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Subject: soc.culture.celtic FAQ
This article was archived around: Sat, 6 Aug 2011 19:25:49 +0100
Posting-Frequency: 4 months
This is the FAQ for the news:soc.culture.celtic newsgroup.
This FAQ was first launched May 1994.
Craig Cockburn firstname.lastname@example.org (editor)
The information here is copyright (c) Craig Cockburn 1994-2010,
please ask me if you want to use any material here for any purpose.
Since this FAQ was first posted in 1994, a number of new newsgroups have
started to cater for Celtic countries. Where there is a FAQ for such a
group, I have provided a pointer to that group's FAQ rather than
duplicate the information in here.
This FAQ is a living document, if there's any corrections, additions or
comments you'd like to make, please send them to me for the next
The usual major updates for the rtfm.mit.edu archive are the Celtic
quarter days of 1-Feb; 1-May (Beltain); 1-Aug; 1-Nov (Samhainn)
Accents in this document are represented by a / or \ after the vowel in
question e.g. e/ represents e-fada (=e acute)
[1.1] The Celts
[1.2] Reading material
[1.3] The Celtic languages
[1.4] Celtic language mailing lists
[1.5] Where can I get Celtic Music?
[1.6] How do I identify which Celtic language this is?
[1.7] Books for Celtic names for children
[1.8] Multilingual publications
[1.9] General on-line language resources
[1.10] Pan Celtic information
[1.11] Celtic League
[1.12] Celtic Congress
(alphabetic by name in their main Celtic language)
 Alba - Scotland
 Alba Nuadh - Nova Scotia
 Breizh - Brittany
 Cymru - Wales
 Eire - Ireland
 Kernow - Cornwall
 Mannin - Isle of Man
 Celtic events & societies around the world
[1.1] Historical background
The Celts (pronounced with a hard C like "Claymore") appear in Europe
as a group of peoples who spoke languages in the Celtic branch of the
Indo-European family of languages. Other branches of the Indo-European
family are Albanian, Anatolian, Armenian, Balto-Slavic, Germanic
(includes English), Greek, Indo-Iranian, Italic (Latin based) and
Tocharian. European languages *not* belonging to the Indo-European group
are Basque, Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and Lappish (also called
Basque is notable in that it is almost certainly a remnant of the
present in Europe before the Indo-European expansion. Hungarian,
was brought from the East at a later date.
The Celts evolved from the Urnfield Culture (given that name because of
burial system of cremation and placement of ashes in urns which in turn
buried in fields...) much earlier than the Romanized Celtic world of
late 500-400 BC.
I use the word "evolve" because it is difficult to define just when the
Celts became a culture unto themselves. That said, a culture can be
defined according to economic stability, shared religious beliefs and
Around 1500-1000BC, the Celts lived in an area which today is mostly in
Eastern France. The area stretched from roughly where Luxembourg is
to a bit further south than Geneva and took in parts of modern day
West Germany and Switzerland. It was an area a little bigger than the
island of Ireland.
The Celts then expanded to cover an area covering most of Western
Europe and Central Europe. Around 400BC, the Celts lived in what
is now called Britain, Ireland, France (i.e. Gaul), Luxembourg, Belgium,
Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech and Slovak Republics. Celts also
lived in parts of Spain (notable Galicia), northern Italy, The
the southern half of Germany, and parts of Poland and Russia (source:
Story of English", Faber and Faber; BBC books 1992).
After the height of their power, the Celts (the first Indo-European
group to spread across Europe) were pushed north and west by successive
waves of Indo-European peoples, notably Germanic and Latin based. The
migration was by the Galli or Gauls into France, northern Italy and the
north of Europe.
>From "The Celts", by Frank Delaney (Grafton Books, a division of
Publishing Group; copyright London 1986):
Hallstatt - This site at Hallstatt, Austria, was first uncovered by a
George Ramsauer (a local) in 1846. It was not until 30 years later that
a team of investigators from the Academy of Sciences in Vienna performed
an exhaustive investigation of the local salt mine (the natural resource
that had supported a local economy near Hallstatt for perhaps 4500
and the approximately 2500 grave sites there.
The time in European history of this snapshot of Celtic cultural
development is approximately 800 B.C. The Celtic people here were an
iron using people who traded salt to the south as far as Italy and as
far north as Bohemia. "The grave goods - predominantly iron-made - ...
indicated a sophisticated and hierarchical society. These people,
superb iron-workers, owned and buried beautifully-decorated vessels,
ornamented weaponry and horse trappings, all of a standard much
advanced upon that recorded from earlier Europe, reflecting a decisive
and recognizable social structure."
Prior to these discoveries at Hallstatt, the Iron Age map of Europe only
included Rome and Greece as "civilizations". "But now 'the glory that
Greece, the grandeur that was Rome' had a proven tangible rival - the
opulence and clear structure of the Celtic civilization."
"The Hallstatt Culture reflects the Celts in their state of development
between the beginning of the ninth century B.C. and the middle of the
seventh century B.C. - an iron-using, farming, trading people with fixed
patterns of habitation and society." So, the term Hallstatt has more to
do with the state of development of the whole society than the time at
which this development was achieved. For example, artifacts found in
Ireland dated four-hundred years later than those found at Hallstatt may
still be described as Hallstatt based on the way in which they were made
and the reflections of their local society.
La Tene -- In 1858, near Neuchatel, Switzerland, another trove of Celtic
objects was uncovered. Subsequent excavations in this area indicated
"busy and continuous life" had existed by the lake at Neuchatel for
As the Hallstatt cultural period of the Celts lasted from between
to 600/500 B.C., "La Tene denotes a period which took over from
Culture". La Tene Culture can be divided into three periods: Early La
600-500 B.C.; Middle La Tene, 300-100 B.C.; and Late La Tene which leads
the end of Celtic dominance in central Europe as the Roman Empire began
expand north of the Alps.
"If Hallstatt Culture may be seen as survival and breakthrough from
comfort to the nucleus of civilization, the Celts of La Tene Culture,
luxuriated, shone, swaggered, thought, expressed themselves....La Tene
meant more lavish burials, more advanced decoration on swords, helmets,
brooches, more cosmopolitan influence."
"La Tene Culture lifts the Celts from being just another of the myriad
European tribally-originated peoples who made an impact in the days
literacy. La Tene spirit establishes the Celts as a real
"La Tene Culture finds the Celts amongst wealth and glory and
possession and expression. They had mobility, style, trade, power.
They had given themselves definition; they had acquired a considerable
presence; and they had, for their elegance and heroism, earned respect,
an assured people. The way of the Celts within that period, the five
hundred years or so before Christ, fixed them in the popular
imagination - mythological in splendour, glorious in their gold and
jewels, mysterious in the tracery of their ornamentation, opulent in
the evidence of their possessions."
"And the term 'La Tene' defines the essential vision of the Celts and
their civilization, marks their major cultural presence in Europe,
when their attitude , personality, style, came of age. Through La
Tene, Europe saw them as important, powerful and fascinating.
Their spread across the continent, their multifarious presence, made
them a force to be reckoned with."
There are some Celtic artifacts in the Hungarian National History
Museum in Budapest. Gellert Hill, which towers over the Danube on the
Buda side of the river, was once a Celtic fort. After pushing through
the area on their original journeys across Europe, Celtic peoples from
what became from France returned to the area around the 4th century I
believe. They introduced coinage to the area and traded. Outside of
Budapest, there are Roman ruins which were built over the site of a
Celtic village. The Romans called the place Aquinctum -- which was
based on An-ke (I believe) which meant 'place near water' in the Celtic
language of that particular group.
See http://www.museum-hallstatt.at/ (in German)
If you have any questions about The Hallstatt-Period or questions about
History, please mail me. I try to answer or give it to the people, who
know the right answer. In a few days you can see at this page all the
books we have about the Hallstatt-Period.
Greetings from Hallstatt to UK
[1.2] Reading material
This is an extensive list of Celtic studies research material. This was
compiled by Denise Inglis and was compiled during research for her
thesis. This list is also available to FTP from
Celtic reading list compiled by Denise Inglis
First Light on an Irish Tomb (ancient tomb at Newgrange may have had
astronomical function.) Science News 135 (Feb. 11, 1989) : 88ff.
Alcock, Leslie. Arthur's Britain : History and Archaeology - A. D.
London : Allen Lane, 1974.
Anderson, Marjorie O. The Celtic Church in Kinrimund. IN The Mediaeval
Church of St. Andrews.
Arbesmann, Rudolph. The cervuli and anniculae in Caesarius of Arles.
Traditio 35:89-119 1979.
Bamford, Christopher. Ecology and Holiness : The Heritage of Celtic
Christianity. Epiphany : A Journal of Faith and Insight. No. 3, 66-78,
Bammesberger, Alfred, and Wollmann, Alfred, eds. Britain 400-600:
and history [conf pprs, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon lang & hist, Eichstatt, W
Germany, 1988; indexed selectively]. Anglistische Forschungen, 205.
Heidelberg, Germany : Carl Winter Universitatsverlag, 1990.
Barton, Beverly. Sketches and Reflections on a Celtic Pilgrimage.
M. Bowes & A. Mitchell. Epiphany : A Journal of Faith and Insight 6 No.
70-75 Summer, 1986.
Beaulieu, Jean-Baptiste Colbert de. La monnaie au nom des rois
et Ecritusirus. IN Studia Paulo Naster Oblata, 1; ed by S Scheers,
Bede. Opera Historica. Loeb Classical Library, 2 vol. Cambridge,
Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 1954.
Biel, Jorg. A Celtic Grave in Hochdorf, Germany. Archaeology 40 (Nov -
Dec, 1987) : 22ff.
Biel, Jorg. Treasure From a Celtic Tomb. National Geographic 157
1980) : 428-438.
Bieler, Ludwig. Ancient Hagiography and the Lives of St. Patrick. IN
futuri : studi in onone de Cardinale Michele Pelligrino. ed. Antonio
Maddalena. 650-655, 1975. Turin : Bottega d'Erasmo.
Bieler, Ludwig. Christian Ireland's Graeco-Latin Heritage. Studia
13 (part 2) ed. Elizabeth Livingstone. Berlin : Akademie-Verlag, 1975,
Bieler, Ludwig. Ireland: Harbinger of the Middle Ages. New York :
Bieler, Ludwig. Patrick's Synod: A Revision. Melange Offerts a
Mademoiselle C. Mohrmann ed. T. N. Hamess et. al. Utrecht/Anvers :
Spectrum Editeurs, 1963, 96-102
Bieler, Ludwig. The Celtic Hagiographer. Studia Patristica vol. 5,
Bieler, Ludwig. The Irish Penitentials : Their Religious and Social
Background. Studia Patristica vol. 18 (Part II) ed. by F. L. Cross.
Bieler, Ludwig. The Life and Legend of St. Patrick. Dublin : Clonmore
Binchy, Daniel A. A pre-Christian survival in mediaeval Irish
IN Ireland in early medieval Europe; ed by D Whitelock; et al., 1982.
Birley, Eric. The Deities of Roman Britain. IN Principat 18,1 :
: Dei religiosen Verhaltnisse in den Provinzen. Aufsteig und Niedergang
romischen Welt 2, 18: 1, ed. by Wolfgang Haase. Berlin : Walter de
1986, pp. 3-112.
Boyd, Robin. Ireland: Christianity discredited or pilgrim's progress?
Risk no. 37:1-127, 1988.
Boyle, Alexander. The Birthplace of St. Patrick. Scottish Historical
60 No.2, 156 160, October 1981.
Bradshaw, Brendan. The wild and woolly West: early Irish Christianity
Latin orthodoxy. The churches, Ireland and the Irish; ed by W Sheils
Wood, 1989. pp. 1-23.
Brenneman, Walter L. Serpents, Cows and Ladies : Contrasting Symbolism
in Irish and Indo-European Cattle Raiding Myth. History of Religion 28
340-354, May 1989.
Brown, T. J. An Historical Introduction to the Use of Classical Latin
Authors in the British Isles From the 5th to the 11th Century. IN La
antica nell'Occidente Latinodal 7 all 11 secolo. ed, Jeauneau, Edouard.
237-293, 1975. (22nd Conference Centro Italiano di Studi sull'alto
Spoleto, Italy : Centro Italiano di Studisull'alto Medioevo.)
Browne, Ray Broadus. The Celtic Cross, Studies in Irish Culture and
Literature. Freeport, New York : Books for Libraries Press, 1970.
Butler, L. A. S. Continuity of settlement in Wales in the central
IN Studies in Celtic survival; ed by L. Laing, 1977. pp. 61-66.
Carey, John. Ireland and the Antipodes: the heterodoxy of Virgil of
Speculum 64 : 1-10, January 1989.
Carmichael, Alexander, ed. Sun [Celtic poem fr The Sun Dance, 1960].
Epiphany 6 No 1:78, Fall 1985.
Carmichael, Alexander, ed. The voice of thunder [Celtic poem fr The Sun
Dance, 1960]. Epiphany 6 No. 1:79, Fall 1985.
Carmichael, Alexander, ed. The new moon [Celtic poem fr The Sun Dance,
1960]. Epiphany 6 No 1:79, Fall 1985.
Cathasaigh, Donal O. The cult of Brigid: a study of pagan-Christian
syncretism in Ireland (bibliog, maps, photos). IN Mother worship: theme
variations; ed by J. Preston, 1982. pp. 75-94.
Chadwick, Nora K. Celtic Britain. Ancient People and Places Series,
ed. Dr. Glyn Daniel. New York : Frederick A. Praeger, 1963.
Chadwick, Nora K. Studies in the Early British Church. London :
Cambridge University Press, 1958.
Chadwick, Nora K. The Celts. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England :
Penguin Books, 1970.
Chadwick, Nora K. The Druids.
Chaney, W. A. Royal Role in the Conversion of England. Journal of
and State 9 : 317-331, August 1967.
Charriere, Georges. Feux, buchers, et autodafes bien de chez nous.
l'histoire des religion 194 : 23-64, July 1978.
Chute, Desmond. On St Columban of Bobbio [Vita S Columbani]. Downside
Review 67:170-182,304-314, 1949.
Confren, Mary. The Serpent and the Goddess : Women Religion, and Power
in Celtic Ireland. 1st ed. San Francisco : Harper and Row, 1989.
Cooke, Richard Joseph, Bp, 1853-1931. The ancient British and Ephesian
succession theories. Methodist Review 80:249-269 Mr 1898.
Corbett, Deborah. The voice of the Celtic harp [photos; Celtic modal
Epiphany 5 No. 1 : 22-26, Fall 1984.
Cowan, Edward J. Myth and identity in early medieval Scotland.
Historical Review 63 : 111-135, October 1984.
Cowdrey, Herbert E. J. Bede and the 'English people'. Journal of
History 11, 501 - 523, December 1981.
Creban, Joseph H. The Theology of Eucharistic Consecration : Role of
Priest in Celtic Liturgy (periglawr). Theological Studies 40, 334-343.
Cunliffe, Barry. Celtic death rituals [Danebury pit burials; photos].
Archaeology 41 no 2:39-43, 1988.
Curran, M. Sacratissimi Martyres and Early Irish Latin Hymns. Studia
Patristica 15, pt. 1, 539-544, 1984.
Davidson, H R Ellis. Mithraism and the Gunderstrup bowl [figs]. IN
Mithraic studies, v 2; ed by J Hinnells, 1975. pp. 494-506.
Davies, Wendy. Celtic Women in the Early Middle Ages. IN Images of
Women in Antiquity 145-166, 1983. ed. Averil Cameron and Amelie Kurt.
Detroit, Michigan : Wayne State University Press, 1983.
Davies, Wendy. Property rights and property claims in Welsh vitae of
eleventh century. IN Hagiographie cultures et societies; by F Dolbeau,
1981. pp. 515-533.
Davies, Wendy. The Latin charter-tradition in western Britain, Brittany
Ireland in the early mediaeval period. IN: Ireland in early medieval
ed by D Whitelock; et al., 1982. pp. 258-280.
De Vries, Jan. La religion des Celts. The religion of Mankind Series,
Paris : Payot, 1984.
De Waal, Esther. The extraordinary in the ordinary (Celtic sacramental
practice of verse in daily life). Weavings 2 : 6-15 May - June, 1987.
Deanesly, Margaret. The Pre-Conquest Church in England. New York :
Oxford University Pres, 1961.
Debarge, Louis. Le syncretism religieux : druidisme et Christianisme.
Melanges de Sciences Religieuses 46 : 5-21, March 1989.
Delaney, John J. ed. Saints for All Seasons. Garden City, New York :
Demoule, Jean-Paul. L'analyse archeologique de cimitieres et l'example
necropoles celtiques. IN La mort et les morts dans la societes
Cherardo Anoli et Jean Pierre Vernant, 319-337, 1982. Cambridge :
Cambridge University Press, 1982.
Dillon, Myles. Early Irish Literature. Chicago : University of Chicago
Dillon, Myles. The Cycles of the Kings. London : Oxford University
Dooley, Kate. From Penance to Confession : The Celtic Contribution.
Bijdragen : Tijdschrift voor Philosophie en Theologie 43 : 390-411,
Draak, Maartje. Migration over sea [Celtic gods in Irish mythology].
Drury, P. J. Non-classical religious buildings in iron age and Roman
: a review [maps; bibliog]. IN Temples, churches and religion, pt 1; ed
Rodwell, 1980. pp. 45-78.
Dumville, David N. Beowulf and the Celtic world: the uses of evidence
Traditio 37:109-160, 1981.
Duncan, Archibald A. Bede, Iona and the Picts. IN Writing of History
the Middle Ages : Essays Presented to Richard William Southern. 1-42,
ed. John M. Wallace-Hadrill, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1981.
Duval, Paul M. Observation sur les dieux de la Gaule. Revue de
des religions 145 (January - March, 54) : 5-17.
Enright, Michael J. The Sutton Hoo whetstone sceptre: a study in
iconography and cultural milieu. IN: Anglo-Saxon England, 11; ed by P
Clemoes, 1983. pp. 119-134.
Evans-Wentz, W. Y. The Fairy-faith in Celtic Countries. New Hyde Park,
New York : University Books, 1966.
Laing, Lloyd. The Origins of Britain. New York : Schribner, 1980.
Farmer, David H. Benedict's Disciples. Leominster, Great Britain :
Wright Books, Ltd., 1980.
Fenn, R. W. D. Age of the Saints. IN A History of the Church in Wales.
by David Walker 1-23, 1976. Penarth, Wales : Church in Wales Publishing,
Ferguson, Everett, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity New
: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990.
Ford, Patrick K. Celtic Women : the Opposing Sex. IN Viator, vol 19 :
Medieval and Renaissance Studies, eds. Benson, Robert L.; A. R.
Robert I. Burns et al. Berkeley, California : University of California
Forrester, Duncan B. and Douglas M. Murray, ed. Studies in the History
Worship in Scotland. Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark, 1984.
Fox, Cyril, Sir. The Early Cultures of North-west Europe. H. M.
Memorial Studies. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1950.
Frend, William H. C. Ecclesia Britannica Prelude or Dead End? Journal
Ecclesiastical History 30 : 129-144, April 1979.
Frey, Otto-Herman. The chariot tomb from Adria: some notes on Celtic
horsemanship and chariotry [photos; il; bibliog]. IN To illustrate the
monuments; ed by J Megaw, 1976. pp. 171-179.
Frye, Roland M. Christ and Ingeld. (Anglo-Saxon myth) Theology Today
11, 225-232, July, 1954.
Grant, R. M. Christianity in Roman Britain. Anglican Theological
51 : 79-96 April 1969.
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Green, Miranda. The Gods of the Celts. Totowa, New Jersey : Barnes &
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Gwynn, Aubrey and R. Neville Hadcock. Medieval Religious Houses :
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[1.3] The Celtic languages.
Primary source: Cambridge encyclopaedia of language.
The Celtic languages are divided into two classes: Insular and
Continental Celtic languages are no longer spoken, but consisted of:
Celtiberian (Spain), Gaulish (Swiss/Northern Italian variant
as Lepontic) and Galatian in Turkey(!).
Galatian was spoken until about the 5th century.
Lepontic turns out to be P-Celtic. Celtiberian turns out to be Q-
the split occuring prior to the 7th Century BC.
Insular Celtic is divided into:
P-Celtic, also called Brythonic or British
Q-Celtic, also called Goidelic or Gaelic
P-Celtic consists of:
Cumbric (extinct), Welsh, Cornish, Breton
Breton and Cornish were apparantly mutually intelligible until
the 15th century
Q-Celtic consists of:
Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx
These languages are almost mutually intelligible today.
i.e. Donegal Irish and Islay Scots Gaelic are quite close.
The word Gaelic is pronounced "Gaylik" when talking about Irish Gaelic
Manx Gaelic; the modern preference is to pronounce it "Gallic" when
about Scots Gaelic (this being much closer to the pronunciation of
which is what this language calls itself).
Historically in Scotland in both English and Scots the word was
the same as for the other two languages. Indeed some Scots Acts spell
word "Gaylick". Therefore for an non-Gaelic speaker to use this
pronunciation is not "wrong", just not as currently preferred in
The most ancient remnants of a celtic dialect in written form have been
found in northern Italy (Sesto Calende, ~600 b.C., Castelletto Ticino,
~575-550 b.C.). It is a relatively recent acquisition that these
inscription are actually written in a celtic dialect (Lejeune,
There were two waves of invasions to the British Isles which gave rise
to the P/Q variaties we have today. The first invasion was to Ireland
in the 4th century BC, probably from Western France. This variant
became Gaelic and spread from Ireland to the Isle of Man and Scotland.
The second invasion (P-Celtic) was to southern England and Wales and
from there (in 5th century AD) to Brittany. Celtic languages have also
spread from Britain. 150 Welsh speakers started a Welsh colony in
Patagonia in 1865, and there is also a Scots Gaelic community in Cape
Breton Island, Nova Scotia. (about 1,000 speakers today). Breton is
not classified as continental Celtic because it came to Brittany from
Britain. There was a Gaelic speaking community in the Carolinas
but this died out in the early 20th century.
The p-q-phenomenon is found in Italic (compare the Latin quattor,
'four', with the Oscan petora), and certain linguists claim that there
was an Italo-Celtic people by the end of the 21st century BC. However,
the similarities are merely coincidental, e.g. the future tense in
Irish (root + b + ending) and Latin (root + f + ending), or that
passive verbs end with -r (previously believed to be a characteristic
of Italic and Celtic, but later found in Hittite and Tocharian (both
Pictish: The Picts were Celts but spoke a mixture of languages. They
spoke a pre-Celtic language for ritualistic purposes (source: Prof
Derek Thompson - "Why Gaelic matters"), and Pictish at other times.
Pictish is mentioned The Cambridge Encyclopedia of language as possibly
being Celtic or possibly being a non-Indo-European isolate like Basque
although the evidence seems to indicate that it was Indo-European.
Thompson says "It is clear from the evidence of place names that there
was much common ground between [Brythonic] and the Celtic constituent
Many of the Scottish Island names including Arran, Skye, Lewis and Jura
are Pictish. For more information on placenames: (W.F.H. Nicolaisen
"Scottish Place Names", Batsford, London 1976).
[1.4] Celtic language mailing lists
If you want to learn any of the Celtic languages, there are various
lists set up.
GAELIC-L for Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx (currently about 1000
and WELSH-L for Welsh, Cornish and Breton (currently about 330 members)
Note that these are primarily lists for discussions *in* those languages
and not discussions in English *about* the languages, although short
English only messages from learners are OK. To join, send a message
containing the line: subscribe listname yourfirstname yoursurname
i.e. subscribe GAELIC-L Iain Caimbeul
Both GAELIC-L and WELSH-L have extensive libraries of reference
material. Send the command "Get GAELIC-L filelist" or
"Get WELSH-L filelist" to find out what's available once you've
For issues in English about Celtic culture, see the lists IRTRAD-L
for Irish traditional music and CELTIC-L for Celtic culture. To join
these lists, simply replace the "GAELIC-L" in the above list with
the name of the list you wish to join.
Here's some more detail on GAELIC-L:
I was asked to write a bit about the GAELIC-L list for
so here it is.
Gaelic-L is a listserv list with about 1000 members and is for
discussions in the 3 Gaelic languages (Irish Gaelic, Scots Gaelic and
Manx). The list has been running since May 1989 and averages about 5-6
messages a day. Messages are primarily in Gaelic, and some have English
translations. English only messages from learners seeking help are
welcome, provided that they are kept fairly short. There is an extensive
library associated with the list containing monthly logs of every
sent out, programs (ie one to tell the time in conversational Gaelic),
reference materials (including dictionaries), contact addresses for
Most of the topics discussed on Gaelic-L are cultural or current affairs
what's on. Related usenet newsgroups include news:rec.music.celtic and
news:soc.culture.celtic. Unlike soc.culture.celtic however, discussions
concerning Northern Irish politics are extremely rare on Gaelic-L. The
Gaelic is pronounced "Gaylik" when talking about Irish Gaelic or Manx
but "Gallic" when talking about Scots Gaelic.
Owners of the list include:
University College Dublin - folklorist,
software localiser, archivist and co-founder of the list.
Caoimhin O Donnaile
Kevin Donnelly, lecturer in Computing at Sabhal Mor Ostaig,
Scotland's Gaelic College (on the Isle of Skye) and co-founder of the
To subscribe to the list, send a message to:
containing the line
SUB GAELIC-L your name
e.g. SUB GAELIC-L Iain Mac a' Gobhainn
the listserv will then send you more details. To get details of the
contents of Gaelic-L's library, send a command
GET GAELIC-L FILELIST
the address for messages themselves is
There is a GAELIC-M list though for those with MIME capability, and this
mirrored to GAELIC-L.
For Scottish Gaelic specific mailing lists, see
[1.5] Where can I get Celtic music?
The main place to ask this is on news:rec.music.celtic.
This newsgroup is the main forum for discussions about Celtic music
and it has a FAQ at http://www.collins-peak.co.uk/rmc/. The FAQ is
usually posted every Monday.
there is also a list of Internet resources for Celtic music available
[1.6] How do I identify which Celtic language this is?
Irish Gaelic and Scots Gaelic do not have these letters: j,k,q,v,w,x,y,z
they also don't have double vowels. Irish Gaelic has fadas (acute
Scots Gaelic has both acutes and graves, but predominantly graves
no longer officially exist). Irish has no grave accents.
Breton has n-tilde (like Spanish) and a high number of z's
Breton has acute and grave accents.
Cornish looks very much like Breton, except Cornish has very few accents
Cornish has an a-circumflex. K's, w's, z's occur frequently
Welsh has no z's, but a high number of y's and w's
Welsh also has circumflexes on all its vowels : a,e,i,o,u,w,y.
Manx is the only Celtic language to be written according to non-Celtic
phonetic rules. Manx is written according to more or less English
rules. Manx and Cornish are the only Celtic languages with a "j". Manx
the only Celtic language to have a c-cedilla. The letter "y" occurs
frequently, as do double vowels.
[1.7] Books for Celtic names:
_Ainmean Chloinne_, Peadar Morgan. Available from Gaelic books council
See also http://www.siliconglen.com/Scotland/12_11.html
Linda Rosenkranz & Pamela Redmond Satran _Beyond Shannon and Sea/n_
(St. Martin's Press 1992)
Donncha O/ Corra/in & Fidelma Maguire _Irish Names_ (Lilliput 1990)
Eoin Neeson _The Book of Irish Saints_ (Mercier 1967)
Muiris O/ Droighnea/in _An Sloinnteoir Gaeilge agus an tAinmnitheoir_
[1.8] Multilingual publications:
Carn: The journal of the Celtic League. This is in all 6 Celtic
languages with English summaries of many of them.
The Celtic League promotes the Celtic cultures and languages
and is anti violence. They have branches in
Scotland, Brittany, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, Isle of Man,
London, USA, Cape Breton.
General Secretary is:
Bernard Moffatt, 11 Hilltop View, Farmhill, Braddan, Mannin
(Isle of Man)
Contact Bulletin (European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages)
This publication is English-only but is included here because
of its pan-Celtic linguistic appeal. The bulletin is free and
available by writing to:
An Biu/ro/ Eorpach do Theangacha Neamhfhorleathana
10 Sra/id Haiste I/ocht
Baile A/tha Cliath 2
[1.9] General on-line language resources
Sabhal Mor Ostaig
This post is to announce a WWW site that offers information concerning
Gaelic and Gaelic Culture. The url is:
This sits contain information on/in Irish Gaelic,
Scottish Gaelic and hopefully soon Manx Gaelic. Lesson(s)
with accompanying audio files are available for Scottish Gaelic.
(This would then qualify as the first on-line language tutorial
that I know of let alone in gaelic. By on-line
I mean available in an interactive format.)
There is a wide range of poetry on this site, both English
and Gaelic. Audio files exist of people reading this poetry also,
in some cases the authors themselves.
You can also pick up any of the last several days worth of experimental
recordings of the RTE Internet Radio project, a ~3MB recording of
Radio 1's morning News. There is information on the Celts as well
as mirrors to several other sites containing more information
on all of these subjects and more.
While not Gaelic in origin, I like it and had someone around
who speaks very good Scots, so some of Rabbie Burns poetry
is included also.
Thanks to Stephen Watson, there is a collection of gif
images showing the different tartans. Click in and
look at all the pretty patterns !-)
Hopefully soon, there will be some recordings of different types
of music related to gaelic culture, including recordings
of the different kinds of pipes, celtic harp, fiddle music as
well as singing.
Please note that this site is just starting out and that
all links do net yet lead anywhere.
Ma tha ceistean agaibhse, tha mi aig
(Any questions, please send them to mailto:email@example.com)
[1.10] Pan Celtic information
The London Association for Celtic Education (LACE) produces
a guide to Celtic language related societies in London and around
the UK. I have an old copy and find it very useful indeed. 100's
of entries in the guide covering Scotland, Ireland, Man, Wales,
Cornwall and Brittany
Jean Marie MacGuinn
161 Wightman Road
Tel: 0181 341 5606
Roger Casement Irish Centre,
131 St John's Way,
London N19 3RQ.
Tel: 0171- 281 3225
[1.11] Celtic League
The Celtic League publishes 'Carn' which is in all 6 of the Celtic
languages as well as English.
Membership is 10 pounds (15 for two people at the same address)
For more information on the Celtic league in Scotland, see
[1.12] Celtic Congress
Contact: M. MacIver, 7 Teal Avenue, Inverness IV2 3TB
 Alba - Scotland
The material which was originally here has been moved and considerably
expanded and now forms the news:soc.culture.scottish FAQ at:
 Alba Nuadh - Nova Scotia
-> [3.1] Am Braighe
-> [3.2] Scottish Step Dancing
-> [3.3] Songs
-> [3.4] Cape Bretoner newspaper
-> [3.5] Cape Breton/Nova Scotia History
-> [3.6] Cape Breton what's on
[3.1] Am Braighe
Am Braighe "A quarterly journal focusing on the oral traditions and
of the North American Gaels. Interviews in Gaelic and English on
immigration, folklore, history, music and song"
It's about 90% in English
Subscriptions or FREE sample copy :
PO Box 179
Tel: (902) 945-2666
Fax: (902) 945 2723
I think there are about 1,000 speakers of Gaelic left in Nova
Scotia, plus some on Prince Edward Island. This represents about 0.6%
of the population. In Scotland, the number of Gaelic speakers is
[3.2] Step Dancing
This was published at the Cork Cape Breton Festival a couple of years
CAPE BRETON STEP-DANCE - AN IRISH OR SCOTTISH TRADITION?
Prepared by: Sheldon MacInnes, Program Director, Extension &
Community Affairs, University College of Cape Breton.
Writing about Cape Breton step-dance is difficult; in fact, writing
about any dance is difficult. Most people enjoy "participating in" fun
activities rather than writing about them. Cape Breton step-dancing is
an excellent illustration of an activity which one would rather "do".
However, at the request of the organising committee for the Eigse Na
Laoi, I will attempt to write this short paper on Cape Breton step-
dance and its origins. Readers of this paper should simply view the
following observations and comments as one person's opinion.
It is obvious to most people familiar with the dance culture of Cape
Breton Island that the art of step-dancing is alive and well, and,
like so many of our cultural treasures and initiatives, step- dance
has an impact on Cape Breton's cultural history and tradition, island
identity, social cohesion and the economy. Traditional dance provides
an instrument for exploring our unique heritage and may serve as a
means to attract outside attention to Cape Breton among students of
folklore and history and the general travelling public. Therefore, the
debate on the origins of step-dance has some relevance.
In the most extreme parochial sense, some people say step- dance has
its origins somewhere in Cape Breton, i.e. in an area like Inverness
County, or Victoria County. Some people may even argue that it began
in Waterford (as in New Waterford, Cape Breton, not to be mistaken for
Waterford, Ireland.) Documented discussions, however, among elders in
several Cape Breton communities, elders not far removed from the
generation of Scots who emigrated from Scotland, give some credence to
the notion that the dance originated in Scotland. A review of
literature by scholars who have taken the time to research the origins
of different traditional dance forms also gives some validity to this
In 1958, Frank Rhodes, a renowned scholar, visited Cape Breton and
spent considerable time in a number of rural communities chatting with
older people. As a result of his visit and subsequent research, he was
satisfied that his findings supported the notion that Cape Breton
step-dance has its roots in the Highlands of Scotland. Works by other
researchers like George Emerson, Joan and Tom Flett, and Cape Breton's
own Allister MacGillivray would later support Rhodes' view. (Rhodes,
Of particular interest to me, upon reviewing the literature, was
MacGillivray's interview with Flora MacNeil, well known ambassador of
Scottish culture and Gaelic singing especially. Flora, during her
early visits to Cape Breton from Scotland in the late 70's, would
often engage in the debate on the origins of Cape Breton step-dance
always doubting that the dance had its place in Scotland. This kind
of response from the Scots of the "old country" and other strong
advocates of the "old country's" music and Gaelic language may be
typical. In other words, if the proponents of the Scottish culture in
Scotland can not relate to the art of step-dancing, then surely this
form of dance is not part of the Scottish tradition. This may have
been the view that Flora held for some time. However, after many
visits to Cape Breton, and after many discussions about this lively
art form, Flora took it upon herself to do some research in her own
country and as a result, she was satisfied that step-dance was very
much a part of the traditional culture of the Scottish highlands.
(MacGillivray, p. 24.)
The Dancing Immigrants
The historical facts disclose that in the late 1700's and early
1800's, immigrants from all over the British Isles began to settle in
the eastern half of the island of Cape Breton. Between 1800 and 1820,
immigrants from the Scottish Highlands began to settle the western
side of the Island between Inverness County and the Grand Narrows
region. (Dunn, p. 19.) Among other things, these settlers handed
down to their children the memories of life in Scotland and the early
days of life on the Island of Cape Breton. MacGillivray's research
states that the publication, "A History of Inverness County" records
this information in detail, including stories and recollections about
the art of step-dancing.
"A History of Inverness" describes, for example, Alan MacMillan who
was born in Lochabar, Scotland in 1820. He settled in Rear Little
Judique in Inverness, Cape Breton. Alan MacMillan was a celebrated
dancer. After his arrival to the Judique community, he established
dance classes in Judique and Cregnish. From the same source, I learned
of Lauchlin MacDougall who settled in Broad Cove Banks and like his
father, as well as his son, was a noted dancer. In these accounts, I
learned that the style and the technique of the dance were similar to
the step-dance of today. (MacGillivray, p. 24.)
The early styles of step-dance, like today, featured the art of solo
dancing. Subsequently, early formations known as the four-handed reels
and the eight-handed reels evolved. In the 1920's and the 1930's, Cape
Breton captured a unique interest in various square dance styles from
Europe. Activity at the Gaelic College, beginning in 1939, emphasised
the more popular forms of dance including Scottish Country Dancing
which is now associated with Scotland. The latter included many of the
characteristics which were very much a part of any number of dance
styles found outside the Scottish tradition at that time.
The foregoing information reflects a preoccupation with the idea that
the step-dance as it is known in Cape Breton has its origins in the
highlands of Scotland. Cape Bretoners believe that the Gaelic language
of the Island has a place in the Outer Hebrides as is the case with
the Scottish violin music of Cape Breton. It should not come as any
surprise, therefore, that dance enthusiasts also want to be part of
this linkage with the "old country" despite the fact that many of the
traditional qualities of the Cape Breton music, song and dance are no
longer found in Scotland today. (MacMaster Video.)
It is interesting to note, however, that sometimes in researching the
place of culture and traditional art forms in society, one can fall
victim to 'inventing tradition.' Perhaps Cape Bretoners indulge in
this useful avocation from time to time. This is an issue which
requires a series of further reflection and research and cannot be
dealt with adequately in a brief paper. However, let me explore the
matter briefly in the context of traditional Cape Breton step-dance.
Close to the Floor
The work by Colin Quigley, well known researcher of traditional dance,
offers some interesting information. Quigley's research culminates in
his publication "Close to the Floor". Sound familiar? Of course! It is
the title of a traditional tune often played by Cape Breton fiddlers
for dancers. The tune often receives the same response as the lively
strathspey, "Welcome to Your Feet Again" which is a favourite in Cape
Breton. Quigley's publication describes, in detail, the formal
structuring of steps commonly used by step-dancers. He describes the
notion that the steps are presented in intricate detail and move in
rhythm to select music including jigs and reels. He describes the body
posture of the dancer with the emphasis on movement from the knees
down while the upper portion of the body is more relaxed and subtle
and not to be a distraction from the footwork. The dancer's main
objective is to gain equal co- ordination of both legs and feet, a
basic requirement of a good Cape Breton step-dancer.
According to Quigley, the art of good step-dancing requires a great
deal of individual style as well as an inclusion of some regional
variety in styles. Quigley learned that styles may differ in body
stance, arm use or in characteristic ways of using the feet. He
explains how most traditional step- dancers strive to achieve a light
and near-silent dance style. This describes two great Cape Breton
step-dancers rather nicely: Harvey Beaton and Willie Fraser.
Quigley goes on to describe how traditional step-dancers aspire to the
music played. Quigley could be describing step-dancing as it is known
in Cape Breton. But he is not! He is sharing his findings of
traditional step-dance in the province of Newfoundland which is
situated on the extreme East Coast of Atlantic Canada. His description
of the solo step-dance in Newfoundland appears to describe what is now
known as the Cape Breton step-dance. Quigley's research outlines the
similarity between Newfoundland step-dance and Irish step-dance in
terms of technique and the terminology applied to both dance and
music. Quigley makes a direct link between the traditional step-dance
of Newfoundland and Ireland. Cape Breton Island does not enter the
equation in Quigley's research. It is highly likely that Quigley had
never heard of Cape Breton step-dance while he was researching in
Newfoundland. (Quigley, pp. 54 - 83.)
Hugh Trevor Roper
Quigley may not change people's minds about the origins of Cape Breton
step-dance, unless people have spent some time reading the essays of
historian Hugh Trevor Roper. Trevor Roper presents an interesting case
in his essay "Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of
Scotland". He writes out of particular concern for the place of the
tartan image among the Scots, but his work may have some implication
for how people view other aspects of the culture like music and
As a result of his efforts, Roper has given cause for Highland
Scottish culture enthusiasts to do some serious reflection on the
origin of Highland Scottish tradition. Trevor Roper in his research
suggests that the Highlands of Scotland were culturally deprived
approaching the 16'th century and that the literature of the Highland
Scot was a crude echo of the Irish literature. Trevor Roper claims
also that the bards of the Scottish chieftains came from Ireland, and
that the Scottish bards were the "rubbish of Ireland" who were
periodically cleared from Ireland and deposited in that convenient
wasteland, Scotland. Also, according to Trevor Roper, while Ireland
remained culturally an historic nation, Scotland developed, at best,
as its poor sister. He further claims that Scotland did not develop an
independent Scottish tradition. (Roper, pp. 271 - 293.) Is it possible
that if Cape Bretoners were to pursue this matter in any serious
manner, that Cape Bretoners might plummet into some kind of identity
It might well be that this Cape Breton dance, "step-dance," does not
belong to the Scots after all. It might be an extension of the Irish
tradition. Barbara LeBlanc, a native Cape Bretoner is currently
conducting traditional dance research at graduate school. In her 1986
report on "Dance in Inverness County," for the Museum of Man in
Ottawa, she cites examples of conversations with members of the Cape
Breton Irish community who say that step-dance in Cape Breton is an
Irish dance. (LeBlanc, p. 13.) Some day, someone might invite Colin
Quigley and Barbara LeBlanc to do a comparative analysis between Cape
Breton step-dancing and the Newfoundland-Irish traditional
Clearly, the cultural expressions of Cape Breton Island are well
entrenched in a global sense regardless of their traditional origins.
The traditional music, song and dance, perceived by people as having
evolved on the Island, are part of the unique Cape Breton identity.
Generally speaking, rightly or wrongly, the step-dance activity of
Cape Breton Island is such that it is recognised world-wide as being
unique to Cape Breton. To illustrate the level of interest in
traditional dance locally and to recognise its real and potential
impact, one needs only to visit any number of select communities in
Cape Breton and, in particular, rural communities like lona,
Washabuck, Glendale and, of course, Glencoe Mills.
Cape Breton Dance Activities
When one mentions the word "Glencoe" among the Scots outside of
Scotland, one would envision the notorious exchange between the
Campbells and the MacDonalds of Glencoe. The Scots in the Highlands of
Scotland, however, think of the ship "the Glencoe" that sailed the
waters of Scotland up to 1935 and served as a means of travel,
industry and commerce. (Cooper, p. 126.) In Cape Breton, however,
people know Glencoe to be a tiny rural community in Inverness County,
which boasts, among other things, of beautiful landscape, pastoral
farm settings, a church, a sandy road, and a small parish hall. The
hall, to many people, justifies the pride of Glencoe as it
accommodates one of the more popular dance sites on Cape Breton
Island. The "Glencoe dances" (as they are commonly known) have become
renowned to many people in various parts of the world. In addition to
many local activities promoting the dance tradition, Cape Breton step-
dancers are frequently called upon to demonstrate their unique dance
styles and techniques beyond the physical boundaries of Cape Breton
Island. Through the medium of television, in particular, and personal
appearances at major national and international festivals and
workshops, Cape Breton step-dancers are often seen on regional and
national programs in Canada as well as in the United States and
Britain (Scotland). There is a history of interest in Cape Breton
step-dance among the general public who already have an interest in
Whether the origins of Cape Breton step-dance are within Cape Breton
itself or Scotland or Ireland or all three, the step-dance is a rich
component of the Cape Breton heritage. Furthermore, Cape Breton
step-dancers are perfectionists in their own right. In any initiatives
they engage, they are truly professional and committed to the
promotion and preservation of traditional step-dancing. Their dancing
is as important to them as music is important to the Cape Breton
fiddler. In this sense, they truly complement the efforts of Cape
Breton's greatest fiddlers. Allister MacGillivary's book, "Cape Breton
Ceilidh," highlights in excellent detail the stories, anecdotes and
traditions of many of Cape Breton's outstanding step-dancers.
Brown, Richard. "A History of Cape Breton Island."
Belleville, Ontario: Mika Publishing Co., 1979.
Cooper, Derek. "Skye - Great Britain.": Morrison & Gibb
Dance Nova Scotia, ed. "Just Four on the Floor, A Guide to
Teaching Traditional Cape Breton Square Sets for Public
Dunn, Chades W. "Highland Settler: A Portrait of the
Scottish Gael in Nova Scotia." Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1953
Emmerson, George S. "Rantin' Pipe and Tremblin' String: A
History of Scottish Dance Music." Montreal: McGill Queens
University Press, 1971.
Flett, J.P. and T.M. Flett. "Traditional Dancing in
Scotland." London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964.
Garrison, Virginia. "Traditional and Non-Traditional
Teaching and Learning Practices in Folk Music: An
Ethnographic Field Study of Cape Breton Fiddling." Ph.D.
Thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1985
Hunter, James. "The Fiddle Music of Scotland Edinburgh."
T.A. Constable Ltd., 1979.
LeBlanc, Barbara and L. Sadousky. "Inverness County Dance
Project." Museum of Man, Ottawa, 1986.
MacDonald, Keith Norman. "The Skye Collection." 1987.
MacGillivray, Allister. "A Cape Breton Ceilidh". Sydney,
Nova Scotia: Sea Cape Music Limited, 1988.
MacInnes, Sheldon, "Folk Society in An Urban Setting." M.A.
Thesis (unpublished). Detroit, Michigan: The Merrill Palmer
Institute (Wayne State University), 1977.
"MacMaster Video," produced by Peter Murphy, Seabright
Productions, Antigonish, 1992.
Quigley, Colin. "Close to the Floor: Folk Dance in
Newfoundland." St. John's, Newfoundland: Memorial
Rhodes, Frank. Appendix. "Dancing in Cape Breton Island,
Nova Scotia - Traditional Dancing in Scotland." By J. P.
Flett and T. M. Flett. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1964, pp. 267 285.
[3.3] Cape Breton Songs
Nova Scotia -- "Farewell To Nova Scotia"
The sun was setting in the west
The birds were singing on every tree
All nature seemed inclined to rest
But still there was no rest for me.
Farewell to Nova Scotia
The seabound coast
Let your mountains, dark and dreary, be
For when I am far away
On the briny ocean, tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh and a wish for me?
I grieve to leave my native land
I grieve to leave my comrades, all
And my parents, whom I've held so dear
And the bonnie, bonnie lass I do adore
The drums, they do beat
The wars, they alarm
The captain calls, we must obey
So farewell, farewell to Nova Scotia's charms
For it's early in the morning and I'm far, far away (this should be the
I have three brothers
They are at rest
Their arms are folded on their breast
But a poor simple sailor just like me
Must be tossed and driven
on the dark blue sea
Cape Breton - "The Island"
Over an ocean and over a sea
Beyond these great waters, oh what do I see?
I see the great mountains rise from the coastline
The hills of Cape Breton, this new home of mine
Oh, we come from the countries all over the world
To hack at the forest, to plow the land down
Fishermen, farmers and sailors all come
To clear for the future this pioneer ground
We are an island, a rock in a stream
We are a people, as proud as there's been
In soft summer breeze or in wild winter wind
The home of my heart - Cape Breton
Over the rooftops and over the trees
Within these new townships, oh what do I see?
I see the black pit-head,
The coal wheels are turning,
The smoke-stacks are belching
And the blast furnace burning
Aw, the sweat on the back is no joy to behold
In the heat of the steelplant or mining the coal
And the foreign-owned companies force us to fight
For our survival and for our rights
Over the highways and over the roads
Over the causeway, stories are told
They tell of the coming and the going away
The cities of Ontario [I've also heard 'America'] draw me away
The companies come and the companies go
And the ways of the world we may never know
But we'll follow the footsteps of those on their way
And ask for the right to leave or to stay
I believe this song was written by a Cape Bretoner, Kenzie MacNeil
Other well known Cape Breton songs (Gaelic) are:
Oran do Cheap Breatuinn (song for Cape Breton) and
An Innis Aigh (The Happy Isle - the poetic name for Margaree Island,
[3.4] Cape Bretoner newspaper
The Cape Bretoner is a newsmagazine aimed at former Capers who've moved
(P.O. Box 220, Sydney, NS, B1P 6H1 ) and is of interest to people living
Cape Breton as well.
The Cape Bretoner newsmagazine is a good source for local Canadian
[3.5] Cape Breton/Nova Scotia History
Trust me, Craig, you'll never read a more wonderful description of the
Highland history of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia than the following from
the Author's Note of Hugh MacLennan's "Each Man's Son" (1951, Little,
Brown and Company. Boston):
"Continents are much alike, and a man can no more love a continent than
he can love a hundred million people. But all the islands of the world
are different. They are small enough to be known, they are vulnerable,
and men come to feel about them as they do about women.
Many men have loved the island of Cape Breton and a few may have hated
her. Ericson was probably the first to see her, Cabot landed on her,
and after Cabot came the French. She seemed harsh and frigid to the
first new-comers, but the moment the French saw her their imaginations
were touched and they called her the Royal Isle. After a while they
built on her eastern rim the master fortress of Louisbourg to dominate
Nova Scotia and guard the St. Lawrence (River).
When the wars began, the English and the New Englanders came up to Cape
Breton and for a time she was as famous as Gibraltar. Louisbourg fell,
the French were driven out, the English and Americans went home and for
a third of a century the island was vacant again.
Then across the ocean in the Highlands of Scotland a desperate and
poetic people there heard of her. They were a race of hunters,
shepherds and warriors who had discovered too late that their own
courage and pride had led them to catastrophe, since it had enabled
them to resist the Saxon civilization so long they had come to the end
of the eighteenth century knowing nothing of the foreman, the boss,
the politician, the policeman, the merchant, or the buyer-seller of
other men's work. When the English set out to destroy the clans of
Scotland, the most independent of the Highlanders left their homes with
the pipes playing laments on the decks of their ships. They crossed
the ocean and the pipes played again when they waded ashore on the
rocky coast of Cape Breton Island.
They rooted themselves, big men from the red-haired parts of the
Scottish main and dark-haired smaller men from the Hebrides, women
from the mainland with strong bones and Hebridean women with delicate
skins, accepting eyes and a musical sadness in their speech. For a
long time nothing but Gaelic was spoken in the island until they
gradually learned English from the handful of New England Loyalists who
came to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution.
To Cape Breton the Highlanders brought more than the quixotic gallantry
and softness of manner belonging to a Homeric people. They also
brought with them an ancient curse, intensified by John Calvin and
branded upon their souls by John Knox and his successors - the belief
that man has inherited from Adam a nature so sinful there is no hope
for him and that, furthermore, he lives and dies under the wrath of an
arbitrary God who will forgive only a handful of his Elect on the Day
As no normal human being can exist in constant awareness that he is
sinful and doomed through no fault of his own, the Highlanders behaved
outwardly as other men do who have softened the curse or forgotten its
existence. But in Cape Breton they were lonely. They were no part of
the great outer world. So the curse remained alive with them, like a
sombre beast growling behind a locked door. It was felt even when they
were least conscious of it. To escape its cold breath some turned to
drink and others to the pursuit of knowledge. Still others, as the
Puritans of New England had done earlier, left their homes, and in
doing so found wider opportunities in the United States or in the empty
provinces of Western Canada.
But if the curse of God rested on the Highlanders' souls, the beauty of
God cherished the island where they lived. Inland were high hills and
a loch running in from the sea that looked like a sleeve of gold in the
afternoon sun. There were trout and salmon streams lined by
sweet-smelling alder, water meadows and valleys graced by elms as
stately as those in the shires of southern England. The coast was
rugged with grey granite or red sandstone cliffs, splendid with
promontories, fog-bound in the spring when the drift ice came down from
Newfoundland and Labrador, tranquil in summer, and in the autumns
thunderous with evidences of the power of the Lord.
So for several generations the Highlanders remained here untouched,
long enough for them to transfer to Cape Breton the same passionate
loyalty their ancestors had felt for the hills of home. It was long
enough for them to love the island as a man loves a woman,
unreasonably, for her faults no less than for her virtues. But they
were still a fighting race with poetry in their hearts and a curse upon
their souls. Each man's son was driven by the daemon of his own hope
and imagination - by his energy or by his fear - to unknown
destinations. For those who stayed behind, the beast continued to
growl behind the unlocked door...."
And he goes on a little into more specifics about the actual characters
in the novel and their own "daemons". I'm not a religious man, but I
do like his talk of "the curse" and all that, kind of poetic I think.
Anyway, Dr. MacLennan had quite a storied academic career and ended up
teaching English at McGill University in Montreal for many years.
MacLennan taught history (and Latin) at Lower Canada College in
Montreal before accepting a position with the department of English at
McGill which he maintained for thirty years.
He wrote many novels and stories, is Nova Scotia's most renowned writer
and one of the most loved writers in Canadian literary history. He
died in November 1990. One editorial wrote, "MacLennan is one of
those writers whose personal goodness and decency shine through all his
works. His generosity of spirit is such that after a couple of hours
spent with one of his books, the world seems a better place."
FYI, his novels include: Each Man's Son; Barometer Rising; Two
Solitudes; The Watch That Ends The Night; The Return of The Sphinx.
Other books: Seven Rivers of Canada; and The Colour of Canada.
[3.6] Cape Breton what's on
To order free travel information
Other Cape Breton links:
A page of links for Nova Scotia:
See also the newspaper "The Oran", available at most
grocery stores, gas stations, etc in Inverness County.
Published on Wednesdays.
 Breizh - Brittany
Breton FAQ: http://www.bretagnenet.com/scb/
This is the FAQ for the news:soc.culture.breton usenet newsgroup
 Cymru - Wales
The FAQ for the news:soc.culture.welsh newsgroup is at
 Eire - Ireland
The Irish information in the first version of this FAQ has now been
transferred, considerably expanded and superseded by the
Irish FAQ: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/cultures/irish-faq/part00/
This is the FAQ for the news:soc.culture.irish usenet newsgroup
 Kernow - Cornwall
There is no FAQ at present, but this website may help:
Additional information by Sean Kelley
First of all here a couple of addresses for those of you interested in
the Cornish language, Kernewek:
1. Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek (The Cornish Language Fellowship)
Chi Ashley (Ashley House)
Stret Deghow (South Street)
Fordh Ponsmeur (Grampound Road)
Tel: 01276 882500
2. Kernewek Dre Lyther (Cornish Correspondence Course)
6 Halton Road
Tel: 0121 354 6249
Those of you who are interested in traditional Cornish music and dance
might like to get in touch with
Merv & Alison Davey
They are our leading authority on traditional Cornish dance and are able
supply various books, videos and cassettes, including the recent
Ilow Hengov ha Koth a Gernow
(The Ancient and Traditional Music of Cornwall)
by the group PYBA. This cassettes features Cornish bagpipes, Cornish
Krowd (a sort of three stringed fiddle), organ, flute, bombarde, harp,
kroeder kroghan and vocals in Kernewek.
Another interesting cassette is
Bre an Loja (Lodge Hill)
This is more up-beat, and features some superb contemporary songs
Graham Sandercock in Kernewek.
Additional info be Kev Robinson:
Cornwall is a county in the south-western extremity of England. It is a
peninsula bounded by the English Channel on the south and the Atlantic
Ocean on the north and west, terminating at Land's End. Cornwall's
population is 469,300 (1991 est.), and it covers 3,564 km sq (1,376 mi
sq). Although Bodmin is the county seat, Truro is the administrative
centre. Most of Cornwall consists of rugged moorland that gradually
declines in elevation to the heavily indented coastline. The SCILLY
ISLANDS, located just offshore, are part of Cornwall. Some agriculture
is engaged in; dairy cattle are raised and fruits and vegetables
grown. Tin and clay mining is also important. The port towns of
Falmouth, Fowey, and Penzance are industrial centres. Tourism is
important, and much of the scenic coast is protected from commercial
development. Cornwall was occupied by Romans, Saxons, and Celts before
the Norman Conquest in 1066, after which it became an Earldom. Since
1337 the heir to the British crown has held the title of Duke of
The Cornish flag - is called a "St Piran", after the Cornish Patron
Saint (also the Patron Saint of Tinners or Tin Miners). His
feast day is March 5th.
The Black and White St Piran's Cross flags are seen everywhere in
and are a potent symbol of Cornwall's distinct identity as a Duchy (and
a county of England).
 Mannin - Isle of Man
-> [8.1] Manx top level links
-> [8.2] Isle of Man name
-> [8.3] Detailed Manx Information
-> [8.4] Manx Links
[8.1] Manx top level links
Manx Information: http://www.mcb.net/manxrem/
Manx Bulletin Board http://www.isle-of-man.com/information/bulletin/inde
Isle of Man/Manx mailing list at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
[8.2] Isle of Man name
Note the country is usually referred to as Mann and the island as Isle
of Man (note alternative spelling of Man) for the anglicised version of
Ellan Vannin. This is obviously not as confusing as the current
discussion regarding Eire/Ireland since Mann/Isle of Man are used
[8.3] Detailed Manx Information
Mannin / Ellan Vannin / Isle of Man
This section contributed by
Mark Kermode mailto:mkermode at mcb.net
The names are synonymous. "Mannin" was how the country was invariably
to by native speakers of the Manx language. "Ellan Vannin" appeared
century as a translation of "Isle of Mannin". "Isle of Man" is the
and is used in legal documents and by the Manx government. Some people
"Isle of Mann" or simply "Mann".
Situation and Physical Geography
Situated in the Irish Sea. The most northerly point is the Point of Ayre
(Lat. 54 25' 00" N, Long. 04 21' 40" W.). The most southerly point is
Chicken Rock (Lat. 54 02' 20" N, Long. 04 50' 15" W.). Most of the
above 300 ft (100m approx.) with a highest summit of 2036ft. (621m).
The climate is cool temperate, with the summer days rarely exceeding 20C
the winter days rarely below freezing. The tree-line is around 800ft
approx). Most of the land mass is currently used for agriculture.
high and sunshine moderate.
The majority of the Island is composed of pre-Cambrian slate. The
plain (post glacial) is a sand / shingle conglomerate. There are some
outcrops. The southern area contains both limestone and lava beds, and
western area contains some sandstone.
The Island has yielded high quantities of zinc and lead, at one point
biggest producer of zinc ore in the British Isles. Copper, iron, silver
little gold have also been mined commercially. There is no tin or coal
island. No minerals are currently extracted from the island.
The 1992 resident population stood at 69,788. Of these, 34,608 were born
island. 26,541 born in England and Cornwall, 2,291 born in Scotland,
in Ireland, 795 born in Wales, 186 born in the Channel Islands, 421 born
European countries other than U.K. and Eire, 1,668 were born elsewhere
There are more males than females in all age groups under 45, and more
than males in all age groups over 45. Approximately 45,000 were between
ages of 16 and 65, 12,000 were under 16 and 13,000 were over 65.
(Source - IOM government)
Mannin has a substantially autonomous government, Tynwald, which has an
unbroken tradition of over 1,000 years. The Tynwald is comprised of two
the popularly elected House of Keys (24 members representing 15
and the indirectly elected Legislative Council (8 members elected by the
of Keys). The U.K. Crown is represented by a Lieutenant Governor.
The island was autonomous until 1266 when power was technically handed
to Alexander III of Scotland. A period of instability followed before
granted to William de Montecute in 1333. After several further changes
king, Mannin was granted to Sir John Stanley in 1405 with a condition of
homage to the English Crown attached.
Mannin retained its autonomy even during the Parliamentarian period of
history. This is a fascinating piece of history in itself and cost one
William Christian (Illiam Dhone to the Manx), his life when accused of
after the restoration.
Mannin became the property of the English Crown in 1765 after what was
effectively a compulsory purchase due to the perceived level of
Tynwald was offered the choice of remaining (although with little more
than a local authority and, in fiscal matters, even less) or Mannin
represented by a member in the Westminster parliament. Tynwald elected
In 1866, the House of Keys (part of the two-house government) was
the Crown's representative, Governor Loch, to dissolve itself and be
by popular suffrage in return for increased fiscal power.
In 1958, Mannin regained full fiscal autonomy but has since rescinded
this through various reciprocal agreements with the United Kingdom.
not a part of the United Kingdom or Europe, but is allowed to trade with
in the same manner as a European member under the terms of Protocol 3
also applies to the Channel Islands.
Mannin is totally self financing and receives no financial support from
Mannin's primary source of income is the international finance industry
GDP) followed by "other services" (those not specifically categorised by
government statisticians) (33%), manufacturing industry (11%),
(8%), tourism (7%), public administration (5%) and agriculture / fishing
(Source - IOM government.)
The majority language of Mannin has been English since around 1830.
this, Manx Gaelic was the majority language. Manx Gaelic had disappeared
community language by the end of the 1920s but continued to be spoken in
families for an indeterminate time thereafter. The "last" native
Maddrell, died in 1974 but by this time, the language had been passed on
several new generations of enthusiasts. Several children are now being
up as a new generation of native speakers.
Although the Vikings were the ruling class in Mannin from the 10th to
centuries, they appear to have had remarkably little influence on the
There is evidence to suggest, however, that what some have dismissed as
"anglicisation" of the language in terms of grammar and syntax is, in
throw-back to the influence of the Vikings.
Laws cannot remain as Statute unless promulgated (broadcast) within
months of their being passed in both Manx and English. Tynwald has
various resolutions calling for the language's promotion and use and the
language is being taught to many children who choose it as part of their
For more information, contact:
"Manx Language Officer", Rheynn Ynsee, Murray House, Mount Havelock,
Isle of Man IM1 2Q
The traditional music of Mannin will be easily recognisable to anyone
with the Irish or Scottish traditions. It does not enjoy wide-spread
performance but is still healthy with a certain amount of new material
written and traditional music being adapted to modern styles.
The modern day culture of Mannin may be difficult to distinguish from
north-western English due to the demographic changes over the past
particularly the past thirty years. The indigenous culture is, however,
typically Celtic and has been since pre-history. The Brythonic Celts and
were supplanted by Goidelic Celts as the majority culture in the years
following the birth of Christ. There is evidence to suggest that at
Brythonic tribe survived as a distinct entity as late as the 11th
These people were dark and swarthy, short in stature and were noted for
marksmanship with short, poison tipped arrows.
The Isle of Man (A short social, cultural and political history) - R.H.
Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0 85323 483 3
The Isle of Man - Celebrating A Sense of Place - Vaughan Robinson and
McCarroll - Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0 85323 296 2 (Paperback) /
ISBN 0 85323 036 6 (Hardback)
It is hoped to create a comprehensive list of links as time progresses
also "Manx Language Officer", Rheynn Ynsee, Murray House, Mount
Doolish, Isle of Man IM1 2Q
[8.4] Manx Links
Phil Kelly's Manx language page.
Sabhal Mor Ostaig's Manx Gaelic section.
Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (Manx Language Society)
Native speaker samples
Mooinjer Veggey Manx language playgroup
E.A.S. Manx Language resources
Manx Proverbs (beware of typing errors)
Music in the Isle of Man
Mec Vannin (Manx Nationalist Party)
Frances Coakley Antiquarian and historical information
Isle of Man Bulletin Board
Isle of Man Visitors' club
Manx Societies Around the World
TT Races - Greatest Motorcycle Road Race in the World
3 Manx newspapers
Ta ny kianglyn shoh foast goll er bishaghey
(These links are still being added to.)
 Celtic events & societies around the world
-> [9.1] Celtic events in London
-> [9.2] Celtic events in North America
[9.1] Celtic events in London
The Scottish Tourist Board in London should be able to tell
you what's on, ask them for the "De tha dol" list. This is a list
by Craig Cockburn but which is now maintained by Arthur Findlay,
tel: 0181-852 3589. The guide is available online here
Highlands and Islands society of London (ceilidhs)
Ceilidhs with music, dancing and singing in the London area. Usually
very good and well attended. Contact for more info:
Catherine Robertson 0181 440 0832
London Gaelic choir. Founded 1892 and the oldest surviving Gaelic
choir in the world. Meets each Tuesday 7:30pm-9:30pm in Covent Garden.
more info at http://www.coisirlunnainn.org.uk/
Gaelic society of London. Founded 1777 and the oldest Gaelic society in
the world. Has monthly meetings; social nights; campaigns etc.
The London Association for Celtic Education (LACE) produces
a guide to Celtic language related societies in London and around
the UK. I have an old copy and find it very useful indeed. 100's
of entries in the guide covering Scotland, Ireland, Man, Wales,
Cornwall and Brittany
Roger Casement Irish Centre, Eastgate Building, 131 St John's Way,
London N19 3RQ. Tel: 0171- 281 3225
[9.2] Celtic events in North America
An Comunn Gaidhealach has an America branch. Contact:
An Comunn Gaidhealach (Ameireaga) Inc.,
P.O. Box 5288, Takoma Park, Maryland, 20912, USA
List of Highland Games
<<< END OF FAQ >>>
Craig Cockburn ("coburn"). Director, Siliconglen.com Ltd
Web project and programme manager. M.Sc., CITP, C.Eng