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TITLE
Fred MacAulay on Decline of Gaelic (1 of 3)
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_FREDMACAULAY_08
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
Fred MacAulay
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
1626
KEYWORDS
Outer Hebrides
broadcasting
audio

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Fred MacAulay was born in Sollas, North Uist, in 1925. Educated at Inverness Academy and Edinburgh University, he went on to become Senior Gaelic Producer of BBC Scotland in 1964, and Manager of BBC Highland in 1979. An active campaigner for the continuation of the Gaelic language, he was one of the most distinguished Gaels of his generation and made a lasting contribution to Gaelic culture. He died in Inverness in 2003, aged 78. In this audio extract, originally recorded for 'Moray Firth People' in 1983, Fred talks to Sam Marshall about the decline of the Gaelic language.

Interviewer: Can you tell me a little about the decline of Gaelic? When did it all begin?

Would you accept 1057, or thereabouts, because I think that's when it started. You had a Gaelic-speaking king then - Calum a Chinn Mor, Malcolm Canmore, as he was called - and he married this extremely nice woman, Margaret, whom he adored, only she, she brought all sorts of foreign customs into the country and, before you knew where you were, the court, which had been Gaelic-speaking at that time, gradually changed into something else. And by - well, I suppose, by the end of the Norse period, 1296, when you had the rise of the clan system, things were beginning to get difficult for the king as such, because the Gaels were not that ruly, if you like, and they were a source of irritation in the Lowlands. Then, of course, with the Reformation in Scotland in 1560, and the Highlands still remaining fairly Catholic, you see, the suspicion and problems, if you like, were there all the time. And James I, as he then became in 1603, James VI, was fairly anxious to have a calm Scotland, a happy Scotland, so he was quite keen to subjugate the Gaels. And the first - there had been signs of this earlier on in legislation, in Scottish legislation - but in 1607 it appeared very clearly in the Statutes of Iona, and the idea then was to stop the, the bards and the minstrels, and strolling players from barding, and minstrelling and strolling, if you like. And, you see, this was a bad blow because this was the tradition bearing. This was the educational system of Gaeldom in many ways, you see, because they carried the stories and the songs and so on.

The other part which was interesting was that the Statutes of Iona stated that, 'Every gentleman' and I quote, 'or yeoman possessed of sixty cattle should send at least his eldest son, or if didn't have a son, his eldest daughter, to school in the Lowlands and maintain him or her there until he/she had learnt to speak, read, and write English.' Now, you can imagine the effect of that. It's the beginning, in fact, of the divorce from the chiefs, in many ways, because they came back with totally different ideas. And while bilingualism, I've no doubt about it, has a broadening and a beneficial effect on a person's philosophy and outlook generally, the fact that it was, this was so separate, you know, was bound to alienate, to a certain extent, though I haven't got much evidence for that. But basically, one has to think about the Gaelic pattern where there was little formal education, you see, and oral transmission, because of that, was tremendously important.

Interviewer: They'd no - They couldn't read or write their own language.

They couldn't read or write their own language, and it was all memorised. And this was a tradition in the Celtic people right across from the time they first came across Europe, thousands of years before. So you had this as a tremendously important element which they were beginning to be denied

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Fred MacAulay on Decline of Gaelic (1 of 3)

1980s

Outer Hebrides; broadcasting; audio

Moray Firth Radio

MFR: Fred MacAulay

Fred MacAulay was born in Sollas, North Uist, in 1925. Educated at Inverness Academy and Edinburgh University, he went on to become Senior Gaelic Producer of BBC Scotland in 1964, and Manager of BBC Highland in 1979. An active campaigner for the continuation of the Gaelic language, he was one of the most distinguished Gaels of his generation and made a lasting contribution to Gaelic culture. He died in Inverness in 2003, aged 78. In this audio extract, originally recorded for 'Moray Firth People' in 1983, Fred talks to Sam Marshall about the decline of the Gaelic language.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Can you tell me a little about the decline of Gaelic? When did it all begin?<br /> <br /> Would you accept 1057, or thereabouts, because I think that's when it started. You had a Gaelic-speaking king then - Calum a Chinn Mor, Malcolm Canmore, as he was called - and he married this extremely nice woman, Margaret, whom he adored, only she, she brought all sorts of foreign customs into the country and, before you knew where you were, the court, which had been Gaelic-speaking at that time, gradually changed into something else. And by - well, I suppose, by the end of the Norse period, 1296, when you had the rise of the clan system, things were beginning to get difficult for the king as such, because the Gaels were not that ruly, if you like, and they were a source of irritation in the Lowlands. Then, of course, with the Reformation in Scotland in 1560, and the Highlands still remaining fairly Catholic, you see, the suspicion and problems, if you like, were there all the time. And James I, as he then became in 1603, James VI, was fairly anxious to have a calm Scotland, a happy Scotland, so he was quite keen to subjugate the Gaels. And the first - there had been signs of this earlier on in legislation, in Scottish legislation - but in 1607 it appeared very clearly in the Statutes of Iona, and the idea then was to stop the, the bards and the minstrels, and strolling players from barding, and minstrelling and strolling, if you like. And, you see, this was a bad blow because this was the tradition bearing. This was the educational system of Gaeldom in many ways, you see, because they carried the stories and the songs and so on.<br /> <br /> The other part which was interesting was that the Statutes of Iona stated that, 'Every gentleman' and I quote, 'or yeoman possessed of sixty cattle should send at least his eldest son, or if didn't have a son, his eldest daughter, to school in the Lowlands and maintain him or her there until he/she had learnt to speak, read, and write English.' Now, you can imagine the effect of that. It's the beginning, in fact, of the divorce from the chiefs, in many ways, because they came back with totally different ideas. And while bilingualism, I've no doubt about it, has a broadening and a beneficial effect on a person's philosophy and outlook generally, the fact that it was, this was so separate, you know, was bound to alienate, to a certain extent, though I haven't got much evidence for that. But basically, one has to think about the Gaelic pattern where there was little formal education, you see, and oral transmission, because of that, was tremendously important.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: They'd no - They couldn't read or write their own language.<br /> <br /> They couldn't read or write their own language, and it was all memorised. And this was a tradition in the Celtic people right across from the time they first came across Europe, thousands of years before. So you had this as a tremendously important element which they were beginning to be denied