The First Gaelic Language Map of Scotland – 1895


Published by Edinburgh map company Batholomew’s and featuring language information based on the 1881 census, the first Gaelic language map of Scotland shows the distribution of 231,594 people recorded as speaking either Gaelic or both Gaelic and English. The number of Gaelic speakers represented 6.2% of the population of 3.7m at this time.

In the mid 1700s, 25 to 30% of the Scottish population of 900,000 spoke Gaelic. By the start of the 19th Century, the proportion was around one-fifth of the population. By 1881, it had dropped to 6.2% and by 1921, the number of Gaelic speakers had fallen to 158,779 (3.3 per cent of the national population), according to Professor of Gaelic, Wilson McLeod and Professor of English Language, Charles Jones, both of Edinburgh University. The Education Act of 1872, had the biggest impact on Gaelic, introducing a system of state schools where Gaelic was completely excluded.

The Registrar General for Scotland’s Gaelic Report based on the 2011 Census, highlighted that a total of 87,100 people aged 3 and over in Scotland (1.7 per cent of the population) had some Gaelic language skills. This included 57,600 people who could speak Gaelic.   It was also reported that there has been a small increase in the number of people who speak Gaelic in the under 18 year old group.

Top 5 Council Areas for Gaelic Language Skills
Source: Register General of Scotland

  • Eilean Sar 61.2% (16,489)*
  • Highland 7.4% (16,596)
  • Argyll and Bute 5.9% (5,550)
  • Glasgow City 1.7% (9,469)
  • Stirling 1.6% (1,360)
  • Scotland 1.7% (87,056)

*’Comhairle nan Eileen Siar’ is the only local council in Scotland to have a Gaelic-only name.

Inspired by Bartholomew’s Map first published in 1895, Braw Media published two online maps to help promote Gaelic.  Within the first map Gaelic learners, native or fluent speakers, together with classes, groups, schools or events are all invited to add a marker.  The second map tracks the use of the #Gaelic and #Gàidhlig hashtags around the World.

View the 1895 map at the National Library of Scotland:
Bartholomew Survey Atlas of Scotland

Help map Gaelic around the World:
Add a marker to our online Gaelic map

Help promote Gaelic with the hashtags #Gaelic and #Gàidhlig:
View Gaelic Twitter map

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