Show Less
Restricted access

Death in Scotland

Chapters From the Twelfth Century to the Twenty-First


Peter C. Jupp and Hilary J. Grainger

For the past twenty years, Scottish death culture has emerged as a focus of scholars drawn from a wide variety of disciplines. Death comes to us all but too often we treat it as a private or personal matter. The former taboo about death is slowly lifting and contemporary research is playing an increasing part. Accordingly, the fifteen essays gathered in this book probe the multi-facetted role of death in Scottish history and culture. They explore personal fears of death, anxieties about Predestination, prayers for the dead and the appeal of Spiritualism. They analyse the public face of death in law, economics and medicine: changes in capital punishment, funeral poverty, the teaching of anatomy and prevention of stillbirths. Within the worlds of religion and ritual, they consider the making of saints, burial practice following the Scottish Reformation and the tradition of keening within the Gáidhealtachd. With an Introduction by Professor Jane Dawson, these essays by specialists in the field not only highlight the richness of the primary sources for studying death in Scotland but reveal how death studies identify key features of Scottish life and society across ten centuries.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access

6 Keening in the Scottish Gàidhealtachd (Dòmhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart)


| 127 →


6 Keening in the Scottish Gàidhealtachd


Despite its prominent historic role in Highland society, and potential value as a means of understanding past Gaelic culture, the ritual of keening the dead remains neglected in Scottish scholarship – in marked contrast to the situation in Ireland. The plethora of descriptions of keening in Irish Gaeltachts – given the significance of the keening woman in Irish national identity – has provided valuable evidence with which to construct sophisticated interpretations of the practice, and convincing explanations both for its surprising resilience and its drawn-out demise.

This chapter will employ conceptual frameworks from Ireland and beyond to evaluate the sparser documentary evidence, Gaelic and English, concerning keening in the Scottish Gàidhealtachd: its changing practices and cultural meanings, its association with other traditional wake customs, and its possible relationship with literary poetic genres conventionally assigned to women. Unlike in Ireland, women’s keening here was supplemented, and gradually replaced, by bagpipe music. Anecdotal sources demonstrate the protracted demise of keening in Scottish Gaelic through the adoption of new religious beliefs regarding the dead, and new conceptions of emotional authenticity and propriety. The disruptive danger potentially unleashed by keening may be discerned in the very exclusion of women from ‘traditional’ Highland funerals until recently.

He then told them he would have his Body carried to Scotland, to be interred in his own Tomb in the Church of Kirkhill; and...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.