Sunday, 10 May 2009

Gaelic in the Highlands

Friday saw the opportunity to take part in a Gaelic Awareness day organised by the Council at headquarters. Initially offered to members of the Council's Gaelic Committee, with a maximum of eighteen places, the course invitation was extended to all elected members, and I was delighted to be able to take up the chance. 'Gaelic Awareness', I hear muttered under the collective readership's breath .... a bit dull? Well, no, actually. Course presenter Roddy Maclean made the day wide ranging, entertaining and challenging - the latter especially in getting us to overcome our inhibitions and try a bit of the language itself. Aspects of the unfortunate historic repression of the language were covered - not just at the hands of the Westminster Governments of the time, but just as much by the lowland Scots - although it was surprising to see that one of the last southern stronholds of Gaelic was way down in Galloway and South Ayrshire. In talking about place names and their origins, the strong connections between the names and the landscape were evident, and the links between language and culture - the way in which language is the weft that binds cultural threads into a cohesive whole were explored by what it would be fair to say was an enthusiastic audience. The course ran from 9.30 right through to 4pm - yet I can honestly say that time seemed to fly by, and my ageing attention was held throughout. One of the most interesting side issues that we explored was the reluctance in Caithness to accept the Council's Gaelic road signs policy. Wick member Graeme Smith gave us a careful and considered explanation of why the policy and its implementation to date had raised so many hackles and explained that it was more an issue of presentation and pace of implementation, rather than blank refusal. Personally, I could appreciate what he was saying. It's something of the old adage that government without consensus is bad government - perhaps greater efforts could have been made to reach that consensus. 
But perhaps the single biggest threat to the health ofthe language is apathy. If not enough care, and too few see that vital link between Highland culture and identity that the language represents, the future is bleak. To that end, the biggest single disappointment of the day was that, out of a council of eighty members, just seven made the effort. So thanks are due to George Farlow, Roy Pedersen, Angela MacLean, Janet Campbell, Graeme Smith and Jaci Douglas - who made the effort to be there for the middle part of the day despite her husband being away, and the need to get her young family off to school and collect them in the afternoon. To everyone else ... where were you? You really don't know what you missed - and if the opportunity comes round again, don't miss out.
And to Ruairidh MacIlleathain, Tapadh leat.

1 comment:

  1. Seems a shame indeed only a few turned up to hear Ruairidh.
    Any chance of getting your thoughts on the Sandown Planning Hearing? The refusal came as a surprise (albeit a pleasant one) to most folk.