Taing Mhòr Dhuibh Uile | Christmas for Cailín
By Cailín Laing / Colleen Lynk
As my time with Language in Lyrics is winding down I find myself reflecting on what a fulfilling experience this has been for me. I can still recall with great detail the evening that I first received the news that I would be joining the team for the summer. It was the last evening of my month long immersion course at Colaisde na Gàidhlig, after having applied and completed my interview from my room on campus. I was sitting on the floor in Taigh Céilidh already feeling somewhat overwhelmed with emotion. I was feeling so blessed in my life to be surrounded entirely by a community of Gaelic for what was the 25th consecutive day. I was feeling thankful to have received a small handful of thoughtful gifts from my dear friends, including the most beautiful green ukelele I had ever seen. At the same time, I was sad to be leaving these friends, Cape Breton, and the immersion experience behind the following afternoon to head back to my life in Halifax. As we all chatted, sang, and played music, my phone buzzed with the notification that a new email that had just come in.
“Fhuair mi an obair! [I got the job],” I exclaimed.
“It really is like Christmas for Cailín,” echoed back.
When learning about the various different tasks that I would be doing while working on the project, my excitement only grew. Not only would I have the opportunity to work with different resources to collect and input song data, but I would also be collecting quotes and idioms to create graphics and keeping a blog about the topics that interested me. This would provide me with the opportunity to learn more about Gaelic song, the bards that composed them, the communities that kept them alive, the traditions behind them, and the language itself. I would then be able to utilize my passion for writing as a tool to share the passion that I have for Gaelic. As someone whose heart yearns for my language and culture every waking moment that it is not actively present in my life, this was a dream come true.
I was very fortunate in my work with the project to be able to spend time entering data for Gaelic song collections from areas of Cape Breton that I had not previously done a lot of research on myself. This gave me the opportunity to widen my scope of knowledge in regards to Gaelic song and specific local characters, stories, and traditions. I would often play the audio recordings that were included with Guthan Prìseil, a wonderful collection with many of the songs being sourced from the Iona and Christmas Island areas of Cape Breton, while I was reading the pages and collecting data. Sitting in my living room and hearing the voices of the Gaels who came before me ebb and flow throughout the room as I read about their lives was truly a magical experience.
What was slightly unexpected to me was just how much I would learn through gathering quotes and idioms to create graphics with. Spending quieter days reading excerpts pertaining to the history and customs of various time periods, despite not always being related to specific songs or communities, provided depth and context to the entirety of the work I had been doing. At the same time I was unintentionally gaining knowledge about my own personal interests. It was through this process that I was able to learn more about Òrain Leannachd (Courtship Songs) and the true (often humorous) character of how they functioned at the milling table in the North Shore, a concept that I had previously heard of only in passing. I also had the pleasure of happening upon many other anecdotes that revealed much about the history of my people and my home, including one involving a man who had composed songs about his experience staying in Sydney upon arrival from North Uist. This was something small yet so personally significant to me as someone with North Uist roots hailing from Glace Bay.
Perhaps the most fulfilling of all has been channeling the excitement of learning and growing into writing these blog posts. It is a blessing to learn indeed, but an even greater blessing to share. I am so grateful to all who have taken the time to follow my journey throughout the weeks. I have genuinely felt the love and support of my community as the time has so quickly passed by.
In conclusion, this experience is one that has enriched my life greatly and I will forever remember the gift that it has been for me to be able to contribute to a project so meaningful to my community and so important in preserving and creating access to our language, culture, and specifically our songs.
It seems quite harmonious that I have spent the final days of my work with Language in Lyrics in the same place that it had began. Colaisde na Gàidhlig has been a huge cornerstone of my journey over the last few years, both providing me with a wide range of knowledge and allowing for the formation of truly invaluable relationships with others in my community. As I sat in MacKenzie Hall each evening, the sweet fiddle tunes of other passionate students surrounding me as I quietly worked away, my heart felt so full and warm. The timing of this journey was no accident: this is where I was always meant to be.
Le gach beannachd.
Until we meet again.