Sunday, December 30, 2012

Anne Ross, Celtic Scholar



I'm a bit late learning of this, but Dr. Anne Ross, who introduced so many of us to Celtic studies and a world very different than our present one, has died. I am grateful to her for her clear, readable style and engaging approach to a subject that was to become a mainstay of my life, partly as a result of her books. She was the author of The Pagan Celts, Pagan Celtic Britain, Everyday Life of the Pagan Celts, Druids: Preachers of Immortality, The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands, and so on.

I will give you some of what I have gleaned from the web, as finding info on her isn't easy online.

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This is what Amazon.uk had to say, in its note for The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands:

The folklore of the Scottish Highlands is unique and very much alive. Dr Anne Ross is a Gaelic-speaking scholar and archaeologist who has lived and worked in crofting communities. This has enabled her to collect information at first hand and to assess the veracity of material already published. In this substantially revised edition of a classic work first published 30 years ago, she portrays the beliefs and customs of Scottish Gaelic society, including: seasonal customs deriving from Celtic festivals; the famous waulking songs; the Highland tradition of seers and second sight; omens and taboos, both good and bad; and, chilling experiences of witchcraft and the Evil Eye Rituals associated with birth and death. Having taken her MA, MA Hons and PhD at the University of Edinburgh, Anne Ross became Research Fellow in the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh. She then rapidly established herself as one of Britain's leading Celtic scholars. Her seminal work is "Pagan Celtic Britain" and she has also published "Druids - Preachers of Immortality" with Tempus Publishing.

From her obituary:

ANNE FEACHEM : Obituary
Published in the Media Wales Group on 1st September 2012 (Distributed in Wales)
This notice has had 794 visitors and has one message and 12 candles.

FEACHEM Dr Anne Ross (Celtic Scholar) Peacefully on Aug 29 at her home, Dr Anne Ross of Felin Gyffin, Llandre, Aberystwyth; beloved wife of the late Richard, dear mother of Charles and the late Berenice. Public funeral service at Aberystwyth Crem-atorium on Tuesday Sept 4 at 11.15am. Further inquiries to C Trefor Evans, Brongenau, Llandre, Aberystwyth. Tel 01970 820013

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I did find a more personal tribute to Anne from the director of the documentary Heads! (I'm afraid a quick search doesn't bring me any info on the documentary, nor does the blogger/filmaker give either his name or a website, so you're on your own for now.) Follow the first link here to see the original post, with photos:

Anne Ross 1925-2012


It has recently come to my attention that Dr. Anne Ross, one of the central figures of the film Heads!, has died.

I never met Anne. By the time I started making my film, she was sadly suffering from dementia. She appears in archive footage, including a clip of her famous appearance on Nationwide where she spoke of her family’s terrifying experiences after receiving the purportedly cursed “Hexham Heads”. According to her son she could not remember her academic career by this stage. For many British archaeologists, however, it will be unforgettable.

Anne Ross will be best remembered for her book Pagan Celtic Britain, first published in 1967. I have a copy from the 1970s on my shelves, with this gorgeous cover:

It’s a hefty, academic work, and it became a key book in the field of Romano-British studies. But it was also widely read by hippies and freethinkers in the Sixties, who found its portrait of a wild, free, polytheistic Britain resisting the imperial rule of Rome heady despite its measured prose.

Ross was closer in spirit to her unexpected fan base than some of her academic supporters may have liked. She had a firm belief in psychic phenomena, and in her later life she often collaborated with Dr. Don Robins, an inorganic chemist who rose to prominence in the field of earth mysteries. The books she wrote with Robins were criticised by some of her former admirers,

A voluble, erudite woman with a Joanna Lumley-ish accent and a shock of appropriately Celtic red hair, Ross was a natural for television. Here she is in the 1980s BBC documentary series The Celts:

Anne settled down with her husband Richard and their children Richard and Berenice in Wales, where she was living at the time of her passing. She is survived by the junior Richard and, of course, her books, whose impact on the field of Celtic studies is matched only by the fondness with which modern students of the field talk of them.


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Sincere condolences to her family and friends. Blessings on your journey, Anne.

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