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Margaret Bennett

Margaret Bennett

Born: 1946 on the Isle of Skye
First Book: The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions of Newfoundland (Breakwater Books, 1989)
Awards: 1991 Ruth Michaelis-Jena Ratcliff Folklore Prize for The Last Stronghold; 1994 Scotch Whisky Society Award for notable service rendered to the people of Scotland; 1995 College of Cape Breton Professor Donald Fergusson Essay Prize for ???Gaelic Song in Eastern Canada: Twentieth Century Reflections’; 1998 Master Music Maker Award in celebration of a lifetime of musicianship and teaching; 1999 Clio Award of the Canadian Historical Association for Oatmeal and the Catechism (John Donald, 1996); 2003 Exceptional Celtic Woman Award for lifelong service to Scottish and Celtic culture.

Margaret Bennett comes from a long line of Scots and she has been surrounded by Scottish tradition all her life. Growing up in a traditional Gaelic family meant that singing, dancing and storytelling were part of her way of life and she has never lost her appetite for these arts. She was born and brought up on the Isle of Skye, home for generations to her mother’s family, and she often used to visit her grandparents in Uig where her father grew up.

In the 1950s she moved with her family to the Isle of Lewis near Stornoway, where she went to school at the Nicolson Institute. They later moved to Shetland and she finished her secondary education at the Anderson Educational Institute in Lerwick.

Margaret went into teaching after completing a three-year teacher-training course at the Glasgow College of Education. By this time her father had emigrated to Canada and Margaret went to join him in Saint John, New Brunswick, where she began her first teaching job in an elementary school. Soon afterwards, she began studying at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, where she completed a BA in education and a MA in folklore.

When she returned to Scotland, Margaret began working in the Scottish Education Department. She set up a unit for children with learning disabilities and developed a curriculum that included many aspects of folklore such as singing, dancing and music.

She later lectured in Scottish ethnology for eleven years at the University of Edinburgh, during which time she completed a PhD in this subject. She also became an honorary research fellow at the University of Glasgow and still lectures there occasionally. She now lives in Edinburgh.

Margaret has published seven books including The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions of Newfoundland (Breakwater Books, 1989), Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave (Polygon, 1992) and Oatmeal and the Catechism: Scottish Gaelic Settlers in Quebec (John Donald, 1998).

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