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Professor Derick S. Thomson MA, BA,Dlitt, FRSE, FBA (born 1921), known as Ruaraidh MacThòmais in his native Scottish Gaelic, is a Scottish poet, publisher, lexicographer, academic and writer. He is originally from Lewis, but has spent much of his life in Glasgow. He is best known for setting up the publishing house, Gairm, along with its magazine, which was the longest running periodical ever entirely in Scottish Gaelic, running for over fifty years under his editorship. Gairm has since ceased, and has been replaced by Gath. He is an Honorary President of the Scottish Poetry Library, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy. In June 2007, he received an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow.



Thomson is originally from Upper Bayble (Pabail Uarach), in Lewis, the same place that produced two other Gaelic writers of note: Iain Crichton Smith and Anna Frater.

Educated at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, he went onto the Universities of Aberdeen; Cambridge and University College of North Wales, Bangor. He would later teach at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. He became Professor of Celtic at Glasgow in 1963, and retired in 1991. He was Chairman of the Gaelic Books Council 1968-91; President Scottish Gaelic Texts Society; former member of Scottish Arts Council and was the first recipient of the Ossian Prize in 1974. Professor Thomson was Chairman of the SNP's Gaelic Committee in the Seventies.

He is the author of numerous books including An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, The Companion to Gaelic Poetry, European Poetry in Gaelic, and collections of Gaelic poetry, including his collected poems Creachadh na Clàrsaich (Plundering of the Harp/clarsach) which shared the Scottish Book of the Year Award in 1983. He also edited The Companion to Gaelic Scotland. His English-Gaelic dictionary came out in 1981, and was for many years the most practical reference of its kind. He has published seven collections of Gaelic poetry, with many English translations, including Meall Garbh/The Rugged Mountain (1995), Smeur an Dochais etc.

His publications are many and varied, and include such seminal works as The Gaelic Sources of Macpherson's Ossian, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (edited by him) and Gaelic Poetry in the Eighteenth Century; his contributions to Welsh studies are also noteworthy. No less important has been Professor Thomson's work for the promotion of Scottish Gaelic literature, not only, to take one example, as founder, editor and publisher of the quarterly Gairm since 1953. He was elected Fellow of the Academy in 1992 and gave last year's Rhys Lecture on Scottish Gaelic Traditional Songs from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century.

Positions held


Poetry (own work):

  • Far Road (1970) - ISBN 978-0901771155
  • Freedom and the Eagle (1977) - ISBN 978-0901771605
  • Creachadh na Clàrsaich: Collected Poems, 1940-80 (1982) - ISBN 978-0904265576
  • Meall Garbh: Rugged Mountain (1985) - ISBN 978-1871901375
  • Bàrdachd na Roinn Eòrpa an Gàidhlig (1990) - ISBN 978-1871901054
  • Smeur an Dòchais: The Bramble of Hope (1992) - ISBN 978-0862413514
  • Sùil air Fàire (Surveying the Horizon) (2007) - ISBN 978-0861523351

Poetry (anthologies):

  • An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry (1990) - ISBN 978-0748601271
  • Gaelic Poetry in the Eighteenth Century: A Bilingual Anthology (1993) - ISBN 978-0948877193
  • Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair: Selected Poems (1996) - ISBN 978-1855000599


  • The Gaelic sources of Macpherson's "Ossian" (Aberdeen University studies series;no.130) (1952)
  • Branwen Uerch Lyr: The Second of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi (Mediaeval & Modern Welsh) (1961) - ISBN 978-1855000599
  • Gaelic Learner's Handbook (1973) - ISBN 978-0901771414
  • Bith-Eòlas (Biology Textbook)(1976) - ISBN 978-0901771537
  • Gàidhlig ann an Albainn/ Gaelic in Scotland: Bilingual Examination of the Place of Gaelic in Scottish Life (1976) - ISBN 978-0901771544
  • New English-Gaelic Dictionary (1981) - ISBN 978-0901771650
  • Why Gaelic Matters (1984) - ISBN 978-0854110285
  • The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (1987) - ISBN 978-0631155782
  • Languages of Scotland: International Conference Proceedings: Gaelic and Scots in Harmony 2nd, 1988 (1990) - ISBN 978-0903204194


  • Edward Lhuyd in the Scottish Highlands (1963) 1699-1700 - ISBN 978-0198119296
  • Future of the Highlands (1968) - ISBN 978-0710060525
  • Combined Gaelic-English, English-Gaelic Dictionary (1982) - ISBN 978-1871901115
  • Minority Languages Today (1990) - ISBN 978-0852246429
  • MacDiarmid MS Anthology (1992) - ISBN 978-0707306124
  • Scotland O Gael an Lawlander (1996) - ISBN 978-1871901405

External links



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