A lot is made of the lack of opportunities for people with Gaelic to speak their language outside of school and work. I agree that it would be good to have more places where Gaelic was the language that was used. It’s a tough job to organise such events. But we already have an outstanding example within the Gaelic world – and that is Sradagan.
Sradagan was a big part of my own Gaelic life when I was younger. From around P3, or perhaps earlier, I went to the club each week to play with my friends that also spoke Gaelic. We all really enjoyed it. We played football nearly every week, and we had great parties for occasions like Halloween and Christmas. My friends and I looked forward to it, every Wednesday, from the weekend beforehand. We had a great time at Sradagan playing whilst speaking Gaelic.
I’m sure there were opportunities available for those of the same age as us that didn’t speak Gaelic to do similar activities but I assume that a lot of those opportunities would come from groups such as the church or the like. Sradagan gave us to play, and just that, without an agenda behind it apart from to promote the use of the language outside of school.
I certainly don’t think that there were the same opportunities for non-Gaelic speakers for the likes of trips, though. Without a doubt the best opportunity I got from being part of Sradagan was a trip to the Italian Alps to take part in an event called “Eurosnow” where groups from other minority languages across Europe came together. It was a fantastic trip, in the middle of the third term of P6, and I have memories from it that will last forever. I learned a lot about other cultures and it was great at that age to see other people from across Scotland that also spoke Gaelic, showing us that the language is spoken outside our own little community.
I hope this shows how beneficial Sradagan was to me. When I was asked in the 4th year of Academy to lead the local Sradagan group I accepted without hesitation. I wanted these opportunities to be available to another generation. Unfortunately, Sradagan wasn’t held in the same building that it was before, though. When I was in primary school, it was held in the building of a local youth café. That building had a pool table, air hockey table, TV and PlayStation as well as other rooms for other activities to be held. It was difficult coming up with new games and activities so that each week would be somewhat different. It was a challenge, but I’m confident that it went well. I kept on leading Sradagan until I left Dingwall for university.
Not everything went right for Sradagan the whole time, though. It’s difficult to keep everyone speaking Gaelic for the whole hour. It was a struggle for me when I was a youngster at the club and it was difficult for the children when I was leading the club. Another difficulty is the politics behind the club, with the committee that runs the club not necessarily speaking the language themselves and with some of them less proactive than others in doing the work that needs to be done to keep the club running. Sradagan Inbhir-Pheofharain was disbanded twice between the time I started primary school and took over as leader, both times because the committee couldn’t find enough people. I recognise that it’s not a problem that’s unique to Sradagan, but with the number of Gaelic students still low, there isn’t the same support in numbers from parents to change things. I hope that when the number of students in Gaelic medium education rises the number of parents that will get involved with Sradagan’s committees will rise too.
There is nothing in the adult world that is similar to Sradagan in bringing Gaelic speakers together. There are clubs and classes but they don’t run often enough to be effective. Perhaps this is because the life of adults is busier and they don’t have the same time to go out and visit such social occasions. I think that more chances should be available for adults to speak Gaelic to each other socially but how this could be done in an effective and natural way I don’t know.
Certainly Sradagan is one of the biggest benefits of being a young Gaelic speaker. Gaelic still as a ways to go to promote itself in social situations but if we can look at the things that Sradagan does so well and use these lessons properly, there will hopefully be a development for the language.