Anna Ruadh: Translating Anne of Green Gables into Gaelic

by Jun 12, 2019

We’re Translating Anne of Green Gables into Gaelic!

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I’m writing a rare crossover post this month, talking about my Gaelic publishing work with my company Bradan Press. During the month of June 2019, Bradan Press and I are raising money to commission, edit, and publish the first-ever translation of the novel Anne of Green Gables into Scottish Gaelic and we need your help from now until June 30, 2019!


Translating Anne of Green Gables into Gaelic: The Anna Ruadh Kickstarter campaign, June 1-30, 2019

Whether through reading or watching television, you might be familiar with Canadian author L. M. Montgomery’s fictional story of the red-haired orphan Anne Shirley. First published in 1908, the original novel is set in the Maritime provinces of Canada. From an orphanage in Nova Scotia, Anne is sent by mistake to aging brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert in rural Prince Edward Island, who wanted to adopt a boy to help on their farm.

Anne of Green Gables has been translated into over 30 languages and is the subject of film, television, radio, musical, and play adaptations… even a new ballet! It is on the Literary Review of Canada’s list of Canada’s 100 Most Important Books. In the USA, the School Library Journal’s list of top 100 chapter books ranked it at #8. The BBC’s 2003 Big Read poll of the best-loved 100 novels for adults ranked Anne of Green Gables at #41 in the UK.

However, the novel has never before been translated into Gaelic, even though Gaelic is the language with the closest cultural and historical connections to L. M. Montgomery and Prince Edward Island after English. I feel this is a major oversight, connected to the way that Gaels and Gaelic have been deliberately erased from Maritime and Canadian culture and history.

Bradan Press is working to produce a Gaelic translation of Anne of Green Gables imbued with the charm and appeal of the English original, while subtly localizing the story to represent Maritime Canadian Gaelic culture as well.

The book will be titled Anna Ruadh, “Red-haired Anne,” which would of course be a typical Gaelic nickname for a red-haired girl named Anne. (Incidentally, “Red-haired Anne” is also the title of the Japanese edition, which is very popular in Japan as a book and anime.)

During the month of June 2019, Bradan Press is running a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise $15,000 CAD (about $11,000 USD) for the Gaelic Anne of Green Gables project. The funds will help cover translation, Gaelic dialect editing in Cape Breton, Gaelic copyediting, Gaelic proofreading, book design, cover illustration, printing both paperback and hardback editions, and shipping. The crowdfunding campaign is all-or-nothing—if the goal of $15,000 in pledges isn’t reached by the deadline of June 30, 2019, then Bradan Press doesn’t receive any money at all! (Please make a pledge to the project now!)

The Gaelic Anne of Green Gables Project Team

I’d like to introduce you to the members of the Anna Ruadh project team, who are based in Scotland and Nova Scotia:

The Translator

Mòrag Anna NicNèill (Marion A. MacNeil) is originally from the Isle of Harris, and now lives on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Mòrag Anna studied English Literature and Celtic Studies at Glasgow University and she was a Gaelic teacher for 26 years before receiving a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust and the Gaelic Books Council in 2015.

Mòrag Anna has translated five children’s books from Gaelic to English and has written four original children’s books in Gaelic. Her children’s novels Granaidh Afraga and Èiginn Ùisdein were shortlisted for the Donald Meek Award in 2016 and 2017 respectively, with Èiginn Ùisdein winning third prize in that year. Granaidh Afraga (Acair, 2017) is about a boy called Finlay and his mysterious granny, while the forthcoming book Èiginn Ùisdein is about a wee fox who is a vegetarian! Seòras Ruadh agus Barabal (Acair, 2018) is a story about a girl named Barbara who meets a cat named Ginger George with magical powers. Artair sa Chaisteal, about a young boy named Arthur who goes on a school field trip to a castle and travels back in time, won the Chrisella Ross Memorial Prize for children’s fiction in 2018.

Although Mòrag Anna’s main interest continues to be children’s fiction, she has also written short stories, drama scripts and poetry. She was awarded the Ailsa Quaich for poetry at the Royal National Mòd in 2017 and she won the FilmG Best Script award in 2018. An Tiortach Beag agus Sgeulachdan Eile, a collection of short stories for adults, is now pending publication. Her themes include magic, mystery, the supernatural and crime—all delivered with a good dash of humour! She has delivered interactive workshops in venues throughout Scotland based on her books, including the Hebridean Book Festival’s Faclan Òga programmes and the Wee Write initiative for schools.

Anne of Green Gables was one of Mòrag Anna’s favourite English-language books as a girl growing up in the Outer Hebrides, and she is excited to take on the project as a cultural collaboration between Gaels in Scotland and Nova Scotia.

The Cover Illustator

Etta Moffatt is a Nova Scotian designer with 30 years of experience. She lives in Dartmouth, across the harbour from Halifax, and her roots are in Cape Breton. Etta loved picture books as a child, studied design and interpretive illustration at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), and illustrated children’s books until her day job and family obligations pulled her away.

Through Etta’s work with museums she discovered her own Gaelic roots. Named after her Gaelic-speaking grandmother, Etta’s only Gaelic word growing up was her father’s nickname from his mother Etta: gomach, meaning clown or fool. Having already inherited a Gaelic sense of humour and a love of storytelling, she wanted to know more, so she has started to learn her heritage language.

Etta is now returning to freelance book illustration and wants to make beautiful new images for children that introduce Gaelic concepts and stories before they are lost. She is illustrator of the Bradan Press books Fionn MacCool and the Salmon of Knowledge (2017), Fionn MacCool et le saumon de la sagesse (2019), and the upcoming alphabet book G is for Gael (2020).

The Publisher

Bradan Press connects readers worldwide with Scottish Gaelic language and culture. Bradan Press books published since 2016 include nonfiction titles in English about Gaelic language and culture, Gaelic poetry, and educational resources for use in Nova Scotia schools. Bradan Press is a member of the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association and is located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.

Bradan Press carries on the 180-year tradition of Gaelic publishing in Nova Scotia, the only Gaelic publishing tradition still in existence outside Scotland. In Nova Scotia the first Gaelic book was published in 1832. The longest-running Gaelic newspaper in the world, Mac-Talla [Echo], was published in Nova Scotia 1892–1904. Gaels have been in Nova Scotia for over 260 years and are among the founding cultures of the province.

The Editor

I’m Dr. Emily McEwan; you know me as the author of the blog. I’m also the founder and president of Bradan Press, the editor of Anna Ruadh, and the Anna Ruadh crowdfunding project manager. (I wear a lot of hats!)

As you already know, I work in the Halifax area, known as Halafacs or Haileafacs in Gaelic and K’jipuktuk in the Mi’kmaq language. I actually live in Dartmouth; we’ve been linked to Halifax since the mid-20th century by the harbour bridges and since 1752 by the Dartmouth Ferry, which is the oldest saltwater ferry in North America, and the second oldest saltwater ferry in the world after the Mersey Ferry in England.

I am the author of The Scottish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook (2016) and the forthcoming book Gaelic Language Revitalization Concepts and Challenges (2019). I’m a former academic specializing in the anthropology and sociolinguistics of Scottish Gaelic language revitalization in Scotland. At the beginning of June 2019 I gave presentations about Bradan Press’s Gaelic publishing activities at the conference East Bound: Talking Atlantic Books / Au tour de l’Atlantique : L’Édition au Canada atlantique in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and at the Editors’ Association of Canada national conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Bradan Press president and editor Dr. Emily McEwan (photo credit: Rebecca Clarke)

Bradan Press president and editor Dr. Emily McEwan (photo credit: Rebecca Clarke)

How did the Gaelic Anne Project Start?

I first got the idea to undertake a Gaelic translation of Anne of Green Gables two years ago, on a very special evening in May 2017 when I was out to dinner with Outlander series author Diana Gabaldon and a small group of local authors and booksellers hosted by the independent bookstore Bookmark II in Halifax.

I sat next to Lisa Doucet, a manager at Woozles, Canada’s oldest children’s bookstore. We chatted about Gaelic and children’s books, and Lisa, who is an Anne of Green Gables collector, told me that she would love to see Anne translated into Scottish Gaelic. I had always loved and deeply identified with Anne, but had never thought in terms of bringing her into the Gaelic world. It would be an enormous undertaking. But there was scope for imagination…

I mulled it over for the rest of the year and then went over to Woozles for a chat with Lisa in early 2018. She introduced me to Dr. Kate Scarth, who is now the director of the L. M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island. I met with Kate and learned about her research on Montgomery’s connections to Halifax and about the L.M. Montgomery Institute. I read several biographies of Montgomery, and wrote our first funding application for the translation project (see the FAQ section of the Kickstarter page for more details).

In June 2018, I attended the L. M. Montgomery Institute’s 13th Biennial Conference at the University of Prince Edward Island. I had the great pleasure of meeting the scholars who pioneered academic research on the life and writing of L. M. Montgomery, including Dr. Elizabeth Waterston, Dr. Mary Rubio, and Dr. Elizabeth Epperly, the former president of the University of Prince Edward Island.

I also had the great pleasure of meeting academics from many different countries who have conducted research on Montgomery’s work and its impact, and members of Canadian and U.S. literary and heritage societies devoted to maintaining Montgomery’s legacy.

I attended scholarly presentations on Japanese, Russian, Swedish, and French Canadian translations of Anne to familiarize myself with the main issues of translating the work.

Everyone with whom I spoke was interested to hear about our plans to translate Anne of Green Gables into Gaelic. The conference energized me and convinced me that we were on the right path.

After the last conference session, we went on the conference bus tour of Montgomery sites in Prince Edward Island and attended the dedication of a Project Bookmark Canada plaque to L. M. Montgomery at the old Macneill homestead where she was raised by her grandparents.

We had the great privilege of being introduced to Mrs. Jennie Macneill, who restored the Macneill homestead as a cultural heritage site together with her late husband John, whose father was first cousin to L. M. Montgomery. Mrs. Macneill told us that Montgomery’s husband, Rev. Ewan MacDonald, had visited her mother and prayed the Lord’s Prayer with her in Gaelic.

Goals of the Anne of Green Gables Gaelic Translation Project

The Gaelic language and culture have been deliberately erased from the past and present by those who wished to eradicate it, but Gaelic is a living language and we are still here. Gaelic is a heritage language for many Canadians and Americans, if they choose to learn about it and connect with it. This project will help to raise awareness of Gaelic in North America and worldwide, while financially supporting Gaelic creative work in Nova Scotia and Scotland.

Our goals for the Gaelic translation of Anne of Green Gables are:

1) To raise awareness of Gaelic arts, literature, and language worldwide

2) To foster collaboration between Scottish and Canadian Gaels in the production of Canadian Gaelic literature

3) To inspire Canadian Gaels to produce more Canadian Gaelic literature

4) To unite and reconcile the two aspects of Canada’s Scottish heritage – the cultures of English-speaking Lowland Scotland and Gaelic-speaking Highland Scotland – in a new translation of a classic Canadian literary work

5) To promote Gaelic language, literature, arts, and culture in Canada: most Canadians of Scottish descent don’t realize that Gaels and Gaelic played important roles in Canada’s history and continue to thrive in Nova Scotia.

The Audience for the Gaelic Translation of Anne of Green Gables

The finished Gaelic book Anna Ruadh will have several different audiences:

Fluent Gaelic speakers: If you loved the tale of Anne Shirley in English when you were young, you deserve to be able to read it in Gaelic as well, for pleasure, novelty, and nostalgia.

Adult Gaelic language learners: If you, too, loved Anne in English, you can use Anna Ruadh to enjoyably further your Gaelic language learning.

Gaelic-medium students: If you’re a pupil in Gaelic-medium school, there’s a good chance that your mother loved Anne of Green Gables, and you might too. Teachers in Gaelic-medium education in Scotland can assign the novel for learning and enjoyment.

Anne fans and collectors worldwide: You can help bring another new translation into being, one in a language with greater relevance to Montgomery’s Prince Edward Island culture than any other except English. When you support Anna Ruadh as a crowdfunding backer, and buy the book for your collection, you are not only helping to create the new translation, you are also economically supporting Gaelic artists and helping us raise awareness about Gaelic language, culture, and literature in Canada and worldwide! Thank you very much! Tapadh leibh gu mòr!

More Information about the Gaelic Anne Project

There is more information about Anna Ruadh in the FAQ section of our crowdfunding page, including details about the finished book, an explanation of the connections between L. M. Montgomery, Prince Edward Island, and Gaelic, a description of everything accomplished for the project as of May 2019, and further information about our funding.

I was interviewed live last week for the Sheldon MacLeod Show on the News 95.7 FM radio station in Halifax, and by the CBC as well. The Halifax radio interview was published at and the CBC interview was published on the CBC website.

I’m sharing regular updates about the Anne of Green Gables Gaelic translation project on the Bradan Press social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Other updates are available on the Kickstarter project page under the “Updates” tab.


Last but DEFINITELY not least, please enjoy this Kickstarter video about the project! It’s posted on the Kickstarter project page, but here’s an embedded version from YouTube. Parts of the video were filmed in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a park that Montgomery visited and wrote about in her journal while living in Halifax, and that she featured in Anne of the Island! Our translator, Mòrag Anna NicNèill, also introduces herself in Gaelic and English in the video:

Don’t forget to make a pledge by June 30, 2019 and share this post far and wide! Mòran taing! Many thanks!

Anne of Green Gables cosplay at Lovers' Lane, Green Gables Heritage Site, Prince Edward Island, © 2019 Leila Matte-Kaci. All rights reserved.

Anne of Green Gables cosplay at Lovers’ Lane, Green Gables Heritage Site, Prince Edward Island, © 2019 Leila Matte-Kaci. All rights reserved.

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