Interview with interview Margaret Sharpe, the Convenor of the Celtic Council of Australia

The Australian Standing Stones festival at Glen Innes

The Celtic Council of Australia was formed on 24th March, 1982 after a public meeting organised in Sydney by a number of representatives of resident Celtic communities in New South Wales. The key instigator and driving force behind the Celtic Council project was the late Mr Peter Alexander, then of the Scottish Heritage Council, and he was elected as the first Convenor of the Council. Since its formation the Celtic Council has encouraged Celtic activities, including establishing the Australian Standing Stones at Glen Innes along with the local community. The Australian Celtic Festival, in Glen Innes, was started in 1992 and has grown from strength to strength since that time. The Celtic Council was also involved in the launch of the Australian Celtic Journal as well as the development of academic courses at universities and other learning centres
 
The Council has continued through the support of many individuals and organisations from within the Celtic communities. The current Convenor is Mrs Margaret Sharpe, who has held the position for the last nine years, but will be standing down this year. Margaret is a previous President and now Vice President of the New South Wales Manx Community. 
 
Recently, Transceltic's Alastair Kneale had the pleasure of interviewing Margaret Sharpe, the Convenor of the Celtic Council of Australia.
 

Learn more about the Celtic Council of Australia, its objectives, its role in supporting Celtic festivals, and its successes and future ambitions.

The Man Engine

Man Engine, Redruth

The Man Engine Chant called out by thousands in Cornish when the man stands up:

HAKA BALWEYTH (Pol Hodge/Will Coleman)
KOBER! ARGHANS!........STEN! STEN! STEN!
YN PUB KARREK?...........YN PUB MEN!
KOBER! ARGHANS!........STEN! STEN! STEN!
AN GWELLA STEN?.........YN KERNOW!

(Kober - Copper, Sten - Tin, Yn pub Karrek - In every rock, Yn pub Men - In every Stone, An gwella Sten - The best Tin?, Yn Kernow - In Cornwall)

Kernow: the horn-shaped granite kingdom of Cornwall thrusts itself out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is a tiny 0.02% of the planet’s surface yet beneath its rocky shores can be found samples of more than 90% of all mineral species ever identified! Millions of years in the making, the geology of Cornwall is unique. This unbelievable geological treasure (Copper, Tin, Arsenic, Lead, Zinc, Silver, etc) has powered the Cornish people’s endeavour through over 4,000 years of mining history: innovation, triumph and heartbreak.

In July 2006 the Cornish mining landscape was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This placed Cornwall's engine houses, miners’ cottages, grand gardens and miles of labyrinthine underground tunnels on a par with international treasures like the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China amongst others.

Celtic Harvest Festival of Lughnasa

Celtic cross

The Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasa, traditionally celebrated on the first of August, is the fourth and last of the Feast days of the Celtic year. Although these four feast days are usually referred to as festivals of the pre-Christian Irish Celts, there is evidence that each of the four feast days have more ancient roots and that they were at one time  celebrated throughout the Celtic world.

The connection between the four feast days and ancient Celtic religious practices is illustrated by the famed Coligny Calendar. The Coligny calendar records the important dates in the Celtic year. This artifact, unearthed in France in the late 1897, and which dates from about 200 AD, was created by the Celts of Roman Gaul. There is speculation that the calendar was created by Gaulish Druids to preserve the Celtic religious calendar at a time when Gaulish Celtic culture began to be submerged into the Roman way of life, three centuries after the rape and subjugation of Celtic Gaul by Gaius Julius Caesar.

Ulster’s Beltany - A 5000-year-old Monument to a Living Celtic Holiday

To the southwest of the Ulster city of Derry in County of Donegal, near the town of Raphoe, is a Neolithic Celtic monument known as the Beltany Stone Circle.  The Beltany Stone Circle is estimated to have been constructed approximately 5000 years ago based on recent archeological research funded by the Irish Heritage Council.  Dating Beltany from about 3000 BC makes this monument older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids (some published sources conversely date the construction of the stone circle at between 1300 and 800 BC).

A local group that is dedicated to the preservation of this little known site is the Raphoe Community in Action group. With funding from the Heritage Council of Ireland they have been engaged in an on-going archaeological research project at the site.

Kannerezed noz – The Washerwomen of the Night in the Celtic mythology of Brittany

In the Celtic folklore of Brittany there are many creatures of the Otherworld, that mystical land occupied by spirits and deities who are rarely seen by humans. Many of these supernatural beings are benevolent and only deem to appear when and if absolutely necessary. Others simply want to be left alone to exist in the way that they have for thousands of years, long before the time of humankind. For some their role is to protect the environment and try and control the most damaging excesses of man. There are those who will deliberately seek out and help humans who care for the land of Brittany, cherish its ancient borders and protect its ancient traditions. However, amongst all of these creatures there are some who will, if encountered, be a harbinger of doom. They are to be avoided at all costs.

Amongst these darker entities of Breton mythology is the tall, skeletal, foreboding figure of Ankou. Dressed in black, carrying a scythe, he is accompanied by a cart pulled by black horses. Ankou is a night traveller that gathers the soles of the newly dead. Then there is the Nain who guard the ancient megaliths, stone circles and cairns that are found all over Brittany. Their faces are demon like with horns upon their head and their eyes are a glowing red. Dancing around the ancient stones and monoliths of Brittany they chant out the days of the week ‘dilun, dimerzh, dimerc'her, diyaou, digwener', but not the days of ‘disadorn and disul’ for these two days are held as sacred to the fairies. The night of ‘dimerc'her’ is their special night though, particularly the first one of the month of May. Ill fortune will befall those humans that should chance across and interrupt their ceremonies.

The Stone of Destiny

Replica of Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Scone (Scottish Gaelic: An Lia Fàil)—also known as the Stone of Destiny, can now be found in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle, along with the crown jewels of Scotland (the Honours of Scotland). The crown was used for the coronation of Scottish monarchs from 1543 (Mary I) to 1651 (Charles II). The Stone of Scone was used for centuries in the coronation of monarchs in Scotland. It was historically kept at the now-ruined Scone Abbey in Scone (Scottish Gaelic:Sgàin), near Perth (Peairt). Perth is located in an area that is known to have been occupied since Mesolithic times more than 8000 years ago. Much older stones than that of the Stone of Destiny exist nearby, with standing stones and circles dating to the Neolithic period about 4000 BC.

Shakespeare, The Ghost of Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester and a Magnificent Haunted Manx Castle

William Shakespeare

Recently celebrations have taken place to mark 400 years after the death of Shakespeare on May 3, 1616. In Shakespeare’s play Henry VI.part 2 act 2.scene 3 reference is made to the imprisonment in the Manx fortress of Peel Castle (Manx: Cashtal Purt ny h-Inshey ) of Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester (c.1400 – 7 July 1452):

Stand forth, Dame Eleanor Cobham, Gloucester's wife:
In sight of God and us, your guilt is great:
Receive the sentence of the law for sins
Such as by God's book are adjudged to death.
You four, from hence to prison back again;
From thence unto the place of execution:
The witch in Smithfield shall be burn'd to ashes,
And you three shall be strangled on the gallows.
You, madam, for you are more nobly born,
Despoiled of your honour in your life,
Shall, after three days' open penance done,
Live in your country here in banishment,
With Sir John Stanley, in the Isle of Man.

William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act 2, Scene 3.

History of the Highland Games

Highland Games Canmore Canada

All around the world people participate or are spectators at Scottish Highland Games. Seen as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture it is one of Scotland’s biggest cultural exports. Features of the Games include competitions in piping and drumming, dancing, heavy athletics, as well all kinds entertainment and exhibits related to many aspects of Scottish and Gaelic culture.

Malcolm 3 of Scotland

The first historical reference to the type of events held at Highland Games in Scotland was made during the time of King Malcolm III (Scottish Gaelic: Máel Coluim; c. 1031 – 13 November 1093) when he summoned men to race up Craig Choinnich overlooking Braemar with the aim of finding the fastest runner in Scotland to be his royal messenger. They were also thought to have originally been events where the strongest and bravest soldiers in Scotland would be tested. These gatherings were not only about trials of strength. Musicians and dancers were encouraged to reveal their skill and talents and so be a great credit to the clan that they represented.

Nova Scotia: The Edge of the Celtic World

To celebrate Gaelic Awareness Month 2016 in Nova Scotia, we are re-featuring this article originally published on September 11, 2013.

In the 1800s the Scots Gaelic community of Nova Scotia is estimated to have exceeded 100,000 Gaelic speakers.

Flah of Nova Scotia

The 18th century witnessed upheaval in the centuries old way of life in the Scottish Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The events following the Scottish rebellion against the British Crown in 1745 caused a disruption in the long standing relationship between the residents and the owners of the Land. The complex history of land ownership in the Highlands and Islands saw landlords, heirs to ancient Clan Chieftainships and in many cases newly ennobled by the British Crown, gradually become estranged from the residents of the land. Economic advantage was to be gained from the removal of the residents so as to facilitate modern farming techniques. Tragic scenes of displacement and eviction followed and led to the betrayed Gaelic speaking residents becoming homeless refugees in their ancestral homeland.

These events led to emigration from Scotland to the new worlds. One of the destinations of the refugees was the Maritime of Canada. Cape Breton, in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia was a primary destination:

Between 1817 and 1838 alone, the population in Cape Breton grew from approximately 7,000 people to 38,000 people. Almost all these people were Gaelic speaking Scots from the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

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