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Language of Eden

B’ e smachd nan Albannach air malairt bian a bhrùth Canèidianaich Eòrpach siar gu na Rockies agus a chur air chois cogadh fearainn a bheir ort samhlachadh iomadh de bhuidheann dhrugaichean an là an-diugh ri clann Sgoil Shàbaid.
I got a big kick out of this. For those who don't read Gaelic, it's translation into that language of a paragraph from my book How the Scots Created Canada. It appeared recently on a Scottish Government sponsored website.
I only speak a smattering of Gaelic, though I understand more. In fact, that may have got me in trouble in the past. I remember waiting outside a phone box on Harris when the woman using the phone popped her head out and asked if I had a pen on me. I told her I didn't. I'd swear she asked in English. She insisted she'd asked in Gaelic and became very suspicious of me due to my denial that I spoke the language. Actually, it's just possible she did ask in Gaelic. That was the language of many of my little playmates when I was a toddler in Lanarkshire. A knitwear factory had opened nearby and many of the workers there were from the Gaelic-speaking islands of Lewis and Harris. I also had an uncle, by marriage, who tried to teach me. I think I can ask for a drink of water/milk/whisky and ask “How are you doing?” I also know a couple of obscenities and some pidgin Gaelic I picked up when I worked on a sail boat in the waters off Knoydart. But back when I was kid, there was a little encouragement to speak Gaelic. English was the language you needed to master if you were going to get on in life. When a bunch of us asked when we were at high school about learning the language, we were told “no chance”. Mind you this was the same school which made it impossible to study Ordinary Grade History and Geography in Third and Fourth Year.
Anyway, it turned out there was a point to learning Gaelic. About the time I was finishing my journalism course, millions of pounds were pumped into Gaelic broadcasting. Almost anyone who spoke Gaelic and could do joined-up writing was being signed-up as a television or radio reporter. A couple of folk who were able to take advantage of this development did very well, I'm sure I heard one of them reporting from China for the BBC a couple of years back. Oh, I can also “Get out of here” in Gaelic. I wonder why my uncle taught me that one. Anyway, Gaelic reminds me of being a little kid playing on the street outside the block of flats which was home in those days and that's why I got such a kick out of seeing even a couple of sentences I wrote translated into the “Language of Eden”. My world then didn't stretch much further than the length of that street and indeed it was a kind of Eden for a little kid. 

 

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