When he was appointed Professor of Celtic Studies, he was instructed by the university to wear a kilt every day for his lectures.

Calum Iain N. MacLeod is credited with helping fuel a resurgence of the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia , where nearly 15,000 Scots travelled from their homeland between 1770 and 1815 and where he himself settled in 1949.

Now, a collection of recordings collated by the Highland-born scholar in the Canadian province have been safeguarded for future generations by the University of Glasgow .

The collection, which was gifted to the institution, includes interviews, conversations, music, hymns and psalms, and songs largely from people in Nova Scotia and will be held will be held in the British Academy recognised project, Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG),

Most of the material is in Scottish Gaelic but some recordings also feature English and French.

We owe him a great debt

The son of the Gaelic writer John N. MacLeod, he was brought up in Dornie and Kirkhill, Inverness-shire. 

Nova Scotia, where thousands of Gaels settled between 1770 and 1815University of Glasgow

He attended both Edinburgh and Glasgow universities and won recognition as a brilliant student in Celtic studies. In 1937, he won An Comunn Gàidhealach’s Bardic Crown at the age of 24.

He was also a secret agent during the Second World War, serving in the Intelligence Corps all over the world, possibly due to his ability to understand and speak several languages very well. 

READ MORE: Gaelic place names reveal dominance of Scots language 

In 1949 he emigrated to Cape Breton to work as Gaelic advisor to the Education Department of the Nova Scotia government.

He was later appointed as Professor of Celtic Studies at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, a university which continues to have a reputation for its support of Gaelic language and culture. 

Calum Iain passed away in 1977 in Nova Scotia at the age of 64, survived by his wife Iona Norma A  Macdonald (1917-1998), who was born in Edinburgh.

Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, Professor of Gaelic at the University of Glasgow and Director of Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG) said: “We are absolutely delighted to be launching the very valuable Gaelic recordings made by Calum Iain MacLeod – a collection that adds significantly to Gaelic culture and resources that will enhance Gaelic communities across the globe.”

Professor Heather Sparling, Cape Breton University, added:  “Calum MacLeod did an enormous amount to build and develop Gaelic in Nova Scotia, teaching the language to hundreds of students while he worked as Gaelic Advisor to the Nova Scotia Education Department and especially as a respected professor in St. Francis Xavier University. 

READ MORE: David Leask: Why we need to re-think out attitude to Gaelic and its speakers 

“But I would say that his greatest legacy are the contributions he made to Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia (1964) – a book he wrote with Eilidh Creighton that is one of the most important published collections in this field to this day.”

Gaelic was the only language of many thousands of Scottish Highlanders emigrating to Cape Breton Island during the early to mid-nineteenth century. 

Nova Scotia, where thousands of Gaels settled between 1770 and 1815University of Glasgow

While Gaelic possesses a centuries-old system of writing, many Gaels were illiterate in a formal sense. 

As such, the traditions of the Gaels have been passed on in a fashion similar to that of other native peoples world-wide through story-telling, song and conversation. 

The Gaelic language contains one of the richest oral cultures found in Western Europe at that time. 

At the time of Canadian Confederation, in 1867, Gaelic was the third most spoken language in Canada. As many as one hundred thousand Nova Scotians spoke Gaelic as their mother tongue in 1900. 

Today, estimates claim there are between 1000 and 2000 Gaelic speakers and learners in the province. The decline in Gaelic language is, in large part, due to educational policies and economic disparity.

Dr John Shaw, the University of Edinburgh, said: “Since his arrival in Cape Breton in 1950, CIN MacLeod produced a body of work in recording and publications of Gaelic folklore and traditions that is as fundamental as it is valuable. 

“Just as important, during that time he gave generous support to myself and others in our studies and research. 

“We owe him a great debt.”