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A lifetime of knowledge and 5 star management experience in Highland Heritage & Culture

Sonas of the Glens!


Say hello to Sonas, the Highland Historian collie! He enjoys tours and will be on every one I do unless you specifically request him not to be there; in which case he will be tasked with doing my research, administration paperwork, accounts and tax returns on those occasions...

Sonas was born in September 2021 and this will give you an idea of his age at the time of booking your tour. He is a collie from working stock and is an incredibly intelligent dog - understanding both English and Gàidhlig commands. One of the many reasons I have a collie is connected to my own ancestry and "dùthchas", which also connects into my love of being amongst the hills: My Great Great Great Grandfather, Kenneth McKenzie (or more probably, Coinneach MacCoinnich) was, himself, a shepherd. (Would it suprise you to know that as well as Sonas, I have a cat named Coinneach?!).

Collies, Border Collies or "Sheepdogs" have a long history in Scotland. Many crofters from the 1800s to the present have relied on them to gather sheep, cows and other animals from the hills and rough common grazings. But their connections to Scotland and perhaps the Highlands probably go much further back. In the 1700s, it is thought that a similar type of dog had already been established as a useful dog in the Highlands; leading some to speculate that the word "collie" originates from a Gàidhlig word meaning "useful". I'm not entirely convinced by this theory and there are several others on the origin, but if it is true the word collie has emanated from could be feumoile or fheumoil, listed in Roy Wentworth's Gaelic Words and Phrases from Wester Ross for "useful". There are several examples of words originating from a longer Gàidhlig word and being shortened and anglicised over time so it is not outwith the realms of possibility.

By the 1860s, "Scotch Sheepdogs" were being paraded at agricultural shows and the useful sheepdog was certainly growing in popularity. In September 1893 a dog called Old Hemp was born and by the time of his death in May 1901 he had become the main stud dog of the breed called the Border Collie, after the Scottish Borders region just north of where Old Hemp worked at a farm in Northumberland. It is believed that Old Hemp is the progenitor of the entire modern breed. It also happens that Old Hemp's father was a calm natured dog with a strong black, white and tan colouration, very much like Sonas! Old Hemp's father may have also existed at the same time as Kenneth McKenzie!

Sonas' name, as you might expect, is Gàidhlig. His longer name, "Sonas of the Glens" comes from two inspirations - the name given to one of the greatest ever shinty players and my tutor and mentor when I got into shinty coaching and refereeing, Ronald Ross, A.K.A. "Ronaldo of the Glens"; and also from the BBC TV Programme Monarch of the Glen. But what does Sonas actually mean?

Sonas basically means “happiness” but it is a deep and holistic type of happiness. Let me explain why I’ve chosen this name for him:

Dùthchas is the connection to your ancestors, their stories, their abilities, the ground they lived on, the physical and emotional connection to that ground.

Cianalas is the longing for dùthchas when you’re not there. It’s mournful, but there’s no sadness within it. It’s the longing for your connections.


Caim is the belief that wherever you are and no matter how horrendous the situation you’re in, you can encircle yourself and within that circle, as a result of cianalas, you have your dùthchas.

Sonas is the thing you can have if you have every bit of dùthchas, cianalas and caim. You can’t really have sonas without them and you can’t have them all and not have sonas. So Sonas is the completeness; and the comfort and happiness in that completeness.

There is no greater happiness than Sonas.

To book your tour with (or without) Sonas, contact me today and check out the Tour Guiding page!

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