Falzett Named Visiting Lecturer in Scottish Gaelic Studies at UNC

Dr. Tiber Falzett, speaking with Woody Beaton, a participant at the 2016 Gaelic Folkways Festival and Summer Institute held in Orwell, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Dr. Tiber Falzett, speaking with Woody Beaton, a participant at the 2016 Gaelic Folkways Festival and Summer Institute held in Orwell, Prince Edward Island.

Scottish Gaelic Studies in the United States takes a leap forward with the appointment of Dr. Tiber Falzett to the first Scottish Heritage USA Scottish Gaelic Visiting Lectureship at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The first lectureship of its kind in the United States is the result of a two-year campaign by the Scottish Gaelic Foundation of the USA / Urras Gàidhlig nan Stàitean Aonaichte.

The organization, also known as Gaelic USA, is a 501c3 tax exempt public charity working to reclaim and revitalize the language and heritage of the Scottish Highlands in America, and to build bridges between communities of all sorts, including organizations promoting Scottish Gaelic on a grass-roots level and academia.

“‘S e euchd mhór agus dhoirbh a bh’ ann gu toirt gu buil, ach se comharra dòchais is cliù a th’ ann aig an aon am a thaobh àrdachadh agus leasachadh na Gàidhlig aig ìre oifigeil anns na Stàitean,” Michael Newton, the secretary of Gaelic USA, said in a statement. (“This is a great accomplishment that was difficult to bring to fruition, and it is a mark of hope and respect at the same time for the elevation and development of Gàidhlig at an official level in the United States” — ed.).

Newton also thanked An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach / The American Scottish Gaelic Society for its financial assistance in establishing Gaelic USA.

Last July, Scottish Heritage USA, a separate organization, agreed to fund the entire amount necessary to support the 2018-19 visiting lectureship, the first position of its kind in an American university. “The Carolinas were home to the largest Gaelic-speaking communities outside of Scotland for generations and people of Highland ancestry still make up a large segment of the region’s population,” Rev. Dr. Douglas Kelly, president of Scottish Heritage USA, said at the time. “This is an ideal time to foster scholarship about the Gaelic legacy of the Carolinas and North America as a whole in the academy.”

Falzett is a fluent Scottish Gaelic speaker, as well as a singer and bagpiper. He has performed in a range of venues, from village halls to national broadcast media, in Scotland and Canada. He is a sessional lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, where he has just finished teaching “Introduction to Folklore” and “Scottish Heritage and Culture.”

He also held a previous lecturer appointment in the Department of Celtic Studies, St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he taught courses on the folklore and ethnology of the Gaelic communities of Scotland, Ireland and Canada, as well as Scottish Gaelic.

For the past three years, Falzett’s research has focused on the legacy of the Scottish Gaelic immigrant community on Prince Edward Island. His goal is to create models for re-engaging this community with its cultural heritage at a grass-roots level using archived recordings of some of the last Scottish Gaelic tradition-bearers recorded by his doctoral supervisor, Dr. John Shaw, as well as the late Professor Gordon MacLennan.

A fluent Scottish Gaelic speaker as well as a singer and bagpiper, Falzett has presented and performed in a range of venues, from village halls to national broadcast media, in Scotland and Canada. As an active folklorist and musician, he especially values opportunities to share the Scottish Gaelic language and its music with others. He believes that language and music have the power to break down barriers and bring people together.

At the University of North Carolina, Falzett will begin the visiting lectureship by teaching two folklore classes through the English Department using Scottish Gaelic content material. Gaelic USA is planning events throughout the year to promote the lectureship.

For more on the lectureship and Gaelic USA’s plans for Scottish Gaelic Studies in the United States, visit the group’s website: gaelicusa.org.

To Falzett, Gaelic USA and the University of North Carolina, mealaibh ur naidheachd.

— Liam Ó Caiside, with thanks to Tiber Falzett, Michael Newton and Gaelic USA for use of the photograph and other information.

 

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.