According to the NHS Scotland Gaelic Language Plan (draft), Gaelic “belongs to the whole of Scotland”. “It is our heritage, it is part of the rich and diverse cultural life of Scotland and is central to our national identity,” adds health secretary Nicola Sturgeon in the foreword.
Under the draft plan, health boards could be asked to include Gaelic on staff name badges, on hospital signs and even health board logos, “so that the public recognise the equal status of Gaelic and English in the day to day activities of NHS Scotland”.
I’m not planning to go into whether this is a good idea or not (for some views on both sides, see the Scottish Daily Express’s take), it’s simply that I’m feeling a bit left out.
Coming from Dundee, I’ve never thought of Gaelic as being part of my heritage (although a check of Wikipedia suggests that I’m wrong in this, because even the name Dundee derives from the Gaelic Dùn Deagh). But Scots – more specifically, the Dundonian language – I drank in with mother’s milk.
So I’d like to make a modest proposal: I’d like the Scottish NHS to consider the needs of native Dundonian speakers. This isn’t a job just for NHS Tayside, but for other health boards too. After all, we Dundonians travel – I live in the NHS Forth Valley area now, and used to rely on health services in Lothian. Presumably the Dundee diaspora has made its way to Glasgow, Highland, and even Eileanan Siar (Western Isles).
So here are my suggestions:
● From now on, every menu in NHS Scotland should offer Dundonian delicacies (just to make us feel at home). These should include (as a minimum) the choice of a peh (pie) or bridie (a plehn ane or an ingin’ ane – the onion in the latter surely contributing to your five-a-day?) at least twice a week, and a buster every day. The buster (mushy peas with a poke of chips and vinegar) has particularly high vitamin C content (and is also excellent for relieving trapped wind), so should fit with NHS nutrition standards. Dundee cake is optional (basically because we didn’t have it much because my mum wasn’t keen on fruit cake)
● There should be a Dundonian questionnaire to determine how well, or otherwise, a patient is feeling. This could be multiple choice and might include the following: What best describes your condition today?
1. Awfy peely-wally. Somewhat pale.
2. Aff ma legs. Don’t want to leave my bed.
3. A wee bit wabbit. A bit unwell.
4. Braw. Just great, thanks.
(Please note that these could be applicable in other areas where Scots is spoken.)
● A list of common complaints (and their remedies) should be issued to all medical staff, particularly to doctors who might have been trained outwith Scotland. These could include:
1. A keeker. Black eye.
2. A stookie. Plaster.
3. Plooks. Spots.
4. Boak. Being sick; also see “scunnered”, which can carry a feeling of being nauseated.
5. Puggled. Exhausted.
● Public health messages could be more successful if couched in Dundonian terms – for example, you could exhort would-be athletes to get their sannies (trainers) on and heid (head) for the gym, and suggest that going for a swally (piss-up) probably won’t help their sporting endeavours.
Once Dundonian language is well and truly embedded in the NHS, surely other public bodies will follow. Education, for example. I have a dream of a time when Dundonian-medium schools are introduced in Edinburgh and Glasgow for the offspring of exiles. Can you imagine the horror of having a child who doesn’t know what a cundie (drain) is, who is unaware of the architectural significance of the pletty (tenement landing), or who wants to play on a slide rather than a chute?
History lessons could centre on the importance of jute, jam and journalism, and the significance of the Battle of Camperdown – that’s the annual Easter battle, by the way, where kids gather in Campie (Camperdown Park) to see whose hard-boiled egg rolls the best. In my schools, truants would be castigated for “plunking” and threatened with the polis – or the man frae the cooncil – if they didn’t mend their ways.
So here’s my message to fellow Dundonians – we’re from a city which boasts a population of more than 154,000 (compared to the 58,600 or so who, in the same 2001 census, had “some Gaelic ability”). It’s time to stand up for ourselves. They might knock down our multies, they might take away our signs which proclaim us a nuclear-free zone, but we must fight, and fight hard, to ensure that our pehs and pletties – and busters – live on for generations to come.