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Dùthchas

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children. Proverbs 13.22


Last night's launch of the film Dùthchas at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was a treat. Skilfully woven together from amateur cine-film culled from various private sources, it offers a glimpse of a vanishing way of life on the Isle of Berneray during the 1960s and '70s. Most noticeable was the brutal decline of Gaelic, which underpins the heritage that everyone who was interviewed for the film held dear.


There is a modest note of optimism at the end: the recent introduction of Gaelic Medium Education means that Gaelic is once again being heard on the lips of island children. However there is a rift left behind by the "missing generation" of those born around the time of the archive footage, who grew up in a world that largely scorned indigenous languages including Scottish Gaelic.


As a result, much of the current transmission of Gaelic is through the "artificial" medium of school rather than domestically, as the language of heart and home. This means that it lacks the richness of family lore, embedded in community life. Yet all is not lost and much may be (re)gained, though it will take significant commitment with public bodies, families and individuals working together.


There is a missional opportunity for the church here, especially considering the intertwining of Gaelic and Christianity in the formation of the whole nation of Scotland. Gaelic carried the Gospel in its initial spread and the Church nurtured Gaelic through the most desperate years of its persecution. Will our faith communities be there to offer that same message of eternal hope to those whose sights are set on rediscovering their earthly heritage?

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