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Category: Learning News

Details of opportunities to learn Gaelic and about the language

Madainn Cofaidh gach mios

The Market Inn at Castle Douglas proved to be an excellent venue! Easy to find – right next to the Mart, very warm and comfortable – newly decorated too, and the coffee was freshly ground and jolly good.. They had teas and hot chocolate as well. We paid £5.50 each and could have two hot drinks for that which was very fair. Everyone thought it was eminently suitable for what we were looking for.

Next Meeting :  Wednesday 7th December 2022 @ 10:30am – 12 noon

Galloway’s Own Gaelic Bàrd

21 – 27 March 2022, marks the first World Gaelic Week.  It also marks the centenary of William Neill’s birth. William Neil, born in Prestwick but resident for most of his life in Crossmichael, was an exemplary poet in all three of Scotland’s languages, English, Scots and Gaelic. The first ever graduate with an Honours Degree in Celtic Studies at Edinburgh University and winner of the Bardic Crown at the 1969 National Mod, Neill viewed Gaelic as a living, vibrant language worthy and completely deserving of national, widespread support, funding and teaching. Later this year, Drunk Muse Press will publish ‘The Leaves of All the Years’ responses to Willie’s work from a host of well known Scottish poets and writers.

“Commenting on his own writing, Willie Neill saw himself as ‘standing up for the small tongues against the big mouths’ – Scots and Gaelic being ‘the small tongues’ threatened by the ravenous maw of English. Map Makers exemplifies this all-consuming threat very well, illustrating the manner in which Gaelic place names were systematically erased from landscapes ‘where Gaelic names adorn(ed) both farm and mountain’, as he said elsewhere. Willie was clear that it was not just a matter of adornment: place names mark out what is important and significant to inhabitants of a community. The process of naming can be seen as a way of creating, explaining and making manifest the essence of a place. A landscape that has been endowed with names is one that has been domesticated and made intelligible within a particular culture. When anglicisation wiped out the original meanings, replacing them at times with what were essentially nonsense syllables, ‘the culture could not stand on solid ground’, as it became progressively and insidiously eroded.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Willie on a number of occasions in his later years after he contacted me to ask if we could give some time to having conversations in Gaelic, as he felt he was beginning to lose some of his vocabulary. At one such meeting, in a café in Castle Douglas, we were talking quite loudly in Gaelic as Willie’s hearing was deteriorating. I noticed a group of ‘ladies who lunch’ at a nearby table casting puzzled looks in our direction, and I then heard one of them say to the others: ‘Spanish.’ While Willie and I laughed about this, we went on to consider how – while it’s quite understandable that Gaelic can be unrecognisable if one has not been exposed to it – there seems to be widespread ignorance, and, at times, denial, of the extent not only of Galloway’s Gaelic history, but also that of wider Scotland. In his poem Scotia est divisa in voces tres, he wrote: All over Alba Gaelic shouts from the stones / to those who have ears to hear, though there’s Damn Few left / who can feel their heritage ache like rheumatic bones…

While Scots was Willie’s language of birth, his first tongue and the language of his heart, his assertive sense of self as Scottish also included Gaelic: I couldna see hou I culd possibly be a Scotsman an no ken Gaelic. He famously wrote in the three leids of Scots, Gaelic and English, alert to the tone, register and resonance of each. There continues to be contested terrain between these leids and Willie’s voice still rings out as a forthright and, at times, acerbic exponent of the affordances of ‘the small tongues.’ “

Here is the section written by Angus MacMillan, stressing the importance oF Gaelic in the literature of Scotland and the culture and history of Dumfries and Galloway, as illustrated by his poem ‘Map Makers’.


When Irongray grew out of Earran Reidh

the culture could not stand on solid ground.

Grey dominies of unmalleable will

invented newer legends of their own

to satisfy the blacksmith and his children.


After Cill Osbran closed up to Closeburn

more books were shut than Osbran’s psalter.

Seeking to baptise the new born name

the pedants hurried to the nearest water

which wasn’t even warm.


When Seann Bhaile swelled to Shambellie

the old steading became a glutton’s belch.

Every tourist pointed a magic finger

padding lean Fingal to a flabby Falstaff.


The cold men in the city

who circumscribe all latitude

wiped their bullseye glasses

laid down their stabbing pens

that had dealt the mortal wounds

slaying the history of a thousand years

in the hour between lunch and catching the evening train.


Earran Reidh: The level ground  Cill Osbran: The Church of Osbran (or Osbern)

Seann Bhaile: The Old Steading.

These are all Gaelic place names in Southwest Scotland, where Gaelic survived until c.1700 (See Journal of Scottish Studies Vol17). Our modern map-makers have Anglicised and bastardized these, and many others.

Seachdain na Ghàidhlig (World Gaelic Week) 21 – 27 March

World Gaelic Week is 21-27 March; efforts to organise an event to celebrate Willie Neill Galloway’s own Gaelic Bard, have come to nocht so here is the plan.
21 March I will ask for everyone’s Favourite Gaelic song.
22 March I will ask for everyone’s Favourite Gaelic word.
23 March I will ask for everyone’s Favourite Gaelic speaking place/ island
24 March I will ask for everyone’s Favourite Gaelic mountain name.
25 March I will ask for everyone’s Favourite Gaelic personal name (male or female)
26 March I will ask for everyone’s Favourite Gaelic singer.
27 March I will ask for everyone’s Favourite Gaelic poem.
for the above can you retweet or share when you see it on Social Media:
I will post a Gaelic Poem up on this kpage and on our Website