Ceòlas nyári iskola

Le Gordon Wells

Rövid dokumentumfilm a Ceòlas skót-gael zenei nyári iskoláról, melyet a Skócia Nyugat Szigeteihez, a Külső Hebrdákhoz tartozó Dél-Uiston rendeznek meg minden évben.

Hungarian becomes the nineteenth language in which an Island Voices film is featured, as part of our ongoing “Other Tongues” initiative.

We’re very grateful to László Horváth, a long time friend of the Gaelic language, for this kind and skilful contribution in his own mother tongue.

László teaches at Corvinus University and McDaniel College in Budapest, but he has been involved with Gaelic since he was 15 years old. He has attended several summer schools at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, where he has lectured in Gaelic and made many friends. He has also written a series of Gaelic articles on Hungarian language renewal for the Gairm periodical. László is currently teaching his students in Budapest from Istanbul, where he is staying with his Turkish wife, Sinem. Still, somehow he managed to find time to send through to us a Hungarian version of the original commentary. Mòran taing, a László!

His chosen film is the documentary from the original Series One about the Ceòlas music summer school held annually in South Uist. It aims to integrate traditional music and dance in a community setting. It has strong links with tutors from Cape Breton in Canada, where old styles of Scottish fiddling and stepdancing have been maintained. The school attracts students from around the world.

As usual, a wordlinked Clilstore transcript – with the film embedded – is also available. You can find it here: https://multidict.net/cs/9092

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Tο Κέντρο ημέρας Craigard

Le Gordon Wells

Μια ταινία μικρού μήκους για το κέντρο ημέρας Craigard στο Lochmaddy, στα Δυτικά Νησιά της Σκωτίας. Πρόκειται για ένα μέρος, όπου πολλά άτομα περνούν δημιουργικά και ευχάριστα το χρόνο τους.

Originally made in 2006, our Craigard documentary is now re-published with a commentary in Greek, as part our “Other Tongues” initiative, in which our films are shared with other languages around the world. It’s a particular pleasure to see our first ever documentary, and still one of our favourites, brought back to life in this way!

As usual, a wordlinked Clilstore transcript – with the film embedded – is also available. You can find it here: https://multidict.net/cs/9062

Our narrator this time is Valentini Litsiou of C.V.T. Georgiki Anaptixi – an early partner with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in one of the follow-up initiatives to the POOLS project out of which Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean was born. So it seemed particularly appropriate to “go back to the beginning” when Valentini selected “Craigard” as the film she would like to translate and narrate.

Valentini still works for the same group, offering support in public relations, and has been involved in various other European projects. She’s always enjoyed this work because of the opportunities it’s offered to meet people of other cultures, who speak other languages, and who have other ways of thinking.

She also has a wide range of domestic interests, but is not enjoying this period of COVID-19 restrictions. Luckily for us, it didn’t stop her from making this excellent new contribution to Island Voices in double quick time! Perhaps the earlier experience of POOLS-related recording work made it an easy decision for her to get involved again?

Or maybe she’s just a natural star – witness her contributions in “Mi piace questo binario!”, also recently dusted off and re-presented…


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Gaelic Mafia?

Le Gordon Wells

Twitter hashtags do not normally attract much attention from Island Voices, far less participation or amplification. Firestorms and pile-ons are not our normal digital habitat. Rather, our natural inclination is more towards common sense than confected indignation or online mass hysteria. But every now and then, one catches the eye – #GaelicMafia being a case in point. The phrase has been around for a long time, a dismissive and derogatory shorthand conveniently covering up the user-accuser’s unwillingness or inability to actually name any names in their imagined shadowy conspiracy of mad Gaelic zealots plotting the appropriation of rights and resources way beyond their proper station.

Well, it cropped up again recently, though perhaps without the effect the original twitterer intended, prompting an avalanche of ironic, sardonic, even scornful #GaelicMafia tweets in response. Of course, negative feelings towards Gaelic may spring from a range of sources in any individual’s mind, one of which is no doubt the monolingual’s insecurity in the face of clearly communicative expression beyond their own comprehension. One “convenient” way of suppressing this fear is to let oneself believe that it’s actually the Gaelic speaker’s world view which is the defective one, reflecting a “narrow”, “inward-looking”, or “retrospective” mindset, by contrast with the modern outlook that the English language supposedly supremely affords in comparison with any other language in the world today – a view which conveniently neglects to acknowledge that every Gaelic speaker is bilingual, and so possessed of all the advantages that English (or perhaps another language) bestows, and with plenty more besides.

It’s this additionality that balanced bilingualism, or indeed multilingualism, confers that Island Voices has been promoting from the start. A project founded upon transnational European co-operation is never going to accept a characterisation of its linguistic roots as somehow blinkered or introspective, or that it is motivated by selfish concerns for “cosa nostra” alone. Island Voices would not even have started, with its roots going back to the POOLS project of 2005-2007, without the support of European funding and partners from many different language backgrounds. We hope our response has been, and continues to be, appropriately reciprocal too, for example through our Other Tongues initiative – which actually extends way beyond European borders.

And so it is that an exception has been made, and we have allowed ourselves our own contribution to the hashtag of the day with a gentle reminder that other worlds beyond the English-only one continue to grow and develop. “Mi piace questo binario!” was first created over ten years ago, as part of the POOLS-CX project – a rough and ready multilingual creation, with English “flashcards” interspersed. Here it is again, this time with the English replaced by Gaelic. There cannot be any Gaelic Mafia without Guthan nan Eilean as a fully signed up member!


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Stòras Beò: Màiri

Le Gordon Wells

Mary Robertson is another well-known Benbecula resident, here talking to fellow Baoghlach Archie Campbell for the Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal series of recordings capturing natural conversations between fluent Hebridean speakers of Gaelic.

In the first part, Mary talks about her family and her memories of her early schooldays in Torlum. Her father was a gamekeeper for the South Uist estate. Leaving home at 15 to get further training at Duncraig Castle was a shock. She describes the daily routine there. After that she worked in Edinburgh for two years before moving to Fort William to do hotel work, where she found more of an island community.

A wordlinked transcript alongside the embedded video is available here: http://multidict.net/cs/8252

In the second part, Mary describes returning to Benbecula after losing her husband in an industrial accident, and the changes she noticed, particularly with the increased army presence and the work available through public schemes. She found work in the newly opened Sgoil Lìonacleit, where she continued till retirement. She is also involved with various charities and community groups, and her church involvement has entailed trips abroad to various countries. Her Gaelic interest also took her to Canada. She still dances and enjoys walking in various parts of the Highlands.

A wordlinked transcript alongside the embedded video is available here: http://multidict.net/cs/8253

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Skye Meeting

Le Gordon Wells

Fios agus fiosrachadh:

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Schnellboot nach St Kilda

Le Gordon Wells

St Kilda, UNESCO-Welterbestätte im Nordatlantik, ist für viele Schottlandbesucher ein Traumziel. Der Kurzfilm berichtet über eine Gruppe von Tagesausflüglern, die vom natürlichen und kulturellen Reichtum des abgelegenen Archipels in ihren Bann gezogen werden.

St Kilda, UNESCO world heritage site in the North Atlantic, is a dream destination for many visitors to Scotland.

This short film reports on a group of day trippers who are captivated by the natural and cultural wealth of the remote archipelago. It’s our latest addition to our “Other Tongues” collection.

As usual, a word-linked Clilstore transcript, with the film embedded, is available here: https://multidict.net/cs/8989

Our translator and narrator for this film is Volker Labitzke. A keen traveller who has visited many places all over the globe, he found his paradise in the Outer Hebrides where he moved from Germany more than 10 years ago.

“The breathtaking scenery of Uist, the friendliness of the islanders and the slower pace of life in my new home have made my former busy city life a distant memory”, he says. He is interested in languages, history, and walking as well as railway and miniature modelling.

At Island Voices we are very grateful that Volker found time in his busy schedule and amongst his many interests to offer this skilled narration. Mòran taing, a charaid!

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Island Gaelic Conversations

Le Gordon Wells

Is there more to Gaelic development than a talking point for academic debate or social media clickbait? How can island voices be heard in discussions and decisions about the language they speak? The “Gaelic Crisis” book has stimulated a re-appraisal of the current situation, and makes suggestions for a new way forward.

A series of “GAELIC CONVERSATIONS – CÒMHRAIDHEAN GÀIDHLIG” is proposed around the islands.

“Alasdair Allan MSP is working with the authors of the study from the Soillse research team based at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and a cross-party group of MSPs and researchers including Kate Forbes MSP, Michael Russell MSP, Donald Cameron MSP, Rhoda Grant MSP, John Finnie MSP and Dr Michael Foxley.


As well as discussions about Gaelic usage in the home and community, the meetings will also gauge opinion on whether such ideas in the report such as a Gaelic community cooperative – Urras na Gàidhlig – could be an appropriate structure to coordinate and drive forward local development actions under the direct control of the Gaelic-speaking community.”

You can register to attend here. Written submissions are also welcomed.

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Stòras Beò: Ailig

Le Gordon Wells

Moving on to Benbecula this month we feature Alec MacPhee from Nunton – Baile nan Cailleach – in our regular spotlight on contributors to Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal. Alec still lives in Nunton, and has three sons (Donald, Angus, and John), eight grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Here he talks to Archie Campbell, also a Benbecula man.

In the first part, Alec recalls his childhood in Nunton, and wartime schooling in Balivanich – Baile a’ Mhanaich – and then Torlum, including pranks in the playground, classroom, or garden, as well as crofting chores at home, and later with the peats. Leaving school at 14, he started his first paid job in the building trade at 16. He also recalls wartime memories of many different nationalities associated with the airport and POWs, including Australians, Poles, Germans and Italians. He talks too of the end-of-war celebrations and memories of the “Whisky Galore” SS Politician. He then spent some time in Glasgow.

A wordlinked transcript is available here: http://multidict.net/cs/8243

In the second part, Alec relates how he came back to the croft and then got work with a services company which took him and several friends out to St Kilda. He later got work with the Water Board, with whom he stayed until retirement. He also talks about recreational activities, including badminton and football, as well as dances and New Year customs and associated drinking practices. He describes how he met his wife, Margaret, and the details of their wedding, and tells a story of a commando who turned up in the Steadings. Discussion of army-community relations leads to reflection on the changes he’s seen in island life.

A wordlinked transcript is available here: http://multidict.net/cs/8244

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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“Living off the edge”

Le Gordon Wells

Conchúr Ó Giollagáin gave this talk online, and the recording is now available on YouTube. His title was “Living off the edge: The crisis in late modern ethnolinguistic diversity from the Gaelic perspective”, and the talk drew substantially from the findings of the recent publication “The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community”. This is a substantial report on the findings of Soillse’s very comprehensive Islands Gaelic Research Project. It’s a challenging read in many ways, with particular relevance for anyone interested in Gaelic in the Hebrides. From that point of view it’s good to be able to hear Conchúr talk about the research and answer questions about the implications.

He had a lot of ground to cover in 40 minutes. If you missed it live here’s your chance to hear what he had to say – or indeed to listen again in case you feel the need.

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Gaelic virality: a snapshot

Le Gordon Wells

What’s a Gaelic community?

A lot of social media screentime has been spent on this question. Frequently, the discussion centres on the comparative treatment of those who have a dispersed or “network” connection with Gaelic – whether in an urban mainland “diaspora” setting, or indeed a largely internet-mediated “virtual” sense – and those who live in geographically defined Hebridean communities where the density of Gaelic speakers by head of resident population is far higher.

Through its very name the Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean project affirms the actual centrality of its so-called “peripheral” location to its function and focus. The islands are our geographical home. Even so, our work is primarily presented online, so our reach is not just Hebridean or even Scotland-wide, but truly international, and our interest is in serving all those who visit our posts and pages. Further, our linguistic focus is not just on Gaelic, or even Gaelic and English together, but increasingly multilingual and diverse.

For all these reasons we are driven to look beyond the zero-sum thinking often associated with a monolingual mindset. If paying Paul does not entail robbing Peter, then by the same token, taking care of Paul’s needs does not necessitate neglecting Peter’s. If the choice is recognised as false, then it should be possible to focus attention on either Peter or Paul as occasion demands without laying oneself open to a charge of “divisiveness”. Quite the contrary, in a situation where Peter’s own wellbeing is ultimately dependent on that of Paul, ignoring Paul’s evident distress will do Peter no good at all.

That’s quite a long pre-emptive preamble to the point of this post, which is to display some striking figures on visits to this site from the first three days of October. Regular visitors will have noted that recently we have been featuring different contributors to the UHI-led Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal project on the first day of each month. The Stòras Beò materials are a set of long-form video-recorded discussions between fluent speakers of Gaelic talking about their lives. As natural conversations they are intrinsically interesting. And beyond that, as examples of authentic speech they have many add-on applications for speakers, learners and researchers of Gaelic, including support for the current Gaelic Speech Recognition project being led by Edinburgh University, and planned contribution to the Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic created by Glasgow University.

Posting first here on WordPress, the central website around which our various social media channels orbit, it’s normal practice for Island Voices to place links on our Twitter account and Facebook page on following days as a way of encouraging new and returning visitors to visit this site. This month it was the turn of Dòmhnall Caol (Donald MacDonald) from Baleshare to be featured.

The following figure shows the WordPress analytics for October 1st-3rd, with some annotations indicative of differential responses from what might be loosely defined as “networked” and “islands-based” Facebook interest groups.

Visits to Guthan nan Eilean WordPress site, 1st-3rd October

Here’s the timeline in more detail:


The WordPress post “Stòras Beò: Dòmhnall” was shared from the FB page to three prominent Gaelic interest groups: Gàidhlig na h-Alba ☯ Scottish Gaelic, Gàidhlig na h-Alba ~ Scottish Gaelic, and Scottish Gaelic Speakers Unite!. On that day these groups had a combined total membership of 12232 (with a probability of significant crossmembership).

By the end of the day there had been 98 recorded visits to the WordPress site.

This, as would be expected on the first day of a new post, is a significantly higher figure (around 2.5 times) than the daily average of about 40 WordPress visits up until that point in 2020.


The same WordPress post “Stòras Beò: Dòmhnall” was shared 24 hours later from the FB page to two Uist-focused pages/groups: North Uist Appreciation Society – NUAS (page), and South Uist/Uibhist a Deas Appreciation Society – SUAS (group). The total on that day for page-followers and group-members was 12020 (with a probability of significant crossmembership).

By the end of the day there had been 822 visits to WordPress, more than 20 times the daily average for the year.


Following spontaneous sharing of the previous month’s post “Stòras Beò: Aonghas” as a follow-up by NUAS, it was then also posted in the SUAS group.

By the end of the day there had been 667 visits to WordPress, more than 16 times the daily average.


Of course, a strict warning should be issued against any bald assertion, based on just these figures, that Facebook followers who have an island connection are multiple times more likely to take an active interest in a post on Gaelic than those whose interest in the language does not have this geographic link. This is just a snapshot in time with no control for all sorts of variables too numerous to list in a blogpost. Nevertheless, it surely points to some kind of effect, which will probably be explicable – at least in part – by reference to the significant importance of a geographical community connection to Gaelic, as it is used in the islands, in stimulating online engagement with it.

If that basic point is conceded, then any indication that the islands’ connection with Gaelic is in serious trouble, for which the recent “Gaelic Crisis” report provides ample quantitative evidence, surely deserves close attention, including from those speakers and other well-wishers whose connection is remote or “virtual”. Certainly, there is little sign from this small snapshot that any hope of fully compensatory numbers of new speakers emerging from geographically displaced and dispersed networks is likely to be easily fulfilled.

From an Island Voices point of view, we can at least take comfort from the indication that our positive “insular focus” is appreciated by the local community, while maintaining our commitment to inclusively showcasing these islands’ unique linguistic character and versatility on a worldwide stage. It would surely be zero-sum thinking of a kind Gaelic advocates routinely reject, to view the recent urgent “call to arms” to inject new energy into Gaelic revival efforts at island community level as some kind of competitive threat to more dispersed interests. The one should feed the other.

The MSP for the Western Isles has announced a series of online meetings for various island communities to discuss ways forward for Gaelic in coming days. The link is here.

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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