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Gaelic for the Clan

WITH Scottish members and annual gatherings in Braemar, take a moment to learn about Gaelic, the language of the Scots.

Gaelic teacher and Clan Farquharson member Arthur Findlay (pictured) provides a guide for beginners to the historic language.

Gaelic uses letters of the alphabet: only 18 of the 26 we use in English. No J, K, Q, V, W, X,Y or Z. But what about Farquharson, MacKenzie and Macintyre among others?

They are of course in their English dress, and some of them are the results of happy-go-lucky spelling in English peculiar to Scotland. The origins of these names are MacFhearchair (son of Fearchar or Farquhar), MacCoinnech (son of Coinneach or Kenneth) and Mac an t-saoir (son of the carpenter).

Fearchar, the origin of Farquhar, becomes in the ‘of’ or genitive form of Fheachair. Yes it is pronounceable. It sounds Err-ach-uth, (ch as in loch, th as in the) the FH being silent. Mac may mean a burger to most people, but to us in the clan it means ‘a son’. So Farquharson becomes MacFhearchair. Mac is pronounced Machk.

Our worthy chief, Farquharson of Invercauld, becomes Mac Mhic Fhionnlaigh, pronounced Machk Veechk Yoon-lay (being a descendent of Finlay Mor or Fionnlagh Mór, which does NOT sound like maw). The name Finlay comes from Fionn Laoch ‘fair hero’ and was in old Gaelic Fionnd laoch, hence the d in Findlay, which is the older form of the name.

Fair Land is Fionnfhonn (Fyoo-nun), which I guess could be the origin of Finzean. The Cairn of Rememberance is Càrn na Cuimhne. The only difficult word there is the last one, pronounced Koo-inuh. Many of the letters with H in the middle and ends of words are silent, as English has lots of silent letters like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

How are you coping so far? In fact how are you? In Gaelic Ciamar a tha thu? (Kimmer a how?) The reply would be fine, thanks: Tha gu math, tapadh leat (Hagger ma, tahhpper let). HH means heavy breathing.

Three other phrases: Good Morning: Maduimn mhath (Matting va); Good evening: Feasgar math (Fessker Ma);; Good night: Oidhche mhath (Oich-eh va). Ma as in mat. Va as in vat NOT mah and vah, please!

Useful phrases

  • Gordon Farquharson, President – Gòrdon Ceann-suidhe (Kyown-sooya).

    Valerie Farquharson, Secretary – Valarie Rùnaire (Roonara). Fallain (Falaheen) is ‘in good health’ (which is what Valerie means) but I have never heard it used as a name.

    Andrew the Farmer, Treasurer – Anndra Tuathanach MacSporain (Owndra Tooa-hanach Machk Sporan).

    Geoffrey Farquharson – Goiridh (Gory) MacFhearchair.

    Arthur Findlay – Artair MacFhionnlaigh (Arster Mach-kyoonlay).

    The Lion’s Face – Aodann an Leòghainn (aotan – for ao say oo with a smile – un lyohghan).

    Good health and up with Gaelic – Slàinte mhath agus suas leis a’Ghàidhlig (slahn-tcher va aghus sooas lesh uh Ghahlik).


History of the Clan Farquharson