Last 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.