Insect Week: Gaelic Names

24 June 2018

National Insect Week, organised by the Royal Entomological Society, runs from 18th – 24th June and encourages people of all ages to learn about insects, their habitats and behaviours.

Mount Stuart is home to many Creepy Crawlies from bugs in the garden, to pests in the Collection and many more inside the house if you know where to look! We’ve got some amazing activities for you to enjoy and discover more about bugs throughout the week but we’ll also be exploring our gardens and collections for insects of all shapes and sizes!

The Marquesses of Bute were all interested in science and the natural world. You can see the 3rd Marquess’ passion for bugs in every corner of Mount Stuart from the wood panelling to the marble carving. The 3rd Marquess passed on his love of learning, from insects to languages, to his son John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute and for insect week we’re looking at a Gaelic book with this particularly creepy subject matter…

Scottish Gaelic was one of the languages the 3rd Marquess studied and taught to his children and we have a wide range of Gaelic books in the Blue Library collected by the 3rd and 4th Marquesses.



Alexander Robert Forbes published Gaelic Names of Beasts (Mammalia), Birds, Fishes, Insects, and Reptiles Etc. in 1905 thanks to the generous sponsorship of the 4th Marquess. The book was published by subscription – it had to be paid for before it was printed – and you can see some famous names in the list of subscribers. The authors J.M Barrie, of Peter Pan fame, and Andrew Lang subscribed as well as the 2nd Baron Rothschild who was especially interested in zoology. He has a species of giraffe, 153 insects, 58 birds, 17 mammals, 3 fish, 3 spiders, 2 reptiles, a millipede and a worm named after him! The book also travelled further afield to the Toronto Public Library in Canada and to Dr. H. Zimmer in Berlin!

The book details the Gaelic origin of the names of many familiar animals as well as the folklore and superstitions that surround them. One of the most charming insect entries is for the bee, a symbol long associated with the Bute Family.

The crest of Augusta, 4th Marchioness of Bute including the Bute Bee

“The word “dory” for drone signifies sleepy, useless. “Beichaire” means a bee-hive – lit., a bee-ark, though both beich and airc or arc mean bee also. “Teillinn” is the name given for the harp in the Welsh language, and is merely a corruption or shortening of “an t-seillean,” the bee. This is first referred to as a Celtic term in an ancient topographical tract called the “Dinnseanchas” or sean seanachus, old old history. It moreover describes, and is supposed to stand for, the feeble humming sound of an imperfect harp.”

One of the words listed for bee was even the inspiration for Professor Dumbledore’s name in Harry Potter!