His childhood in an area of South Uist rich in oral tradition bearers inspired an early interest in Gaelic poetry. After Glasgow University he qualified as a Gaelic teacher but went on to make a career as an airline pilot and training consultant. He has presented radio and TV programmes on subjects as diverse as Gaelic poetry, opera and Scottish aviation and is the Gaelic voice for Edinburgh Tattoo programmes. Bill is a passionate advocate of the importance of the oral tradition to Gaelic language and culture. He has lectured widely on traditional poetry to universities and societies in Britain, Ireland and North America.
About writer's work
He has edited and translated the works of South Uist poet/philosopher Donald John MacDonald. The collected poetry - Chì Mi (Birlinn 1998) won the 1999 National Mod literature prize. A second edition appeared in April 2001. Fo Sgàil a’ Swastika – Under the Shadow of the Swastika (Acair 2000), is a parallel translation of Macdonald’s vivid account of his wartime experiences. As it includes a double CD of Macdonald reading the whole book, it has proved an invaluable aid to students of Gaelic. Voted ‘Best Gaelic Book’ by Radio nan Gaidheal listeners, it is now in its 4th printing. St Valery: The Impossible Odds (Birlinn 20o4) deals with the events leading up to the capture of the 51st Highland Division in 1940, reassessing some of the myths. It includes the personal stories of four of those involved – stories that bring alive the chaos and horror of war – yet resound with the spirit and sense of humour which helped men to survive the prisoner of war camps. It was reissued in 20011 in pocket book format. The royalties go to Erskine Homes. Old South Uist (Stenlake, 2006) is one of the ‘Old xxx’ series of illustrated booklets on Scottish areas - but concentrates more on the human side of a vanished way of life than on architecture. Royalties go to Kildonan Museum, S Uist. Aeòlus agus am Balg (Gracenotes Pubs, 2008) is an illustrated parallel translation of Donald Macintyre’s great Gaelic ballad with an accompanying CD. Baird Uibhist (CEUT 2010) is a DVD of Uist poetry. I am also working on a history of Scottish commercial aviation - with an emphasis on some of the characters involved.
Current events and projects
Talk Subjects (all lavishly illustrated with pictures/sound/translations where appropriate) The Capture of the 51st Highland Division in 1940 Air Roads to the Isles – History of Scottish Commercial Aviation (Anecdotes of the pioneers) A Musical Partnership - Fr Sydney MacEwan and Duncan Morrison An Introduction to Gaelic traditional poetry for non-Gaelic speakers. July 2011 - Illustrated Poetry talk Celtic Congress March 2011 Illustrated Poetry lecture for Glasgow University Celtic Dept May 2008 Gaelic Poets Tour of Ireland
March 2008 Air roads to the Isles – Glasgow Gaelic Society & Liniclate Secondary School Numerous others including: 2003 Traditional poetry talks for Smithsonian Folk life Festival - Washington DC