Isa MacKillop: Companaich m’ Òige

Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean

The latest addition to the project is a song, courtesy of Isa MacKillop, well-known throughout the community for her longstanding commitment to, and support for, the passing on of local Gaelic traditions and music. As she explains in her words of introduction, the song – “Companaich m’ òige” (companions of my youth) – was composed by her paternal uncle Iain Archie MacAskill, the “Bard of Berneray”. He returned from the war, while many of his comrades did not. He later moved to Australia, and composed this song there.

The song can be found in the collection “An ribheid chiùil”, edited by Alick Morrison, published in 1961. Copies are hard to come by these days – though here’s an interesting story from another Island Voices contributor on how at least one special copy found its way back to Berneray…

This recording was made by Mary Morrison.


Cathie Laing: Sgìths ‘s Cruadal

Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean

Seo pìos a chaidh a chlàradh leis a’ phròiseict, a tha air a ruith le Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath.

An seo cluinnibh sibh Cathie Laing a’ bruidhinn mu na cuimhneachan a th’ aice air a seanair.

Tha dealbh aice dheth, agus tha i ag innse dhuinn mar a dh’fhuiling e sa chogadh, agus mu na buaidh a bh’ aig na thachair dha air a bheatha agus air a theaghlach.

Alec Macaulay and the Land Raids

Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean Retired policeman Alec Macaulay talks in Gaelic to Archie Campbell about the land raids on the west side of North Uist that took place after the First World War, in which his own father was involved. A serious business, but not without some lighter moments, as Alec relates…

Alec was recorded for the project, “An fheadhainn tha laighe sàmhach”, run by Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna and the Great War

Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean

This day, 4th August 2014, marks 100 years since Great Britain entered the First World War – An Cogadh Mòr.

Here, retired headteacher Willie Macdonald reads out extracts from the emotionally intense poetry of the North Uist bard Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna, and discusses them in Gaelic and English. The conversation moves on to focus on the impact on families, including Willie’s own, of the losses suffered in the First World War, and the land raids undertaken by returning soldiers hardened by conflict, and willing to face imprisonment in pursuit of their claims to decent crofting land.

Willie was recorded by Mary Morrison and Laura Donkers for the project, run by Comunn Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath. You can find the book of Dòmhnall Ruadh’s poetry, with full parallel English translations, via this link to the Gaelic Books Council.

North Uist War Memorial

Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean

North Uist War Memorial

As part of the  project Mary Morrison and Laura Donkers recorded the Reverend John Smith of North Uist as he describes the 1923 dedication of the North Uist war memorial.

This is followed by two of his own compositions. The first, in Gaelic, starts with the striking and memorable line “Cha charaid, ach nàmhaid, cogadh”, and was written in response to losses in his own family. His second poem, in English, reflects on the courageous sacrifices that were made by many, and finishes as strongly as the first one started: “We will remember them”.

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:

North Uist Remembrance

Shared from Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean

There was a tremendous turnout at Taigh Chearsabhagh for the launch cèilidh of the new project being led by Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath, the North Uist Historical Society. The project, An fheadhainn tha laighe sàmhach, commemorates the outbreak of the First World War.

Local community members gathered to share reminiscences and show each other family artefacts that keep alive the memory of the sacrifices of earlier generations.

Afterwards, members of the project team talked to Gordon Wells in English and Gaelic about how the first cèilidh went, and their hopes for the planned exhibition and other future events.

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.”