Leading forensic anthropologist and renowned musician honoured at UHI ceremony

Leading forensic anthropologist and President of St. John’s College Oxford, Professor Dame Sue Black, Baroness of Strome, and renowned highland musician Duncan Chisholm have been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

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Duncan Chisholm and Professor Dame Sue Black

The awards were presented at UHI’s nursing and midwifery graduation and celebration of success and achievement at the Free North Church in Inverness today (Thursday 16 November).

Professor Dame Sue Black is one of the world’s leading forensic anthropologists. Originally from Inverness, she graduated from the University of Aberdeen, specialising in human anatomy and forensic anthropology. Her extensive career has included lecturing at St Thomas’ Hospital London and working as a consultant for the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and United Nations, eventually leading on the war crimes investigations in Kosovo.

Professor Black has also held posts as Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology at Dundee University and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement at Lancaster University. She was the 65th President of the Royal Anthropological Institute and is the lifetime Professor of Anatomy for the Royal Scottish Academy.

In 2016, Professor Black was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and she entered the House of Lords as a crossbencher peer as Baroness Black of Strome in 2021.

Speaking about her award, Professor Black said: “It is such an honour to come home and to be awarded this degree by the University of the Highlands and Islands. I am so proud to be a true Invernessian and it was Inverness Royal Academy that gave me the most incredible opportunity to use education as my vehicle to explore the world and find my purpose.”

Born and brought up near Inverness, Duncan Chisholm is one of Scotland’s most recognised and accomplished fiddle players and composers. His musical career began in 1990, fronting folk rock band Wolfstone. The band started playing village halls in the Highlands before performing at festivals and arenas across Europe and the USA. Over the years, Duncan has performed on stage and recorded with many artists and his compositions complement many radio, television and film productions. 

Duncan has produced a series of musical pieces inspired by the wild places of the Scottish Highlands, from the Glens of Strathglass to Sandwood Bay and, most recently, the Black Cuillin of Skye. Duncan’s award-winning studio releases are a product of research, adventure, writing and production.

Duncan’s acclaimed multi-media production Kin toured widely. The series brought archive recordings to life through film and music, celebrating the people, places and culture of the Highlands. This model was widely commended through Duncan’s personal contribution, as well as being used as an educational programme to engage young people in ethnology, film making and music composition. Duncan’s commitment to the future development of traditional music is through the design and delivery of contemporary productions, educational programmes and ground-breaking cultural collaborations.

Duncan said: “It is an honour to be awarded this honorary doctorate from UHI and I am very happy to see my musical endeavours appreciated and so clearly perceived. It is always by considering what has gone before, our shared 1000 years of our culture, that we can prepare and design for what will come next. Those foundations of culture give us the strength to create new streams within our tradition. Bringing our tradition together with contemporary media and production has always been at the heart of my work as a musician and creator.

“I realise, however, that it is respecting our tradition and educating ourselves in what has gone before that we can really look forward with confidence. I feel privileged to be one part of this vibrant and valuable sector of the arts. Traditional music gives us a sense of belonging and a sense of place. It is a great river that flows through our lives and as a custodian of that culture I have always felt a responsibility to protect what has gone before as much as moving it forward in new and exciting ways.”

Professor Black’s honorary doctorate was presented in recognition of her contribution to science and Mr Chisholm’s award recognises his work in the creative arts.

The ceremony also celebrated the success of over 120 students from UHI’s nursing and midwifery departments in Inverness and Stornoway. The students, who were joined by 400 guests, celebrated success in a range of qualifications including Higher National Certificates, Higher National Diplomas, degrees and postgraduate programmes.