Gaelic instructor Ian MacQuarrie at Slemon Park Community School (photo: Jan Cox)

A new school

Slemon Park hosts the latest Community School

Way Up West | by Jan Cox

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A call went out mid-September to Slemon Park residents: any interest in Community School programs at the Park? That call was answered and Monday, January 7 saw the first night of what turns out to be a very popular event.

Committee Chair Joanne Goerz is beaming. “Right now we have more than 50 students registered, a passionate committee of seven, seven courses offered and wonderful support from the residents and community of Slemon Park. All committee members and six of the seven instructors live here in Slemon Park. We are thrilled,” said Joanne.

In fact, there is a waiting list for several of the courses. The courses offered have attracted all ages—from nine year old Isaac Drummond (guitar) to seniors taking Gaelic. Other programs available are baking, French, quilting, scrapbooking/ card making and intro to the internet.

Local residents Sixtus Perry and Gib Gibson donate and take care of snacks and refreshments at the all important break time. The Slemon Park Corporation have donated the space for the School’s use at the Slemon Park Plaza. Classes end March 11 with a banquet being planned for the following week.

Enthusiasm for these programs and the bringing together of the community is contagious throughout the hallways.

I was intrigued by the inclusion of a Gaelic class. To my surprise, it is one of the most popular courses. I joined eight enthusiastic students and instructor Ian MacQuarrie. Wow. What an eye opener. Gaelic is a very complicated language. But as Ian said, “Gaelic is the language of love. If you go back in time, many of the old songs are love songs.” (For example, Ho ro mo nighean donn bhoidheach—The beautiful brown haired maid. Many a piper has played this old song.) And did you know there are only eighteen letters in the Gaelic alphabet? Letters V, W, X, Y, Z, Q, J and K are left out. I won’t even get into what letters are silent!

Ian is a retired UPEI biology teacher, with a passion for Gaelic. He says, with a twinkle in his eye, “My classes consist of a little bit of grammar and typical phrases and numbers, a little history, a little music and song, a little story telling and a whole lot of fun.” Gaelic is a difficult language yet it flows and is very beautiful. Besides his career as a teacher, Ian is a former piper and has taken courses at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, Cape Breton. “Gaelic is more than my hobby and I’m surprised too that this course has this many folks in it,” he jokes.

“Road Scholars Tour” guides, Pam Coffin and Tammy Pickering, from the Kensington area, came to learn a wee bit of Gaelic. “When we are in Nova Scotia on a tour, we thought it would be terrific to be able to say something in Gaelic to our group. To welcome them, give them a few words about the area, order lunch or something—just have some fun,” said Pam. From what I saw, they came to the right place for that.

GaelicJan CoxschoolWay Up West
Jan Cox

My partner and I moved to the island from Ottawa in August 2003. We quickly became avid fans of "The Buzz". I would search out the monthly read at the liquor stores of West Prince! I retired in June 2015 and found myself one afternoon, on a weekday no less, outside The Buzz office in Charlottetown. I met Peter and the gang and after singing the praises of the publication, suggested they needed a voice from West of Summerside. Me and my big mouth - three years later I am still writing "Way Up West" every month and it has been a joy. It's a win win - I get to work with a wonderful group of people at The Buzz and I am thrilled to be meeting folks from up west and area.