“Dh’fheumadh iad àit’ a dheanamh” (They would have to make a Place): land and belonging in Gaelic Nova Scotia

MacDonald, Shamus Y. (2017) “Dh’fheumadh iad àit’ a dheanamh” (They would have to make a Place): land and belonging in Gaelic Nova Scotia. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This thesis explores the way land has been perceived, described and experienced by Scottish Gaels in Nova Scotia. It examines how attitudes towards land are maintained and perpetuated through oral traditions and how oral history, legends and place names have fostered a sense of belonging in an adopted environment. Drawing on archival research and contemporary ethnographic fieldwork in Gaelic and English, it explores how people give anonymous aspects of the natural and built environment meaning, how personal and cultural significance is attached to landscapes, and how oral traditions contribute to a sense of place. Exploring a largely unofficial tradition, my thesis includes a survey of Gaelic place names in Nova Scotia that shows how settlers and their descendants have interpreted their surroundings and instilled them with a sense of Gaelic identity. It also considers local traditions about emigration and settlement, reflecting on the messages these stories convey to modern residents and how they are used to construct an image of the past that is acceptable to the present. Given its focus on land, this work investigates the protective attitude towards property long ascribed to Highland Gaels in the province, considering local perspectives of this claim and evaluating its origins. It also examines the personal and cultural impact of social stratification based on land in the region, namely between properties located along the shore and those in the backlands. Providing a more holistic understanding of rural depopulation, my thesis challenges romantic views that frame out-migration as a symptom of cultural wanderlust, demonstrating connections to linguistic and cultural loss and making clear the continued importance land plays in the lives of those who moved away. Taken together, this material explores the complex and highly developed connection to land expressed by Gaels in Nova Scotia and provides a case study of how an immigrant group can invest a landscape with meaning over time.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/13295
Item ID: 13295
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 275-303).
Keywords: Scottish Gaelic, Nova Scotia, Land, Oral tradition, Sense of Place, Cultural landscape
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: December 2017
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Scots -- Nova Scotia; Scots -- Social life and customs -- Nova Scotia; Land -- Social aspects -- Nova Scotia; Belonging (Social psychology)

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