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Gaelic champion Heather is Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI student of the year

Highlander Heather Clyne travelled the world as a marine scientist after gaining degrees in Dundee and Edinburgh’ but studying now at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, is a particular source of pride to her.

Heather, a third year student on the Gaelic language and culture (Cànan agus Cultar na Gàidhlig) degree course, has just been made the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI student of the year in recognition of her contribution to Gaelic, and her academic prowess.

As a schoolgirl, Heather was involved in the fiddlers’ rallies which helped to raise funding for the Gaelic college’ and, in later years, when undertaking a course at Inverness College, she recalls being excited about the talk of creating a University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

UHI did not exist in time for Heather who went on to gain a degree in biological science in Dundee, and a PhD in computer modelling and whale science at Napier University, Edinburgh. Her career at home and abroad involved fish farming and environmental marine management.

She said:’The idea of being able to study in my home region was very appealing, but the opportunity did not exist at that time. I was one of the many Highlanders who had to leave.

‘I am now fulfilling an ambition to study at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI as part of our own university. It is something that always figured in my thoughts.’

As well as raising her children and producing high standard course work, Heather has immersed herself in the life of the college and the wider community. She helps to organise field trips and conferences; drives the college bus, enabling other students to take part in a range of activities; spends time archiving the college papers, and took an active part on-and-off stage in a Gaelic pantomime earlier this year.

Winner of the Comann na Gàidhlig prize last October for promoting the use of the Gaelic language, Heather is said by her course leader, Mark Wringe, to be a role model with her strength of commitment to the language, and a relaxed and approachable style.

‘Heather has been particularly successful in encouraging fellow students to achieve a Gaelic-medium environment, and this is undoubtedly because of her friendly, considerate, sensitive, intelligent and inclusive approach which makes her very well-liked among students,’ he added.

Originally from Glenfinnan, and now living on Skye, Heather won special praise from a poetry competition judge who said the style and authenticity of her work was an exceptional achievement for an adult learner. 

Heather wins £100 as the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI student of the year and now goes through as a candidate for the overall University of the Highlands and Islands title, along with other winners from UHI campuses across the region.

Mark paid tribute to Heather as just the kind of student who needs the University of the Highlands and Islands, and is needed by UHI”positive, committed adults from the region who want to stay here, learn here, and make the difference to the future of our communities.’

Heather has been keen to learn Gaelic for many years and is delighted that it can now be studied through Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI. Her own three children, Fhian, 18, Christopher, 11, and seven-year-old Irene, are all bi-lingual.

Later this year Heather and her family will be going to Ireland where Heather will be studying at University College Dublin as part of a Gaelic exchange programme for her honours year.

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