The Gaelic way of living in the world
The previous column reflected a greater diversity of surname and home location among the latest group in Na Gaisgich Òga, the Gaelic language and culture program for young people begun in 2013. We found some diversity of descent—african Nova Scotian, Acadian, and from British Home Children, most of whom were sent to Canada from Britain between 1920-1970; at the same time, all the respondents so far discussed also had Gaelic roots, whether distant or within living memory.
Last time, we noted some schooling influence in the form of Rankin School of the Narrows’ Gaelic classes. More recently, we have heard from father Ian of Cora Cameron (17) and her sister Charlotte (15) of Dartmouth. Now in her second year with NGO, Cora developed an interest in Gaelic at Citadel High School in Halifax. A chief reason for choosing to attend Citadel (as an area transfer student) was her interest in her ‘Irish-scottish’ ancestry from family history research. Charlotte, in French immersion from pre-primary to Grade 5, heard great things from sister Cora last year and decided to follow in her footsteps, enrolling this year in Gaelic. The family has connections to Glengarry County, Ontario, with its “strong Gaelic history”, and Prince Edward Co., Ont.
Major influences for most of the young people have been longtime engagement in cultural activities and their association with the Gaelic College. Chloe Peterson of Middle River has been taking classes/sessions there-weaving, stepdance, fiddle, piano, chanter, Gaelic-- since she was about six. Katherine Macdonald of Little Narrows belongs to a musical family and, as a child, would perform Gaelic songs with sisters Anita and Lauren; she, too, has taken drama and song classes at the College. Jessie Everill (12), a Highland Dancer from Waverley, whose mother Carla is a Macdonald, also developed her interest in Gaelic language and culture there, attending every summer since she was eight: ‘‘She has been in love with the place and the culture ever since.’’ No Gaelic has been spoken in her family for generations. A Goose Cove, C.B. resident, Marina Rutherford (11), is the only NGO participant we know of who has no known Gaelic heritage; but after attending her first Gaelic College Youth Camp this summer, she found new friends and the “spark” to her involvement in the program.
Gaelic was the first language of Ciaran Mcdonald (11), Sydney. His mother, Dr. Heather Sparling, is an example of the growing number of those who have attained fluency in Gaelic and pass the language on to their children. His father Chris, an intermediate learner, also participated. When Ciaran went to French school in Sydney, however, they stopped speaking Gaelic. Now his frequent immersion in Gaelic at the College helps him re-learn it—and he “loves it”.
So, from those parents who responded, we have seen a variety of influences: Gaelic heritage, sometimes of a distant nature but not forgotten, sometimes more immediate; Gaelic class opportunities in school; involvement in cultural activities associated with Gaelic, most especially the Gaelic College sessions. But no matter what has drawn each young person to the NGO program, this was the recurrent note: the ‘young heroes’ of whatever background are loving their Gaelic experience.