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  • Writer's pictureMarcas Mac an Tuairneir

Catrìona Shomhairle

Port Rìgh

Appointed teacher of Gaelic at Portree High School in l973. [...] Principal Teacher of Gaelic in Portree high School. Early promoter of the case for education through the medium of Gaelic in Skye. From 1985, initiated the pre-school plans which, 30 years later, led to permission being granted, in August 2015, for an all-Gaelic primary school in Portree with a projected opening date of October 2016. Initially centred on her own children and those of friends, the first nursery class numbered four pupils and met in the Elgin Hostel. By 1989, the term Sgoil-Àraich had come into use for the operation, and enlarged premises in the Margaret Carnegie Hostel and a part-time teacher had been found. With a nursery nurse added, the effort had attracted nine pupils by its formal opening date of 13 September 1989. Later re-housed in the new Portree Primary School, Gaelic-medium education was to incorporate all ages throughout the primary school with numbers growing to match those of the congruent English language facility.

While the movement that led to the initiation of Gaelic medium classes and units in schools was national and multi-faceted, much deserving of detailed study, with key people and organisations operating in each community, there is evidence aplenty of the fundamental role of Catrìona Macdonald in the establishment of the Portree provision, both in the early years of discourse and in the ultimate delivery.

As a High School teacher of Gaelic, Catrìona Macdonald quickly developed a reputation for effective teaching and preparation of children for Gaelic Mòds. Though not herself a Mòd competitor, her instruction of pupils in traditional songs attracted attention. [...]

In a singularly prescient obituary, a Gaelic journalist wrore of Catrìona Macdonald's role in stimulating and establishing Gaelic Medium education in Skye: "Tha a' choimhearsnachd sin - agus gu dearbha an t-Eilean Sgiathanach air fad - fada na comuinn airson an spionnadh a thug i air foghlum troimh mheadhon na Gàidhlig anns an eilean. Mur a b' e misneachd Chatrìona; an toiseach troimh chròileagain tha e neònach gum bitheadh sgoil Ghàidhlig am Portrìgh an diugh. Thuirt cuid eigin rium bho chionn ghoirid gu bheil na sgoiltean Gàidhlig sin nan deagh charra-cuimhne dhith" ["That communiry - and indeed the Isle of Skye as a whole - is much indebted to her for the re-invigoration which she gave to Gaelic Medium education on the island. Were it not for Catrìona's confidence; first through nurseries; it is unlikely that there would be a Gaelic school in Portree today. Somebody said to me recently that these Gaelic schools are a good memorial to her."]

Taken from The Great Book of Skye 2 Great Book Publishing, 2016

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