UNC English & Comparative Literature

UNC Visiting Lecturer in Scottish Gaelic Studies

2015, PhD Celtic and Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

2008, MScR (Distinction) Scottish Ethnology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

2007, BA Hons (First) Celtic Studies, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia


I am currently the inaugural holder of the Scottish Heritage USA Visiting Lectureship in Scottish Gaelic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

My research foundation is built on over a decade of participatory fieldwork conducted with first-language Scottish Gaelic speakers in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada and the Outer Hebrides and West Highlands of Scotland. As a direct result of these immersive and rooted fieldwork experiences with community elders, I have come to especially value the power of both language and music as expressed in the social world to break down barriers and bring people together.

My research focuses broadly upon ethnographic documentation of endangered minority language communities and their intangible cultural heritage, especially in island contexts.Over the past three years, I have been exploring endangered minority language communities in Atlantic Canada, especially Scottish Gaelic, and the role of local forms of linguistic and intangible cultural heritage in positively impacting the long-term resiliency of these communities. Current undertakings include, importantly, community outreach and cooperation to facilitate in initiating grass-roots language renewal.

My PhD dissertation, entitled “’Tighinn o’n Cridhe’—‘Coming from the Centre’: An Ethnography of Sensory Metaphor on Scottish Gaelic Communal Aesthetics” examines conceptual metaphors employed to express aesthetic attitudes towards music and verbal-art among Scottish Gaelic speakers in both indigenous (The Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland) and diasporic (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada) contexts. These metaphors are revealed naturally through discourse, or seanchas, arising out of continued fieldwork discussing the role of local performance culture as intergenerationally experienced in the everyday life of four exceptional first-language Scottish Gaelic speakers in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Through symbolic and creatively emergent discourse such abstract concepts as ornamenting a tune appropriately through ‘putting the right taste/flavour (blas) on it’ or performing music for dance with such rhythmic expertise that ‘it could be seen flowing off the piper’s chanter’ are sensed and made sense of through language associated with concrete sensory concepts and physical embodied experience.

To read more, visit my website


  • “‘Am measg nan daoine ga bruidhinn ’s ga labhairt’: An exploration in seanchas-based discourse.” In Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 5: Fifth Scottish Gaelic Research Conference. Ed. Kenneth E. Nilsen. Sydney, Nova Scotia: Cape Breton University Press, 2010. 78-99.
  • “‘Bhio’ tu dìreach ga ithe, bha e cho math’ = ‘You would just eat it, it was so good’: Music, Metaphor and Food for Thought on Scottish Gaelic Aesthetics.” 2012. In Endangered Metaphors. Series: Cognitive Linguistic Studies in Cultural Contexts. Eds. Anna Idström, Elisabeth Piirainen, in cooperation with Tiber Falzett. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 315-38.
  • “‘Cuir Dhachaigh E’ (‘Send It Home’): The Gifts of the Little People, the Bob of Fettercairn and the aesthetics of a tale and a tune.” 2013. In Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 6. Eds. Colm Ó Baoill and Nancy McGuire. Aberdeen: An Clò Gàidhealach, University of Aberdeen. 93-120.
  • “’Tighinn o’n Cridhe”—‘Coming from the Centre’: An Ethnography of Sensory Metaphor on Scottish Gaelic Communal Aesthetics. PhD Diss. University of Edinburgh. URL: <https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/17997


  • Prince Edward Island Heritage Award. Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation Board of Governors. Presentation to be made by Lt. Governor Frank Lewis, 21 February 2017;


  • ORSAS (Overseas Research Students Awards Scheme) Award, University of Edinburgh, Full Tuition Fees for PhD combined with College Scholarship Award, 2008-11;


  • College Scholarship Award, College of Humanities and Social Science, University of Edinburgh, Full Tuition Fees and Research Stipend for PhD combined with ORSAS Award, 2008-11;

Courses Taught:

  • (ENG/FOLK/ANTHRO 202) Introduction to Folklore: Case Studies in Scottish Gaelic Folklore and Ethnology
  • (ENG/FOLK 310) Fairy Tales: The International Folktale in Gaelic Scotland and Its Diaspora
  • (English 377) Celtic Cultures
  • First Year Seminar in Scottish Gaelic Literature in the North American Diaspora
  • (ENG/FOLK 487) Everyday Stories: Personal Narrative and Legend