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Beatha Iosa Chriosd: A Gaelic Gospel - The Life of Jesus Christ (Scots Gaelic) Paperback – Large Print, 28 Feb 2013
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From the Author
I have always been aware of language. Playing on street as a child I Edinburgh, I heard Standard English with a Scottish accent and Broad Scots as well. My forebears on my mother’s side were Irish and spoke or understood Irish. A neighbour was from between Inverness and Nairn and knew some Gaelic.
I went to the Abbey School in Fort Augustus when I was thirteen. I bought a map which had a glossary of the hill names with their meanings. A classmate from Arisaig told me how to pronounce them. I wrote some phrases in English and he wrote them in Gaelic and said them for me. I was walking on George IV Bridge one day when back home on holiday. I stopped and looked at the books in the window of Grant’s bookshop. I saw MacLaren’s Gaelic Self-Taught. The price was half-a-crown. I had half-a-crown in my pocket and went in and bought it. I then studied Gaelic on my own and would go out during the dinner break to have a brief conversation in Gaelic with two men from the area who worked around the Abbey. After school I did National Service and when I came home I did a correspondence course in Gaelic. I did the University Prelim in Gaelic and enrolled for Celtic Studies, Latin and Phonetics.
I was able to converse in Gaelic with other students and staff like Fred MacAulay and Willie Matheson. When I graduated with Hons. in Celtic Studies in 1954 I was employed by Edinburgh University as a research assistant. I began fieldwork in September in Rannoch and Tummel, doing questionnaires and recording. The questionnaire was a long list of Gaelic words which were written in phonetic symbols as the informant pronounced them and when this was completed the informant was recorded in conversation or telling a story. I did this work in the Great Glen, Lochaber, Glencoe, Appin and Benderloch; also in Ardnamurchan, Glenfinnan, Moidart and Arisaig; and then Kintail, Glenshiel, Canna, Eigg and Muck. In 1957 I went to training college in Aberdeen and took up teaching.
I have written a lot in Gaelic prose and poetry over the years – in Gairm, Gath, Cothrom and the Scotsman. Some of these were African stories I collected from the boys in the school in Tanzania when my wife and I were working there from 1964-1966. I co-edited with Sylvia Robertson, who works in the archive of Blair Castle, a book titled Tales from Highland Perthshire which was published by the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society in 2009. The stories were collected by Lady Evelyn Stewart Murray on the Atholl estate in 1891. She was the daughter of the Duke of Atholl who spoke Gaelic and had brought up his family to speak Gaelic also.
I wrote a small booklet titled Mainland Dialects of Scottish Gaelic published by the Abbey Press in Fort Augustus in 1958. I also wrote with Morag MacLeod A Structural Approach to Scottish Gaelic in 3 parts for adult learners in the 1970’s, also published by the Abbey Press. It consisted of 1. Phonetics and Speech Training 2. Grammar 3. Sentence Patterns. It was based on the methods used in Tanzania in schools where the students did most of their studies in English and were going to sit exams set by Cambridge. In the early 1990’s I wrote a course for Telford College for students who were going to sit the exam in Higher Gaelic.
A great help for me in writing this life of Jesus was being asked to hold Gaelic services in Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. I did this a few times a year for several years. I had to do a considerable amount of Bible study to find sections from the Old and New Testaments which would be appropriate for Psalms and readings which would also provide material for preparing a sermon. It gave me a great new insight into the life and teachings of a most amazing person – Jesus, the Son of God.
About the Author
Tony Dilworth was Headmaster of a Gaelic-speaking primary school in Edinburgh. A highly regarded Gaelic speaker, he has a life-long commitment to the preservation of this beautiful language.