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Tribute to Doreen Waugh

Margaret A Mackay

With the death of Dr Doreen Waugh on September 23, 2015, Scottish Language Dictionaries has lost a staunch supporter, and language and name studies in our country and well beyond, a dedicated scholar and active contributor.

Though long resident in or near Edinburgh, Doreen was never happier than when she could use her own Shetland dialect with family members or friends. She can rightly be called a "native scholar" for she began to imbibe and to value the ways and the speech of her home islands from soon after her birth on 17 November 1944. In time she allied these interests with an approach that was clear-sighted and a marked capacity for scholarly rigour in research, writing and teaching.

As a secondary school pupil she studied with the late John J Graham at the Anderson Institute in Lerwick, author, lexicographer and promoter of Shetland par excellence, and followed in his footsteps to the English Language Department at the University of Edinburgh for her first degree. At The Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh she was a much-loved teacher and highly respected administrator. But research drew her too, and in 1984 she completed a PhD at the School of Scottish Studies on the place-names of six parishes of the former county of Caithness. Doreen selected it as her focus rather than Shetland as, typically, she knew she could develop her knowledge of Gaelic if undertaking the former.

Mirds o Wirds
She was a valued member of the School of Scottish Studies community and of the University of the Highlands and Islands and Glasgow University, as an Honorary Research Fellow in each institution, generously sharing her expertise with students at all levels and giving practical encouragement to onomastic and linguistic projects. She instigated the Shetland Place Names Project, worked closely with the network of North Atlantic and Scandinavian place-name scholars and played several vital roles in the Scottish Society for Northern Studies. She was a committee member of Shetland ForWirds and recently led a group of its members in producing Mirds o Wirds, a collection of Shetland words and their meanings. Her many publications and edited books and journals will be a lasting legacy of her own scholarship and of her support to the work of others.

The order of service at her funeral included lines written by Mary Ellen Odie which encapsulate Doreen Waugh, who was a staunch Shetlander, a generous and productive scholar, an influential teacher, and a good friend to many:

I laek da Nort, fir a'm grippit dis laand/Hit's bred in my bane, true an deep/ Da sights on da soonds, da seas an da dance,/Dey'll be dere, aa around whaar I sleep.