News Release Archive

The Department of Education and Culture and the Nova Scotia
Gaelic Council, or Comhairle Gaidhlig an Alba Nuadh, announced
the first ever Gaelic Cultural Awareness Month in Nova Scotia.
The month of May has been designated since May 1 is the ancient
Celtic feast day of Bealltainn, which marks the arrival of spring
and welcomes the sun's warmth. It is a celebration of renewal.

Gaelic is the native language of a people who left the Highland
region of Scotland after the Battle of Culloden. This battle
stripped clan leaders of their power and effectively forbade the
Gaels from using their native language or living according to the
traditions and values of their society. Many of the Gaels settled
in Nova Scotia. By the 19th century the Maritime region was home
to the largest Gaidhealtachd in the world. Today there are less
than 1,000 people left in Nova Scotia for whom Gaelic was their
first language, most are over the age of 70.

Canada's first two prime ministers, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir
Alexander MacKenzie were Gaels and fluent speakers of the
language. Nova Scotians such as Premiers George Murray, Angus L.
MacDonald and Alexander MacMillan were fluent Gaelic speakers.
Senator Allan J. MacEachen also speaks the language and has made
significant contributions to the preservation of the language in
Nova Scotia.

Gaelic also influences many of the traditions which are part of
the unique appeal of Nova Scotia, most notably, Cape Breton
fiddling, stepdancing and bagpiping. The music of artists such as
John Allan Cameron, the Rankin Family, the Barra MacNeils, Ashley
MacIsaac, Mary Jane Lamond, Natalie MacMaster and many others has
its roots in the Gaelic language.

"The time is right to launch this kind of event," said Lewis
MacKinnon, a Gaelic learner and an organizer of the month. "This
year marks the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden; the
catalyst of the Gaels' migration to the New World. Interest in
the Gaelic traditions in Nova Scotia is at an all time high with
the growing popularity of so many Celtic performers. We felt we
had to capitalize on this interest and focus attention on the
status of Gaelic in Nova Scotia today."

While organizers of Gaelic Cultural Awareness Month plan to
emphasize the lively spirit, fun and humour of Gaelic traditions,
the month is aimed at educating all Nova Scotians about the link
between linguistic development and human development.

Revival and development of languages such as Irish, Gaelic and
Welsh in the last 30 years has contributed to economic renewal in
regions of Ireland, Scotland and Wales affected by similar
socio-economic challenges as those faced here in Nova Scotia.

"Culture is like an ecosystem," said K.C. Beaton, another
awareness month organizer. "All parts play an integral role in
maintaining balance. If one component breaks down or is
eliminated, eventually the entire ecosystem stops functioning.
This is what can happen to traditions such as fiddling, bagpiping
and stepdancing if the influence of Gaelic is lost. These
traditions are part of what make our province unique and
marketable to tourists. If we don't make preserving the language
a priority, our identity is in jeopardy."

Gaelic organizations throughout Nova Scotia are planning
activities, lectures and ceilidhs throughout the month of May to
celebrate Gaelic Cultural Awareness Month.


Contact: K.C. Beaton  902-457-1684

         Lisa Bugden  902-424-2795

trp                      May 01, 1996 - 4:15 p.m.