Among the ‘critics’ of Gaelic I have observed over the last few years, there appears to be a large number of avid watchers of old episodes of the children’s cartoon,‘Dangermouse’.

Most oddly, among the latter, they appear to be addicted to the Gaelic version, renamed – I think! – ‘Donnie Murdo’. They are able to sing its theme tune and quote what they believe to be large swatches of its dialogue, albeit in fluent and mocking ‘Teuchterese’:

Itch-heederumhoderum – helicopter – eeenimeeniminimo- ochayethenoo…’

For decades, I have learned to grin through gritted teeth at such tired and offensive clichés. However, their use of the word ‘helicopter’ always creases me up. A large number of monoglots I have met during my decades on this planet seem to suffer from a fixation on this particular word or the programme in which they appear to hear it. One can only imagine that it must be part of either an ‘Edinburgh Evening News’ columnist or a stand-up comic’s favourite routine, the repetition of ‘itch-heeeheederumhoderum – helicopter – eeenimeeniminimo- ochayethenoo’ one of the few moments in their act apparently guaranteed to have them giggling in Glasgow, screeching in Stirling, or bringing the house down in Huntly. (Clearly it doesn’t take much to crack them up in the nation’s capital, but that’s another story, one that I’ll keep to the end of this article.)

When I finally manage to put a halt to their hysterics, I always try and question them about their obsession with the word, ‘helicopter’. They giggle, snort, spill their coffee cups on their laps a few times before they give any kind of explanation.

‘It’s so funny to hear an English word among all these strange sounds. I mean, you hear ‘itch-heederumhoderum-ochayethenoo’ – and thenyou hear ‘helicopter’. I mean,-hee! hee! hee! – it’s hilarious! Ridiculous! Amusing! Hysterical! …’

And then they’re bending double once again, dampening and staining the crotches of their trousers/ jeans/ skirt with another large splash from their coffee cups …

It is hard for me to be sure if there are regular references to the word ‘helicopter’ in ‘Dangermouse’. It is not a TV programme I have watched too often, preferring to leave it to those monoglots who clearly find it a great intellectual challenge, particularly when it is broadcast in Gaelic. (I must confess I do have a faint recollection of a mouse swinging past on a rope, though that might just be a vision from some Friday night misspent in my teens as I seem to recall a bald hedgehog and a candy-striped elephant from that particular period too. Perhaps someone could enlighten me.) However, I do take issue with their claim it is an English word. A quick flick through my dictionary reveals that it is not.

It is, in fact, Greek. The prefix ‘heli’ is based on that language’s word for ‘screw’. (Sorry! That’s a thousand cups of coffee spilled across the entire stretch of Scotland once again. Drycleaners are poised to make a fortune.) The remainder is based on that same tongue’s term for ‘wings’. In this way, it’s the same as thousands of words imported into English from other tongues. No doubt it even passes the lips of such fine upstanding characters as ‘Dzielna Musen’ (Polish), ‘Dundermusen’ (Swedish), and ‘Dare Dare Motus’ (French). Who knows? Perhaps they come out with lines that sound vaguely like ‘Itch-heederum-hoderum – helicopter’ too?

Lately, I have encountered another individual who appears to be yet another keen viewer of ‘Dangermouse’. Coming out with similar lines of dialogue to the ones that are reputedly often heard in the programme is John Gibson, the columnist for the ‘Edinburgh Evening News’. On the 2nd of October,he begins what passes in this particular newspaper for a debate about Gaelic spending with what are apparently both the language and a certain cartoon character’s favourite phrases, ‘itch-heederum-hodorum’ and ‘itch- ochaythenoo.’. Unsurprisingly, the ‘argument’ that he puts forward is as tired as his expression, attacking the cost of translating documents into Gaelic, hitting us all (Ian Durie style) with his shinty stick. It is best summed up by the headline that was given to his column that day – ‘Going To The Dogs’. Och-aye, your writing most certainly is, John.

Yet what is even more surprising is the defence of John Gibson’s column by the Deputy Editor, Euan McGrory. Rather than accept that the writer’s piece is not a masterpiece in terms of either its tact or mastery of the English language, he mounts an extraordinary defence of it in an exchange of letters with Arthur Cormack of Feisean nan Gaidheal. He makes a few pedantic point about ‘race’, defends Mr Gibson’s right to launch a swingeing attack on Gaelic speakers with his shinty stick. When Arthur makes the not unreasonable point that such a column would not be written about, say, the Irish or Pakistani minority, Mr McGrory, for instance, notes in a letter of 2nd October that:

‘in cases such as this, context is everything and the context to remarks about Gaelic is completely different to that surrounding Irish nationality and Urdu. Sadly pejorative remarks about Irish people have to be understood in Scotland against a background including letter bombs and death threats, while those about Urdu have to be understood in the knowledge of recent cases of violent race-hate crime. Happily, the circumstances of Gaelic speakers in this country are far less disturbing.’

One can only conclude from this that, according to the impeccable logic of Euan McGrory, insulting people is fine if there are no violent recriminations. Woe betide us if there are…

And so the correspondence has continued until recently when it petered out and died away, leaving unanswered the various questions that Arthur Cormack had asked. They include the following;

‘What justification, would you offer, in light of various laws and in a tolerant 21st century Scotland, were Gaels, their language and culture denigrated in a newspaper column?’

‘Would your paper publish a column that dismissed the cost of producing publications in various languages by, for example, the health boards which seek to make the health service accessible to people in Scotland who use languages other than English?

‘What justification would you offer, in light of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 confirming Gaelic as an official language of Scotland, were a column to be published flouting that law by showing disrespect towards that language and mocking those who speak it?’

Yet still the silence continues. One can only wonder what Mr McGrory hopes to gain from this. Perhaps, he, too, is trapped in an episode of ‘Dangermouse’ and is hoping for a ‘itch -chaheeeheederumhoderum – helicopter’ to hover above his head and whisk him away from trouble.

If so, he should be reminded that this only happens in the world of children’s cartoons.

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  1. I’m neither a “fan” nor “critic” of the Gaelic language (assuming you can be); given that my family history is grounded in Edinburgh, Lothian and eastern Borders where Gaelic was historically very little spoken, that is hardly surprising. I’m pretty sure that there are more Gaelic speakers in the Scottish capital than at any time in its history, but we’re still talking a small number; some people, even a scrawny old journo like John Gibson, obviously feel it’s a legitimate concern whether the translation costs he was referring to are really money well-spent, especially as more people in the Scottish capital are likely to speak Polish or the languages of the Indian subcontinent than the Scottish Highlands.

    But… The heart of the problem that Donald Murray points out is certainly prejudice; it’s the belief that Gaelic is not worth supporting with public money because it’s seen as no longer fit for purpose; that, because it has to import all those “modern” late 20th/early 21st century words like “television” and “helicopter”, it’s a medieval relic, unsuited to meeting modern people’s communication needs. To which the obvious response, of course, is (and always was): “Well, when the English language comes up with its own word for ‘spaghetti’, you might have a point.”

    All living languages beg, borrow and steal the vocabulary of others; especially a voracious, predatory language like English which (on the back of the 19th century British and 20th century American empires) has appropriated words, expressions and even intonations from around the globe. (Either that, or it’s made them up by sticking bits of Latin and Greek together, much to the annoyance of linguistic purists like the late Gore Vidal). This is so ubiquitous a process that it’s invisible; only when the phenomenon operates the other way is it noticeable, and somehow the need to use others’ terminology suddenly becomes a weakness rather than a linguistic strength.

  2. seanfod says:

    People like John Gibson and Euan McGrory should be treasured and preserved. They come from that rapidly vanishing country called Monoglot Island. Euan McGrory’s apology has also given me, as an Irishman, a million reasons to attack the English language which I won’t take up because I’m fluent in it – and love it and our hybrid version of it.

  3. Here in the Borders where historically Gaelic has never been spoken by the natives we are having Gaelic foisted upon us in Government literature and signage. Even our limited TV & Radio services have been cut further to provide bandwidth for BBC Alba, a pointless exercise in a region where at the 2001 census there were only around 370 Gaelic speakers. I’d rather have my Radio 4, Radio 2 and ITV 3 & 4 back than unintelligible rubbish being broadcast to no-one at all.

    1. ampocarbuile says:

      Excuse me, but if it’s ‘unintelligible’, how do you know it’s rubbish? The critical point is surely not the existence of Gaelic-language programming, but the scandalous under-provision of programming relating to the culture of Scotland, not to mention the absolute absence of broadcasting in Scots. Returning to the Borders after a long absence, I am shocked at the near-total absence of Scottish TV programmes, apart from BBC Alba.

    2. Tris says:

      Is every language except English unintelligible rubbish, or is it just one of our native languages that fits that bill?

    3. Tocasaid says:

      Rubbish? Aye, how would you know?

      And, how do you know that ‘Gaelic has never been spoken by the natives’ in the Borders? Have you got evidence for it? I wonder where all the Gaelic placenames come from then? Or were they ‘foisted’ upon ‘English speaking’ or ‘Welsh speaking (!!!) Borderers hundreds of years ago.

      Lastly, are you really telling us that you don’t have acces to Radios 4 and 2 as well as ITV 3 and 4??

      S trom an t-uallach aineolas.

  4. KOF says:

    ‘in cases such as this, context is everything and the context to remarks about Gaelic is completely different to that surrounding Irish nationality and Urdu. Sadly pejorative remarks about Irish people have to be understood in Scotland against a background including letter bombs and death threats, while those about Urdu have to be understood in the knowledge of recent cases of violent race-hate crime. Happily, the circumstances of Gaelic speakers in this country are far less disturbing.’
    Get that Crann Tara light and we’ll have a good old fashioned Highland knees up, shall we?!

  5. Piobaire says:

    Gaelic never spoken in the Borders by the natives? Drivel. Please explain the Gaelic placenames in Allendale, Northumberland and the use of the word “Lough” (pronounced, “Luff” and just a mutation of Loch, as it was in Ireland.) to describe a body of water. It may not have been extensive, granted, and was almost certainly transitory, but it was spoken. Look at Cumbria, for goodness sake, it’s full of Gaelic names. Also, check out W J Watson’s, General Survey of Lothian in “The Celtic Placenames of Scotland”. Gaelic names all over the place, some now disappeared from record, as one would expect with continuing linguistic overlay, in this case, English. Please remember Professor William Ferguson’s quote, from his 1998 work, “The Identity of the Scottish Nation”. “The the origin of the Scottish nation is not in any detectable measure Pictish, British, Anglian or Norse, as the Declaration of Arbroath made very clear: Scottish identity clearly and evidently evolves from the Gaelic tradition of Ireland as received, develped and modified in Scotland”. Without Gaelic, there wouldn’t have been a “Scotland”. The Gaels were the Scots of the Latin period. The country was named after them. That’s historical fact. If we lose Gaelic, who the hell are we then?

  6. Lachie Macquaire says:

    My father was beaten if he spoke Gaelic at school, should he have been? My children now enjoy being educated in a Gaelic Medium Unit in Argyll, maybe my father will be doing the happy version of spinning in his grave? At least I like to think so. Ni bhéarfainn broim dreólín ar dhuilleog cuillin agus is beag an puth gaoth é sin?

  7. Lachie Macquaire says:

    Mr Gibson appears to have form on being racist against us savages??

  8. I grew up in Perthshire surrounded by Gaelic placenames but in a school where Gaelic was banned even though we had a fluent native speaker already employed as a teacher, and a winner of the Bardic Crown at the National Mod too. However, despite my family coming from East Lothian I decided to learn Gaelic. I am surprised by arguments about “not traditionally spoken here”. I was lucky enough to be able to go back a whopping 24 generations and every single Cockburn before me was in the Lothians and Berwickshire. Yet despite this history I found my self not constrained by it even though I wonder how “Duns” in East Lothian got its name if it wasn’t from Gaelic. Nonetheless I got a bit of a surprise a few weeks ago when I found that 12 generations ago a family member married a descendent of the first King of Scotland (Kenneth MacAlpin / Coinneach mac Ailpein) ie a Gaelic speaker. So this whole “Historically not spoken in my family” as an argument just collapses in on itself. I chose not to be constricted by what appeared to be my exclusively Lowland past, yet it turns out, like I’m sure nearly everyone in Scotland, we are descended from a Gaelic speaker and just like today Gaelic speakers are spread throughout Scotland in varying numbers. The whole argument of “not in my family” or “not historically spoken here” reminds me too much of Nazi Germany or the BNP and trying to keep things “pure”. I’m not for it at all, we are a composite country, almost all descended from Gaelic speakers, nearly all of us living near a Gaelic speaker and most Scots consider Gaelic to be important to the nation as a whole. Its up to us what future we want for Gaelic and not to constrain it by what happened in the comparatively recent past. It is appalling by the Evening News that do not give Gaelic at least the consideration and support that non native languages are accorded because of race law. If Gaelic dies out in Scotland it dies out everywhere and therefore needs particular support.

    1. Scott says:

      “we are a composite country, almost all descended from Gaelic speakers”

      See what you did there? ‘We’ are Scots by descent, i.e. blood, and it is through our Scottish blood-lines that we’re connected to speakers of Gaelic. I’m afraid the vast majority of Gaelic revivalist discourse conflates language and ‘race’ in this way, which is why it makes such an awkward fit with Scottish post-nationalism (where ethnicity drops out of the equation).

  9. Daibhidh says:

    It always amuses me when people like Apocalypse make wild claims about Gaelic being ‘foisted’ upon them simply because it appears on a sign or in a pamphlet…get over yourself you small-minded monoglot…no one is foisting anything oanyone…don’t read the Gaelic version if it offends you, not that you probably can read it anyhow…are you one of these people who speaks English slowly in a patronising allo allo accent when in France? I’m from Edinburgh, I speak Gaelic. Why should I not have access to Gaelic media in the lowlands as well as highlands? This is my country and Gaelic is my language, it should be able to use it across the land and not have English foisted upon me, which is the only linguistic foisting that does go on here…

    1. Scott says:

      “This is my country and Gaelic is my language, [I] should be able to use it across the land and not have English foisted upon me, which is the only linguistic foisting that does go on here…”

      So long it’s possible to substitute any ‘non-native’ language for Gaelic in this sentence, more power to yer elbow. But in no way is English a foreign imposition on Scotland.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        I agree Scott, though I’ve never detected any form of exclusiveness around gaelic language advocacy. We should not have to choose between access to our own culture and openess to others. In few other countries would one of our main indigenous languages and cultures be excluded after such sustained historical persecution and marginalisation. It’s not that English is foisted on us today, but you do recognise the historical context of this debate?

  10. Lachie Macquaire says:

    English was foisted on a large proportion of the Gàidhealtachd. Getting a smack seems quite close to foistation does it not? The establishment in Edinburgh and latterly in the British state has not been conducive to culture of the Gaels The Scottish Parliament is now trying to right the wrongs made over many hundreds of years that has undermined the language and the speakers of the language.. Ach well, I am doubly blighted, I have the Scottish Cringe with the, “wish I could speak Gaelic Cringe”, adding to my woes.

  11. Disco says:

    It might interest everyone to know that the Gaelic word for helicopter is ‘Rothalan’ (m). Donnie Murdo didn’t have to use helicopter at all.

  12. pmcrek says:

    Looks like a classic case of “.. the French have no word for entrepreneur.”

  13. CW says:

    Anyone who ponders all of the world’s innumerable problems and decides that one of our priorities should be to bully a vulnerable cultural minority is ethically a very dubious character indeed.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      So stupid, pointless, ahistorical and petty.


  14. Gordon Taggart says:

    I’m afraid the blog is mixing up it’s programmes. Donnie Murdo may have had “helicopter” in the script but the “joke” referred to is usually known from the old Grampian TV’s Gaelic news programme, where the use of “helicopter” was frequent. “Caledonian MacBrayne” was another. As a non-Gaelic speaker, it was (slightly) amusing to hear a word or phrase I knew, in the middle of what is a different language to my main language spoken.

    IMHO, the Gaelic language spending and decline or resurgence are completely different matters. They are the result of a historical abuse of the use and users of Gaelic throughout history; the “divide & conquer” technique used to great effect in Scotland. The journalist’s article is just another example and clearly, he has swallowed the propaganda.

    I’m sure foreign language speakers find the use of some of their words in English to be amusing, or slightly strange, or offensive or any combination?

    It doesn’t help to try & use that as a stick to beat the non-Gaelic speakers, or berate what they find funny.
    Vive la difference!

    1. Donald says:

      I did confess I never watched ‘Donnie Murdo’! A writer is only as good as his sources. In this case, it’s monoglots who appear to suffer from a fixation on the programme and, especially, the word ‘helicopter’ in the dialogue. If in some cases, they are unable to tell the difference between Gaelic news TV programme and a childrens’ cartoon, it’s yet another illustration of the effect that being a monoglot has on the human mind. I would have thought that those employed by the Edinburgh ‘Evening News’ are a more than ample indication of its danger5s.

  15. thisgreenworld says:

    The (increasingly) visible presence of Gaidhlig in Scotland (whether on TV or in road or railway signs) is – to me – about connecting the people with the land, about creating a distinctive visible identity for Scotland/Alba, and about reminding us that every language sees and describes the world in subtly different ways. All of these are surely things that are worthy goals for the future of our country: Land and People are interdependent; Scotland IS a different place from all other countries; There is no such thing as purity of blood or language or race, but all of us are mongrel humans in the fabric of the nation.
    All languages, foods, musics and so on are stews of multiple ingredients. Traditional Gaidhlig contains many basic loanwords from latin, french, norse, and others I haven’t come across yet.

    I was on the train today, coming north through Inverkeithing/Inbhir Chèitinn (with it’s bilingual signs – see http://www.scot-rail.co.uk/page/Gaelic+Station+Names) and I wondered why the announcements and signs inside the trains are not bilingual, as they are with CalMac…My Gaidhlig is dolumach, but it fills me with a special pleasure when I see and hear it in my country.

    1. Lachie Macquaire says:

      Well said. dolamuch? Wretched? I can’t find it in Dwellys.
      I don’t travel by train much but aren’t the stations north and west of Inverness announced bilingually?

  16. John Campbell says:

    “When Arthur makes the not unreasonable point that such a column would not be written about, say, the . . . minority”

    There was no need for Arthur Cormack to mention any other minority and it was quite unreasonable for him to do so.

    By naming other minorities in Scotland and by affecting some familiarity with them, he encourages the same sort of displacement racism that he objects to from scum writers like Gibson.

    Gaelic isn’t threatened by any language other than English. That Arthur Cormack avoids that fact and unnecessarily introduces references to other minorities suggests that he supports those who have some sort of grudge against other minorities.

    The sort of “Why do they get everything and we get nothing?” snivelling and whining that draws attention away from the real problem — that so many monoglot speakers of English believe they have have a right to denigrate other languages and cultures.

    That Arthur refuses to address the problem of English monoglot xenophobia head on suggests that the pro Gaelic lobby is too weak or itself too anglicised to respond effectively to the main threat to the public status of their language.

    If he wanted to offer examples of ethnic stereotypes in an attempt to show the absurdity of anti-Gaelic xenophobia, he could have used the word “English”.

    Instead of that, he named other languages spoken by minorities in Scotland, claiming that they somehow have a better deal.

    That gave the anti-Gaelic clowns the chance to refer to these groups in an editorial.

    What do Cormack’s letters achieve?

    They leave him looking inept, perpetuate ethnic stereotyping of people who are no threat to Gaelic, allow anti-Gaelic displacement racism to have another crack of the whip in an editorial and they obscure the real threat.

    That might be excused of somebody genuinely naive, but the Gaelic lobby have been warned about this sort of mistake many times before.

    Some of them seem to have a special talent for appearing to be resolutely stupid.

    Arthur was for some years the Chairman of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, during which time that organisation doggedly avoided giving reasonable answers to reasonable questions asked in Gaelic in the Gaelic section of The Scotsman newspaper.

    The Scotsman group is a braid kirk and the Scotsman Gaelic section is the few places in the Scottish media where you will find pro-Gaelic criticism of the public bodies who have a duty to the language, the BBC Gaelic service having neglected this duty for so long that they can’t seem to ask any critical questions and the newspapers generally being so anti-Gaelic that they don’t want to know anything much about facts, any more than Gibson does.

    Questions such as how much was wasted on a social networking website mygaelic.com that nobody used? How much has the Scottish government spent on a language learning system, Ulpan, when the government of Israel, where it originated, has pulled funding on the grounds that the system doesn’t actually work?

    Why exactly was funding pulled from TAIC/ CNSA, regarded by international experts as one of the few successful language revitalisation organisations and one of the few examples of a genuine vol org in the Gaelic world?

    These are the kinds of questions that writers for The Scotsman group have raised in public, in English and in Gaelic.

    These are the kinds of questions that the Gaelic lobby generally have failed to respond to.

    It difficult to see Arthur’s letters as anything much beyond an empty displacement activity of the kind encouraged by popular social networking websites.

    1. seoncaimbeul says:

      Many thanks Bella, for approving an earlier posting from me on this topic.
      I see I was mistaken in assuming that the Evening News response was in an editorial. In fact it was part of an extensive private correspondence between Arthur Cormack and the paper’s Deputy editor. For some reason, Arthur has chosen to publish this correspondence online, rather than accept Euan McGrory’s invitation to write a letter for publication on the newspaper’s letters page.

      When viewed in this context (though we might wonder at some aspects of his defence of Gibson, as Donald S. Murray rightly points out), overall Euan McGrory’s response shows an exemplary level of patience and goodwill. Many other editors would have ignored Arthur’s demands for sight of edited copy of any letter before publication.

      The correspondence can be downloaded at

      When Euan McGrory’s comments are seen in context they appear to be a candid and honest appraisal of a complex of linguistic and ethnic issues.

      I think that they reveal some of the difficulties that Gaelic faces in the Scottish press and maybe therefore Arthur’s letters have achieved that much.

      But they leave him appearing petulant and unreasonable and they fail to address the real problem of ant-Gaelic prejudice.

      Gaelic isn’t threatened by other linguistic or racial minorities. It is threatened by English. Arthur is quite right to raise questions with editors and quite right to mention the Gaelic Act. But it is stupid and wrong to mention other minorities, as if “they” somehow get more than “us”.

      The Gaelic Act mentions two languages, English and Gaelic. Arthur should address the English question. Why allow English speakers like John Gibson to denigrate speakers of Gaelic? Why allow attitudes of English superiority to flourish in a multi-cultural Scotland?

      Reading between the lines of Euan McGrory’s rather candid response seems to suggest that it might be because Gaels are unable to defend themselves effectively.

      Arthur’s letters, in their mealy-mouthed refusal to address the real issues, merely confirm that view.

      1. Donald says:

        There are a number of points with which I agree in the above contribution. Gaels do find it difficult to defend themselves effectively against the way they are sometimes denigrated by the likes of John Gibson. There are a number of understandable reasons for this. The language of any people is precious to those who speak it. When people mock and cariacture it in the way that Gibson did in his column, there is a tendency to react emotionally to it, especially when we are instinctively aware that his kind of approach belongs to the children’s playground rather than a column in either a city or national newspaper. It is simply unacceptable for anyone to write about any language or its speakers by stringing a number of incoherent and meaningless phrases together on the page.

        And, for all the seven (or more) veils he dances behind in his correspondence with Arthur Cormack, Euan McGrory should be professional enough to be aware of this. This is particularly in view of something I was not aware of when I first read his column – John Gibson has a previous history of this kind of offensive approach to Gaels and their language. He said at that time ‘Let bygones be bygones’. What a pity he never had the dignity nor decency to practise what he preached.

  17. Ronald. says:

    Dolumach…(wretched)…you’ll find it in McAlpine.

  18. Semus says:

    I have struggled with Gaelic, but I do speak Czech where it is wry to hear such words in a Czech accent as Sendvíč for sandwich or švetr for sweater, but may tell you that over the last 30 years or so the Czech word Sadů for park has been completely replaced byt the Gaelic word Paírc or in Czech Park

  19. seoncaimbeul says:

    Tapadh leibh a Dhòmhnaill. Tha mi a’ tuigsinn glé mhath dé tha sibh ag ràdh agus a tha sibh glé cheart. Aig ceann gnothaichean ‘s e faireachdainn a tha cunntadh. Tha bleigeardan leithid Gibson air a bhith cur sìos air na Gaidheil agus an cànan bho chionn ceudan de bhliadhnachan agus tha deasaichean làn dheònach am brosnachadh agus an dion.

    You are quite right Donald. Editors of English newspapers will defend the likes of Gibson to make what are essentially racist attacks on Gaelic and their language. It seems clear that the real targets of their attacks are not the Gaels though but other minorities and that they are allowed and encouraged to use the Gaels as a sort of dummy target. Displacement racism.

    It might be easy to understand how an ordinary Gaelic speaker might react emotionally to this. But Arthur isn’t an ordinary Gaelic speaker. He was for a good number of years chairman of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, during which time that organisation was offered every encouragement by the Scottish government to tackle the problem of the anti-Gaelic English press in Scotland.

    The minister for Gaelic, Alasdair Allan, has written letters to editors making it clear that reasoned criticism is to be encouraged and welcomed and but that prejudice is to be deplored.

    The Gaelic Act makes some attempt to seek “parity of esteem” between Gaelic and English.

    English is what threatens Gaelic. English racist beliefs and values continue to support ant-Gaelic attacks.

    To make repeated references to other minorities and to offer caricatures of them suggests some resentment, not against English racism, but against those other minorities and perpetuates the same sort of displacement racism.

    One reason bullies of any kind keep doing what they do it because they get away with it.

    Another reason is that they enjoy the power, enjoy seeing the victim squirm.

    The Gaelic lobby has been quite ineffectual in tackling the likes of Gibson.

    Ineptitude might explain some of it but I suspect that it is more because the images of middle-class status and success to which many professional Gaels aspire are so deeply connected with English beliefs and ideas that they would find it difficult, if not impossible, to change the terms of their engagement with those elements of the culture that seeks to destroy them.

    1. Tocasaid says:

      John Gibson is a racist and Tory. A Hibee too though that may not be connected.

      Attack him Seonaidh, not Donald Murray or Art MacCormaig.

      Cùm ort Art, an aghaidh mi-run mor nan Gall.

      1. seoncaimbeul says:

        Tocasaid , you say that “John Gibson is a racist and a Tory”

        Whatever Gibson is or is not isn’t the issue. It’s about how Gaelic is represented in the media, particularly the press, in Scotland.

        “Attack him”. Why would I want to attack him or anybody else?

        I would rather defend Gaelic.

        Strange that you suggest I might attack Donald Murray, the author of the article that allowed this discussion to happen.

        And that you see criticism of Arthur’s approach as some kind of “attack” on him.

        I see that Arthur has now written a neat letter to the Scotsman, defending Gaelic, rather than complaining that other minorities get more.


        To which I replied:-


        We need to have real debate on Gaelic, real scrutiny of the public bodies responsible for language revitalisation. We need to move it on so that the questions are about how Gaelic can be revitalised, not about whether it should or should not. We have all party support for Gaelic but the press in Scotland are still stuck in the past.

        Rather than complain in private about other minorities getting fairer treatment, why not respond directly and publicly to attacks on Gaelic with some opinions on English?

        You’ll see an example of what I mean in a letter published in the Edinburgh Evening News 14.11.12.

        Aye, the Edinburgh Weekly News. I offer it here as evidence that their editors are open to what they see as fair comment.

        No Respect Shown to Gaelic Tongue

        It is disappointing to note that your columnist John Gibson, (News October 10 th) , offers yet another unreasoned attack on Gaelic. Spending on Gaelic is modest. Gibson might reasonably ask if it delivers value for the language. Instead he chooses to denigrate its speakers.

        The Gaelic Language Act 2005 attempts to achieve some parity of esteem between Gaelic and English. We might wonder, though, what kind of respect Gaelic speakers can have for Gibson’s language, English, if he has none for theirs?

        English, the cant of corrupt politicians who conduct illegal wars and claim illegal expenses; the jargon of spaced out pilots who bomb innocents at worship and massacre wedding parties.

        English, the unfathomable babble of perverts, pederasts and popular entertainment; of cover-ups, show trials and the sleekit subversion of standards in public life.

        English, a stagnant culture of recycled radio drivel and rubbish TV, that parades skeletal models clothed in unaffordable fripperies while other women watch their children starve. A language that describes genocide as ‘famine’. The language of big business, bankers bonuses and, on Gibson’s example, bad journalism.

        John Campbell
        Oak Cottage

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