Saturday, 6 October 2007


I do not have the gaelic, aside from the usual familiar greetings and toasts. When my grandfather first bought a house in the highlands (he had spent his early life in Glasgow), he walked into the village shop and introduced himself. It was something of a meeting place, and there were several local men gathered there. As he left one of them said something in gaelic, and the others laughed.

My grandfather went home, ordered a gaelic dictionary and grammar, and over the next few months taught himself to speak the language - or enough of it to hold a simple conversation. It was an impressive achievement, because it is a difficult tongue.

The next time he visited the shop much the same thing happened. He had crossed the threshold to leave when he turned back and, in gaelic, commented on the weather before wishing the assembled men good day.

He left to a stunned silence, and from that day on - he lived there for forty years - they always respectfully spoke english in his presence.

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