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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 21/03/2022

Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 will spotlight, celebrate and promote the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. Each month we'll hear from people with a passion for stories, and get an insight into their work.

John Norman MacDonald is the manager of the Gaelic Books Council’s bookshop in Glasgow.

What does your job involve and how did you get into this line of work?

From day to day my job is to serve customers in our bookshop in Partick, and to deal with the online orders coming in from all over the world. There are fans of Gaelic literature in all sorts of places you wouldn’t expect. We even send books as far afield as Australia, Argentina and Japan!

Before this I was a teacher, but I’ve been in this job for nearly fourteen years now and really enjoy it.

Tell us a bit about the Gaelic Books Council – when was it established and what does it do?

The Gaelic Books Council was set up in 1968, and the renowned poet and scholar Professor Derick Thomson was its first chairman. Since then the organisation has been helping Gaelic writers and publishers through grant funding and with training opportunities, as well as holding book launches and other events where readers and authors can meet. And our aim with the Gaelic bookshop is to stock every Gaelic title currently in print.

Who are your customers – native Gaelic speakers or learners of the language?

Learners make up the majority of our customers in the shop, some who are just starting to learn and others who have achieved fluency over the years, but native speakers often pop in to see us too. I’m from Harris, and it’s always lovely to welcome visitors from the islands to the shop while they’re in Glasgow. Customers may be looking to buy books for themselves or for their children or grandchildren, because we have books for readers of all ages.

Why do you think stories are so important to Scotland?

Stories have always been part of Scotland’s culture and heritage. At one time they were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth, and these days there is still a great deal of interest in the oral traditions and folklore that have been preserved in a whole range of publications. Whatever tale is being told, a really good story lets you immerse yourself in the world of its characters, and that’s what people love about Scotland’s stories.

Who are your favourite Scottish Gaelic writers?

Tough question – and maybe I ought not to make a list, because I want to be fair to all the writers. But for my personal choice I’d have to include Sorley MacLean and Iain Crichton Smith – two giants of 20th century Gaelic literature – and among the contemporary writers I would recommend the novels of Angus Peter Campbell, Alison Lang and Iain F. MacLeod.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love meeting people and speaking to the customers who phone us. It’s satisfying to help people find the right book, whether they’re looking for their first dictionary or a graphic novel or a poetry collection.

What are you looking forward to in Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022?

We’re going to be holding events here in the shop and at various festivals throughout Scotland where Gaelic writers can tell their stories. And if there any tourists with an interest in Gaelic are visiting Glasgow I hope they’ll come in and say hello and learn a bit more about the language.

The first ever World Gaelic Week is taking place from 21 to 27 March. Do you have any special activities planned?

We have partnered with An Comunn Gàidhealach to host an evening of poetry in the Isle of Skye on Monday 21 March – with Rody Gorman and Myles Campbell. And our Reading Ambassador, Linda MacLeod, will be holding one of her much loved reading and singing sessions for young children. It’s bound to be fun!

The Gaelic Books Council is the leading organisation supporting Gaelic writers and publishers. It is a registered charity and receives funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Creative Scotland. The bookshop is at 32 Mansfield Street, Glasgow.

John Norman MacDonald outside the Gaelic Books Council shop
John Norman MacDonald outside the Gaelic Books Council shop

Image credit Gaelic Books Council

Is e Iain Tormod MacDhòmhnaill manaidsear na bùth-leabhraichean aig Comhairle nan Leabhraichean ann an Glaschu.

Dè tha an lùib na h-obrach agad, agus ciamar a thàinig thu don dreuchd seo?

Bidh mi bho latha gu latha a’ reic leabhraichean don luchd-ceannaich a bhios a’ tadhal oirnn sa bhùth ann am Partaig, agus bidh mi a’ dèiligeadh leis na h-òrdain a bhios a’ tighinn a-steach air-loidhne bho air feadh an t-saoghail. Tha ùidh aig daoine ann an litreachas na Gàidhlig ann an àiteachan nach shaoileadh tu. Bidh sinn fiù ’s a’ cur leabhraichean Gàidhlig a-null gu Astràilia, Argentina agus Iapan!

Ron an seo bha mi nam thidsear, ach tha mi air a bhith san obair seo faisg air ceithir bliadhna deug a-nis agus tha e a’ còrdadh rium glan.

Innis dhuinn rud beag mu Chomhairle nan Leabhraichean – cuine a chaidh a stèidheachadh agus dè bhios e a’ dèanamh?

Chaidh Comhairle nan Leabhraichean a stèidheachadh an toiseach ann an 1968, agus b’ e am bàrd agus sgoilear ainmeil an t-Ollamh Ruaraidh MacThòmais a’ chiad chathraiche. Bhon uair sin tha a’ bhuidheann air a bhith a’ cumail taic ri sgrìobhadairean agus foillsichearan Gàidhlig tro thabhartasan, cothroman trèanaidh agus tachartasan cur-air-bhog far am faigh leughadairean cothrom coinneachadh ri diofar ùghdaran. Agus sa bhùth againn tha sinn ag amas air a h-uile leabhar Gàidhlig a tha ann an clò a thabhann.

Cò an luchd-ceannaich – daoine aig a bheil a’ Ghàidhlig bho thùs no luchd-ionnsachaidh?

Is e luchd-ionnsachaidh a tha a’ dèanamh an àird an àireamh as motha a chìthear anns a’ bhùth, cuid aca dìreach a’ tòiseachadh agus cuid a tha air tighinn gu fileantas thairis air na bliadhnaichean, ach bidh daoine le Gàidhlig bho thùs a’ cèilidh oirnn cuideachd. Is ann às na Hearadh a tha mise, agus tha e daonnan math daoine às na h-eileanan fhaicinn sa bhùth ma tha iad ann an Glaschu. Bidh iad a’ coimhead airson stuth dhaibh fhèin agus do an cuid pàistean no oghaichean, oir tha leabhraichean againn airson leughadairean de gach aois.  

Carson a tha sgeulachdan cho cudromach do dh’Alba?

Bha sgeulachdan mar phàirt den dualchas agus de chultar Alba bho thùs. Aig aon àm bha iad gan giùlain bho ghinealach gu ginealach mar sgeulachdan labhairt, agus sna làithean seo tha ùidh mhòr aig daoine fhathast sna sgeulachdan beul-aithris a tha clàraichte ann an iomadach leabhar. Às bith dè an sgeul a thathas ag innse, tha sgeulachd mar mheadhan far an urrainn dhut thu fhèin a thoirt leat a-steach còmhla ris na caractairean anns an sgeul, agus is e sin a tha a’ còrdadh ri daoine.

Cò na sgrìobhadairean Gàidhlig as fheàrr leat?

Ceist dhoirbh – agus is dòcha nach bu chòir dhomh liosta a dhèanamh, oir tha mi airson a bhith cothromach do na sgrìobhadairean uile. Ach mo roghainn phearsanta fhèin, dh’fheumadh Somhairle MacGill-Eain agus Iain Mac a’ Ghobhainn a bhith ann – sàr-sgrìobhadairean an 20mh linn – agus am measg nan daoine a tha a’ sgrìobhadh san latha an-diugh, mholainn nobhailean Aonghais Phàdraig Chaimbeul, Alison Lang agus Iain F. MhicLeòid.

Dè an rud as fheàrr mun obair agad?

A’ coinneachadh ri daoine agus a’ bruidhinn riutha air a’ fòn. Tha e a’ toirt tlachd dhomh daoine a chuideachadh gus leabhar a lorg, ma tha iad a’ ceannach a’ chiad fhaclair aca no nobhail grafaig no cruinneachadh de bhàrdachd.

Dè tha fa-near dhut ann am Bliadhna nan Sgeul 2022?

Bidh sinn a’ cur thachartasan air dòigh an seo sa bhùth agus aig diofar fhèisean air feadh na h-Alba, a’ toirt cothrom do sgrìobhadairean Gàidhlig na sgeulachdan aca innse. Agus ma tha luchd-turais le ùidh ann an Gàidhlig ann an Glaschu tha mi an dòchas gun tig iad a' chèilidh oirnn gus barrachd ionnsachadh mu a deidhinn.

Tha Seachdain na Gàidhlig gu bhith a’ gabhail àite bho 21 gu 27 Màrt. A bheil dad sònraichte fa-near dhuibh?

Bidh oidhche de bhàrdachd a’ gabhail àite san Eilean Sgitheanach air Diluain 21 Màrt – co-bhanntachd eadar Comhairle nan Leabhraichean agus An Comunn Gàidhealach – le Rody Gorman agus Maoilios Caimbeul. Agus bidh an Tosgaire Leughaih againn, Linda NicLeòid, a’ cumail seisean Leugh is Seinn airson na cloinne as òige. Bidh spòrs gu leòr a’ dol.

Is e Comhairle nan Leabhraichean a’ phrìomh bhuidheann a bhios a’ cumail taic ri sgrìobhadairean agus foillsichearan Gàidhlig. Is e carthannas clàraichte a th’ ann, a bhios a’ faighinn maoin bho Bhòrd na Gàidhlig agus Alba Chruthachail. Tha a’ bhùth leabhraichean aig 32 Sràid Achadh a’ Mhansa, Glaschu.

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