Gaelic Cafe on Lismore!

Our Gaelic Cafe meets every saturday at Isle of Lismore Cafe and it’s going great. Some of the Ulpan learners come to compare their homework, practice their pronunciation and just generally have a gaelic themed get together. We’ve had help from some native Liosach gaelic speakers and this has been brilliant for our learning and local phrasing.  Liosachs say some words and phrases differently from what we are being taught and it’s so good to get the local flavour to add to our learning. We would welcome any gaelic speakers who are visiting the island to come along and join us!

Ulpan on Lismore has started!

This week our Ulpan Gaelic classes started! We have 16 Liosachs signed up to learn gaelic – starting at Unit 1. It’s so exciting to be part of it! We’re also running a Gaelic Cafe every saturday 2.30pm-3.30pm at the Isle of Lismore Cafe for us all to get together and practice! We’re hoping it becomes a popular meeting point for local gaelic speakers, gaelic learners, child learners and any gaelic speaking visitors to the island.

Ùlpan on the Isle of Lismore!

When I first moved to Lismore I wanted to learn Gaelic as Sophie was learning it at school and I wanted to be able to speak it too and know what she was saying and singing. Also listening to Liosachs speaking it to each other it sounded a beautiful soft language. Over the years Lismore has seen many gaelic classes and individual tutoring. I  had heard about this new method of teaching gaelic called Ùlpan ( and I wanted to look into it. A friends’ mum had done a course at Sabhal Mor Ostaig ( on the Isle of Skye (Scotland’s only gaelic college of further education) and she spoke very highly of this method. So when I took up my new post last year I thought it would be good to find out if there were many people on the island who wished to learn as I felt that this fell right into my remit as my post is all about learning about the heritage of Lismore and finding ways to make it interesting and sustainable for future generations. A number of people came forward to say they were interested in learning gaelic so that was my mandate to try to see if we could organise a class on the island.

After a bit of digging around we made contact with Àdhamh Ó Broin from Ùlpan and he was delighted and excited to help us in our quest to get a gaelic class off the ground. Then up popped Ann MacLean who had recently moved to Lismore – Ann is a gaelic speaker, she has close Lismore connections, is a beautiful gaelic singer and a gaelic teacher! It all seemed too good to be true!

Anyway it all came together on Saturday 18th Feb – we had organised an Ùlpan Gaelic Taster day for all those interested. I picked Adhamh up off the 12 ferry and took him to the Heritage Centre. I was hoping for a good turnout. Our class was due to start at 2.30pm and as the time went on the cafe got busier and busier and busier. By 2.30pm we had to swiftly find a bigger space than the one we had planned for our class – 24 people came to sit in on the Taster class to hear Adhamh talk all about the ulpan method. Then Ann and Àdhamh took everyone through the first unit of Ulpan. It was fun and exciting and interesting and challenging and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. We had people there from all over the world wanting to learn gaelic – from Lismore to Glasgow to London to New Zealand! They aged in range from teenagers to in their 80’s! We also had 5 local gaelic speakers who were keen to see how this new method worked. At the end of the session 14 people said they wanted to learn gaelic with us! We have several other people keen to learn too who couldn’t attend on sat. So now it looks like we’re going to have to put on 2 gaelic classes a week! We start in April – two units/classes a week as this is the recommendation from Ùlpan to help people achieve fluency. It’s really exciting and I for one can’t wait to get learning and talking and help Sophie with her homework! It should help me too with the gaelic songs we’ll be singing with the new Lismore Community choir we have starting up soon. Even though we’re not all highlanders it’s a good feeling to think we’ll be helping to keep gaelic and especially Lismore gaelic alive. As someone said to me on saturday – Gaelic is cool!

This was first posted on my blog ( in Feb 2012 – my blog about working as Assitant Curator at Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre.

Ùlpan re-introduces Gaelic to Canna

Monday 20th February 2012 may well prove to be an important date in history books of both Canna and Ùlpan as, through the financial support of The National Trust for Scotland, The Year of Scotland’s Islands programme and Fèis Chanaidh,  serious stepts were taken to reintroduce Gaelic  as a community language on the Island of Canna.

This action, of course, has a huge historical significance given the many works carried out by previous Island owner John Lorne Campbell and his wife Margaret Fay Shaw to preserve  and Hebridean culture . The  five day course , the first of many hopefully, took place in Canna house, home to Mr Campbell and Mrs Shaw for many years, and what a welcoming and fitting venue it proved to be.

This was a fairly intense course which covered the first 12 units of Ùlpan.  The students were all extremely diligent and used the language that they picked up at every opportunity.  The course was delivered by Kevin Rodgers from Caol.  Kevin has been teaching Gaelic using the Ùlpan method since 2008 and last year became a Tutor  Recruitment officer for  Deiseal, the company who run Ùlpan.

This was Kevin’s second visit to the Island  and this time he wasn’t alone as he was joined by wife Kirsty, daughter Katherine and son Billy. The family were made to feel extremely welcome by all the Island residents and were treated to a lovely surprise when the students threw an impromptu party for Katherine on her 4th birthday! As well as the regular course content they can now sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in Gaelic perfectly.

Kevin was thrilled at the success of the course saying

“I can honestly that the last week has been one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever experienced as an Ùlpan tutor. From the very  first unit it was obvious that the students had a real desire to learn and use the language. It is planned to continue the work we’ve started here and I see no reason whatsoever why, if they continue to show the same commitment, we couldn’t be talking about fluent Gaelic learners in a few short years”

Kevin also added “ The fact that the course was held in Canna House only added to the experience and, without being over the top, there was certainly a feeling of Gaelic being very welcome there. “

Island Manager, Stewart Connor has  been  instrumental in the setting up of this course and, along with the Island’s community council, has continuation plans which will ensure that this re-growth of Gaelic on the island continues. As part of this plan, local resident and Island stalwart Winnie MacKinnon will undertake training to become an Ùlpan tutor in the near future. Winnie  is one of the few remaining  people with Canna Gaelic and is certainly the last to be resident on the Island and so it’s fantastic that she I going to help in ensuring Gaelic will begin to once again thrive on Canna.

“Everything seems to falling in to place  here and, although it’s going to be a long road, I can sense something extremely important, not only for Canna but also for Gaelic Culture, could take place here in the years to come.” – Kevin Rodgers, Ùlpan tutor.

We’ll watch this space!