Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Gaelic College Embroiled in Royal Controversy That Opens Centuries-Old Wounds

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Gaelic College Embroiled in Royal Controversy That Opens Centuries-Old Wounds

Article excerpt

Gaelic College embroiled in royal controversy

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HALIFAX - A recent decision to alter the name of Cape Breton's Gaelic College has ripped open centuries-old wounds among the many descendents of Scottish immigrants who first landed in Nova Scotia more than 200 years ago.

The controversy erupted earlier this month when the college's board of directors decided to add the word "royal" to the school's name, a special designation from the Queen herself.

However, a growing chorus of complaints has emerged from those who say the addition is offensive because it ignores the fact that most of the Gaelic-speaking migrants who sailed to Nova Scotia in the late 1700s were forced out of the Highlands in the years following a decisive battle with the English.

Allan MacMaster, the member of the legislature who represents the Cape Breton district of Inverness, says the name change was inappropriate and insulting.

"The people who sought the royal designation didn't stop to think about all of the Gaels out there who would find the term offensive and hurtful given the history of the Crown trying to eradicate the Gaelic language and Gaelic culture," he said in an interview Friday.

"There was a concerted effort to break the Gaelic peoples of Scotland. ... It was a plan to ethnically cleanse the people."

MacMaster, whose Gaelic-speaking ancestors settled in Nova Scotia in 1802, said it's important to understand that the Gaelic culture, language and dress of the Highlanders was distinct from that of Lowland Scots.

"I've become careful to reference the fact that I'm a Gael," says MacMaster, who taught himself how to speak Gaelic while he was at university.

Those who know the history of the Gaels are keenly aware of the Battle of Culoden in 1746, when an English army crushed the Highland clans.

Then came the Highland Clearances, from 1780 to 1860, when farmers were evicted to make way for sheep. …

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