Hannah Scott: War drama that could give Gaelic a new voice

A Gaelic adviser on the new film has also worked on hit series Outlander
A Gaelic adviser on the new film has also worked on hit series Outlander
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A Scottish film ­company ­is adapting the story of two soldiers who used Gaelic to confuse and evade pursuing Germans in the Second World War.

Burning Horseshoe hope the film will bring a unique insight into Scotland’s ­founding language.

Gaelic has existed as long as Scotland has. When the Irish settled here in 500AD, it began spreading across the country. However, as time has passed there are less ­people speaking it.

Gaelic’s biggest setback came in the 18th century, with English rule in ­Scotland. As one member of ­Burning Horseshoe puts it: “For ­decades, native speakers were told that their language was inferior and they were often forced to give up their native tongue.”

According to the 2011 ­census, there are only 60,000 Gaelic speakers left in ­Scotland. However, five ­universities in Scotland offer an honours degree in ­Gaelic. Gaelic-speaking schools are increasing as part of the ­Scottish Government’s Gaelic language plan. We’ve seen the introduction of the BBC Alba channel and road signs with Gaelic place names.

But what impact does this have at a personal level? Lydia Quinn, a student from Glasgow attended a Gaelic medium school. She says: “It has brought me many new opportunities, I feel more confident in my own country, I understand the road signs, old songs and poetry.

“Many interesting historical events happened where the older generation will have used Gaelic as their first ­language. Being able to ­communicate with these ­people is something I’ll be forever thankful for,

“This is our own language, we should be proud of it”.

The memoirs of a Scottish soldier who spoke Gaelic to escape being killed by a ­German firing squad is the basis for In the Darkest Hour.

Writer and producer Stephan Don heard of the ­story through his father, an intelligence officer in the ­Second World War. Lead actors Jim ­Sturgeon and Josh Tevendale are both Scots but do not speak Gaelic. So they will be guided by Àdhamh Ó Broin, who has also worked on hit TV series Outlander.

Burning Horseshoe believe the film may inspire ­others to discover the ­language, ­saying: “We ­strongly believe this is a ­fascinating story that deserves to be shared internationally, with the emphasis on how important Gaelic can be for cultures and individuals. Our film could encourage both native speakers and ­foreigners to appreciate ­Gaelic and to learn more about Scottish history.”

It’s a feeling echoed by Lydia, who said: “I hope that, through media like this, the Gaelic community can grow through our country’s collective love of the arts”

Development funds have been received from Northern Ireland Screen and fundraising for production begins next month. Filming is due to begin next summer, with an estimated release in 2019.

Gaelic is a rich part of Scottish heritage. With the right media coverage and attitude from Scotland’s population we can learn it –and perhaps make Gaelic our true national language once again.

Hannah Scott is a journalism student at the University of the West of Scotland in Ayr.