Exhibition Launch

10369107_353668868174823_4422697920892839473_nLast week, on Friday March 13th, the second stage of ‘An fheadhainn tha laighe sàmhach’, the exhibition mounted by Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath, (to gather the reminiscences of the island, together with those of Berneray and Grimsay, on the tragic legacy of ‘An Cogadh Mòr’), was launched, this time as a collaboration with Pròiseact nan Ealan’s travelling exhibition, “Gairm nan Gàidheal”, in the Museum at Taigh Chearsabhagh. Despite some hitches with the weather the week before, which meant that the artefacts only arrived from Harris on the afternoon of the exhibition, Simon MacQuarrie, Chrissie MacCrae from the PnE team and those from CEUT at the Museum still managed to mount an array of compelling items, some on loan from the Flanders Field Museum itself, just in time for the opening.

Neil Ferguson opened the exhibition, thanking all those who had worked to make it successful. He then gave a memorable talk about Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna, and, in a strong and melodious voice, sang some of his war poems, very movingly. Còisir Ghàidhlig Uibhist under the direction of Joanna Peteranna and accompanied by Billy MacPhee then sang the first ‘world performance’ of a poem addressed to the bard by the Rev. John Smith and set to music by a choir member, Peter Cooper. Other local bards of WW1 were represented in powerful contributions from family members Isa MacKillop, Catriona Garbutt, Cathie Laing, Morag Nicholson and Duncan MacKinnon, while Patrick Hughes represented the Irish song tradition, all to great applause. Billy MacPhee played a moving solo, ‘The Battle of the Somme’ and encouraged the audience to join in with some local songs. Neil sang again, ‘An Eala Bhàn’, to great applause and Norman Johnson provided us with poignant and fitting reminders of the role of the piper in WW1, through his inimitable piping during the evening. Ùisdean Robertson gave the concluding appreciation to the contributors and launched the third of CEUT’s annual oral history pamphlets, the first to be bilingual, Isa MacKillop’s ‘An Cogadh Mòr.’

As a result of all these musical contributions, this launch turned out to be a historic and most memorable occasion – there was standing room only, throughout the evening; our estimate is that there were over 90 community members present. Small packets of Flanders Field Poppy Seeds were presented for guests to spread across the islands in remembrance. CEUT is grateful indeed for the amazing support this two year project has evoked amongst the community, local schools and especially those tradition bearers who have participated so generously.


Exhibition Opening: Friday 13th March, 7.30pm

poppy squareComann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath are happy to announce the opening of the second stage of their Heritage Lottery funded exhibition, ‘An fheadhainn tha laighe sàmhach’, which has now moved into the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum, where it will be joined by Pròiseact nan Ealan’s travelling ‘Gairm nan Gàidheal’. This joint exhibition will now run throughout the year, together with a lively programme of workshops, activities and events for all ages. We are deeply indebted to the hard work, commitment and flair of Simon MacQuarrie, whose designs have married the two separate groups’ exhibitions apparently seamlessly. We are so grateful to him and to the generosity of PnE’s considerable support with this venture.

We are delighted that Neil Ferguson has agreed to open the exhibition for us. After he has performed this ceremony, he will give a short talk about his memories of the bard, Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna and will sing some of his work, particularly those poems which reflect the bard’s war experience. Còisir Ghàidhlig Uibhist will perform two songs, one an original composition in parts for the Reverend John Smith’s poem addressed to the bard. Other local musicians, such as Norman Johnson on pipes, Duncan Mackinnon, who will sing some of his father, the Berneray bard’s war poems, Patrick Hughes and Paul McCallum will also contribute. There will be light refreshments and all are welcome to attend.

Ewen MacAskill

Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean.

macaskillEwen MacAskill from North Uist talks in Gaelic to Mary Morrison about the impact of the First World War on various family members and the wider community.

As with many Uist families there were members with direct experience of the war, and some who did not return – and those who did would often not speak about it.

The impacts on the community were brought into sharp focus through his mother’s position as Grimsay postmistress, and therefore deliverer of telegrams to other local families.

This short video was filmed by Laura Donkers for the “An fheadhainn tha laighe sàmhach” project, led by North Uist Historical Society.

Donald MacCormick: Highland Soldiers


Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean.

Donald MacCormick, the well-known book-collector, talks in Gaelic to Archie Campbell about the contributions and sacrifices made by Highland soldiers in the First World War, and the reputation they earned.

As the statistics he cites make clear, it came at a heavy price, especially amongst the pipers.

This is another short film, shot by Laura Donkers, made as part of the An fheadhainn tha laighe sàmhach project led by North Uist Historical Society, Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath, which is collecting some very distinctive “island voices” that have a special tale to tell.

Field of Poppies

poppyGreat news! Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath have been successful in gaining funding from Museums Galleries Scotland to take part in their ‘Festival of Museums’ which will run on the weekend beginning Friday 15th May in museums across Scotland. This festival is a three-day celebration of Scotland’s museums and galleries with events during the day and night.

Our event will be the launch of the Interactive Field of Poppies map, which is the next stage of our collaboration with the Open Virtual Worlds group based in the School of Computer Sciences at St Andrews University, under the direction of Dr Alan Miller. This group specialises in the application of emergent and novel technologies to Cultural Heritage interpretation and presentation.

Poppies found on the map of Grimsay, North Uist and Berneray will mark local WW1 deaths and will be connected to relevant, bi-lingual, multi-media material providing personal histories, research into the Gaelic language, patronymics, poetry and songs. Individual family trees will be constructed, allowing children in school, or diasporic visitors to trace their relatives who fought in the war. In this way, personal histories will be linked to the wider geopolitical context and some aspects of gaming technologies could be developed as online resources within the Curriculum for Excellence.

The launch event will run over two days and will be the culmination of a six-day residency of the St Andrews team, in order to film the materials CEUT have gathered for the installation. On the morning of 15th May we will hold a celebratory event for the local schools involved, in order for them to demonstrate their bilingual research, role-play, storytelling and music – they, their teachers, and parents will be the first to explore and enjoy the Virtual Field of Poppies. In the evening CEUT will host a sparkling launch party with a presentation by St Andrews followed by a musical ceilidh to which members of CEUT and the wider community will be invited. On Saturday 16th there will be a well-promoted Open Day for visitors to explore ‘The Poppy Map Experience’ hosted by St Andrews staff, who will be on hand to demonstrate and explain the technologies.

This installation will be integrated within the Museum Exhibition, which is itself a collaborative venture shared between CEUT’s WW1 Heritage Lottery funded ‘An Fheadhainn tha Laighe Sàmhach’, ‘They Lie Silent and Still’ and Proiseact nan Ealan’s larger exhibition, ‘Gairm nan Gàidheal’, ‘The Call of the Gael’, opening 6th March.

Am Pàipear Report on Exhibition Opening

The December issue of our local Am Pàipear carries a comprehensive report on the opening of our exhibition, together with some lovely pictures of the event.

It really was a very special occasion, and we’re grateful for all the contributions across the generations.

You can read the Am Pàipear report here, or just click on the picture below.


October 3rd Progress Report: how we are getting on.

The WW1 sub-group of Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist A Tuath has been busy out and about, filming interviews and capturing content both for Guthan Nan Eilean and for our exhibition and our eventual publications. So far Willie Macdonald has read some of the war poems of Domhnall Ruadh Choruna and spoken about his own relatives’ experiences of war. The Reverend John Smith, who will be opening our exhibition on November 11th, has described the Opening of the War Memorial at Clachan and has written a very moving lament of his own about war and loss. Norman MacLean is busy rehearsing a poem he has written about his grandfather saying his final farewell to his mother, when she was aged five, at the gate of Carinish School, with pupils from that school.
Cathie Laing has recorded poignant memories of her great-uncle and his suffering from the effects of mustard gas. Alec MacAulay has described an important event, one which powerfully demonstrates the effects of this war on the island, namely the Land raids. Lachie Morrison has contributed valuable documentation, photos and song about his father’s wartime experience.
More interviews with Donald MacCormick, Maggie Cooper, Isa MacKillop, Duncan MacKinnon, Ewen MacAskill and Norman Johnson, are at the edit stage, and we aim to finish the last five interviews by October 10th, leaving us one month to complete the exhibition DVD on time for the opening. We meet as a sub-group today to do our final planning for the exhibition. We will also be meeting with Simon MacQuarrie later next week to discuss the design of the exhibition. We are very grateful for the support of Proiseact nan Eilean with our exhibition. Their gift to the project of two Ipads has proved invaluable with our filming.

Norman Maclean: Òran do Sgoilearan Chàirinis

Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean

Norman Maclean’s grandfather (also Norman – Tormod Ailein) was lost at sea in the First World War, when Norman’s mother was still young.

In another contribution to the project, Mary Morrison arranged for Norman to visit Sgoil Chàirinis, where his mother was a pupil, to recite this specially composed Gaelic song, and help the children learn to sing it.

In the video clip below Norman gives a crystal clear rendition of the words.

With his kind agreement, a written version is also made available on Clilstore so you can listen and read at the same time. Click on this link – Unit 2307 – to go to the transcription.