Following his attendance at the Scottish Podcasting Meetup held on Saturday 15th August at CitizenM, Seumaidh was motivated to put this short history together. The meetup was hosted by Mike Russell ofMusic Radio Creative and powered by the New Media Europe conference, a two-day conference on 12-13 September that is taking place in Manchester and aimed at podcasters, bloggers, online video creators and social media visionaries. In attendance were Chris Marr, Krishna De, Colin Gray and Mark Pentleton – the man behind the Ayrshire-based Radio Lingua Network.
A short history of Scottish Gaelic Podcasting
Wikipedia does a good job of explaining the overall picture of Podcasting from its twentieth century precursor in the 1980’s to the 21st century introduction of the first mp3 player called i2Go and then Apple domination with iTunes and iPod.
As I discovered at the Glasgow meetup, this year marks ten years of podcasting. This is when, in June 2005, Apple added podcasting to its iTunes music software and started building a directory of podcasts for its iTunes Music Store. According to Wikipedia, the new iTunes could subscribe to, download and organize podcasts which made them more accessible.
However, Gaelic podcasting was around even before then as explained to us by Murdo MacLeod who would produce the podcasts from the Gaelic Articles written for Scotland on Sunday:
I produced podcasts of the [Scotland on Sunday] Gaelic columns for a couple of years (2003 to 2005, I think) The idea was that the full Gaelic column appeared in the newspaper with a very short English summary (just a sentence or two). The online edition of the paper had both the Gaelic original and a full English translation, which we thought would be helpful to learners. We also added a podcast recording of me reading out the full column in Gaelic, again for the benefit of learners. We certainly considered them to be podcasts and I recall that some of those who commented online did so to. As I recall, we stopped doing the podcasts after the papers were taken over by Johnson press because of limited website capacity and technical problems getting things online.
It was later on in June 2005 that Scottish Gaelic was introduced to podcasting by US based radio channel Gaelcast in a bid to have more Gaelic broadcasting being made available as podcasts. Scotland on Sunday gave the initiative some publicity in a Gaelic article entitled “Gaelcast: Saoghal nam Podcast a’ dol Gàidhlig” in September 2005:
“Finally, Gaelic radio programme can be put on the iPod. Gaelic podcasts have begun from the United States of America, and they are available regardless of where one lives, as long as they have a connection to the internet.
A small team from the US, Liam Caiside, Michael MacKay, and Edward Bradshaw have begun producing the programmes of about 40 minutes in length. The programmes are mainly in Gaelic with a couple of small inserts in English for where they conducted interviews with people who did not speak much of the language but who were involved in work connected with Gaelic on the other side of the ocean.
Another thing. After this we long for when all Radio nan Gaidheal’s programmes will be available for download on podcast to be listened to anywhere.”
In 2006, the BBC produced An Litir do Luchd-ionnsachaidh as part of their podcasting trials; and in the same year Guthan nan Eilean started to produce Gaelic content in their podcasts:
Gheibhear gu leòr air Guthan nan Eilean ( https://guthan.wordpress.com/about/ ) a’ dol air ais gu 2010. Seo an ceangal gu Island Voices Audios air iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/island-voices/id580557891 Measgachadh ann le Gàidhlig, Beurla, agus cànanan eile.
In February 2007, a T Shawn uploaded a ‘Gaelic song podcast‘. According to an Outer Hebrides forum, the Isle of Barra community was hosting Gaelic podcasts in this year but, having checked, it no longer does. the following year Northing Magazine interviews Rody Gorman on the Isle of Skye in January about his project to translate the songs of Bob Dylan into the Gaelic language.
Crìstean MacMhìcheil, creator of Ionnsachadh na Gàidhlig website, was the first person to use Podcasting in an educational capacity. In January 2009, he made his followers aware of his desire to put together some podcasts where he would give lectures on Scottish Gaelic.
“Tha mi air pròiseact ùr a thòiseachadh aig Learning Gaelic far am bi mi a’ cur òraid ùr gach seachdain. Cuideachd bidh facal ùr ri ionnsachadh gach latha air Twitter aig Facal an Latha. Bu toigh leam podcast a dhèanamh cuideachd a bhios a’ dol còmhla leis na h-òraidean, ach chì mi ma bhios ùine agam sin a dhèanamh.”
This initiative was superseded in April 2009 however by Radio Lingua who worked with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig to put together ten ‘one-minute Gaelic’ podcasts where Gordon Wells took on the role of Dòmnhall.
“One Minute Gaelic provides an introduction to basic Gaelic. With this course you will not become fluent, but you will acquire a range of useful expressions which you can use while on a trip to a Gaelic-speaking part of Scotland. Your efforts are guaranteed to make a good impression on people you meet.”
2009 also brought about the first use of podcasting in Scottish Gaelic by an educational establishment. In September 2009, Lochaber High School uploaded eight podcasts to help pupils with their Gaelic speaking tests.
Later on in September 2009, Fiona J Mackenzie started to put together Gaelic Podcasts with accompanying pdf sheets & tweets.
“I’ve posted 2 Gaelic Phrase podcasts online at my website to hopefully help you learn a little Gaelic. Very simple phrases covering basic conversation and subjects such as the weather. Phonetics and text also available for download.”
It was not until November 2009 that public broadcasting made its presence. BBC Radio Nan Gàidheal introduced An Litir Bheag and Litir do Luchd-Ionnsachaidh both aimed at new speakers of Scottish Gaelic.
Woodhill Primary School, East Dunbartonshire was the first primary school to get involved with podcasting and produced fifteen podcasts of beginners Gaelic in July 2010.
Gaelic podcasting with a religious theme first came about in August 2010 by the Rev. C. I. Macleod of Back Free Church of Scotland who started to upload his Gaelic sermons, of which they continue to date and total over 100. The next minister to upload a sermon was in February 2011. It was the Rev. Allan Murray of Stornoway Free Church of Scotland, Isle of Lewis who uploaded his Gaelic sermon “Bron Agus Doilgheas A Chriosdaidh”.
On 6th October 2011, Dr Mark McConville started a Gaelic podcasting project at the University of Glasgow. A subsequent recruitment drive was held in February 2012 and involved Colin who was one of the speakers at the Scotland Podcasting Meetup. :
Organised as part of the Soillse “Pod-chraoladh sa Ghàidhlig” research project, it is open to anyone who is interested in making podcasts in Gaelic. Colin Gray from Edinburgh Napier University will be running the session in English. Topics covered will include: subscribing and listening to podcasts; recording and editing podcasts; publishing podcasts online.Podcasting is a great, inexpensive way to gain experience in media production, and to build a personal portfolio of audio programmes for future career purposes. From the perspective of Gaelic, it is also a great way to make Gaelic voices more audible around Scotland and the world.
The next primary school to try out podcasting was Port Ellen Primary School, Islay in November 2011. Unfortunately this podcast is no longer available on the server today, however the teacher explains:
“Primary 1,2 & 3 have been having gaelic conversions. Here is a podcast of one of their conversations. It says good morning, asks names, how old each other are and how they are.”
Gaelic place names are discussed in a podcast aimed at walkers in March 2012. Dave Macleod talks about the Gaelic names of the Ben and the Mamores range with Gaelic historian Ron Cameron. Taigh na Gàidhlig at Glasgow University also produce their first podcast.
An interesting sketch about Podcasting was broadcast on LearnGaelic in 2013. A script was published too. It’s likely this was done to try and encourage more learners of Gaelic to get involved in podcasting.
The next use of Gaelic in podcasting came in August 2013 with the arrival of Outlander, the US television series on the OutlanderPod website. The following month, Carrie Afrinn used her time presenting on Monster FM to produce a podcast with accompanying pdf to teach some Gaelic:
“As a Gaelic speaker I often get asked to teach people phrases and the same with Gaelic songs so I thought this would be a good opportunity pass on some of my Gaelic to you. Carrie x”
The last school to use podcasting was Scotstoun Primary School, Glasgow in March 2013. It’s a Gaelic song entitled “Here’s to all our Common Wealth Podcast” and was uploaded to help celebrate the Commonwealth Games.
The next university involved in Gaelic podcasting is Edinburgh University. As part of their Gaelic language plan, a new award was introduced in November 2014 called the Edinburgh Award (Gaelic Outreach):
The Edinburgh Award (Gaelic Outreach) is an exciting new opportunity for students to develop their skills while working to promote Gaelic at the University and in the city. The award helps students to get the most out of these activities and to get recognition for the work that they do… Possible activities include producing a podcast or radio show.
The last couple of references to Scottish Gaelic podcasting refer to the BBC’s new Beag air Bheag radio series by John Urquhart. The podcasts were first broadcast in January 2015 and continue to this day. Rèidio Guth nan Gàidheal, a subsidiary of ‘An Comunn Ghàidhealaich Ameireaganaich’, started to create podcasts in February 2015. In April 2015, Andrew of the Confessions of a Scottish Gaelic learner blog wrote a post about the Beag air Bheag podcast. This is what the show notes tell us about the Beag air Bheag podcasts:
“Presenter John Urquhart guides learners through the intricacies of Gaelic language, dialects, idioms and sayings. Each week he meets up with a learner to find out about their learning experience. Gaelic grammar help is on hand with Dr Michel Byrne of Glasgow University and BBC archive material is used to illustrate some of the complexities of the language.”
And that is the story of Gaelic podcasting from a search on Google and from memory.
It is clear that there have been a few attempts to get people involved in Podcasting but it has not really taken off. It was especially good to see schools get involved. The public broadcaster has moved into the arena with regular podcasts which are by-products of their original airtime broadcasts. Gaelcast in 2005 would no doubt welcome that BBC Gàidhlig are using podcasts today, however if they were still about today they would probably still argue that there needs to be more archiving of broadcasts to podcasts. The one thing that has transpired from compiling this account is that there is little consistency or indeed longevity in the projects that transpire.
It may well be worth looking at the relationship between podcasting and radio broadcasting to see if this is connected to the confidence of those who could potentially be producing podcasts for a global audience.
If there’s anything missing from this brief history, feel free to get in touch with the links and the account will be updated.