2007 - 2021

Bruidhinn – Giving a Monkey’s for the Gàidhealtachd

 

Marcas Mac returns with a new single – Bruidhinn – released digitally across all platforms in time for a Burn’s Night release. The song, commissioned by Ceòl is Craic, for their Bòrd na Gàidhlig-funded December Ocaidich showcase, was mixed by Welsh-born, Manhattan-based Rod Thomas. Proceeds will be donated to CHAS – the Scottish charity supporting children and young people in hospice care – as part of the #Burns2021 fundraising campaign. Peter Burnett reflects on a pop response to language hostility.

The Meadow Saxifrage is an increasingly rare and yet attractive native perennial, which flowers between the months of April and June. The flower used to be widespread but has since disappeared from large areas in the central Scotland.

I wonder though, because the flower is nearly entirely extinguished in our country, and because its habitat is suffering, should we even bother trying to preserve it? Perhaps we should let the flower perish and to finish the job allow our top footballers to kill it off by trampling it into extinction?

Enter Senior Features Writer Bryan Beacom from The Herald, and trampler-in-chief Frank Macavennie, leading the charge to have the Gaelic language excised for a variety of reasons which include the fact that in their view it is moribund anyway, and of no interest to the majority.

Bryan Beacom, whether he believes it or not wrote in 2018: “The simple truth is most Scots don’t give a moncaid (monkey’s) about Gaelic.”

I don’t know how the Senior Features Writer knows that, and why at the same time he can discount the language because it “only has 58,000 speakers.”

This is the world of Social Darwinism ― Beacom’s own terminology ― in which we can discount the lives of scores of thousands of people simply because they are in a minority.

Marcas Mac an Tuairneir (Am Bàrd Beag) feels this offense directly, as he is one of those speakers. I share Marcas’ outrage at the crass commentary the Gàidhealtachd increasingly face ― via the press at times, and via Twitter all the time.

Let me share some of Frank McAvennie’s indignity. This is from an article McAvennie wrote for The Sun, in 2018:

“It’s time to dump Gaelic…you know it makes sense. I’ve never met a single person that speaks Gaelic, and nobody can read the road signs ― so what’s the point? I’m nearly 60 years old and yet to meet a single soul that speaks Gaelic — so why do you see a dialect which is on life-support everywhere you go? I know it’s Scotland’s native tongue and I’m supposed to shout Alba gu bràth (Scotland Forever) and all the rest of it but it’s time to move on.”

The factual errors alone are heart-breaking; and I should quote directly from the passionate response offered The Hebrides Writer (hebrideswriter.com):

“Gaelic is not a dialect but is a language of its own, with its own dialects ranging from Lewis to Barra, from Skye to Jura, across mainland areas, such as Argyll, and historically, across Scotland. And not just the Highlands. Indeed, a native Gaelic dialect was spoken in Aberdeenshire until the 1980s. Any Gaelic speaker could have told him that and been more qualified to write this article.”

For the more high-brow haters, there is the aforementioned Brian Beacom at The Herald, whom Marcas Mac an Tuairneir’s new single BRUIDHINN addresses directly. The same Bryan Beacom who argued in The Herald in 2018 that Scottish people “seem to get along fairly well with English”, and advocates that we should let “Social Darwinism decide what happens to Gaelic.”

The more I mull over that phrase ‘Social Darwinism’ the more frustrated I become. The phrase is no accident.

Social Darwinists in fact believe in ‘survival of the fittest’ — the idea that certain people become powerful in society because they are innately better. Social Darwinism has been used to justify imperialism, racism, eugenics and social inequality at various times over the past century and a half, so we cannot take such an invitation as Beacom’s as anything other than the aggressive dog-whistle to the mob that it is. I would call it, and Beacom, disgusting.

A stunning piece of pop, is Mac an Tuairneir’s response, a strong and dreamy song that I highly recommend you hear ― a great song with a robust message.

“The song itself is in response to the constant abuse and marginalisation of Gaelic and other minoritised language-speakers in the press and online,” says Marcas. “This isn’t news to anyone who speaks Gaelic. “What recent coverage has also demonstrated, though, is that prejudice of this kind also goes hand in hand with misogyny and other issues, as seen recently by the targeting of poet Lennie Pennie and singer Iona Fyfe.”

I sometimes wonder where on earth all the hate in the world was lurking, before the invention of Twitter.

One thing is obvious in all cases of such online abuse however: it requires cheerleaders and dog-whistlers such as McAvennie and Beacom to lead the way, open the floodgates, and tacitly legitimise the attitudes by mainstreaming them.

What on earth could be Frank McAvennie’s reason for involvement? What is his own stake in this aggression, and what could he possibly gain from it? I’ve not had the busy celebrity life that McAvennie has had and yet I know plenty of Gaelic speakers, which begs a further question regarding his wilful ignorance. Foremost among the aforementioned Gaelic speakers that I know is singer, actress, writer, broadcaster and cultural and political campaigner, Dolina Maclennan.

Doli has worked with passion and heart for the enrichment of Scottish culture and particularly of her native Gaelic language and song and has done so for over six decades. I asked her about this current rash of abuse, and what she felt motivated it.

“We are used to such comments,” said Doli, “and I have had them for longer than most ― I always attach them to folk who are envious of the richness of a Language and Culture which they can never hope to engage with. This causes then to feel inadequate ― and that is something a bully cannot stand, so they lash out– their comments demean them much more than it harms the Language.”

Listen to Bruidhinn (Bright Light Bright Light Remix) by Marcas Mac on SoundCloud:

Marcas Mac · Bruidhinn (Bright Light Bright Light Remix)

 

BRUIDHINN

 

Coma leam an cac a sgrìobhar anns na pàipearan,

chan eil ciall air na briathran gun bhàrdachd gun cheòl.

 

Coma leam a bheil an naidheachdair ri cùl-chainnt,

cho fad ‘s a phàigheas mi mo chìsean,

cumar mo chridhe ri mo chor.

 

Ma tha e math dhut, thalla, thalla,

gabh do leòr!

Tha am t-am ann,

thalla agus seas do chòir.

 

Math math dhut, thalla, thalla,

gabh do leòr!

Tha am t-am ann,

thalla agus seas do chòir!

 

Fuasgail do bheul

is do theanga

is do chridhe

is bruidhinn!

Ò, bruidhinn i!

 

Fuasgail do bheul

is do theanga

is do chridhe

is bruidhinn.

Ò, bruidhinn i.

 

Coma coma leam, chì mi gainnead anns na solaran,

air Twitter, bidh mi togail gearain gus am faigh mi mo leòr.

 

Coma, coma leam an cuirear peilear anns na soidhnichean,

an dèanar càineadh ar sgoiltean,

bidh mi ga bruidhinn nas mò.

 

Fuasgail do bheul

is do theanga

is do chridhe

is bruidhinn!

Ò, bruidhinn i!

 

Fuasgail do bheul

is do theanga

is do chridhe

is bruidhinn.

Ò, bruidhinn i.

 

© Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, 2021

 

 

SPEAK

I couldn’t give a monkey’s about the crap they write in the papers,

their words are meaningless without poetry or music.

 

I couldn’t give a monkey’s if the journalist is bitching,

as long as I pay my taxes,

I’ll stand by what I believe in.

 

If it’s good for you, on you go,

take your fill.

The time is now,

so go and stand your rights.

 

Really good for you, on you go,

take your fill.

The time is now,

so go and stand your rights.

 

Unbind your mouth

and your tongue

and your heart

and speak!

Oh, speak it!

 

Unbind your mouth

and your tongue

and your heart

and speak.

Oh, speak it.

 

I couldn’t give a monkey’s, I still see paucity in the provisions,

on Twitter, I’ll keep making noise until I see returns.

 

I couldn’t give a monkeys if they shoot a bulled in the signage,

if they slag off our schools,

I’ll speak it, regardless.

 

Unbind your mouth

and your tongue

and your heart

and speak!

Oh, speak it!

 

Unbind your mouth

and your tongue

and your heart

and speak.

Oh, speak it.

 

© Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, 2021

 

Comments (11)

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  1. Jane says:

    Cho, cho, sgoinneil! Moran tang!

  2. George Gunn says:

    Brilliant!

  3. MacNaughton says:

    Gaelic in Scotland runs the risk of becoming too politicized, a kind of badge of honour for some, a kind of punch-bag for others.

    The Scottish govt needs to come up with a plan to hardware 5,000 or 10,000 public sector jobs in which Gaelic is the language of State into the Scottish economy over the next 10 years or so.

    That is what real action looks like, not covering Scotland in road signs and place names in Gaelic which is meaningless without an integrated plan. There are 5000 kids at Gaelic medium schools and they either have jobs in Gaelic to go into or the English dominated state of labour market will just absorb them when they come of age.

    It’s the same SNP as always, lots of gesturing, no real substance…

    As for Frank MacAvennie, he just doesn’t know enough about it probably. Why pick on Frank and comments made years ago? Frank was writing in The Sun, a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch,owner of the Fox News channel which has done so.much to cause a crisis in US democracy. And we know how The Sun treated Liverpool fans over Hillsborough….

    Michael Fry, on the other hand, was in The National again just the other day saying its all over for Gaelic outside the universities. Someone tell Aonghas MacNeacail or Julie Fowlis or Angus Peter Campbell maybe?

    As for the lady quoted in Peter’s article, she makes Gaelic sound elitist, and so I don’t agree with the tenor of her comments at all…

    The fact is most people in urban Scotland know next to nothing about Gaelic and the very sound reasons for fostering it and investing in it…

    1. MacNaughton says:

      Correction, hardwire not hardware….The tyranny of the automatic spellchecker…

    2. MacNaughton says:

      I mean, does anyone really think Sturgeon’s SNP are going to spend any political capital on a viable plan for Gaelic? I for one, do not. The SNP govt spend a bit of money on BBC Alba, which is usually better than BBC Scotland, and spend a bit money on this and that, but it’s not an integrated plan. The road signs thing has been blown out of all proportion, but I don’t think it was a particularly smart move, certainly not the extent of it.

      As for Frank MacAvennie, there is a certain kind of Scot who thinks like that and so you have to explain it to them that it’s a fundamental human right to speak your native language, that’s not open for debate, and to discriminate against people because of the native language they speak is a crime, like any discrimination is.

      And if you’re a Gael paying your taxes then you would expect the State to make some provision for that and see the State reflecting that.

      But demonizing people like Frank isn’t the way either, and Frank, whether he speaks Gaelic or not, can still engage with Gaelic culture through music at something like Celtic Connections which this year is online….

      1. Marcas Mac an Tuairneir says:

        Make no mistake, Dolina MacLennan knows more about Gaelic than anyone commenting on the language ever will. I woukd Google her if I was you.

        Do you speak it, like we do? Part of the point is we’re sick of being told what the state of the language is and what it needs by English-speaking monolinguals. Being an ally to a minoritised community is making space for then to speak, amplifying their voices, not lecturing. If you speak Gaelic, I’d have enjoyed reading your analysis in that language. If not, I hope this provides food for thought.

        That notwithstanding, enjoy the music.

        1. MacNaughton says:

          Hi Marcas

          I’m sure you’re right about Dolina, I don’t know anything about her except the quote in Peter’s article which to my ears suggests that someone like Frank MacAvennie, a working class Glaswegian, “can never hope to engage” with Gaelic culture. Maybe she has been taken out of context, but it sounds a wee bit elitist to me and I think you have to try to explain to people like Frank, after 300 years of cultural colonisation by England, why Gaelic is a good thing for Scotland.

          I did study Gaelic at Sabhal Mor on the long distance learning course, Cursa Inntrigidh, about ten years ago now, which I completed. I started the Advanced Course, but I couldn’t make it work for me with the demands of my job, the fact that I live in Spain and also money and the Great Recession. I do hope to come back to it one day.

          1. Marcas Mac an Tuairneir says:

            I don’t think Doli’s comments relate to class whatsoever. Her steadfast commitment to bettering the lives of all Scots, regardless of their background, has permeated her political life. They refer to McAvennie’s English-speaking monolingualism and the privilege it affords him. I am sure, having undertaken your course, you will agree that the best way to understand Gaeldom and its needs is to engage with learning the language. Until Frank does that, he can only ever look in through a dirty window.

          2. MacNaughton says:

            Hi Marcus.

            Frank McAvennie is an ex-football player who made his contribution to Scottish society back in his day, not least with an important goal which sent us on our way to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, but what he thinks about Gaelic is really not important at all, no more than anybody else’s.

            If anything, I feel sorry for McAvennie. He probably won’t know that his own surname is Gaelic in origin, even. He is an instrument of the Murdoch Media Group, no more no less, and we know that Rupert Murdoch’s speciality is picking on minorities, fomenting division, spreading lies, and more, recently stirring up all kinds of conspiracy theories which led to Donald Trump’s attempted coup in Washington earlier this year. Quite possibly, Murdoch should be brought before a Grand Jury for inciting sedition and in any case, we all know his great passion in life is poisoning the next man’s well. When he is gone, no one will miss him…

            What is much more important is what Michael Fry thinks about Gaelic and his column, not so long back, in which he pronounced the last rites of Gaelic, not for the first time . Michael is one of our leading intellectuals, has a weekly column in The National and quite possibly represents a view which is close to what people like Nicola Sturgeon think about Gaelic. You can almost sense the relish in Michael’s piece as he tells us that it is all over for Gaelic as a community language and attributing it to anything and everything but the British State’s oppression of A Gàidhealteachd over the centuries and the total negligence and lack of any serious language plan to cement its place in Scottish society by successive Scottish governments over the last two decades.

            The fact is, Britain has a linguistic policy which is Francoist or Stalinist in essence. Franco banned the use of any other language but Spanish throughout the whole of Spain. What the British State does is more or less the same. When democracy was restored to Spain, the Spanish establishment agreed to make Catalan, Basque and Galician official languages in those territories: not an inconsiderable concession, and even if there are tensions now and again, it has worked and Spain is now a pluri-lingual State. The Scottish Left, of course, never fail to mention how Franco repressed Catalan, but very rarely make the connection in the case of A Gàidhealteachd where the British State has done exactly the same thing with Gaelic as Franco did in Catalonia, and for much longer.

            People like Michael Fry and I suspect Nicola Sturgeon fail to see that the treatment of the Gaelic Highlands by the Lowlands has a good deal in common of the treatment of Scotland by England. The attitude is insensitive at best and disrespectful at worst…

            As for SMO and learning Gaelic, I obviously agree with you 100%. Learning even some Gaelic was a transformational experience for me. If I had been younger, I would have probably tried to make a career in it, but I was a bit too old when I started.

            All power to you in raising your voice, Marcus, and well done on your song…

          3. Marcas Mac an Tuairneir says:

            You’re doing it again. I know fine well who Frank McAvennie is. The fact is his article was filled with damaging tropes and caused a lot of offense to those of us who actually speak the language. I’m sorry but I don’t have time to read large scale lectures on the language I speak and use daily in the comment section. I’m glad you like the song and appreciate your support but I really think you need to look to your own modus operandi here.

          4. MacNaughton says:

            Whatever you say Marcus, and thanks for taking the time to reply.

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