Anti- English attitudes do no favours to advocates of the Gaelic language
I feel I must respond to JA Morrison’s letter on the subject of Gaelic’s place, and his suggestion that I “should take my children to England where they can learn English” ( Scotsman Letters, 8 May).
Firstly, Gaelic is not Scotland’s original language. Picts were in Scotland long before “Scottish “invaders from Ireland arrived, and displaced the Picts and their language, replacing it with Gaelic.
Also, round about the same time as the Scots were arriving, Anglo- Saxons were colonising eastern Scotland, while in much of Strathclyde and Galloway the language was ancient British, and most of eastern Scotland was never Gaelic- speaking.
The position of Gaelic as a school subject in the Highlands and Western Isles has a valid status within the culture of these areas, which I do not question.
However, in much of the rest of Scotland, Gaelic has not been widely spoken for centuries, if at all, and does not merit the special treatment which it does receive, much at the expense of other school subjects, many of which could r easonably be considered more valuable subjects than Gaelic.
Other subjects have to be taught in classes which must have minimum size, which is not applied to Gaelic. Gaelic teachers can be employed for only two pupils!
As regards your correspondent’s telling me to “take my children to England where they can learn English”, had the words England and Engl i sh been replaced by, say, India and Indian, they would have been deemed guilty of racism.
The obvious anti- English attitude of many of my fellow Scots is shameful, and does Scotland no credit.
Lamlash, Isle of Arran
Clearly, JA Morrison thinks that English is something that you should take your children to learn in England and that Gaelic is “Scotland’s original language”. He writes ( in English) to tell us so, just as Barbour wrote his “Brus” about Robert the Bruce in the 14th century in “Inglis” in Aberdeen for his Scottish readership. Surely that i s good enough for Mr Morrison?
Old English made its appearance in the south- east of what is now Scotland, replacing Old Cumbric ( a variety of Old Welsh), in which tongue the oldest work of literature emanating from this island, “Y Gododdin”, was written.
Gaelic then made its appearance in the west. To the north and west in earlier days, the language spoken was Pictish, about which we know next to nothing apart from fragments etched on the side of carved stones using Ogham Script. It is argued that it was a Celtic language, but we have little to go on. Further north and in the Hebrides, at a later date, Old Norse became the spoken language. That Gaelic became the language of the greater part of Scotland for a fairly short time many centuries ago, however, does not make it any more native than English.
As my “Life of St Columba” by Admonan of Iona tells me, in Skye the natives “received the word of God from St Columba through an interpreter” from t he Gaelic- speaking saint, because they could not understand the Gaelic language he spoke! Scotland’s native language? Not by a long chalk.
ANDREW HN GRAY
Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh