In a front-page article on "the symbolic decline of Gaelic" (TESS, March 28), sociologist Kenneth MacKinnon considers the anglicising effects of education on island children, including life in school hostels:
Hostel life is anglicising - in some hostels to a greater extent than others.
In some hostels, the tradition has been perceived as one in which the older boys require a swift switch to English by the new boys. In other hostels, older girls are promoting a more strongly Gaelic culture and younger boys entering the hostel maintain their Gaelic.
Young women away from home may adopt a very strong commitment to their language and culture, often using it as a cultural support or prop, and developing almost a sense of Gaelic ethnicity. It is ironic that, in the social processes affecting such Gaelic communities as Harris, the most overtly loyal to their mother culture are the brighter young women who will almost inevitably marry away from the island community.
In a study of language loyalty undertaken among the adult community, it was by contrast found that the least loyal group comprised the younger women remaining on the island.