Scotland’s Gaelic place-names is very much at the heart of AÀA and we are delighted to have been a part of this project, which we hope will secure their future in Lochaber’s landscape, and help future generations understand the connections between the language and the land.”

Professor Hugh Cheape, contributor, said, “This beautifully produced book not only gives us a rich selection of Gaelic place-names but also acts as a benchmark for future recording and passing on of the traditions of that part of Scotland that was the heart of the old Gàidhealtachd.”

To receive a free copy of the booklet, email or phone 01738 458530. A PDF version of the booklet is also available at

Add your comment