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Praise for Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Graduates

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Graduation Ceremony took place in Sleat on Friday (4 October) where graduates, employees and guests gathered to celebrate a wealth of achievement and success.

In total 48 students graduated from the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture from the undergraduate and postgraduate programme which the College offers, varying from Cert HE, Diploma, BA, BA (Hons) and MSc.  Three graduates were awarded First Class degrees.

Chairman of the Board of Directors at SMO, Angus Macleod, addressed those present: “Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is unlike anywhere else.  It is always appropriate, and especially today as we celebrate another year of success at the College, to remember why we exist.  As the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture in Scotland, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has a pivitol role in bringing about the revitalisation of Gaelic.

We all witness here tonight the fruits of your hard work, your commitment and also the help and support you received from loved ones and friends, over and above the teaching staff at the College.  When you take your next step on your onward journey, and each step thereafter, be sure and use your Gaelic.  It has value, and meaning, and its honour is always worthy of defending.  Be proud of your language, of your community, of your culture and of yourselves – as sure as we are all proud of you.”

As part of the evening’s programme of events, two current students of SMO showcased their tremendous musical talents – Michael Steele, from South Uist, opened the evening  with a lively set on the Highland pipes, and Saffron Hanvidge, from Inverness, sang the famous Soraidh Leis an Àite by Màiri Mhòr nan Òran.  Michael is a first-year student on the Diploma in Gaelic Media and Saffron is on her second year of the BA Gaelic and Traditional Music programme.  The Blessing was given by the Rev Doctor Roddy MacLeod, from North Uist, who is presently a student on the BA Gaelic and Culture programme and the Graduation Lecture was also delivered by a past student of the College, Catriona MacPhee, from Glasgow.  Catriona is well-known for presenting Gaelic programmes on BBC Alba for many years but has recently changed career and is now teaching History in Gaelic.

Dr Gillian Rothach, Principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, said: “It is highly encouraging to see the number of students graduating from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in 2019, each of whom has received tertiary education in Gaelic.  Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is proud to, year on year, and for nearly 50 years now, add to the number of graduates in Scotland who can go out into the world of work and, particularly, the Gaelic world.  We wish all our graduates every success in all the different fields of employment ahead of them, from Gaelic medium education and the music industry to the media, language development and many other vocations.

Some graduates will return to us to undertake other training, for example, the MSc in Material Culture and the PGDE teaching course.  We would like to thank all graduates, their families, friends and partners for coming along this evening to celebrate such a special day in their personal and academic lives.”

The degree programme offered at the College includes a range of subjects with Gaelic, such as teaching, media studies, Gaelic development, traditional music and Gaelic culture.  All of these subjects are taught through Gaelic immersion techniques and are validated by UHI.

Vice-Principal and Director of Education, Dr Marsaili MacLeod said: “We are extremely proud of all our graduates.  We are delighted that our first group of graduates from our new BA (Hons) Gaelic and Education degree are amongst them.  A new prize, in memory of Duncan MacQuarrie, was awarded in relation to this degree this year to the student who excelled in teaching skills in the class.  We are very grateful to Duncan’s family for this prize, which was tonight awarded to Steven MacIver from Poolewe.”

On receiving the award Steven commented: “It was an honour to receive this award.  Duncan MacQuarrie did so much for Gaelic education and for the language itself, and for that reason it is even more precious to me.  But I must say that without the support and encouragement I received throughout the course, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

In addition to celebrating the academic achievements of students, the annual honour of Sàr Ghàidheal was awarded to two individuals in recognition of their tremendous contribution in the fields of community development, publishing and Gaelic media – Agnes Rennie, from the Isle of Lewis, and Cailean MacLean, from South Uist and the Isle of Skye.  Regular voices and faces on radio and television over the years, they have, in all their various roles, always remained closely connected to the language and community from which they come.

The Graduation Lecture was encouraging, uplifting, meaningful and hilarious, in equal measure, as Catriona gave her personal story in her own incisive and witty manner.  As she herself was brought up speaking Gaelic in Glasgow, and having raised her own family fluent in the language, she reflected on all the opportunities Gaelic has given her through her life and her steer to the listening audience was to use the language at every opportunity:

“Keep speaking it every chance you get, even if it’s only you who can.  Give thanks in Gaelic, say ‘good morning’, or ‘good night’, speak to people and start conversations in Gaelic.  Raise your voices so that Gaelic can be heard in every corner and wherever you may go.”


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