Lochaber Gaelic

July 9, 2009

Gaelic was the main language of Lochaber a century ago. According to the last census 14% of the population speak it today. Most of them are of island origin although there are still a few native speakers of Lochaber Gaelic. Despite that there is a big interest among Lochaber people in Gaelic with a highly successful choir in the High School which has one several Mod prizes as well as a strong adult choir in the community. The number of children going through Gaelic medium education increases all the time.

Fort William’s coat of arms bears a Gaelic motto; A dh’aindeoin cò theireadh e meaning despite who would say it. Perhaps reflecting a reluctance among local people to listen to criticism of their homeland, it weather etc
Lochaber has produced, over the years, a large number of Gaelic poets and bards. Among the most famous of these are
o Iain Lom ~ who wrote in celebration of the victory of Alasdair MacColla and Montrose at Inverlochy in 1645
o Sileas of Keppoch (c1660- c1729). Despite a general prejudice about women writing poetry she touched on many topics including religion and the 1715 rising. An early Gaelic feminist?

o Father Alan MacDonald (1859-1905). Born in Fort William where his father had the Ben Nevis Inn he became famous as parish priest of Ersikay, his poetry and collection of island folk lore.
Most Lochaber place names are of Gaelic origin. Many have been distorted over the years by anglicization until their meaning is no longer obvious. Many Gaels welcome the new bi-lingual road signs as they remove this problem. Here are the Gaelic names of the main settlements in the area.

o Fort William is called An Gearasdan (Un gyerustan) or the Garrison
o Banavie has various spellings and possible meaning. Banbhaidh may come from an old word Banbh meaning Ireland (L. MacKinnon) St Patrick is said to have been born here. Banbh is also an old word for pig so it may mean piggy place.
o Corpach is A’ Chorpaich. It is said to mean the place of corpses. It is said that the bodies of dead kings were shipped to Iona from here.

o Caol is a Gaelic word meaning sea narrows. Not pronounced cool
o Spean Bridge is Drochaid an Aonaichean (drochetch un unachan). It used to be called An Aonaichean or market place until the Telford Bridge was built in 1819 across the River Spean (Abhainn Spiothain ) English speakers called it Spean Bridge. Gaels called it Drochaid an Aonaichean.
o Roy Bridge is Drochaid Ruaidh (Drochetch Roo-ay) Ruadh means red or russet so its probably the bridge across the russet glen or the bridge across the glen of the red haired man.

‘S e chiad chànan na sgìre a bh’anns a’ Ghàidhlig o chionn ceud bliadhna. A-rèir an cunntas sluaigh mu dheireadh tha a’ Gàidhlig aig 14% den mhuinntir an àite. ‘S ann as na h-Eileanan tha a’ mhòr chuid dhiubh ged a tha beagan dhiubh às an sgìre seo fhèin fhathast. A dh’aindeoin sin, tha ùidh mòr a measg nan Abrach anns a’ Ghàidhlig, le coisir Gàidhlig air leth soirbheachail anns an Àrdsgoil, a bhuannaich iomadh duaisean aig Mòdan, a bharrachd air coisir làidir do dh’inbhich an àite. Tha àireamh sgoilear a tha a’ dèanamh foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig a dol a meud fad na h-ùine.
Tha sluagh-ghairm Ghàidhlig fo àrdarc an Gearasdan, A dh’aindeoin cò theireadh e, a’ cumail a-mach gun robh muinntir an àite, ‘s docha, coma co-dhiù air beachdan daoine eile mu dheidhinn an àite, an aimsir agus mar sin air adhart
Thàinig iomadh bard iomraiteach a sgìre Loch Abair, nam measg

o Iain Lom
o Sìleas na Ceapaich
o Maighstir Ailean Dòmhnallach
‘S ann às a’ Ghàidhlig a tha a’ mhòr chuid de ainmean-àite Abrach. Chaidh car a chur air mòran dhiubh le luchd na Beurla thairis air na bliadhnaichean gus nach eil e foilleasach
na tha iad a’ ciallachadh. Chaidh fàilte mhòr a chur air soighnichean- rathaid dà chànanach leis na Gaidheil air sàillibh ‘s seo agus mòran adhbharan eile.
Seo agaibh, ainmean-àite na prìomh bhailtean Loch Abair
An Gearasdan (Dubh Inbhir Lòchaidh) / Fort William
Banbhaidh/ Banavie
A’ Chorpaich/ Corpach
Caol Loch Abar neo Caol a’ Ghearasdain/ Caol
Drochaid an Aonaichean/ Spean Bridge
Drochaid Ruaidh/ Roy Bridge

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