Signs of repayment of a debt to Gaelic and Scots

Muriel Gray is such a wag, sending witty Tweets about railway station name signs which are bilingual in English and Gaelic. Well I say witty. It’s witty in the same way that Adam Sandler is a comedian, or deep fried Mars bars with a Buckie chaser aren’t a stereotype. I hesitate to repeat it in case you fall about laughing so much you hit your head on the coffee table and kill yourself, but Muriel said that the biggest social problem in Scotland used to be lost Gaelic speakers begging to know where they were, but now with bilingual railway signs we have so sorted that one. I know, right. Laugh? I nearly contributed to the School of Art restoration fund.

Muriel’s unfunny wee jokette with its redolence of cultural cringe might have been just an off the cuff remark, but it taps into the arrogance of the Scottish British establishment. Scottish culture only has value or worth when it’s a particular kind of Scottish culture, preferably the kind that can be used to impress ironic beards in cereal cafés in Shoreditch, or sold as conceptual art for an inflated price tag to a rich collector. When it can be monetised, in other words.

But Gaelic is a dead language, protest people who are determined to kill it off. Gaelic is not dead. It still has speakers, but it would seem that there are people in Scotland who really ought to know better – self-described political or cultural commentators – who insist that it’s dead and we should just pull the plug on the life support machine. Some people really need to reflect on the meaning of the term ‘self fulfilling prophecy’. And while they’re at it they should ponder the amount of time, energy and money that the British state has put into killing the other languages of these islands.

Scotland would not exist without Gaelic or Scots. The languages made this country what it is, Gaelic brought Scotland into existence, Scots was the language of the Scottish state. They made us who we are, and they are proper to Scotland and nowhere else. Only Scotland can save them. A vast amount of Scottish literature and writing was composed in Gaelic and Scots, and if we lose the languages we lose that part of ourselves. Gaelic and Scots form the roots of the Scottish tree, without them the tree dies and we become a parasitical culture.

Imagine there was a harmless cute and fluffy wee animal which now only lived in a small part of Scotland but which was once widespread throughout the country. No one would object to government money being used to save the creature. No one would object to initiatives to restore it to parts of its former range. People like those who inhabit Schools of Art would front impassioned appeals to save this vital part of Scottish natural diversity which has shaped our landscapes and informed our mythology. Scottish languages are a part of natural diversity too. If we don’t protect them, they’ll die. And we will be the generation that killed them.

Then there are those who indulge in whataboutery. What about Pictish eh? What about the language of the Cumbric Britons. Are they not Scottish languages too? Why should we not try to revive them as well as Gaelic and Scots? But we’re not comparing like with like here. Gaelic and Scots are living languages. They still have speakers, they are fully attested. Pictish and Cumbric are fossil languages, surviving only in place and personal names and a handful of words in ancient texts and inscriptions. Not enough of them survives to attempt to revive them. It would be like trying to revive a long extinct creature from a few scraps of bone.  Gaelic and Scots still live and breathe.

Often the people who insist that Gaelic is dead and of no relevance to modern Scotland regard themselves as socialists or social democrats. Yes, Labour supporters, we’re looking at you. It’s ironic then that a person who believes that the role of the state is to intervene in the workings of the free market to ameliorate its negative effects on society believe so strongly in an entirely mythical free market of languages.

There’s no such thing as a free market in languages. No one wakes up one morning and decides, today I’m going to transfer my linguistic allegiance to Classical Nahuatl and do my shopping in Morrison’s just like an ancient Aztec. Although to be fair the ritual sacrifice of check out staff is frowned upon nowadays. The truth is there is no free choice in language use, the language you use is determined by politics and power. Gaelic has been marginalised and driven to the verge of extinction because of politics and power, not because Scottish people made a free and unforced choice to give it up in favour of English. The same holds true for Lowland Scots.

The attitude is that the Gaelic language isn’t like a Charles Rennie Mackintosh masterpiece, it doesn’t bring in the tourists, and so has no value and it’s a waste to spend public money on it. Public money should of course be spent on restoring the School of Art – and it should be spent on protecting and fostering the Gaelic language as well. Both are equally artefacts of Scottish culture.

The purpose of Gaelic signage is to give the language a public presence. Gaelic was once the dominant language of all of Scotland north and west of a line drawn roughly from Gretna to Musselburgh, and was even found in the far south east as well. Gaelic signs remind us all that the English language has never been the only language of Scotland, and make a public statement that the language enjoys respect and support. That’s why they’re there, to remind English speaking Scots that their lazy assumption of English language dominance can and should be challenged, and that’s why members of the Scottish political and cultural establishment object to them.

But more than that, Gaelic and Scots have been marginalised because of the actions of the state, so the state has a duty to ensure that the languages survive. That’s moral restitution, it’s the repayment of a debt. We owe it to our languages, we owe it to ourselves.

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73 comments on “Signs of repayment of a debt to Gaelic and Scots

  1. […] Signs of repayment of a debt to Gaelic and Scots. […]

  2. diabloandco says:

    It’s the arrogance employed to sneer and denigrate that gets me and the assumption that their words are superior and worthy.

    Hope all is well with you and the dug.

  3. hektorsmum says:

    Too right Paul, I have felt for a long while they are trying to do a cultural genocide to us, that and wiping us off the map. The one thing about having the Gaelic Name signs on both Rail and Road is that you can see where the English root came from. I am not Gaelic speaker, I would love to have been but too late now for me. I speak the usual amount of Scots but that is nowhere near good enough.
    We must resist all of this, the Irish did this with their religion, we must protect out languages from idiots like Muriel Gray, cringer’s, all of them.

    • Ealasaid says:

      As a newly retired Auld Yin, can I tell you it is never too late to learn some Gaelic. Apart from opinion saying that learning a language is good for the brain cells, doing a Gaelic course has opened my eyes to what has been right in front of my nose.

      The history of Scotland is written in the many place names across our country, if you only have the language to decipher them. I am one who now loves the Gaelic road signs as it gives me an insight to the area I usually never knew about. The many phrases I remember my grandparents using, and the order of the words they used often harps back to the Gaelic grammar, though I know of no Gaelic speakers in my family. Customs they followed are still part of Gaelic culture which is truly rich.

      It is much more than just learning to speak another language (which I doubt I will ever be good at), it opens up culture and history that you are part of, and that surrounds you in your daily life, if you only knew it was there.

      There are now plenty of classes all over the country to suit everyone. The BBC website has a lot of learning resources. New ways of learning languages such as Ulpan are available so it is not like those classes you had at school. It is also fun and social. Why not find out about it?

      • weegingerdug says:

        Tha a’Ghàidhlig agam, ach dhìochùimhnich mi móran air a dh’fhuireachdainn anns an Spàinn agus Sasainn fad iomadh bliadhna.

        • Ealasaid says:

          Don’t expect me to reply in Gaelic, but as the classes progress they give out information of where people can meet up at certain cafes at certain times to meet with other learners for Gaelic conversation. The kids that first started learning at school again are now fluent and in secondary school or beyond. There could very shortly be lots of new places where Gaelic is being spoken in cafes, clubs and pubs across Scotland. I hope you manage to find some and I am sure that your Gaelic will come flooding back.

        • Marconatrix says:

          Now I never would have guessed. Makes you wonder who else among your friends, neighbours, workmates etc. might hae the Gàidhlig. Could this be another case of people needing to “come out”?

          Co-dhiù, móran taing dhuit, a Choin Ruaidh Bhig.

          More ‘practical’ people would take an interest in the language if they realised it was still used in ‘real life’, and simply overhearing a ‘natural’ conversation might be enough to spark that interest. (Well it worked for me, many years ago).

          • Marconatrix, I was in Islay for the whisky festival last year and in the supermarket there were two lassies talking in Gaelic. I couldn’t understand a word, but it was the most beautiful experience I have ever heard. Gaelic is truly the language of the angels.

            • Marconatrix says:

              Nice to hear it’s still spoken openly in Islay. The thing is once a language retreats “behind closed doors” so that it’s no longer used informally in public, then is it any wonder that detractors claim it’s ‘dead’.

              Once any group adopts a siege mentality it becomes irrelevant to the world outside, be it a political group, religious sect or a whole language/culture. It will inevitably lose members, but can no longer recruit replacements and so is doomed to fade away.

              I read a while back that there are more Gaels in Glasgow than in the Hebrides, but when I worked in Glasgow some years ago, in a situation where I met and knew quite a cross-section of people, I never once encountered anyone who claimed to speak Gàidhlig, or ever heard the language used informally, although there are plenty of other languages you will hear as you go about the city.

              I fully understand why Gaelic speakers are defensive, too many decades of mockery and derision have left their mark. Hopefully this is changing, it really has to change within this generation or it may well be too late.

      • Iain says:

        Yes, it certainly exercises the brain cells as you get older – this being just one of the reasons I took it up i.e. to stop the rot setting in – so ‘choose to learn Gaelic, and do the other things, not because it is easy but because it is hard’ – but after a relatively short while it all falls into place and as you say, the myriad of place names on the map (and road signs) suddenly burst into life.

        Cleachd i no caill i.

  4. jimnarlene says:

    It’s, just bloody, depressing the way some Scots belittle their own culture. In favour of a “British” culture, that really doesn’t exist, it is a construct, of their own fear and/or greed.

  5. Mammy says:

    Thanks to some forward thinking parents we now have Gaelic speaking schools in the central belt where young children are being taught the native tongue . These youngsters are spoken to in gaelic only in their first years of their education. More power to them and support in keeping it alive and voluble

    • Grumblechops says:

      My 3 year old daughter starts the Gaelic nursery in Glasgow next month and I can’t wait to attend the parents classes on Saturday mornings.

      • s4ge says:

        oh! our 3 yr old son started nursery just last term. We will also start our Sat morning soon – see you there 🙂

  6. […] Signs of repayment of a debt to Gaelic and Scots […]

  7. benmadigan says:

    “Gaelic and Scots have been marginalised because of the actions of the state”,The same policy was applied in Wales and Ireland . Coincidence?

  8. MoJo says:

    well said Paul, a second language should be a right for every child, to give them the ability to understand the world from different perspectives, and get a proper sense of what a language is…. a tool to engage with others, and to express who we are….. and what is important to us….in our own words….

  9. Bill Hume says:

    Oy…..Oy….hands off GSA. I know it’s filled with staff who are so far up their own arse they can see their own tonsils, but c’mon…GSA……wonderfull place despite the arty farty, we’re real artists types who seem to dominate the place. On the other hand, feel free to put the boot into the wee shaven blonde one who’s contribution to art has been to tramp about Scotland a lot………in front of a camera.

    • carthannas says:

      If I remember correctly, during one of those tramps many moons ago she contributed to a programme on Gaelic with Somhairle Macilleathainn!

  10. Steve Asaneilean says:

    Thanks for this Paul.

    I live and work in a community where Gaelic is a language of daily use.

    Gaelic was the original language of State – Malcolm spoke it at Court.

    Gaelic was the language of the common people of all of Scotland bar the south east right up to the 1500s.

    Within living memory there were speakers of “Galloway Irish” in the south west.

    I had the privilege of knowing the last speaker of west Perthshire Gaelic. I also knew the last monoglot Gael in north Skye.

    I speak little myself but that doesn’t matter.

    It is part of our linguistic heritage and it should be preserved and supported just as much as our musical heritage or literary heritage or architectural heritage or whatever.

    The sneery anti-Gaelic jibes common place among many Scots amount to little more than in house racism and prejudice and that is how they should be seen, defined and challenged.

  11. carthannas says:

    Sgoinneil Paul! Why do these people think we’ve never heard it before. Bigots and ignoramuses never miss an opportunity …

    By the way, that harmless and fluffy wee creature you describe could well be a red squirrel – and guess what: it is currently receiving exactly the support you describe.

  12. WRH2 says:

    One of my Canadian family who went to uni in Nova Scotia decided to learn Gaelic because the road signs there are in Gaelic. She also told me that the Canadians at one time considered making Gaelic the official language since so many of the members of the parliament spoke it.

  13. Iain MacIlleChiar says:

    ‘S e cù beag glic a tha annad, a choin bhig ruaidh!

  14. I would like to see Gaelic offered in all schools. Bringing the language into common usage as is done in Wales.

  15. scotsgeoff says:

    Totally agree.

    Our language is constantly being altered by the effects of media and our larger neighbours; many people now speak as they do on the news when they say ‘I was sat next to’ or the ‘weekly shop’ – I still say ‘ah wiz sittin’ or ‘ahm goin fir the messages’. To me (and even when I moved to the Birmingham area the people there felt the same) a shop is a building where I did my shopping; even in the West Midlands they would laugh at the Southernisms that were creeping into everyday speech; years later everyone seems to be saying these Southernisms.

    I accept language is fluid and can change but I dread the day when we are all talking like Eastenders up here.

  16. macart763 says:

    I wonder how many of these people would be willing to go down in history as the person who pulled the plug on our cultural heritage Paul? Or to use your own analogy, how many of them would be willing to make extinct that fluffy wee creature?

    Look the last speakers in the eye and sign off on a law that forbids them the use of their own tongue?

  17. Guga says:

    The English, ever since 1746, have been determined to destroy the language and culture of the Scots. Remember, they even brought in laws to prohibit anyone getting a job south of the Forth if they couldn’t speak English. They even tried to prohibit the wearing of highland dress.

    It is worth noting that their forebears, the Germans, especially the Nazis, tried to destroy the languages and culture of every country they invaded and annexed. The English, with their colonial mentality, couldn’t help themselves and tried the same thing in all their colonies, including Scotland.

    As for Unionists like Muriel Gray, with their cringe mentality, they seem to be so hell bent on being accepted as “British” (whatever that is), that they are willing to sell out their country and their people. They are very sad little people.

    • Brian Fleming says:

      Guga, the suppressioin of Gaelic started in 1610, with the Statutes of Iona, just 7 years after James VI moved south to his better paid job. Coincidence? I hae ma doubts.

  18. Cal says:

    Every language is precious no matter how few people speak it. Each is a unique way of seeing the world. Each is a world in itself. To destroy a language is an obscenity. Gaelic and Scots are our own languages and we must nurture them and help them grow. Those who argue that minority languages should die are arguing for the destruction of diversity. This is reckless because diversity makes civilization stronger and more resilient. It is barbarism. They essentially are arguing for homogenisation , that might is right, that the greater should always consume the lesser. It is the path of least resistance. As predictable as sin.

  19. Muriel – Laugh? I nearly did.

  20. AuldGranny says:

    “Deprive the people of their national consciousness, treat them as a tribe and not a nation, dilute their national pride, do not teach their history, propagate their language as inferior, imply they have a cultural void, emphasise their customs are primitive, and dismiss independence as a barbaric anomaly.”

    Reihnhard Heidrich, the Director of the Reich Main Security Office in 1930s.

    • Guga says:

      Very appropriate, as is also the following:

      “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”

      Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 BC.

  21. Jan Cowan says:

    Thank you, thank you Paul for your strong support of our languages. Not so long ago teachers here in the Highlands were trained to punish pupils who dared to use Gaelic within the school environs. Fortunately things have changed but certainly not helped by those who complain about the small amount spent in an attempt to foster the language. How short sighted they are! Surely culture is all-important if we are to retain our identity. And, naturally, the Scots language must be given equal support. We owe so much to the abundance of literature produced in both languages.

  22. Charles Kearney says:

    It was not so long ago that the Business of the courts was conducted in Scots, as witness my Favourite tale of the Mannie who said in mitigation, ” Bit a didnae ken it wis agin the Law, Yer Honour!” “Weel ye ken noo, and ye can hae Three Months tae conseeder yer Ignorance” 🙂

  23. Duncan Mitchell says:

    St. Columba Gaelic Church of Scotland in Glasgow has a Gaelic service every Sunday morning and has had since 1770. Currently this service is at 10am as the first words spoken must be Gaelic. (The English language service is at 11.30am)
    The church supported Gaelic when the government and others did not. Fortunately, things have changed and the Scottish Government is very supportive.
    All services are on youtube.

  24. Bru-Dhearg says:

    ‘S math rinn sibhse! Tha an litir fìor mhath ann.

  25. Does anyone remember Sorley Maclean’s vignettes on Gaelic pronunciation on Muriel’s ‘Munro Show’ back in the 1990s? I suppose the message is that Gaelic should know its place. It certainly shouldn’t be allowed to intrude on the commuting experience of urban creatives.

  26. RadicalDontKnow says:

    Shame on the self-styled Gallus Wee Besom.

    This is as good a summary as I have ever read, or will ever, read on this. Sin thu fhein & Gaun yersel!

  27. macart763 says:

    I don’t speak Gaelic, though in my travels I’ve picked up a word or three of a few languages (mainly all the bad ones). I can just about barely manage a conversation in English or Scots an ma granma and speelung in any language is piss poor, but what a gift all languages are. They make us who we are. A huge intricately woven tapestry the world over, made up of expression, dialects, cultures and history all laid out in brilliant colours. Some colours fade, but never quite disappear, leaving wee traces in place names or common tongues. Wee reminders of the bright threads they used to be.

    It wouldn’t just be a shame, but a bloody crime to suggest making such a tapestry less brilliant by the removal of even a single thread.

    • Mae Carson says:

      Hello my friend! 😀 I laugh when English is the stated “language” of preference since so much of it is OE, Old German, Old Norse, French or Latin in origin. There is very little of it truly “English” in origin and even today new foreign words are added to make it the truly b*st*rd language it is.

      • macart763 says:

        Hullo Maisie good to hear from you. 🙂

        Aye, its a fair old hotch potch of a language, but wonderful when used by the talented. Where some folk make an error is, in their arrogance, believing it to be superior to any and all other languages, that somehow its worth is greater for whatever reason. (shakes head)

  28. WARNING! This product may contain Gaelic!

  29. gerry parker says:

    It’s quite a revelation when you copy and paste the Gaelic comments above into Google Translate.


    Great article Paul.

  30. Tae quote thi Scottish Human Rights Commission:

    “Language [is] considered to be inextricably linked to cultural self-esteem and economic development and it [is] noted that Scots and Gaelic: “are languages that are native to Scotland [and] we have an additional moral obligation to protect and preserve the languages and the rights of those who speak them.” “

  31. arthur thomson says:

    We all have to understand that Miriam Gray doesn’t like identity politics.

    I’m all for it myself. It is interesting how so many of those who aspire to power and influence are very keen to promote their own identity but are ‘hurt’ and contemptuous when other human beings want to express and live out theirs. People like me really need to learn not to act above our station but we never do.

    AuldGranny’s quote above hits the nail on the head. That is what has been tried in Scotland for centuries. But it has failed because we know our worth and it will continue to fail because we will communicate that knowledge to future generations.

    My response to Miranda Gray and all like her is to quote what my Uncle Jimmy – a diamond of a man – would have said:

    ‘away and shite’.

  32. Jamie Purves says:

    So true, I like the tree analogy for Gaelic and Scots. We have to nourish the tree,. Despite all, there are still a few green shoots in the wasteland!

  33. son of Alba says:

    What a great piece, Paul
    And you are right – Gaelic was the language of the Scottish Court until the 14th and 15th centuries when it became Anglicised
    A truly eloquent piece
    Gle mhath!

  34. G H Graham says:

    Muriel Gray reminds me of a beverage; British Airways tea, white with two lumps.

  35. Sooz says:

    As someone who was born south of the border and made Scotland my forever home some years ago, I feel it only right that I learn the language. I’d do the same whichever country I lived in. Not to mention, that Gaelic is a beautiful and musical language, is living and breathing and is something to cherish.

    People who say Scotland doesn’t have her own language and culture (I’m looking at YOU, George Robertson, Feathered Lord of Dark Forces and Nameless Dreads) are blind to a history filled with beauty and texture, and deaf to those who value such things. How empty his soul must be, to deny Scotland her richness.

    So yes, I’m learning Gaelic, slowly. Gaelic is one of Scotland’s jewels.

    • Ealasaid says:

      Then may you have the pleasure when exploring our country of finding a shore-side village is not just another village when it dawns on you the Gaelic name means ” the place where Alasdair tied his boat”. It will make you look again at the shore-line wondering where about What kind of boat was it? What did he use it for? Who was Alasdair and when did he live? Was it a century ago or as far back as the Vikings?

      I also have a friend who sneered at my learning some Gaelic. But on holiday in the Cairngorms she told me that she would really like to find a place she had very happy memories of her family visiting when she was a child, but could not find again. She said it was a small lake in the Loch Morlich area where the water was clear and blue-green because of the minerals from the surrounding rocks. It was surrounded by white sandy beaches and a rocky mountainside towered over it. It did not take me long to find the Gaelic name on the map and get her there. It truly is a beautiful spot.

  36. G H Graham says:

    I spent much of my early adult life climbing mountains all over Scotland. Anyone with even half a brain can see from Ordnance Survey, ironically, an 18th century organisation established to help crush highland culture, their maps covered in Gaelic place names; mountains, corries, glens, rivers, crofts, hamlets with most major rivers, villages, towns & cities written in English.

    But Gaelic has been almost washed away by perceived British superiority that most people don’t even realise that the Clutha (more often spelt An Cluadhain) bar in Glasgow is actually the Gaelic name of the river to which it stands nearby, the Clyde.

    To those that sneer that Glasgwegians never spoke Gaelic, the bloody city’s name is the combination of two Gaelic words making Ghlaschu, which means green hollow or place. But a random survey of residents of the city would likely draw a blank stare & a whiff of indifference. Yet, without knowledge of the Gaelic source, the words Glasgow & Clyde are in themselves, completely meaningless.

    Meanwhile, Murial Gray’s programme featuring her jolly jaunts across the Munroes was invariably interrupted by grainy, professorial lectures from a pedantic old man correcting her bastardised pronunciations. The propaganda was far from subtle; according to STV, it takes an old Gael close to his own death to explain a language that’s already dead.

    And surely that was partly the point of the cultural whitewashing by the British; to eradicate the association of Gaelic language with people, place & time so that an anodyne, yet conforming society could be “managed” by London to suit it’s expansionist ambitions.

    Sadly, tens of thousands of Gaels signed up to this fool’s gold, social contract; a small fixed income, a fancy military uniform & a free holiday somewhere within the exotic British Empire, armed only with some stale rations & a musket, led of course by a superior English aristocrat.

    Today, appearances by generals invited on to the telly to advise viewers about superior British capability in the Middle East for example, reveals that it is still those with plummy, south of England accents & pompous titles, who still get to decide in which direction to send the cannon fodder.

    Finding any empathy in London is like asking Jacque Cousteau to find shrimp in a McDonald’s salad.

  37. partialtrust says:

    I’m all for spending money on keeping Gaelic and Scots alive as spoken and written languages, they are essential components of our history and culture.

    But how far do you take things? For example, in Ireland if you want to become a fully qualified primary school teacher you have to speak Irish fluently. You need to pass exams (written and spoken) and spend time at a Gaelscoil all at your own expense – and it’s not cheap. Having lived in Ireland I can tell you that this limits and influences your choice of teacher. Excellent teachers are overlooked in favour of mediocre ones just because they are native Irish speakers. That’s plain wrong. Primary school education is such a fundamental starting point for children. I think I’d rather have my kids taught the fundamentals of numeracy and literacy well (in english) by enthusiastic well educated non-Irish speaking teachers than some of the dullards that creep into the system just because they have Irish.

    Though you can opt out, school leavers in Ireland need to have Irish on their leaving certificates if they want to have any chance of getting into most of Ireland’s premier universities and colleges. I used to wonder why I bumped into so many Irish students undertaking technical/science/maths degrees in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh in my younger days. This is the reason why. Perfectly good maths and science oriented youngsters unable to participate in their own country’s higher education system because they were unable to get their heads around Irish. That’s not right.

    I’m all for funding Gaelic, Scots and Irish as living functioning languages. But cannot be at the expense of our children’s educations, which in the cold blue light of day need them to have fully functioning english language and numeracy skills, which sadly many don’t upon leaving primary school.

    Apologies for playing The Devil’s Advocate here.

  38. mealer says:

    Great work Paul.

  39. Pat says:

    I used to feel the same as Muriel Gray, thinking that it was a waste of money funding Gaelic programmes and that the language should be allowed to die a natural death. That was until I realised what a hypocrite I was. I studied Latin and Greek at school and have been keen on both ever since. When I was a primary teacher I encouraged children to be interested in these languages as well. I think it’s obvious where the hypocrisy lay! This was driven home to me when I travelled round the Highlands to discover that people still used Gaelic in everyday conversation.
    The school that Ms Gray attended, the High School of Glasgow, no doubt still forces pupils to learn Latin and Greek, even though they will never find a place that speaks either, unless they want to be a cardinal in the Vatican. Strangely, I’ve never heard Ms Gray say anything about this. But, then, I suppose it’s none of our business, it being an ‘independent’ school. The school, though, probably has charitable status and pays no tax on earnings, so the rest of us are, effectively, helping to fund it. How about it Ms Gray – should the Classics be abolished in your alma mater? Oh, and ask your Unionist pal, JK Rowling, why her books are published in Latin and not Scottish Gaelic!

    • G H Graham says:

      I used read & speak Latin but it was near impossible for a Glaswegian, raised by protestant bigots to even think of meeting the Pope, the only person I knew of, who I could actually converse with. “Learn this. Can’t speak with that man though.” How fucked up is that?

      Yet, I was never even told that Gaelic existed when I was at school. Instead, I was also taught French.

      Sadly, this widespread cringe at own culture & the side show of insidious religious & social bigotry is still at work today.

      And much of the cultural cringe is a direct consequence of the invasive reach of the BBC’s endless propaganda & the London based Establishment’s perspective of Scotland which the BBC propagate with delirious self gratification.

  40. Tinto Chiel says:

    This is one of your best cultural articles, Paul, and absolutely spot-on. Steve Asaneilean’s comments were also excellent. Hats off to Pat and GHG too, in particular.

    Unfortunately, I know plenty of trendy, would-be Socialist West Enders who would love to feed the world with any amount of organic quinoa but give them a sight of a Gaelic place-name on a rail sign and they start to froth at the mouth. Think of the cost! It was only spoken in the highlands! The politics of the past and grievance! Muriel and her painful cringe encapsulate their hypocrisy.

    Ironically, they research their proud Irish roots and have multiplied organisms all over the place about a smidgen of Irish ancestry. They just don’t seem to get the contradiction, and I speak as a proud great grandson of a Donegal man who came to Lanarkshire in 1850.

    All this is just another example of the “othering” of Gaelic and Scots by the British Establishment which has been going on for centuries. It tries to demean, marginalise and trivialise our two great cultures. At least now I think more and more Scots are wise to what is going on with Muriel’s Nonsense. I find both her self-loathing and toadying to the Anglophone State really repellent.

    I feel better now.


  41. Ian Dendy says:

    For me the “go to guy” on the disappearance of languages is Wade Davis , referenced here is a Massey Lecture, he starts talking about this subject 4 minutes in (if you dont want hear the other stuff but really worth a hearing)

  42. I like the Gaelic signs. I am not a Gaelic speaker but my family on both sides used to be, before being cleared out of Mull, to the central belt.

    Scotland has this richness, this uniqueness, this inalienable ‘otherness’ which no-one could expunge, although many tried.
    Other countries are equally unique of course. In Australia, there are signs in English & Aborigine e.g. Ayers Rock/Uluru. I’m sure Gray wouldn’t dream of publishing a similar comment, whilst in Australia, suggesting, snidely, that Aborigines would be lost without the signs to ‘Uluru’.

  43. My Grandad was a Gaelic speaker from Argyllshire. When he was at school he (and all those around him who were also Gaelic speakers as a mother tongue) would be beaten for speaking the language in school. It made him a supporter of the SNP and independence for life. Sadly he died when I was only 6 so I never got to learn any Gaelic from him – I remember his dog was called “girl” in Gaelic, I think, and him saying a few words. We grew up knowing none at all despite having it so recent in our family history.

    The British state, and those who administered for them in Scotland, should be apologising and making amends for having done that to his generation and no doubt many before them, not defending that and saying “oh well it’s now a dead language.” One thing the sneering apologists are achieving is making me really want to learn Gaelic and be able to speak in my Grandfather’s language. Maybe once I’m back from Russia and no longer having to attempt to learn that – it may even seem easy after that!

  44. Dan Huil says:

    Some Scots still believe the best way to impress their English chums is to do down all things Scottish.

  45. Hugh Reid says:

    Add Esperanto to the linguistic diversity of Scotland. William Auld, until he died in 2006, was the greatest living Esperanto poet. His lifelong friend John Francis, who died in 2012, wrote one of the best novels I’ve ever read, “La Granda Kaldrono”, set in Glasgow during the first and second world wars. Currently work is underway to translate it into English.

  46. Ken Waldron says:

    An excellent piece. What a wordsmith you are: pertinent, serious and yet humorous…a rare combination.

  47. Les Wilson says:

    What we have right now is simply the Better together crew and I include all the MSM in that, belitting anything the SNP do, in order to lie their way to stealing votes in our 2016 election. They are below the gutter and we should take apart all the lies and deceit they make.

    As far as the language goes, it has to be kept, a reminder of who we are and what our roots were.
    It has an effect, in that people are showing more interest in Gaelic, and so they should.

    As an example, I never really had an interest in it before, but now that is more discussed, I feel that even now, would like to know the basics of it. I am sure there will be many others who feel that way too, and that I am in no way unique in this regard.

    We need to be proud of our heritage, we need not apologise for doing so, Gaelic is part of that.

    Well done here Paul.

  48. […] Languages on Newsnet Scotland. And interestingly, he pre-empts the Rev’s post with thoughts more in line with my thinking from a post a few days […]

  49. […] were it not for the Gaels. This is something that was touched on by Wee Ginger Dug in a wonderful post, written when the Gaelic snark seemed to be building up its bizarre head of steam. One thing not […]

  50. jaykayg says:

    Although I am American, I have always been in love with Scotland, even as a little girl. I guess it must be my ancestors calling to me. Gaelic is such a beautiful language, the way Gaelic speakers express themselves is so much more descriptive than English. Especially the lazy English we Americans use, which I never realized until I started learning Gaelic and listening to Gaelic music. I hope those of you who support teaching Gaelic will be able to overcome those who would kill off a beautiful part of Scottish heritage.

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