Gaels ask Royal Gaelic College to remove royal from name

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A group of Scottish Gaelic speakers and learners have started a petition to ask the Royal Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, Nova Scotia, to remove the newly-received royal designation from its name.

The College was given permission to use royal in its name in November of 2013, after its board of governors sought out the title from Queen Elizabeth II.

“I believe the designation was sought with good intention but I think it was misguided, inappropriate and the Gaelic community here in Cape Breton would be better served celebrating our own, rather than seeking endorsements from the British crown,” said Kenneth MacKenzie, a Gaelic speaker from Mabou, Nova Scotia.

The petition reads: “We, the undersigned, petition the Board of Governors of Colaisde na Gàidhlig to allow the Gaelic community to foster, celebrate, and continue its cultural revitalization process by removing the “Royal” prefix, as bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II, and all its colonial associations.”

Over 300 people from Nova Scotia and beyond had signed the petition in its first few days in existence.

People also have a chance to express their feelings in comments on the document.

“My understanding is that the British government went to great lengths to try to eradicate the Gaelic language and culture; therefore it seems inappropriate to me to have the symbolic stamp-of-approval of the British crown affixed to an institution which is seeking to reverse this,” wrote Timothy Thrale, one signatory.

According to the organizers of the petition many people in Nova Scotia are descended from Gaelic speakers who came to Canada after deliberate efforts by the Crown to break their culture in Scotland, which helped lead to a situation where people were cleared from the land to make way for sheep and deer.

“An aon rud a bha Rìobhail air a' Ghàidhealtachd, b'e an damh fhéin! [The one thing that was Royal in the Highlands was the stag!]” said Ailean Domhnullach, a Gaelic speaker from Scotland who has taught piping at the College in the past.

The petition can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/the-royal-cape-breton-gaelic-college.

It will be presented to the Royal Gaelic College’s board of governors at a meeting of the Gaelic College Foundation on February 16th at 3 p.m. 

Organizations: Royal Gaelic College, Gaelic College Foundation, Board of Governors of Colaisde

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Mabou Scotland Canada

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