There’s an interesting shift in terms of the typology of these institutions. I think it is clear from the second half of the nineteenth and even the last quarter of the nineteenth century, that many more of these institutions are quite highly charged, politically, by which I mean they are prepared to debate in the public sphere and see themselves as spaces and platforms for concerns about things like the land wars for the sort of rather more agitated nature of a response to what is taking place in the Gaidhalteachd. What I think is also true is that over the generations, these institutions are themselves continuing to be strong but the language base within them is less strongly Gaelic. Now, of course there are all sorts of exceptions to that general statement. One needs to be therefore careful in this regard. If there is a sense in which these institutions are as they are, clearly maintained by a constant inflow of people for whom migration is permanent, then there’s also a sense that second, third and later generations of Highland born are also less Gaelic speaking. The reasons for that are to do with cultural shame that was attached to knowing Gaelic, to do with a lack of support within the urban context, relatively few Gaelic schools. The only real space was the Gaelic chapel or church. So these bodies and societies become no less caring but I do think they become less Gaelic in some regard.

  • Charles Withers
Thursday 17th June 2010