Fighting to save Argyll Gaelic from oblivion
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.
Àdhamh O’Broin believes there is still hope – Dochas – for the local Gaelic dialect.