The Oxford Companion to British History

By John Cannon | Go to book overview


Gabbard, battle of the, 1653. An important naval battle towards the end of the first *Anglo-Dutch War. *Monck and *Blake with a large fleet encountered Martin Tromp near the Gabbard shoal, east of Harwich. The fighting lasted 12 and 13 June with the Dutch losing seventeen ships. The English followed up their advantage with a blockade of the Dutch coast which did great damage. JAC

Gaelic, one of the Celtic dialects, is of the group known as the Goidelic, comprising Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Scottish Gaelic and Manx developed through the migrations of Irish speakers in the late 4th cent. to the Isle of Man and western Scotland. Scottish Gaelic had its origins in the settlement of *Dalriada in Argyll and Bute in the early 6th cent., but the language is not likely to have differed much from Irish Gaelic until the 10th cent. From the original settlement of Dalriada the Gaels spread rapidly northwards and eastwards through Scotland cutting through native Pictish resistance. Following the establishment of the Gaelic church on * Iona by *Columba in the 6th cent., the Gaels acquired the means of spreading both their authority and their language. In the 9th cent., Gaels and Picts were finally united under a Gaelic king, probably of mixed parentage. In the 11th cent., after a period of internal strife, *Malcolm Canmore, son of *Duncan, came to the throne with the aid of English forces and began to introduce Anglo-Norman customs and language into the court of Scotland. His descendants followed this policy and over the next few centuries the Gaelic language was gradually replaced by English in state and church administration, with the Gaeltachd (Gaelic-speaking area) beginning to shrink.

We can accurately chart the decline of Gaelic only from the late 19th cent. to the present. For 1755 it has been estimated that just under a quarter of Scotland's population were Gaelic speakers -- i.e. some 290,000. The 1881 census noted that those who were 'habitually' speakers of Gaelic numbered 232,000 out of a total population of 3,735,000 -- in high contrast to the 1971 census when Gaelic-only speakers numbered no more than 477 out of 5,228,000. Bilingual speakers were first counted in 1891 when they represented 5.2 per cent of the population, which by 1981 had declined to only 1.6 per cent. There was a greater survival rate of Gaelic in North America, especially in Nova Scotia, where it was estimated that there were in 1880 some 80,000 Gaelic speakers out of 100,000 on Cape Breton Island, though these figures have since diminished sharply.

It is not easy to trace the development of the language from the Irish, as the literature of Scotland was consistently written in a standard Early Modern Irish from the 12th to the 17th cent. The 16th-cent. Book of the Dean of Lismore is the most important exception. Scottish Gaelic literature made its appearance in the 17th cent., but not until 1767 was the New Testament translated into Gaelic by the *Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Support for and promotion of the Gaelic language began in the 19th cent., and in 1882 it became possible to study Gaelic as part of a university degree course. Today children can be educated in Gaelic at the primary level and it can be studied at secondary level. The government has allocated funds for Gaelic education and, along with An Comunn Gaidhealach (the Highland Association, founded 1891), has promoted the use of Gaelic in many areas, such as publishing, broadcasting, and in technological spheres. Since these efforts to save the language have been in place, the number of speakers has increased and the trend seems likely to continue. SMD

Gaelic Athletic Association. Founded in 1884 in Tipperary to encourage Irish sports, particularly Gaelic football and hurling, at the expense of English ones, like soccer, cricket, and tennis. Its first patron was Archbishop Croke of Cashel, and Croke Park, Dublin, became the headquarters of the association. Along with the * Gaelic League it was a powerful stimulus to nationalism, and Douglas Hyde declared that it had done more for Ireland than all the speeches of politicians.


Gaelic League. Founded in Ireland in 1893 with Douglas Hyde as first president. The intention was to revive the Irish language. Ostensibly non-political, the League inevitably attracted Irish nationalists. Patrick *Pearse insisted in 1913 that membership of the League 'ought to have been a preparation for our complete living as Irish nationalists'. The work of the League ensured that Gaelic was declared the national language in 1922 and Douglas Hyde became first president of Eire in 1938. But the decline in the number of Gaelic speakers continued. JAC

Gag Acts. See SIX ACTS.

Gainsborough, Thomas ( 1727-88). Painter. Gainsborough was born in Sudbury ( Suffolk), the youngest of nine


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The Oxford Companion to British History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Ppreace vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Note to the Reader xii
  • A 1
  • B 71
  • C 149
  • D 273
  • E 318
  • F 363
  • G 399
  • H 445
  • I 503
  • J 523
  • K 541
  • L 553
  • M 602
  • N 666
  • O 701
  • P 717
  • Q 782
  • R 785
  • S 831
  • T 907
  • U 941
  • V 951
  • W 960
  • Y 1008
  • Z 1015
  • Subject Index 1034


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