Historic Ties Strengthen - Edinburgh Funds Gaelic Language Program in Nova Scotia

Under the headline "Scottish Government Approves Funding For Gaelic Learning Exchanges", the website "Cape Breton Post" reports on the visit of Michael Rusell, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, to Cape Breton University in the Canadian city of Sydney, Nova Scotia.  In making the announcement of the renewal of funding by the Scottish government for the exchange program Minister Russell stated: " Gaelic in Scotland has declined greatly over the past century, the last census shows the decline has stabilised. We have 55,000 speakers (in Scotland), something like that, and there are something like 1,200 in Cape Breton or perhaps a bit more. So actually we have not done quite as well as some of the activities here (in Cape Breton) and I think we can learn some of the things from language activists here."  It is widely accepted  that at the height of the language there were approximately 100,000 Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia around the year 1900, with the heartland of the language area being in Cape Breton. 

The exchange program was launched in 2012 and funds Canadian students in their study of the Gaelic language in cooperation with the "Sabhail Mor Ostaig", a Scottish institution of higher learning where instruction is in the medium of Gaelic.  Sabhail Mor Ostaig is located on the Isle of Skye and is an independent Academic partner with the University of the Highlands and Islands.   

The following is an excerpt  from a Transceltic Feature article published on September 11, 2013 under the title: " Nova Scotia: The Edge of the Celtic World".

Guarded optimism for the future of the language and culture of Gaelic Nova Scotia is also a theme of the  landmark study published in 2002 by the Nova Scotia Museum which is entitled “Gaelic Nova Scotia – An Economic, Cultural and Social Impact Study” (Curatorial Report #97) , written by Michael Kennedy. A commanding work of over 300 pages which surveys the historical context of Scottish immigration to Nova Scotia and  the Gaelic institutions in Nova Scotia working to preserve and promote the Celtic tongue and culture of the province at the time of publication. In addition, Kennedy’s work goes into an expansive analysis of the unique Gaelic music and dance of the province and ends with an outline of a practical plan for the revitalization of the culture and the language. This impressive survey makes the following observation: “Nova Scotia is home to the last Gaelic speaking communities in the New World.  The nature of migration from Scotland ensured that large, nearly homogeneous communities were established here, dominating nearly a third of the province’s area. Within that richly Gaelic environment developed a true Canadian and North American Gaelic community that is now unique in the world. Generations of undiluted cultural transmission went hand in hand with generations of adaptation and creativity in the New World environment.





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