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Sabhal Mòr Ostaig closes in on 1,000 graduates

A total of 53 students graduated last Friday (7 October) from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig which brings the overall number of students to have graduated from the College since graduations began in 1985 to 985.

The strength and depth of education at the College was to the fore once again, with one graduate receiving the award for the best UHI dissertation on a subject related to the Highlands and Islands and two post-graduate students being awarded PhDs. The ceremony also included an award for two leading figures from the world of Gaelic literature who received the Sàr Ghàidheal honour in recognition of their tremendous contribution to the language and its culture.

The College’s Vice-Principal and Director of Studies, John Norman MacLeod said: “We are particularly delighted that there are over 50 students graduating again this year and that the graduates have achieved such high academic standards, with 20 gaining BA, BA (Hons), MSc and PhD awards. With nearly a thousand students having graduated from the College to date, undoubtedly Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s graduates have had a significant impact on the maintenance and regeneration of Gaelic.”

Among those receiving awards for academic excellence was Dr Christopher Dracup, who graduated with a first-class BA (honours) in Gaelic Language and Culture and who received the prestigious Highland Society of London Award for the best Highlands and Islands themed dissertation in the Humanities and Gaelic subject network by an undergraduate student.

Dr Dracup’s association with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig goes back to 1974 when he attended one of first short courses to be delivered at the college. Dr Dracup, now retired, lectured in psychology at Northumbria University in Newcastle and completed his degree via distance learning. His award-winning dissertation was entitled, The origins of the valedictory form in John Carswell’s poem ‘Adhmad Beag’.

In addition to the academic awards and qualifications, the outstanding contributions of publisher Lisa Storey and poet Aonghas MacNeacail to Gaelic literature and culture were recognised when they were awarded the Sàr Ghàidheal honour.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Principal, Professor Boyd Robertson, said: “The recipients of the Sàr Ghàidheal awards this year have made impressive contributions to Gaeldom in a variety of ways. They have extended and enriched the canon of Gaelic literature, Lisa through her initiatives in publishing and Aonghas through his writing and poetry. They have also been ardent and relentless advocates on behalf of their language and heritage. They both broke new ground, Lisa as the first teacher in Central Primary School in Inverness when Gaelic Medium education was introduced there in 1985 and Aonghas as the winner of the prestigious Scottish Writer of the Year award in 1997 for his third poetry collection, A Proper Schooling and Other Poems.”

The increasing strength of the College’s research programme was evidenced as two students were awarded a PhD, Joni Buchanan from Lewis and Eleanor MacDougall from Lochaber. This is the first time that two PhD students have graduated from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in the same year.

Dr Gillian Munro, Deputy Director of Education, commented: “We are so proud of the enormous effort made by Joni and Eleanor over the years, and we are extremely proud of their research work. We are delighted to congratulate these new doctors, their families and the research communities who supported them.”

It was fitting on a night when several students were graduating with a teaching qualification that Christina Walker gave the graduation lecture. Christina Walker hails from Lewis and has been deeply involved in the education sector and Gaelic medium education for many years. Christina was a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen before her retirement, where she was engaged in initial teacher education and continuing professional development for Gaelic medium teachers. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

In her lecture, she reminded students that their degree was like a passport which would enable them to travel many different paths. She encouraged graduates to make full use of their abilities and their Gaelic in order to take advantage of the opportunities that would present themselves.

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