Craois teine
Heritage Blogs,  Social History

Gaelic -The language of the Hearth

I am working on Arora the Dementia Friendly Community Project this month.

Working on this project I am the privileged recipient of all kinds of personal stories and cultural treasures, which spill out instantly between the handshake and island Gaelic burr. The challenge, of relaying in English, the instant connectedness of speaking Gaelic, the language learned at “mother’s knee” is mine to define.

The sharing encompasses: the marks of the repetitive graft of crofting chores, knowing it was necessary for the family’s bread and ambitions. The stoic independence of wives and children of men at sea for long periods and the interdependence of the ‘village’ which rallied at times of need.

The cultural conventions, the retrieved and gleaming vocabulary, the island ingenuity which we now thirst to re-learn. Yarns ‘brought home’ by roving shepherds and soldiers which ‘tied in’ an interest in far off places, how those people lived and what they lived by.

The genealogy of the indigenous families, that Global Positioning System of old that ties us to the hill, shoreline and earth and the innate need, to pin a bearing and connect the two.


More thoughts:

I Don’t Know You ..

I don’t know you, but a Siarach by the blàs

My mother was from Carloway..

We had cousins over your way in Keose.


They would come to the communions over the moor

Twice a year, rain hail or shine.

And stayed the entire week.

We gave them room and lay in the barn.


My father went to Uig to buy a cow once

He walked all the way to Valtos and back in one day

Oatmeal when the sun was at its highest point

And water from the moorland stream.


My father,  he was in the war with a man from Lochs

Crossbost -Alasdair Mor a big man,

He became one of the Oatmeal Monuments

Then the Clyde Trust -The Skye Navy.


I prefer the land and the sky myself

The moor between Tolsta and Ness

I was a herder when I left school at 14

2 shillings a ewe we got to keep

Then from treacherous bogs and cliffs


I can still walk that moor today

Know it like the back of my hand


Oh well it so lovely that you came to see me

I hope it is kippers or salt herring tonight

No fresh fish nowadays

We were brought up on fish.


See and bring me some haddies the next time

Don’t be long till you call again

I just knew I knew you when you came in.

@ Magaidh Smith, The Language of the Hearth