Featured Posts

Hello world! Please change me in Site Preferences -> This Category/Section -> Lower Description Bar


Dec 2014

Comhairle na Gàidhlig teams up with Colaisde na Gàidhlig to support youth language mentorship program

Posted by / in Featured Posts, News /

Photo: Students take part in recent Na Gaisgich Òga weekend in newly-designated ‘Taigh na Gàidhlig’ or ‘Gaelic House’ at Colaisde na Gàidhlig, St. Ann’s.
L-R, Back: Joe MacMaster (Troy), Mairead Matheson (Antigonish), Sarah MacInnis (Mabou), Abigail MacDonald (St. Andrew’s), Tonya Fry (Comhairle na Gàidhlig), Colin MacDonald (Colaisde na Gàidhlig), Emily MacDonald (Instructor), Archie MacDonald (Emily’s son, Ainslie Glen), Goiridh Dòmhnullach (Gaelic Affairs) Front: Grace Campbell (Sydney), Eilidh Campbell (Mabou), Paige Campbell (Whycocomagh), Mairinn Campbell (Mabou), Mark MacDonald (St. Andrew’s)

After a successful inaugural year for Na Gaisgich Òga | The Young Heroes, a youth mentorship program for Gaelic language and culture, the initiative is back again, this time with support from Comhairle na Gàidhlig | the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia. With the intention to cover all entry fees for participants, the Council has donated $5,000 to the program.

Comhairle na Gàidhlig is a non-profit organization first established in 1990. With a mission to “lead in creating an environment that makes Nova Scotia a place where Gaelic language, culture, and communities thrive,” the group works to strengthen the community through their means of support. In year 2 of a 5 year restructuring plan, the council is moving in a direction of bringing together leaders with a unified vision, more provincial lobbying and advocacy, while focusing attention on youth.

“Our community is seeing more of the younger generations coming to fluency with the language,” says Tonya Fry, Vice President of the Gaelic Council. “Comhairle na Gàidhlig is interested in assisting in the facilitation of language learning for all young Gaels. The development of language skills will strengthen the connection to the history and culture for these young people. It is an investment in the future of Gaelic Nova Scotia. We are proud to support Colaisde na Gàidhlig in this initiative. Partnerships, such as this, between Gaelic organizations will also strengthen our community and build a stronger future for all Gaels.”

Developed by Colaisde na Gàidhlig | The Gaelic College, with partnered support from Nova Scotia Gaelic Affairs, the Na Gaisgich Òga program is an immersive Gaelic language and culture learning opportunity for Nova Scotian youth ages 10 to 15. After an application-based entry process, 10 youth are paired with a personal language mentor from their respective communities. Throughout the duration of the seven-month program, students work closely with designated mentors and participate in monthly immersion sessions led by Colaisde na Gàidhlig Gaelic Director Colin MacDonald, instructor Emily MacDonald, and GA Gaelic Field Officer, Goiridh Dòmhnullach.

“We’re thrilled that Na Gaisgich Òga participants are now able to take part in the program free of charge, thanks to the support from Comhairle na Gàidhlig,” says Gaelic College CEO Rodney MacDonald. “This is really a unique opportunity for young Gaelic learners, and having support from such organizations is of huge benefit to students.”



Please select the social network you want to share this page with:


Nov 2014

The Award-Winning, Gail Montgomery!

Posted by / in Featured Posts, News /



Halifax, N.S. (November 26, 2014) – On November 25th the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) hosted the 2014 Crystal Tourism Awards as the grand finale to the 37th Annual Tourism Summit – Tourism Works for Nova Scotia. Nine Crystal Tourism Awards of Excellence were presented to organizations and individuals who have excelled in their particular category. The winners this year are:

– Mr. Donald Wallace – Alastair and Frances Campbell Tourism Achievement Award
– NovaScotian Crystal – Tourism Business of the Year Award
– Scotiabank Bluenose Marathon – Ambassador Award
– Wolfville Magic Winery Bus Tour – Tourism Innovator Award
– Ms. Wendy Swedlove – Human Resource Leadership Award
– Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design – Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award
– Ms. Gail Montgomery – Golden Hospitality Award
– Mr. Eldon George – Tourism Champion
– Organizing Committee, Sherbrooke Village Old Fashioned Christmas – Community Service Award

Also presented were the 2014 Pineapple Awards – a celebration of our Pride in Service and of the individuals who go above and beyond to enrich visitor experiences. Throughout the year, visitors to Nova Scotia complete Pineapple Awards ballots located in hundreds of establishments throughout the province. The winners this year are:

– Mr. Glen Morrison – Hampton Inn by Hilton, Membertou
– Ms. Liz Ingram-Chambers – Le Bistro By Liz, Halifax
– Ms. Tish Moses – Yarmouth Visitor Information Centre, Yarmouth

Working with partner associations and stakeholders, TIANS is committed to representing the best interests of the Industry; enhancing and supporting the development of a competitive business environment; advocating on issues critical to the Industry’s success; and most importantly, leading Nova Scotia’s most promising economic sector.


Our Award Nomination

Growing up in Tarbot, and now living just a wee hike up the road from the Gaelic College on the North Shore, Gail intimately knows the area, its offerings, and its people. She grew up in a family gifted with a natural ability for creativity, talented with their hands and minds. At a young age, she found herself to be creative and skilled, taking a liking to sewing in particular. It was in 1980 Gail first began at the Gaelic College, where she worked and studied as a kiltmaker. This would lead to fulltime employment and, with time, passing the lessons, skills, and attention to detail she developed on to her own understudy. She had a keen sense of organization, making her ideal for Craft Shop management. Her trustworthy presence and loyalty to the institution made for only more opportunity, with Gail taking on the title of Director of Hospitality, the position she still holds today.

To say Gail is dedicated is an understatement, with the College becoming a huge part of her life as she works tirelessly to ensure each guest has a positive experience, and the College maintains a reputation in good standing.  Since taking on the role of hostess with the most, hospitality rentals on our campus have gone through the roof. With a College like no other, and little to no advertising of hospitality offerings, Gail has made quite the name for herself and the impeccable service she provides. Her work has provided a source of income for all seasons, and kept this non-profit, independent institution running strong.

It is the usual case for Gail to do complete preparations for every event; decorating, looking after any special requirements, welcoming guests, serving food, bartending, volunteering her husband John, and then cleaning and preparing for the next day, all well into the wee hours. Early mornings, weekends, holidays, and the other countless hours she puts in have made Gail a most trusted member of staff, and a true source of inspiration. The College has been standing for 76 years, with Gail a huge part of its history, now for over 34 years.

Gail epitomizes Nova Scotian hospitality, welcoming all guests to campus as if it were her own kitchen. Her down-to-earth manner, coupled with her energy, enthusiasm, and attention to detail ensure each visitor is made to feel special. We can think of no better recipient for your Golden Hospitality award than Mrs. Gail Montgomery.

Please select the social network you want to share this page with:


Nov 2014

From Our Sewing Room

Posted by / in Featured Posts, News /

You have to admit, ‘kiltmaker’ is a pretty neat occupation to have, and one that the sewing room ladies hold with great pride and respect to history. However, it’s also provided a few good laughs over the years, as the curious-minded visitor have often asked many questions in such regard. Therefore, we asked the Ann and Jenni just that — what are the most frequently asked questions you hear regarding kilts?


6) What do I need to wear with my kilt?

A) When you wear your kilt, you must wear a sporran, kilt hose, and flashes. Everything else is optional — including underwear!


5) Do you make a 6, 7, or 8 yard kilt?

A) A kilt at the Gaelic College is made according to the size of a man’s hip. For example, with a hip measurement of 44” or less, we use ‘the whole nine yards.’ More yardage is required for a hip size greater than 46”.
*Fun fact: It’s from the making of a kilt that the common saying ‘the whole nine yards’ comes from!


4) What is the proper length of a kilt?

A) The kilt should stop at the top of the knee cap and there should be 4” – 5” between where the kilt stops and the top of the sock begins.


3) Who can wear a kilt?

A) Traditionally, the kilt is a man’s garment, but a woman in a pipe band can wear a kilt, and all highland dancers can wear a kilt.


2) Is there such a thing as a utility kilt, a dress kilt, or a casual kilt?

A) No — it is the shoes and top you wear with your kilt that determines whether a kilt is for work, for a casual occasion, or a formal occasion.


1) What is worn under the kilt?

A) Nothing is worn — everything is in perfect working order. 😉



Please select the social network you want to share this page with:


Oct 2014

Message from our CEO, Rodney MacDonald

Posted by / in Featured Posts, News /

A’ chàirdean choir  |  Dear friends,

2014 has been a very busy and fulfilling year for the Gaelic College; a year which saw us welcome more students at our school, introduce a new island-wide festival, and saw more visitors coming through our doors.

Our new festival, KitchenFest! | Féis a’ Chidsin! brought together hundreds of visitors and locals alike, included well over one hundred local musicians, and promoted our authentic Cape Breton style music and Gaelic language. We already look forward to next years’ festivities, taking place from June 27-July 4, 2015, which will be even bigger and better!

Excellence in education continues to be our goal as an institution. This is the case whether it involves our usual summer programming, welcoming students nationally and internationally, or our other programming opportunities at a local level. Initiatives such as Na Gaisgich Òga/The Young Heroes are important as we continue to work with our partners to ensure more Gaelic speakers with a deeply rooted knowledge of their language and culture. Both Nova Scotia Gaelic Affairs and Comhairle na Gàidhlig – The Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia are important supporters in this regard.

Other partnerships continue to play a critical role in Colaisde na Gàidhlig’s ‘day to day’ activities. Our MOU with Cape Breton University moves us forward by offering onsite, credited courses including one for Gaelic language in the spring of 2015. Celtic Colours International Festival bring thousands through our doors and our daily offerings of cultural demonstrations and ceilidhs make our site an even busier place to be. As a result, the College is growing more quickly than ever before. We have greater interest, greater participation, and a renewed focus on improving our capital infrastructure. Improving our campus is integral as we plan for the years ahead. We are thinking, planning, and acting for the long term benefit of our people.

As we move forward towards 2015, I wish to acknowledge the work of our staff, Board of Governors, volunteers, and alumni in their continued support of Colaisde na Gàidhlig/ The Gaelic College!

Suas leis a’ Ghàidhlig! Up with the Gaelic!

Honourable Rodney J. MacDonald

Please select the social network you want to share this page with:


Jul 2014

“Play it again, St. Ann’s”

Posted by / in Featured Posts, News /



Encore performances are planned after a successful run of three local plays that launched during Kitchenfest at the Cape Breton Gaelic College in St. Anns, Victoria County.

St. Ann’s Bay Players artistic director Bev Brett adapted Alistair MacLeod’s dark comedy Vision for the stage and wrote two short plays, Don’t Let the Cat Out and The New Shoes, based on two humorous local Gaelic tales.

Audiences at Kitchenfest loved the plays, said Brett, so the 34-year-old local theatre company decided to stage six more offerings Thursdays and Fridays at the college.

The plays ran for three nights during the inaugural Kitchenfest event and the last night was a sold-out show. Encore performances run July 10, 11, 17, 18 and 31, and Aug. 1. Tickets are available from the Gaelic college.

The short plays are slapstick farce, said Brett, and while MacLeod’s Vision contains a lot of humour, the play remains true to MacLeod’s powerful words and is not aimed at young audiences.

“Comedy is great, but this is a little dark humour,” said Brett. “It’s a PG rating with some sexual stuff in it.”

All three plays contain some Gaelic language and song, but the stories and the humour are accessible for everyone, including tourists, she said.

Cape Bretoners will get an extra kick out of recognizing the stories and accents of the actors, though.

“People come from all over the island to see our shows,” Brett said. “We’re still aiming for our local audience, but it would be great to get some tourists, as well.”


Please select the social network you want to share this page with:


Jun 2014

KitchenFest! Q+A: Heather Rankin

Posted by / in Featured Posts, News /

Leah: Good morning, Heather, it’s nice to talk to you. You’re in Mabou this morning, is that your home base?

Heather: Well, I live in Halifax, but my husband and I are from the same community – Mabou – and his father is a fisherman. He fishes with his father in the spring. He and I usually come up here this time of the year. So I’m normally up here this time of the year, unless I’m working, you know, I’ve been doing some acting, recently in theatre, and that keeps me away.

Leah: Neat, which theatre?

Heather: Neptune, I did a couple of shows there last year. Have you heard of Daniel MacIvor? He’s from the Sydney area. He’s written plays like Marion Bridge, and dozens of other plays and a few films. So I did one of his shows at Neptune, in the Fall of 2012, and then I did another of his shows called Something Small, a new show that was sort of a workshop of his show, I did that at the Chester Playhouse, in the summer of 2013. And then I did a Michael Melski show. He’s also from the Sydney area.  He’s a screenwriter and playwright, and his play called Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad, I did that at Neptune last fall.

Leah: Neat, so is that a new interest of yours?

Heather: It’s actually what I studied in University! I had planned to go and continue my education in the theatre, but then we made our first record in the Fall of 1989, and that was sort of like a tsunami, it happened really fast. And then I was committed to working with the Rankin Family for five years, the commitment we wade when we first sat down to see if we could make a living, at this.  And it wasn’t five years and we were off to the races.

Leah: Yes, you guys did really well!

Heather: Well, yes, but it was something we’d been doing most of our lives, so I guess, you know, it didn’t feel like it was overnight to us, because we’d been working at it our entire lives. But once it got going, it was … it snowballed. The big stuff happened really fast. Like, we did two records, our first two records, within one year. “The Rankin Family” was the first one, and then before the year was up, we were in recording our second one. And then it wasn’t long after our second one, a year and a bit, that we had a record deal. And then we went in and recorded “North Country.” It all happened really fast.

Leah: But like you said, you’d been practicing your whole life, pretty much.

Heather: Yeah, yeah. The first two records, the first one especially, was mostly music we’d been singing since we were kids. And we threw a bit of everything in that we’d been doing.

Leah: So you’re going to be opening KitchenFest, essentially! You’re going to be playing the opening concert on June 29th. I’ve heard that you’ve been practicing lots of material for this show, as well as working on an album with David Tyson, in LA. That’s exciting!

Heather: What’s interesting about it all is that I’d never felt that it was an ambition of mine to be a solo artist. It’s just because of the circumstances, that if I want to continue to sing, this seemed like the obvious step. I’d been writing a little bit on my own, but I really didn’t know what kind of record I wanted to make. Because I could have gone into the studio with somebody and done all traditional material, and when I started the process I did go in with a completely open mind. I had a bucket of songs from other people, I had some traditional material, but I really wasn’t certain what direction I wanted to go in. Until I met David Tyson, and he’s a prolific writer.

Leah: He wrote “Black Velvet,” right?

Heather: Yeah, he co-wrote a lot of the songs on that album, and he produced that album for Alannah Myles with Christopher Ward. But he also co-wrote and produced an Amanda Marshall record, that was really successful, which included the song “Birmingham.” So, we met, and it was mostly just discussion, the first couple of meetings. We shared a couple of our songs, and we ended up writing a couple together. He invited me to contribute to a couple of his songs, and vice versa, and before you knew it, we had a pile of songs! We’re still picking away at it. I don’t have a deadline. Although, I’ve said the release date is this fall, I’m taking my time. I want to make sure that I’m, you know, not pressuring myself with a deadline. I don’t have a release time, so that’s all open.

Leah: Is the album already with a record company?

Heather: No, I’m releasing it independently, and independently funding it, which is part of why it takes so long. Because it’s an expensive venture! Travelling back and forth to LA, as that’s where David Tyson is based.

Leah: I would think it’s good to take your time, then you know you’ve honed everything to the point where you’re really happy with it.

Heather: Exactly. And you know it’s interesting, because he comes from a completely different musical background than I do. I think our different backgrounds make for an interesting mix.

Leah: Would you say it’s more ‘pop’?

Heather: Yes, I would say it’s more pop, I think some of the writing could be considered country, too.

Leah: Well, that’s really exciting! Will you be singing some of the new material at the concert here on the 29th?

Heather: I’m going to try and do a couple, of my new songs, yeah! And a couple of songs from the Rankin Family days. And a couple of things that are more traditional. It’s only a 25-minute set, so that’s really just four or five songs, but I am going to try and get that all in. Now, because it’s a completely different animal than jumping back into what I did with the Rankin Family, it takes time, sitting around with a new group of players, sculpting some of the older songs. And I don’t have a big, full back-up band to cover all of the instruments that you would hear in a recorded version of one of my new songs. So it really does take time, sitting around with a group of players and sculpting out a good representation of the songs for a live performance, with only four players.

So I’ve been working with Mac Morin, Wendy MacIsaac, Cathy Porter and Clarence Deveaux in Mabou and Halifax working up versions of the songs. Mac Morin tours with Natalie MacMaster mostly, these days, but he’s probably one of the most sought-after piano players for that genre of music. He’s very conscientious, a very artistic guy. He can play any style if he puts his mind to it. And Wendy MacIsaac, she’s covering some mandolin parts and some violin parts. Clarence is a beautiful guitar player and he toured with the Rankins back in the day. Cathy brings some very complimentary percussion to the mix. They’re all great musicians.

Leah: Wow, that’s going to be an amazing show!

Heather: Well, I hope so! It’s all just trial and error, at this point, for me. It’s exciting. But it’s terrifying at the same time. You know, I always considered myself to be a cog in the Rankin Family wheel, and now all of a sudden, all of that sibling support is not there, so it’s about trusting myself and trusting these other people, that we’ll be able to carry it over.

Leah: What a good place to be able to do that, at the Gaelic College, it’s such a supportive atmosphere.

Heather: Yes, exactly, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to launch. Rodney’s been so generous, inviting me to be part of [KitchenFest]. I was really quite touched and I feel very privileged to be part of that event. I think it’s a brilliant concept! It’s such a fantastic time of year. When you wake up and see the buds on the trees, and farmers tilling the soil, and the fishermen going out with their traps, it is like a rebirth, and what better thing to celebrate than the coming of the new season. I think it’s a brilliant concept and I hope it’s well-attended. People have really put in a long winter and it is time for celebration.

Leah: Absolutely! Now, this next question I wanted to ask you is something I’ve been asking the various people I’ve been interviewing. The name of the festival, of course, is KitchenFest. And I wanted to talk a little bit about the kitchen, and a bit about memories. We all know that the kitchen is so central to the Gaelic culture, and the Cape Breton Scots culture. I’d love to hear more about your memories of the kitchen, what has it meant to you? Do you have a specific kitchen that you remember when you think about the Cape Breton kitchen?

Heather: Much of my childhood memories are from our kitchen, in the old house on Back Street, the house that we grew up in. Across the street from Katie Ann Cameron. We didn’t have much, but there was linoleum tile on that kitchen floor and it kind of sloped to one end of the house, because it was built over a cellar, an old, uneven foundation. The tiles were grey and white, and my mother, once a week would clean it on her hands and knees, and then she would wax it. And then she had this big polisher, an electric polisher that she would go over it with, and it would shine, you could see your face in it!

But she and my father, and our family, we entertained many people in that kitchen. In the centre of the kitchen was a big wood stove, where my mother baked bread, at least once a week, at times it may have been twice a week. One of our regular visitors… which is sadly a dying tradition, visiting, and one of the few places you can go in the world where that still happens, I think, is Cape Breton… I don’t know if it happens everywhere in Cape Breton but in Inverness Country where it’s still very rural, people still visit one another. Anyway, Katie Ann Cameron (mother of John Allan Cameron) used to come over in the afternoon, and she would sit at the end of the table, and she would share stories, and whoever came, they never left without having a cup of tea, or a drink, or something to eat. It was part of the custom.

And often, I remember, in our summers, we would be outside playing. Summer, you know, is the time when people who were born and raised in Cape Breton and transplanted to different parts of the world to find work, that’s the time people come back and visit. And get a taste of home. And so often in the summer people would make the rounds, visiting, and I can recall being called in from playing to sing, or to stepdance, for whoever was in visiting.

Leah: And that tile floor must have been good for stepdancing!

Heather: Yeah, oh yeah, that poor floor.

Leah: No wonder your poor mother had to clean it all the time!

Heather: Yes, and you know, the dining room, too, although it was usually messier! Oh, our mother tried so hard, she had seven girls, to get us to clean with her, and we did all that time but there was just nowhere to put stuff! Closets didn’t exist, and there were fourteen of us living in a three-bedroom house, with an attic space where we had a couple of beds. It was a crowded space, but I have a lot of good memories.

Leah: One last question… so you’ve travelled pretty extensively with the Rankin Family and your own ventures, but you maintain close ties with home. You co-own the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou, and like you said earlier, you and your husband come home often and spend time here. So could you speak to that connection to Cape Breton? I mean, we all know that feeling, that feeling of being rooted here… but could you speak to playing for a Cape Breton audience, how is it different?

Heather: You know, I think it’s probably one of the hardest things to do in a way, because those people know good music. They know good playing, they’re appreciative of good music. But it’s also a good feeling because you know people really want you to do well, and they’re supportive. And they’re proud! So that’s a big responsibility to live up to all of that.

It’s interesting, you raised the point about the rootedness, and it’s a good topic of conversation because, you know, you try and define what it is that makes people long to return here. And even people who weren’t born and raised here, when they come here they make this connection, it’s a very powerful place. I’ve often thought, is it nostalgia? For my childhood? To be able to run free and never be afraid? Or is it the strong sense of community? For the people who settled here in Cape Breton, family and community and supporting one another, and faith, were all very strong things. And people who grew up here identify with all those things.

Leah: Yes, there’s a strong sense of community, and of caring about each other.

Heather: And a strong sense of belonging, that you matter. Especially in a time when we’re living in a world that’s so homogenized, and it’s so difficult to connect with other people, those things that we identify with Cape Breton ring more true now than they ever have.

It’s interesting, I was driving home the other day to come to Cape Breton to open our pub, with my sister who came from California, and both of us, as we were approaching Cape Breton we could see it, and we were saying how every time we go back, we are reminded how incredibly beautiful it is. And as you approach the island, you’re struck by… this incredible weight is just lifted from your shoulders. I don’t know why! It’s just this sense of belonging. It’s such a secure feeling, going home. I think most people who come from here feel that same thing, that feeling of connectedness.