New Gaelic dictionary for shellfish unveiled

Dozens of Gaelic names for Scottish shellfish have been published under a heritage agency's drive to promote the use of the 'fragile' language.

An 85-strong list has been unveiled as part of a joint project between Scottish National Heritage and Gaelic development body Bord na Gaidhlig.

The different species of scallops, cockles, razorfish, oysters, mussels, winkles, limpet and whelk to be found in Scottish waters have been given their own unique identities for the first time.

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Gaelic names have also been published for the various parts of the shellfish and the shapes of various seashells under the initiative.

Dozens of Gaelic names for Scottish shellfish have been published. Picture: Johnston Press
Dozens of Gaelic names for Scottish shellfish have been published. Picture: Johnston Press

The list has been put out for consultation two years after SNH published a new plan to promote the language, which it describes as “a unique aspect of Scotland’s heritage, national identity and cultural life”.

The five-year plan stated: “SNH recognises that the position of Gaelic is extremely fragile and that, if it is to be revitalised as a living language in Scotland, a concerted effort on the part of government, the public and private sectors, community bodies and individual speakers is required to enhance its status, promote the acquisition and learning of the language and encourage its increased use.”

SNH worked on the project with the Inverness-based journalist, broadcaster and “environmental educator” Roddy Maclean, who interviewed 14 elderly Gaelic speakers, largely from the Western Isles, to seek advice on the most common names traditionally used for mollusc species.

A spokeswoman for SNH said: “Some of the names are well-established and familiar to Gaelic speakers.

“The purpose of the project is to ensure that there is a recommended name for every common species, which can be used in a national context and where Gaelic-speakers do not have access to a tradition-bearer who carries such knowledge.

“Where no known Gaelic name for a species could be found, the team was tasked with proposing one.”

Robyn Ireland, SNH’s Gaelic Officer, said: “Our natural heritage and the Gaelic language have an inseparable link.

“We’re committed to encouraging Gaelic speakers and learners to use the language in connection with nature, and hope that this project will help.

“We welcome the thoughts of anyone with an interest.”

Mr Maclean said: “There was a general agreement on the names for the most common species, but there were some species where people had different terms, or none at all. This challenged us to make a choice and also provide names for species with no recorded Gaelic form.”