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.

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.

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.

Battlefield Visit

Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean

Last Friday (14th March) saw Taigh Chearsabhabh overflowing again, with members of the community attending the second cèilidh of the project An Fheadhainn tha Laighe Sàmhach. This time there was a special presentation by teachers and students from Sgoil Lìonacleit about their recent trip to various First World War sites and cemeteries. The students showed photos and a short film from their visit, and spoke openly and honestly about the emotional impact of the trip to a rapt audience. Tunes and songs were also shared in the group, with various junior and senior pipers and singers contributing.

Afterwards, Marybell Macintyre from Sgoil Lìonacleit spoke in Gaelic to Gordon Wells about the trip and about the deeper understanding that both she, as a teacher, and the students themselves had gained from it. The conversation is introduced with a snatch of the piping of Sarah MacMillan, and finishes with a taste of Duncan Mackinnon’s singing.

Listen here:

Starting Points

poppy squareMòran Taing, a h-Uile Duine

So far the project has been overwhelmed with all your offers of reminiscences and artefacts and we are so grateful to you for these. It will take us some time to visit you all and gather such precious, personal and unique information. An important principle of this process is that nothing will be publicly shown without your permission. We will however be attempting to find photographs of as many of the Uist Fallen as we can, which may mean that we begin to post some unidentified forces photographs, in the hope that someone may identify them.

A piece of good fortune

Laura Donkers has been working on a two week placement with us this month, as part of her Master of Fine Art degree at  Dundee. This placement has been of immense help to the project, since she had already been commissioned by CEUT to  produce the digital  loop to accompany the exhibition and has now been able to be in on the early stages. We were able to begin the process of identifying those who are happy to offer key information and objects for the project and have been amazed at the wealth of knowledge and generosity of the community. These first meetings have been powerful occasions often resulting in moving, tearful reminiscence, bringing home to us the long-lasting effects of  An Cogadh Mòr within families and localities. We are hoping that her sensitive work with us will be able to become incorporated within her degree study with the added value of her tutors’ guidance..

Reminiscence Ceilidhs

These begin this week, with the Launch Cèilidh at 12.00  – 2.00 at Taigh Chearsabhagh.. Some of those we have already visited will be sharing their stories and some artefacts to inspire us; there will be an introduction to this blog and the Guthan nan Eilean website from Gordon Wells, a DVD of CEUT photos from WW1 has been prepared by John Macdonald and an overview of the project and how community members can help  with dates will be provided as a handout.  A soup and sandwich lunch will be provided.

Visit from Lionacleit Students who visited the battlefields (last June) on Friday March 14th at 3.00 p.m. A most important date for your diaries. The students with their teachers will be giving us a presentation about their visit, followed by a musical cèilidh with Catriona Garbutt, Sarah, who played the pipes at the Menin Gate evening ceremony, Norman Johnson and Duncan Mackinnon, to name but a few. CEUT gave a donation towards their visit and we are looking forward to this special and poignant occasion. Tea and cakes provided.

Heritage Lottery Fund awards £8000 to Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath to mark First World War Centenary

poppy squareToday, Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath has received £8000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a project, ‘An fheadhainn tha laighe sàmhach’, (They lie silent and still), in North Uist, including Grimsay and Berneray. Awarded through HLF’s ‘First World War: then and now’ programme, the project will focus on a major exhibition, which will be launched in Taigh Chearsabhagh Gallery 2 on Armistice Day and run for two months in the winter possibly transferring to the Museum Gallery during 2015.

To complement the existing photographic archive held by CEUT, many local people have already indicated that they have valuable artefacts to contribute and we are so grateful to them for their support. We intend to develop a digital audiovisual loop, as a central part of the exhibition, to honour the 139 men from the island who died in the war.  This Gaelic/English collage of oral memories and poems from the First World War will also include research into the effects of the war on the island.

The information gathered will be digitally recorded and, with the help of Guthan nan Eilean/Island Voices,  an on-line interactive archive (with a special stream for curricular material to be available to schools), will be created where everyone can access and contribute information.  The archive will allow the public to discuss, contribute, share and research information about the Home Front. These will later be available as a DVD and a publication.

There will be a series of lunchtime reminiscence ceilidhs from the end of February with our project partners Caraidean Uibhist, Tagsa, and Guthan nan Eilean, to be held at Taigh Chearsabhagh.  A very special date is 3.00 pm on Friday March 14th, when Sgoil Lionacleit students will be giving a presentation at Taigh Chearsabhagh, based on their visit to the battlefields last June, followed by a musical ceilidh.

An important new venture arising out of this project will be a volunteer programme, whereby over the summer we hope to recruit a rota of tradition-bearing volunteers to greet and welcome visitors to the museum.

Commenting on the award, Councillor Uisdean Robertson said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund for this commemorative project. It is important that the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in World War 1, and of those on the home front, are remembered and marked by today’s generation. I’m particularly pleased that the project will be involving young people through the local schools. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice are lying silent and still but they will never be forgotten.”

Colin McLean, Head of HLF Scotland, said “The First World War changed the face of modern history touching the lives of everyone in this country and beyond.  HLF has committed to funding a variety of projects, from organisations large and small, that will create a deeper understanding of the heritage of the conflict. Some of these will capture the memories of individual soldiers, regiments or families, delve into the stories behind names local war memorials, whilst others like this project in North Uist will investigate the impact the conflict had on the whole area.  We have already supported over £35m of projects from across the United Kingdom and will continue to support as many applications as we can afford that want to commemorate the centenary.”