A group of young Armagh Gaels have just returned from an enjoyable and educational visit to meet their Celtic cousins in the highlands and islands of Scotland. The group, who are involved in CAIRDE Teo radio project Raidió Mhacha, visited the Gaelic speaking region of Scotland on the Isle of Skye to make a bilingual Irish and Scots Gaelic language radio programme with a number of young Gaelic speakers on the island and to forge a link with local community radio station Cuilinn FM. The Armagh contingent have spent the past number of months brushing up on their radio production skills and interviewing techniques, while making a number of programmes to broadcast on Armagh’s new online bilingual radio station, Raidió Mhacha. The group were joined on the trip by project tutor Edel Ní Churraoin, from Belfast-based Irish language community radio station Raidió Fáilte and Seán Ó Maoilsté, Irish language development officer with CAIRDE Teo.
As well as visiting the radio station, the group met a number of Gaelic language organisations in Port Rìgh, or Portree, which is the main town on the island, and interviewed a number of Gàidhlig speakers about the importance of the language for island life and their hopes for the future growth of the language. The young people learned about the role of organisations such as Feisean nan Gàidheal to promote the language amongst children and young people and shared ideas about how the two language communities in Ireland and in Scotland could learn from one another. As well as the language, the Armagh Gaels learned of the similarities between the two communities, including Irish and Scottish music, Irish and highland dance and the sports of hurling and shinty.
The youth group from CAIRDE Teo also paid a quick visit to capital of the highlands, Inverness, where they received a tour of the beautiful city and met up with a number of people interested in the Scots Gaelic culture. Inverness is home to a Gaelic-medium secondary school and many of the young Gàidhlig speakers were busy preparing for a Gaelic language drama festival, similar to one hosted in the Marketplace Theatre in early March. The Armagh Irish speakers also learned some basic Scottish Gaelic phrases to help them recognise the different pronunciations and words used in the Scottish version of the Gaelic language. The young people hope to build on the success of the Scottish visit by developing a bilingual series of programmes focusing on the music and traditions of Scotland and Ireland.
Speaking on his return from the Scottish trip, Máirtín Mac an Bheatha, a Year 9 student at St Patrick’s Grammar School Armagh and former student at Bunscoil na mBráithre Críostaí said, “We really enjoyed the trip and learned a lot about the similarities between our own language and Scottish Gaelic. We also learned that the people on Skye play a version of hurling and their music is very similar to ours as well.” Luíseach Ní Thréinfhir is a Year 13 student at the Irish medium unit of St Catherine’s College, “We met a number of young Gaelic speakers in Port Rìgh and spoke about the two languages, the similar cultures and employment opportunities. We also visited the local radio station and shared ideas on how Cuilinn FM may attract young people to make more Gaelic language programmes.” Tiarnán Mac Gabhann, a Year 13 student at Abbey Grammar School, who is also a member of Armagh Pipers Club enjoyed the trip, “It was great to meet with young Gaelic speakers on the Isle of Skye and in Inverness. Armagh Pipers Club has a long association with Gaelic Scotland and there have been many exchanges over the years. I play hurling with Keady Lámh Dhearg and I was very interested to hear about shinty and especially the coverage that Cuilinn FM give to the sport.”
The Scottish trip was organised by local Irish language social enterprise, CAIRDE Teo, as part of their skills development programme for young Irish speakers. CAIRDE Teo are grateful to Colmcille, a partnership between Foras na Gaeilge and Bòrd na Gàidhlig to promote the use of Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaeilic in Ireland and Scotland and between the two countries, who gave part-funding for the project and to Raidió Fáilte for all of their help with the Raidió Mhacha training programme over the past year.