Donald's Gaelic Ceilidh Tent

Come to Donald’s Ceilidh Tent and learn songs of ineffable beauty from the Scottish Highlands and Islands sung in Gaelic. After each song-session there will be a brief period when you can learn easy-to-say expressions in the Gaelic language. The tent is situated on the East Meadow near the Cairn of the Clans.

Song sheets will be provided in Gaelic. English translations of all songs will be provided along with easy-to-read phonetics. You will be amazed at the number of tunes you already know—all of which were originally Gaelic: “Morning has Broken,” “Westering Home,” “The Campbells are Comin’ ”, etc.


Jamie MacDonald


How It All Began

The Diaspora of Scots in the late 18th and early 19th centuries gave North Carolina the distinction of being the largest settlement of Gaelic-speaking Highlanders on the North American continent. This was before the large numbers of Highland emigrants left for what is now Canada. Gaelic remained a spoken language in North Carolina—although a rapidly declining one—until around the time of the First World War.

In memory of those early speakers, our Games Cofounder, Donald MacDonald, himself a descendent of North Carolina Gaels, began to teach Gaelic songs to Games visitors in 1996.

Donald's late wife, Marietta MacLeod, had given him valuable background notes about scores of favorite Highland songs. With the help of his sister-in-law, Kitty MacLeod Gregson, Donald prepared song-sheets which included historical information, music, Gaelic lyrics and English translations concerning more than 40 songs. To help students with pronunciation, he even provided phonetics.

That first year approximately 200 persons, over a span of two days, filled “Donald’s Gaelic Ceilidh Tent” to learn the songs which their ancestors had known.

Among the visitors to the tent were young people eager for serious study, which was later provided by Jamie MacDonald (via An Comunn Gàidhealach America). It was almost inevitable that a Gaelic Mòd (in which competitors sing a Gaelic song of their choosing) should follow.

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