Home research cultural Centre for Nordic Studies Staff Prof Donna Heddle MA (Hons), PhD, FHEA

Prof Donna Heddle MA (Hons), PhD, FHEA


Centre for Nordic Studies
University of the Highlands and Islands
Kiln Corner
KW15 1QX

e: donna.heddle@uhi.ac.uk
d: +44 (0)1856 569247
Full research profile on the Research Database RD.jpg


Dr Donna HeddleProf Donna Heddle is Director of the University of the Highlands and Islands interdisciplinary Centre for Nordic Studies based in Kirkwall and Scalloway in the Northern Isles. She gained a PhD in Scottish Renaissance Literature from the University of Edinburgh and arrived in Orkney to set up the Cultural Studies department in June 1999. She was awarded a THES award in 2005 for her development of the BA (Hons) Cultural Studies of the Highlands and Islands programme and is now programme leader for the MLitts Highlands & Islands Literature, Orkney & Shetland Studies, Highlands and Islands Culture, and Viking Studies.  She sat on the AHRC advisory panel for Napier University’s Intangible Cultural Heritage project; is a Director of HI-ARTS Arts Development Agency; was Secretary (2010) and Chair (2011) of the MLA International Scottish Studies group; and is a member of the Council of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, the Universities Council for Modern Languages (Scotland), LLAS Scottish Advisory Board, and Universities Committee for Scottish Literature.

She is also an adviser to the Education and Culture Committee, Scottish Government and an adviser and contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary on Scots and Nordic lexis.

Prof Heddle has been involved in a number of NPP cultural projects involving technology and education. She was the Academic Coordinator for the Northern Heritage project across Scandinavia. She led the successful RAE 2008 submission from UHI in European Studies and is leading the REF 2014 submission in Area Studies.


  • David Masson Scholarship, University of Edinburgh (1993 and again in 1994)
  • Faculty Teaching Fellowship, University of Edinburgh (1994)
  • SCRAN award for online VLE and module development (2002-3)
  • Times Higher Education Supplement Award for Most Imaginative Use of Distance Learning (2005)

Research interests

Prof Heddle’s main research interests are the creation of new paradigms in Scottish and Northern isles studies, small island studies, Scottish language and literature in a European context, and Scottish cultural history. She is the author of a number of publications in these areas and is currently leading several national and international research and cultural tourism projects involving the North Atlantic rim. She is at present working on Scots-Nordic balladic synergies; the underpinning philosophy of Northern Studies; the Huguenot influence of Du Bartas on the poetry of the Scots Court under James VI; and geophysical and metaphysical correlations in historical depictions of Orkney. She is also working on a history of Highlands and Islands literature. She is particularly passionate about locative research – in the communities, by the communities, for the communities.

Academic Responsibilities

Prof Heddle is Programmes Leader for the MLitts Highlands and Islands Literature/Orkney and Shetland Studies/ Highlands and Islands Culture/Viking Studies.

She is Module Leader for the following modules:

  • Writers and Place
  • A Tour of the Highlands
  • The Highlands and Islands Story
  • Early Scottish and Norse Literature
  • Dissertation module for all MLitts.

BA (Hons) Scottish Cultural Studies

Medieval Literatures of the Highlands and Islands

UHI Committee memberships :

  • Academic Council
  • Arts, Humanities and Business FBOS member
  • Humanities and Gaelic SNC member
  • Research Practitioners’ Group
  • Comataidh Gàidhlig
  • OC Academic Board
  • Convenor of the UHI Research School in Language, Culture and Heritage 2004
  • UHI Research Committee Vice Chair 2004-9

External responsibilities and memberships

  • Member of the Board of the Scottish Museums Council (later Museums Galleries Scotland) 2004-10 and 2013 - onwards
  • Secretary (2010) and Chair (2011) of the MLA International Scottish Studies group
  • Member of the Council of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies
  • Member of the International Committee of ASLS
  • Member of the Scottish Society of Northern Studies
  • Member of the Universities Council for Modern Languages (Scotland)
  • Member of LLAS Scottish Advisory Board
  • Member of the Universities Committee for Scottish Literature
  • Member of the Board of Hi-Arts Development Agency
  • Literature Representative on the Orkney Arts Forum
  • Editorial assistant of the literary magazine Cencrastus 1993-9
  • Peer reviewer for Scottish Historical Review, for Scottish Language, for Innes Review, and for Language and Intercultural Communication
  • Guest editor for Journal of the North Atlantic


Scholarly edition

John Stewart of Baldynneis’ Roland Furious; A Scots Poem in its European Context, BRILL Intellectual History Series, 2007.

Edited volume

Northern Heritage, UHI Press, Inverness, 2006


“John Stewart of Baldynneis: The Scots Renaissance Missing Link?”, European Journal of English Studies, in press

“Alexander Montgomerie” The Literary Encyclopedia, in press

“So, no sweet talk, then? : the love poetry of Earl Rognvald Kali Kolsson”, Rognvald 850 book edited by Donna Heddle in press

“Stormy Crossings? : Scots- Scandinavian balladic synergies”, The Journal of the North Atlantic (JONA), Special Volume 5, Proceedings from the 2011 St Magnus Conference Kirkwall, Orkney, forthcoming, 2013

“'The North Wind Doth Blow': a new agenda for Northern Scottish Studies”. Anglistik: Journal of International English Studies 23. 2. 12,

“Norse Force: The Centre for Nordic Studies at UHI”, Orkney Antiquarian Journal, October 2012

“The Norse element in the Orkney dialect” in Millar, Robert McColl (ed.) 2010. Northern Lights, Northern Words. Selected Papers from the FRLSU Conference, Kirkwall 2009

“Glimpsing your true love at Halloween”, Mimir’s Well: Notes from Nordic Studies column, The Orcadian, October 2010

“The Writers’ War: Fortress Orkney”, Fortress Orkney website 2010

“Voices of the West” , Northwords Now, Spring issue 2009

“The sociocultural effects of aviation in the Northern Isles”, chapter, Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, vol. 8, Birlinn Books, 2009

“The Language of the Gutters?”, Living The Fishing, UHI Press, Inverness, 2007

“Clouston - the Writer of Fiction”, chapter in J. Storer Clouston, The Spy in Black, ed. M. MacDonald, AOP, 2007

"Susan Ferrier". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 13 June 2007

"Walter Kennedy". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 13 June 2007

"Sir David Lindsay". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 May 2007

“Facets of Death and Life”, a review of the work of Iain Crichton Smith and Edwin Morgan, Cencrastus 51, pp 43-44

6th International DIVERSE conference proceedings, Multimedia blended network learning: A Culture Studies case study, Glasgow Caledonian University 2006

“The History of the Northern Periphery”, chapter in Northern Heritage, UHI Press, Inverness 2006

“The aims of the new Centre for Nordic Studies”, Orkney Heritage Society Newsletter2005

“On the borders of this massive round”, Sib Folk News 32, 2004

“John Stewart of Baldynneis: ane maist perfyt prentes”, chapter in Odd Alliances: Scottish Studies in European contexts, ed. Neil McMillan and Kirsten Stirling, Cruithne Press, Glasgow, 1999.

Selected Reviews:


Scandinavian Scotland – Twenty Years After: The Proceedings of a Day Conference held on 19 February 2007.
Edited by Alex Woolf. Pp. 168.
ISBN: 9780951257371.
St John's House Papers No. 12: St Andrews, 2009. £14.00. Scottish Historical Review. Volume 92, Page 148-149 DOI 10.3366/shr.2013.0142, ISSN 0036-9241, Available Online April 2013 .

SCOTLIT, issue 42 – 2012

Skald: Viking Poems, Ian Crockatt Koo Press 2009

Scottish Historical Review, Volume 89 (1): 98, Edinburgh University Press – April 2010

St. Magnús of Orkney: A Scandinavian Martyr-cult in Context. By Haki Antonsson. Pp. viii, 272. ISBN: 9789004155800. Leiden: Brill Academic Press, 2007.

The Early English Settlement of Orkney and Shetland. By Graeme Davis. Pp. xi, 132. ISBN: 9781904607755. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2007.

Blaeu's Orkneys and Schetland: The Orkneys and Schetland in Blaeu's Atlas of 1654. Edited by James M. Irvine. Pp. 64. ISBN: 9780954457129. Ashtead: James M. Irvine, 2006.

Scottish Studies Review Autumn 2005, Review of Benjamin Cook and Peter

Todd (eds), Subjects and Sequences: Margaret Tait Reader (London: Lux, 2004).

Selected Invited talks and conferences

Keynote speaker

"Northern Heterotopias"

4th Annual Aboriginal and Northern Studies Conference, University College of the North,

4-5 June 2009, The Pas, Manitoba, Canada

“The Lost Glen: Neil Gunn and Cultural Space”

Light in the North: Neil Gunn Conference, Dunbeath Trust, 10 November 2007, Dunbeath,   Caithness

Invited speaker

“The Grand March: Marriage Customs in the Northern Isles” British Festival of Science, University of Aberdeen, 9th September 2012

“The placenames of Caithness and the application of bilingual policies” Highland Council, 31st January 2012

“Where is Orkney? Orkney in its early physical and metaphysical context”, The First Congress of the World Literature Association, Beijing 30 June- 3 July 2011 Peking University, in association with World Literature Association

"Landscape and Identity in Communion", School of Landscape Architecture,Edinburgh College of Art, 22nd Sept 2010.

“Living the Fishing?: the Scots Herring Girls” Between Leith and Lerwick: Academic workshop, University of Edinburgh, 6th March 2010, Edinburgh, sponsored by the Royal Society of Edinburgh

“Placenames and Poetry” Rhythm and Rhyme workshop, Year o Orkney Dialect, Orkney Heritage Society, February 2010, Orkney

“The North wind doth blow ….” A New Cultural Agenda for the Northern Isles” Royal Society of Edinburgh Conference:  The Life and Culture of the Highlands, September 2009 RSE, Edinburgh

“The Centre for Nordic Studies; a new integrative research concept” Worldwide Universities Network Nordic Gathering, July 2009, University of Sheffield

“Supporting our international future: cross-sector partnerships to promote languages in Scotland”, Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies and the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World 1st December 2008, University of Edinburgh

“New Maps, New Communities” panel speaker Skills Building for the Future Legacy Conference, 14th November 2008. Culloden Visitor  Centre

“The language of the Gutters?” Travels and Travails of the Scots Herring Girls Conference, June 2007, SMO

"The languages of the Highlands and Islands and language revival policy" Cross Parliamentary committee on language and culture, 3rd October 2006, Holyrood,

“Multimedia blended network learning: a Culture Studies case study” 6th International DIVERSE conference, Glasgow Caledonian University, 5th-7th July 2006

“Clan Gunn: the origins in the North and the Diaspora in the south” International Clan Gunn Gathering, April 2003, Orkney

Conferences organised

Women’s History Network Conference, May 2013, Orkney

9th Triennial International Conference of Forum for Study of the Languages of Scotland and Ulster, 21-25 July 2009, Orkney College

Looking at Shetland Outside the Box: The Meeting of Nations and the Creation of Shetland Culture 7th – 10th May 2009, Shetland Museum and Archives. Organisers: CNS and Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen

Rognvald 850 - a commemoration of the death of Earl Rognvald, Rognvald 850 committee, 19th September 2008, Orkney College

Voices of the West Minority Languages Conference I and II in association with the Minority Languages Song for Europe competition, 21st June 2008 and 20th June 2009, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness.

Society for Northern Studies annual conference, April 2004, Orkney College

Association for Scottish Literary Studies Annual Conference, May 2003, Orkney College

Conferences chaired

Old Maps and New - Where Culture and Social Enterprise Meet, Centre for Health Science, Raigmore, 12th-13th November 2010 – proceedings on web. Major conference involving the heads of cultural agencies across Scotland. Was presented jointly by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Creative Scotland.

Rognvald 850- a commemoration of the death of Earl Rognvald, 19th September 2008, Orkney College

Voices of the West Minority Languages Conference in association with the Minority Languages Song for Europe competition, 21st June 2008 and 20th June 2009, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness. This went out on BBC Alba in 2009 and was attended by Mike Russell,  Minister for Culture at the time, who used the occasion for a press release on Scots.

Society for Northern Studies conference, April 2004, Orkney College

Association for Scottish Literary Studies Annual Conference, May 2003, Orkney College

Conference sessions chaired and organised

Modern Language Association Convention, “Exploring Scots”, Seattle, 5-8 January 2012

Inaugural St Magnus Conference, UHI “The Norse Isles?” Orkney, 14-15 April 2011

The Twelfth International Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Language and Literature  “Norse Literature” University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh July 2008

Modern Language Association Convention, MLA  “Patterns in Time: The Scottish Nordic Synergy” Chicago, December 2007

Current PhD Students

  • Anne Artymiuk “The Dark Road Down From The Hill: George Campbell Hay”
  • Gillian Beattie Smith “Romantic Subjectivity: the creation and performance of women’s identity in nineteenth century travel literature about Scotland”
  • Marc Chivers “The History of the Shetland Boat”
  • Lydia Crow “Folklore’s role in the creation and maintenance of a unique Orcadian identity”
  • Ann Marwick "The social and economic factors affecting the depopulation of North Ronaldsay"
  • Dolina Morrison "The diminuation of the supernatural in every day practice on the west side of Lewis"
  • Silke Reeploeg “Nordic Regions of Culture:  Norway and Scotland - Intercultural links, regionalization and communities of narrative after 1770”

Current MPhil students

  • Sarah de Rees "The Nordic Diet and its applications in the modern era"

Previous PhD students

  • Jill de Fresnes "The lives of the herring girls 1900-1950"
  • Angela Watt “The implications of cultural interchange in Scalloway, Shetland, with reference to a perceived Nordic-based heritage”
  • Tom Rendall “Perceptions of the social and cultural factors which have influenced the use of dialect in Orkney”


  • Ersev Ersoy “Social Reality and Mythic Worlds: Reflections on Folk Belief and the Supernatural in  James Macpherson’s Ossian and Elias Lönnrot’s Kalevala”.  Dept. of Scandinavian Studies,  University of Edinburgh, November 2011

Suggested PhD Topics

Prof Heddle is happy to discuss individual projects in the general areas of Highlands and Islands literature and Scottish Cultural History