First ‘Oidhche nam Bàrd’ Celebrates Scottish Gaelic Poetry

ACGA director, and Gaelic poet, Barbara Lynn Rice, shares a poem at Oidhche nam Bàrd.
ACGA director Barbara Lynn Rice shares a poem at Oidhche nam Bàrd.

Everyone, practically everywhere, has heard of Robert Burns and Burns’ Night, but what about Scotland’s Gaelic poets?

They got their due and their own night Jan. 27, when 20 people gathered to celebrate centuries of poets and Gaelic poetry and share poems and songs at Oidhche nam Bàrd in Alexandria, Virginia.

Gàidhlig Photomac, the Scottish Gaelic Learning Community in the Washington, D.C., area, organized the special event, held just a few nights after Robert Burns’ big evening Jan. 25. The venue was the snug Fitzgerald room at Daniel O’Connell’s Irish restaurant.

“We felt it was time the contribution of Scottish Gaelic poets to Scotland and, in fact, the world at large, was recognized,” Liam Cassidy, a co-organizer of Gàidhlig Photomac, said.

The evening combined poetry and song with a brief Gaelic class, dinner and drinks, music and a toast to the bards (all of them).

“Many people are drawn to Gaelic by its songs, and the link between poetry and song in Gaelic is strong,” Cassidy said. “We’ve wanted to do something to celebrate and introduce Gaelic poetry to learners for a long time, and this seemed a good way to go about it.”

The evening’s program featured five Gaelic poets from different eras: Lachlann Mòr MacMhuirich from the medieval period, Mòr Chaimbeul from the 1570s, Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir from the 18th century, Màiri Mhòr nan Òran from the 19th century, and finally, the great 20th century Gaelic poet Somhairle MacGilleathain.

The poems were read in Gaelic and in English translation and copies and information on the poets were shared with attendees.

After the “formal” reading, the informal sharing of poems and songs began. Out of the 20 attendees, nine volunteered to read or sing favorite pieces they brought with them. “We were pleased with the turnout, but amazed by the number of people who wanted to share poems,” Cassidy said.

Oidhche nam Bàrd drew long-time members of the D.C.-area Gaelic community but also new people, including a family with ties to Lochaber, an Irish-language student, and a few people experiencing Gaelic for the first time. The event was the first this year for Gàidhlig Photomac, which publicized the night through Meetup and Facebook.

While most of the attendees were locals living in Northern Virginia, D.C., or Maryland, three came from New York City and one from Richmond, Virginia. The New Yorkers all enjoyed local hospitality.

There was no charge for the event itself. Attendees covered their own tabs. “The fact that the restaurant did not charge for the room meant a lot to us,” Cassidy said. “That helped us make this a free event.”

Gàidhlig Photomac plans to make Oidhche nam Bàrd an annual event, and hopes other Gaelic Learning Communities will host their own events celebrating Gaelic poets and poetry. “The model would be an easy one to follow, even for small groups,” Cassidy said.


‘S e Nollaig a th’ ann! Students release Gaelic Christmas song

A Scottish Gaelic Christmas song performed by a high school rock band is spreading not just throughout Scotland but worldwide.

“‘S e Nollaig a th’ ann! (It’s Christmas!”) was recorded by Làn Chomais, a Gaelic rock band from Greenfaulds High School, and released Dec. 7.

Làn Chomais (which means full of ability or power), recorded the song with the backing voices of 1,000 students from Gaelic language programs at schools across North Lanarkshire.

“This experience has been awesome and has given us an amazing opportunity to promote the Gaelic profile of North Lanarkshire while working at a professional level with hugely inspiring musicians,” said Emily Robertson, the band’s lead singer.

“We have been searching for a way to make people more aware of the fact that Gaelic is alive and well in our area,” said Kevin Rogers, a Gaelic teacher at the high school, located in Cumbernauld, northeast of Glasgow.

“We’re Gaels like anybody else who speaks the language and is involved in the culture,” he explains in the YouTube video.

‘S e Nollaig a th’ ann! is available to download on iTunes, Amazon, Google, and Spotify.

Click here to learn more about the Gaelic-medium education program at Greenfaulds High School.

Christine Primrose to hold Scottish Gaelic Song Workshop in NYC Dec. 13

Primrose photo

Scottish Gaelic learners and fans of Gaelic song in the New York area will have a unique opportunity to meet and study with one of the leading exponents of Gaelic song in Scotland this December, Christine Primrose. The New York Caledonian Club will present a workshop with Primrose on Wednesday, Dec. 13, from 7-9 pm, at Studios 353 (353 West 48th Street, Manhattan, 2nd floor) near Times Square in New York City. Admission is $40 for ACGA and NYCC members, and $45 for non-members.

Primrose, who was born and brought up in Carloway, on the Island of Lewis, has been singing for as long as she can remember.  “Singing was an ordinary thing to do,” she said in an interview with ACGA board member Liam Ó Caiside in 2002. “My father’s uncle was always making me sing because he was a singer himself. He’d call me into his shed, saying, “Dè na h-òrain a-nis a tha thu ‘g ionnsachadh?” Which songs are you learning now?”

Her first album, Àite mo Ghaoil, was released in 1982. Primrose is credited with “breaking the mould” that had Gaelic singers performing largely for Gaelic-speaking audiences by taking her songs to audiences in folk clubs and concert halls far from the Hebrides.

Since the 1980s, she has travelled the world singing and teaching, blazing a path that many other Gaelic singers have followed, touring the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Europe. She is Head of Gaelic Song at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic College on the Isle of Skye, where she teaches short courses and full-time classes on the BA (Hons) Gaelic & Traditional Music Program. She has won many awards for her singing, amongst them Gaelic Singer of the Year at the Traditional Music Awards in 2009.

Primrose also has been an instructor at ACGA’s Grandfather Mountain Scottish Gaelic Song and Language Week in Banner Elk, North Carolina, most recently in 2014. This year, Primrose was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

This fall Primrose and Temple Records released Gràdh is Gonadh – Guth ag aithris (Love and Loss – a Lone Voice), an hour of unaccompanied Gaelic singing “delivered with the clarity and emotional expression of a true and very natural virtuoso,” as the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame said in a statement. Scottish Gaelic writer Angus Peter Campbell called it “a masterpiece, every note and every syllable here is a note of grace.”

Speakers, learners and friends of Gaelic in New York are fortunate the New York Caledonian Club, which offers Gaelic language classes, will present this unique opportunity to meet and learn from Primrose. Attendees may register and pay via PayPal through the website, or checks may be sent to: Attn: Christine Primrose Workshop, New York Caledonian Club, PO Box 4542, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163-4542.

For more information, call 212-662-1083 or e-mail


$100,000 endowment to benefit Gaelic teaching, education in Nova Scotia

A $100,000 endowment fund supporting Gaelic culture and teaching will be announced today in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Neil and Marianne Joy MacLean Estate Gift to Saint Francis Xavier University will promote and develop proficient Gaelic teachers and help advance Scottish Gaelic language and culture in Nova Scotia, the university announced on its Facebook page.

The estate gift will support Gaelic educators through the StFX Bachelor of Education program. The official announcement will be made during the milling frolic at the Art Gallery in Halifax.

Classroom at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Gaelic has been taught at StFX since 1890.
Classroom at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Gaelic has been taught at StFX since 1890. Photo: StFX.

The MacLeans shared a great love for the Gaelic language and music, StFX said. Mr. MacLean especially loved Milling Frolics and concerts that involved his musically talented nieces, the “MacLean Sisters.”

In addition for their love of Celtic Music, travel and other cultures, the MacLeans shared an undying passion for scholarship and helping others learn, StFX said.

Their mutual love of Gaelic is now embodied in the spirit of giving and scholarships.

Cuach na Cloinne – Football Brings Gaelic Kids Together

Highland Council Convenor Bill Lobban and the winning team Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce, Dùn Èideann (Parkside Gaelic School, Edinburgh).
Highland Council Convenor Bill Lobban and the winning team Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce, Dùn Èideann (Parkside Gaelic School, Edinburgh).

A national football (soccer) competition in Scotland is bringing Gaelic-speaking and Gaelic-learning children from across the country together, helping them to make new friends and demonstrating that Gaelic is spoken beyond their local communities.

The Cuach na Cloinne (Children’s Quaich or Cup) competition is held entirely in Scottish Gaelic.  This year, a record 62 teams participated in the, representing 33 schools. Regional competitions were held over several weeks in the Highlands, Hebrides and Glasgow.

Edinburgh’s Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce came out on top this year, emerging victorious from a match against runners-up Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis (Inverness) May 30. The game was played at Inverness’s Caledonian Thistle F C Stadium.

“Many congratulations go to Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce,”  Highland Council Convenor Councillor Bill Lobban said in a statement (available in English / Gàidhlig).

Cuach na Cloinne 2017 was funded by Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (The Highland Council and Western Isles Council) along with Bòrd na Gàidhlig and organized by Comunn na Gàidhlig.

Cuach na Cloinne “has created an opportunity for young people from schools across Scotland who attend Gaelic Medium Education to meet and compete against each other and combines their Gaelic linguistic and footballing skills,” Lobban said.

“It is particularly pleasing to hear the youngsters taking part in the competition communicating so naturally with each other in Gaelic,” David Boag, director of language planning and community developments at Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said in the statement.

This year, Bòrd na Gàidhlig sponsored a new trophy, Sàr Neach Cleachdaidh na Gàidhlig, presented to the individual player who, in the view of the referees, made the most use of the Gaelic language throughout the event.

The winner of the award was Murdo Shaw, from Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abair (Lochaber).

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