This year’s Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI Student of the Year award goes to a retired headmaster and Gaelic learner. Originally hailing from Dumfries but now living on Skye, John Howieson has been an enthusiastic learner and supporter of the Gaelic language for a number of years and developed his language skills through attending Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Summer School programme.
John was actively involved in developing Gaelic-medium secondary education in his former role as Head-teacher of Portree High School from 1998 to 2007 and he began a full-time Gaelic-medium course at SMO in 2013. Since then, he has completed year 3 of the University of the Highlands and Islands’ BA (Hons) Language and Culture degree and will commence his final year in September. As part of the Honours year, students on the Gaelic and Related Studies Scheme have the opportunity to undertake an overseas students exchange in either Ireland or Canada and John has elected to undertake his student placement at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia where he will spend 4 months studying courses on Cape Breton history and culture.
John is an accomplished Gaelic singer and last year he established a Gaelic song evening where students would gather once a week to learn and sing Gaelic songs. John is a regular and highly successful participant in the Royal National Mod, both as a member of the local Strath Gaelic Choir and also as a solo singer and in 2014, John was named Gaelic Learner of the Year at the Mod in Inverness – an award which recognizes a Gaelic learner who has made significant steps to fluency.
Throughout his studies so far, John has achieved an A grade in all his 18 modules, with an average of 76.2% in all modules studied last year. In addition to his academic achievements, John has immersed himself fully in College and student life and is particularly helpful and supportive of other students. As an example, he participates in the College’s language buddy system, assisting other learners with their spoken Gaelic and he also engages fully in the academic and social life of the College. John has continued on his language learning journey and through his achievements and example of using Gaelic regularly in and out with the College, he has been a source of inspiration to many learners from all parts of the country and beyond.
On receiving this award John said, "I am delighted to be given this award. It is a great honour. Everyone at SMO has been extremely supportive of me – lecturers, other staff and students – and I would like to thank each and every one of them. With that kind of help, I am hopeful my Gaelic will flourish evermore."
(An earlier version of this report stated John had won the Gold Medal at the Mod but that was not the case. This was corrected on 2016-08-23 at 09:24:16.)