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Decline of the Gaelic Language


A Melbourne Tartan Festival Special Event

Dr. James Donaldson discusses the decline in the use of the Gaelic language between 1700 and 1850.

The sharp decline in the use of the Gaelic language between 1700 and 1850 was but one consequence of the increased interaction of the Highlands with the vast transformations sweeping Europe and Great Britain at that time. Indeed, it was not only the continuing loss of the Gaelic language from many counties in Scotland, but the transformation of the Gaelic culture that supported it, which brought about an utter change in the Scottish Highlands between 1700 and the 1850s.

The same was to happen in Australia, both among those Gaelic speaking highlanders who came in the years 1837-1840 to settle in New South Wales and those came to Victoria as a result of famine in the years 1852-1857. The conditions in NSW and especially in Victoria experienced by Gaelic-speaking Scots during the 1850s were not such as would promote the ongoing extension of a minority Gaelic culture in the midst of a population explosion of the Victorian gold rushes.


Prahran Mechanics' Institute Victorian History Library
39 St. Edmonds Road, PRAHRAN, VICTORIA 3181

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Dr James Donaldson is the author of ‘Farewell to the Heather: An account of the government assisted emigrants from the highlands and islands of Scotland to New South Wales 1837-1840