Along the Pentland Road, 25 May 2017

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


At the hearings of the Napier Commission in Stornoway, in June 1883, the following discussion developed between the witness, Donald Martin from the village of Back and the Commissioners. It illustrates graphically the attitude towards Gaelic speakers by English speakers - including their own clergymen.

16138. Sheriff Nicolson.
—Are there no Gaelic words for 'compensation' and ' improvements ' ?
—Well, I would endeavour to express it in Gaelic.

16139. Is there not a good Gaelic word for improvement ?

16140. Why did you not put it in Gaelic when you were writing the Gaelic paper? Why did you choose English ?
—Because I was not certain that the Gaelic phraseology would express the same thing.

16141. If you never heard the people speaking, or if you had never spoken yourself about compensation for improvements in Gaelic, what first put it into your head ? Was it English-speaking people ?
—I knew very well what the English phrase meant, but I was not sure that I could express it quite accurately in Gaelic—that my Gaelic expression would be a quite accurate rendering.

16142. I asked that question because Lowlanders and English people will be apt to think that Gaelic people have no idea of improvement, and that they have no word for it. You understand what I mean ?
—I knew myself the meaning of the phraseology quite well.

16143. Is it not a pity that strangers should think that Gaelic people have no idea of improvement and no word for expressing it ? Is it not likely to put it into their head that the ideas of the people were got from outside, and not out of their own heads ?
—Perhaps it is.


[Rev. Mr Cameron, Free Church, Back.
—I wish to explain that the delegate or witness is in the habit of reading the newspapers for himself, and it is there he saw the words 'compensation' and 'improvement.']

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm! I would suspect those attitudes still remain strong to this day Guido.