This autumn marks the 50th anniversary of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, recognised internationally as the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, located just 6 miles down the beautiful coastal road from Hotel Eilean Iarmain towards Armadale.
In 1972, Sir Iain Noble set up Fearann Eilean Iarmain (of which the hotel is an integral part) with the aim of reviving the Gaelic language and strengthening the local economy. In fact, Hotel Eilean Iarmain was the first business where Gaelic was the language of the working environment.
Sir Iain was only too aware of the decline in the local community – young people were departing from Skye seeking higher education and work opportunities, leaving behind an aging and dwindling population. To counteract this, he had the vision of establishing a college in Skye that would give young people necessary skills and education and in addition, he set up a number of enterprises to provide local job and career opportunities enabling young Islanders to continue to live and work in Skye. He believed that by reversing the brain drain, this would bring socio economic benefits to Skye, enabling the Gaelic speaking communities to retain and develop their social cohesion.
With a passionate commitment to the Gaelic language and heritage, and an intuitive understanding of linguistic and cultural identity being fundamental to economic development, particularly, in rural economies, Sir Iain founded the Gaelic College of Sabhal Mòr (Big Barn) within the old stone walls of the historic steading at Ostaig.
What started with a handful of students has now grown into a multi campus educational and academic institution, an autonomous partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands, unique in offering further education through the medium of Scottish Gaelic. With an increasing number of students attending, the College currently has around 1,500 students a year taking part in its courses, either through distance learning, short courses, or on site full-time courses.
The Gaelic College has acted as a vibrant catalyst in the economic and social regeneration of Skye, and is a key contributor to the local economy.
To acknowledge this legacy and significant landmark, Lucilla, Lady Noble recently presented a new prize to the College in the form of a special commemorative ‘Quaich’ (a traditional Scottish drinking vessel), in Sir Iain’s name, which celebrates the 50th anniversary and also acknowledges a particular individual contribution to traditional Gaelic song.
The words engraved on the Quaich read:
Duais Shir Iain Nobail –
A’ comharrachadh 50mh ceann-bliadhna Shabhal Mòr Ostaig
Airson dealas agus dìcheill a thaobh òrain na Gàidhlig.
Which translates into English as:
The Sir Iain Noble Prize –
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
For commitment and endeavor on behalf of Gaelic Song.
Around the outside of the Quaich is engraved a favourite Gaelic quote of Sir Iain’s:
Thig crioch air an t-saoghal, ach mairidh gaol agus ceòl
‘The world may come to an end, but love and music go on forever’
At the College’s recent annual graduation ceremony, Lucilla Noble was delighted to present this prize to it’s first recipient, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Jennie Duncan, as seen in the picture.
In recognition of the historic bond between Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and Eilean Iarmain, Lucilla Noble was the sponsor of the graduation on this 50th anniversary year. The drinks sponsors of the evening was Pràban na Linne (the “small smugglers enterprise on the Sound!”) founded in 1976 by Sir Noble, to produce the Gaelic Whiskies, and the Gaelic Gins founded by Lucilla Noble. They will also be sponsoring the upcoming annual Sir Iain Noble Memorial lecture at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the 16th of November.
For more information about Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, please visit their website