The most southerly inhabited islands of the Outer Hebrides, Barra and Vatersay are the winners of the 2012 Gleus Award – and the new titleholder of Gaelic Community of the Year in the Highlands and Islands.
Now in its third year the Gleus Community Award recognises the contribution of communities to the growth and revitalisation of Gaelic at a local level. As well as winning the accolade the winner picks up £3000 in prize money.
The competition is administered by Comunn na Gàidhlig (CnaG) as part of their development contract with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
The winning nomination was made on behalf of the community by the local Historical Society, Comunn Eachdraidh Bharraigh is Bhatarsaigh, and Archie MacDonald, HIE's area manager for Innse Gall and Calum Iain Macleod, Director for Development with CnaG, were present at a recent community event to make the award to the community.
In presenting the award, Mr Macdonald said, "Just as community-land or community-energy projects can help revitalise and reinvigorate communities, so too can the Gaelic language and Gàidhealach heritage of the Highlands and Islands. They are important assets which can strengthen and sustain communities and promote a communal sense of identity, cultural heritage and cultural vitality.
"The nominations were judged on the use of spoken Gaelic, particularly amongst young people, its visibility in the community and the provision of Gaelic childcare and education, including Gaelic-learning opportunities. Barra and Vatersay presented a clear case highlighting every day use of the language and also a raft of Gaelic events which add so much to the cultural life of the island, for locals and tourists alike."
Murdo Mackinnon, Chair of the Comunn Eachdraidh, said, "Barra is alive with community events and these are influenced heavily by Gaelic language and culture. Feis Bharraigh, the first feis, has been running since 1980 and we now have a local mod as well as the annual two day festival, Barrafest, which draws its inspiration from Gaelic/Celtic bands such as the Vatersay Boys and Skippinish. These all help to introduce a young generation to the language. Gaelic is at the heart of all that we do from the nursery, to the school, to the work-place and to public services such as local authority and health services as well as churches, shops, hotels and B & Bs, cafes and the fishing industry. The language is also highly visibile throughout the community with Gaelic signs to be seen in places such as shops, offices, hotels, restaurants and even on the golf course.
"We are delighted to accept this award on behalf of the community and pledge to continue to do all we can to preserve and develop the use of the language in the community. We are also extremely grateful to Comunn na Gaidhlig and Highlands and Islands Enterprise for giving recognition to our efforts."
Calum Iain Macleod from CnaG said, ''What we are looking for when considering applications are communities which are working diligently to revitalise Gaelic, and which fully support other development work which is currently taking place. We were delighted with all that is happening in Barra and Vatersay, and were pleased to present them with this award. We hope that this encourages other communities to pursue Gaelic development within their own communities.''
Runners-up in Gleus, receiving £1,500 and £500 respectively are the communities of Sleat, in Skye and South Lochs, Lewis.