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Gaelic in Raasay

Gaelic in Raasay
until recently the first language of the whole community; still spoken by 44% (one of highest proportions in Skye and Lochalsh) taught in the Primary School.

Gaelic Renaissance

There has been renaissance in the Gaelic language in the last 20 years. Largely due to the language facing a very rapid and steady decline over that time. Bards such as the late Sorley MacLean of Raasay, through his poetry have helped to "stem the bleed" of the language. MacLean, famous for his poem, "Hallaig" based on the well known cleared settlement of Hallaig on the Isle of Raasay, evoked and provoked an awareness within individuals, communities and countries world-wide.


Where the language Comes from

The Celts were a group of tribes who lived in Central and Northern Europe from about 1000 to 500 BC. They were not an empire like the Greek or Roman Empires but more a loosely connected network of tribes. The Celts had three social classes, druids and bards (the highest class), aristocrats, artisans and farmers, and slaves (the lowest class). They loved bright colours for their clothes, lots of metal ornaments and jewellery and often went into battle naked and painted. They were fierce warriors and loved to fight; in one battle in 390 BC that we know of, they ransacked Rome. The Celts were polytheistic with many gods and goddesses (Lugh, Brigid) and had major festivals to honour them.

The tribes spoke a common language and had similar traditions and social classes but they did not consider themselves one united people. This would prove to be their downfall as the Roman Empire came into power. Some of the Celts started to settle in Britain around 500 BC while others stayed in Gaul (France). In 50 BC Caesar conquered Gaul, and the by 50 AD Southern Britain had fallen to the Roman Empire as well.

In the years before the Celts came to the British Isles they spoke a common language called Old Celtic. Old Celtic was part of the Indo-European family of languages and was probably most similar to ancient Latin. About 2000 years it started to branch out into 2 different classes: Insular Celtic and Continental Celtic. The Continental branch of Celtic died by by the 5th century AD; it included the languages of Celtiberian (Spain) Gaulish (northern Italy, Switzerland) and Galatian (Turkey). Insular Gaelic includes Welsh, Gaelic, Breton, Cornish, Manx and Cumbric (extinct). All these languages are still spoken today with the exception of Cumbric.

Gaelic Broadcasting

Gaelic broadcasting, initialised by the first Gaelic religious service on Radio in the 1920's, a rise in demand for Gaelic Education in the latter part of the 20th century and a general resurgence of interest in Gaelic in a cultural and linguistic context have all paved a path towards a deepened understanding of a fragile yet rich cultural heritage.











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