Fight­ing to save Ar­gyll Gaelic from obliv­ion

The Oban Times - - News - COLIN CAMERON editor@oban­times.co.uk

THE RACE is on to save the na­tive tongue of Ar­gyll be­fore it dis­ap­pears, for­got­ten, into the mists of time.

One man has set out to re­vive the lan­guage and he has ap­pealed for any­one with mem­o­ries or knowl­edge of Ar­gyll Gaelic to come for­ward.

Àd­hamh O’Broin is a Glaswe­gian who spent much of his child­hood in the Cowal vil­lage of Tighnabru­aich.

He fell in love with the re­gion and its her­itage and is now on a mis­sion to re­vive the dy­ing em­bers of the Gaelic lan­guage spo­ken in Mid Ar­gyll and Cowal un­til not so long ago – a di­alect known as Dal­ri­ada Gaelic.

The 37-year- old has taught him­self the lan­guage over the past decade by lis­ten­ing to record­ings and study­ing writ­ten records.

He also tracked down 84-yearold Lochgilp­head man Robbie MacVicar, whom Mr O’Broin be­lieves to be the last na­tive speaker of Dal­ri­ada Gaelic.

Mr MacVicar was brought up on a Lochgair farm speak­ing the tongue of his fore­bears and his mem­ory of it per­sists to this day.

Since ‘find­ing’ Mr MacVicar, the road to Lochgilp­head has be­come a fa­mil­iar one for Àd­hamh O’Broin, who makes reg­u­lar trips to have a blether in the lan­guage, learn­ing and record­ing di­alect words, phrases and in­to­na­tions that might oth­er­wise be lost.

A crowd­fund­ing ap­peal by Mr O’Broin cul­mi­nated in Au­gust 2015 when £10,789 was raised to en­able the record­ing and pro­mo­tion of the di­alect and to be­gin dig­i­tally re­pro­duc­ing the hand­writ­ten notes of Swedish lin­guist Nils Holmer who came to Ar­gyll in the 1930s and ’40s to set down words, phrases, sto­ries and songs he col­lected from that last gen­er­a­tion of flu­ent speak­ers.

The clear pas­sion Àd­hamh O’Broin has for Dal­ri­ada Gaelic was ig­nited dur­ing child­hood vis­its to Cowal, but burst into ac­tion af­ter re­turn­ing to the area as an adult.

‘Tighnabru­aich and Ar­gyll al­ways felt like home to me,’ said Mr O’Broin. ‘I went back there when I was 25 and it just felt right. I was in­ter­ested in the Gaelic lan­guage then, but I soon be­came hooked. I’ve been back con­stantly since, seek­ing out the old­est lo­cal peo­ple I could find and talk­ing to them.’

He con­tin­ued: ‘From Craig­nish through Lochawe­side, Kil­martin and Kilmichael into Knap­dale, from Lochfy­ne­side across to Cowal and down through to Bute, the same di­alect of Ar­gyll Gaelic was spo­ken.’

Mr O’Broin, who de­scribes him­self as a Scot­tish Gaelic con­sul­tant, tu­tor, trans­la­tor and singer- song­writer, has brought up his own chil­dren speak­ing Dal­ri­ada Gaelic since the day they were born.

Now Caoimhe, nine, and seven-year- old twins, Lachann and Saorsa are com­fort­able in the lan­guage and will be able to pass it on to oth­ers.

‘This pre­cious lan­guage has to be passed on or it will con­tinue to slide qui­etly and ig­no­min­iously out of ex­is­tence,’ he said.

‘I would be over­joyed to hear from any­one who thinks they might know a per­son who still speaks a smat­ter­ing of the di­alect, es­pe­cially peo­ple who may have left Mid Ar­gyll or Cowal a long time ago for work in the ci­ties or abroad and never re­turned.’

Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil’s pol­icy lead for Gaelic, Coun­cil­lor Robin Cur­rie, said: ‘It is re­ally good to hear about some­one in­volved in the preser­va­tion of Ar­gyll di­alects and some­thing I sup­port whole­heart­edly.

‘As a na­tive Is­lay Gaelic speaker, I’m acutely aware of how im­por­tant it is to keep one’s di­alect alive and in­deed thrive.

He added: ‘ We would en­cour­age Mr O’ Broin to en­gage with the Gaelic Fo­rum and share the valu­able in­for­ma­tion he has gath­ered more widely across Ar­gyll.’

If you would like to help save Ar­gyll’s Dal­ri­ada Gaelic di­alect, con­tact Àd­hamh O’Broin by email at dal­ri­ada­gaelic@ gmail.com.

Find out more on the www. dal­ri­ada. scot web­site or via Face­book and Twit­ter.

06_a06Gaelic02

Àd­hamh O’Broin be­lieves there is still hope – Dochas – for the lo­cal Gaelic di­alect.

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