Taigh Lawrence

Le Gordon Wells

Tommy and Lawrence montage

Iochdar resident Lawrence Iain Alasdair ’ic Raghnaill (Lawrence MacEachen) recently entertained Tommy Macdonald in his home for a chat about his beautiful taigh-tughaidh (thatched house). At Island Voices we were privileged to be able to record their conversation, which we have now added to our “Taighean-tughaidh” playlist on YouTube.

As with the earlier recordings of Tommy and Betty, this conversation is presented in two alternative formats. Fluent speakers may choose simply to watch the whole thing in one go in the “omnibus” version, without any need for recourse to learning aids.

On the other hand, the full conversation has again been broken up into smaller parts, each of which is also supported by auto-translatable subtitles and a wordlinked transcript for the benefit of learners or non-speakers of Gaelic. Links to the transcripts are given in the YouTube video descriptions.

In Part 1, Tommy introduces us to Lawrence in his thatched house in Iochdar, South Uist, inherited from his aunt. Lawrence explains how it had been used as a byre for a time before he did it up again for his own use. It’s due for re-thatching again – in some respects a less arduous task than it used to be.

In Part 2, Tommy and Lawrence discuss the shaping of the roof and the corners of the traditional thatched houses to lessen the impact of the Hebridean gales, as well as the ease of use of local stone to build the thick walls. Lawrence has been told his is the only thatched house in the north of Scotland with a permanent resident, though others have been done up for holiday lets in accordance with sometimes strict planning regulations. There used to be many more of these houses in Iochdar.

In Part 3, Tommy and Laurence talk about some of the other thatched houses they remember, and discuss alternative thatching materials, including marram grass, heather, and rushes. Each has its own qualities, with different materials likely to be used in different areas. Care needs to be taken when gathering roofing materials.

These recordings have been enabled through the ongoing support of the UHI-led CIALL project.

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Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

Some Good News for Gaelic

Le Bella Caledonia Editor

More on the #ScottishCensus2022. Some good news for Gaelic. The census shows us that: 2.5% of people aged 3+ had some skills in Gaelic in 2022. This is an increase of 43,100 since 2011. The percentage of 3 to 15 year olds with Gaelic skills doubled from 1.3% to 2.9%. Small changes sure, but an […]

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Tadhail air Ghetto na Gàidhlig – Bella Caledonia

Gress Memories – Sgìre a’ Bhac

Le Gordon Wells

Gress Memories Scr

“Fàilte oirbh gu fear eile de na còmhraidhean a tha seo, aig Comann Eachdraidh Sgìre a’ Bhac.”

Ishbell MacDonald (Ishbel Bhobshie), her brother Dòmhnall and John MacDonald (Swannie) chat with Coinneach Mòr.

Another wordlinked transcript has been created for this recording, with CIALL assistance:


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Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

Gaelic in Shetland

Le Gordon Wells

DS Murray poster pictureSelect any video clip in this landscape format, or use the phone-friendly portrait layout.

Lewis-man Donald S Murray is a Shetland resident. As an established writer, mostly in English, how does he keep his Gaelic going while living away from the Ness community where he acquired it?

Following on from our recent “Jamaican in Wales” feature, that’s a key question underlying this second small collection of videos in our Island Voices extension series looking at language use in an “exile” context. Again, we have added poetic recitation to the standard documentary plus interviews format in our Language Capture and Curation model, with the narrative documentary also being reduplicated in English. All films in the collection can be accessed through the above poster in either landscape or phone-friendly portrait layout.

As Donald freely acknowledges, he mostly uses his Gaelic for talking rather than writing, and we’ve duly given greater weight in this package to his conversational voice, though we’re pleased to also platform some of his less well-known Gaelic poetry. While he obviously has many Gaelic speakers in his ever-widening readership, there will also be many non-speakers of Gaelic who, up until now, will only know his “voice” through the written English page. Here he speaks openly and frankly in what he accounts his native language, establishing direct unfiltered contact with his home community in Lewis. At the same time, YouTube subtitling allows others to read his words as he speaks, with the on-off choice of auto-translation into a wide range of other languages, English among them. (Click the Settings Wheel to view the full range and select your own preference.)

The conversation component has additionally been split into three parts, for the benefit of learners or non-speakers of Gaelic, each equipped with optional closed caption subtitles. The “omnibus” edition is intended for those with no need for such assistance.

In Part 1 Donald talks about his family background and upbringing, first in East Kilbride and then in Ness, Isle of Lewis. He also talks about community and school influences and how they affected his acquisition of Gaelic. A spell of work and then university studies followed on the mainland, before he returned to the Western Isles to teach, first in Lewis, and then Benbecula. He also refers to challenges he had to overcome during these stages of his life.

In Part 2 Donald talks about life as a Gaelic speaker in Shetland, noting how he maintains his speaking skills through long-distance conversations and frequent radio interviews. He points out the relative infrequency of his writing in the language as a common feature amongst fluent Gaelic speakers who normally practise their literacy through English, so his writing about his home community is often a process of translation from Gaelic in his head to English on the page. He regrets the lack of theatre-based literary work in the Western Isles, and highlights the value of the short story format in an island community setting. One advantage of now living away from Lewis is the greater freedom he now feels to express critical opinion freely.

In Part 3 Donald talks in some detail about the difficulties he encountered in first writing his novel, As the Women Lay Dreaming, and then in talking about it afterwards, often in relation to dealing with varying experiences of trauma at personal as well as community levels. The theme returns in a very different community context in The Salt and the Flame, exploring urban American tensions through Gaelic emigrant eyes. He is thankful for his father’s encouragement of his wide reading interests as a young boy in Ness, which are reflected in the book alongside the wider research he conducted as part of the writing process.

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Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

O Parlamento de Crianças

Le Gordon Wells

CPBenFicheadEunUm pequeno documentário em Português sobre um encontro do Parlamento de Crianças de Uist e da Barra

At Island Voices we welcome participation and contributions from speakers, learners, and researchers of any age and stage in multiple languages from all over the globe!

Marina Yazbek Dias Peres is a student in the Research Program at Princeton High School, New Jersey, in the USA. In this program, each student learns to research, and conducts their own project over the course of three years. Marina’s research project is focused on “uncovering the motivation behind the preservation of dying/endangered languages, and analyzing the causation behind the lack of their use”.

Marina is bilingual in English and Portuguese, and is also studying French and Mandarin in school. During discussion of her research topic with Gordon Wells she kindly offered to add Portuguese to the Island Voices list of “Other Tongues“, choosing the Children’s Parliament in Benbecula film in Series 2 Generations. We were happy to accept! Perhaps her example will inspire others like her to take an interest and think about participating too?

A wordlinked transcript with the video embedded is available here: https://multidict.net/cs/11930

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Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

2024 an Cèitean: Taigh-tasgaidh nan Taighean-solais Albannach / May: Scottish Lighthouse Museum

Le seaboardgàidhlig

Sgrìobh mi an-uiridh mu Thaigh-solais a‘ Chinn Àird ann am Baile nam Frisealach. https://www.seaboardgaidhlig.com/2023/11/06/2023-an-t-samhain-an-ceann-ard-nov-kinnaird-head/  Dìreach ri thaobh tha Taigh-tasgaidh nan Taighean-solais Albannach, agus tha sin a-nis fosgailte a-rithist às dèidh obair is ùrachadh a’ gheamhraidh. Mar sin innsidh mi dhuibh beagan ma dheidhinn am mìos seo, agus mholainn tadhal air seo cuideachd, còmhla ri turas tron Taigh-solais a’ Chinn Àird fhèin. 

Tha an togalach làn stuth tarraingeach ceangailte ri taighean-solais agus cuideachd ri eachdraidh nan taighean-solais Albannach, gu h-àraidh cruinneachadh sònraichte de sholasan (“optics”) à iomadh taigh-solas air feadh na dùthcha, far an deach na stèiseanean sin ùrachadh. Tha cuid gu math mòr, àrd, agus faodaidh tu dol glè fhaisg orra fhad ‘s a bhios tu a’ coiseachd nam measg tron talla-thaisbeanaidh mhòr. Tha lionsaichean is lampaichean eile ann cuideachd, mòra is beaga, agus mìneachadh soilleir aig gach fear, m.e. tha solas taigh-solais Rubha na Cananaich ri fhaicinn an sin.

Tha storas an taighe-thasgaidh air a sgaoileadh thairis air dà ìre, le eachdraidh nan taighean-solais air a sealladh ‘s a mìneachadh sa phàirt suas an staidhre. An sin ionnsaichidh tu mu theaghlach ainmeil nan Stevensons, ach mu einseinnearan, dhèanadairean-lionsaichean, is luchd-togail cudromach eile cuideachd, a chluich pàirt mhòr, is mar as trice pàirt gu math dana, ann an cruthachadh sreath de thaighean-solais timcheall air costa carraigeach na h-Alba. Tha uidheam, cairtean, modailean ann, sgeulachdan mu mhi-shealbh is shàbhaladh, a h-uile rud a’ toirt beatha do sgeul tarraingeach nan togalaichean suaicheanta seo. Tha rudeigin inntinneach ann do gach neach, inbhich mar chlann. Chunnaic mi teaghlaichean gu lèir air am beò-ghlacadh leis na mìorbhailean an sin. As t-samradh tha geamaichean is cur-seachadan a bharrachd ann dhan chloinn cuideachd.

Tha aon rud sònraichte drùidhteach a chì thu thairis air an dà ìre, is sin solas taigh-solais Sanda à 1882 – tha feum air toll mòr eadar an dà làr gus a shealladh, is e cho àrd. Agus air a’ bhun-ùrlar tha barrachd ann mu na bàtaichean a dh’fhritheil na taighean-solais, agus na criuthaichean a sheòl iad tro na siantan – gaisgich gu leòr an sin cuideachd,  comhla ris na glèidheadairean-taigh-solais calma fhèin.

Fiù ‘s nach eil sibh uile nur luchd-leantainn taighean-solais mar a tha mise, tha mi cinnteach gur e sgrìob gu math tarraingeach a bhiodh ann do gach neach a bhuineas do choimhearsnachd na mara, gu sònraichte air a cho-cheangal ri tadhal air Taigh-solais a’ Chinn Àird.

Tha buth is cafaidh anns an taigh-tasgaidh, agus tha e fosgailte as t-samhradh gach latha 10m gu 5f.  Barrachd fiosrachaidh an seo: https://lighthousemuseum.org.uk/

Museum of Scottish Lighthouses

Last year I wrote about Kinnaird Head Lighthouse in Fraserburgh. https://www.seaboardgaidhlig.com/2023/11/06/2023-an-t-samhain-an-ceann-ard-nov-kinnaird-head/  Right beside it is the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, and that’s open again now after its winter work and update, so I thought I’d tell you a bit about it this month. I can highly recommend a visit there too, along with a tour round Kinnaird Head Lighthouse itself.

The building is full of fascinating stuff connected to lighthouses and also to the history of Scottish lighthouses, especially the outstanding collection of the lights (“optics”) from the many lighthouses around the country that have now been modernised. Some are very large and tall, and you can get right up to them as you walk among them through the big exhibition hall. There are other lenses and lamps there too, large and small, with clear explanantions for each of them, e.g. you can see the Chanonry Point lighthouse optic there too.

The museum’s collections are spread over two levels, with the history of the lighthouses displayed and explained in the upstairs part. There you learn about the famous Stevenson dynasty of lighthouse-builders, but also about all the other engineers, lense-makers, and important builders who played a large part, and often a daring one, in the creation of the chain of lighthouses around the craggy coast of Scotland. They have equipment, charts, and models, tales of disaster and rescue, all bringing to life the fascinating story of these iconic structures. There’s something of interest for everyone, adults and children alike. I saw whole families captivated by the marvels on display. In the summer there are also extra activies for children.

There’s one very special item that you’ll see over the two levels – that’s the Sanda light from 1882; they had to make an opening between the two floors to display it, it’s so high. And on the ground floor there’s more about the boats that served the lighthouses and the crews who sailed them through the elements – plenty of heroes there too, along with the hardy keepers themselves.

Even if you’re not a lighthouse fan like me, I’m certain that this would be a great day out for anyone from a coastal community, especially when combined with a visit to the neighbouring Kinnaird Head Lighthouse. There’s  shop and a cafe too. Summer opening hours are daily 10am to 5pm. More information here:  https://lighthousemuseum.org.uk/

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Tadhail air seaboardgàidhlig

CEUT Reflections 4

Le Gordon Wells

Here’s the fourth of our series of blogposts by Mary Morrison in which she reflects on the Aire Air Sunnd project led by Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath. As with her previous posts, comments are welcome!

sgoil chairinis

Mary writes:

Cafaidh Gàidhlig agus Feasgar Dimàirt. 

‘Even the sheep and cows seemed to know who we were.’

During February and March the wellbeing and Gaelic groups have spent an interesting time sharing our thoughts about the place of North Uist, based on the key findings of the CEUT 2023 Community Survey.  We have tried to explore further the unspoken, deeper meanings lying beneath our concerns, in order to provide more pressing evidence to convince  potential funders of the urgency of our bids for the refurbishment of Sgoil Chàirinis, as a Gaelic, heritage and wellbeing community centre.

The common concern underlying these activities is our attempt to define CEUT’s role in so far as it may contribute to the local communities’ sense of wholeness, robustness and cheerfulness. The project wants to encourage some form of cultural shift, using the aspects of our place that are our greatest assets to fortify the island’s biological, environmental and human wellbeing. The wisdom inherent in vernacular voices and local practices may be best suited to reach the centres of power and exert some influence? 

The ideas developed during Feasgar Dimàirt will also be incorporated into a community mural, (or separate panels of such a wall hanging) to celebrate the unique heritage and resilient Gaelic culture of North Uist – a collaborative visual legacy for the project, and a way of combining a wide range of the communities’ artistic and storytelling talents. We are grateful to our partners here, Caraidean Uibhist and Sgoil Uibhist A Tuath for collaborating so willingly in this placemaking effort.

To begin the process of mural shaping we discussed what made us most happy about living on North Uist. The listening was intent, the group itself seemed at home, offering respect, calmness and space to put complex ideas and feelings into words, at our own pace, often qualifying and refining these.

Our recurring ideas:

  • the magic or spell of the place, the land and its unique, unchanged qualities 

‘Clarity of the light’, ‘changing colours of the water’, ‘layers of colours of the sand the seaweed and the sea as it stretches to infinity’, ‘poetry of creation’, ‘the sound of the sea’, ‘roaring like traffic’, ‘mindfulness’, ‘losing yourself’, ‘birdlife”, ‘walking for ever without a destination’, ‘the capacity of the environment to change so suddenly’, ‘peace and beauty’, ‘a constant surprise’.

  • identity, family and ancestors – especially for our indigenous dwellers 

knittingGaelic method of reciting of the male members of a family tree, sloinneadh, all the precious ‘connections to the local community’, heritage of knitting, peats, creel and rope making, weaving, families widening out but often returning, ‘recognising our closeness to other cultures‘, ‘confidence in new life’, growth – babies of all species- keeping the ceilidh culture and the songs going, the ‘friendliness’ of the community.

  • placemaking, local names, wells and the need to map, signpost and mark these 

‘Views that have remained unchanged from what our ancestors saw’, noticing the changes in coastline, species, disappearance of Gaelic, wells, standing stones and their stories, some urgency to preserve.  ‘Getting more sentimental as I grow older’. Mention here of milestones, waymarks trails, mapping the area for future generations and visitors, with the stories attached to them.

  • and for settlers or returners, the profound sense of suddenly belonging, feeling at home and enriched by the place 

‘Last night the tide was very high, I went out and stood, just watching it.

I suddenly  felt so glad to be living.’

‘Glad to be here’

‘Coming from a dry, hot and dusty area, the silence, nothing, the sound of the sea was astonishing.

‘Even the sheep and cows seemed to know who we were’

ScrabbleThe Cafaidh Gàidhlig sessions were also held in Sgoil Chàirinis over February and March. Smaller numbers here made these more intimate occasions and provided Gaelic speakers with an opportunity to speak freely in an informal setting. Games and learning activities, including the new Gaelic version of Scrabble and a beginners’ Gaelic lesson were available each morning.

Gaelic speakers were able to engage fully in profound conversations without having to give way to English. What was noticeable, to a learner was the ‘comfort’ of the speakers, the remarkable concentration on listening to each other, the lack of interruption, the implicit natural respect in turn taking, the quality of engagement, agreement and reinforcement for each speaker, the rapidity of the flow of cadence and expression, together with the ease and frequent hilarity of the discussion. To a learner, it felt like a privilege to be included so fully within the ‘cosmos’ of the language as it is spoken naturally, something that lessons rarely capture.

Areas discussed included:

  • people’s experiences of attending school away from Uist and living in school hostels and all that that entailed in terms of displacement and Gaelic use
  • broader discussion of the use of the Gaelic language in the Uist community
  • the urgency of what we can do to ensure that Gàidhlig has a future as a viable community language
  • recognition that we need to make people aware that the language is here, and to use it in as many contexts as possible (for example, a young woman who works in a local supermarket told us that it is quite normal for her to use Gaelic in her encounters with customers, but less so in other settings)
  • we recognise the use of Gaelic depends heavily on the context. Discussion of the importance of parents of those in Gaelic-medium education using Gaelic in the home and socially
  • recent research has shown that Gaelic has been losing its ‘domains’ of use in the public sphere, but also in social life, particularly amongst the young.
  • use of digital, Gaelic and bilingual mapping for waymarking walks to local heritage sites

There followed a discussion about activities which would promote Gaelic and provide a greater presence for the language  in the community.

  • one man present had provided crofting life experiences in the past
  • CEUT has organised summer walks to sites of interest over the past few years. The walks have been led by Gaelic speakers and delivered primarily in Gaelic. People have commented on how much they enjoyed listening to the information being presented in Gaelic, even if they didn’t understand all, or indeed, any of it. An English ‘crib sheet’ was always available .
  • the valuable interviewing and recording work which has taken place over the years, preserving people’s language, knowledge and experience. This work is very much ongoing and can be found on Guthan nan Eilean. It can also also be enriching for both interviewer and interviewee
  • The observation was also made that the register of Gaelic language used depends heavily on context and setting

A discussion followed as to what may be done to ensure that Gaelic has a viable future as a living community language in the face of many challenges. The most pressing being the lack of Gaelic use among the young, for whom English tends to be  the default language, even for those attending Gaelic-medium education.

Members of both groups expressed a wish for the two activities to continue and we are hoping these will become monthly CEUT events, keeping up the momentum, closeness and energy the pilot events have inspired. We have recorded the speakers who have led the discussions so far and still have more to record, especially the evening talk on Coastal Erosion with Stuart Angus in the final week in July.

As Michael Newton states in ‘Warriors of the Word’:

‘As the Gaelic sense of place is one in which communal history is embedded in the placenames attached to landscape features, it depends to a great degree upon understanding the language in which the placenames were coined’.

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Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

Pàipear-ullachaidh air Bile nan Cànan Albannach air fhoillseachadh

Le Oifigear Gàidhlig

Chaidh am Pàipear-ullachaidh air Bile nan Cànan Albannach fhoillseachadh an-diugh le SPICe – Ionad Fiosrachaidh Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. Tha am pàipear ri fhaighinn ann am Beurla, Gàidhlig agus Scots. Seo an tionnadh Gàidhlig den phàipear. Bidh obair sgrùdaidh a’ tòiseachadh air a’ bhile a-màireach (Diciadain 1 Giblean). Chithear clàr na comataidh air loidhne. Alasdair MacCaluim … Leugh an corr de Pàipear-ullachaidh air Bile nan Cànan Albannach air fhoillseachadh

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Tadhail air Blog Pàrlamaid na h-Alba

Fios naidheachd: Comataidh an Ionmhais aig Taigh an Ròid a’ cur taic ri Bile Cìs nan Agragaidean

Le Oifigear Gàidhlig

Tha Comataidh an Ionmhais is Rianachd Phoblaich (FPAC) aig Pàrlamaid na h-Alba air aontachadh ri prionnsapalan coitcheann Bile a chruthaicheas Cìs Agragaidean (Aggregates) Albannach (SAT) – cìs air cleachdadh malairteach de stuthan leithid creag is morghan a thathar a’ cleachdadh anns a’ ghnìomhachas togail. Bidh am Bile a’ lìbhrigeadh dreach tiomnaichte de chìs agragaidean na … Leugh an corr de Fios naidheachd: Comataidh an Ionmhais aig Taigh an Ròid a’ cur taic ri Bile Cìs nan Agragaidean

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Tadhail air Blog Pàrlamaid na h-Alba

Gairm fianais: Beachdan gan sireadh air Bile an Taigheadais

Le Oifigear Gàidhlig

Comataidhean Taigh an Ròid a’ cur Co-chomhairle air bhog còmhla air a’ Bhile Taigheadais ùr a tha a’ cuimseachadh air Dìth Dachaigh agus Còraichean Theanantan   Tha a’ Chomataidh Riaghaltas Ionadail, Taigheadais is Dealbhaidh agus a’ Chomataidh Ceartas Sòisealta agus Tèarainteachd Shòisealta aig Pàrlamaid na h-Alba air co-chomhairle phoblach ùr a chur air bhog còmhla an-diugh … Leugh an corr de Gairm fianais: Beachdan gan sireadh air Bile an Taigheadais

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Tadhail air Blog Pàrlamaid na h-Alba