Two students presented Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College on Skye, with two rather unusual gifts last at a gathering organised last week at the College to thank the students for their generosity.

Ellen Beard from the United States purchased an electric piano for the new music course at SMO and Helen Ross from Stirling bought a new floor for the college’s Talla Mhòr where the majority of ceilidhs and concerts are held at Sabhal Mòr.

Ellen Beard from Washington D.C. said: “My reasons for purchasing the piano were quite personal. When I arrived here, I was surprised that there were no music rooms with a piano, and so I bought the keyboard. I sincerely hope that the music course at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig will be successful and that the refurbished music rooms will be well utilised.”

Ellen Beard is a former labour lawyer in the States and she has just finished the Cùrsa Comais at SMO, the first year of the UHI Gaelic degree programmes. She first became interested in Gaelic because of her being related to the famous 18th Century Gaelic poet Rob ‘Donn’ MacKay, and Ellen intends to return next year to complete the second year of her Gaelic degree.

Helen Ross said: “I have been coming to Sabhal Mòr for many years to attend the short courses, and I though to myself, dancing on the hard floor in the Talla Mhòr is not getting any easier on my knees, and so I decided to give a little something back to the college and I bought the new floor. Now we have a new floor and my knees are better!”

Helen Ross was born and grew up in London before moving to Stirling where she is a lecturer in psychology at Stirling University. She has been learning Gaelic for many years and has regularly attended the short courses at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for more than 10 years. Helen also completed the Cùrsa Comais this year.

John Norman MacLeod, Head of Academic Studies at SMO, said: “It is with great pleasure that I thank Ellen and Helen for their generosity. The new floor and piano will be tremendous additions to the facilities of the College, and come at a very appropriate time with the start of the degree in Gaelic and Traditional Music, the refurbishing of the music rooms and the development of Fàs, the Centre for Creative and Cultural Industries which will provide further performance and digital recording facilities.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is Scotland’s Gaelic College (situated in Sleat on the Isle of Skye) and has received numerous awards for the quality of education that it provides. The college offers courses at Diploma, Degree and Postgraduate level as well as distance learning courses, all through the medium of Gaelic.


  1. The full-time courses that Sabhal Mòr delivers include: Cùrsa Comais, Gaelic and Communication, BA and BA (hons) Gaelic Language and Culture, BA and BA (hons) Gaelic and North Atlantic Studies, BA (hons) Gaelic and Media Studies, Diploma in Gaelic Media and an MA course in Material Culture and the Environment. In addition to the full-time courses the Gaelic Access Course is available and a series of short courses are run through the summer.