"Meanwhile, it is hot air that is the problem at committee meetings of Western Isles Council; and Gaelic hot air at that. Translator Dollag, a Niseach, sits in a booth at the back and rabbits away, converting perfectly good Gaelic into a squawky north-of-Galson dialect that, being heavily guga-flavoured, has only a passing resemblance to the Queen's English. Still, it's only for the benefit of the handful of councillors who are non-Gaelic speakers, so they can sit there nodding, wired for sound.
Unfortunately, I have to report that the usually reliable process of simultaneous translation sparked unseemly scenes at a recent meeting of the transport committee. In the chair was the usually precise and immaculately spoken member for Barra, Donald Manford.
He began proceedings by reading out the announcements. They included a reminder to everyone present to switch off their mobile phones. A mischievous imp who was there tells me that Donald was distracted by something and misread the note. Instead of asking the councillors to put off their phones, what he actually told them was to put off their clothes.
There was a stunned, awkward silence. Then the voice of an audibly shocked Dollag could be heard in the headphones. Afraid that the elected members were taking the dress-down concept way too far, she was heard protesting loudly that there were some things she just would not translate. So there.
The Gaelic-speaking members were in total disarray. Stornoway North member Murdo Macleod's jaw dropped so much it nearly fractured the desk; Morag Munro, of Harris, needed smelling salts, and Benbecula's Martin Taylor had to jump on Catherine Macdonald, the Dame of Drinishader, as she tried to comply with the chairman's instruction. Isn't it a pity that council proceedings are not televised?
A supremely remorseful Donald Manford feebly tried to excuse his outrageous conduct by explaining it was an easy mistake for him to make because the note was written in a dialect he was not familiar with Lewis Gaelic. His colleagues now hope he will get more familiar with an optician."
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