The first Gaelic radio broadcast, a religious service, was transmitted in December 1923. The service expanded to include the songs and music of the Gael, and during the Second World War a most welcome news bulletin in Gaelic was introduced. Gaelic radio has expanded dramatically since the early days of the crystal receiver.
The up-to-date station of Radio nan Eilean was opened in Stornoway in October 1979, and since 1996, transmitter expansion and the rearrangement of frequencies has meant that 90% of the audience in Scotland can now enjoy a comprehensive Gaelic radio service.
We broadcast for about 65 hours each week on Radio nan Gaidheal (103.5 -105 FM) - and over 100 hours of Gaelic language television programmes each year on BBC ONE and BBC TWO. Each service has a range of programmes and it is our aim to serve all of our varied audience and viewing public. The website is the latest addition to our broadcasting achievements.
Despite the predominance of English, Gaelic is the language in longest continuous use in Scotland. Its roots can be traced back to the settlement in the Argyll region of the Irish colony of Dal Riada, embryonic kingdom of the Scots. The inhabitants of Ireland called themselves "Gaidheil," or Gaels, and "Gàidhlig" or Gaelic was their language.
Saints, soldiers and politicians helped to spread Gaelic throughout Scotland. It seems to have had a golden age between the 9th and 12th centuries. The health of Gaelic was guaranteed through its use as the language of the royal court, and of the courts of law.
By the Middle Ages Gaelic was weakened and English was advancing. Gaelic held out in rural parts of Scotland, and was spoken in parts of Ayrshire up until the 17th century, but by the early 19th century it was beginning to disappear in areas of west Perthshire.
The clearances of rural populations by landlords in the second half of the 19th century resulted in a rapid depopulation of Gaelic speaking areas in the Highlands and the creation of significant Gaelic speaking colonies in the cities. The cities became the focus of the cultural regeneration of Gaelic in the late 19th and early 20th century. Celtic Departments were established at universities, and publishing houses helped to conserve the language and traditions. Radio, and later, television, have made major contributions to the same goal.
The education of the young is crucial to the survival of Gaelic, and the establishment of "cròileagain" or playgroups and Gaelic medium schooling should enhance its prospects.