Stòras Beò: Alasdair a-rithist

Le Gordon Wells

AlasdairandKirsty

Alasdair Macdonald talks to his daughter Kirsty. This follows on from the previous conversation Archie Campbell had with Alasdair for Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal.

This time Kirsty took charge of the kit and made the recording herself, capturing a fascinating father-daughter exchange in which more stories were re-told, many of them obviously old family favourites.

In this part, Alasdair recounts a number of tales recalled from his own childhood. Topics covered include hunting for rabbits, a near-drowning before the Baleshare causeway was built, youthful gun-handling, the making of seal oil, the use of horses for ploughing or to haul carts, and illicit fishing attempts with dynamite. These are followed by the recital of more traditional stories such as Cù Dubh Mhic a’ Phì (Àiridh na h-Aon Oidhche) and Isean Mhic Mhuirich.

A wordlinked transcript with embedded video is available on Clilstore via this link: https://multidict.net/cs/9723

In this part, Alasdair relates a story of fairy abduction to begin with, before hitting his stride with a series of anecdotes concerning local “characters” or family antecedents, including Iain Beag, Teàrlach Ruadh, Aonghas Ailean mhic Aonghaidh, and Ailean Heisgeir himself. From there the conversation moves onto deer-hunting escapades around Eaval (and how court appearances would not necessarily result in a poaching conviction), followed by discussion of grazing issues for both cattle and sheep. He finishes by describing traditional methods commonly used to make butter and cheese.

A wordlinked transcript with embedded video is available on Clilstore via this link: https://multidict.net/cs/9724


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Stòras Beò: Pàdruig Moireasdan

Le Gordon Wells

PàdruigandGordonPàdruig Morrison, PhD scholar, crofter, musician, and community activist from Grimsay, talks to Gordon Wells for the Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal project.

We’ve added a Gaelic subtitle option on YouTube for those that wish it, which can be machine translated into multiple other languages through “Settings”. Wordlinked transcripts are also available on Clilstore.

In the first part, he recalls his family history, including his grandfather’s celebrated recordings and their importance for the preservation and transmission of Gaelic culture, and his father’s love of singing and the continuation of tradition. His own Gaelic was nurtured in the extended family and community, with the strong support of his English-speaking mother. An early interest in music was well supported through Uist schooling initially, and then intensively in Edinburgh, where he found additional impetus for his Gaelic through church and university circles. Following his father’s death, he maintained close contact with his Grimsay home, to which he always intended to return.

A wordlinked transcript alongside the embedded video is available here: https://multidict.net/cs/9686

In the second part, Pàdruig makes some comparisons between Irish and Scottish traditional music scenes, drawing on his experience of postgraduate study in Maynooth, where he noted a common preference in rural more “Gàidhealach” areas for a steady swing in contrast with urban centres like Dublin or Glasgow. Now back home in Grimsay he is busy with his croft, in addition to pursuing a PhD. The maintenance of traditional crofting skills is important to him in times of heightened environmental awareness. He is also involved in debates around access to crofts and housing for young people, especially following Covid lockdowns. He is optimistic about developing the common interest of vernacular Gaels and learners in sustaining island communities.

A wordlinked transcript alongside the embedded video is available here: https://multidict.net/cs/9686 

Attentive listeners will have noticed occasional references to earlier films made in the Island Voices series, including some featuring a much younger Pàdruig, as well as his father! You can check back on these in the archives, particularly in the Series 2 Generations section.


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Stòras Beò: Curstaidh NicDhòmhnaill

Le Gordon Wells

KirstyGordonJPegIndependent Gaelic consultant Kirsty Macdonald, from Claddach Illeray in North Uist, talks to Gordon Wells.

Patronymics (and a DNA test) reveal a long Gaelic-speaking lineage on her father’s side, while her mother first moved to Uist to learn the language, then marrying and settling down. From a family of teachers, Kirsty had a difficult relationship with education in her school years, but found her passion for Gaelic ignited when she left Uist to study, first at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and then Edinburgh University.

Talking to Gordon, she also fleshes out some of her memories and thoughts recently published in her very popular article on “Getting closer to home from a journey away” in the West Highland Free Press, highlighting the treasures of Tobar an Dualchais, and the importance in her eyes of discussing and addressing the concerns of Gaelic speakers in the vernacular community – a topic of current debate.

YouTube “closed caption” videos are enabled here, so viewers have the choice of reading the Gaelic subtitles while they watch and listen. You can also, if you wish, get automatic machine translations of these into English and many other languages through the Settings menu.

A wordlinked transcript with embedded video is available on Clilstore via this link: https://multidict.net/cs/9629

This is part of the Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal project in which the UHI Language Sciences Institute with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and Soillse, together with Irish partners, record the natural speech of Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers in their own communities with user-friendly equipment and techniques. Alasdair MacDonald, Kirsty’s dad, is already on the Stòras Beò site, but Kirsty’s final words indicate there’s yet more to come from that quarter… Watch this space! 


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Stòras Beò: Christine NicLeòid

Le Gordon Wells

ChristineChristine MacLeod from Bragar in Lewis talks to Maggie Smith.

Christine remembers growing up in a crofting community where weaving and fishing were commonplace activities, and Gaelic was widely spoken in the local primary school. After secondary education in Stornoway, she moved to Edinburgh, first to study and then to teach, first through English medium, and then in the Gaelic school at Tollcross.

She has happy memories of her teaching career, but is content to have retired from that job and returned to Lewis. She speaks with particular conviction on the value of storytelling in education. She talks about Bragar today, touching on the use of Gaelic, local placenames, the new use for the old school, and the Bragar style of speech. She’s pleased her own Edinburgh-raised children think of it as home.

A wordlinked transcript alongside the embedded video is available here: https://multidict.net/cs/9504


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Taisce Bheo: Clíona

Le Gordon Wells

Clíona“Tionscadal píolótach a dhíríonn ar shamplaí cuí eiseamláireacha den chaoi a labhraítear an Ghaeilge agus a’ Ghàidhlig i bpobail Ghaelacha in Albain agus in Éirinn atá sa Taisce Ghaelach. Baintear leas as uirlisí soláimhsithe cláraithe agus teicnící furasta chun an t-ábhar a chruinniú.”

We start with a quote from the Irish language introduction to the UHI “Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal” project, whose Scottish Gaelic samples we’ve been regularly featuring on these pages. It explains that the project aims to collect exemplary samples of Gaelic speech from vernacular communities in Scotland and Ireland with user-friendly equipment and techniques.

The COVID crisis struck just as the Irish recordings were due to be getting underway, causing an inevitable delay. However, following the recent experimentation with Zoom conversations in Scottish Gaelic, a parallel Irish series has now begun recording, following the same pattern. This conversation between Colm Mac Giolla Easpaig and Clíona Ní Ghallachòir is the first to be placed online. Consider it a foretaste of more delights to come!

Clíona is from Meenaclady and Colm is from Gweedore. Clíona is a twenty-one-year-old student who is currently residing in Galway. In the first part of the interview, she speaks about the student experience during the Covid 19 pandemic. She talks about her hometown and her views on the state of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht. She goes on to talk about her interest in singing and storytelling with some mention of local traditions and customs.

A wordlinked transcript alongside the embedded video is available here: https://multidict.net/cs/9452

In the second part of this interview, Clíona talks about the changes occurring in the Irish language communities and her own work experience with both translation and language planning. She goes on to speak about her childhood memories and other interests she would like to pursue. She then speaks about her involvement in drama both onstage and behind the scenes. She discusses the importance of faith in her local area before finally talking about what she would do if she were to win the lottery.

A wordlinked transcript alongside the embedded video is available here: https://multidict.net/cs/9454

If you follow the Clilstore transcript links for either of these clips you will spot an interesting innovation in comparison with the earlier Scottish series. Dr Gearóid Ó Domagáin of Ulster University, who produced the transcriptions, has gone a step further and provided additional footnotes to mark regional variations on the standard. You’ll find these by clicking on the “annotated version” tab in the Clilstore unit. At this point, Guthan nan Eilean aficionados may well also be thinking back to our “Gaelic Journeys” page, and noting previous links to Ulster University and Donegal. This is not the first time Colm has appeared on this site!


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Titles for the Raiders

Le Gordon Wells

AlecScrnShtRetired policeman Alec MacAulay recounted this story in 2014 of his raider father’s bold exploits on coming back home to Uist from the First World War. Returning soldiers across the islands were in no mood for undue deference to the landowning classes, and were taking crofting matters into their own hands, with strong popular support.

“Làmhachas làidir” was the call of the hour. It was a fascinating account, related on the day to Archie Campbell, and recorded as part of the Comunn Eachdraidh Uibhist a’ Tuath project “An fheadhainn tha làighe sàmhach”.

Skilfully told here, it’s a compelling story well worth repeating, and recent techie developments have enabled Island Voices to enhance the access both for learners of Gaelic, and for those who don’t know the language at all. Now you can click on Closed Captions to get written Gaelic subtitles, which can then be machine-translated simultaneously into English and scores of other languages through “auto-translate” on the Settings button. If you missed it first time round, here’s your chance now!

Leading the technical team that’s facilitating this progress for Gaelic is Will Lamb, ex-Colaisde Bheinn na Faoghla, now at the University of Edinburgh. There’s a new report by Lucy Evans on the GARG (Gaelic Algorithmic Research Group) blog, detailing latest developments.


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Techie Tormod

Le Gordon Wells

A couple of Norman Maclean’s impromptu recordings provide the material for trying out the latest developments in Gaelic Automatic Speech Recognition.

NormanMiracles

When Norman kindly offered to record some stories for Island Voices in 2015, he was perhaps already beginning to feel his age. As a result, while he delivered them all with his trademark panache, he opted in the main to read them aloud from pre-prepared scripts. This was a blessing in disguise for Island Voices, as it meant that ready-made transcripts already existed which could be easily transferred to the Clilstore platform, enabling word-by-word clickable translations – all available on our Norman Maclean page.

However, the man was irrepressible, and once he was into his stride he just kept going, meaning a couple more stories were added to the collection off the top of his head. Lively recordings resulted, but without written transcripts – until now. Island Voices has recently been working closely with the Automatic Speech Recognition project in Edinburgh, and a good number of our Gaelic films now offer optional subtitling. These were created by feeding already existing transcripts into the text aligner tool the ASR team developed as part of their work, so that individual subtitles would appear at the right time on the videos. These were texts that had been created by someone sitting down with the recording and manually typing out every word they heard – time-consuming work!

What’s new with these recordings is that it is the ASR tool on which the Edinburgh team are working that has actually itself created the first draft of the transcripts used to produce the subtitles in these films. The results were by no means perfect, and there was still a need for a human ear and hand to tidy them up before they could be used, but it’s a developmental process. And progress is clearly being made, to the extent that the Clilstore gap in our “Sgeulachdan Thormoid” collection has now been compensated for by enabling optional onscreen subtitles on the two extra recordings he made for us – “Mìorbhailteann ann am Barraigh“, and “Bodach nan Serviettes“.

And again, as with earlier versions, once the Gaelic subtitles are in the YouTube system, automatic translation into scores of other languages via Google Translate then becomes instantly available. Norman, among his many other talents, was an enthusiastic linguist – and no slouch with a computer. True, he expressed his reservations about the development of “text talk”, but we can surely allow ourselves to think that this latest technical innovation, with the human voice at its centre (his own!), would have met with his approval.

One for the Barraich:

And the other for the Hearaich:


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Stòras Beò: Anna

Le Gordon Wells

AnnaAnne MacInnes, from Callanish on Lewis, talks to Maggie Smith about her family connections to the Breasclete community and school, where Gaelic Medium Education was pioneered.

In the first section of this two-part conversation Anne reveals how the Callanish Stones have always attracted tourists, but she recalls from her childhood the cèilidh culture amongst the locals, including many “characters”.

Her career to date has been varied, from Gaelic teaching to working at sea, but she remains attached to a crofting lifestyle, still keeping cattle. Currently at home with a baby, she comes from a musical family, and plays box and pipes. With fewer people now working their crofts she’s noticed a change in the appearance of the township.

A wordlinked transcript, with the video embedded, is available on Clistore here: https://multidict.net/cs/9355

In the second part, Anne and Maggie talk about changes in local culture. Noting that change and development are natural, Anne regrets the loss of local distinctiveness in Gaelic speech. The musical culture is strong. The link with the language should be upheld. There have been various sources of employment, including offshore as well as at the hospital or with the council, plus the nearby pharmaceuticals factory and the community-owned visitor centre. Visitors have included royalty. But the community hall offers a local focus. She remembers some of her grandmother’s special words, and reflects on the value of having family relations all around. It’s important to value what’s past, including local songs, as life goes on.

A wordlinked transcript, with the video embedded, is available on Clistore here: https://multidict.net/cs/9356


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Stòras Beò: Calum

Le Gordon Wells

CAF1Calum Alasdair Fraser, from Tolastadh a’ Chaolais, talks to Maggie Smith about his family connections and upbringing on the west side of Lewis.

In his childhood he spent a lot of time outdoors. Though still young himself, he remembers the sound of weaving from many houses – a sound that is no longer heard. After leaving school he tried various jobs in different locations. Now he works on Gaelic issues with An Lanntair in Stornoway.

He talks about how he values the Gaelic language and its close connection to where he lives, even though it wasn’t his home language growing up. He also talks about his musical activities, and his interest in maintaining local interest in Gaelic, relating it to a changed way of life that still has close connections to previous generations.

A full transcript with the video embedded can be viewed on the Clilstore platform here: https://multidict.net/cs/9331


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Guth nan Siarach

Le Gordon Wells

“Guth nan Siarach” (or “Voice of the Westside”) is the name of a new Gaelic community group in Lewis, set up in response to the 2020 publication of the Soillse research book, “The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community”.

Members of this group recently attended an online Soillse workshop on “New Insights on the Vernacular Gaelic Communities in the Islands”, led by Professor Conchúr Ó Giollagáin. It was a refreshing opportunity for community members to take part in discussion with interested academics from a range of universities, both within the Soillse network and from outwith Scotland.

Some days after the event, Guth nan Siarach members met again on Zoom to record their thoughts, questions, and ideas after hearing Prof Ó Giollagáin’s presentation and taking part in the subsequent discussion. We’re very grateful at Guthan nan Eilean that Jane, Maggie, Christine, Catriona, and Calum were willing to share their thoughts with us.

“Mother tongue” issues are often very close to the heart, and it can take confidence, courage, and no little skill to talk about them openly and with consideration, especially when the language in question has been on the receiving end of prolonged disadvantageous treatment. It’s a privilege to hear the group talk among themselves about issues of concern. We look forward to hearing more in the near future!

We recommend finding the time to watch the full discussion. The contributions are varied, thoughtful, and expressed in good Lewis Gaelic. And thanks to the Gaelic Speech Recognition research team, we’ve added CC Gaelic subtitling, which you can turn on or off as you please – and which will also enable Google translation into other languages:

But if your time is short, you can get a taste of the meeting from these “criomagan”. (CC subtitling also available on this clip.)

And here’s Prof Ó Giollagáin’s presentation:


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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