Land of Falling Water

‘Eas’ in the Gaelic landscape marks a named waterfall

Leugh ann an Gàidhlig

There must be thousands of waterfalls cascading off mountains in the Scottish Highlands, most of which are marked on our maps with the simple English label ‘waterfall’. But there is a considerable number that have their local significance recognised with a Gaelic name – usually carrying the element eas, the most common word for a waterfall or cascade. The word is pronounced ‘ESS’ and I have often thought of it as onomatopoeic – although perhaps not after a heavy rainfall when many waterfalls begin to thunder, rather than hiss.

It will be no surprise to most of us who have experienced a waterfall in full spate on a dark and overcast day that a common descriptor found with eas is bàn ‘fair, white’. In the Inverinate Forest, for example, the Eas Bàn ‘fair waterfall’ tumbles into Allt Bàn an Lì-Ruighe, a stream whose complex name is likely to mean ‘the fair burn of the slope next to the ground that floods’.

The Eas Bàn on Allt Bàn an Lì-ruighe, Inverinate Forest. The waterfall is at the upper end of a corrie called Coire an Eas Bhàin ‘the corrie of the fair waterfall’.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Geal is another word used for ‘white’, representing the type of brightness we see in snow. Its inflected form ghil is seen in Eas an t-Srutha Ghil ‘the waterfall of the white stream’ which is above Loch nan Caorach ‘the loch of the sheep’ in Assynt. Close to it is an even more impressive feature – the highest waterfall in Britain, with a longest drop of 200 metres – known as Eas a’ Chuail Àlainn, a lovely name generally interpreted as ‘the waterfall of the beautiful tresses’.

A view from the top of the waterfall with the highest drop (200m) in Britain – Eas a’ Chuail Àlainn – which tumbles over a cliff into Gleann Abhainn an Loch Bhig in Assynt.
Photo: R Maclean

Eas a’ Chaorainn in Knoydart is ‘the waterfall of the rowan’ and Eas an Taghain, north-east of Ullapool, is ‘the waterfall of the pine marten’, naming an animal which appears only rarely in toponyms. On the River Cannich, near the village of the same name, is Eas an Fhithich ‘the waterfall of the raven’. Eas a’ Bhradain ‘the waterfall of the salmon’ is a much-photographed feature that lies adjacent to the A87 road at the head of Loch Ainort, Skye.

Eas, however, does not simply signify a waterfall. It can also refer to a rapid stream that falls steeply, usually contained within high banks, as in Eas nam Broighleag ‘the rapid stream of the berries’ near Kilfinan in Argyll (probably named from nearby Cruach nam Broighleag ‘the hill of the berries’). Eas nan Seileachan ‘the rapid stream of the small willows’ is in Glen Feochan, Argyll, and there is another Eas Bàn ‘fair rapid stream’ at Attadale in Wester Ross.

The default for ‘burn, stream’ in Scottish Gaelic is allt. Burns with notable waterfalls often carry both elements in their names. An example is Allt Eas na Gaibhre, named from Eas na Gaibhre ‘the waterfall of the goat’ near Craig in Wester Ross. Allt Eas nam Muc ‘the burn of the waterfall of the pigs’ is near Kylerhea on Skye; almost opposite it, on the mainland close to Glenelg, is the descriptively named Allt Eas Mòr Chùl an Dùin ‘the burn of the big waterfall behind the broch (fort)’, referring to the ruined ancient monument known as Castle Chalamine (presumably Caisteal a’ Chalmain ‘the fortified tower of the dove’).

Eas Mòr Chùl an Dùin, showing Cùl an Dùin ‘behind the dùn’ and the dùn (ruined broch) itself – in the Gleann Beag, Glenelg.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Wikipedia tells us that the three highest waterfalls in Britain are to be found in the Scottish Highlands, based on the height of their greatest single drop. Third on the list are the Falls of Glomach near Loch Duich, generally given their English name on maps, although Glomach derives from the substantial burn in which the feature is located – Allt na Glòmaich (Allt a’ Ghlomaich OS) ‘the burn of the chasm’. It is well-named, and spectacular, both in its remote setting and its raw power.

The second highest waterfall in the country contains a different generic element – steall. It is worth noting that this is not pronounced like English ‘steal’; it is approximately ‘styowl’ with ow as in English ‘cow’. A steall can differ from an eas in having a degree of horizontal, as well as vertical, force – it can also stand for liquid spouting from a pipe or even a ‘splash’ of milk, as taken in a cup of tea. A derivative, stealladair, is the Gaelic for ‘syringe’. The most famous steall in Scotland is the 120-metre high Steall Bàn ‘fair waterfall’ in Glen Nevis near Fort William, sometimes tautologically referred to as Steall Falls. Like our other highest waterfalls, it is in a remote and spectacular mountain environment.

Another word for waterfall is also to be found occasionally in Gaelic place-names, although it originates in Old Norse. This is fors (Old Norse foss), found in the abandoned settlement of Achafors (Achadh Forsa ‘waterfall field’), close to the shores of Loch Aline in Morvern.  In Sutherland it occurs in the adjacent, and compared, settlements of Forsinard (Fors na h-Àirde) and Forsinain (Fors an Fhàin), respectively the waterfall of the high, and of the low, ground. The famously tautological Eas Fors ‘waterfall waterfall’ is to be found in the west of Mull nearly opposite the island of Ulva.

The Upper Falls of Moness on the Urlar Burn near Aberfeldy, Perthshire. Moness derives from the Gaelic Bun-eas ‘waterfall-foot’. Nearby is Croftness (Croit an Eas ‘the waterfall croft’). The Urlar Burn is named for the farm of Urlar – in Gaelic An t-Ùrlar ‘the flat place’.
Photo: R Maclean

Perhaps the last word should go to a mountain stream that lies adjacent to a knot of wildlife-related toponyms to the east of Loch Awe in Argyll. Within a short distance of each other are Beinn Bhalgairean ‘mountain of foxes’, Coire Làir ‘mare’s corrie’, Meall nan Gabhar ‘the rounded hill of the goats’ and Coire nan Each ‘the corrie of the horses’. To their immediate south is Eas a’ Mhadaidh – ‘the dog’s cataract’, according to the OS. Madadh is an indeterminate generic that, without a specific, can refer to the fox or wolf. As balgair has been used for ‘fox’ in the same vicinity, my betting is that Eas a’ Mhadaidh means ‘the cataract of the wolf’. If that name doesn’t make your imagination run like a waterfall, what will?!

This blog was written by Inverness-based writer, broadcaster and storyteller Roddy (Ruairidh) Maclean, whose work highlights the connections between the Gaelic language and Scotland’s environment.

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Tìr nan Easan ʼs nan Steall

ʼS iomadh eas a chithear air a’ Ghàidhealtachd, agus tha ainmean sònraichte air feadhainn dhiubh.

Read in English

Feumaidh gu bheil na mìltean de dh’easan ann an Alba mhòr bheanntach an uisge ach mar as trice chan fhaicear air a’ mhapa ach am facal Beurla ‘waterfall’. Ge-tà, tha feadhainn dhiubh ann air a bheil ainm Gàidhlig, agus an eileamaid chumanta eas mar phàirt dhen ainm

Tha am facal bàn co-cheangailte ri cuid de na h-easan, agus chan eil sin doirbh a thuigsinn oir ʼs e sin an coltas a th’ air eas air latha dorch, fliuch – mar ribean bàn a’ stialladh thairis air tìr odhar. Ann am Frìth Inbhir Ìonaid faisg air Loch Dubhthaich, mar eisimpleir, tha Coire an Eas Bhàin a tha ainmichte air an Eas Bhàn, às an tèid uisge gu Allt Bàn an Lì-Ruighe, ged as e Allt Bàn an Lìgh-Ruighe a bu chòir a bhith air sin math dh’fhaodte (ʼs e lìghe àite far an laigh uisge an dèidh tuil).

An t-Eas Bàn air Allt Bàn an Lì-ruighe, Frìth Inbhir Ìonaid, Cinn Tàile. Tha an t-eas seo aig ceann shuas coire air a bheil Coire an Eas Bhàin.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Bidh geal a’ nochdadh ann an co-cheangal ri eas an siud ʼs an seo, leithid Eas an t-Srutha Ghil os cionn Loch nan Caorach ann an Asainte. Faisg air sin, tha eas eile a tha eadhon nas drùidhtiche – am fear as àirde ann am Breatainn – le pàirt dheth a’ tuiteam 200 meatair gun bhriseadh. ʼS e sin Eas a’ Chuail Àlainn, agus nach brèagha an t-ainm.

Sealladh bho mhullach an eas as àirde ann am Breatainn, air a thomhas air an àirde as motha a th’ ann gun bhriseadh. Tha Eas a’ Chuail Àlainn a’ tuiteam far bearradh os cionn Gleann Abhainn an Loch Bhig ann an Asainte.
Dealbh: R MacIlleathain

Tha Eas a’ Chaorainn ann an Cnòideart, dùthaich anns a bheil tòrr shruthan uisge. Tha Eas an Taghain anns a’ mhonadh tuath air Ullapul – agus chan ann tric a chithear a leithid de dh’ainmhidh air ainmeachadh air aghaidh na tìre. Tha am fitheach ainmichte ann am mòran àiteachan, gu h-àraidh ann an co-cheangal ri creagan, ach chan eil ach aon eas (air a bheil mise eòlach co-dhiù) air a bheil Eas an Fhithich. Tha sin air Abhainn Chanaich faisg air a’ bhaile air a bheil an t-aon ainm. Agus ʼs iomadh neach-turais a stadas ri taobh Eas a’ Bhradain anns an Eilean Sgitheanach airson dealbh a thogail dheth. Tha e ri taobh an rathaid A87 aig ceann Loch Aineoirt deas air Sgonnsair.

Ged a dh’fhaodamaid ‘eas’ eadar-theangachadh mar ‘waterfall’, tha e cuideachd a’ ciallachadh sruth bras mar allt-beinne eadar creagan no le bruachan àrda. Mar sin tha an t-Eas Bàn ann an Attadal faisg air Loch Carrann a’ ciallachadh ‘allt garbh bàn’. Tha Eas nam Broighleag (tha mi an dùil gu bheil broighleag anns an ainm a’ ciallachadh dearcan-coille) faisg air Cill Fhìonain ann an Earra-Ghàidheal. ʼS dòcha gu bheil an t-ainm a’ tighinn bhon bheinn faisg air làimh air a bheil Cruach nam Broighleag. Cuideachd ann an Earra-Ghàidheal, tha Eas nan Seileachan ann an Gleann Faochain. Tha sin ag innse dhuinn mu na craobhan a bha (no a tha?) a’ fàs ri a thaobh.

Eas Mòr Chùl an Dùin, a’ sealltainn Cùl an Dùin agus an dùn fhèin (a tha na thobhta) anns a’ Ghleann Bheag, Gleann Eilg. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Bidh an dà fhacal allt agus eas a’ nochdadh anns aon ainm-àite gu tric, far as e an t-eas an rud as follaisiche mun t-sruth. Mar eisimpleir, tha Allt Eas na Gaibhre faisg air a’ Chreag, siar air Diabaig ann an Ros an Iar. Tha Allt Eas nam Muc faisg air Caol Readha anns an Eilean Sgitheanach. An ìre mhath mu a choinneimh, faisg air Gleann Eilg, tha Allt Eas Mòr Chùl an Dùin a tha ag ainmeachadh an t-seann dùin air a bheil Caisteal a’ Chalmain.

Tha Wikipedia ag innse dhuinn gun lorgar na trì easan as àirde ann am Breatainn air Gàidhealtachd na h-Alba, co-dhiù nuair a tha iad air an tomhas air an àirde as motha de shruth gun bheàrn no briseadh. Anns an treas àite, tha Eas na Glòmaich air Allt na Glòmaich (Allt a’ Ghlomaich a rèir mapaichean na Suirbhidh Òrdanais) ann an Cinn Tàile. ʼS e Falls of Glomach a th’ air na mapaichean, gun sgeul air an ainm Ghàidhlig. Chunnaic mi fhìn an t-eas iongantach seo aig àm na Càisge o chionn bhliadhnaichean, an dèidh trì latha de dh’uisge gun sgur agus abair gun robh e drùidhteach – agus fuaimneach! Tha e air a dheagh ainmeachadh (tha glòm a’ ciallachadh clais domhainn ann an Gàidhlig Siorrachd Rois is Chinn Tàile) agus tha e suidhichte ann an sgìre iomallach, air a chuartachadh le beanntan àrda.

Tha eileamaid eadar-dhealaichte anns an dàrna eas as àirde san rìoghachd – steall. Mar a thuigeas sibh, tha steall a’ seasamh airson spùt no spùtan – àite far am bi uisge a’ dol a-mach bhon talamh gu ìre, gun a bhith dìreach a’ tuiteam le iom-tharraing. ʼS e an ‘steall’ as ainmeile ann an Alba an Steall Bàn ann an Gleann Nibheis faisg air a’ Ghearasdan anns a bheil àirde de 120 meatair. Bidh luchd na Beurla uaireannan a’ gabhail ‘Steall Falls’ air agus ga fhuaimneachadh mar an fhacal Bheurla ‘steal’. Mar a tha na h-easan sàr-àrd eile, tha an Steall Bàn ann an àite iomallach a ghabhas ruigsinn air chois a-mhàin agus tha e air a chuartachadh le creagan is beanntan.

Eas Àrd Bhun-eas air Allt an Ùrlair faisg air Obar Pheallaidh, Siorrachd Pheairt. Ann am Beurla ʼs e ‘Moness’ a chanar ris an àite seo; tha sin a’ tighinn bho Bhun-eas o shean. Faisg air làimh, tha Croftness (Croit an Eas).
Dealbh: R MacIlleathain

Tha facal eile ann airson eas a nochdas an siud ʼs an seo ann an ainmean-àite Gàidhlig, ged a bhuineas e bho thùs don t-Seann Lochlannais. ʼS e sin fors (foss ann an cànan nan Lochlannach). Tha seann bhaile air a bheil Achadh Forsa ri taobh Loch Àlainn ann am Morbhairne. Ann an Dìthreabh Chat, tha dà bhaile bheag air a bheil Forsinard (Fors na h-Àirde) and Forsinain (Fors an Fhàin), a tha a’ ciallachadh ‘eas air talamh àrd’ agus ‘eas air talamh ìosal’. Agus air costa siar Mhuile, mu choinneimh Ulbha, tha Eas Fors – ainm ath-bhriathrach a tha a’ ciallachadh ‘eas eas’!

Airson an fhacail mu dheireadh, thèid sinn gu allt a tha suidhichte sa mhonadh sear air Loch Obha ann an Earra-Ghàidheal, agus a tha faisg air còmhlan de dh’ainmean-àite co-cheangailte ri beathaichean – Beinn Bhalgairean (a’ ciallachadh ‘mhadaidhean-ruadha’), Coire Làir, Meall nan Gabhar agus Coire nan Each. Deas orra tha Eas a’ Mhadaidh. Leis gur e ‘balgair’ a chaidh a chleachdadh airson a’ mhadaidh-ruaidh, tha mi an dùil gu bheil Eas a’ Mhadaidh a-mach air a’ mhadadh-allaidh a chaidh à bith ann an Alba timcheall meadhan an ochdamh linn deug. Nach smaoineachail a tha sin!

Bha am blog seo air a sgrìobhadh le Ruairidh MacIlleathain, a tha na sgrìobhadair, craoladair, eòlaiche-nàdair is sgeulaiche, stèidhichte ann an Inbhir Nis.

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A dream job in river restoration

In our latest guest blog with Lantra Scotland, we hear from environmental conservation apprentice Niall Provan on his work to restore Scotland’s rivers with the Forth Rivers Trust, and his journey into a conservation career.

Niall (centre) carrying out an electro fishing exercise, surveying fish populations. ©Niall Provan

I have always had a passion for the outdoors. I’ve spent many happy hours out hill walking so it was natural step to find a career where I could develop practical skills and be part of nature. After I left school I applied for a countryside management course at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), then looked for a Modern Apprenticeship. I heard that the Callander Landscape Partnership (CLP) was looking to take someone on, which sounded like the ideal stepping stone for my career, especially as I was learning while working and earning a wage.

I applied and was lucky enough to get a place. Working for CLP has really opened my eyes to the possibilities. I have been involved in so many varied and interesting projects including an archaeological dig at a Neolithic site near Callander where we collected artefacts, dug trenches and undertook geological surveys. This was followed by digs at an Iron Age hillfort and roundhouse in Stirlingshire. I also got involved in some environmental conservation work, managing invasive species like Rhododendron, and installing and surveying bird and bat boxes. This kind of work really piqued my interest in conservation and habitat management.

Restoration work as part of the River Larig Restoration Project with Forth Rivers Trust ©Niall Provan

After I finished my apprenticeship, I landed a job as a Project Support Officer with Forth Rivers Trust which has been a dream for me. I am part of a select team working on the Larig Restoration Project, which aims to improve the River Larig and its surrounding habitat through tree planting and in-river and bankside restoration works.

The work is really important because it will improve the biodiversity of the river and the surrounding area as well as provide shade and refuge for migratory Atlantic salmon. Salmon populations are currently on a downward trend, due to pressures such as pollution, over-fishing and climate change. These kinds of projects will create areas of sanctuary for salmon to spawn and help boost their numbers.

Flying a drone as part of site surveying work, using digital imaging software to show impact of their work along the river. ©Niall Provan

As with many land-based jobs today, the ability to harness new technologies is an important skill and I’ve been lucky enough to learn many useful skills and techniques. I think the most fun has been using drones to survey and map areas under investigation. We use digital imaging software which gives us before and after images so we can see the effect our work is having.

I also get involved with river surveying, sampling, and electro fishing, a technique that allows us to capture and survey fish without doing them harm.  I really love getting stuck into a long-term project like this and seeing it progress. You get to see the positive results of your work and the changes happening in real time. There is a bit of desk work to do, but most of my time is spent outdoors on site, getting my hands dirty and doing the practical work, which is what I really enjoy.

Driving a quad bike on site ©Niall Provan

What I have learnt as a trainee starting off, it that environmental conservation is a very competitive industry to get into. Forth Rivers Trust is one of the biggest organisations of its kind in the country, yet only employs 20 people, so you really need to stand out.

What employers are looking for is a demonstration of your commitment, so you want to be doing as much voluntary work as you can. As well as helping out and learning lots of different industry-specific skills, you’ll also meet up with people already working in the industry, so it’s a great way to network and make connections which will be a big help in finding future jobs.

Lantra Scotland helps people get the training, qualifications and skills to succeed in the land-based, aquaculture and environmental sector. For more information, visit: https://www.scotland.lantra.co.uk/

For more information about nature-based jobs, see: https://www.nature.scot/professional-advice/planning-and-development/social-and-economic-benefits-nature/nature-based-jobs-and-skills

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Bho Bheul an Eòin

Tha cruthachadh ainmean ùra Gàidhlig airson cuid de lusan is ainmhidhean ùra na h-Alba aig teis-meadhan pròiseact com-pàirteachaidh air leth a tha a’ faighinn taic le NatureScot agus Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Read in English

Tha am pròiseact, Bho Bheul an Eòin, a’ cruthachadh ainmean ùra airson ghnèithean ùra. Anns na beagan bhliadhnaichean a dh’fhalbh, tha seòrsachan ùra de lusan is de dh’ainmhidhean air tighinn a dh’Alba mar thoradh air a’ ghnàth-shìde againn a tha a’ sìor-atharrachadh. Tha cuid dhiubh cho ùr agus nach eil ainmean Gàidhlig orra – gu ruige seo.

Chaidh 40 seòrsa ùr a shònrachadh tro phròiseas rannsachaidh is co-chomhairleachaidh le comhairle luchd-saidheans, luchd-rannsachaidh is sgrìobhadairean Gàidhlig – is iad air lusan, eòin, dealanan-dè, ainmhidhean mara, seilcheagan, fiù ’s seòrsa algaich ainmeachadh. Chaidh ainmean ùra Gàidhlig a chur orra agus tha an sàr neach-ealain fiadh-bheatha, Derek Robertson, air dealbhan dath-uisge a dhèanamh airson a h-uile ainmhidh.

Spanish bluebell, (C)Derek Robertson

Tha bàrdachd is rosg cuide ri gach pìos obair-ealain agus bidh taghadh den obair ri fhaicinn tro sheachdain a’ Mhòid Nàiseanta Rìoghail aig XOKO Bakehouse air Sràid na Drochaid, Inbhir Nis. Às a sin, thèid an taisbeanadh a Ghlaschu agus bidh cothrom agaibh fhaicinn aig Leabharlann Mitchell bho 30 Dàmhair gu toiseach na Dùbhlachd.

Tha lach-dhubh tuinnesurf scoter sa Bheurla – am measg nan ainmean ùra. Tha na h-eòin sin cumanta air cladaichean Alba Nuadh agus bidh grunnan dhiubh a’ geamhrachadh a-nis ann an Alba ann an àiteachan a leithid Linne Mhoireibh.

White-letter hairstreak butterfly, (C)Derek Robertson

’S e Bròg na Cuthaig Spàinnteach an t-ainm a th’ air dìthean ionnsaigheach a bhuineas do dh’Iberia agus a tha cho lìonmhor is gu bheil i air tòiseachadh air strì gu soirbheachail le bròg na cuthaige dhùthchasach ann an Alba. ’S e fuath-mhuc aon de na h-ainmean eile a th’ oirre, leis nach eil mucan measail orra, agus an t-ainm a’ toirt iomradh air linn nuair a bhiodh treudan mhucan gan cumail ann an coilltean.

Surf scooter, (C)Derek Robertson

Tha e iomchaidh gu bheil cumadh ‘W’ geal coltach ri sradag dealain ri fhaicinn fo sgiathan seòrsa ùr de dhealan-dè – an ròin-stiallach geal. Tha an dealan-dè seo air gluasad gu tuath an Alba, coltach ri dealanan-dè eile, air sgàth blàthachadh na gnàth-shìde againn agus gu bheil grunnan chraobhan leamhain air tilleadh a tha galar-fhulangach is a tha nan àrainn fhreagarrach airson an ròin stiallaich ghil.

Tha an obair-ealain is an teacsa gu lèir rim faicinn aig www.fromthebirdsmouth.com.  Thèid sàr leabhar ealain fhoillseachadh tràth sa bhliadhn’ ùir agus, nuair a thèid na bacaidhean a lasachadh, bidh taisbeanadh taistealach ann.

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From The Bird’s Mouth

Giving Gaelic names to some of Scotland’s newly arrived nature is at the heart of a unique partnership project, supported by NatureScot and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Leugh ann an Gàidhlig

The project, Bho Bheul an Eòin (From The Bird’s Mouth), is creating names for the new species. Over recent decades, new plant and animal species have arrived in Scotland due to our changing climate. Many of these are so new, they don’t have Gaelic names – until now.

Spanish Bluebell – (C)Derek Robertson

Through a process of research and consultation, with advice from scientists, researchers and Gaelic writers, 40 new arrivals have been identified – including plants, birds, butterflies, marine life, slugs and even snow-bed algae.  These species have been given new Gaelic names, and acclaimed wildlife artist Derek Robertson has produced bespoke watercolour portraits of them all.

This artwork is accompanied by poetry and prose, and a selection of the work is being showcased during the Royal National Mòd  at XOKO Bakehouse on Bridge Street, Inverness. From there, the exhibition will move to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow from 30 October until early Decemeber.

White-letter hairstreak butterfly, (C)Derek Robertson

Amongst the newly-coined names is lach-dhubh tuinne, literally meaning “black duck of the wave”, for the surf scoter. These birds are a common sight along the coasts of Gaelic-speaking Nova Scotia and a small number now winter in Scottish waters including the Moray Firth.

Bròg na Cuthaig Spàinnteach is the name chosen for the Spanish bluebell – an invader from the Iberian peninsular – which is so vigorous it has started to successfully compete with our similar native bluebell.  The Gaelic name for bluebell is bròg na cuthaig meaning “cuckoo’s shoe”, but an alternate name is fuath-mhuc which translates as “repellent to pigs” – referring to the era when pigs were regularly herded in woodlands.

Surf scooter, (C)Derek Robertson

The Gaelic for butterfly is dealan-dè which translates as “God’s lightning/fire”. Appropriately, then, the white-letter hairstreak butterfly has a distinctive, white “W” traced on the underside of its wings like a bolt of electricity. Like many butterflies, its spread northward into Scotland has been helped by our warming climate, along with a return of some disease-resistant elm trees that provide good habitat for the white-letter hairstreak to become firmly established here. The project proposes ròin-stiallach geal as a Gaelic title for this species, drawing on ròin (a single hair) and stiallach (striped). The addition of geal (white) distinguishes it from the other hairstreak butterflies.

View all the artwork and text at www.fromthebirdsmouth.com.  A high-quality art book will follow early next year, and – when restrictions ease, a touring exhibition will take place.

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Warrior’s Friendship

Valerian is a plant long utilised by herbalists in the Gàidhealtachd and beyond.

Leugh ann an Gàidhlig

I have written previously in this blog about how the meadowsweet is known in Gaelic tradition as a plant that once soothed the wild temper of the hero Cuchullin, famous for his meanderings, battling and philandering on the Isle of Skye. It is Crios Chù Chulainn ‘Cuchullin’s belt’. Another attractive native plant of similar stature that is often seen growing in the same vicinity to meadowsweet – damp and unkempt meadows or roadside verges – is also known for its ability to soothe an upset disposition in humans. It is Carthan Curaidh [pron. ‘kar-an KOO-ree’], a name which perhaps best translates as ‘warrior’s friendship’. Carthan is the root of the oft used carthannas, meaning ‘charity’ (a word to which it is a cognate). A bùth-charthannais is a ‘charity shop’ and carthannach means ‘charitable, kind’. Curaidh is an old word, still used and understood in the Scottish Gaelic community, which means ‘warrior, champion, hero’.

Common valerian (Valeriana officinalis) ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

The Gaelic name is likely to reflect the understanding, long-established in traditions of European herbalism, that the juice of the roots could be employed to calm people who were suffering angst or worry – as might be the case with a warrior preparing for, or recovering from, conflict. Valerian, as it is known in English (Valeriana officinalis being the scientific name for the wild species), was used to treat shell-shocked soldiers and victims of Zeppelin bombings in World War I. The plant has also been used to promote sleep, lower blood pressure and treat epilepsy, although its efficacy in all of these is questioned.

An account in Flora Celtica tells of how it was administered, in a series of clinical experiments in the 18th century, to counteract the side-effects of (poisonous) hemlock which was being employed in a radical treatment for cancer. Another account in the same publication is of advice given to a woman on the Isle of Grimsay in the Western Isles to boil some valerian roots and ‘make a sort of drink of it’ as a pick-me-up. The recipient of the advice neglected to take it so could not vouch for its efficacy. Like many herbal remedies, such treatments should not be self-administered and should only be considered after receiving professional advice.

If you do decide to dig up some roots (doing so only where the plant grows in abundance), be careful if you have a pet cat. Felines absolutely love the smell of the roots (and other parts of the plant) in contrast to many humans who find it objectionable. You will have to store the plant in a pussy-proof location or you will be disturbed by energetic feline scratchings!

Common valerian (Valeriana officinalis) ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

An alternative Gaelic name for valerian is Lus nan Trì Bilean ‘the plant of the three leaves’ which refers to the uppermost group of leaves found immediately below the attractive pink-white flower-heads. This has led to confusion with another plant, abundant in Highland lochans, called trì-bhileach ‘bogbean’ (which has leaves in groups of three). References to the sour taste of the juice of the trì-bhileach have been interpreted, perhaps erroneously, as being a commentary on valerian rather than bogbean.

The origin of the name Valerian is also interesting. It appears to derive from the Latin verb valere ‘to be strong and healthy’ (like a warrior or hero), which also gives the personal names Valeria and Valerius. The German pharmacologist Valerius Cordus (1515-1544) was one of the most celebrated herbalists in European history. Valere also provided the name – misleading or not, depending on your view – for a new psychotrophic drug developed in the 1960s, whose active ingredient is diazepam – Valium.

This blog was written by Inverness-based writer, broadcaster and storyteller Roddy (Ruairidh) Maclean, whose work highlights the connections between the Gaelic language and Scotland’s environment.

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Carthan Curaidh

Tha an lus seo aithnichte do lighichean luibheach air a’ Ghàidhealtachd agus tìrean cèin.

Read in English

Tha mi air sgrìobhadh mu-thràth mu dheidhinn an luis ris an canar Crios Chù Chulainn a tha aithnichte mar meadowsweet ann am Beurla. A rèir beul-aithris nan Gàidheal, bha e air a chur gu feum airson an gaisgeach Cù Chulainn, aig a bheil ceanglaichean làidir don Eilean Sgitheanach, a shocrachadh, agus an dearg chuthach a’ tighinn air. Tha lus eile car dhen aon mheud, agus a dh’fhàsas anns an aon seòrsa àrainn ri Crios Chù Chulainn (lòintean rudeigin fliuch far nach bi cus ionaltraidh no gearradh feòir), cuideachd air a chleachdadh airson daoine a tha troimhe-chèile a dhèanamh socair. ʼS e sin Carthan Curaidh. Thathar a’ tuigsinn gu bheil an t-ainm a’ ciallachadh ‘lus a tha taiceil do ghaisgeach’. Tha cathran co-cheangailte ris na faclan cathrannas agus carthannach. Tha curaidh na sheann fhacal, a th’ air a chleachdadh fhathast, a tha a’ ciallachadh ‘laoch’ no ‘gaisgeach’.

Valeriana officinalis ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

ʼS iad na freumhaichean a bu mhotha a bh’ air an cur gu feum mar leigheas (mar a tha fhathast), agus rinn feadhainn feum dhiubh anns a’ Chogadh Mhòr, gu h-àraidh saighdearan a bha a’ fulang eagal às dèidh dhaibh a bhith fo shligean sna trainnsichean, agus daoine a bha a’ fuireach ann am bailtean air an deach bomaichean a leigeil à bàtaichean-adhair Zeppelin. Bha an lus, air a bheil Valerian ann am Beurla, air a chleachdadh cuideachd airson deagh chadal a bhrosnachadh, airson bruthadh-fala ìsleachadh agus mar leigheas air ann tinneas-thuiteamach.

Tha cunntas ann am Flora Celtica ag innse dhuinn mar a bha an lus air a chur gu feum ann an sreath dheuchainnean meidigeach anns an 18mh linn airson cur an aghaidh buaidh iteodha (a tha puinnseanta) air a’ bhodhaig, agus an t-iteodha air a chleachdadh mar leigheas ùr radaigeach airson aillse. Tha cunntas eile anns an dearbh leabhar mu chomhairle a thugadh do bhoireannach ann an Griomasaigh a bhith a’ goil freumhaichean carthain churaidh agus ‘nàdar de dheoch a’ dhèanamh dhiubh’ mar dhòigh airson a sunnd a thoirt am feabhas. Cha do ghabh an tè a fhuair a’ chomhairle rithe, agus mar sin cha b’ urrainn dhi a ràdh am biodh a leithid èifeachdach. Mar a bhitheas le mòran leigheasan luibheach, feumar a bhith gu math faiceallach mun deidhinn agus bu chòir comhairle phroifeiseanta a shireadh.

Ma nì sibh co-dhùnadh freumhaichean a chladhach suas (a-mhàin far a bheil an lus a’ fàs ann am pailteas), bithibh faiceallach ma tha cat agaibh mar pheata. Tha cait gu math math measail air fàileadh carthain churaidh – a tha gu math làidir agus nach eil idir tlachdmhòr do chuid de dhaoine. Feumar an lus a chur air falbh far nach lorg an cat e.

Valeriana officinalis ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

Tha na flùraichean air carthan-curaidh eadar geal is pinc agus thig iad a-mach anns an dàrna leth dhen t-samhradh. Tha ainm Gàidhlig eile air an luibh – Lus nan Trì Bilean – a tha a’ dèanamh tuairisgeul air na duilleagan as àirde a tha dìreach fo na cinn dhìtheanan brèagha aig ceann shuas a’ ghais. Tha an t-ainm sin car coltach ri ainm Gàidhlig a tha cumanta airson bogbean an Trì-bhileach – agus saoilidh mi gu bheil beachdan air blas searbh ‘valerian’ a nochdas am measg nan Gàidheal ʼs dòcha gu fìrinneach a’ buntainn ris an Trì-bhileach.

Tha tùs an ainm Valerian cuideachd inntinneach. Thathar a’ dèanamh dheth gu bheil e a’ buntainn ris a’ ghnìomhair Laidinn valere ‘a bhith làidir agus fallain’ (mar a bhios laoch no gaisgeach) agus a tha cuideachd a’ toirt dhuinn nan ainmean pearsanta Valeria agus Valerius. Bha an t-eòlaiche chungaidhean-leighis Gearmailteach, Valerius Cordus (1515-1544), am measg nan lighichean luibheach as ainmeile ann an eachdraidh na Roinn Eòrpa. Thug valere dhuinn cuideachd an t-ainm – co-dhiù tha e meallta gus nach eil – airson droga ùr a tha a’ toirt buaidh air staid-inntinn daoine, agus a chaidh a leasachadh anns na 1960an – Valium.

Bha am blog seo air a sgrìobhadh le Ruairidh MacIlleathain, a tha na sgrìobhadair, craoladair, eòlaiche-nàdair is sgeulaiche, stèidhichte ann an Inbhir Nis.

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Tentsmuir and the road to net-zero

You have all heard the term ‘net-zero’ but what does this actually mean and how can we achieve this? Tentsmuir NNR Student Placement, Andrew Black, tells us about what’s happening at the reserve as they play their role in achieving this goal…

Polaris ranger electric vehicle ©Marijke Leith

As recently highlighted in the IPCC report the climate emergency is progressing at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, the negative effects of climate change are extensive including decreasing water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, increased flooding & wildfires, reduced biodiversity and negative health impacts on the human population.

It is not all doom and gloom however as by striving to be NetZero these detrimental impacts can be reduced.

What is Net Zero?

NetZero is effectively ensuring the emissions produced are the same as those sequestered, or taken out, of the atmosphere. The main greenhouse gases (GHGs) contributing to climate change include: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (NO2) with both CO2 and NO2 sources including fossil fuel combustion.

To meet the NetZero targets laid out by NatureScot and the Scottish Government there has to be a reduction in emissions. These reductions must come from permanent and sustainable changes in people’s daily lives and how we work.

NatureScot has targets for being a NetZero organisation by 2035, or by 2040, at the latest. This is an ambitious target, being 10 years earlier than the UK target however this goal can be achieved.

What is happening at Tentsmuir NNR?

Tenstmuir NNR is actively engaging with NatureScot’s road to NetZero by utilising Electric Vehicles (EVs) on the reserve, encouraging active travel within the reserve and by re-using materials on the reserve to help promote an improved procurement system that has a greater focus on the circular economy.

Staff use bikes to get about the reserve ©Marijke Leith

EVs are beneficial for the environment and can be effectively utilised to tackle the climate emergency and meet NetZero targets. Traditional combustion engines produce previously mentioned GHGs that are not only harmful to the environment but to people’s health. With EVs these pollutants are reduced, and it has been shown that the shift towards the electrification of the vehicle fleet improves air quality on the local scale.

There has been a societal shift towards the uptake of EVs, supported by the Scottish Governments targets of phasing out sales of traditional petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

Recently at Tentsmuir NNR, an Electric Polaris was purchased, which this helps to transport staff and tools are around the reserve in a low-emission manner. Recent studies have found that one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions from vehicles is to electrify the Heavy Goods (HGV) and Light Goods Vehicle (LGV) fleet, as these are traditionally the biggest polluters. So by using the Polaris we are effectively tackling and reducing one of the biggest areas of vehicle pollutants.

Even better than the Polaris is active travel, i.e. walking or cycling.  In the previous months everyone at Tentsmuir NNR has been travelling around the reserve on the reserve bikes.

This has had a multitude of benefits:

  • Reduced emissions: one of the best way to reduce emissions is by walking or cycling instead of driving short journeys. The great part about bikes are there are no emissions produced when they are used.
  • Public engagement: by utilising our bikes to move around the reserve there has been improved public engagement, members of the public are much more likely to approach and engage staff. This helps us spread the NatureScot brand and educate the public.
  • Improved Health: there is health benefits associated with the reduced emissions as air pollution is one of the most significant risks to human health but also through the daily exercise of using the bikes.
Battery operated brushcutter/chainsaw ©Marijke Leith

Another way we are reducing emissions at Tentsmuir NNR is by replacing our old petrol machinery with cordless, battery operated machinery such as chainsaws and brushcutters. This not only helps us work towards NetZero but has other benefits such as reduced noise pollution and removes the need to transport fuel on site.

We should all Reduce, Reuse and Recycle where possible and recently, at Tentsmuir there has been a greater focus on reducing waste and reusing available materials to meet NatureScot’s road to NetZero targets for the circular economy. Work has started on a giant insect hotel, this project is entirely comprised of recycled timber from an old boardwalk, meaning cost and waste is reduced while still promoting biodiversity within the reserve.

Conclusion

The climate emergency is more important than ever before. NatureScot has laid out the path to NetZero by 2040, and we at Tentsmuir NNR feel like we are doing our part to help meet this target and promote NatureScot’s vision for a nature-rich future. To reach net zero targets and help mitigate the negative impacts of climate change there needs to be a wider societal shift towards increased EVs and active travel. However, to be effective these changes must be permanent and sustainable, and who better to set an example to society than Scotland’s Nature Agency.

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The Leaping Dolphins

A number of species of leumadairean – dolphins – can be seen in Scottish waters.

Leugh ann an Gàidhlig

There is a rocky point of land to the south of the village of Clachtoll in Assynt (North West Sutherland) which is aptly named. Rubha Leumair (properly Rubha an Leumaire ‘the point of the dolphin’) is a promontory from which dolphins can still be spied today. Most sightings of these beautiful and intelligent marine mammals take place from boats but there is a handful of Scottish locations where they can be seen from the land. Another notable site is Gob na Cananaich (Chanonry Point) on the Moray Firth where the droll observation is made that the dolphins gather on the incoming tide as they are guaranteed a good view of an iconic species in its natural habitat – human beings gathered on land, many of them bearing binoculars!

A place named for dolphins – Rubha Leumair (modern spelling) – properly Rubha an Leumaire ‘the promontory of the dolphin’ in Assynt.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The generic Gaelic name for dolphins is leumaire, or more commonly leumadair, based on the word leum ‘jump, leap’; it is literally ‘the leaping one’, referring to its spectacular habit of propelling itself out of the water. This differentiates it from the smaller porpoise (peileag or puthag in Gaelic) whose back breaks the water surface as it takes in and exhales air but which doesn’t leap in the same manner. As leumadair might in theory also be used for another leaping animal such as a grasshopper, a dolphin can be referred to as a leumadair-mara (literally ‘marine leaper’) to avoid confusion. The word deilf is also recorded for ‘dolphin’ in Scottish dictionaries but is generally regarded as Irish.

Bottlenose dolphins people-watching at Chanonry Point. ©Ben James/NatureScot

Compared to some marine mammals, the leumadair cumanta, common dolphin – which averages some 2.5 metres in length – is not a massive animal. Dwelly’s dictionary records an old Gaelic name for the species – bèist-ghorm – literally ‘dark blue beast’, but the colour attribution is not particularly accurate as it is more generally recognised by a dark back and yellowish flank. For this author, his summer is complete when he has been quietly sailing off the west coast and has his boat suddenly, and without warning, surrounded by dozens of common dolphins which are preying on shoals of fish. The only sound they make is the plumanaich1 of their maritime cavorting as they pursue their prey. Sometimes this species gathers in schools of hundreds, appearing to encircle shoals of fish. It is surely one of the great natural experiences to be had off the Scottish coast.

A species of somewhat similar appearance, but largely restricted to deeper water and a more oceanic environs is the leumadair cliathaich-bhàin or Atlantic white-sided dolphin. The leumadair bàn-ghobach or white-beaked dolphin also appears in our waters, although it is widely distributed and ventures as far north as the Arctic.

Common dolphin breaching in the Minch. ©Sue Scott

In addition to the common dolphin, perhaps the species best-known to Scots is the bottlenose dolphin, of which there is a famous colony, numbering up to two hundred individuals, on the east coast, based around the Moray Firth but ranging as far south as the Firth of Forth; these are the animals which reveal themselves at Chanonry Point. In Gaelic, the specific name for this dolphin is rather unique – it is a muc-bhiorach which literally means ‘sharp (snouted) pig’ but is based on the fact that muc-mhara ‘sea-pig’ – now used generically for ‘whale’ – was probably the old generic for dolphins and porpoises in Scotland as it still is in Ireland. We have a simile in Gaelic – cho reamhar ri muc-bhiorach ‘as fat as a bottlenose dolphin’ – and, certainly, this species is large, heavy-bellied and with a robust look about it – although that doesn’t stop it leaping clean out of the sea at times!

Risso’s dolphin, sometimes known as a grampus, is another species which is seen in Scottish waters, although it has a near-global distribution. It is unlike any other dolphin, bearing a blunt head, lacking a beak and becoming lighter in colour as it gets older, varying from light grey to virtually white. The colouring gives us its Gaelic name cana, based on an archaic root can ‘white’ (which we see in canach ‘bog cotton’). It is also referred to as leumadair-Risso after the English name. It is a large dolphin, up to 4 metres in length, and is found in deep waters off the Western Isles where it hunts octopus, squid and cuttlefish. Encounters with giant squid may be responsible for some of the many scars in evidence on the bodies of older individuals.

A juvenile pod of Risso’s dolphin off the coast of Lewis. ©Nicola Hodgins, Whale & Dolphin Conservation.

Orc is an archaic Gaelic word meaning ‘whale’, with a derivative uircean still used today for ‘piglet’ – the etymological connection between pigs and whales being of long duration. Indeed, this is seen in reference to Orkney where the ancient Latin Orcades (Insi Orc in old Gaelic) has been variously interpreted as ‘islands of pigs’ or ‘islands of whales’ (the author favours the latter). The northern part of the Minch stretching over to Cape Wrath, and perhaps as far east as Orkney, was known in Gaelic as Cuan nan Orc ‘the ocean of the whales’.

Non Gaelic-speakers will recognise the same root in an alternative English name for the killer whale – orca (the species is Orcinus orca to the scientist). This magnificent marine predator is strictly not a whale, but a dolphin – the largest of all, reaching a whopping 9 metres in length. Orcas are to be seen regularly in oceanic settings from St Kilda to Shetland, including Orkney and Caithness (they can often be seen off the Isle of Stroma near John O’ Groats, predating the large colonies of seals there).

Orca hunting seals off the Shetland coastline. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

In Gaelic, the orca is most commonly known as the madadh-cuain ‘ocean-wolf’ – a suitable name, given its propensity to hunt in packs (when its strength is sometimes in evidence as it tosses fully grown seals into the air). Interestingly the indigenous Yupik people who straddle the territories of Siberia and Alaska traditionally considered that the wolves of winter transmogrified to become killer whales in summer. Another Gaelic name for the species, recorded in Point in Lewis, is muc-bhreac ‘piebald whale’, a reference to its distinctive black-and-white coloration. It is one of the great predators of the sea and if you are lucky enough to see one, cherish the memory!

  1. The noise of something plunging into water.

This blog was written by Inverness-based writer, broadcaster and storyteller Roddy (Ruairidh) Maclean, whose work highlights the connections between the Gaelic language and Scotland’s environment.

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Leumadairean na h-Alba

Tha grunn ghnèithean de leumadairean rim faicinn timcheall chostaichean na h-Alba.

Read in English

Tha rubha creagach deas air a’ Chlach Tholl ann an Asainte air a bheil ainm gu math iomchaidh. À Rubha Leumair (no Rubha an Leumaire mar a bhiodh dùil) chithear fhathast bho àm gu àm an creutair a thug ainm don àite – an Leumaire no Leumadair. Bidh a’ chuid as motha de dhaoine a chì leumadair ga fhaicinn à eathar ach tha grunn àiteachan timcheall costa na h-Alba far am faicear iad bhon chladach. Am measg sin tha Gob na Cananaich air cladach a tuath Linne Mhoireibh far am bithear ag ràdh gum bi na leumadairean a’ tighinn cruinn còmhla aig àm an lìonaidh a chionn ʼs gur e àite ainmeil a th’ ann airson a bhith a’ faicinn daoine, gu leòr dhiubh le prosbaig timcheall an amhaichean!

Àite air ainmeachadh airson leumadairean – no leumairean – Rubha (an) Leumair(e) air costa Asainte. Chuala an t-ùghdar aithris gum bithear a’ faicinn leumadairean às a sin fhathast. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

ʼS e leumadair am facal coitcheann airson na leithid de mhamail mara oir bidh iad a’ leum a-mach às a’ mhuir aig amannan. Tha seo gan comharrachadh mar eadar-dhealaichte bho na peileagan no puthagan a tha nas lugha agus nach bi a’ leum. Ma thathar ag iarraidh sgaradh a dhèanamh le ainmhidhean eile a bhios a’ leum (m.e. fionnan-feòir), faodar ‘leumadair-mara’ a ghabhail orra. Chithear am facal deilf airson leumadair ann am faclairean Albannach ach bidh a’ chuid as motha de Ghàidheil Albannach ga thomhas mar fhacal Èireannach seach fear a chleachdadh iad fhèin anns an latha an-diugh.

Mucan-biorach a’ toirt sùil air daoine aig Gob na Cananaich. ©Ben James/NatureScot

An coimeas ri cuid de mhamailean-mara, chan eil an leumadair cumanta no common dolphin uabhasach mòr. Anns a’ choitcheannas, ruigidh e 2.5 meatairean ann am fad. Ann am faclair Dwelly tha seann ainm air a shon – bèist-ghorm – ach saoilidh mise nach eil sin cuideachail oir bithear ga aithneachadh air a dhruim dorch agus cliathaich a tha car buidhe-bàn. Airson an ùghdair seo, tha an samhradh aige slàn nuair a tha e air a bhith a’ seòladh gu socair, sàmhach far a’ chosta shiar agus nochdaidh gun rabhadh na ficheadan de leumadairean cumanta, agus iad a’ sealg èisg. Cha chluinnear ach am plumanaich fhad ʼs a ruitheas iad an cobhartach. Uaireannan bidh an leumadair seo a’ nochdadh nan ceudan, agus iad a’ cuairteachadh sgaothan èisg. ʼS e tachartas mìorbhaileach a th’ ann do dhuine sam bith a tha fortanach gu leòr fhaicinn!

Bidh an leumadair cliathaich-bhàin no Atlantic white-sided dolphin a’ nochdadh nar n-uisgeachan cuideachd, ged a bhios e mar as trice anns a’ mhòr-chuan. Bidh an leumadair bàn-ghobach no white-beaked dolphin cuideachd a’ nochdadh timcheall Alba, ged a thèid e fad is farsaing, agus cho fada tuath ris a’ Chuan Artach.

Leumadairean cumanta anns a’ Chuan Sgìth. ©Sue Scott

A bharrachd air an leumadair chumanta, ʼs dòcha gur e an gnè as aithnichte dhiubh do dh’Albannaich a’ mhuc-bhiorach no bottlenose dolphin. Tha buidheann mhòr dhiubh anns a bheil suas ri dà cheud beathach ri lorg timcheall Linne Mhoireibh, ged a bhios iad a’ falbh cho fada deas ri Linne Fhoirthe; is iad seo na creutairean a rim faicinn aig Gob na Cananaich. Tha e iongantach gun do ghlèidh an gnè seo seann ainm airson leumadairean is peileagan – muc-mhara – a tha sinn a’ cleachdadh an-diugh airson whale, ged as e ‘peileag’ ciall an fhacail ann an Gàidhlig na h-Èireann fhathast. Tha samhladh againn ann an Gàidhlig – cho reamhar ri muc-bhiorach agus gu cinnteach tha an leumadair seo mòr, bronnach agus le coltas tapaidh air – ged nach eil sin a’ cur bacadh air o bhith a’ leum glan às a’ mhuir!

Tha gnè eile ann air a bheil Risso’s dolphin no grampus ann am Beurla – agus chithear seo timcheall costa na h-Alba, ged a tha e a’ dèanamh a dhachaigh ann an cuantan air feadh an t-saoghail. Chan eil e coltach ri leumadair sam bith eile oir tha ceann maol aige agus tha e an ìre mhath gun ghob. Bidh e a’ fàs nas lèithe le aois agus bidh an fheadhainn as sine gu math bàn. ʼS e sin as coireach gur e ainm Gàidhlig cana, a tha a’ ciallachadh ‘ban, geal’ (mar anns an lus air a bheil canach an t-slèibhe). Bithear a’ gabhail ‘leumadair-Risso’ air cuideachd. Tha e suas ri 4 meatairean ann am fad agus bidh e a’ nochdadh gu tric anns an aigeann far nan Eilean Siar far am bi e a’ sealg ochd-chasaich, gibearnaich agus sùilean-an-tòin. ʼS dòcha gur e còmhrag le gibearnaich-mhòra as coireach ris na làraichean fada a chithear air craiceann na feadhna as sine.

Canachan òga far costa Leòdhais. ©Nicola Hodgins, Whale & Dolphin Conservation.

ʼS e orc seann fhacal Gàidhlig airson ‘muc-mhara’ le facal càirdeach – uircean – air a chur gu feum airson ‘muc òg’ fhathast, a’ sealltainn gu bheil daimh cànain air a bhith ann eadar mucan agus mucan-mara fad linntean. Chithear sin ann an co-cheangal ri Arcaibh far a bheil cuid ag eadar-theangachadh an t-seann Laidinn Orcades (Insi Orc anns an t-Seann Ghàidhlig) mar ‘eileanan nam muc’ fhad ʼs a tha feadhainn eile ga mhìneachadh mar ‘eileanan nam mucan-mara’ (chanainn gur e mucan-mara as coltaiche). Anns an t-seann aimsir, bha na Gàidheil a’ gabhail Cuan nan Orc air a’ mhuir eadar Leòdhas agus Am Parbh, agus math dh’fhaodte cho fada sear ri Arcaibh.

Bidh luchd-labhairt na Beurla ag aithneachadh orc ann an orca – ainm eile air a’ killer whale (Orcinus orca do luchd-saidheans). ʼS e am beathach mòr iongantach seo, a ruigeas 9 meatairean ann am fad, an leumadair as motha anns an t-saoghal. Bithear gam faicinn gu cunbhalach anns a’ chuan eadar Hiort agus Sealtainn, a’ gabhail a-steach Arcaibh agus Gallaibh (chithear gu tric iad far Eilean Stròma faisg air Taigh ʼan Ghròt, agus iad a’ sealg nan ròn a tha gu math pailt an sin).

Madaidhean-cuain a’ sealg ròn far cladach Shealtainn. ©Lorne Gill/ NatureScot

Ann an Gàidhlig ʼs e madadh-cuain a chanar ris an orca – ainm gu math freagarrach oir bidh iad a’ sealg ann an lomhainnean mar a bhios madaidhean-allaidh. Tha iad cho làidir ʼs gum bi iad uaireannan a’ tilgeil ròin mhòra glan a-mach às a’ mhuir nuair a tha iad a’ sealg. Bhiodh an sluagh ris an canar an Yupik, a tha beò anns an tìrean eadar ceann an ear Shiberia agus Alasga, dhen bheachd gum bi madaidhean-allaidh na coille anns a’ gheamhradh a’ dèanamh cruth-atharrachadh orra fhèin agus a’ nochdadh mar mhadaidhean-cuain as t-samhradh. ʼS e ainm Gàidhlig eile a th’ air a leithid, a chaidh a chlàradh anns an Rubha ann an Leòdhas, muc-bhreac oir tha iad dubh-is-geal. ʼS e a th’ ann ach fear de shàr-shealgairean na mara agus ma tha sibh fortanach gu leòr fear, no sgaoth, dhiubh fhaicinn, glèidhibh nur cuimhne e!

Bha am blog seo air a sgrìobhadh le Ruairidh MacIlleathain, a tha na sgrìobhadair, craoladair, eòlaiche-nàdair is sgeulaiche, stèidhichte ann an Inbhir Nis.

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