Friday, 4 June 2010

Attitudes towards Gaelic

The estate factor in North Uist gave a good insight into why the Gaelic language continued on its long, slow decline in the latter years of the 19th century. I quote the relevant parts of his submission to the Napier Commission, sitting at Loch Eport on 30 May 1883.
12793. There was a statement made by some of the people here with respect to teaching the children Gaelic. Has the school board any educational views on that question? Other things being equal, would they consider that an advantage in the education of the children?
—I do not think they would.

12794. The great object is to endeavour to get as much English as possible ?
—As much English as possible.

12795. And the belief of the board is that anything done in the way of teaching the children Gaelic rather stands in the way of teaching English ?
—Well, if the teacher had plenty of time it would not do the children any harm to be taught their native language.
* and *
12854. You said something which I consider very heterodox about Gaelic. You speak Gaelic yourself?

12855. And have done so all your life?

12856. You read it?

12857. And write it ?
—I cannot say I can write it well

12858. You would not wish that you never had Gaelic?
—No, I would not.

12859. Then why is it that you discourage the teaching of it in schools, and therefore prevent Gaelic scholars from having that proper knowledge of the language which could be so easily given ?
—Without an additional staff of teachers, it could not be done. It would take up too much of their time.

12860. It is only a question of expense ?
—It is only a question of expense.

12861. You would not go to the length of saying that Gaelic is of no importance in the Highlands ?
—I believe the importance is getting less every day.

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