John Howieson, a retired head teacher from Harrapool on Skye, has been named Gaelic Learner of the Year.
The award, sponsored by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, recognises a Gaelic learner who has made significant steps to fluency. Mr Howieson was presented with the award today (Wednesday) at the Royal National Mòd in Inverness.
While Dumfries-born Mr Howieson has always had an interest in Gaelic, it wasn’t until he retired in 2007, after 33 years’ teaching, that he raised his commitment to learning the language. He has since achieved a ‘Gold Card’ level of fluency.
Having previously attended a number of short courses, Mr Howieson began a full-time course of study at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, for a BA degree in Gaelic Language and Culture. He is now in his second year and has impressed his tutors with his progress in fluency, having achieved an A grade in each of the six modules covered so far. Part of the course involved a three-week attachment with the Ceòlas organisation in South Uist and he was warmly praised for his work with the Gaelic community there. He takes part in the Caraidean Cànan scheme at the college and contributes to Abair Thusa, a joint conversational network between the college and the local community.
Mr Howieson, who is singing with Strath Gaelic Choir and in individual competitions this week, said: “I am absolutely honoured to have been presented this award and I am hugely appreciative of An Comunn Gàidhealach for selecting me. I’ve had an interest in Gaelic and the Mod for many years, probably more than I care to remember, but it wasn’t until I retired that I really committed to learning. I started by joining the choir and love singing Gaelic songs. As a head teacher in Portree I saw first-hand the benefits of a bilingual education and I would encourage everyone, young and old, to give Gaelic a go.”
Extended Mod coverage will feature in this week’s Free Press — out on Thursday.