RED ISLANDS: The members of a beginner Gaelic class in Richmond County are sharing lots of laughs as they reconnect with their culture.

The class has been gathering since October on Tuesday mornings at the Red Islands fire hall, under the direction of Cathy Campbell. Like many of her students, Campbell heard the language as a child from her grandparents but didn’t begin to learn it until she was an adult.

The now-retired VON nurse began a Gaelic immersion program 11 years ago in Halifax and was soon taking every opportunity she could to speak the language and enjoy the culture. She says she is not fluent in the language and approached the class as both a learning and social endeavour.

“I’ve been chasing this Gaelic thing for a long time and I’m retired, and I just wanted to give myself opportunity – because if you teach, you learn. Plus, I wanted to see who would be interested in this area,” she said as the class broke for a lunch of stew and biscuits on their own special Gaelic Day on Saturday.

“I couldn’t have asked for better people. Everybody has a sense of humour, and we do laugh a lot.”

The class began learning colours, numbers and simple everyday phrases, using props, games and repetition.

“They had very little Gaelic, other than the common ‘Ciamar a tha thu?’ [How are you?], and a few more ‘colourful’ words,” Campbell explained.

Photos by Dana MacPhail Touesnard
Photo by Dana MacPhail Touesnard
Participants in the Red Islands Gaelic Day events on February 23 included (from the left): Burke MacDonnell, Florie MacIsaac, Keith MacDonald, Rita Campbell, Helen MacDonald, Cathy Campbell, Maggie Wukitsch, Mary Jessie Savoie, Betty MacNeil, Edna Casey, Stacey MacLean, and Charlie MacIntyre.

Charlie MacIntyre, who attended the Saturday session noted that his father spoke the language but not openly.

“When someone would come around, he’d stop the Gaelic, but if you saw him alone, he’d count in Gaelic, he spoke to the animals in Gaelic,” he said.

“I picked up mainly songs. I can pray in Gaelic and do the rosary in Gaelic,” he said, noting that his memory also retained more impolite words and phrases too.

Betty MacNeil has little direct history with the language but regrets that she didn’t have the interest in it when her father-in-law, a native speaker, was still alive. She recently developed an appreciation for the language and the culture, having joined the MacAdian Ceilidh Dancers for Scottish dancing classes as well.

“It’s great for the seniors who are involved because you’re challenging your brain to try to take up the language, but this is great too, the social part, just sitting around. MacNeil said over lunch.

“We laugh all the time.”

Campbell says one of the most rewarding aspects of the classes had been hearing the students recall words and phrases their parents and grandparents used to say, and enjoying their shared past.

The weekly classes continue until the end of April, but Campbell also hopes for a get-together during Gaelic Awareness Month in May.