Professor William J. Watson
(1865–1948) was a toponymist, one of the greatest Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...
scholars of the 20th century, and was the first scholar to place the study of Scottish place names on a firm linguistic basis.
Watson was a native Gaelic
Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language native to Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish, and thus descends ultimately from Primitive Irish....
-speaker, born in Milntown of New Tarbat (now known as Milton), Easter Ross
Easter Ross is a loosely defined area in the east of Ross, Highland, Scotland.The name is used in the constituency name Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, which is the name of both a British House of Commons constituency and a Scottish Parliament constituency...
. He was the son of Hugh Watson, a blacksmith
A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal; that is, by using tools to hammer, bend, and cut...
. He received his initial education from his uncle, James Watson. William became well grounded in Gaelic studies and in the Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...
. William went to the University of Aberdeen
The University of Aberdeen, an ancient university founded in 1495, in Aberdeen, Scotland, is a British university. It is the third oldest university in Scotland, and the fifth oldest in the United Kingdom and wider English-speaking world...
and the University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...
First a school teacher in Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...
Inverness is a city in the Scottish Highlands. It is the administrative centre for the Highland council area, and is regarded as the capital of the Highlands of Scotland...
and then Edinburgh, it was while teaching in Inverness that be began to contribute to the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness
and the Celtic Review
. He married Ella Carmichael daughter of Alexander Carmichael
Alexander Carmichael was a writer and folklorist, best known for his multi volume work Carmina Gadelica.-Life:...
. He took the chair of Celtic at the University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...
in 1914, despite holding no prior university position. He remained in this prestigious position until making way for his son James Carmichael Watson in 1938. William died aged 83 on March 9, 1948
He is best known for his The Celtic Place-names of Scotland
(1926), based on 30 years of work. Watson's work, eight decades later, is still the primary scholarly reference guide on the subject. The book is based on extensive notes taken by Watson, which are unpublished and held by Edinburgh University. Watson's great work was recently republished by Birlinn
- Place-Names of Ross and Cromarty (Inverness, 1904)
- Prints of the Past around Inverness (Inverness, 1909; 2nd revised edition Inverness, 1925)
- Rosg Gàidhlig (Inverness, 1915; 2nd edition Glasgow, 1929)
- Bàrdachd Gàidhlig (Inverness, 1915)
- The Picts: their original position in Scotland (Inverness, 1921)
- Ross and Cromarty (Cambridge, 1924)
- The History of the Celtic Place-Names of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1926)
- Scottish Verse in the Book of the Dean of Lismore
The Book of the Dean of Lismore is a famous Scottish manuscript, compiled in eastern Perthshire in the first half of the 16th century. The chief compiler, after whom it is named, was James MacGregor , vicar of Fortingall and titular Dean of Lismore Cathedral, although there are other probable...