The Gaelic way of liv­ing in the world

The Victoria Standard - - Culture / Heritage -

Re­cently, I was asked to con­trib­ute an ar­ti­cle to the festschrift vol­ume in hon­our of Dr. Ken Nilsen, first holder of the Sis­ter St. Veron­ica Chair in Gaelic Stud­ies at St. Fran­cis Xavier Univer­sity, from 1984 un­til his pass­ing in 2012. While con­sid­er­ing the gains in Gaelic dur­ing his ten­ure, it was re­veal­ing to see how Celtic Stud­ies grad­u­ates have gone on to ca­reers based in Gaelic.

Into my Gaelic class at the Gaelic Col­lege one year came a young boy from PEI who was there for the first time with the is­land’s pipe band. He even­tu­ally took Celtic Stud­ies at St. FXU, grad­u­ated with 1st Class Hon­ours in His­tory and won a full grant to work on his PH.D. in Celtic at Har­vard Univer­sity. The boy was Michael Lin­klet­ter who, in 2001, was the first re­cip­i­ent of the Celtic Depart­ment’s sec­ond chair, The Ben Alder Chair in Celtic Stud­ies, se­cured for the univer­sity by the late Fa­ther Vern Boutilier of Ross Ferry, Cape Bre­ton. He is now the sec­ond holder of the Sis­ter St. Veron­ica Chair and head of St. FX’S Celtic Depart­ment.

Natasha Sum­ner, an­other Cana­dian, se­cured her PH.D. at Har­vard af­ter gain­ing her Celtic Stud­ies de­gree at X; she now lec­tures on Celtic sub­jects at Har­vard. And Tiber Falzett from NE Penn­syl­va­nia, with an­ces­tors in the Cana­dian prairies, grad­u­ated with 1st-class hon­ours in Celtic Stud­ies at X in 2007 and went on to gain his PH.D. at Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity; since then, he has been a Re­search As­so­ciate at UPEI with fo­cus on the Gaelic legacy and its re­newal in Prince Ed­ward Is­land. He has just been named to the Scot­tish Her­itage USA Vis­it­ing Lec­ture­ship in Scot­tish Gaelic Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of North Carolina, the first of its kind in Amer­ica. Just to name one more: Lewis Mackin­non, born in In­ver­ness town, re­turned to X to do his Mas­ter’s in Celtic Stud­ies and went on to be named CEO for the newly formed Nova Sco­tia Of­fice of Gaelic Af­fairs in 2006.

It’s not gen­er­ally known how Nova Sco­tia Gaelic grad­u­ates have come to the aid of Scot­land’s schools in their time of need. An out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of this is Syd­ney-born Kath­leen Reddy who, af­ter grad­u­at­ing in Celtic at X, re­ceived her qual­i­fi­ca­tion to teach at Strath­clyde Univer­sity, Scot­land, and went on to teach in Ding­wall and Uist. She is now study­ing for her PH.D. at Glas­gow Univer­sity, af­ter a stint of teach­ing at her Alma Mater. Among other X grad­u­ates teach­ing Gaelic in Scot­land are Dei­dre Chase of Ore­gon on the Isle of Mull and Ja­son Bond of Maine on Is­lay.

An im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent was added to the mix in 2004 when St. FX’S Fac­ulty of Ed­u­ca­tion, with the co­op­er­a­tion of the Of­fice of Gaelic Af­fairs, in­tro­duced a Gaelic teach­able to its B.ED. de­gree—a first in North Amer­ica; this en­ables Celtic Stud­ies Grad­u­ates to achieve a Gaelic teach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion at home. Since then, 13 stu­dents have gone through the pro­gram. The most re­cent grad­u­ate of the pro­gram to find em­ploy­ment re­quir­ing Gaelic flu­ency is David Rankin, now Di­rec­tor of School Op­er­a­tions at the Gaelic Col­lege. More re­cently, thanks to the $100,000 be­quest to Gaelic ed­u­ca­tion at STFX from the Neil and Mar­i­anne Ma­clean es­tate, prospec­tive Gaelic teach­ers can ap­ply for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to com­plete their B.ED. de­gree. Neil was a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the Celtic Depart­ment Gaelic Days in­sti­tuted by Dr. Nilsen.

This is only a par­tial ac­count of how STFX Gaelic grad­u­ates have suc­cess­fully found work in their field. Gov­ern­ment funds to hire a Gaelic teacher are avail­able. Core Gaelic is taught in 8 schools in Nova Sco­tia, but only at Rankin Memo­rial in Vic­to­ria Co. Baddeck and Boularderie schools: are you lis­ten­ing?

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