Inverness Oran Entertainment


Celebrating 50 years of teaching Gaelic

A window display at An Drochaid featuring many resources used over the years in teaching Gaelic.

November 23, 2022

-by John Gillis
    Some 30 or so people came together at An Drochaid in Mabou last Sunday afternoon to celebrate 50 years of teaching Gaelic in Nova Scotia.
    There was an emphasis on the history of the Mabou area with Margie Beaton and Effie Rankin present as well as some of the next generation of Gaelic teachers. Both Gaelic teachers emigrated from Scotland in the 1970s.

    Margie opened the presentation with a slide show presentation with pictures from the local area, many memories from Mabou Consolidated School, class trips, field trips, and more. There were many shots of people from the ‘70s, some still with us and others fondly remembered, commentary and humourous anecdotes.
    “I wish I had more photos from the 1980s...maybe the camera was put away after having children,” she noted.
    Margie gave a brief overview of the history of launching the Gaelic teaching program in Nova Scotia, particularly in the Mabou area.
    She credited two other teachers who preceded her arrival – Murdena Stewart and Maureen MacKenzie.
    She acknowledged a great effort made by people such as John Alex MacPherson, John Campbell, and Linden MacIntyre, all key in efforts to get Gaelic into the schools at that time.
    With respect to the presenters, and summarizing here, there was a strong effort in the Mabou area and in other pockets of Inverness County with evening classes in other communities as well thanks to the teachers.
    “All the school boards were approached and only Inverness District School Board supported the effort,” said Margie.
    Gaelic came on the Nova Scotia curriculum by 1977.
    There were many funding cuts in the 1980s, not only to Gaelic but also to art, music, and drama programs, she added.
    Mabou Gaelic and Historical Society (MGHS) was key in letter-writing efforts and there was a period where funding was cut for a year. MGHS was also key in obtaining materials and resources for teaching. Margie developed resource books that were sent back to help teaching in Scotland, for example.
    In the ’90s, Celtic music was riding a growing wave of popularity with groups like the Barras, The Rankins and Mary Jane Lamond and more touring.
    After the closure of Mabou Consolidated School and other county schools, Dalbrae Academy was built partly on being a centre for Gaelic language. Local Gaelic teachers remained key in developing Gaelic resources.
    In late 1990s, Rodney MacDonald was elected MLA.
     2007 saw Gaelic studies spreading more throughout the Province of Nova Scotia.
    Margie said many of the students from the Gaelic language programs were talented and well-rounded. She read from letters of former Gaelic students who spoke highly of the program.
    Gaelic teachers Shelly Campbell and Joanne MacIntyre also took an opportunity to ask questions of their mentors.
    Margie and Effie spoke as well of their first impressions of Mabou and Inverness County after arrival from Scotland.
    They said they were impressed by the generosity of the local families, the interest of many of the families to have their students learn the language, the enthusiasm of the students, the storytelling and the number of instruments in many of the local households. They said they were also impressed by language skills of the local native Gaelic speakers.
    Some knew a lot of the history and they found that very interesting.
    Overseas trips were organized and made with an effort to show that Gaelic was not just a language for older people, but for younger people as well.
    Margie was part of the effort of building Gaelic Cultural Studies Program and they worked on building relationships with the Department of Education.
    Both teachers said the creation of an immersion school in Mabou is a positive outcome while knowing that there is always further work to be done to maintain the language.
    They also said they’d like to see Gaelic language studies expand throughout Inverness County, to the Strait area and other parts of the province.
    Currently, they said there are 10 public schools and one immersion school offering Gaelic language in Nova Scotia.
    In closing, one teacher noted the need for ongoing efforts, saying there are big shoes to fill but they feel they are up for the challenge.

























































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