An Teachdaire Gaidhealach

This article has been reprinted from An Teachdaire Gaidhealach 46, An t-Sultain 1998, page 2.

The Long Story of "An Teachdaire Gaidhealach"

Peter Alexander

This is issue No 46 of a Gaelic (and English) language paper which has had four lives; it is a remarkable story of enduring devotion against the odds, and of survival and fight-back.

The earliest issues, as far as we know, came out in Glasgow in the 1820s. In the formal broadsheet appearance of those days - actual size was nearer foolscap - it presented news and opinions in Gaelic and also in English. In those times there was none of the modern journalistic attempt to relieve the severity of presentation. It was line by line, formal and stern. We don't know how long that early "Teachdaire" came out for.

But we do know that it appeared again - in Tasmania - twenty years later. The format was much the same. The masthead was our title with a kilted Scot. This was in the 1850s. This "Teachdaire" again appeared monthly and contained both Gaelic and English. It reported news from both Tasmania and mainland Australia. What its circulation was is unknown. It is known however that it ran for nine monthly issues, before whatever the difficulties of the time and place were (money, we suspect) became too much. However, copies were preseved in the Public Libraries of Sydney and Melbourne, and perhaps elsewhere. Format was very similar to that of Glasgow - it was a genuine revival and continuation. There things rested for over 124 years - until 1981 - in Sydney.

“In those times there was none
of the modern journalistic
attempt to relieve the
severity of presentation.

Here the Council for Scottish Gaelic had been created to organise the operational side of the Scottish Gaelic program to be conducted over SBS Station 2 EA - a program still running. Reid Stewart drew attention to the idea of re-starting the "Teachdaire". He, and the small group of Gaels, sought copies of the Tasmanian issues and resumed publication in December 1981, with apologies to readers for missing publication for over 124 years. Katie Graham was first editor, and the editorial committee along with her were Peter Alexander, Reid Stewart, Duncan MacLeod, and Angus MacKenzie. After a few issues Duncan MacLeod became editor. Format again was very similar except that the kilted Scot of the masthead had become more military, with a bearskin. We sought copy - bardachd, letters, and articles, and conducted a few lively controversies. The editor led a campaign to awaken the many Scottish Societies to the need to support Gaelic. This third "life" of "An Teachdaire" came to another suspension with issue No 45, after nine years of devotion by its editor.

AND NOW with the surge forward in Sydney of all things Celtic, "An Teachdaire" begins its fourth life with issue No 46. Incorporating the former "Litir Ghaidhlig" we are retaining the old masthead, in a modernised presentation. We seek input from native speakers, from fluent learners and from students. Relevant Gaelic/English contributions are welcome. We seek them from YOU in Australia, as well as from Scotland and Nova Scotia.

Then, this fourth lifetime will be a long one - and another chapter in what is a romantic and moving proof that GAELIC SHALL NOT DIE.

Editorial comment: "The Sydney Morning Herald" on Monday, January 11, 1982 reported as follows:
A Scottish "first". The Council for Scottish Gaelic suspects that Gaelic was the first non-English language used in an Australian periodical. In 1857, in Tasmania, a monthly magazine, An Teachdaire Gaidhealach (The Gaelic Messenger) was published for Gaelic speakers. Now, after a lapse of a century and a quarter, the Council is plannning to resume publication and has asked us whether Gaelic was in fact the first "ethnic" language printed in a periodical in this country. It took quite a lot of investigation but our research confirms the Council's opinion. There was no shortage of Gaelic speakers in nineteenth century Australia. Shipping records prove that migrant vessels sailed direct to Australia from the Scottish Hebrides. They even carried Gaelic-speaking doctors.