Stornoway-based publishing house Acair has reissued ‘William MacGillivray - A Hebridean Naturalist’s Journal 1817-1818’, edited by Dr Robert Ralph, as part of its celebratory 40th anniversary programme.
First published in 1996, MacGillivray’s account of his time in Northton, Harris, proved hugely popular.
Now, exactly 200 years since he began writing his journal, it can be enjoyed by a whole new audience.
This book provides a fascinating insight into society in the Western Isles two centuries ago, and into the natural environment MacGillivray encountered during his year in Harris.
Writing in the foreword to the 1996 edition, Dr Robert Ralph commented :
“Running through the journal is his love of natural history.
“He wrote about the birds and plants that he saw and made detailed descriptions of them.
“This year in Harris was to set MacGillivray on the path to becoming one of Scotland’s finest naturalists, first in Edinburgh and finally as Regius Professor of Natural History at Aberdeen University”.
James MacDonald Lockhart, author of ‘Raptor’ (Fourth Estate, 2016), wrote a new introduction for this edition and comments:
“The journal provides a fascinating overview of life in the Outer Hebrides in the early nineteenth century. “There is much detail on agriculture and other aspects of the economy, from kelp manufacturing to fishing.”
He goes on to describe MacGillivray’s writing: “Accuracy, honesty, that uncompromising individuality; finding a path between poetry and science, unafraid to enrich science with passion and lyricism… all of these are on display here in the journal.”
This is an extraordinary read for anyone with an interest in ornithology, early nineteenth century history, and the natural environment. With a number of MacGillivray’s own full-colour paintings now in this book, the full breadth of his talents and interests can be admired.
‘William MacGillivray – A Hebridean Naturalist’s Journal 1817-1818’ is available to buy online: here priced £15.