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  The Council in the News


By Chris Hayes - Cape Breton Post

April 4th, 2013

SYDNEY — First there will be tea, music and a chat, followed by a discussion that focuses on community and social connections, before moving into the program, as per the Gaelic custom, according to the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia.

The council will host sessions in 10 of the province’s more active Gaelic communities, seven of them in Cape Breton to give an update on provincial and local work and to give people a chance to talk about what they have been doing, and what they want in their own communities.

Co-ordinator said the goal is to provide a space to get together and talk about Gaelic, with a focus on what communities are doing.

 “We are interested in really looking carefully at what the community mandate is and making sure we are supporting that, and not just what someone thinks is a good idea.”

Cameron said there are many newer groups interested in Gaelic with a new emphasis on immersion, strengthening the speaking ability.

 “It really ups the value and meaning of Gaelic in a community,” she said. “It is not just an intellectual pursuit. You know, it is a real thing.”

By way of background, the council said it has been more that 10 years since a Gaelic development steering committee hosted meetings across the province to see what interest and support there is for Gaelic.

“The strength of the response to these meetings warranted a small but strategic investment in community-based Gaelic development in Nova Scotia, which has brought about a wave of activity province-wide,” it said in a release.

The meetings will carry on those discussion, taking a new look at what to do for the next decade, said Cameron.

The council said it is hosting the get-togethers with support from Gaelic communities and institutions, and the provincial office of Gaelic affairs.

Following the meetings, a workshop will be held in June for anyone from across the province to gain skills that will help them support local community goals for Gaelic, the council said. “Kitchen table” meetings to talk about how to move toward community goals will be held in the fall.

For more information, people can contact .

Gaelic council meetings

The Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia will host meetings in the following communities on the following dates:

• Antigonish, April 6, 1 p.m., People’s Place, 283 Main St.

• Johnstown, April 7, 1 p.m., Johnstown parish hall

• Sydney, April 8, 5:30 p.m., Grand Lake Road fire hall

• St Anns, April 9, 5:30 p.m, Colaisde na Gàidhlig

• Christmas Island, April 10, 5:30 p.m., Christmas Island fire hall

• New Glasgow, April 13, 1 p.m., library, Archimedes Street

• Glendale, April 22, 5:30 p.m., Glendale parish hall

• Port Hawkesbury, April 23, 5:30 p.m., KOC hall, 31 Napean St.

• Mabou, April 24, 5:30 p.m., Dalbrae Academy




Published on November 12, 2012

Letters to the Editor (The Cape Breton Post)

Throughout the 20th century, despite the odds, Gaels did not give up on advancing the cause of their language.     

Prior to the Second World War, when Rev. A.W.R. MacKenzie founded the Gaelic College at St. Anns, did he imagine that the college would be about to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2013?

From the start, he hired the best Gaelic scholars of the day to teach, including Jonathan MacKinnon of MacTalla fame; and James MacNeil, Gaelic editor of the Sydney Post Herald, was one of the instructors for the college’s extension department.

How many readers know that, at that time, the college established evening classes in 14 communities, including Sydney and Boston?

Throughout the decades, the Gaelic language has been taught at the Gaelic College summer school without a break, and many of its students are involved in work requiring knowledge of the language. These days, Cape Breton University, St. Francis Xavier University’s Celtic department, and Sabhal Mór Òstaig in Skye have all contributed to the Gaelic knowledge of new staff members. New opportunities to “extend its reach” can make the college a major force in Gaelic development in the province and beyond.

In 1959, it was in part due to a “strong, resolute speech in Gaelic” by the Rev. Archibald D. MacKinnon of the Whycocomagh-Little Narrows Presbyterian charge, that An Clachan Gàidhealach — the Highland Village Museum — was secured for Iona, in the face of keen representation from both Antigonish and Pictou counties. From the beginning, the museum has been intent on “learning and sharing authentic Gaelic language and heritage.”

With Comhairle na Gàidhlig (The Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia), the museum produced Cainnt mo Mhàthar (My Mother’s Language); and more recently with the Office of Gaelic Affairs, the museum created An Drochaid Eadarainn (The Bridge Between Us), a website offering online Gaelic language tools based on authentic native speaker idiom.

In recent years, the museum has been a source of employment, full time and part time, for more than 15 advanced Gaelic learners, some of whom have gone on to more permanent positions, including Joanne MacIntyre, chief interpreter, now Gaelic teacher at Dalbrae Academy in Mabou; and Emily MacDonald, summer student employee, now Gaelic director at the Gaelic College.

In the 1970s, thanks largely to the Gaelic Society of Sydney, Gaelic teachers from Scotland were obtained for Inverness County schools. At the time, no teachers certified to teach Gaelic were available in the province. Today, it is possible to obtain one’s bachelor of educationdegree in Gaelic from St. F.X. — a first in North America. Thanks, too, to the Department of Education’s fund for Gaelic programs, 10 teachers are currently instructing the language in Nova Scotia schools — and not only in Cape Breton. Gaelic is now offered at three schools in Antigonish County, and at Citadel High in Halifax.  

From the 1980s on — with the founding of Comhairle na Gàidhlig in 1988 and the provincial legislature’s designation in 1996 of May as Gaelic Awareness Month — Nova Scotia Gaels were poised to enter the new century with renewed hope.

With the Cainnt mo Mhàthar project, the council has participated in recording native Gaelic speech for the benefit of learners. With the Gaelic Affairs office, the council has also been instrumental in producing the symbol for Gaelic Nova Scotia.

With the official opening of the Office of Gaelic Affairs in 2007, fluent Gaelic speaker and Gaelic poet Lewis MacKinnon, whose roots are in Inverness County, became CEO of the new office, and currently oversees a staff of four. Among the staff are Cape Bretoners Goiridh Dòmhnallach and Frances MacEachen, both of whom were able to gain employment in a field to which they had previously contributed countless hours, through teaching and publishing, respectively.

Prior to this, in 2004, the provincial government indicated its support for the Gaelic language and culture by creating the position of Gaelic culture officer, who oversaw the Gaelic Activities Program, now transformed into the Gaelic Language in Community (GLIC) program, designed to revitalize the language at the community level.

Community has always been integral to Gaelic life and culture; this is now being strengthened by the Bun is Bàrr (Root and Branch) pilot program which unites native Gaelic speakers as mentors with learners, one on one, to the benefit of both.

When Lewis MacKinnon graduated from St. F.X. with his first degree in 1992, a friend asked him what kind of work he would like to pursue. When MacKinnon answered, “Something involving Gaelic,” the retort was: “That will never happen!”

Now, here we are, 20 years on, and a heartening result of the resurgence of Gaelic in our province can be seen in opportunities which allow Nova Scotians with competence in Gaelic to find work at home.

Today, there is a growing commitment to working collectively and supporting each other’s efforts among those working on behalf of Gaelic. They are fully determined that the language and culture will be a big part of Cape Breton’s, and Nova Scotia’s, future.

Tim Aggett, Dartmouth; Barbara Sutherland-Foote, Westmount; Emily Clegg, Truro; Ishbel Munro, Tatamagouche

Comhairle na Gàihdlig executive



Gaelic College’s balancing act
Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post
December 20, 2011

The Gaelic College recently hired two relatively young Cape Breton musicians — fiddler Rodney MacDonald and pianist Tracey (Dares) MacNeil — to prominent roles at the St. Anns school.

MacDonald, who is perhaps more widely recognized as the premier of Nova Scotia from 2006-09, is the CEO. MacNeil, who toured with Natalie MacMaster’s band for several years, is the director of education and programming.

Neither is a “native” Gaelic speaker, but both are descended from and live among Gaels. And both have indicated that they want the Gaelic College to shift its main focus to the Gaelic language.

That’s welcome, because — ironically and regrettably — that hasn’t been the case for much of the college’s 73-year history.

An enviable model is Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, a Gaelic medium college in Skye, Scotland.

In 2007, Cape Breton University professor Heather Sparling wrote an article on the history of the Gaelic College’s mod (a mod being a Gaelic arts festival that usually includes competitions). Sparling referenced Rev. Somerled MacMillan, a bard from Scotland, who visited Cape Breton in 1958 and criticized the lack of Gaelic at the Gaelic College mod.

Rev. A.W.R. MacKenzie, the college’s non-Gaelic speaking founder and mod director, responded to MacMillan’s comments by saying: “Perhaps he missed the point that the Gaelic College is not simply dedicated to promotion of the Gaelic language but also the entire Celtic arts.”

The question, since highland dance instructor Kelly MacArthur’s opinion piece appeared in the What’s Goin’ On online magazine earlier this month, is: Which of the ‘Celtic arts’ is the college going to continue to promote?

“Eventually, they hope to fade out one of the college’s longest-standing areas of study, highland dance,” wrote MacArthur. Indeed, MacNeil told the Post earlier this fall that the Gaelic College is “moving away from competitive style events” and wants to focus strongly on “Gaelic language and all of the most authentic, traditional components of Gaelic culture.”

There’s a certain danger in the words “authentic” and “traditional.” Scottish traditions evolved in Cape Breton. Men joined women in waulking or milling woolen cloth, local square dance sets were influenced by New England dances, and pianists began accompanying fiddlers in the 1930s. But today these cultural aspects are considered “traditional.”

Modern highland dancing may not have evolved organically in Cape Breton — or Gaelic Scotland for that matter — but it has been part of the Gaelic College scene for decades, and it’s little wonder that its proponents are defending its continuing presence there, although online forums unfortunately give rise to the type of over-the-top statements in defence of one “side” or the other.

The Gaelic College faces a delicate balancing act. The college has run deficits for the past five years. And MacDonald said he wants to balance the budget. But a shift in focus could make that goal more difficult in the short term, especially if previous supporters are alienated. Stakeholders should be engaged early in any discussions on major programming changes.

We agree with Comhairle na Gàidhlig president Tim Aggett — that the Gaelic College should place increasing emphasis on the Gaelic language while striving for a culture of inclusivity.


Gaelic College must find balance between fostering Gaelic, inclusion
Letter to the Editor ~ The Cape Breton Post
December 20, 2011

Comhairle na Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia) focuses on the promotion and growth of the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia. In the same way that the Acadians and Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia value their languages as an embodiment of their identities, our organization sees Gaelic as an extremely important platform that upholds our people’s values.

The mission statement of the Gaelic College in St. Anns is “to promote, preserve and perpetuate through studies in all related areas — the culture, music, language, arts, crafts, customs and traditions of immigrants from the highlands of Scotland.”

Cultural arts and identities are forever evolving, and all are valid artistic expressions in their own right. Our focus is on Gaelic arts and culture, and their foundation in Gaelic language, and we have great interest in how the province allocates its resources within the Gaelic College.

Our board of directors welcomes the concerns expressed by Kelly MacArthur about the possible discontinuing of the highland dance competition at the Gaelic College. Her words express a respect for the work that is done to support and grow Gaelic, and they provide a basis for discussion about the role of the Gaelic College.

Comhairle na Gàidhlig supports the increased emphasis on Gaelic language programming at the Gaelic College. Using an example, we feel that the Acadian community would not be well served by a provincially-funded educational institution that provided instruction in English, and similarly, neither is the Gaelic community.

The provincial government has funded a ‘Gaelic’ institution for 70 years, but it is only now seriously exploring how it can address and reverse Gaelic language decline in Nova Scotia. These are exciting times. We applaud the strength of conviction that the directors have demonstrated by making this bold move. At the same time, we hope to see programming at the Gaelic College that meets the needs of all its stakeholders.

Although there is no historical evidence of a connection between the culture of the immigrants from the Highlands of Scotland to Nova Scotia and highland dancing or the pipe band tradition, they have become a part of our contemporary Nova Scotia ‘Scottish’ identity, and they are deeply tied to the Gaelic College in the hearts of many.

We know that these arts provide an attraction to the college of those interested in ‘Scottish’ tradition, and are therefore a gateway to introduce people in a positive atmosphere to the unique language and culture of Gaelic Nova Scotia. We also feel that Gaelic cultural values of inclusion, attending to the needs around us, and courage, dictate that we seek options that support the objectives of all parties involved.

Tim Aggett, president
Comhairle na Gàidhlig


For Cape Breton Post
Cape Breton, Tuesday, May 31, 2011, p. A3

Various activities help promote Gaelic awareness

PORT HAWKESBURY - Those with a vested interest in growing Gaelic language and culture in Nova Scotia gathered in the Strait area town for a full day of activity and consultation.

Gaelic Awareness Month in Nova Scotia ends today and the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia wanted to mark the occasion with an event Saturday filled with family activities, workshops, discussion and celebration.

"There were a number of different groups that hosted events and shared their own involvement in Gaelic with the communities, so we feel it's a success and this is really a wrap-up of the whole month and we're really, really pleased with the kind of response we're getting," said Caroline Cameron, a co-ordinator with the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia.

Held at the Port Hawkesbury fire hall, the event drew people from across the province. Cameron said the workshops were aimed at exploring Gaelic-related opportunities for businesses and communities.

The Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia also held its annual general meeting Saturday, and hosted a dinner and gala event featuring journalist and author Linden MacIntyre as the guest speaker. That was followed by an evening of Gaelic song, stories and tunes hosted by Mary Jane Lamond. Nova Scotia's Minister of Gaelic Affairs Maureen MacDonald was in attendance.

"We're a provincial organization and really our main objective is to support community groups, because community groups are really where the Gaelic resource is, that's where Gaelic thrives," Cameron explained.

She said the event also served to raise awareness of projects happening across Nova Scotia to promote Gaelic.

"(We want) people to understand that we all have similar projects, similar issues and challenges and opportunities, so it's a great idea to get people from across the province to talk about these issues because it's a great environment to kinda cook up strategies and encourage each other," she said.

For more information on the council go to

For Cape Breton Post
Northside/Victoria, Thursday, February 24, 2011, p. A12

Weeklong Gaelic workshop immerses participants in everyday aspects of ancient language

Julie Collins
Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY MINES - Gaelic enthusiasts are ramping up their vocabulary by returning to a setting where the language was fostered for generations, in what is essentially a five-day ceilidh.

Fifteen intermediate Gaelic learners from as far away as Pictou and Dartmouth are attending a weeklong workshop at the home of Nona MacDermid on the shores of Sydney Mines, hosted by Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia .

"Throughout the week the entire house is Gaelic, with the exception of one room," Cameron said. "Gaelic is a living culture and the language is one really important part of that culture. The participants are here because they really want to work on their Gaelic. We are learning the language by doing everyday tasks - building a fire in the fireplace, baking biscuits, washing dishes or playing cards."

Cameron said one of the goals is to help Gaelic learners strengthen their verbal skills to support Gaelic in their own communities.

She added the week also includes going out to dinner, storytelling sessions and watching Gaelic movies, all while speaking Gaelic.

"Using total immersion, you engage people in the language," explained educator Goiridh Domhnallach, Gaelic field officer with the Office of Gaelic Affairs division of the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, who is leading the workshop along with Carman MacArthur. "We will be having a number of sessions during the year for intermediate speakers to bring them up to the level where they can apply to the Bun is Barr mentorship program to help fast track advanced learners."

He said the focus is to take Gaelic out of the classrooms and bring it back into the homes and communities, adding that when you are learning a language it makes sense to learn simple everyday things that you will use often.

"When folks are involved in activities they are a lot more relaxed and interested; those are two of the most important things for language learners. The best learning happens when you don't even know you are learning, it is acquiring language," he said. "We are basing the learning on Total Immersion Plus (Gaildhlig aig Baile) brought here by Finnlagh MacLeoid. The more relaxed, the better the language goes in and stays with the learner."

Domhnallach added that the social aspect - mixing with other people and having a good time doing a variety of activities, all done in Gaelic - is critical.

"You need the social (aspect) there, that is what's going to keep it in the heart and keep the language alive," he said. "We don't teach the Gaelic language through English, we teach it through Gaelic."

May 31, 2004
Provincial Strategy for Gaelic Launched
Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage

A strategy to preserve and advance Nova Scotia's Gaelic heritage was released today, May 31, at Rankin Memorial High School in Iona.

Tourism, Culture and Heritage Minister Rodney MacDonald joined the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia, representatives from the province's Gaelic community and the Scottish organization, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, to officially release Leasachadh agus Gléidheadh na Gàidhlig an Albainn Nuaidh (Developing and Preserving Gaelic in Nova Scotia: A Strategy for Community Based Initiatives).

"This strategy is a 20-year vision for Gaelic in Nova Scotia," said Mr. MacDonald. "It is a statement of how the Gaelic language and culture has survived in Nova Scotia. It is a plan to ensure the survival and growth of Gaelic in this province." Mr. MacDonald also announced today that the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage will contribute $100,000 over the next year to enhance economic growth within the Gaelic community and to develop a five-year business and implementation plan for the Gaelic strategy.

The Gaelic strategy is the result of three years of co-operative development by the Gaelic Development Steering Committee and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. It reflects widespread community input, mostly gathered at forums held throughout the province in November 2002. The strategy is a detailed plan that acknowledges the valuable contribution that Gaelic language and culture makes to Nova Scotian society, as well as its economic impact. The strategy summarizes the current situation, sets a framework for advancement and identifies the role of the provincial government as a critical partner in the process of revitalizing the Gaelic language and culture and expanding the Gaelic economy.

"It is no secret that the language is in a perilous state, but it is much more than just words that are being lost," said Hector MacNeil, chair of the Gaelic Development Steering Committee. "Linguistic research shows there is a tendency for economic decline in areas that undergo language repression and loss. It is our intention that, with the realization of the objectives outlined in this strategy document, we will see a revitalized Gaelic community. In this way, all Nova Scotians will continue to benefit from the Gaelic presence in this province."

The Gaelic strategy identifies six key areas of development: leadership and empowerment; language education; arts and culture; community initiatives; media and promotion; government and legal status. The Gaelic Council, with the continued co-operation of community and government, will build a series of five-year action plans around each of these topics. The first drafts of these plans will be presented at community forums in November 2004.

Rankin Memorial High School student Emily Redden thanked the Gaelic Development Steering Committee members for their initiative and perseverance, as well as the department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, and asked that the work begin with Cape Breton's youth in mind.

"Gaelic is the language of our heritage, tradition, family and community history," said Ms. Redden. "If Gaelic is lost to future generations, so will the continuity of knowledge that informs us on who we are and where we've been. We will become cultural orphans."

International language issues expert Rob Dunbar arrived from Scotland to attend the event. Mr. Dunbar, who is widely published and is a senior non-resident research associate of the European Centre for Minority Issues in Flensburg, Germany, represented

Bòrd na Gàidhlig -- a non-departmental public body established by the Scottish Executive to oversee Gaelic development in Scotland.

He conveyed the organization's congratulations and noted that Nova Scotia's Gaelic culture is a unique, precious and irreplaceable resource that, in addition to its role at home, has great importance to Scottish Gaels and to Scotland in general.

Leasachadh agus Gléidheadh na Gàidhlig an Albainn Nuaidh (Developing and Preserving Gaelic in Nova Scotia: A Strategy for Community Based Initiatives) is available on the website at . For more information, contact the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia, P.O. Box 51011, RPO Rockingham Ridge, Halifax, N.S., B3M 4R8.

For Immediate Release – May 17, 2004
Public Invited to Gaelic Announcement

On the final day of Gaelic Awareness Month, the Right Honourable Rodney MacDonald, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, will make an important announcement at Rankin Memorial Consolidated in Iona, Victoria County. This public press conference begins at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 31st.

On this significant occasion for Nova Scotia's cultural heritage, Minster MacDonald will announce the document release of Leasachadh agus Gléidheadh na Gàidhlig an Albainn Nuaidh (Developing and Preserving Gaelic in Nova Scotia: A Strategy for Community Based Initiatives).

The Gaelic Strategy is the result of three years of co-operative development between the Gaelic Development Steering Committee and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, which included public consultations throughout the province.

The Strategy is a detailed plan for the preservation and advancement of Nova Scotia's Gaelic heritage. It acknowledges the valuable contribution that Gaelic language and culture makes to Nova Scotian society and its economic resources. Comhairle na Gàidhlig, Alba Nuadh (Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia) and the Provincial Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage invites the public to attend this milestone announcement on May 31st at 10 a.m. at Rankin Memorial Consolidated.

For more information, visit or contact the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia, © The Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia - Comhairle na Gáidhlig | All Rights Reserved<BR>P.O. Box 51011, RPO Rockingham Ridge, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3M 4R8 Email:

NOTE: This announcement was covered extensively in international, national and regional news media. Seven reporters were on-site, with many others requesting pre- and post-interviews. Following is a list of SOME of the coverage.

  • BBC, interview with Jeff MacDonald, week of May 24th
  • Shunpiking, May 16-31 edition
  • The Cape Breton Post, Front Page, May 31st
  • The Chronicle Herald, Front Page, May 31st
  • Globe and Mail, May 31st
  • The Toronto Sun, May 31st
  • The New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, May 31st
  • Times and Transcript (Moncton), May 31st
  • The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton), May 31st
  • Cape Breton Radio (CJCB, CHER, K94), top of the news, May 31st, all day
  • Cape Breton Radio, Question of the Day, ‘Can Gaelic Be Saved?, May 31st, response: 93% said yes
  • CBC Radio, top of the news, May 31st, all day
  • CBC Radio, Information Morning, Sydney, May 31st, interview with Rob Dunbar
  • CBC Radio, Maritime Noon, interview with Mary Jane Lamond
  • CBC Radio, Mainstreet, Sydney, tape from announcement
  • CBC Radio, Canada at Five, voice report in news
  • CBC Radio, Arts Report, voice report and link on website
  • CIGO, top of the news, May 31st
  • BBC, interview with Rob Dunbar
  • ATV, report on evening news, posted on
  • Global, report on evening news
  • Support from Councilor Andrew Anderson, Chairman of The Highland Council’s Education, Culture and Sport Committee, issued as release and posted on internet
  • BBC Gaelic, Interview with Rob Dunbar and Jim Watson, ran nationally on their morning news show on June 1st
  • RCI (French CBC), feature piece on Gaelic, ran twice on June 1st, 12:30 and 6pm news
  • Chronicle Herald Daily Poll, June 1st, “Is it a good idea for the province to fund programs which encourage more Nova Scotians to learn Gaelic?”, response: 2880 votes, 67% said yes
  • Chronicle Herald, June 1st, cartoon, “Perhaps if we started teaching the math curriculum in Gaelic…”
  • National Post, June 1st
  • Halifax Daily News, June 1st
  • The Chronicle Herald, details of $100,000, June 3rd
  • CJFX, feature interview with Lewis MacKinnon, June 6th
  • Chronicle Herald, Three Letters to the Editor, June 7th
  • Cothrom (Gaelic Learners Publication based in Scotland), article by Jim Watson, Spring 2004
  • Am Braighe, Summer 2004
  • Shunpiking, Summer 2004

 Notices were also posted on the following websites:

  • Canadian Embassy, Washington DC
  • Central Cape Breton
  • Engine 101 (Atlantic Canada)
  • Gaelic College
  • International Federation of Arts Council and Culture Agencies (Australia)
  • News 1130 (Vancouver)
  • NewsZoom
  • Nova Scotia Highland Village
  • NovaServe (Southwest NS)
  • Save Gaelic
  • StarCast (Bell Media)
  • (News section under Ancestors)
  • Wren’s Nest

Congratulations/Expressions of Support and Interest received from:

  • Ailig A Dòmhnallach (Alex A MacDonald), Neach-gairm (Convener), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Alasdair MacGhillEathain (Alasdair MacLean)
  • Alasdair.MacCaluim, Scottish Parliament
  • Andrew R Nicoll, Scottish Catholic Archives, Edinburgh
  • Arthur Cormack, Director, Féisan nan Gàidheal
  • Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle, Sabhal Mór Ostaig
  • Councilor Andrew Anderson, Chairman of Education, Culture and Sport Service of the Highland Council in Scotland
  • Diarmaid Breathnach, Chief Executive, Iomairt Cholm Cille
  • Domhnall MacLeoid, Fear-cathrach, Comunn Gaidhlig Australia (Gaelic Society of Australia)
  • Donald Martin, Chief Executive, The Gaelic Council of Scotland
  • Donalda MacKinnon, Ceannard BBC Craoladh nan Gàidheal/Head of Gaelic, Head of CBBC Scotland
  • Dr Wilson McLeod, Ceiltis agus Eòlas na h-Alba (Celtic and Scottish Studies), Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann (University of Edinburgh)
  • Duncan MacLeod, Royal National Mod, Scotland and An Comunn Gaidhealach
  • Friends of Scotland at the Scottish Executive, Glasgow
  • Gillian Munro, neach teagaisg, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
  • Graham Watson
  • Hamish Fraser, Chairman Gaelic Select Committee, Highland Council 
  • Jo MacDonald, Executive producer, BBC Gaelic Radio
  • John Alick Macpherson, Gaelic Media Service
  • John Macdonald, CEO, Highlands and Islands
  • Mary Jess MacDonald, Strait Regional School Board
  • Morag Anna NicLeoid, Oifigear Leasachaidh Gaidhlig, Comhairle na Gaidhealtachd (Highland Council)
  • Nicola NicAoidh, Rùnaire a' Stiùiriche/PA to Director, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
  • Norman Gillis, Director of Education Sabhal Mór Ostaig
  • Pat Curran
  • Peter Chapman, Team of An Cùrsa Inntrigidh, Distance learning Gaelic course run by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
  • Rita Hunter, Fèis Rois Manager
  • Sarah Gundry, Oifigear Fiosrachaidh Gàidhlig (Gaelic Information Officer), Pàrlamaid na h-Alba (The Scottish Parliament)
  • Simon MacKenzie, Director for Tosg, National Gaelic Theatre
  • Susan Bell, Neach-clèireachd Foghlaim (Academic Assistant), Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

For Immediate Release – May 2004
Endangered Languages Disappearing Faster than Endangered Species:
Celebrating Gaelic Awareness Month is a Preservation Exercise

In the last 500 years, roughly 4.5 per cent of the world’s recorded languages disappeared, compared with less than 2 per cent of the birds and mammals on earth. Linguists estimate there are over 6,000 living languages remaining today, but more than 350 tongues have fewer than 50 speakers.

Scottish Gaelic has not yet fallen to such low numbers, but proponents of the language are struggling to maintain that status. In Nova Scotia, approximately 80,000 people spoke Scottish Gaelic at the turn of the 20th century. As we enter the 21st century, fewer than 1,000 speakers reside here. Despite this drop in fluent speakers, the consciousness of the Gaelic community remains incredibly strong; Gaelic continues to be the medium of expression of a collective and is being supported and protected as such.

One of the many efforts to promote the language is Gaelic Awareness Month. This initiative began in Nova Scotia and is now observed in many communities throughout North America, beginning on the Feast Day of Bealltainn on May 1st.

Since 1996, Nova Scotia has recognized May as Gaelic Awareness Month, with numerous MLAs noting its importance in the Legislature each year, often receiving special permission to present resolutions in Gaelic. In his address this year, the Honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, Rodney MacDonald, noted Gaelic activities in the province generate more than $23 million annually in direct revenues. He also reinforced the government’s commitment to preserving and presenting the Gaelic language and culture for the benefit of all Nova Scotians and visitors, as well as his department’s continuing efforts to foster new links between the shared Gaelic cultures of Nova Scotia and the Highland Council of Scotland.

“A tremendous opportunity to recognize the inherent value of linguistic and cultural inheritances in this province lies before us,” says Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia co-president, Lewis MacKinnon. The impact of the Gaelic community, and the Gaelic Awareness Month initiative, can be seen in the many university lectures, community concerts, and language and song workshops taking place throughout the province to celebrate Gaelic Awareness Month. (An itinerary of selected events is attached.)

For more information, visit or contact the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia,P.O. Box 51011, RPO Rockingham Ridge, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3M 4R8 Email:

Getting to know Gaelic
Aon bho a bhristeas an garradh, 's a dha dheug a leumas.

One cow breaks the fence, and a dozen leap it.
Getting to know Gaelic
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