Dalkeith Historical Society

Dalkeith – Ontario – Canada

Gaelic Talk

Gaelic Talk
Fear A’ Bhata, a love song, everlastingly popular at parties, kitchen ceilidhs, and family gatherings; it was first written at the end of the 1800s by a Jean Finlayson of Tong who successfully survived a lively courtship with a young fisherman from Uig named Donald MacRae (spelling varies considerably from source to source).

“Fhear a’ bhàta na hóro eil’e
Fhear a’ bhàta na hóro eil’e
Fhear a’ bhàta na hóro eil’e
Oh fare thee well love, where e’er you be”

Since it was sung lustily in family gathering with hands joined round. Presumably, they sang the lively version (Jean did marry her fisherman), but it is mostly sung as a lament.
Listen here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERsf3E34EOY) to Connie Dover singing a lively (Irish?) version.

A bit of information on local Gaelic History. (Glengarry County came into being July 16, 1792. Gaelic was the language spoken by the majority, “In 1819, John Goldie recorded in his diary that he enters Glengarry of which the Highlanders boast so much” and observed that they retained all the habits and customs of the Highlands of Scotland. The use of the national costume and language continued many years longer. In fact, such importance did the inhabitants attach to “Gaelic” that a knowledge of it was considered a necessary qualification for the Presbyterian Pulpit”. He enumerated the people of the various Highland clans living there. There were 3,228 Macdonells or McDonalds, and thirty other clans numbered from 50 to 545 each” (p.11 Pioneer settlements in Upper Canada by Ewin C. Guillet-University of Toronto Press 1933).

Rev. Duncan MacKenzie served 21 years as pastor at St. Columba, Kirk Hill (1886-1907). He is remembered for his powerful and inspiring Gaelic sermons.

The July 8, 1898, Glengarrian, Dalkeith column carried the following letter ‘The Ghail of Dalkeith would like to know where there are two Presbyterian churches like Kirk Hill, where Gaelic preached in one or the other every Sunday…what is the reason we cannot have Gaelic class in the school.”

Circa 1900s, one French Canadian family sent their son to the neighbours (farm family) to learn English. After a certain amount of time had passed the young lad figured out he was learning Gaelic and not English.

Trilingualism was not uncommon prior to WW1. Sometimes this led to a bit of fun: A certain highlander dropped by the Dalkeith Barber shop only to find an old friend waiting his turn. They conversed in Gaelic on a number of subjects. The first Highlander was of the opinion that the shop was unkempt. Anon, his turn came on the barber’s chair and the barber on completing his job, in impeccable Gaelic, thanked the Highlander for his patronage etc.

From Glengarry News Archives Friday December 19, 1913, “ At an executive meeting of the Highland Society of Glengarry, held here Saturday, it was decided that in addition to the Gaelic school which has been in existence at Dunvegan for three years, that classes where Gaelic would be taught should be established this winter at McCrimmon, Greenfield, Glen Roy, St Raphael’s or North Lancaster and Alexandria. Donald A, McPhee, Dunvegan, will conduct the classes in North Glengarry and John A. McMillan, Glen Roy, those in the southern sections.”

The Glengarry News of March 6, 1936, stated that of the 32,000 people in Canada who claim Gaelic as their mother tongue, no fewer than 1,102 are in the Ottawa district and 654 being from Glengarry.

In the late 1970’s, Gaelic was offered as a course at Glengarry District High School.

As of 2108, Celtic Studies are being offered nearby at both McGill & Ottawa Universities.

Gaelic is still spoken in Glengarry by the select few. Let’s hope for a revival.

If you listen carefully to conversations, you will hear “smatterings” of Gaelic salutations still in use.