CC BY-SA, Monument to Iain Òg Ìle - Barbara Carr

Location: Islay
gaelic culture, gaelic language and placenames

Iain Òg Ìle

John Francis Campbell of Islay (1821-1885) was the heir to the Campbell family estates in Islay. Yet he never succeeded to them because of his family’s bankruptcy and consequent loss of their estates.

Instead, he trained as a barrister in Edinburgh and became a secretary to government commissions and a courtier to Queen Victoria. He had a life-long interest in science and was also a great linguist who could read, write and speak Gaelic fluently.

At a time when Gaelic was despised as ‘an inferior language of the poor, ignorant and superstitious,’ he championed it as a language 'rich in words which by their sound alone express ideas... a language full of metaphorical and descriptive expression.' From 1857, Iain Òg Ìle devoted his time to travelling through the Highlands and Islands with his scribes to record tales, ballads, songs, charms and anecdotes from the Gaelic oral tradition as they were spoken and save them for posterity.

His works are still available today in the four volumes of his Popular Tales of the West Highlands. Two year after his death, a monument to his memory with a bilingual inscription was raised by the Islay Association at Cnoc na Dàl, near to Islay House in Bridgend.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.