Gàidhlig ann an Dùn Èideann - Gaelic in Edinburgh
28 October 2020
The 2011 Scottish Census found that there were 5,935 people in Edinburgh who had some skills in Gaelic; but how much do we know about this ancient language and its place in Edinburgh history?
Eachdraidh na Gàidhlig ann an Dùn Èideann - History of Gaelic in Edinburgh
Scottish Gaelic was spoken throughout most of Scotland at one time and was the prevalent language in large parts of the country until the 19th century. One of the Celtic languages spoken in different parts of Britain and Ireland, it is closely related to Irish and Manx Gaelic. Gaelic is now recognised as a national language of Scotland, with equal respect in law.
Traditionally seen as a Highlands/Islands language, Edinburgh can rightly claim an influence in nurturing the language. Gaelic has been present in Edinburgh for more than a thousand years, when the settlement was incorporated into the Gaelic-speaking Kingdom of Alba.
Gaelic speakers from the Highlands began to settle in the city, establishing a Gaelic community that has continued to grow and develop to this day.
Continuity of Gaelic worship in Edinburgh has been maintained since 1704, beginning when a provision was made by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for services for Gaelic-speaking soldiers stationed at Edinburgh Castle. The first Gaelic chapel was established in the Old Town in 1769 (today, a bilingual plaque in Johnston Terrace marks the site). The Gaelic service moved from church to church around Edinburgh over many years until 1979, when Highland Tolbooth and St John’s, through union with Greyfriars Kirk, became part of Greyfriars Tolbooth and Highland Kirk – a name which reflected the new presence of a Gaelic congregation in Greyfriars. It is interesting to note that the last two places of Gaelic worship, before coming to Greyfriars in 1979, have emerged as notable public places in the capital’s cultural life: Highland Tolbooth St John’s is now The Hub and The Highland – formerly in Cambridge Street, 1948–1956 – is now the Traverse Theatre.
Regular Gaelic services continue to be offered today at Greyfriars Kirk. Held on Sundays at 12.30pm, the service follows the English language service, and everyone is welcome to attend.
The city has been home to many leading Gaelic writers and scholars through the centuries, including poet Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir (Duncan Ban MacIntyre) (1724 - 1812) and poet Somhairle MacGill-Eain (Sorley MacLean) (1911 - 96).
(Plaque to Duncan Ban MacIntyre, Roxburgh Close)
The first printed Gaelic book was published in Edinburgh in 1567, as was the first secular Gaelic book (1741) and the first collection of Gaelic poetry (1751).
The Highland Society of Edinburgh, now known as The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, was founded in Edinburgh in 1784 to promote the regeneration of rural Scotland, as well as the preservation of its poetry, language and music. The support of Gaelic culture and literature was among its original remits.
The study of Celtic at the University of Edinburgh goes back to 1882, making it the longest established Celtic department in Scotland, while the School of Scottish Studies was founded in 1951 to collect, archive and promote the cultural traditions of the nation.
Today, the Edinburgh City Vision 2050 states that Edinburgh aspires to be a connected, inspired, fair and thriving city. The Gaelic language and Gaelic communities are an integral part of this vision, and the city.Gaelic-medium education is provided in Edinburgh at Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce and James Gillespie’s High School.
Ainmean Gàidhlig ann an Dùn Èideann - Gaelic place names in Edinburgh
Place name evidence shows there are names of Gaelic origin throughout Edinburgh:
|Craigentinny||Creag an t-Sionnaich||The rock of the fox|
|Balerno||Baile Àirneach||The sloe settlement|
|Dalry||Dail Fhraoich||Heather slope|
|Inverleith||Inbhir Lìte||Confluence of the (water of) Leith|
|Drumsheugh||Druim Seileach||Willow ridge|
|Craigmillar||Creag Maol Àirde||Bare height crag|
|Dalmahoy||Dail MoThutha||The meadow of St Tua|
|Dundas||Dùn Deas||Southern fort|
|Braid||Am Bràghad||the upper part|
Goireasan - Resources
If you’re keen to explore more about Gaelic culture, learn or develop your language skills, or simply make new friends, check out the suggestions below:
The Edinburgh Gaelic Festival is a citywide festival celebration of Edinburgh’s Gaelic community and of Gaelic’s place in the capital city.
An Comann Ceilteach / The Highland Society. The University of Edinburgh’s oldest society, open to Gaelic speakers and non-speakers alike.
The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Open Learning offers Gaelic evening courses to members of the public, staff and students. The Department of Celtic & Scottish Studies also has an interesting blog,
The Scottish Storytelling Centre offers a year-round programme of events which often include workshops, theatre, storytelling, music, and dance, with Gaelic content.
The Scottish Parliament offers Gaelic tours and education sessions, provides Gaelic publications, and welcomes contact in Gaelic.
The website of the Scottish Poetry Library contains Gaelic resources, podcast interviews with Gaelic poets and poems written by Gaelic poets.
Òganan Dhùn Èideann provides Edinburgh and the Lothians with a unique Gaelic-medium wraparound childcare facility for pre and primary school children within the Gaelic school, Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce.
National Museums Scotland provides Gaelic language resources for primary school pupils
The National Library of Scotland holds well over 3,000 printed works of Gaelic interest, including books written in Gaelic and other Celtic languages, as well as books about the Gaels, their language, literature, culture and history.
Newbattle Abbey College provides Gaelic language teaching, as well as events.
Iomairt Ghàidhlig Dhùn Èideann promotes Gaelic in Edinburgh through various projects.
Run by An Comunn Gàidhealach’s Edinburgh branch, Mòd Ionadail Dhùn Èideann is one of 20 annual local Mòds held in Scotland. A warm, family-friendly event, it offers young people many opportunities to join in the largest Gaelic cultural event in the Scottish capital.
Lothian Gaelic Choir aims to further the study of Gaelic language, culture and musical tradition by the practice, performance and promotion of Gaelic vocal and choral music.
Còisir Dhùn Èideann is one of Scotland’s longest established Gaelic choirs. New members always welcome.
Fèis Dhùn Èideann offers a busy programme of traditional music activities for young people in Edinburgh. They offer weekly music classes through term time and offer a yearly Fèis in the February school holidays.
Cearcall Còmhraidh is a relaxed and friendly conversation group in Edinburgh open to Scottish Gaelic speakers at all levels.
If all that has sparked your interest in learning Gaelic, here’s some words and common phrases (with pronunciation) to get you started:
|Good Morning||Madainn mhath||madeen va|
|Good afternoon / good evening||Feasgar math||fesskurr ma|
|How are you?||Ciamar a tha thu?||kimmer uh ha oo|
|How are you yourself?||Ciamar a tha thu fhèin?||kimmer uh ha oo haen|
|I am happy||Tha mi toilichte||ha mee tolleech tch|
|I am well||Tha mi gu math||ha mee goo ma|
|That’s good!||‘S math sin!||Smashin|
|What’s doing?||Dè tha dol?||jae ha doll|
|No news||Chan eil càil as ùr||chan yil cahl ass oor|
|It’s been a while!||‘S fhada bho nach fhaca mi thu!||sattuh voe nch ach kuh mee oo|
|It has indeed!||‘S fhada gu dearbh!||sattuh goo jarraff|
|Thank you||Tapadh leat||tappuh let|
|Wait a minute||Fuirich mionaid||fooreech minnatch|
|I don’t understand||Chan eil mi a’ tuigsinn||chan yil mee took-sheen|
|How is the weather?||Ciamar a tha an aimsir?||kimmer uh ha un amashir|
|It is wet||Tha e fluich||ha e flooch|
|It is dry||Tha e tioram||ha e tchirrum|
|It is cold||Tha e fuar||ha e foo-ur|
|It is warm||Tha e blàth||ha e blah|
|Where are you from?||Cò às a tha thu?||Coe ass uh ha oo|
|I am from Scotland||Tha mi à Alba||ha mee a Alabbuh|
|I am from Edinburgh||Tha mi à Dùn Eideann||ha mee a Doon Ae jun|
|I am from England||Tha mi à Sasainn||ha mee a Sassun|
|I am from Wales||Tha mi as a’ Chuimrigh||ha mee ass Ah-choomurry|
|I am from Ireland||Tha mi à Eirinn||ha mee a Ae-run|
|What colour is this?||Dè an dath a tha seo?||jaen da uh ha shaw|
|How many?||Co Mheud?||Coe vee-ut|
To spur you on, take some inspiration from this quote outside the Scottish Parliament!