Catriona Parsons' visit to Sydney January 2014

Catriona ParsonsCatriona Parsons is a distinguished lecturer in Scottish Gaelic from Canada. Catriona is employed in the Gaelic program of the Office of Gaelic Affairs with the Nova Scotia provincial government. She teaches and promotes Gaelic culture in the province. Catriona is not originally from Nova Scotia, but from the Island of Lewis, but has spent over twenty years in Nova Scotia teaching Scots Gaelic at St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish.

She generously put her time at the disposal of CGA during her week long visit to Australia en route to University of Otago, Dunedin. 

We asked her to teach at special language and song workshops in North Sydney on the Australia Day weekend.

We were treated to a beginners' Gàidhlig language workshop, an advanced learners' workshop, and a singing workshop in which Catriona brought the traditional Nova Scotian pastime, the "milling frolic" to a group of members and friends of Comunn Gàidhlig Astràilia. A milling frolic is a group activity where a team of people, both women and men, "full" or felt a woollen cloth, providing waterproofing and a better appearance to the cloth, while singing rhythmical songs to synchronise the team's actions. It is done on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. It has not been practiced for cloth making for over fifty years, but it has become a key part of local culture, practiced for the sake of keeping alive the wonderful songs and stories of this part of Canada, in the original Scots Gaelic language of the inhabitants. The milling frolic is a Nova Scotian version of the waulking songs – òrain luadhaidh – of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Watch and hear this for yourself!

The beginners' language class was designed to show that despite its reputation as a difficult language, it is perfectly possible for a non-speaker to learn Gaelic.

The advanced language class was conducted almost entirely in Gaelic and included a traditional Gaelic story with a twist at the end!

Catriona also delivered a talk on Gaelic Development in Nova Scotia in which she covered the history of Gaelic settlement, and survival of the Gaelic language and culture in the province, including methods being employed to help the continuing teaching and promotion of Gaelic in the community.  Catriona generously donated three of her music CDs for sale to raise funds for the Sydney University Gaelic Teacher funding campaign. 

Catriona met Australian Gaels at the North Sydney Celtic Australia Day Festival, including our own Angus MacLeod who hails originally from only a few miles from Catriona's birthplace.  Catriona participated in a meeting with the Canadian Consulate-General in Sydney to discuss Canadian cultural promotion in Australia and in an interview on Community Radio at Radio 2GLF in Liverpool, where three of her songs were broadcast from her CD. 

The visit was a big success, providing inspiration to our learners and strengthening connections between Australia and one of the key Gaelic speaking communities. Photos from these workshops can be seen on our Photo Gallery.