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Sabhal Mòr Ostaig 2010 Graduation and Sàr Ghàidheal awards

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has recognised the contribution made to the language by two leading Gaels by awarding this year’s Honorary Sàr Ghaidheal Fellowships to Flòraidh NicNèill and to Calum Ferguson at its recent College Graduation. The Fellowships honour the important role played by both in promoting the language.

Sheriff Roddy John MacLeod, Chairman of the College’s Board of Directors said:’It is important and fitting that we recognise and pay tribute to Flòraidh and Calum on the same day that we celebrate the achievements of students of the College.  Students could have no better example to follow as they embark upon a new chapter in their lives than the commitment and contribution to the language by both Flòraidh and Calum.  They are distinguished ambassadors of the language.’

Floraidh was born and brought up in Barra in 1928, and was immersed in Gaelic song from her mother and auntie. Having moved to Edinburgh at the age of 19, Floraidh began singing at ceilidhs and recording old songs for the School of Scottish Studies. In 1950, she was chosen to sing at the Living Traditions exhibition and was given the name The Girl with the Golden Voice. It was there that BBC producer, Fred MacAulay, spotted her and first invited her to perform on the radio.  Flòraidh was also one of four chosen by Hamish Henderson to perform at The People’s Festival, which kick-started the folk revival. Over the years, Floraidh has performed on stage across the globe, she has recorded albums, appeared on numerous radio and television programmes and now spends much of her time passing on these precious songs to the next generation, not least her own family.  She was awarded an MBE in 1992 and was entered into the Scottish Traditional Music Awards Hall of Fame at the BBC.

Calum Ferguson was born and brought up in Aird, Lewis in 1929. Not deemed by his teachers and peers to be much of a scholar, he decided to try Art College but six months in, was told he wouldn’™t attain the level required in order to complete his course. His parents and brother saw in Calum, however, what the education system had failed to see. And so they funded a private tutor who ensured Calum reached the level required for entry to university.  With a bachelor’s degree, Calum then did his teacher training and spent many a year teaching Maths, English and Geography. In 1958, Calum recorded the first multi-media Gaelic course, Sath.  This was a cross-roads in Calum’s life as he found the interaction between education and media highly stimulating.  In 1961, he gave up his teaching career and became a producer of educational radio programmes with the BBC.  In the intervening years, Calum has been a producer of Gaelic TV programmes, he has written several acclaimed books, including Hiort, the only book ever written about St Kilda in Gaelic and he has produced many Gaelic radio programmes.  Sheriff Roddy John MacLeod said that if he had to define a Gael, he would simply point to Calum.

A total of 40 students graduated and received their certificates from James Fraser, Principal UHI,  in its second year as awarding body.  Among those graduating were Lorna MacDiarmid and Josie MacLeod, the first students to complete the MA Gaelic and Education degree, which includes a teaching qualification through the University of Aberdeen. Lindsey Mitchell was the first graduate of the BA Gaelic and Traditional Music degree, recently validated to Honours level.  Susaidh NicNèil was also awarded a certificate of achievement for the teachers’ CPD course STREAP’ another joint programme with the University of Aberdeen.

The winner of the UHI prize for the SMO student of the year was Robyn Beaton from Inverness and the Farquhar Macintosh prize for the student who attained academic excellence across all courses was awarded to Kathleen Reddy, Cape Breton. The inaugural Calum Bàn prize’ for excellence in Gaelic singing and musicianship – was awarded to Lindsey Mitchell, in memory of the late Calum Robertson, the College’s long-serving Head of Corporate Services.

Donald John MacInnes, Chief Executive of Scotland Europa and Sabhal Mòr Board member, delivered the Graduation lecture.

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