ON July 30 Alistair Moffat of Scottish Television gave the Sabhal Mor

Ostaig lecture on Gaelic television and the preservation of Gaelic as a

living language. His message was a very gloomy one indeed. He said that

the view of Welsh academic experts was that Gaelic was finished and we

should give up.

I write about this with a great sense of urgency because in a recent

letter to you I took issue with Dr James Shaw Grant who argued in a long

piece that Highlanders should forget their terrible history and

concentrate on their computers in a campus-free University of the

Highlands and Islands.

Gaelic-free too, if Mr Moffat's analysis is right. But then, sitting

in front of their lonely VDUs, students wouldn't need to communicate at

all, except no doubt via the Internet.

I said in my letter that a University of the Highlands and Islands

should restore Highland history in full. Even more important would be to

restore the Gaelic language and culture, we have so much to learn.

Gaelic was once the language of all Scots for many centuries. The

language enshrines our deepest community instincts. It is not just the

language of the Gaeltachd. The vast majority of Scots and

English-speaking Scots are simply people whose ancestors at some stage

lost their original language under the pressure of English.

Scots contain hundreds of Gaelic words. The ''wee county'' in which I

live has a Gaelic name and nearly all the place-names in it are Gaelic.

Mr Moffat's aim of 100,000 Gaelic speakers by the end of the century

is a good one, but it will require a very well-organised campaign,

linking television with Gaelic language classes all over the country so

that everyone knows where they can get tuition.

Total residential immersion classes for people like me, a retired

university linguist, could quickly increase the number of teachers.

Finally, we have a great deal to learn from countries like Israel and

Finland where the national languages were brought back from near

extinction. The various organisations involved should study that


Andrew Lockhart Walker,

7 Lovers' Loan,