Scottish Gaelic scholarship

The Foundation has funded a scholarship that is administered jointly by the Foundation and the Scottish Gaelic Society of Victoria.

The scholarship provides Scottish Gaelic tuition to an advanced level and aims to:

  • keep the language accessible to Australian’s Scottish community
  • bridge the gap between the aging of Australia’s native Gaelic speakers and new free ways of learning such as Scottish Gaelic by Duolingo.

It is hoped that, in time, large number of the Australian Scottish community will become aware of Scottish Gaelic and feel confident to speak a few words, such as ‘Slàinte mhath’ (which means Cheers or Good health). After all, the ancestry of many Australians has been blended from the Lowlands, Highlands and Isles.

Provision of the scholarship recognises that language:

  • is the primary substance in which a culture is expressed
  • contains the stories, songs and literature, the history, the names of places and the ways of thinking.

It also recognises that literature:

  • speaks to our heritage and to the reasons we are as we are today
  • helps us understand ourselves, and at times it comforts
  • reminds us what to remember of the lessons of history, and why.

For Scottish cultural heritage the original language remains Scottish Gaelic.

  • Gaelic was the language of all Scotland.
  • 90% of place names in Scotland have a Gaelic origin (e.g. Inbhir nis names ‘Inverness’ more descriptively as ‘mouth of the river Nis’).
  • It is suggested that true esteem for the Highlander involves esteeming not just the Highlanders’ distinctive dress but also their language.

Scottish Gaelic is the key that unlocks literature such as the works of Donnchadh Ban Mac an t-Saoir (Duncan Ban McIntyre 1724–1812), who wrote in the years after the Jacobite rising of 1745, Culloden in 1746, and the violent reprisals against the Highland clans that followed.

Some say that anyone who cares about Scotland should become familiar with these two long poems:

  • Praise of Ben Dorain – by Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir
  • The Birlinn of Clanranald – by Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir (or Alasdair/Alexander MacDonald) c.1693/98–1770.

Those authors were contemporaries with Burns (1759-96) and are compared favourably with him – but the lack of Gaelic makes them less accessible.

The musical heritage of Scotland is also largely one of Gaelic. There is a huge body of material and Gaelic songs are numerous and diverse.