Item Posted: Sunday 28th March, 2010
Over the last year pupils at Dunoon Grammar School have been closely involved in an innovative archiving project, interviewing local Argyll Gaelic speakers and learning about the heritage of the area. Their stories range over childhood in the area around the time of the Second World War:
‘We couldn’t go into shops and buy sweets. Everyone had ration books. Children over five, but younger than fifteen, they had a blue book.. I had a green book, and we were awful lucky- we could get an orange!’
‘ There wasn’t much paper at all. Oh we had one or two jotters and they were precious… We had a black slate with a wooden frame and we had a pencil but it wasn’t a lead pencil..’
Some talked about learning Gaelic at school and at home: ‘In Tiree there was both Gaelic and English – they could speak both. There were some who came into the school and they didn’t have any English. They only had Gaelic.’
‘I didn’t speak Gaelic at home, I learned Gaelic at school. My parents spoke Gaelic but they didn’t speak Gaelic to me. I don’t know (why). When they went to school, they didn’t speak any English and their teachers didn’t speak Gaelic so it was English they had’
‘Gaelic was a great help to me because when you have two languages to start with, you are not scared to speak another language. So, you get along better than other people who only have one language. I think the Gaels are open- minded and we have all the heritage with the songs, the stories, the traditions and the tunes.’
Clearly a number of the interviewee’s had good memories of music and ceilidhs from their childhood: ‘ There was quite a lot (of music) and everyone went out to the ceildhs. My mother and father and everyone – we went as a family. There were three of them that played fiddle at Port Ellen but there weren’t any teachers – just an old man down the street. We didn’t have any sheet music, we just listened. There was piping but it was the same thing with that, they learnt from an old man down another road!
Fèisean nan Gàidheal, in association with Fèis Cheann Loch Goibhle, based in Lochgoilhead, have produced a unique bi- lingual thirty page booklet to commemorate this project. The booklet includes a selection of memories, stories, history and beliefs about the Argyll area, as well as pictures by the participants that represents the meaning of local Gaelic place names. It is an important contribution to the oral history of Argyll, and would be of interest to anyone interested in the Gaelic culture of Argyll, or as a memento of the area. Copies can be bought from Elizabeth Bain firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephoning 01301 703504.