Outlander Gaelic coach saves rare Dalriada dialect

Outlander stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. Picture: Contributed/Sony

Outlander stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. Picture: Contributed/Sony

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THE man who taught the cast of Outlander to speak Gaelic has saved a rare dialect of the language from dying out - by teaching it to his own children.

Robbie MacVicar, 84, is the last native speaker of Dalriada Gaelic, which originates from Argyll.

Adhamh O Broin, who taught the cast of Outlander to speak Gaelic. Picture: John Devlin

Adhamh O Broin, who taught the cast of Outlander to speak Gaelic. Picture: John Devlin

Àdhamh O’Broin, who tutored Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in Gaelic pronunciation, decided that his own children were part of the answer to keeping the Dalriada dialect alive.

The 36-year-old, from Tighnabruaich on the Cowal Peninsula, taught himself Dalriada and then spoke only that dialect to his children from the day they were born.

Now Caoimhe, eight, and six-year-old twins, Lachann and Saorsa, are fluent and able to pass on the language to future generations.

A delighted Robbie, from Lochgilphead, said: “Until Àdhamh I was the last person who could speak it. It’s lovely that he has taught it to his children.”

My children all speak it fluently and consider it their first and main language - in a way they are guardians of the Dalriada dialect

Àdhamh Ó Broin

Robbie, who spoke Dalriada with his friends and family whilst growing up in the 1950s and worked as an engineer on the Channel Tunnel, says he “hopes the language will live on”.

He added: “It was my first language. I couldn’t even speak English for a very long time.

“Àdhamh is a very nice lad and I really enjoy talking to him in Dalriada Gaelic.”

Àdhamh is also raising money through crowdfunding to set up a website which will teach others the endangered dialect.

Àdhamh began the project ten years ago after realising the Gaelic of his native Argyll was on the verge of extinction.

It took two years of searching to find Robbie and the two pored over historical recordings and old notebooks of the dialect which eventually allowed Àdhamh to teach himself the language.

Àdhamh said: “I caught it from the jaws of death.

“Several years ago I felt a real homesickness and an urge to find out more about the dialect of my area.

“I travelled the length and breadth of Cowal and the rest of the Dalriada area to see if there was anyone left alive who spoke it.

“Luckily, I found Robbie and together we have saved the language from disappearing into history.

“He’s great - sometimes he calls me and suggests words that might not be documented anywhere, for example a word for the small of your back.”

He added: “It’s been like filling in a jigsaw. I decided to take the language and instead of just documenting it, I would learn it and live it.

“It’s the most effective way of preserving it. My children all speak it fluently and consider it their first and main language - in a way they are guardians of the Dalriada dialect.”

Dalriada differs from traditional Scottish Gaelic due to alternate vowel sounds, accents and a whole host of differing vocabulary.

Àdhamh hopes to raise £10,000 from his crowdfunder, which will help pay towards setting up a website, processing Dalriada soundfiles, digitising old notebooks, creating a dictionary and further fieldwork with Robbie.

“People have already pledged £9,000, so we are really close to our target,” Àdhamh said.

“We’re working so hard to keep the Dialect in the public eye and save it from extinction.”

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