Gaelic Word of the Week blog – Hero – Gaisgeach

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 our word is hero – gaisgeach.

The Scotttish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba– is currently seeking Local Heroes to celebrate during its opening ceremony, so this week’s Gaelic Word of the Week is hero – gaisgeach.

Every MSP is being asked to nominate one of their constituents who have made an extraordinary contribution to the lives of other people living in Scotland – Alba – locally or nationally.

Those heroes – gaisgich – will be invited to contribute to the Parliament’s upcoming Opening Ceremony marking the new session of the Parliament.

You can make your voice heard by letting your MSP know which gaisgeach you think deserves to be nominated!

In Gaelic, the Highlands – a’ Ghàidhealtachd – is sometimes romantically known as Tir nam beann, nan gleann is nan gaisgeach – the land of the mountains, the glens and the heroes. Which may be one place you could find your local gaisgeach!

Drochaid Ghleann Fhionnainn

You will probably recognise the word beann –– which is anglicsed to Ben, in many mountain names like Ben Nevis or Ben Lomond. Likewise, you may recognise gleann – glen from placenames like Glenboig or Glenrothes.

Tir nam beann, nan gleann is nan gaisgeach is  commonly used to refer to the Highlands. It was famously part of the toast of the Queen’s Own Highland Regiment.

The full toast is:

Tir nam Beann, nan Gleann, ’s nan Gaisgeach;

Far am faighear an t-eun fionn,

‘S far am faigh am fiadh fasgadh,

Cho fada ’s chitear ceo mu bheann

‘S a ruitheas uisge le gleann, Mairidh cuimhne air euchd nan treun.

Slainte agus buaidh gu brath Le Gillean Chabar Feidh

Cabar Feidh Go Brath!

Translated, this means: The land of peaks, of glens and heroes, Where thrives the Fair Bird (Ptarmigan), And where the deer finds shelter, As long as mist is seen on mountains, Remembrance will be made on the deeds of the brave; Health and victory forever, To the Boys of Cabar Feidh, Deer’s Antlers Forever!

And on a similar note, the Gaelic word for “vetrans” in Scottish Government ministerial titles is Seann-ghaisgich (literally “old heroes”).

Gaisgeach isn’t the only word in Gaelic for hero. The word laoch is also commonly used and you might also see saoidh. These feature the the proverbs:

Chan eil saoidh air nach laigh leòn – no hero is immune from wounds

Cha robh saoidh gun chomas – there was never a hero without his/her peer

These are both good reminders not to be overconfident!

And remember, despite our talk of Tìr nam Beann, nan Gleann is nan Gaisgeach, heroes – gaisgich – are to be found throughout Scotland and not only in the Highlands – so get your views in! 27 August 2021 is the last day for nominations.

You can read more about the search for local heroes and how to put your views forward on the Scottish Parliament website.

Alasdair MacCaluim