ST. PETER’S: Once a thriving language in Richmond County, Gaelic fell out of use over the years but, if Cathy Campbell can help it, that’s not where the story will end.
As Gaels across the province mark Gaelic Awareness Month, two events recently took place at the St. Peter’s library and the St. Peter’s Learning and Technology Centre located in the same building, while Campbell is developing other initiatives.
“My goal is just to be bringing the awareness back,” she said on May 11 before hosting a milling frolic demonstration in St. Peter’s in the classroom adjacent to the St. Peter’s branch of the Eastern counties regional library.
She said she hopes by hosting events and classes she can encourage people to remember their heritage and reclaim it. She is already leading well-attended adult classes in her home community of Red Islands.
Campbell says she is not yet fluent in Gaelic but continues to study and take classes, as well as teaching classes at her level to help others and to create more opportunities to practice the language.
“I don’t know if I’m ever going to have fluency but it’s growing little bit by little bit,” she said.
During her milling frolic demonstration, Campbell explained the community gatherings were initiated to shrink woven cloth to make it thicker and warmer, but it also became a significant cultural event as participants sang to pass the time.
The longest running milling frolic in Cape Breton is hosted in Johnstown (on August 23 this year, for the 87th year) with the primary focus of milling frolics moving away from cloth, and on to the preservation of the language, be it sung or spoken.
“The songs are really important because they show a little bit of the history of the communities, of Scotland, of things that were happening among the people, some of it was made up, some of it was ancient songs and some of them were newer songs,” she said as she and others around the table led songs, teaching the chorus to the rest of the participants.
Campbell also noted the cloth is to be passed to the left because passing it to the right is considered bad luck, which is also said to be true of singing the same song more than once over the same cloth.
A piping demonstration from Keith MacDonald also took place on May 8 as part of the Gaelic Awareness Month gatherings.
Campbell has also begun working with Richmond County recreation to host an after-school kids’ class and adult Gaelic classes in the fall, and she has been approached to lead a beginner class in the Roberta area as well.