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March 23rd 1801

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At last - the Bible in Gaelic

Until 1767 there was no Gaelic Bible for use in the Highlands. This created enormous difficulties for the parish ministers. They were forced to read their Bibles to their congregations, either in English which was completely unintelligible to most, or to attempt an impromptu translation into Gaelic of each passage that they read.

The situation improved in 1688 when over two hundred copies of the Old Testament printed in Irish Gaelic, with Irish characters, were dispatched to Scotland and distributed to most Highland parishes. The Bibles were the gift of the Hon. Robert Boyle, youngest son of the Earl of Cork and a scientist of some note. The one sent to Killin is still preserved and contains an inscription written by Robert Kirk. The Bibles were received with great satisfaction but they still left difficulties for the parish ministers who needed to translate the Irish Gaelic into Scots Gaelic.

Robert Kirk himself produced Gaelic translations of the Old and New Testaments. These though considerably shortened and simplified were extremely popular and around three thousand copies circulated around the Highlands. However, it was the S.S.P.C.K., which had always been implacably opposed to the use of Gaelic, who eventually commissioned a full translation of the New Testament. The man they asked to undertake the task was James Stuart who had been Minister of Killin since 1737 and was a man very well fitted for the job. His eldest son Dr John Stuart later brought out a second and improved edition of the New Testament and a translation of part of the Old Testament. It was not until 1801 that a Gaelic translation of all the Old Testament was completed.

James Stuart numbered among his friends Dr Samuel Johnson who was a strong supporter of the project for a Gaelic Bible. He died in 1796 at the age of ninety five. Unfortunately his grave is unmarked but a monument was erected last century to his memory by the Gaelic Society of Perth. It stands in front of the church at Killin.

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