Last week was the October school holidays so I took my daughter home to the Outer Hebrides to visit family. My trip coincided with the Royal National Mòd which was held in my home town of Stornoway this year so I was able to go along to some of the Mòd fringe events.
On Wednesday I was at the Council Chambers in Stornoway to hear Mr John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, present the Angus Macleod Lecture on The Place of Gaelic in Modern Scotland. (I’ve already written a more comprehensive blog post about the Minister’s lecture for the Open Scotland blog here.) In a wide ranging and really rather inspiring talk Swinney reiterated the government’s commitment to Gaelic stating
“Gaelic belongs to Scotland, hostility to Gaelic has no place in Scotland and we should all unite behind the effort to create a secure future for Gaelic in Scotland.”
In questions after the lecture I also had an opportunity to ask Swinney for his thoughts on the role of ICT in supporting Gaelic education. He answered by re-stating the Government’s commitment to providing 100% network connectivity throughout Scotland and went on to highlight the importance of education technology in broadening the coverage of education provision and ensuring that Gaelic education can reach greater numbers of learners than ever before. In addition he also emphasised the new opportunities that ICT affords young people in the Highlands and Islands, enabling them to expand their education and skills, and seek new careers without having to leave the Gàidhealtachd.
The second fringe event I went to was Manifestos, Mòds and Music, a fascinating talk by Jennifer Gilles on the National Library of Scotland’s digitised Gaelic collections. Jennifer presented a short history of An Comunn Gàidhealach illustrated by a whole host of items from the Library’s collections, ranging from publications and periodicals, to Mòd programmes and ephemera, printed music and even recipe books. I confess I was particularly fond of the “Celtic Terms of Invective” column from one of An Comunn’s early 1900’s periodicals. You can find a short Storify of Jennifer’s talk here.
Jennifer’s talk was followed by a showing of the a 1942 film The Western Isles. Set in Harris, the film depicts scenes of island life during World War II, as a family anxiously awaits news of their son after his ship, the Atlantic Queen, is sunk by a German submarine in the Mid Atlantic. The son, admirably played by a 14 year old motor mechanic from Harris, successfully skippers the lifeboat back to the Hebrides and returns to his family. It was fascinating to recognise many of the places that appeared in the film and many Hebridean families, mine included, can relate similar tales of heroism from the both the Merchant and Royal Navy during the Second World War.