Collection of Letters of Professor William John Watson (1865-1948)

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of letters to Sir G. Macdonald about Celtic place names in Ptolemy etc., 1915, 1993; a letter to C. Huntingon, 1944; and, an index of Celtic elements from The history of the Celtic place-names of Scotland compiled by Eric B. Basden.

Administrative / Biographical History

William John Watson was born in 1865 and was the son of a blacksmith in Easter Ross. He studied at Aberdeen University, graduating with the degree of M.A., a Classical First. He was Rector of the Royal Academy in Inverness, 1894 to 1909, and then Rector of the Royal High School, Edinburgh, from 1909 until 1914. As a native speaker of Gaelic he was also interested in Celtic Studies and to the revival of Gaelic teaching in Scotland. In 1914 Watson was appointed Professor of Celtic Languages, Literature, History and Antiquities at Edinburgh University, a post which he held until 1938. He was succeeded in the Chair by his son, Professor James Carmichael Watson (1910-1942). The elder Watson's publications include Place names of Ross and Cromarty (1904), Gaelic prose (1915), Gaelic poetry (1918), History of the Celtic place-names of Scotland (1926), and Scottish verse from the book of the Dean of Lismore (1937). Professor William John Watson died on 9 March 1948. His son, Professor James Carmichael Watson, predeceased him, missing presumed killed in action with the Royal Navy in 1942.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Letter to Huntington, acquired from Rev. Msgr. C. Huntington, East Hampton, Long Island, New York, April 1982, Accession no. E82.26.


Note that when this record was created any associated photographic/illustrative was unseen, and the material at Dk.7.36 was not found.

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) 'Obituary'. University of Edinburgh journal. Vol. 14. 1946-1949, p. 207. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1949.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show other references to Watson related material (check the Indexes for more details): letter from Katherine M. Buck about St. ninian, 1934, at Gen. 1952/4.

Look at the description of The Carmichael-Watson Collection, and Correspondence of Professor James Carmichael Watson, both held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, and also listed on Archives Hub.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: historical notes relating to Orkney, Orkney Archives, Ref. D29 NRA 31620 Marwick.

Corporate Names