Gwelais i un enghraifft o Aeleg yng Nglasgow yn unig – ar yr arwydd Gorsaf Queen Street. Ond yn Loch Lomond, gwelais i lawer o arwyddion dwyieithog gyda’r enw Glasgow yn Aeleg, Glaschu – ac enwau safleoedd eraill.
Oedd hi’n oer iawn wrth gwrs a cherddon ni ar yr eira ffres. Fydda i ddim yn dweud “mynyddoedd” oherwydd oedd y mynyddoedd go iawn yn beryglus dros fis Ionawr. Roedd y llwybrau rhwng hawdd ac anodd.
Dw i’n nabod yn barod un neu dwy bobol sy’n gallu siarad Gaeleg. Ond yn anffodus, gwrddais i ddim unrhyw un sy’n siarad Gaeleg yna. Yn sicr, mae pobol yn siarad yr iaith weithiau. Ond yn gyffredin, mae Gaeleg fel ysbryd yn parhau yna.
Dw i’n nabod y cliché o’r can Datblygu (“Wastad yn mynd i Lydaw / byth yn mynd i Ffrainc / Wastad yn mynd i Wlad y Basg / byth yn mynd i Sbaen…”). Beth allwn i ddweud? Mae gen i ddiddordeb yn ieithoedd/ddiwylliannol lleiafrifol.
Ro’n i’n cofio cymeriad ddiddorol yn y – wyt ti’n barod? – Senedd yr Alban. Dw i wedi aros am gyfle i bostio’r ddarlith hon. Byddi di “gwrdd” â Uncle Lachie. Mwynha.
Thank you Presiding Officer, and I am glad that you gave me my full Gaelic name. I am sure that I do not have to remind you – although I might have to warn Mr McLetchie and the First Minister – that Tosh, or Macintosh, comes from the Gaelic word “taoiseach”, which means leader or son of the leader.
It was a year ago last month that my Uncle Lachie died. Lachie Macintosh, or Mash as everyone called him, lived all his life on a croft in Elgol on Skye. He was one of the last of the old-style or traditional crofters left in the village. He was certainly the last to have a milking cow and to eke out a living without another major source of income such as fishing or another job. It is always sad to see the passing of a way of life. Few people in Elgol now use a scythe or make a haystack, although my father tells me that he is willing to give lessons if anyone is interested. If people want to feed their animals, they now buy a roll of hay that has been trussed up by a combine harvester. However, I do not have many regrets for a way of living that was impoverished and arduous. A peat fire is a lovely thing, but cutting peat by hand is back breaking and almost unendurable if there is no wind to blow away the midges.
Old-style crofting might have been impoverished, but that cannot be said of the crofters’ language, culture and traditions. When Lachie Mash died, another little bit of Gaelic died with him. He was no singer, but he knew all the songs. He was no writer, but he knew all the stories. In fact, one of the best things that he did in the last few years before he died was to record many of his ghost stories, which he told very well and convincingly. It was said of Lachie that he put the fear of God into more people than the local minister did. They were not stories that he had read but stories that he had heard in Gaelic. The Gaelic language shaped Lachie and made his character. He was the only member of his family not to proceed past primary school, but he became the lynchpin of the local community. He was a treasure trove of Gaelic lore and history and was regularly consulted on every aspect of crofting agriculture, all of which he learned about through Gaelic. In fact, he was quite dismissive of others who spoke to him with only “book knowledge”, as he called it.
Lachie had a remarkable knowledge, which was acquired through Gaelic, of plants and their uses and, of course, of place names. He knew the Gaelic name for every hollow, pool and hummock in the area. When the Ordnance Survey published – with welcome commitment – a map of Elgol with all the place names in Gaelic, he took great pleasure in picking holes in it and pointing out things that were wrong. I have always thought that the love of a good argument is a Gaelic trait. No amount of legislation can replace people like Lachie, but we can stop the decline of Gaelic.
Ro’n i’n meddwl bod Uncle Lachie yn ddiddorol ond rwyt ti’n gallu darllen y sesiwn cyfan am sgwrs polisi yn yr Alban ac yn y blaen. Hoffwn i fynd i’r ynysoedd tro nesaf!