A sign in English and Scottish (Scottish Gaelic) in Nova Scotia, Canada
A sign in English and Scottish (Scottish Gaelic) in Nova Scotia, Canada

Here is a story on the Scottish language (Scottish Gaelic) that has been rumbling away for the last couple of weeks in Nova Scotia (Albain Nua) but which has now erupted into a major row that is encompassing academics, language activists and politicians in the easternmost Canadian province. From the Globe and Mail:

“In a controversy pitting some Nova Scotians of Scottish ancestry against each other, the chairman of Cape Breton’s recently renamed Royal Gaelic College has stepped down because of a backlash against the school’s gaining its royal prefix from Queen Elizabeth II.

The name change was intended to mark the college’s 75th anniversary, but instead the move reopened centuries-old wounds.

The uproar started two weeks ago when Alex Morrison, then the chairman of the board of governors, announced that the Queen had honoured the school by allowing it to be called Colaisde Rioghail na Gàidhlig – The Royal Gaelic College.

The office of Allan MacMaster, the Conservative MLA for Inverness and party critic on Gaelic affairs, received scores of e-mails, calls and letters complaining about the college’s new name.

Mr. MacMaster said in an interview that three college instructors no longer wanted to teach there.

The acrimony, Mr. MacMaster said, stems from the fact that historically the British Crown suppressed Scottish culture, pushing many Scots to emigrate to other lands, including Canada.

He said that while he wished “no ill will towards Queen Elizabeth II or the Royal Family,” he had not forgotten that the British historically sought to eradicate Gaelic culture and tradition through the Statutes of Iona of 1609, for example, a legislation that forced clan chiefs to send their eldest child to English-speaking Protestant schools.

Someone who identified himself as one of the college’s governors, Ernie MacAulay, wrote on Facebook that the board had made a mistake and should review its decision and “somehow gracefully withdraw from using the ‘Royal’ name.”

Located northeast of Baddeck, on the Cabot Trail, the college was founded in 1938 by a Presbyterian minister who had immigrated from Scotland’s Isle of Skye. The college promotes itself as the most important school of Gaelic language and culture in North America.”

For anyone who thinks that this a storm in a tea-cup they certainly don’t see it that way in Nova Scotia where by all accounts the anger between the opposing sides is palpable.

2 comments on “The Not So Royal Gaels

  1. Graeme Dunphy

    Palatable? Maybe palpable?


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