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Publisher spotlight: Acair Books

Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know Acair, who publish a broad range of genres across Gaelic, English and more.

What’s your story?

Acair was set up in 1977 and we became a charity in 2017. We are a small team based in Stornoway in the Isle of Lewis. We publish books in Gaelic, English and bi-lingual books. Our publishing output is between 20-30 books each year and we produce a range of different kinds of books: fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, poetry etc. Our children’s books are exclusively in Gaelic. We create the Gaelic versions of the BookBug and Read, Write, Count books organised by the Scottish Book Trust.

Tell us about some of your key stories.

Often our books focus on some aspect of the heritage and culture of Gaelic and of the Highlands and islands of Scotland. Probably our most successful book has been The Darkest Dawn by Malcolm Macdonald and Donald John MacLeod. This is an account of the disaster of the Iolaire, a boat which tragically sank just outside Stornoway on 1st January 1919 as it brought servicemen home from World War One. Over 200 men lost their lives almost on their doorstep having survived the rigours of war.

The Changing Outer Hebrides by Frank Rennie was the winner of the Highland Book Prize in 2020. This is a fascinating and intimate account of the inter-relationship between one small island village in the Hebrides and the wider world. 

What draws you to a story? What makes a good story? 

I’m not sure if I know the answer to that question! Sometimes something appears in your inbox which just immediately excites you!

What stories should we look forward to or check out this year? 

This year we have published:

Beum-sgèithe, a collection of Gaelic poems by Eòghan Stewart with English translation

Cha Till Mise by Ruaraidh Macilleathain, an account of the convoys to Russia during the Second World War

The Whalers of Harris by Ian Hart, an account of modern whaling in the Outer Hebrides

Doras gun Chlàimhean, edited by Catriona Murray, a collection of the Gaelic songs of Murdo Macfarlane, the Melbost Bard from the Isle of Lewis

Na Stocan agus Na Stùcan, the Gaelic version of The Smeds and The Smoos by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

We are now looking forward to publishing Crann-fìge (Fig Tree) by Duncan Gillies, a collection of Gaelic short stories with English translation on the facing page.

We are also looking forward to the launch of HAAR The New Hebridean Kitchen. This is a food book by the late Murdo Alex Macritchie, who was known as ‘The Hebridean Chef’ due to his championing of Hebridean produce. HAAR The New Hebridean Kitchen contains some of his recipes, photographs of many of his dishes and of the stunning island landscapes that were so important to him.

And our first book of the new year will be Gun Sireadh, Gun Iarraidh – The Tolmie Collection edited by Kenna Campbell and Ainsley Hamill. This is a new edition of the Gaelic song collection compiled by Miss Frances Tolmie 1840–1926, the song-collector and folklorist from Skye. It is to be launched at Celtic Connections in February.

Learn more about Acair at @AcairBooks and