In 2015, we wrote a blog post offering some facts about the Gaelic language. As it was such a big part of the Jacobite culture, there has been a lot of effort made to include it at the visitor centre, which encourages many questions about the language, including its history, prevalence at the time of the Battle of Culloden and vocabulary. Below is some more information about Scottish-Gaelic:
In the mid-18th century, Gaelic was by no means spoken by the majority of the Scottish population. Its decline is believed to have begun during the reign of Malcolm III of Scotland (1058-1093), who broke with tradition by giving his sons Anglo-Saxon names. Norman French became favoured by the royals and aristocrats, whereas speaking Ingles, later known as Scots, became increasingly common among those outside of the court. By the 1300s, Scots was the dominant language in both written law and literature.
The Bruce, a patriotic poem written in around 1375, was notably written in Scots, not Gaelic, which reflects the shift that had occurred. By 1755, approximately 23% of the Scottish population spoke Gaelic. Of the 23%, many of them lived in the Highlands and Islands; it had always held great importance to the clans, but repeated blows, such as the loss at Culloden, and the subsequent Highland Clearances, diminished its use more and more as the years passed.
Last autumn, Catriona, Culloden’s Head Education Guide, designed a resource pack for the schools that visit throughout the year. In it she included biographies, family trees, timelines and explanations of commonly used terms. She decided to write it as a dual-language booklet, so that the person can read it in English or turn to the back for the Gaelic. This has proved popular with those who have seen it, as there is the opportunity to attempt to read it in Gaelic, whilst knowing the meaning in English.
To end today’s post, here are some common Scottish surnames and their Gaelic meanings:
The prefix Mac- means son in Gaelic, so Macdonald means son of Donald and so on.
Duff is derived from the Gaelic dubh, which means dark.
Buchanan comes from a Scottish place name that means house of the canon.
Cameron means crooked nose (Gaelic: cam – crooked / sròn – nose).
Murray is derived from the Scottish region Moray and means seaboard settlement in Gaelic.
We hope you enjoyed this little insight into Scottish Gaelic. As always please share, tweet, like and comment.
All the best, The Culloden Team