Thursday, 28 February 2013

A’ RANNSACHADH -Searching Gàidhlig Bhàideanach

A’ RANNSACHADH -Searching Gàidhlig Bhàideanach

Slight technical hitch...my earlier post of this seems to have been lost! So here we go again....this piece was to accompany the pictures I posted previously.


I started learning Gaelic at primary school. For me it was a natural progression as I’d already learned a lot about the musicality of the language from those thin-walled, ‘Calum’s Ceilidh’ by proxy sessions. Music and Gaelic seem intertwined. With a few breaks along the way, my Gaelic studies have continued into adult life, and I juggle Gramar na Gàidhlig with the demands of raising a family.
I have a kind of Gaelic synaesthesia. When someone speaks it I ‘hear’ the landscape of their origin in their accent. Pictures flash of moors and the backlit space between the crofts in the Lewis Gaelic, of the burn rushing by the leaning alder and soft lichen-covered birch in Skye Gaelic. I became curious about the Gaelic of my own land, the pictures it would evoke. As I heard my own faltering learner’s Gaelic it had too many landscapes in it, like a tourist handbook of the Gàidhealtachd, and in that it had no roots of its own to speak of. It needed to come home. There was no getting around it. Although all but extinct, I had to learn the Badenoch dialect.
I decide to start my search for Badenoch dialect at home in Kingussie and visit my mother, in the hope that there may be something in writing in the chest of family hoardings. Although at times verging on an affliction, I am now at peace with the fact I come from a family of hoarders and have finally come to a place of gratitude to them. My great-aunt was a lady of taste and only hoarded quality, most of it still pristine. A chest of her yellowing papers and sepia photographs sits in my mother’s house (Ceann a Ghiubhsaich) amongst piles of her rare volumes, half-knitted aran jumpers ‘for the bairns’, dusty ornaments and Daniel O’ Donnell calendars. I am struck by the beauty of the chest’s contents, the quality of the paper, the miniscule detail of the stamps, the flowing watermarks. Letters preserved in their original envelopes in crisp, meticulous copperplate. My mother reads aloud the letters to me (at 43....I’m not allowed to touch). Desolate letters to ‘Parsley’ about the passing of ‘Aged’ (my great-grandfather), the early death of Bella-Ann who succumbed to ’flu in a strange bed away from home at the age of 20. Receipts for gravestones and the cleaning of musquash fur coats. All of them in a beautiful restrained script, neatly folded, the paper softened with age and the fingers of hands long passed. As hoped, as my mother pulls out some Gaelic papers. I am finally allowed the privilege of handling these on account of having passed her strict criteria in my dedication to learning Gaelic - and of having washed my hands. Hand-written by my great-great-grandfather, is a list of Gaelic words he drafted in a letter to the Editor of the Highland News , saying “ Perhaps the following will be interesting to ‘Lamh-Dhearg’ in answer to some of his queries.” We think the letter is from c. 1900.
I have tried to decipher the writing and drawn up a list here of the words he has written. I have referred to Dwelly and some of the words are listed as Badenoch Gaelic in his dictionary. Some words I could not find at all in Dwelly but that could be down to my interpretation of the written script.

Achanaich – prayer, petition [athchuinge in Standard Gaelic]
Socag - small clod of earth
Fhunntaininaich – damp cold weather
Corcaigean – bannocks or oatcakes
Lairganaich – waiting, expecting
Raoieil – roaring
Bhiuthanas – famous character [biuthas in Standard Gaelic]
Lorghanach – noisy
Uaigealta – solitary [uaigealtas in SG]
Graidealan – stick used for making porridge
Measrach – thinking, judging
Blathach – buttermilk
Slamhach, Slaman, na Slamanach – curdled milk
Muileann-leth-coise (?) – Probable this word should be Muileann-Laimh-Bradh – Quern
Poit-uirearaidh – pot for drying grain on the fire before it is made into meal by the quern. The meal made in this manner is Mui-uirearaidh (?). The bread – aran uirearaidh. This mode of making meal was quite common in some parts of the Highlands especially Skye some thirty or forty years ago, and may be yet”.
A M (Alexander Macpherson).

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