Gaelic Word of the Week – St Bridget’s Day

Each week we publish the text of our Gaelic Word of the Week podcast here with added facts, figures and photos for Gaelic learners who want to learn a little about the language and about the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. This week we are looking at St Bridget’s day.

The 1st of Febuary is St Bridget’s Day – Latha Fhèill Bhrìghde – an important day in the Gaelic calendar in Scotland – Alba, Ireland – Èirinn, and the Isle of Man – Eilean Mhanainn as it traditionally marks the beginning of spring.

The Gaelic for Bridget is Brìghde, who was a very important saint in the Gaelic world.

Born in the 5th century, St Bridget – Brìghde – was from Dundalk in Ireland – Èirinn – which she’s now a patron saint of. She also founded several monasteries.

Many churches and schools in Scotland – Alba – including the medieval St Bridget’s Kirk in Dalgety Bay, Fife are named after Bridget.

More unusually, a common bird in Scotland – Alba – also shares its name with St Bridget – Brìghde.

This is the oystercatcher which in Gaelic is known as gille-brìghde – St Bridget’s servant. According to legend, the birds once helped to save the Saint’s life and thus earned them their name.

The cry of the oystercatcher resembles the Gaelic phrase “bi glic” – be wise, be wise – and this is motto of the Scottish Police College in Tulliallan which even features the oystercatcher on its badge.

Gillebride can also be a personal name and you might recognise it from the name of famous Gaelic singer Gillebride MacMillan. In surnames, it features in the name MacBride.

In Gaelic, the dandelion also features Bridget’s name, it is beàrnan-Brìde.

Traditionally a St Bridget’s cross was also made on St Bridget’s day – latha Naomh Brìghde, typically out of rushes.

By Culnacreann – CC BY 3.0,

This is all very well, but how is Brìghde connected with the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba?

Well, one of the Scottish Parliament constituencies is named after Bridget: East Kilbride – Cille Bhrìghde an Ear. Kilbride – Cille Bhrìghde – means Bridget’s Chapel. There are many Gaelic place-names in Scotland named after the saint. You can recognise these as they feature Bride in English or Brìghde or Bhrìghde in Gaelic. There is a Kilbride Burn in Arran for example and a Kirkbride hill near Dumfries and a Logiebride in Perthshire.

Monsignor John McIntyre of St Bridget’s Church in Baillieston, Glasgow also delivered a Time for Reflection in the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba back in 2011. Time for Reflection – Àm Cnuasachaidh – is normally the first item of parliamentary business on a Tuesday, where a speaker addresses Members for up to four minutes, sharing a perspective on issues of belief or faith 

This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week is: Latha Fhèill Bhrìghde

Down Cathedral, Downpatrick –Dún Pádraig, where St Bridget is buried.

Alasdair MacCaluim – Gaelic Development Officer