Gaelic: It’s alive and well and thriving in Falkirk

Members of the Gaelic Language beginners' class in Camelon.
Members of the Gaelic Language beginners' class in Camelon.

Despite reports to the contrary Gaelic is alive and well in Falkirk and it’s beating heart can be found in Camelon Education Centre.​

Home to a Gaelic language class for the last seven years, the Abercrombie Street centre recently started offering a Gaelic beginners class as well, to ease the transition into the advanced class.

Gaelic tutor Diane MacIntyre said: “The advanced class has been running for years and has seen around 50 people on the books in that time. We ran an awareness day in the Howgate Centre to gauge the interest in Gaelic and from that we got about 20 names of people who would be interested in attending a beginners class.”

The class members, who range in age from 17 to 70, were disappointed to read Councillor John McLuckie’s negative comments in The Falkirk Hearld earlier this month regarding the language.

At the council’s September 26 meeting, members were discussing the Gaelic Language Plan, which aims to boost the use of the language locally, when Councillor McLuckie said Gaelic was a dead language.

He added he liked Gaelic music and culture, but could not understand why the Scottish Government wanted to promote something which the vast majority of people in the Falkirk area did not use – the report stated only 0.67 per cent of the population of Falkirk are able to read, write and speak Gaelic.

Falkirk Council is required to raise the “status and profile” of Gaelic having received a £11,200 grant from Gaelic promotion body Bord na Gaidhilig last August to enable them to pursue this aim.

The Gaelic classes in Camelon will benefit from this funding as they teach the language to a wide variety of people – who all have their own reasons for learning it.

Diane said: “The most common reasons are they enjoy the culture and the music or their children are now learning it.”

Lorraine Alexander, from Falkirk, said: “I have always wanted to learn Gaelic but I’ve never had the opportunity until now. I always liked Runrig’s music and then my daughter had people coming from Germany to visit her and they actually knew Gaelic, so that got me started.”

Norah Summers, who was born on the Isle of Harris, said she wanted to learn the language of her father, who was a native Gaelic speaker.

“They say it is the language they speak in heaven,” she said.

Kinnaird, Comely Park and Bainsford Primary schools teach Gaelic in some form, with Kinnaird running an after-school Gaelic club for primary five and six pupils. Teachers like Julie McNeil from Kinnaird attend the Gaelic Language class in Camelon, brushing up on their Gaelic to help them teach it to the youngsters.

“I would say it’s far from dead when they are actually training more and more people to use it,” said Diane. “It’s part of our heritage - a language spoken here for years, but for various reasons it has become less popular.”

The Gaelic beginners class is held every Monday during term time and the advanced class takes place on Thursdays. Both run from 7 to 9 p.m.

Members of the class have extended an open invitation to Councillor McLuckie and said he is welcome to come along and see for himself living proof the language is far from dead.