Culture & Recent History:
In the 5th Century, post-Roman period, the lands of the West Coast, Argyll and the Islands were known as Dalriada. The population, called ‘Scotti’, were immigrants from the Irish Kingdom of Dàl Riata in Co. Antrim. Dalriada bordered the Pictish lands and their skirmishes meant these borders were in a constant state of flux. At times the lands of the Scotti may have had a Pictish overlord, whilst at others the Pictish Kings may have had Scotti bloodlines through intermarriage. It may have been during one of these periods that the Pictish stone came to be in Wester Ross in the first place.
The Scots of Dalriada and Northern Pictland were constantly losing ground under the pressure of the seaborne Vikings. It was probably after another such influx that the King of the Scots, Keneth mac Alpin, forged east into South Pictland and seized the Pictish throne via a dynastic marriage. The unity of these two states created a single kingdom that would become the medieval and modern Scotland, and marked the fusion of Irish speech into Scots Gaelic.
The Gaelic Language:
Gaelic has a rich oral and written tradition, having been the language of the bardic culture of the Highland clans for several centuries. The language preserved knowledge of and adherence to pre-feudal laws and customs.
Up until a few hundred years ago, the language in the home and in the community would have been Gaelic. However, Gaelic suffered heavily as Highlanders and their traditions were persecuted after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 , and began a gradual decline between then and the 20th century. In the last hundred years or so, use of Gaelic has declined significantly, and now there are very few fluent Gaelic speakers.Education, the Church and parents played a significant part in the original decline of the language. When children whose first language was Gaelic started school, (which became compulsory from the 1870s, though many in this area delayed starting until they were seven years old), they were discouraged from speaking Gaelic. Many parents mistakenly thought that Gaelic was a hindrance to their children and did not encourage them to speak it.
When it became apparent that more people began to attend the English services, the church also turned its back on Gaelic to a large extent. Even so, there are still a few churches in the area ( the Gairloch Free Church, for example) which struggle to keep a fortnightly Gaelic service, when they can get someone to preach it, and very few people attend.
Gaelic has enjoyed a revival in recent times in many places and we hope it will
continue to do so in the future. There is an annual Gaelic Mod in Poolewe Hall
which attracts performers and visitors to its high quality competitions and
presentations. Incomers to the area often show more interest in the language
than people born and brought up in it. The Education Service, over recent years, has tried to reverse the process by setting up classes to be taught through the medium
of Gaelic. You may also have noticed a large number of road signs in Gaelic during your drive over to Wester Ross. In the main these have only been installed over the last few years in a drive to increase the exposure of Gaelic in daily life.
But for a real grasp on life here in more recent years, have a look at this clip of Wester Ross in the early 1950's. The film was originally made by "Instructional Films" of Eaglesham, near Glasgow!
Thanks also to local video and photo enthusiast "Spoonraker" for drawing attention to a wonderful wee bit of local history!
Does anybody know any of the names and faces that take part in the film? Or for that matter, who "Instructional Films" were!
- Now, have a look at "Crofting" - what IS a croft?
- What on earth is "Peat" - and where is the "Hydro"
- What is Wester Ross like to live in now - in 2015?