Gaelic Word of the Week – International Women’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 International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is Monday 8th March, so this week we’re going to learn how to say the name of the day in Gaelic.

In Gaelic, International Women’s Day is Latha Eadar-nàiseanta nam Ban.

Latha Eadar-nàiseanta nam Ban celebrates the social, economic and cultural achievements of women and calls for faster gender parity.

For this years Latha Eadar-nàiseanta nam Ban, we’re going to celebrate a legendary Gaelic-speaking woman who is commemorated in the Scottish Parliament.

This is the famous Gaelic poet and singer Mary MacPherson, better known as Màiri Mhòr nan Òran – Big Mary of the songs.

Màiri Mhòr nan Òran

This year’s theme for Latha Eadar-nàiseanta nam Ban is Choose to Challenge – challenging gender balance and inequality.

Màiri Mhòr certainly chose to challenge!

Mary MacPherson lived from 1821 to 1898. She was born and raised in Skye – an t-Eilean Sgitheanach – and later lived in Inverness – Inbhir Nis – and in Glasgow – Glaschu – where she worked as a nurse in the Royal Infirmary before returning to Skye.

Màiri Mhòr nan Òran was known especially as a supporter of the land reform movement in the Highlands – a’ Ghàidhealtachd – and she wrote several songs supporting the crofters and challenging the traditional hierarchy of the Highlands. Her activism was in opposition to the assumptions of the Victorian, English-speaking view of womanhood.

Her songs are still very well known and are sung at concerts and ceilidhs to this day.

One of Màiri’s songs is named after her native island of Skye – an t-Eilean Sgitheanach – it is called Eilean a’ Cheò, ‘the misty isle’ which is the island’s nickname. Many of the Hebrides have similar nicknames – Lewis – Eilean Leòdhais – being Eilean an Fhraoich – ‘the Heather Isle’ for example and South Uist – Uibhist a Deas being Tìr a’ Mhurain – ’the land of the marram grass’.

An t-Eilean Sgitheanach – “Eilean a’ Cheò”

Màiri Mhòr is featured on the Travelling the Distance sculpture in the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. The sculpture by Glasgow-based artist Shauna McMullan is a collection of 100 sentences written by women – boireannaich – from across Scotland, each writing about women who inspired them.

Such is Màiri’s influence in the Gaelic community to this day that she was chosen by two different women for the exhibition!

Educationalist Chrissie Dick said “Rinn i strì airson còraichean is ceartas dha na Gàidheil” – she fought for rights and for justice for the Gaels” and Sadie MacLeod said: “Bha spèis aice air a’ Ghàidhlig agus òrain, muinntir na dùthcha agus am fearann” – she loved Gaelic and song, the people and the land.

So who better to discuss on International Women’s Day – Latha Eadar-nàiseanta nam Ban than Màiri Mhòr nan Òran.

Let’s practice: Latha Eadar-nàiseanta nam Ban.

This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week was read by Mairead Mackechnie, Education Officer.

Alasdair MacCaluim

alasdair.maccaluim@parliament.scot