Cearcall-cànain was held, in person, on the 25 of February, in the Marriage Room of Campbeltown Museum. In the morning, we set up the chairs in a circle facing the speakers to create a friendly, welcoming setting allowing the conversation to flow. We had a total of three speakers; the first speaker was Àdhamh Ó Broin, who is the Gaelic Culture Officer for CHARTS. Àdhamh talked about the differences in language and pronunciation of Gaelic in different areas of Scotland with so much passion and knowledge. I am from Campbeltown and have family links to the Inner Hebrides, but Gaelic has never had a focus at home.
Similarly, I had asked for Gaelic tutoring and classes at school, but this never happened. Hearing the language was somewhat nostalgic as the odd word or phrase in Gaelic is familiar to me, such as ‘Cailleach’, meaning old woman, which I have heard my family use when referring to my Granny. It was exciting to hear Gaelic being spoken in person and to hear the Kintyre dialect.
The second speaker was Kathy Townsley McGuigan, who shared Traveller culture and language with us. This gave me an insight into the current state of the Travelling community. It was interesting to find out that in modern times many Travellers are marrying out of the Traveller community, which means that Travellers are becoming a minority group. Traveller culture is fascinating in many ways; for example, historically, Traveller children did not attend traditional schools; thus, the communities kept to themselves. Kathy also brought a Traveller basket with her and told me that some people could make more than one daily! This is outstanding, as the skill needed to make a basket is amazing.
As we discovered, the Traveller language ‘Cant’ contains a fair bit of Gaelic which is probably because of its speakers staying in/moving through many different Gaelic/Scots communities. Like any other language, Cant differs from family to family with different phrases and ways of speech. As a result, Kathy is trying to collect as many Cant speakers as possible and record their words to preserve them due to the Traveller community becoming smaller.
The third and final speaker was James MacDonald Reid, who discussed the links between Gaelic and Balkan traditions and language. His ability to speak and sing in different Balkan languages whilst dancing is incredible! He demonstrated different Balkan dances effortlessly. It was fascinating to hear about the marriage traditions that are still present in Balkan regions that were once performed in Scotland, i.e. the stealing of the bride. James told us about traditional dress and tartan and how tartan was used in Scotland and the Balkans to identify the place, people and family. It was also interesting to hear that dancing, singing, and parties/celebrations were a large part of Balkan culture, just like in Scotland. It is fascinating that some Balkan languages are also similar to Gaelic, to an extent, with some words sounding the same. This is because both places have similar ancestry and settlers that would have brought and traded knowledge and customs, along with Balkan-Scottish trade links.
I would love to see and host more events focusing on Gaelic, including ones for younger people to help encourage the learning of Gaelic and keep the language alive.