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From Mabou to Ardnamurchan

The Highland Council welcomed Gaelic visitors from across the Atlantic this week.  Gaelic teacher Mrs Joanne MacIntyre from Dalbrae Academy, Mabou, Cape Breton, and her 11/12 Gaelic class are currently on a cultural, linguistic and educational trip to the Highlands to augment and reinforce their Gaelic language and history studies at Dalbrae.

Mrs MacIntyre has been teaching each of the six students who are currently on the trip for a minimum of three years and they have all demonstrated a genuine talent for, and interest in, the language, culture and its associated history.

Two of the applicants have been enrolled in Gaelic language courses for four years at Dalbrae, since their Grade 9 year (age 14-15). Taryn MacDonald and Monica Ragan (both from Whycocomagh) have shown commitment to the language and have attended short courses at the Gaelic College in Cape Breton,  as well as other community classes in addition to their studies at Dalbrae. Monica has also been accepted to the Celtic Studies program at St. Francis Xavier University for the upcoming Autumn term. Emily Rankin (Mabou) started Gaelic language study in her Grade 10 year, encouraged by her father’s interest in learning the language. In the years since, she has taken opportunities to go with him when he visits Gaelic speakers.

All six members of the group selected Gaelic Studies 11 as their Canadian History credit in their Grade 10 year (15-16 years old). This course triggered an interest in Gaelic language study for Jasmyn MacDonald (Little Judique), Theresa Moloney (Port Hood) and Christina O’ Connor (Port Hood). During the history course, all of the students completed a family tree, tracing their families back to their countries of origin, all of them to Scotland. Each student in this group did an excellent job and collected stories which supplemented their research, creating documents that they will continue to add to for years to come. Theresa, Jasmyn and Christina are showing promise in their second year of language study and, along with the rest of the group, enjoy attending local square dances as well as other Gaelic music and cultural events in the Cape Breton area.

The itinerary for their trip has been co-ordinated in conjunction with the Council’s Gaelic Team. The group will be in the Scotland for 10 days. While in Scotland, the group will be spending some time in Edinburgh including visiting the Scottish Parliament. They will be visiting Fort William, including Lochaber High School and Ardnamurchan High School, giving the students an opportunity to spend some time with Gaelic learners and speakers their own age and to explore the region from which some of their ancestors came.
From there they will visit Eilean Donan Castle, and then on to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, exploring options for post-secondary education through the medium of Gaelic and visit Portree High School and the Traditional Music School in Plockton.

The last part of their trip will take them to Inverness where they will visit Bun-Sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis (BSGI) and see how Gaelic Medium Education operates in a purpose built Gaelic Primary school. They will also meet the Provost of the City, Elected Members and other officials whilst in the City.  The group will have an opportunity to visit Culloden Moor and the area surrounding the City of Inverness. They will have a Gaelic speaker guiding them for the duration of their tour of the Highlands, increasing Gaelic speaking opportunities throughout the trip and giving them an excellent chance to learn Gaelic place-names throughout the area.

Councillor Hamish Fraser, Chairperson of the Council’s Gaelic Implementation Group said: “This visit gives the young people the opportunity to see the language being taught, used in schools, and how it is intrinsically linked to the environment especially regarding many of the place-names in the area, and also the creative industries and further education.” 

“The Memorandum of Understanding between the Council and the Government of Nova Scotia has encouraged and developed strong links with Cape Breton, this has created the opportunity for the young people to visit their ‘cousins’ here in the Highlands, this in turn will broaden their understanding of Gaelic and how it is embedded into the economy of key communities in the Highlands.” 

Councillor Fraser continued: “I have also been informed that the students will be expected to document the trip and when they return, they have already been asked to speak about their experiences at their Gaelic Teachers’ Conference at Dalbrae Academy, scheduled for the 1st and 2nd of May. This trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime school experience for the students.”

Lewis MacKinnon, Executive Director of Gaelic Affairs for the Province of Nova Scotia said: “We congratulate and extend best wishes to Mrs MacIntyre and students from Dalbrae. This educational visit reinforces the importance of the Memorandum of Understanding between Nova Scotia and Highland Council and how through shared language and culture further areas such as education, cultural-tourism and community-based initiatives can be explored and enhanced.”

Mrs Joanne MacIntyre said: “I am really looking forward to this experience. I know when I made a similar trip in my youth, it was truly eye-opening, on top of being especially meaningful for me. Visiting the home of our ancestors and making connections through the language that they gifted to us is sure to be an experience that will make an impression on the students that they will carry with them for years to come.  I believe that these students have shown determination in their studies and will continue to be voices for Gaelic in our Cape Breton communities and beyond well into the future.”

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