|Westerdale, parish of Halkirk, Caithness|
The place names of Caithness and Sutherland were coined, to a very large extent, by speakers of two languages which dominated this part of the world for centuries – Gaelic and Old Norse.
However, Norse disappeared from our homes and hearths a long time ago and Gaelic has come perilously close to a similar fate. Sadly, Scotland’s education system has failed to take full advantage of the rich opportunities that an understanding of these languages would provide with regard to the history, heritage and ecology of our country.
This booklet is written in the hope that people throughout Caithness, Sutherland and beyond will be stimulated to engage with all the languages that are a fundamental part of their heritage, and that they might come to be inspired anew by their beautiful and precious landscape.
My paternal grandfather was brought up by his Gaelic speaking Latheron grandparents, Alexander Dunbar (1848-1919) and Charlotte Sutherland (1851-1922). They moved from Boultach, Latheron about 1872-74 to work for the Davidson's at Buckies, parish of Thurso. By 1880 the family were at Oldhall, Watten also owned by the Davidson's, where Alex was a coachman. Both are buried in the old graveyard called the Tomb of Dunn, Watten.