Three Glaswegian Vegans and Two Cabbies

On our last night in the UK, we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express at the Glasgow airport. Sean found a vegan restaurant downtown called The 78 with a set menu and a reggae band playing later that evening, so we took a cab in. On the way, I struck up a conversation with the cabbie about Gàidhlig, and he was able to give me "Ciamar a tha thu," but that was all he had.

Dinner was great, and the atmosphere was cool. It was interesting to me that our first experience of Glasgow was this hip, modern place with a mostly young and liberal clientele. While we were waiting on the cab home, I struck up a conversation with three young vegans sitting at a table outside. The young woman among them worked in government and pronounced Gàidhlig dead. Then she amended the statement to say that there were people trying to revive the language, but they weren't doing enough, so it was mostly dead. The two young men had no Gàidhlig at all and didn't care.

On the way home, I struck up another conversation about Gàidhlig with another cabbie. This one broke my heart. The man (who was about my age), said that Gàidhlig was his first language, but he didn't remember any of it now because his dad worked away from home when he was a child, and he himself had the language ridiculed out of him in school. I could tell he missed it, and in fact, he said he was glad I knew to call the language Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) and not Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic). I wished him a "rathad math" (good road) as I got out of the cab, which he asked me to repeat and translate.

And there I was, a girl from Ohio whose Scottish heritage is ancestral and not living, translating Gàidhlig for a Glaswegian who had spoken it as a first language. I honestly thought I'd cry.

I need to go back to the UK and spend more time in Scotland, and I recognize this tiny cross-section of people is not a sufficient sampling to make any sort of pronouncement about the state of the Gàidhlig language in the country. I also have friends and acquaintances there who are passionate Gàidhlig speakers. Still, that evening and its conversations had an impact on me. They made me realize that Gàidhlig will not be preserved solely by the people to whom it might come as a birthright; Scots and Nova Scotians who are themselves Gaels or who have Gaelic parents and grandparents. It will also be preserved and it will belong to all who love it, and they will be Gaels by virtue of that love.

So I think my Gàidhlig hiatus might be over.