|Somhairle MacGill-Eain, © Cailean MacIll-Eain|
I couldn't miss out on this, with me being one of Somhairle MacGill-Eain's biggest fans. The conference Ainmeil Thar Cheudan (translated as "famous through the centuries"), organised by the Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the University of the West of Scotland, was a centenary celebration of the bard's birth in 1911, fittingly set against the backdrop of Eilean a' Cheò, an t-Eilean Sgitheanach (the Isle of Skye). The centenary comes at an apt time in the world of Gàidhlig and Gaelic studies, as this seems to be a crucial time to work for and set an agenda for the Scottish Gaelic language and culture, as we are trying to do currently in Ireland for Gaeilge. There seems to be a rising spirit amongst the Scots for the promotion and preservation of Gaelic culture, and this was apparent to me through the course of the conference. This was no doubt spurred also by the recent overwhelming success of the SNP in the elections, arousing a sense of national pride in the Scots.
To put this fervent spirit into a broader context, only recently BBC Alba was made available on Freeview in the UK, and I was able to catch some of it when I stayed with my relatives in Glasgow after the conference. At the start of the year, there was a campaign to get the Gaelic band from Leòdhas (Lewis), Mànran, to the top of the charts on iTunes with their catchy song in Gàidhlig, 'Làtha Math' ('A Good Day'). Mozilla Firefox and its email client Thunderbird is now available in Gàidhlig, as is Open Office. Linguist Michael Bauer has contributed to these translations of modern technology, while also working on the Gàidhlig online dictionaries Dwelly-d and Am Faclair Beag. He has created a very useful web page, Akerbeltz, and recently published a book, Blas na Gàidhlig, to aid learners and Gàidhlig speakers alike with a guide to finely-tuned pronunciation of the language and explanations of grammar. (Might I also add that he has an unusual knack for making these subjects very approachable for everyone!) There is a definite push for Gaelic Medium Education, and Bòrd na Gàidhlig is offering funding for the training of Gaelic teachers. These efforts seem to be gathering momentum this year, and I wonder if this is more than a coincidence; perhaps the guiding spirit of Somhairle is still in our midst.