Gaelic Legends in the Landscape: A Weekend Course with Roddy Maclean

The Field Studies Council's Kindrogan Centre in the Scottish Highlands.
The Field Studies Council’s Kindrogan Centre in the Scottish Highlands.

The connection between the Gaelic language and the landscape of Scotland (and Ireland and Man) runs deep. “The land speaks to us through our language,” Ruairidh MacIlleathain or Roddy Maclean said in “Gaelic in the Landscape,” a study of place-names in the Northwest Highlands.

“The backbone of our place-name heritage is Gaelic and, for a better understanding of our landscape, it is necessary to understand our language,” MacIlleathain said.

The Gaels did not literally “create” their landscape when they named each beinn and gleann, allt and cnoc, but they did create a lens through which they perceived the landscape in which they lived and expressed their relationship to it.

Place names that translated or transliterated into English might leave a traveler bemused or indifferent can resonate with meaning for a Gaelic speaker, especially one who has lived in intimate contact with the local landscape and environment.

But landscape as perceived through the Gaelic language is about more than just moorland and machair. It’s the bedrock on which accretive layers of history and legend have been laid that tie people to place together in ways fast being forgotten.

MacIlleathain hopes to illustrate this connection in a weekend course June 16-19 in Kindrogan, Scotland. The Inverness-based Gaelic journalist (creator of the popular Litir do Luchd Ionnsachaidh podcast for Gaelic learners)  will take participants to locations associated with legends of Fionn MacCumhail and his warrior-band, the Fèinn or “Fingalians.”

Attendees will “explore some of these stories (through English translations) and visit places where they are rooted in our landscape in place-names, old manuscript records and oral tradition,” according to the course description.

The course includes visits to sites in Glenshee associated with the story of the doomed lovers, Diarmaid and Gràinne, as well as Aberfeldy, Killin (Finn’s Grave), and Glen Lyon.

More information on the program is available here from the Field Studies Council. This is a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation of the Gaelic language and culture and the Scottish landscape — and how truly intertwined they are.

 

 

 

30th US Mòd to Feature First ACGA Fèis

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This year will be the 30th Anniversary of the U.S. National Mòd or Mòd Naiseanta Aimeireagaidh, an event born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1988, when An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach launched what was then called Mòd Virginia at the Virginia Scottish Games.

The event will take place over four days this year, from the evening of Thursday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 24, at Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

We’ve grown from small beginnings, adding competitions over the years and expanding to cover Scottish Gaelic language arts such as poetry, storytelling and drama as well as song. And we’re still growing. This year we will be adding special competitions to mark our 30th anniversary. Most important, we’re adding an entire new event that broadens focus on Gaelic culture beyond language arts alone and competitions: the First ACGA Fèis.

What is a Fèis, and how is it different from a Mòd? Both feature Gaelic song and music. Both provide opportunities to develop skills in the Gaelic arts. But while mòdan or mòds feature competitions, fèisean do not. A fèis includes classes and workshops, rather than competitions. By adding a fèis to our Mòd, we can open doors to those who want to learn about Gaelic culture, learn to play a tune, or sing a song, without entering a competition.

In Scotland, the Fèis movement got its start in the 1980s. Today there are 47 local fèisean throughout Scotland, focused on local needs and providing infor- mal education.

The First Annual ACGA Fèis will be held all day Friday, Sept. 22, at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, which has been home to the U.S. National Mòd since 1995. That means participants will be able to arrive Thursday night, Sept. 21, for dinner and an opening event at the Village. We’re still planning our day-long program for Friday, but it will certainly include presentations on Gaelic tradition, song and instrumental workshops.

Keep an eye out for more information about this year’s adjudicator, online registration, and the Fèis and Mòd program, soon. ACGA members receive an electronic newletter, An Cuairtear Ceòlmhor.

An Naidheachd Againne, Fall 2014 Issue Is Available

The Fall, 2014, issue of our newsletter, An Naidheachd Againne, has been released.

Members should have received it, but they can also obtain it online, by logging in to the  ACGA Forum, and checking the Members Room.

Non-members can obtain issues through Spring 2014 in the Public Room of the forum, which requires no login, though you’re welcome to create an account and join our discussions whether you’re a member or not.

Information about joining ACGA can be found here.

An Naidheachd Againne, Winter 2012 Issue Is Available

The Winter, 2012, issue of our newsletter, An Naidheachd Againne, has been released.

Members should have received it, but they can also obtain it online, by logging in to the ACGA Forum, and checking the Members Room.

Non-members can obtain issues through Summer 2012 in the Public Room of the forum, which requires no login, though you’re welcome to create an account and join our discussions whether you’re a member or not.