Our Gaelic Kids: Ar Clann Ghàidhealach

Gaelic wasn’t offered in the Cape Breton school system when I attended, but after years ofOur Gaelic Kids - Celtic Colours Nova Scotia effort in homes, communities, and organizations, it is on the rise again. Today, in Christmas Island, I witnessed the evidence of a thriving Gaelic culture and community. Three generations of Gaelic signers performed at the Christmas Island Fire Hall. There wasn’t a seat left in the house as students from the Core Gaelic Program in two schools joined with their elders for an afternoon of song and dance.

Core Gaelic ProgramThrough the Core Gaelic program, Nova Scotia children are afforded a unique opportunity to learn and speak Gaelic in a meaningful way that is based on a solid foundation of culture, community, and language. I’ve witnessed its success firsthand with my sister who can speak conversational Gaelic and again today when several children celebrated their language through song.

Goiridh Dòmhnallach Celtic Colours

Our Gaelic Kids Celtic ColoursGoiridh Dòmhnallach, a Gaelic singer, composer, storyteller, and educator who was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from some of Cape Breton’s best tradition-bearers, opened the event by introducing the performers and welcoming the singers. He was followed by The Iona Gaelic Singers (a few of the remaining native Gaelic speakers on Cape Breton Island.) Their passion for preserving and presenting Gaelic songs was obvious as their voices rang throughout the hall. They sang while seated at a table and moving their hands over a blanket. Two more generations of Gaelic singers joined them around the table as an opening celebration.

The afternoon continued with performances from Paul MacNeil, Tracey Dares MacNeil, Music at Our Gaelic Kidsand Cathy Ann MacPhee to name a few. Although each person offered a beautiful, unique glimpse into the life of Gaelic music, it was the children who sang, danced, and tapped their feet that reminded us all that Gaelic will continue to flourish in Cape Breton.

Kids at Our Gaelic Kids - Celtic Colours

Two young girls danced in the isle, free from inhibitions and restrictions. The happiness on their faces as they moved about was liberating. Following their lead, others started moving in their seats and tapping their feet. The occasional “Whoo” and “Yea” escaped the lips of several audience members and I felt at home. I didn’t need to be surrounded by family or friends to relax. Everyone in Cape Breton exudes an air of friendliness in a welcoming environment; it’s contagious.

Our Gaelic Kids Celtic Colours

I was left with one question after the event: why were the singers moving the white cloth back and forth on the table? It’s part of a Milling Frolic, but I’m not 100% what constitutes a Milling Frolic yet. I’ll know more on Wednesday, October 10th when I attend and participate in a Milling Frolic at the Highland Village Museum in Iona. During this experience, I will join others as we learn the chorus to Gaelic songs at a traditional milling frolic.

Check out Tourism Nova Scotia & Celtic Colours for other events and activities in the area. 

52 thoughts on “Our Gaelic Kids: Ar Clann Ghàidhealach

  1. I just think that the re-emergence of Gaelic says a lot about the social changes underway in so many countries. Everything old is new again, right? 🙂 Great post.


    • I’m sure there are some Irish singers as part of the festival but our local talent can be found everywhere as well. Just this evening at the hotel restaurant a man brought his fiddle and played a few rounds for us. It was amazing!


  2. I love hearing about re-emerging languages. I’m happy to hear that the kids are speaking Gaelic with each other. I have a friend who went to Nova Scotia back in the 80s to experience intensive Gaelic. (His parents are both from Scotland, though they spoke Scots, not Gaelic.)

    I hope that the kids keep learning Gaelic. Are there programs and social settings for people to become really good–truly bilingual–in Cape Breton?


  3. Thanks for the post and the photos,especially the sweet children! I didn’t know about Cape Breton’s Gaelic culture. Can’t wait to hear about the Milling Frolic!


  4. The warmth and the fun and friendliness just throb through your posts. I can hear the wonderful music and feel the enjoyment… lovely, thank you… what a lovely word frolic is – looking forward to hearing about yours!


  5. They were waulking the cloth which means what they were singing probably came from Harris where they waulk the tweed. I’m so jealous you got to hear Catherine Anne MacPhee. I have all her cds


  6. Is Christmas Island just like the song?? Ha because I’m sure you haven’t heard that one before.

    In these posts, you lament not having more knowledge of Gaelic culture, yet, (I am ashamed to admit,) I’ve literally never even heard the word “gaelic” before. You’re educating a LOT of people as you sorrow over not having a better education of this, haha. Anyway, never fear. You know more than me, and you’re teaching me, and that’s cool.


  7. Hi I am a firm believer in traditions and the continuation of cultures.So important in this modern age.Feel without them we are eternally lost.Looks like a wonderful event.Is any of it on youtube curious about the music?


  8. *Howdy & TY4 Traveling thru my Blog, ‘Transform Me?’.
    The *howdy part is due to the fact that I Live & Move & Have My Being in Texas.
    I so loved your Gaelic Post about the school in Nova Scotia – my French/Acadian/Cajun Heritage (my father’s side – Du Pre’) is intermingled there.
    NOW…You Have Helped me Discover a Link to my Gaelic Heritage (my mother’s side – O’Shaughnessy). Very ‘Loverly’ Seeing the Children & the Community Involved in Presenting & Preserving Gaelic Culture.
    Blessings to You & Yours…NJOY U’r Wk…>
    P.S. Come visit ATX – Austin, TX:
    Zilker Park, Hamilton Pools, Congress St. Bridge Bat Colony, Mt. Bonnel (on a Full Moon Nite), 6th St. & Austin City Limits & South By Southwest Music Scene.
    ‘As We Say in Texas, “You Won’t Be Disappointed & Keep Austin Wierd!!!”.


  9. Là maith dhuibh Lesley. Ceòl Gaidhlig! Gu maith agus gu raibh maith agat, Thá Gaidhlig na hÈirinn agam. I am also working on Gaidhlig and was so happy reading your posts from Cape Breton, I hope to visit the Gaelic College, Sabhail Mór Ostaig on Sky for a course in the near future. I follow Colàisde na Gaidhlig on Cape Breton on Facebook etc. As you know it is very good creatively to have access to the riches of more than one culture. Gu raibh maith agat agus beannachd libh.


  10. This is lovely. It is encouraging to read about a community that is acting to preserve its linguistic heritage. It saddens me to see our distinctive dialects here in Virginia being erased by television, schools, and the diffusion of society. Wonderful that these folks cherish their language and aren’t willing to see it lost.


  11. This is awesome. In my house there is Scottish and Gaelic heritage all around me in part of my father who is a historian of the subject. Proud descendant from Clan McDonald here!


  12. I found this post extremely interesting! personally my grand mum spoke Gaelic, and I’ve always considered it to be a terrible shame that the culture, brought by the language, was disappearing. seeing it being brought back to life is amazing!.


  13. Leslie, I can’t tell you how it warms my heart to hear that Gaelic is alive and well on the East Coast. I envy you this experience of we learning the chorus to Gaelic songs at a traditional milling frolic.


  14. Leslie, I’m really enjoying this series. Not only sharing the sentiments of your homecoming -the description of the smell in the first piece- but your observations on the culture and instilled heritage occurring now. Each installment just builds my desire to go there…what would it be like for a bike tourist?
    Anyway, thanks for sharing.


  15. Looks like a wonderful celebration and an important one too ! I lived in Ireland for a while and Gaelic was alive and well spoken on the Atlantic coast, around the Connemara, a most beautiful area. I am just reading a fascinating book about Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue “Anam Cara”. He was Irish and spoke Gaelic too, there are many references to Gaelic poets in his book. Well worth reading. Thanks for your post and visits 🙂


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