The language, culture and way-of-life of Gaeldom have given the Highlands and Islands their own distinctive social cohesion. The Gaelic language permeates the culture and traditions of the Highlands and Western Isles and clan names still dominate in many areas, for example the Campbells in Argyll, the Mackenzies in Rosshire, the Mackays in Sutherland.
Society and the new settlers
Yet Highland society has developed over many centuries and does not always owe its origin to its Celtic roots. The migration and settlement of the Norse along the north and west coasts and islands brought their own culture and values. Inter-marriage with the Gaelic-speaking population ensured the best of both worlds was kept. Indeed, some clans owe more to their Norse roots than to their Celtic. Even in this present day 'incomers' from the south give much towards the Highland communities they have settled in.
Society and change
It took centuries to impose the present Scottish legal system upon unwilling clan chiefs; but who today would want to see the demise of the local Sheriff, Procurator Fiscal and solicitors? The establishment of the National Health Service has improved health and welfare provision no end.
Highland society abroad
If migrants to the Highlands have brought many benefits with them, the many Highland emigrants exported those benefits to lands far across the sea. Think only of Canada with its Gaelic community in Cape Breton or Stewart Island in New Zealand with its strong sense of Scottishness. Presbyterian values of hard work and scrupulous honesty in all dealings have found hold in countries of Africa and the Far East as well as in the Americas, Australia and elsewhere.
Romance versus reality
Romance may paint a picture of 'a land of mountain and flood' inhabited by tartan-clad, kilt-swinging, bagpipe-playing, haggis-eating hairy highlanders. If such romanticism brings tourists to the Highlands and Islands, then so be it. The reality is so much better. Highland society is one where fairness, justice, care and concern for the needy and neighbourliness are found at their best.
If a book listed in the bibliography below is available from the Highland Libraries it will be indicated by a book icon -
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