Say It Isn't So

Monday, January 02, 2006


My Mother was born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec in the early 1900's. Her parents were born there as well. Her grandparents were born in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland.
They came over in the mid 1800's to eke out a living, birth and raise their children. At the time the area was full of Scotsmen. They would pull up all the stone out of the earth, till the soil and build walls and things with all those rocks. Her grandparents went back to the old country to end their days, and leave their remains with the soil from which they came.

My Mother did not learn to speak English until she went to school. Her native tongue was Gaelic. She used to sing me Gaelic songs when I was a little girl. I can only remember some words: Sommalaytha (phoenetic spelling, and I don't know what it means, perhaps something about sleep) and Kayla (pronounced Kay-huh-la) which means doll. It is a very gutteral language reminiscent to me of a Germanic tongue.

By the time I had come along she had lost a lot of her memory of this language, but I wish that I had taken the time to learn what I could of it. It is my understanding that it is an endangered language. I know that all language evolves but it is a shame when it just whithers.

The following is in English and is taken from the Burns Country website:

The 'exceedingly expressive' germphrase has been taced back to an anonymous ballad in the Bannatyne Manuscript of 1568, 'Auld Kyndnes foryett'. The last of the eight stanzas goes:

"They wald me hals with hude and hatt,
Quhyle I wes rich and had anewch,
About me friends anew I gatt,
Rycht blythlie on me they lewch;
But now they mak it wondir tewch,
And lattis me stand befoir the yett;
Thairfoir this warld is very frewch,
And auld kyndnes is quyt foryett."

From that anonymous old poet's complaint of man's ingratitude, we move on to a slightly later ballad, probably by the courtly poet Sir Robert Ayton (1570-1638) who accompanied James VI and I to England, though sometimes attributed on little evidence to Francis Sempill of Beltrees (d. 1683?). First published in Watson's Choice Collection of Scots Poems, 1711, the anthology upon which the whole of the 18th Century Scots Revival was based, Ayton's poem begins:

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never thought upon,
The flames of love extinguished,
And freely past and gone?
Is thy kind heart now grown so cold
In that loving breast of thine,
That thou canst never once reflect
On old-long-syne?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

Personally, I like to remember the past. I think that it is good to remember what went before. It is good to learn from the past, especially what we know to be our mistakes. Yes we should remember. Just don't dwell in it!

Happy New Year!


At 12:29 PM, January 02, 2006, Blogger Pris said...

Mouse....beautiful memories and post. I don't think there's a thing wrong with remembering the past. Over the course of about 15 years, I created a family scrapbook, now passed to a second cousin. In it, I put any ancestral photos,along with all the stories my mother had told me about them, then added photos of my mother and sibs in their youth on, with stories, and so on. The scrapbook is considered a family treasure now, as it brings those gone alive again.

At 6:14 PM, January 02, 2006, Blogger mouse said...

Hi Pris, my brother is the keeper of most of the old family albums. There are pictures of family members gone by that no one can put names to on my Mom's side. My Dad did an extensive search of his tree after my Mom departed this world. It was good of you to do this for your family. May they cherish it for generations to come.

At 10:03 AM, January 04, 2006, Blogger mdmhvonpa said...

Heh ... my grandmother would speak to me in czheck every so often ... my mother even rarer. I can't even recall a single word of it these days.

At 9:14 AM, January 06, 2006, Blogger mouse said...

Sir Mdm, As we expect our immigrants to learn and speak the American version of English, the generations will lose the ancestral languages. Even I will get a little miffed when I go into a grocery store and the signage is all in Spanish! They lose my business. So I guess we bring it upon ourselves.


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