RESEARCHERS for a Gaelic dictionary discovered more than just words when they carried out the second phase of their language project.

Inter-university partnership Faclair na Gaidhlig and Gaelic audio recordings catalogue Tobar an Dualchais (TAD) focused on 1200 audio recordings, and it wasn’t long before a considerable number of words were relating to the same subject.

Many of the words referenced plants commonly used in more traditional healing methods. For example, slan-lus (ribwort) would be chewed and then applied to a wound to stop it from bleeding, the plant goc-Phadraig would be applied to draw out poisons from boils and sores, and the consumption of boiled dulse was believed to be a cure for skin eruptions. Examples were also found in which summer butter was an important ingredient in cures. It was used on wounds, for bad colds and asthma, as it was believed that milk from the cows which had been on the moor was more potent.

Lorna Pike, director of lexicography for Faclair na Gaidhlig, commented: “Although we would not advocate trying these traditional cures, it has been really interesting to find terminology and information on this aspect of Gaelic culture from a time when scientific medicine wasn’t readily available.

“As we know, many of the drugs used in modern pharmacy and medicine are derived from plants and some of those which were used in traditional remedies have been proven to have significant health benefits. The links we identified between the cultural and the lexical aspects of traditional cures add to the breadth and depth of the knowledge we have of Gaelic language and culture.”

Floraidh Forrest, project director for TAD, added: “In the next phase, material from dialect areas and subjects not covered previously will be included, and this will result in the production of more transcriptions with items of interest marked up for lexicographers. These transcriptions will allow easy access to idiomatic expressions and usages not evidenced in literature and will be available on the TAD and Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic websites.”

Faclair na Gaidhlig is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and Bord na Gaidhlig, and is scheduled to begin publication online in spring next year.