Over the Sea to Where?

I’m glad I visited the Isle of Skye when I had the chance. Thursday it will be no more.

The jewel of the Hebrides will not sink beneath the waves, but rather under the weight of political correctness. The Highland Council has decreed that the island should shed it’s “Anglicised slave name” and now only be known as Eilean a’ Cheo.

This follows the Western Isles changing its name to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. I didn’t even know about this until I read about Skye. But then I’ve never been known to be one for political correctness.

If you think Eilean a’ Cheo is the ancient name for the island, you’d be wrong. Most Gaelic speakers call it An t-Eilean Sgitheanach. The latter means “Winged Isle” while the new adopted name means “Isle of Mists”, previously used as a poetic nickname for Skye.

Not everyone on Skye is happy about this. Less than half the island speaks Gaelic. It would be like everyone in Welsh-speaking West Wales telling the majority English speakers of Pembrokeshire they would no longer being able to refer to Pembroke or Milford Haven or Haverfordwest. It would even be like not calling them Penfro or Aberdaugleddau or Hwlffordd but rather giving them new names out of the Mabinogion or The Book of Taliesin.

The unhappiness is more practical as well. Each year 250,000 tourists bring in £90 million to Skye. This is what keeps Skye alive. Go changing the name and people may have just a little trouble finding their destination or even booking their holidays, especially since the council is changing the name on all of their documents and tourists inquiring about travelling to Skye will be encouraged to use the new name. Political correctness may come at a high price.


7 Responses to Over the Sea to Where?

  1. Deb says:

    No! Say it isn’t so. We spent part of our honeymoon on Skye (back when the only way to get there was by ferry). How sad.

    I sure hope its a big flop.

  2. Michael says:

    So does everyone with a Skye terrier now have to call it an Eilean a’ Cheo terrier?

  3. Hi from the Isle of Berneray, Outer Hebrides, just across the water from the Isle of Skye.

    Yes, it’s daft. Was also pushed through very quietly – most people here and on Skye were unaware of it. It isn’t universal, and is more for political ward naming, but … if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    It’ll confuse the German tourists even more:

  4. Alasdair says:

    I heard about this on the radio yesterday aswell, interesting … I wonder which political party holds sway on the island, in advance of the elections in a few days time this might be considered something of a pre-emptive political suicide!

  5. Margi says:

    The Scottish National Party are being touted to do very well in Thursday’s elections – who knows perhaps the whole country will be unpronounceable by Friday.

  6. David S. says:

    How bizarre and sad. Isnt “Skye” simply a shortened version of ‘sgitheanach’ ? How can it be an Anglicized slave name when “Skye” itself is a remnant of the gaelic?
    Every gaelic map i ever saw in college said ‘sgitheanach’. Its sad that such an ancient and noble language will most likely be brought down by arrogant stunts like this. “Eilean a Cheo” is simply a new slave name.

  7. Margi says:

    And everyone who isn’t Gaelic will pronounce it Eileen A Choo – it will get a new song, something about a lass who fell out of a boat and started to sneeze.

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