Scots Gaelic Strengthens in Heartland of Celtic Culture

The heart of the homeland of Scots Gaelic is receiving a welcome boost. Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, has been awarded funding for a Gaelic Cultural Centre.  The announcement was made by John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. Billed as an Arts Centre fostering Gaelic music, dance and Celtic cultural traditions, when completed the facility is expected to generate 40 jobs.

There are several factors that contribute to the revitalization of an endangered language.  The noted author and linguist, David Crystal, Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales-Bangor, has laid out the factors which help a language to regain its strength. These factors include an increase in the prestige of the Celtic tongue within the dominant (English speaking) community, increase the wealth of the Gaelic language community and maintaining a strong presence in the educational system. The new Gaelic cultural center does all three. 

The new Centre of Gaelic culture will be located at Dalabrog (Daliburgh), South Uist. After the Jacobite rebellion, the local population suffered persecution at the hands of the English conquerors. Playing the bagpipes and wearing tartan were outlawed, the Gaelic language was repressed and only English speaking teachers were employed to teach Gaelic speaking children. The Gaelic language continued to be prohibited in school well into the 20th century. However, despite centuries of persecution, South Uist’s first language is still Gaelic.

In describing the impact of the new cultural centre, Deputy First Minister Swinney stated: "The establishment of a multi-functioning Gaelic education and arts centre in Uist will create over 40 full-time equivalent jobs in the coming years and generate significant benefits for the local economy.  It will also secure a sustainable future for Gaelic in the area, in line with this government's commitment to supporting the language in communities and in education at all levels across Scotland."

The award of £1m in funding for the cultural center has been allocated from the Scottish government's 2016-17 Gaelic capital fund to the Cnoc Soilleir project.  Cnoc Soilleir is a partnership project between Ceòlas Uibhist and Lews Castle College University of the Highlands and Islands.

One of the partners in the new project, Ceòlas Uibhist, describes itself as follows from their web site: "Ceòlas is rooted within the Gàidhlig heartland of South Uist and is a distillation of the island’s culture and heritage. The organisation focuses on performance and education that celebrates and promotes local Gàidhlig culture and heritage, as well as the strong cultural links of the Gàidhealtachd diaspora. Established in 1996 Ceòlas has grown from a week-long music and dance school to become one of Scotland’s leading Gaelic culture, heritage and arts organisations. Ceòlas is a key driver in the island’s social and cultural resurgence and is committed to promoting a vibrant Gàidhlig culture for future generations."

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