Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gaelic witnesses at Nairn 1877

It really is astonishing the amount of material that is available out there on the net. Recently Gurn researchers came across an article stored on the National Library of New Zealand's 'Papers past' resource. More evidence of how Gaelic was once heard a lot more in Nairn in daily life, this article is from 1877.

Scarcely a week passes Says the ( 'Nairnshire Telegraph') without some witnesses before the Nairn Sheriff Court refusing to give evidence in English, alleging that they can only speak Gaelic. Recently an amusing case of this kind occurred. A woman on being put into the witness-box informed the bar-officer that she had no English — not a word.. The Sheriff — Sit down, my good woman. The Bar-Officer— " Gin sui," (sit down.) The Sheriff— Hasn't she got English ? The Bar-Officer— She says not, my lord. The Sheriff -r- Don't you understand any English at all ? Witness— Na, na. The Sheriff — I think you can now. Who served this woman with the summons ? Sergeant Fraser— l did, my lord. The Sheriff-— Did you speak to her in English ? Sergeant Eraser — I did, and she can speak very good English. The witness here protested-that this was not the case. The Sheriff — After what the officer has stated, I believe you can speak and understand English quite well. Now, if you persist in refusing fco speak English I will have to lead proof that you can speak it, and then I will have to send you to prison, as I had to do to a witness a short time ago who told the same story as you are doing. If you even give us broken English that will do. Witness — I can speak broad Scotch. (Laughter.) The Sheriff—Broad Scotch ! That will do. It is broad Scotch wr all sp eak here. When we attempt to speak fine English we only make fools of ourselves. (Laughter.) Witness then gave evidence in excellent English. Being°questioned whether she had heard a man ask another to fight, she answered that he invited him to fight. The Sheriff — Invited him to fight ! That is not only capital English, but an excellent law term. When you come back again never say, my good woman, that you don't speak English !
'Gin sui', spelt 'dèan suidhe' today.

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