Raising Gaelic in Nova Scotia

by | Apr 28, 2016

Two Gaelic flag-raising ceremonies on Wednesday, April 27 marked the start of Gaelic Awareness Month in the province of Nova Scotia.

The first ceremony was for the city of Halifax and it took place in the Grand Parade at the heart of the city. Mayor Mike Savage and Councillor Tony Mancini joined Norma MacLean, President of Sgoil Ghàidhlig an Àrd-Bhaile (the Halifax Gaelic society) and Beth Anne MacEachen, the Gaelic language teacher at Citadel High.

Mayor Mike Savage, Councillor Tony Mancini, Norma MacLean of Sgoil Ghàidhlig, and Beth Anne MacEachen of Citadel High

Mayor Mike Savage, Councillor Tony Mancini, Norma MacLean of Sgoil Ghàidhlig, and Beth Anne MacEachen of Citadel High

Members of the public, Citadel High Gaelic students, and adult students of Sgoil Ghàidhlig an Àrd-bhaile attended the flag raising:

The crowd at the Gaelic flag raising for the city of Halifax

The crowd at the Gaelic flag raising for the city of Halifax

The banner of Sgoil Ghàidhlig an Àrd-Bhaile, the Gaelic Society of Halifax

The banner of Sgoil Ghàidhlig an Àrd-Bhaile, the Gaelic Society of Halifax

A flag raising is a symbolic act of course. It’s significant to us in Nova Scotia to see a symbolic use of Gaelic in a public space, because in previous centuries, Scottish Gaelic was never allowed or welcome in public space in Halifax, in either written or spoken form. Even now, it’s scarce, and we are working on that all the time. (I’ve discussed that in a previous blog post as well.)

Peter Maxwell joined us for the flag raising and it was a privilege to meet him. He is originally from Marble Mountain, Cape Breton and his first language was Gaelic. Here he is with Melissa Shaw, the Gaelic Studies teacher and Gaelic program director at Citadel High.

Melissa Shaw of An Dùn, the Gaelic program at Citadel High, and Peter Maxwell

Melissa Shaw of An Dùn, the Gaelic program at Citadel High, and Peter Maxwell

When the city flag raising ceremony was over, it was time to walk down the hill to Province House, the home of the Nova Scotia legislative assembly, for the provincial flag raising ceremony. Rev. Ivan Gregan of Port Wallis United Church (my minister!) gave an opening prayer in Gaelic and English.

Gaisgich òga is liath!

Gaisgich òga is liath!

Lewis MacKinnon, Gaelic Affairs, emcees the Gaelic flag-raising event

Lewis MacKinnon, Gaelic Affairs, emcees the Gaelic flag-raising event

Raising the Gaelic flag at Province House, Halifax, Nova Scotia - seat of the Nova Scotia legislature

Raising the Gaelic flag at Province House, Halifax, Nova Scotia – seat of the Nova Scotia legislature

The Gaelic flag, flying at Province House for the month of May

The Gaelic flag, flying at Province House for the month of May

Multiple classes attended from a local elementary school with their teachers and the principal. The previous month, they had participated in a Gaelic milling project with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. They reprised one of the milling songs they learned with Mary MacLean of An Cliath Clis:

After the ceremony outside, we all went inside for a srùbag and a short performance by Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac (we are lucky to live in Halifax with such talented performers!)

Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond and Gaelic fiddler Wendy MacIsaac

Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond and Gaelic fiddler Wendy MacIsaac

This event kicks off a very busy month of May across the province, with a calendar full of Gaelic activities. In Halifax those activities include a series of free presentations at the Halifax Public Libraries. The events include the book launch for The Scottish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook on May 31st!

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