2007 - 2020

The Vernacular Gaelic Community in Crisis; A Liminal Perspective

As part of our ongoing series on gaelic language Jane Nicleoid from Lewis reports. 

I’m on the Isle of Lewis as we come out of lockdown and I have spoken only Gaelic today. I had a yarn with the dog but didn’t get much back and wrote a message in Gaelic to my daughter in Shetland. I spoke with a family friend for a while and then at length with his eighty-nine year old mother, as well as her young district nurse (GME educated in Inverness, Dad from Harris, still learning to say copantay instead of cooputee now that she’s based in Lewis). I’ve spoken with my home-counties-born niece and she has returned some remarks in her own diffident but excellent Gaelic. I’ve ‘spoken’ in writing with friends on whatsapp through Gaelic. Some are new friends whom I only know because of our mutual commitment to our shared language.

While I have not had to speak any language other than Gaelic today because we’re still in our lockdown bubble, I have read some Doric on a local facebook noticeboard page. The writer, perhaps emboldened to showcase his skills because of recent headlines, made a few jokes in the most glorious Aberdeenshire dialect of the tongue. The first comment beneath his post was predictable: ‘This is the HEBRIDEAN hub, speak English’. Many others from all manner of backgrounds chimed in to defend him I’m glad to say, but he had by then apologised and reverted to better English than that of his critic.

This is a microcosm of where we’re at most of the time in the islands, and while it’s a bit tiring it is truly not too terrible because today at least I can – as a Gael –  defend the Doric speaker’s right to free expression without myself being dubbed a racist. However, the only reason I feel that I can risk this, instead of fuming silently as I usually would while waiting for someone ‘neutral’ to speak up, is because of Professor O’ Giollagain and his team’s recent publication, The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community.  Hold that thought because I have another song to sing for you first. Let’s call it the song of the Liminal Hebridean Gael.

You might be familiar with liminality theory and you might not but it underpins and provides a framework on which hangs much of my own understanding of my cultural and linguistic group. Because I’m going to run on about it for a bit, here’s a thumbnail sketch.

The best way to consider liminality in process is by picturing a group marked out as ‘other’ by the mainstream. They are of place but without utility within the mainstream’s hierarchies. They are excluded and sent to undertake a liminal journey of transformation in seclusion but still nearby. Stripped of identity and familiar social props they endure trials and go on to consolidate as a group. Importantly there is guidance towards growth by a master of ceremonies, usually a trusted elder. This processual journey leaves them denuded of old certainties, disassociated from their past selves and eventually much wiser to the ways of the world than when they departed.

At this point restorative ritualised practices begin, led by the trusted elder and culminating in a ceremonial return to the mainstream. They emerge from liminality appreciative of the ways of the main. They understand its rules and they know their value.  This is how the process works to integrate the divergent into the mainstream. So far so good. Sometimes however the liminal journey succeeds so completely that there is no individualism left. So, perhaps a little too far and not so good. Even the most uncritical mind will conclude that the variable outcomes for the group are likely to be determined as good or bad depending upon where you yourself stand in relation to the Hegemony. Everyone has a stance, each and every one of us.

Having understood the model, let’s go on to exemplify liminality in a way that will be readily familiar. Think of a cohort of university undergraduates still in their late teens. It’s their first time away from home and they’re moving past the bumpy ride of Freshers week towards that first broadside: the narky essay comment from a credentialed and published academic, then onwards through countless deadlines. Watch them as they progress towards insights and synthesis of existing theory, perhaps even towards the origination of new ideas, certainly towards application and mastery of critical skills before finally we see them graduate, ready and able to engage usefully with the systems that society has put in place for its own security and growth. That’s the liminal process at its best.

The lens of liminality can also make sense of the processes of individuals,  of cultural and social groups, and of entire political systems besides. That in-between condition of liminality is of itself no bad thing. It enriches us and is to be found in every society; indeed it is often behind the limen that the most interesting and progressive cultural and inter-personal expressions are nurtured and first given voice.

Also in this series:

A Child’s Eye View of Language Revitalisation

Bithibh coma – stop being so polite

Gaelic and the Hebrides are Valuable

There can be a different outcome to the process though:  those who are ‘other’ sometimes continue as a liminal group; they splinter and disappear into the spaces in-between. This happens because they and the mainstream remain poles apart. Sometimes geographic separation is the reason, sometimes bad leadership of the process is responsible, and sometimes the aesthetic dimensions of the group are so divergent from the demands of the main that everyone prefers it that way. They are seldom heard from again but are oft-times mythologised and spoken of as ‘other’. The Hebridean Gaels could be considered one such group for all of the given reasons and more.

We’re now a little closer to understanding the theory’s utility for framing and addressing our challenges but we’re not quite there yet. The next part of liminality theory is rather more negative and I won’t dwell on its generalised markers for too long. In this negative expression of the theory there are tricksters disguised as wise elders, there is failure of ritual and symbol,  there is command rather than trust and compliance, there is schismogenesis and permanent liminality and the largely voiceless disaffection that that brings. Are you still with me?

Okay, here we go then. I’m sure you saw it coming. Hebridean Gaels have been on a liminal journey like no other for the best part of a century; journeys within journeys within journeys in fact. Early interventions by language planners were often misguided and heavy-handed, the sensitivities of pre-existing social and educational inequalities were exploited to render speakers submissive and mute. The elders, such as they were, mere shadow-men cowed by the overwhelming rectitude of experts who did not respect or like them or us. Everyone except us was permitted a voice and an opinion on what we were doing wrong. Almost anyone else who wished it could research us but we were not trusted to examine our own position and any desire to do so was dubbed nativist. We were deemed unsuited to leading ourselves, unfit to manage our own lands and resources besides. Because of this not so historic experience, many islanders are now alienated from the language and from much else besides. Having said that, a culture cannot easily be separated from its language nor a language from its culture however much of an inconvenience our continuing existence might be, so there is still hope.

Things have improved in recent years, the initial madness of the fabled Gaelic millions has long since died down, the development agency egos have subsided and gone into retirement never to be heard of again, who can even remember their names now? TV as embodied by BBC Alba has normalised and is no more than an everyday presence like Isles FM, nothing fancy. There are adequate online resources for people who move here to enable learning the language to proficiency, something that was far from true for the longest time, and something which means that we can genuinely think of using Gaelic in public again without excluding those who are new to our communities.

There is much that is well organised by practitioners to promote and support the language, but perhaps within that formalised promotion the language is confined and constrained from evolving naturally because we just got so used to being chided and told that our way was the wrong way. Historic institutional critique has without question left families doubting themselves and choosing to leave Gaelic to the schools because their confidence in the value of intergenerational transmission has dwindled, as Cassie Smith-Christmas has shown. The external gaze is ever with us and we resist with everything we have. It feels as if Gaelic, our mother tongue, is owned by those who pander to the Hegemony and that we have been elbowed aside as not quite fast enough, not quite greedy enough or pushy enough or empowered enough to survive the dividing up of the cultural and linguistic spoils. In resisting the brain-washing we end up triggered by our now ambivalent relationship with Gaelic.

It was the humblest among us who kept the language alive through the long hard years, and in the subsequent glare of language promotion and revitalisation efforts founded on prestige and ideology, that rooted and positive liminality was largely lost. All teenagers take a break from Gaelic while they come to terms with themselves, their liminality just seems to be a universal truth. That was okay when there was an informal language system that they could hook themselves into upon their return as young adults or young parents, but that system has fragmented. We need to bring it back to vibrant life, to mould and model it consciously, to mark our engagement with it as part of a daily self-evaluation, but only we know how that should look and feel and sound.

Because of this, only those researchers who live and work in the Gaidhealtachd are taken seriously because only they will still be here once the media furore has died down. I can easily position for others Gordan Camshron as the guy with the flute from upsouth who does all those Norman MacLean recordings; Caoimhin O Donaille as the clever techy geek from Skye who routinely downs anti-Gaelic trolls on Twitter with the gentlest and deadliest of side-swipes; Conchur O’ Giollagain as the Inverness professor with the funny first name that no-one is sure how to pronounce but who’s been here a good while. This is only one of the reasons, besides its obvious veracity, that we accept the authority of the work and are buoyed if a little daunted by its recommendations. The writing is self-aware and the co-authors interrogate the assumptions of their scholarly field and critically examine overarching legislation and mechanisms of state, and they do so in the defence of an over-scrutinised and under-represented language minority. This is, to say the least, unusual.

Our current context of crisis as laid out by O’ Giollagain et al makes for sobering reading but for many it simply confirms what we have long suspected, that the language is on its knees communally and even domestically. Despite being, let’s face it, pretty niche, the research was reviewed widely in the mainstream press on publication and then discussed in the broadcast media nationally and locally, so everyone here is cognizant of at least the gist of it, and that on its own is something new. The socio-linguists who usually interrogate and interpret our culture and ‘language ideologies’ would be horrified if they truly perceived their limited reach at community level. If I were to name a few well-meaning souls of my own acquaintance the list would draw no more than a blank gaze and a polite nod from any of the people I’ve spoken to today. They come, they frame some questions pertinent to their field and their funding, sometimes they listen for specific tropes and indicators, then they go away again, and nothing really comes of it, for us at least. They may be superstars in their own small circles but they seldom even exist for us as a people.

There is rarely a right of reply or an equivalent framing from the vernacular community perspective of how our challenges should be researched and interrogated in order to be of actual material help, or of how often research falls short or is expedient and driven by tenured professors many institutional levels above the often short-contract field-researcher or student holding the mic. Because of this I have long made a point of never introducing visiting socio-linguists to my family however likeable those visitors might be because honestly who would expose their loved ones in that way?

Clearly I have a native perspective on this and through my education a cultural studies perspective and as a Gaelic teacher an educator’s perspective. Whether any of this chimes with the scholarly literature of socio-linguists and language planners elsewhere is neither here nor there because this research resonates with my lived reality and with the theoretical tools with which I choose to frame it. While there is no peace or relief in this yet because of the persistence of our external framing by adherents of monolithic institutions, there is now at least some hope of agency, some permission to act in our own interests and towards our own survival.

How do we bring ourselves out of our enduring liminalities? In the first place, we do so through reclaiming and harnessing our creative expression and giving voice to the multiplicity of experiences and perspectives that make up our mercurial whole. I believe that it is from this process that the desire, what we would call the ‘miann’, for engagement will come. It is time for us to have a good long talk about what needs healing and putting right before we go on to speak our truth for others. For some, that talking might well begin through English – or for that matter Doric –  until we gain or regain connection with the daily use of the islands’ mother tongue in all her messy and idiomatic glory.

There is some effective infrastructure in place to enable that re-emergence of the language into day to day life, as well as to facilitate the inclusion of new speakers locally, but it must not dictate our direction nor our individual and collective expression. We have to find our own way out of this because we no longer trust anyone else to know better than ourselves how to re-activate the native language of our islands.

Our  determination has to come from the grass-roots, and the language-planning infrastructure if it is to persist in the islands must scaffold and support the original Gaelic community towards their own ends as it has done for so many new communities of learner Gaels elsewhere. Otherwise where is the point of that infrastructure or the justification for the wider undertaking? If Gaelic now belongs to everyone then surely that means that it still belongs to us as well?

Comments (36)

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  1. Preston Parkes says:

    What a beautiful place lewis is in the outer Hebrides and also nice to hear gaelic spoken

    1. Jane NicLeoid says:

      It really is, and thankfully we’ve got a few visitors able to enjoy it with us again. Thank you for your kind words. Let’s hope that the Gaelic will be heard again before too long, louder than ever.

  2. kate macleod says:

    There must be a deep distrust of the many people in Scotland and elsewhere whose only real relationship to the islands and gaelic speaking regions is how can we use them for our recreational pleasure or to earn money – mountain climbing, hunting, country estates to isolate on or for holidays or for tourism income, research income, oil fields, etc.

    Scotland still lacks a broad commitment to Gaelic as part of scottish culture and denigration of gaelic by scots seems frequent.
    its an indigenous racism, unusual and made less obvious by effecting white people.

    if indigenous gaelic speakers are not facilitated to take the lead the mistrust and withdrawal is likely to continue.

    withdrawal from language speaking might be a kind of resistance. ‘this is ours and we take it with us when we go, on our own terms not yours.’
    A different way of being a rebel tongue- silence?

    The Gaelic speaking population is not likely to be grateful that (some of) the people that historically outlawed, denigrated and ignored Gaelic language culture and economies now wont to save it, for obscure reasons . when an injustice is corrected a perpetrator doesn’t become a friend overnight, if at all.

    Scotland broadly seems to need to prove it values Gaelic and Gaelic communities for gaelic to survive and for indigenous Gaelic speakers to have trust in govt and new learners intentions . Gaelic speaking re growth could be facilitated through island led , govt funded, initiatives as well as through govt funded new learners. gaelic could be a compulsory component in kindergartens through to schools for everyone.

    The big question is whether Scotland wants that – as clearly it has never taken racism against the Gaels , Gaelic language and culture seriously – and also whether Gaelic communities have given up on Gaelic as an ancestral relic, a reminder of cultural denigration continuing into the present day.

    Personally i would promote Gaelic to the youth as a finger to the Galltachd, maybe not in those words.

    1. Jane NicLeoid says:

      Love this contribution – it got me cackling then nodding seriously on repeat. You should write your own perspective and submit as an article!

      1. Iain MacKinnon says:

        I second this proposal!

      2. kate macleod says:

        thanks jane but i am only a learner and have lived in australia since i was a teenager so i ‘m not well qualified. i wish you all success in keeping the doors between scotland’s language and cultural worlds open (also ties between scotland and ireland).

    2. Anna Chaimbeil says:

      Tha mi ag aontachadh leis a h-uile facal.

  3. Iain MacKinnon says:

    This is an outstanding contribution – it’s got the ‘brigh’ in it! I could have copy and pasted any number of sections but I choose this one:

    ‘Whether any of this chimes with the scholarly literature of socio-linguists and language planners elsewhere is neither here nor there because *this* research resonates with my lived reality and with the theoretical tools with which I choose to frame it. While there is no peace or relief in this yet because of the persistence of our external framing by adherents of monolithic institutions, there is now at least some hope of agency, some permission to act in our own interests and towards our own survival’

    Thanks to Jane, and to Bella for publishing it. Reading reflections like this (and the crisis report itself) loosens the band around the heart, mar a thuirt Somhairle.

    1. Jane NicLeoid says:

      Taing mhor

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Sounds like a model of subcultural relations rather than a theory, but aside from my scepticism about prediction and test in sociology, I think it might be useful to consider for a moment that Scottish Gaelic is a technology (like other human languages). In the digital age, technologies can be made interoperable, and open. Children are (I gather) taught some development/hacking skills in Scotland as part of their computer-based problem-solving training in school. Languages can be evaluated (such as some computer languages are easier for beginners, some have vocabularies suited for certain applications). So we can have language-independence for many cultural products and activities.

    Anyway, I found an article about the work of software localizer GunChleoc:
    Conquering digital worlds in Scottish Gaelic
    https://medium.com/r12n/conquering-digital-worlds-in-scottish-gaelic-3eeef9f3aade
    and this requires more skill than just language translation. However, kids are often highly motivated to do their own ‘modding’ (game modifying) work and posting about it online. Open source software or modifiable software projects to add Scottish Gaelic will typically run on volunteership. There are more resources linked from that article.

    Perhaps some Scottish government resources could be spent on funding some relevant commercial software language packs, maybe for something like Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia, say.

    1. Jane NicLeoid says:

      Not great on the technology myself though you’re right pupils do have some coding skills, even from primary.

      There is an anthropological theory (Van Gennep’s) and it has branched out a lot since then into other scholarly literatures (threshold theory, Sociology). I used it as a model/framework because that served me and renders it accessible ( I hope). Joseph Campbell’s ‘Heroes Journey’ is perhaps influenced as much by Van Gennep as by Jung, scholarly opinions vary on that too.

      I agree about games. If you go to i-Gaidhlig/Akerbeltz you’ll be able to learn more about what they’ve done over the years in this direction.

      Also this: http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/en/rannsachadh/luchd-rannsachaidh/gordon-wells.
      Scroll down to see his/their current projects managed from Sabhal Mor Ostaig in Skye (The National Centre for Gaelic).

    2. GunChleoc says:

      Thanks for the mention! In our experience, software projects only work if there is long-term funding, because there will be updates requiring maintenance of the translations. Which is why volunteer work in the FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) community (time donated by the translators themselves) or funding by the software companies (paid work without government grant) works best. My colleague also has an interesting blog on the subject: https://akerbeltzalba.wordpress.com/

      Aon de na rudan a tha doirbh dhomh a thaobh coimpiutaireachd ‘s ann nach fhaigh thu ach a’ Bheurla air coimputairean nan sgoiltean fiù ma tha nithean ri am faighinn sa Ghàidhlig. ‘S e an outsourcing as coireach agus nach cuir na companaidhean ach a’ Bheurla riutha. Feumaidh mi aideachadh nach do dh’fheuch mi a-riamh dèiligeadh ris na planaichean Gàidhlig a thaobh sin – chan eil mi math air poileataigs.

      Mòran taing airson an aiste seo, Jane. Domh-sa dheth, tha e cudromach gu bheil guth aig muinntir nan Eilean – chan e ach ionnsachadh a rinn mi agus chan e fiù ‘s Albannach a th’ annam agus chan eil còir agam dad a sparradh air muinntir na Gàidhlig. Tha sgilean eadar-dhealaichte againn uile agus ‘s urrainn dhuinn cuideachadh a-rèir nan sgilean sin – ‘s e a’ choimpiutaireachd a tha san sgil agamsa agus ‘s e an dualchas a tha san sgil aig cuid eile a bheir iad dhan chuid cloinne aca no beartas cànain no an rannsachadh no ge brith dè eile.

  5. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Sadly, I find this article very dense and not easily accessible. There are several paragraphs into which I could make little headway.

    My mother was a native Gaelic speaker and all four grandparents were, so I am keen to see Gaelic language and culture strengthened and those living in the Gaeltachd empowered and in control of the movement.

    However, I do not know if I support what is in this piece because I am not clear about what it says.

    Aplogies.

    1. Jane NicLeoid says:

      Hi Alasdair,

      It’s really about the between-ness that we’ve felt for the longest time, and how being under the external gaze has left us voiceless. It’s a response to a very good piece of research that has just been published on how we need to take control from the grass-roots of what we do next to keep the language alive in the islands.

      Thanks for reading it even if it was hard going – and I’m glad that you do believe the language should be supported.

  6. Jane NicLeoid says:

    MINOR ADDENDUM:

    May I thank a friend in the Southern Isles who noticed that I had conflated two local researchers into one embodiment under the name of Gordon Camshron. Both are members of Soillse, the inter-university research network, headquartered at UHI, which oversaw this research. One is Gordon Wells, (Gordan nan Tobar we might call him: he of the flutes) while the other Gordon Camshron was field researcher for the team. Gordan got the name-drop while Gordon got the free publicity for his local-history recordings so I’m sure they won’t mind too much.

    Apologies then to Gordon and Gordan for my tardy portmanteau-ing but in my defence the two do have more than their first names in common as experienced local field-researchers, and both are to be thanked for their work of recent years especially.

    For any of my pupils reading this, especially the Ellies, the Amys, the Leytons and the Leos, I can feel the eye-rolls from here. You’re right, I do do this don’t I?

    For anyone else who might be interested in how the research came about and those involved in it, here are details of some of the scholars and researchers who have contributed towards the sociolinguistic survey of Scottish Gaelic in the Vernacular Community, including both Gordons: http://www.soillse.ac.uk/en/people/

  7. Domhnall B says:

    Tha latha na Gàidhlig seachad. Chan eil ga bruidhinn faisg ormsa an seo (an Uibhist) ach seann daoine agus nuair a chuireas mi air a radio cha thuig mi de tha leth dhe na daoine ag ràdh neo a ciallachadh eadar faclan mòra nach cuala mi riamh agus blasan a tha dèanamh na Gàidhlig cho granda. Ach tha mi cinnteach anns an latha th’ ann gu bheil beachd mar sin ceàrr oir tha aon rud cho math le rud eile.

    1. L2 air choireigin says:

      Mas ann nach eil briathrachas farsaing agaibh tha sibh dì-bheathte faclair fhosgladh uaireigin. Cha do thachair mi riamh ri leanabh a rugadh fileanta. Mar sin bidh foghlam a’ mairsinn fad beatha. A thaobh a’ chòrr, tha na beachdan sin am measg prìomh adhbharan a bhàsaicheas an cànan. B’ fheàrr leam blas àraid seachd beachdan grànnda a chluinntinn.

      1. Domhnall B says:

        Tha briathrachas gu leòr agam. Agus faclairean. Dìreach gun fhearr liom Gàidhlig a thuigeas mi. Tha mi an dòchas gu bheil mo bheachd ceadaichte.

      2. DomhnallB says:

        Tha mi duilich gu bheil thu faireachdainn gu bheil mi ag adhbharachadh call na cànain. Ged a thug mi e dhan dithis chloinne agam agus tha na ceithir oghaichean agam fileanta agus mi ga bruidhinn leis a chuile duine chì mi.

      3. Cailean MacDonald says:

        B’ fhearr leamsa Gaidhlig dhoigheil a thuigeas mi. Choimhead mi program o chionn ghoirid, a bha, a reir choltais ann an Gaidhlig. Tha na ceannardan a’ bruidhinn air ‘foghlam’ ach tha mise air tachairt ri tidsearan agus daoine a tha ag obair do na meadhainnean a tha ga bruidhinn aig ire ‘creole.’ De seorsa teachdaireachd a tha siud a’ toirt dhuinn no don oigridh? Ma tha thu ag iarraidh ‘briathrachas ‘s ann a tha iad air ball-bust a dheanamh dhuinn agus dhen chultar againn. A’ toirt oraidean seachad do dhaoine mun bhriathrachas aca! Mhiod-mhor Klaxon! Tha daoine as na h-eileanan comasach gu leor an intinnean a dheanamh suas mu de tha iad a’ smaointinn gu h-araid mun Ghaidhlig.

        1. DomhnallB says:

          Dol leis a h-uile facal agad. Taing dhut.

    2. Jane NicLeòid says:

      Saoilidh gu bheil tamailt air culaibh seo gu mor, nach eil?

      Luiginn fhin gum biodh ‘transcipt’ an cois a h-uile program air an reidio oir tha iad ag obair bho sgriobtaichean co-dhiu. An doigh sin ghabhadh na faclan an lorg anns Am Faclair Beag air-loidhne. Tha beagan mar sin air BBC Bitesize agus ‘s e tha feumail.

      Tha sibh pfein a’ sgriobhadh agus tha sin na bhrosnachadh, nach eil? Cumaidh sinn oirnn. De choir as urrainn dhuinn a dheanamh ach sin?

      1. DomhnallB says:

        Tha e tamailteach.

  8. Fiona NicÌosaig says:

    Great piece, Jane.

    The concept of liminality perfectly sums up the idea I was trying to articulate the other day in a conversation where the subject of the study came up. I’ve only ever used the word in the context of art criticism, but it explains *that* feeling so well.

    1. Jane NicLeoid says:

      Hi Fiona,

      Air chall eadar da shaoghail? – lost between two worlds.

      I’m sure you would have managed to get your point across to your listener even then, but it’s always good to have an extra flint in your quiver, isn’t it?

      It’s really through the arts – radio, internet, even TV that we can get these things to distil into something that explains us to ourselves. Every generation now living has something to express with respect for the generations that come after and before, and the more we gather in wee back rooms in draughty schools and village halls the more chance we have of breathing life into it.

      Looking to the North is where I find my hope, the whole North Atlantic rim feels like home – from Sami in the East through the Faroes and Iceland to the Greenlanders and the landfall of North America.

      Taing mhor airson ur faclan choir,
      Jane

  9. Neil McRae says:

    Aibhiseach. An fhìrinn, agus bha sinn fada feitheamh

    1. Jane NicLeòid says:

      Tha an rannsachadh feumail gun teagamh.
      Taing airson m’ airtigil beag fhin a leughadh

      1. Neil McRae says:

        Aidh, ‘s e an rannsachadh a bha mi ciallachadh. Ach nach math an àiste agadsa, cuideachd

  10. Arboreal Agenda says:

    Do you think that a community like that in the Hebrides (Outer especially) will always be a liminal? It strikes me that it will. I have visited the Outer Isles a couple of times only but what struck me was it really did not feel, let alone look like Scotland as knew it at all. It felt profoundly different. I have always thought that something that is liminal is generally good as it exists on both sides of a boundary and hence has great insightful value. And also those space or places are often neglected but in that neglect something really interesting starts to happen (e.g. the edgelands idea, the liminal spaces on the edge of industrial estates, say, that no-one goes to because they look ‘horrible’ but harbour all sorts if interesting wildlife and plants when you look closely and in fact are quite unique).

    But I found your deeper discussion of liminality and liminal communities really fascinating. Do you think Gaelic is different to say, Welsh, in that the latter did not really cling on in such liminality but in various pockets all over so found it easier to resurge across Wales? Does Gaelic really ‘belong to everyone’? i.e. do those on the edges actually want it to and does wider Scotland really care other than to think oh it’d be nice if it survived ‘out there’? Or is that a red herring and more importantly it needs to be nourished and grow in its heartlands and that liminality, in its positive sense, is something to be cherished?

    1. Jane NicLeòid says:

      I feel that in the islands there is liminality in the silence. For me that silence is very Gaelic but for others it might be something else. There is an internal journey that everyone here seems to experience, even if they’re only here for a short time, an amplification of the senses and of whatever is already within them, and that might well affect our engagement with others.

      I agree it is on the edges, in the absence of the overload of ephemera of busier settings that insights that derive from deeper within emerge. In the city that might happen in a gallery in the midst of an installation that draws on all the senses, or in the theatre during a recital but here we’re mesmerised by the grace notes of the wind and the dynamic weather patterns from the moment we step outside our doors. It’s very distracting!

  11. Àdhamh says:

    A’ chuid as fhearr a leugh mi air a’ chùis a tha ‘dol an ceartair gu ruige seo. Sònraichte math.

    1. Jane NicLeoid says:

      Halo sibh fhein. Taing mhor, Adhamh. Tha fios gur e rud dhomhainn a tha seo sibh dhuibh fhein cuideachd o chionn fhada, ‘n fhad an shaoghail. Torr ri ionnsachadh bhuaibhe.

      1. Àdhamh says:

        Gu dearbh. Nach anabarrach an rud an t-eannsachamh fhé, mar a theireamh ead taobh Chomhaill.

        Ann an gach àite far a’ bheil mi air a bhith ag obair le na sean-daoine fad nam blianaichean móra air dol nam fàsaich-chànain. Nan gabhamh na h-Eileanan Brìghd’ an aon rathad, bhristeamh e mo chridhe.

        Tha ‘n cianalas oirinn o mhoch gu dubh, o bhliana gu bliana ‘s cha chòir farmad sam bith a bhith air duine beò air a thàilleabh. Tha e cha mhór do-dheunt’ a ghiùlan.

        Gur mìle beannachd leibh!

        1. Àdhamh says:

          *THA gach àite

  12. Brian Conner says:

    In this world of “BLM” and “Stolen Generations” you’ve put a finger on something.
    Perhaps triggered a missed belonging, that I’ve been feeling for a while.

    As a school pupil of the 1950’s in Aberdeen, all we got was R.P. (a.k.a. BBC) English
    and dilute Doric in the playground). “Highland English” at home for me, not even Doric
    as my parents weren’t Aberdeenshire folk. Nary a word of Gaelic outside of a toast
    with the Grannies’ generation.
    Yet both my parents were Gaelic speakers (at least part-time) in their primary years,
    think Black Isle or Stornoway in the early 1920s’. How, in Aberdeen, did my mother find a lass
    from Kershader for a baby-sitter in the early 1950’s and why visit her on her brother’s
    croft or dad’s old chums in Garabost towards the end of that decade?
    There’s a link there somewhere.
    It makes me wonder why were those generations of Scottish parents and teachers so certain
    of the need for cultural genocide by extinguishing the old ways of speaking and thinking?
    Am I alone in sensing that disconnected feeling?
    Alas my old ears have difficulty with “Blas na Gaelic’s” sound recordings.

    A couple of things put me in mind to write:
    Opening the covers of “How the Scots Invented the Modern World”(Arthur Herman, 2001, ISBN 0-609-80999-7)
    makes me wonder if it’s ‘ a’ oor ain fault’.
    Also, I’m not long from listening to an old interview by the ABC’s Richard Fidler with the Aboriginal
    writer/journalist Stan Grant, whose grandfather was imprisoned in his youth for openly speaking his language,
    Wiradjeri, while his father has more recently gathered accolades for reviving that language.
    A good turn-around from the old, deliberately genocidal, mentality!
    [https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/stan-grants-long-road-to-recognition/7788974
    a podcast from 2016, for any that want it.]

  13. B O'Callaghan says:

    A major oversight of just about every organisation that has an interest in promoting/reviving the Gaelic language in my opinion is almost completely focusing on their own version of Gaelic. While I realise Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic are classified as separate languages, they are very similar. From what I’ve read, a Donegal Irish speaker and a Scottish Gaelic speaker can just about understand each other.

    As all 3 languages are hanging by a finger nail as living languages, Manx, having to be revived. We should be tapping into this broad church, and look for deeper cooperation, and not be overlooking our sister languages.

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