The eldest son of a blacksmith, William J Watson became a noted teacher and academic, laying firm foundations for the scientific study of place names in Scotland, and working tirelessly to improve the status of Gaelic, his mother tongue. This book contains most if not all of Watson's significant papers on place names, which appeared in such publications as The Celtic Review and the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness. They have never been gathered together in this way before. There is material here which prefigures the content of his magnum opus of 1926, The History of the Celtic Place Names of Scotland; there is also material which does not appear elsewhere. Although inevitably it contains a certain amount of duplication, for anyone interested in the origins and meanings of our Scottish place names this volume will provide a fascinating and rewarding insight into the methods and results of one of Scotland's most original place-name scholars.
The introduction is an expanded version of a paper previously published by Professor W F H Nicolaisen.
William John Watson was born into a Gaelic-speaking family in Easter Ross in 1865. He was the rector of Inverness Royal Academy from 1894 to 1909, and of Edinburgh's Royal High School from 1909 to 1916, when he was appointed Professor of Celtic at Edinburgh. He edited two standard anthologies for An Comunn Gaidhealach, Rosg Gàidhlig and Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig. However he is best known for his major contributions to place-name studies, Place-Names of Ross and Cromarty and History of the Celtic Place-Names of Scotland. William J. Watson was married twice and was the father of six sons. He died in 1948.
'... it is good indeed to see these articles, now a century old, in print once again ... The publisher is to be congratulated on producing this attractive paperback of Watson's collected articles and reviews. They have, in many instances, been out of public view for many decades, and it is extremely useful to have them now accessible in such a compact and user-friendly format.'
-- I A Fraser, Scottish Place-Name News
'... there was a Rosach who became the most outstanding scholar of the subject and who established Scottish toponymy as a mature study based solidly on scholarship. Professor William J Watson, one time head of Celtic at Edinburgh University, has left us forever in his debt. All the more reason, then, to celebrate the appearance of a new book: Scottish Place-Name Papers by William J Watson ... which brings together a variety of papers written by Watson, covering topics not necessarily dealt with in his two seminal works -- Place-names of Ross and Cromarty (1904) and The History of the Celtic Place-names of Scotland (1926) ... The introductory section of Scottish Place-Name Papers is an essay by W F H Nicolaisen, lauding Watson, and giving a resumé of his life which should be widely read in Ross-shire. ... Scottish Place-Name Papers deals with various parts of the country, from Breadalbane to Sutherland, and highlights issues associated with certain place-name elements, some of them problematic to scholars.'
-- Roddy Maclean, Ross-shire Journal