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Photograph of Norma Macleod provided by Acair

The death has been announced of Gaelic author and translator Norma Macleod from Shawbost who was formerly editor/manager of Acair Books in Stornoway and once was director of social work for what was then the Western Isles Islands Council, now Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Norma was the widow of the late Dr Finlay Macleod, who died last November.  

 As Director of Social Work Norma was a visionary.  The first female to be appointed to a Director’s post within the Comhairle, Norma championed the development of community social care and spearheaded the innovative locally staffed Care Units and Taighean Ceilidhs which were built in many communities throughout the islands and which proved such a valuable transition for patients being discharged from hospital in preparation for them to go back into their homes.
A passionate and proud champion of her native Gaelic language and the Hebridean culture Norma was a standard bearer in implementing the Comhairle’s Bilingual policy within social work by ensuring that her Department was able to provide a bilingual service to its clients.  In her later  years Norma became an accomplished Gaelic author and translator  as well as being an acclaimed traditional Gaelic singer.

She became editor and manager of Acair in 2004 and led it back towards becoming a force to be reckoned with on the Scottish publishing scene.

This enterprise arose came from the stark realisation that there were hardly any Gaelic books. This is where writer John Murray and Dr Finlay Macleod came in. John was in post as director of the islands bilingual project, having previously been editor of the Gaelic Books Council, and Finlay, a psychologist, was working in the Council’s education department.

Together with the Council, they became Acair’s founding members. Financial help also came from the Gaelic Books Council, which continues to support Acair with publishing grants, and the Scottish Arts Council. M Calum Graham was the first manager, Jo Macdonald the second and she was followed by Agnes Rennie, from 1982-92. Agnes was succeeded by the late Joan Morrison, then Norma Macleod as editor and manager. Agnes Rennie returned in 2010, after Norma’s retirement.

Acair said today (Friday 17 May) they were "saddened to hear of the passing of Norma MacLeod.

"Norma was a large part of Acair over the years. She was involved in many projects, took on the role of Manager and Editor within Acair and also wrote and translated many books.

"Both Norma and Finlay, who passed in November of last year, were involved in Acair from its creation and they worked tirelessly to promote and progress Gaelic publishing in that time."

Acair published Norma’s last book, An Dosan, in 2014.  Norma was also the translator of a whole range of different children’s books for Acair, working with illustrator Luana Rinaldo and other illustrators.  Her Gaelic novel An Dosan was about a young man, leaving his home and looking for another life for himself.

She was also the author of a detailed and highly regarded look at the history of the Isle of Raasay, “Raasay: The Island and its People” in 2002, and published by Birlinn.

In the early 1990s, she lost her position as director of social work after a major public row about departmental spending, but she won an industrial tribunal case against the Council for unfair dismissal in 1996. 

Norma was a great friend of Acair and everybody involved with Acair, both currently and in the past – along with her friends and acquaintances in the wider community – are thinking of her family; Rachel and Ceit Anna and their families at this difficult time.

(Additional information is being added to this article as it becomes available.)