Monday, 24 December 2007

Nollaig Chridheil

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur!

That's Scottish Gaelic for "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year", and it's pronounced "noll-eg cree-yel ugus blee-anna vah oor" if you fancy impressing your mates!

Alec Salmond gave the annual Sabhal Mor Ostaig lecture the other night at the Gaelic college in Skye, and in this said that he wanted Gaelic to be a national language of Scotland again. I couldn't agree more that its status does need to be better secured in Scotland - I spent years learning the language in Bristol (long story!) and would hate for all that effort to have gone for nothing!

But here's an irony. The other Scots language, Lallans, receives more government funding in Northern Ireland, where it is known as Ullans (Ulster Lallans), than it does in Scotland. I remember visiting the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland last year in Belfast and seeing the exit markled as "ootgang". At first I thought it must have been in some European language, until I twigged that an "ootgang" was where you "ganged oot"! I've seen dozens of bilingual street signs in the west of Scotland, including here in my home of Largs ("Failte do'n Leargaidh Ghallda" - "Welcome to Largs"), where there is not a Gaelic speaking community, but I don't think I've ever seen bilingual signs here in both Scots and English. Shouldn't Scots get the same treatment to some extent? It was once the language of state after all, just as Gaelic was!

By the way, the translation of Queen Street Station into Gaelic in Glasgow is wrong - it says "Steisiun Sraid na Banrighinn" - but that means Queens (plural) Street station. At least if people are going to spend the money they should get it right! :)



Tiger said...

By the way, the translation of Queen Street Station into Gaelic in Glasgow is wrong - it says "Steisiun Sraid na Banrighinn" - but that means Queens (plural) Street station.

I don't think so! Banrighinn is a rather old-fashioned alternative word for "queen"; the more usual modern word is "banrigh", sometimes written with a hyphen and an accent on the a. If you're using the old word the plural is "banrighinnean" and the more modern form is "banrighrean". "Sraid na Banrighinn" is the uninflected genitive singular meaning "the street of the Queen" i.e. Queen Street, whereas "Queens' Street" would be "Sraid nam Banrigh(inn)" as the genitive plural is the same form as nominative singular.

It's a bit strange that the old form was chosen for the signs instead of "Sraid na Bainrighe" (modern inflected genitive), but good marks to them anyway for putting up the Gaelic signs. I agree that it would be nice to see some Scots ones too!

If you studied Gaelic in Bristol I wonder if you came across John Angus Macleod (Iain Aonghas Mac Leoid) - maybe he even taught you? He used to stay in Lydney, just the other side of the Severn, and certainly ran Gaelic classes in Cardiff, and visited Gloucester and Bristol for Scottish country dancing events with his wife Nancy, who sadly died at the beginning of this year. John Angus is now living in Largs (I think in Brisbane Street), so in spite of what you say the town is not entirely Gallda! I'm sure if you're an old acquaintance he'd like to meet up with you again; if you do see him, mention that Seumas Slatanach was asking for him - he'll know who I am.

Chris Paton said...

Hi Seumas,

I know John Angus only too well, though haven't seen him in a while, despite my also living in Largs! I took John Angus back to Harris three years ago to film him for the BBC series "Coast" - he witnessed Zucker's rocket experiment in the 1930s as a boy, designed to carry rocket mail from Harris to Scarp, and we were trying to reconstruct the experiment. I left the Beeb about a year after that. As I understand it, the bilingual signs in Largs are in fact due to John Angus, he campaigned for the signs to be raised here. I did attend some of his classes in Cardiff, though mainly studied with Andar Gunneberg in Bristol.

Thanks for the clarification on the street sign!