Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Speaker's Gaelic Motto

I strive to be fair but that Michael Martin, he owes me - and not just for the sympathetic portrait in yesterday’s sketch of parliamentary proceedings (see below).

A guide to the Speaker’s House, which my esteemed political editor, brought back from a nice drinks reception with Mr Martin yesterday, has fallen open at the page about the Speaker’s Coat of Arms. His motto, written in Gaelic, is “Tha mi a’s stri a bhi cothromach”. It translates “I strive to be fair”.

It’s a reminder of Mr Martin’s island background. His mother was a McNeill whose people came from Barra, and the galleon on his coat of arms also represents the connection while its diced royal blue sail is a reference to his wife’s maiden name, McLay. There’s a steel rule to symbolise Mr Speaker’s time as a sheet metal worker and a chanter to reflect his passion for the bagpipes.

It’s a great coat of arms but that’s all by the way. I remember as a callow youth, okay, seven years ago, being introduced to the the newly elected Speaker in one of the Commons canteens. He explained how he wanted the motto of the Coat of Arms he was then designing to be in Gaelic and I promised to check the spelling for him.

I sent the motto to some friends who made sure it was spot on (Gaels tend to be very pedantic about spelling) and e-mailed it by return to one of the Speaker’s staff. So, the Gaelic translation was provided by yours truly.

And that was the last I heard of it, until the booklet fell open on my desk yesterday. And who gets the invite to the Speaker’s reception after the Queen’s Speech?

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