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Clan Donald Magazine No13 (1995) Online
 

Sabhal Mor Ostaig le Fearchar Mac an Toisich

Tha Sabhal Mr Ostaig an diugh gle ainmeil mar cholaisde Ghidhlig na h-Alba. 'Se rud iongantach a tha seo nuair a smaoinichear air. Far nach robh o chionn ghoirid ach seann thogalaichean tuathanais a bha tuiteam am broinn a cheile, tha a nise colaisde foghlaim rd re a tha a' teagasg chrsaichean tro mheadhan na Gidhlig ann an cuspairean gniomhachais, craoladh, sgilean conaltraidh, foghlam na Gaidhealtachd, leasachadh duthchail, teicneolas fiosrachaidh, na h-ealain Ghidhlig is eile. Tha e cheart cho iongantach, nuair a bheachdaichear air cor na Gidhlig is cion creideas nan Gaidheal nan cnan fhin fad ioma linn, gu bheil an Sabhal Mr a' sior dhol am meud agus crsaichean a' sior leudachadh gach bliadhna. 'Se ceann-uidhe nan Urrasairean gum bi a' cholaisde na pirt chudromach de dh'Oilthigh na Gaidhealtachd is nan Eilean nuair a steidhichear seo, thathas an duil, aig deireadh na linne.

B' ann leis an Ridire Iain Nobal a bha an lrach air a bheil a' cholaisde na seasamh. Chunnaic esan is an luchd-stidheachaidh eile gun gabhadh ite a thogadh an toiseach aig m nam fuadaichean a chur gu deagh fheum mar ionad-foghlaim a bheireadh oideachadh do Ghaidheil ga nan cnan fhein ann an cuspairean an l an diugh. Nam beachd-san, bheireadh seo cothrom dhaibh air tranadh fhaotainn anns na sgilean sin a bhiodh feumail airson cosnadh fhaotainn air Ghaidhealtachd agus pirt a ghabhail ann am brosnachadh na Gidhlig is athnuadhachadh eaconomaidh an coimhearsnachdan fhein.

Thisicheadh an 1973 le crsaichean samhraidh ann an Gidhlig is an cuspairean co-cheangailte rithe, mar tha piobaireachd is cel tradaiseanta. Deich bliadhna eile is bha an t-ite air fs gu bhith na cholaisde-foghlaim rd re, a' tairgsinn chrsaichean ln-thde ann an elas roinneil agus gniomhachas. Shoirbhich araon leis na crsaichean goirid 's leis na crsaichean ln-thde. An uiridh, bha crr is coig ceud oileanach as a h-uile cearn air na crsaichean goirid, agus tha corr is da fhichead air na crsaichean ln-thde. Mar thoradh air seo, tha a nise ceumanaich bhon t-Sabhal Mhr ag obair feadh nan eilean is ceann-tuath na h-Alba. Theid an ireamh am meud mar a thig leasachadh air eaconomaidh an ite agus a thuigeas daoine san fharsaingeachd gu bheil seo ceangailte ri leasachadh cnain is dualchais is digh-beatha an t-sluaigh.

Tha feallsanachd an t-Sabhail Mhir a' meas gu bheil moit nan dualchas fhin cho riatanach a-measg Ghaidheil is a tha e a-measg sluaigh eile an t-saoghail. Air an adhbhar sin, thathar a' cur cudthrom air olas is eachdraidh, air cel is cultar aig a bheil a'Ghidhlig mar bhunait. Chan ann aig Sabhal Mr Ostaig a-mhin a gheibhear crsaichean ann an cunntasach, an coimpiutadh no an craoladh, ach 's ann a'mhain annsan a gheibhear na sgilean sonraichte sin air an teagasg ann an doigh-oideachaidh a tha an da chuid a' brosnachadh na Gaidhlig is fein-speis nan oileanach. Tha seoair a bhith a dhith ro fhada air foghlam feadh na Gaidhealtachd is nan Eilean. 'S ann a bha e buailteach a' chalgdhireach a dheanamh is bha a bhuil ann, le ar canan ann an cunnart is ar n-digridh a' treigsinn tir an araich.

Tha feallsanachd an t-Sabhail air a bhith cho eifeachdach 's gu bheil a' cholaisdea nise neo-sheachnach feumail ann a bhith toirt taicdon Ghaidhlig 's don ath-bheothachadh a tha i a' mealtainn an ceartuair. Mar dhearbhadh air seo, cha leigeara lasach sealltainn aircuid de na raointeananns a bheil Sabhal Mor Ostaig a'saothrachadh. Annan 1991 chuireadh Barail airbhonnmarionadbreithneachaidh air poileasaidhean airson na Gaidhealtachd is nan Eilean. Dhealbhar e mar mheadhan neo-eisimileach chum chuisean ionadail is roinneil a chnuasachadh le sluagh an aite fhein agus chan ann a- mhain le "eolaichean" bhaon taobh a-muigh ag innse dhaibh de bu choir a dheanamh. Tha Barail air co-labhairtean is oraidean a chur air doigh air caochladh chuspairean, cuid dhiubh a' sgrudadh is a' soilleireachadh an seorsa oilthigh a bhiodh freagarrach airson na Gaidhealtachd is nan Eilean.

Anns an t- Sultainn 1992 shuidhichear an t-ionad rannsachaidh, Leirsinn. Feumaidh seasamh follaiseach a bhith aig an t-Sabhal ann an rannsachadh ma tha e gu bhith na' phairt de dh'Oilthigh na Gaidhealtachd, agus nam bheachdsa tha Leirsinn is Barail le cheile a'deanamh direach seo gulre nach eil colaisde sam bith eile air Ghaidhealtachd. A thuilleadh air a bhith a' cumail taic ri Barail, tha Leirsinn air a bhith an sas ann am moran phroiseachtan a thaobh foghlam, craoladh, mion-chanain is leasachadh eaconomach na Gaidhealtachd.

Ann an 1992, cuideachd, chaidh Canan a steidheachadh mar ionad taic airson nam meadhanan craolaidh agus bathar eile a bhiodh feumail ann an saoghal na Gaidhlig. Bhon toiseach, tha e air a bhith trang a' cruthachadh is ag reic stuth-leasachaidh airson luchd-ionnsachaidh agus, bho am gu am, a' cur air doigh cursaichean-treanaidh airson ghniomhachasan far a bheil iarrtas a-measg an luchd-obrach airson Gaidhlig. Comhla ri seo, tha an t-ionad a' tairgsinn caochladh sheirbhisean do chompanaidhean craolaidh ann an eadar-theangachadh, fo-thiotalan, obair-sgrioptaichean, dealbhachadh grafaiceach, rannsachadh phrogramaniseile. Marsin, chan eile na iongnadh gu bheil Canan nachuideachadh math do na cursaichean a tha an Sabhal a' ruith ann an craoladh, gu h-araidh a thaobh sgilean practaigeach air a bheil cruaidh fheum.

'Se craoladh cuspair cho cudromach 'sa tha a' cholaisde a teagasg, a chionn 's gu bheil a leithid de bhuaidh aige air oigridh ar duthcha agus gu bheil uidhear de chothroman cosnaidh is malairt ag eirigh anns na mcadhanan. Do bhrigh seo, tha craoladh na shareisimpleir air feallsanachd nan Urrasairean - gu bheil oideachas is obair, canan is cosnadh co-cheangailte. Mar sin, tha a' cholaisde bho thus air a bhith a' tairgsinn chursaichean a tha freagarrach do dhreuchdan a thairneas ar n-digridh is a dhaingnicheas a' Ghaidhlig. Tha an Sabhal fhein a nise toirt obraichean matha do choir is da fhichead sa' choimhearsnachd agus air eaconomaidh Shleite athnuadhachadh an ioma doigh.

Tha aon ghnothach eile a bu choir dhomh ainmeachadh anns a bheil a1 cholaisde air a bhith an sas bho 1987. 'Se sin an Stor-Data Briathrachais Gaidhlig, cruinneachadh de dh' fhaclan is abairtean, nuadh is sean, air an storadh air coimpiutair. Chaidh taghadh den stuth seo a chur an clo an 1993, agus thaduil gun tig tuilleadh leabhraichean a mach anns na bliadhnaichean a tha romhainn. Ged nach e faclair san t-seadh abhaisteach a tha san leabhar a th' againn ach liosta briathrachais, bha feum air a leithid agus bidh e na chuideachadh mor araon do chloinn-sgoile is do dh'inbhich aig a bheil uidh sa' Ghaidhlig.

Ma tha an fheallsanachd air a bheil an Sabhal steidhichte air a bhith buanachdail ann a bhith ga chur aig cridhe nan atharraichean a tha gabhail aite ann an saoghal na Gaidhlig, tha i air a bhith a cheart cho tarbhach ann a bhith a' taladh tuilleadh is tuilleadh oileanach gach bliadhna don cholaisde fhein. Mar thoradh air seo, chaidh togalach ur bhreagha fhosgladh san fhoghar 1993 a th' air cur gu mor ri goireasan an t-Sabhail. Ann an stoidhle ailtireachd a tha co-ionnan ris an t-seann togalach, tha an t-ionad ur a' toirt don cholaisde oifisean, seomraichean-teagaisg, goireasan treanaidh airson riochdachadh-telebhisean, aite-ithe agus seomraichan-fuirich do 35 oileanach a tha cho math sa gheibhear ann an colaisde sam bith an Albainn. Tha an Sabhal a nise a dha uidhear sa bha e ann am meudachd.

Adh' aindeoin seo gu ta, tha feum mar tha air tuilleadh thogalaichean ura leis na tha tachairt ann an saoghal na Gaidhlig agus an t-iarrtas a th' air caochladh chursaichean a tha buntainn ri canan is dualchas. 'Se seo a thug air na h-Urrasairean an uiridh sia acraichean gu leth fearainn a cheannach bho Ellice Domhallach. Air an talamh seo thathar a' runachadh, le taic na coimhearsnachd is bhuidhnean eile agus le airgead a Ciste Ionmhais a' Mhile Bliadhna, ma shoirbhicheas le ar tagradh, Bail' Or Ostaig a steidheachadh.

'Se proiseacht mhdr inntinneach a tha seo aig a bheil tri nithean gu h-araidh san amharc. 'Se a'cheud ni a bhith toirt dhan t-Sabhal gach goireas a tha riatanach gu bhith coinneachadh ri feumalachdan foghlaim Gaidhlig aig toiseach na h-ath linne. 'Se an dara ni a bhith a' cruthachadh ghoireasan cluiche is spors agus meadhanan mineachaidh air dualchas nan Gaidheal a dh' fhaodas sluagh an aite agus luchd-turais cuideachd a chur gu feum. Agus an treas ni a bhith ag uidheamachadh na colaisde chun an ire a tha deatamach gu bhith na co-phairt chubhaidh de dh'Oilthigh na Gaidhealtachd is nan Eilean. Ma thig Bail' Or Ostaig gu buil, bheir e dhuinn priomh ionad rannsachaidh is urachaidh airson ar canan 'sar dualchas a bhios chum leas na coimhearsnachd 'sna Gaidhealtachd air fad, agus cudromach do dhuthchannan eile san t-saoghal.

Anns a' cho-dhunadh, tha e follaiseach gu bheil Sabhal Mor Ostaig air adhartas iongantach a dheanamh anns an fhichead bliadhna bhon a chaidh a steidheachadh. Tha aite sonraichte aige nise ann a bhith a' daingneachadh Gaidhlig is dualchais agus a' cumail taic riutha le cheile. Anns na bliadhnaichean a tha romhainn, ni e seo an co-bhonn ri colaisdean eile agus gu h-araidh ris na roinnean Ceiltis anns na h-oilthighean. Bidh seo feumail cuideachd ann a bhith ag ullachadh na slighe airson nan ceanglaichean a dh'fheumar a dhaingneachadh mun tig oilthigh dhan Ghaidhealtachd fhein.

Ged a tha inbhe aig a' Ghaidhlig a nise ann am beatha ar duthcha nach robh aice fad ioma ginealach, tha moran bhearnan fhathast rin lionadh. Tha seo fiorgu h-araidh ann am foghlam ann an Gaidhlig, far am feumarcursaichean bogaidh a dhealbh airson fileantais a neartachadh, agus ann am foghlam tro mheadhon na Gaidhlig. 'Se foghlam tro mheadhon na Gaidhligan innleachdas cumhachdaiche a th' ann airson ar canan ath-bheothachadh. 'S ann cuideachd ris an doigh teagaisg seo a tha moran den adhartas eile a thathas a' sireadh an crochadh agus a' chuid as motha de na cothroman cosnaidh a tha nise a' nochdadh ann an caochladh sheorsachan obrach. Cha robh na cothroman sin riamh cho math 'sa tha iad an ceartuair, ach tha cunnart ann nach bi fileantaich gu leor againn air an son. Mar sin, feumaidh an Sabhal buanachadh anns an fheallsanachd air a bheil e steidhichte agus cumail air a' togail air bunait na Gaidhlig. Le sin a dheanamh, bheir e thuige misneachd is moit nan Gaidheal nan canan's nan dualchas fhein.

Sabhal Mor Ostaig - the Big Barn of Ostaig
by Farquhar Macintosh, Chairman of Trustees.

Sabhal Mor Ostaig is today widely recognised as Scotland's Gaelic College, the first centre of higher education in the Hebrides for many centuries. This is really a remarkable achievement. Founded in what a few years ago was a set of semi-derelict farm buildings, we now have a College of Further Education teaching courses through the medium of Gaelic in business administration, broadcasting, communication skills, Gaidhealtachd studies, rural development, information technology, the Gaelic arts and much else. Equally remarkable, when one considers the position of Gaelic and the Gaels' own attitude to it, is the continuing expansion of the college and the courses it provides. The aim of the Trustees, in fact, is to see Sabhal Mor Ostaig established as an integral part of the planned University of the Highlands and Islands.

The site belonged to Sir Ian Noble. He and the other founders believed that a steading built at the time of the Clearances could be transformed into the nucleus of an educational institution that would offer young Gaels the skills required to equip them to play a part in regenerating their communities and their culture.

A start was made in 1973 with summer courses in Gaelic and related subjects. In 1983 the centre became a full-time College of Further Education offering courses in regional and business studies through the medium of Gaelic. Both short and full-time courses prospered. Last year more than 500 people attended the former, and there are over 40 full-time students. Sabhal Mor Ostaig graduates are now employed throughout the Highlands, and their number will increase as the link between economic development and cultural renewal comes to be more widely appreciated.

Central to the college's philosophy is the conviction that a proper pride in one's own heritage is as essential among Gaels as amongst other people. Consequently, the curriculum accords a prominent place to those cultural aspects which have Gaelic as their key. While courses in accounting, computing or broadcasting are not peculiar to Sabhal Mor, only there can such skills be acquired in the context of an educational approach which prizes Gaelic and enhances self-esteem. Such values have long been absent from the system, to the detriment of the culture and the community alike.

So successful has this approach proved that Sabhal Mor Ostaig now plays a central role in the strategy for Gaelic development. This is borne out by the many ventures which have grown up in recent years around the college core. In 1991 "Barail" was established as a Centre for Highlands and Islands Policy Studies and has since organised conferences and talks on such local issues as the prospective University of the Highland and Islands. Barail was designed as an independent forum for the analysis of such matters from a local and regional point of view rather than simply having outside "experts" telling the natives what to do.

In September 1992 the Research Centre, "Leirsinn", began to operate under the senior management of the college. Designed to provide developmental, evaluative and research facilities for the Gaelic-speaking areas, Leirsinn is engaged in a range of projects in education, broadcasting, minority languages and economic development. Together with Barail, it helps to give Sabhal Mor Ostaig the research credentials required by an aspiring university college.

In 1992, also, "Canan" was set up as a Gaelic Media Support Facility and a source of other products and services for the Gaelic community. From the beginning Canan has provided the course materials for the TV Gaelic learners programme, "Speaking Our Language", and has also arranged training programmes for businesses whose employees wish to learn Gaelic. At the same time it offers a range of services to broadcasting companies in translation work, sub-titling, scripting, graphic design and programme evaluation. With such expertise at its disposal, Canan is a source of great strength to the College's own courses in broadcasting.

As will be appreciated, the latter is a key component in the Gaelic revival. Broadcasting is one of the most powerful influences on the young and its employment potential is considerable. It is, in fact, a prime example of the Sabhal Mor Ostaig philosophy that education and economic development go hand-in-hand. The college itself, it should be noted, is now providing some forty full-time jobs in the community and has transformed Sleat into one of the Highlands more remarkable growth areas.

One other project undertaken by Sabhal Mor - the Gaelic Terminology Data Base - deserves a mention. This was established in 1987 to assemble and store on computer new terminology created in recent years along with existing material. A very useful terminology list of some 90,000 entries was published in 1991 and it is hoped that other volumes, some thematically organised, will follow in due course.

The college's philosophy has been equally effective in expanding its student intake. As a result, the "Big Barn" has now doubled in size with the addition of a new building officially opened in October 1993. Built in an architectural style which complements the original structure, the new extension has significantly enhanced the college's teaching facilities as well as providing study bedrooms of a very high standard for 35 students.

Demand, however, is such that more accommodation is already required. Accordingly, last year the Trustees decided to buy a six and a half acre site at a very modest price from Ellice MacDonald (of the Clan Donald Lands Trust). On it they hope to build "Bail' Ur Ostaig", the "New Township of Ostaig", as a cultural, educational and community complex of the highest quality. The intention is to attract sufficient funding from the Millennium Commission to create a world centre for the study and enjoyment of Scotland's Gaelic heritage, taking also into account the Nordic and Pictish influences which have helped to shape the area and its people.

This exciting and challenging venture has three main aims. The first is to provide the facilities which Sabhal Mor requires to meet the needs of Gaelic-medium education. The second is to create cultural, interpretive and sporting facilities which the local community and visitors can also use; and the third to equip the college to become a fitting component of the forthcoming University of the Highlands and Islands. If this vision is realised, we will have on Skye a place for cultural renewal not merely of local but of international significance.

To conclude, it is clear that Sabhal Mor Ostaig has made remarkable progress in the twenty years since its foundation and is now at the forefront of efforts to regenerate the Gaelic language and its culture. In the years that lie ahead, it will play its part more and more in collaboration with other institutions at home and abroad, particularly the university Celtic departments. These developments will also serve to further the links required to pave the way for a university of our own.

Despite the enhanced status of the language, however, much remains to be done. The urgency is greatest in respect of education in Gaelic, where 'immersion' courses are required to improve fluency, and of education through the medium of Gaelic. The latter holds the key to the pace of revival and to exploiting the many job opportunities which are now becoming available to Gaelic speakers. Their numbers have to be increased and the response to the challenge is clear. Sabhal Mor Ostaig must adhere to its founding philosophy and continue its work of promoting the confidence and pride of all Gaels in their language and its culture.

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