Comann Gàidhlig na h-Eaglaise Caitligich/ A Gaelic Society of the Catholic Church

A talk I gave for the Scottish Catholic Cultural Symposium at Pluscarden Abbey on 3/5/19, entitled: Faith in the North – Reviving Cultures: Healing the divide between the Catholic Faith and traditional Scottish culture  

Current Issues in the Gaelic Revival and the Place of the Catholic Church

1) Eòlas Pearsanta/ Personal experience

Bu mhath leam tòiseachadh le beagan dhen eòlas pearsanta agam fhìn. An-dràsta is a-rithist thathar ag ràdhn gur i a’ Ghàidhlig, cànan gàrradh Eden. Tha sin a’ faireachdain ceart, ach saoil, carson?

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Gaelic has often been described as the language of the Garden of Eden. And the funny thing is it attracts lunatics like myself from around the world who come and learn it. But why?

There are many obvious ways to put it: The people are friendly, the landscape is beautiful, the lovely weather…


Dhomhsa tha a’ Ghaidhealtachd a’ faireachdain gu sònraichte beannaichte. Agus tha mi dhen bheachd gu bheil sin air sgàth irisleachd nan daoine.

The closest I have come to explaining the attraction of Scottish Gaelic to myself is that Gaeldom must be especially blessed. In Scotland in general, but in particular in the Gaidhealtachd – as Gaeldom is known in Gaelic – people seem to look out for each other, the arrogance and elbow society of much of the Western world hasn’t reached here, yet.  Continue reading “Comann Gàidhlig na h-Eaglaise Caitligich/ A Gaelic Society of the Catholic Church”

“What do social media contribute to the revival and/ or survival of the Celtic languages?”

A talk given to the Celtic Congress in Kemper/ Quimper, Brittany in July 2018

Flags of the 8 Celtic lands

1) Na Dùbhlain – The challenges
An toiseach bu mhath leam na dùbhlain a chur mur coinneamh. Tha mi a’ dol a thoirt iomradh air fear, Joshua Fishman, a bha na ollamh aig Oilthigh Stanford sna Stàitean Aonaichte. Tha esan air leth cudromach ann an saoghal nam mion-chànanan.

First of all I would like to talk about the challenges with this subject. At Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Scottish Gaelic language college on the Isle of Skye, where I studied an Honours degree, Joshua Fishman was regarded the number one minority languages guru. He died in 2015 but was a professor at Stanford University amongst other institutions and wrote the ground breaking book: “Reversing Language Shift” which was first published in 1991. I had the privilege of meeting him when he came to Sabhal Mòr in 2003. Continue reading ““What do social media contribute to the revival and/ or survival of the Celtic languages?””

Brexit – 1 Year To Go

Many fishermen supported Brexit (above: Oban)

Brexit – One Year To Go: My series on BBC ALBA

(In Gaelic with English subtitles)



Part 1: Voices for Brexit

  • Fishermen want control of UK waters
  • Others argue Brexit it will bring new trade opportunities and increase productivity
  • Brexiters want to reduce immigration,
  • Don’t believe civil service’s numbers indicating that UK will be worse off under any scenario
  • Some in agriculture see an opportunity to change the subsidy so it benefits those who actually work the land

Part 2: Voices against Brexit

Sheep on Isle of Tiree
Crofting on the Island of Tiree
  • Claims it will cost the UK £2bn a week, Leave campaign spread lies
  • Rural areas have benefitted especially from EU funding, doubts whether this will be a priority for the UK government
  • Has alienated EU citizens residing in the UK
  • Will badly affect research institutions as EU funding ceases and freedom of movement may mean fewer foreign researchers want to settle in the UK
  • The EU has brought peace and prosperity to the UK
  • May mean unrest brakes out again in Northern Ireland

Part 3: Voices for and against Scottish independence

  • Claims Scotland is now weaker than any other part of Britain economically
  • Scottish Brexit minister confirms that when the terms of Brexit become clear Scots should have a choice whether they want to continue in the UK
  • Surprising analogies with Brexit. Both are either said to bring opportunities or uncertainty depending on point of view
  • Some have changed their mind on independence after the Brexit vote

Part 4: Was the BBC biased in its referendum reports?

  • Equal time is allocated to either side in BBC’s referendum reports. But can the Bank of England’s view be balanced by that of a small think-tank?
  • Reality Check provides analysis, but uncertainty remains over whether the UK will be better or worse off in ten year’s time says BBC Scotland’s Political Editor
  • Media expert says Vote Leave admitted the most successful slogan of the referendum (“We send the EU £350m a week: let’s fund our NHS instead”) stated an “amalgamation” of a figure

Part 5: Brexit, Trump and AfD (right-wing party in Germany)

  • Some sense an anti EU feeling by some Brexiteers, see similarities to AfD policies blaming incomers for issues
  • Others believe Britain has moved to the left after the Brexit referendum
  • Donald Trump has also curbed immigration, supporters claim this is to protect their culture
  • Others say these policies work as long as those proclaiming them don’t come too close

Die britischen “Nationen” und ihre Kirchen

Das große Familienfest zu Weihnachten findet in Großbritannien am Morgen des 25.12. statt. Soviel ist vielleicht noch bekannt. Aber in dem Land, in dem an Sonntagen das Einkaufen schon lange möglich war, bevor in Deutschland erste Geschäfte öffneten, geht an Weihnachten gar nichts. Das Fest der Christenheit ist hier hochheilig, was sich z.B. dadurch zeigt, dass im ganzen Land an diesem Tag keine Züge fahren.

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Iona Abbey; hier gründete 563 der aus Irland stammende Heilige Columba ein Kloster und war damit ein Mitbegründer des Christentums in Großbritannien. Heute besteht in der mittelalterlichen Abtei eine protestantische Laiengemeinschaft, die Iona Community. Einige Protestanten sehen den St Columba als Vorkämpfer des Protestantismus.

Am Neujahrstag hingegen verkehren in England einige Züge, während in Schottland auch dann nichts geht. Obwohl das Vereinigte Königreich von Großbritannien und Nordirland insgesamt überwiegend protestantisch ist, bestehen doch deutliche Unterschiede. Religion ist die Angelegenheit der “Nationen,” England, Schottland, Wales und Nordirland. In Schottland besteht eine andere Form des Protestantismus als in England. Für die ist der Neujahrstag noch heiliger als Weihnachten. Continue reading “Die britischen “Nationen” und ihre Kirchen”

Gaelic Gospel Choir “Soisgeul” on Iona

This track was recorded during a practice inside the abbey on the Isle of Iona, one of the earliest centres of Christianity in Scotland. It is sung by Soisgeul, the only Gaelic language Gospel choir. The song is called St Columba’s Hymn, St Columba being one of the first Irish monks to bring Christianity and the Gaelic language to Scotland.

Òrain Soisgeulach an Eilean Ì (English version following below)

Dh’fhaodte gun deach òrain ann an stoidhle gospel a sgrìobhadh ann an Gàidhlig. B’ e sin a thuirt Gareth Fuller a tha na stiùiriche air diofar chòisirean ann an ceann a deas Shasainn. Gu dearbha cha robh ann ach fealla-dhà, ach bha e a’ feuchainn ri ràdh gun robh ceòl soisgeulach agus a’ Ghàidhlig a’ dol còmhla glè mhath. Dh’aidich e gun robh teagamh gu math mòr air dar a chunnaic e an t-eadar-theangachadh an toiseach ge-tà. Continue reading “Gaelic Gospel Choir “Soisgeul” on Iona”

Taistealachd air Slìghe Naomh Chonain/ Pilgrimmage on St Conan’s Way

Schafe vor Ben Cruachan, Argyll, Schottland
Sheep in front of Cruachan

English version below

Ràinig mi Eilean Ì air an ochdamh là as dèidh dhomh coiseachd à Clachan an Diseirt no Dail Mhàilidh air Slìghe Naomh Chonain. Chan eil fada bhon a thòisich a’ choimhearsnachd Chaitligeach an sin ris an slìghe seo a shanasachd. Choisich mise i thairis air beagan mhìosan ge-tà. Dh’fhàg mi ann an cuideachd Chalum agus Rut bho Chraig Lodge san Dàmhair an uiridh. Bha a’ chiad phìos gu math furasta air seann rathad an airm gu ruige Sròn nam Mialchon.

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Continue reading “Taistealachd air Slìghe Naomh Chonain/ Pilgrimmage on St Conan’s Way”

iDoc, modoc or no doc?

Will we still be watching documentaries in the future? Or will it be more of an interactive experience? This has been branded as webdocumentary or iDoc. Viewers, or should we say users, can choose where to go next in the story. Or will it all be replaced by virtual reality? And what is the relationship between documentary and journalism? Should documentaries be objective and balanced? Is it a good idea to shoot them on the mobile phone or is it always going to be second choice?

Change in viewing habits

As the keynote speaker, Prof Ramon Salaverría, pointed out journalism is about to change drastically making it much more tailored to our individual preferences and also making it much more experiential, including odours e.g. When I asked him about the future of documentaries he was pessimistic. Not so Prof Manuela Penafria who has written articles on webdocumentaries. A webdocumetary combines film with other elements such as maps, infographics and a forum. The viewer or user chooses where to go next. Great examples are Journey to the End of Coal and Cali, la ciudad que no duerme.

Prof Penafria went on to tell me that she wouldn’t classify the documentary genre as journalism. Continue reading “iDoc, modoc or no doc?”