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  Gaelic Youth in Action

Na h-Òigridh - Focus on Youth

Engaging and supporting youth is a key priority for Comhairle na Gàidhlig. Programs like Spòrs and Eilean nan Òg foster an environment where Gaelic language and culture are introduced in a fun, engaging way - encouraging continuous learning. In turn, we hope those involved will become role-models for others in their community. Comhairle na Gàidhlig believes recognizing and encouraging the contributions of youth in our community is an important way of investing in the future of Gaelic language in the province.

Gaelic Youth
From left to right, Jody MacKenzie, Anita MacDonald, Evan Bonaparte and Rod. C. MacNeil - from whom they learned a Gaelic song.

In the following profiles, we meet three young people from central Cape Breton who are working hard and having fun with Gaelic in Nova Scotia.

Gaelic Role Models:

Jody MacKenzie, Anita MacDonald and Evan Bonaparte are high-school students at Sgoil Mhic Fhraing a' Chaolais (Rankin School of the Narrows) in Iona, Nova Scotia. They have a keen interest in Gaelic language, songs, music and dance and attend weekly TIP sessions in Christmas Island. In recent years, they have performed individually and as a group at various events around the island, including Feis an Eilein concerts, Clan MacNeil Day celebrations, the Glendale ceilidhs and several conferences and school functions. Evan and Anita have also participated in the Eilean nan Òg program organized by Comhairle na Gàidhlig.

Two years ago, Anita and Jody attended a workshop given by noted Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond. It was there they learned the chorus to O a ruin, gur a tu th’ m’aire. With help from their TIP instructors, Angus MacLeod and Beth MacNeil, they learned the rest of the song. Evan soon picked-up the chorus and now accompanies them on guitar when they perform the song together. Anita joins in on fiddle in the middle.

Last summer, Anita and Jody were employed by Feis an Eilein in Christmas Island. Between them, they taught fiddle, piano and step dance lessons. They also organized and ran Gaelic drama day-camps for children. Commenting on this program the girls write, "It was an amazing learning experience, as we were teaching basic Gaelic vocabulary and phrases to children. By doing so, we increased our knowledge of the Gaelic language and all of its traditions."

In recent months, Anita, Jody and Evan approached Gaelic tradition-bearer and singer Rod C. MacNeil (Ruairidh Iain Dhòmhnaill Sheumas Dhòmhnaill Òig Iain Ruairidh) about learning the words to a Gaelic war song he composed called Turas le Tinneas. With his help, they learned the song and later performed it with him at Remembrance Day ceremonies at their school.

Evan, Anita and Jody are doing a lot to maintain the Gaelic culture and traditions in their community. In the following, they tell us why:

Evan Bonaparte: "I have grown to love the Gaelic language."

The Gaelic Language is a very important part of our heritage. I have been fascinated with the Gaelic Language and some day hope to be a Gaelic speaker. Our community and school community has done an excellent job of exposing us to the language. Since my early days in school with exposure to Gaelic music and milling frolics I have grown to love the Gaelic Language. Our community has been blessed with a few Gaelic speakers who are very willing to pass their knowledge on to us and help keep this language alive. We are able to enjoy ceilidhs, milling frolics, Gaelic classes etc. in our school and community. I started taking guitar lessons when I was very young and from the start I would say I liked to use my talent to apply it to the Gaelic songs. Through our school Jody, Anita and I started to learn and use our talent to sing Gaelic songs. We have played at ceilidhs and gatherings together and have been fortunate to have lessons available to us in our community. Hopefully we will continue our study in this language and keep playing at various ceilidhs therefore promoting this fascinating language. Maybe some day the Gaelic language will once again be spoken by numerous people in our community.

Anita MacDonald: "One of my goals is to become a fluent Gaelic speaker."

Gaelic culture is a very important aspect of my life. I grew up immersed in the culture through music, song, dance, and language. At an early age I began taking fiddle, piano, step-dancing and Gaelic language lessons. Throughout the years I have taken part in Gaelic language, song workshops and TIP classes from well known such as Hector MacNeil, Angus MacLeod, Beth MacNeil, Cathy Ann MacPhee and Mary Jane Lamond.

I have participated in Eilean nan Òg, at the Nova Scotia Highland Village Museum and completed the Beul an Tobair Online Gaelic Course through The Gaelic College. I have also been inspired by local tradition bearers such as The Iona Gaelic Singers, Peter Jack MacLean, and recordings of my great-grandfather John W. Ellis. I have performed all over Cape Breton as well as many other parts of Nova Scotia. My love of music and Gaelic culture has also given me the opportunity to perform in Prince Edward Island, and for people such as the Lieutenant Governor. I took an interest in learning the Gaelic language because I was very interested in learning about my past and culture. As it is part of my community, family, and school, I have grown up with the Gaelic culture all around me. I would like continue on to post secondary school to become a Gaelic teacher. One of my goals is to become a fluent Gaelic speaker. Through our school Jody, Evan and I started to learn and use our talent to sing Gaelic songs. We have sought the help of some of our local Gaelic tradition bearers .We have preformed at ceilidhs and gatherings together.

Jody MacKenzie: "I am trying to absorb as much as I can."

Gaelic is a significant part of my heritage. Almost all of my ancestors are of a Scottish background. My grandparents were native speakers and while growing up, I would often hear my grandmother and her siblings conversing in the language. I always thought this was amazing and Gaelic began to interest me at an early age. From grades primary through six, I received Gaelic language instruction through school. In the summer time, I always attended day camps put on by Feis an Eilein. Gaelic culture always seemed to be surrounding me. There is a strong desire in me to continue learning Gaelic because it connects me to my past. It is truly important to me. I am trying to learn as much as I can while I am still in school. I know that as I get older and become more focused on my career, Gaelic may take a backseat. But right now, I am trying to absorb as much as I can. Gaelic has also provided me with employment opportunities, such as entertaining at events and working for Feis an Eilein. Gaelic will always hold a special place in my heart, no matter where I go in life. It will always connect me to my home in Christmas Island and my past.

Getting to know Gaelic
B'fhearr gun tòiseachadh na sguir gun chriochnachadh.

Better not to begin than stop without finishing.
Getting to know Gaelic
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