During his two-year tenure, Martin is hoping to use his residency to inspire people to get involved in Gaelic writing and poetry.
He will mentor and provide enhanced support for students producing creative writing in Gaelic within the Department for Celtic and Scottish Studies.
Martin will also promote Gaelic writing and work with those with an interest in Gaelic in the wider student population and local community.
“I’m delighted to have been chosen for this,” Says Martin. “I’ve received lots of support over the years from various people and bodies and institutions and this is my opportunity to give something back.”
Martin is an award-winning author and has received national recognition for his writing. Alongside his job as a GP, he has been writing stories and poetry for over 25 years.
After graduating with a degree in medicine from the University of Aberdeen in 1988, Martin went on to study at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture at Skye.
It was during his time there, in 1992 that he decided to submit his first piece of writing for the William Ross Prize for Gaelic writing:
“It was two nights before the deadline when I decided to enter,” Martin recalls. “I wrote my short story and sent it off – and it won!”
In 2003 his collection of short stories – Ath-Aithne – won The Saltire Society First Book Award. The stories were also published in French, a first for Gaelic fiction.
Many of his subsequent novels and short-stories were shortlisted for Saltire awards.
His latest win was this year’s Wigtown Poetry Prize where he picked up the Gaelic Prize for Dithis Bhoireannach air Trèan – ‘Two Women on a Train’ – from a collection of poems inspired by Catalonia and Wales.
Martin is currently working on a new collection of short stories that will be published next year in Gaelic, Catalan, Welsh and English.
Making an impact
Within a few weeks of starting his residency at the University, Martin has reached out to An Comann Ceilteach – the Highland Society – to engage with students interested in Gaelic studies: “The society is a great way to reach to students. Many of them, like myself when I was at University, will be studying other subjects but are interested in Gaelic culture.”
Since the start of the Semester he has held three workshops open to students and members of the public who are interested in learning more about Gaelic writing and culture. Some of these workshops have been organised in collaboration with the University’s Traditional Artist in Residence, musician and composer Fraser Fifield.
“We’re trying to create more relaxed sessions for people to pop along to and join in with the music or contribute a poem,” explains Martin. “I had this myself when I was a student and I find it can be incredibly inspirational to have these more informal opportunities.”
Alongside his work with the University community, Martin is planning to use his tenure to get more involved in community groups. He is feeding into the City of Edinburgh Council’s ‘Capital Gaelic’, a group seeking to embed Gaelic into Edinburgh life.
He also hopes to work closely with a number of grassroots clubs, including Bothan, a Gaelic language club that Martin helped found 20 years ago: “My new role doesn’t just end with my work at the University. I’ll be hosting a series of workshops, starting in December, to help to strengthen links and build bridges with our community groups.”
Gaelic at Edinburgh
The University has a long history of supporting the Gaelic language and culture and established the first Chair of Celtic in Scotland in 1882. It continues to hold important Gaelic collections, including the School of Scottish Studies Archives.
Through the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, the University is involved in the creation of Gaelic language works, research and the policy development of Gaelic in Scotland.
The Gaelic Writer in Residence post has been created as part of the University’s Gaelic language plan 2019-2024, which sets out the a commitment to Gaelic language, culture and communities within the University and beyond.
The post has been part-funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig – the Scottish Government’s Gaelic Board.