Digital Fèis Re-run

Le Gordon Wells

DigFeisPosterThe second Digital Fèis for Aire air Sunnd is now scheduled for 11th and 12th August, taking the place of the May event which had to be postponed. Here’s the updated programme. Island Voices will be represented again, with new video playlists, and there will be additional Gaelic representation from the “Gaelic Crisis” writing team in the interdisciplinary forum on the Friday.

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Climate, Heritage, & Wellbeing Seminar

Le Gordon Wells

In the second Aire Air Sunnd July webinar a fresh panel discusses “Climate Change, Heritage, and Wellbeing”. This follows on from the previous week’s discussion of the not unrelated topic of Mapping Placenames & Stories of North Uist.

Followers of Island Voices will recall that earlier discussion in the CEUT Gaelic group addressed the theme of coastal erosion in a historical context, with mentions of stories of the last person to walk from Heisgeir to North Uist as well as the no longer evident Baile Siar to the west of today’s Baile Sear. The retention of CEUT chair Uisdean Robertson on the panel from last week provides continuity in this regard, while project officer Sharon Pisani reprises the role of webinar chair.


Here’s some of the CEUT description of the webinar from their Facebook page:

“From the shores of North Uist to the tropics of Barbados and the arid landscapes of Somalia, the relentless grip of climate change threatens to erode not only our natural world but also the invaluable heritage that binds us. As rising sea levels and extreme weather events encroach upon our most cherished sites, it is a stark reminder that safeguarding our shared history is intertwined with preserving our planet’s delicate equilibrium….
Book your ticket on Eventbrite to receive the Zoom link:
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to discuss North Uist’s heritage and climate effects.”

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Aire air Sunnd: Digital Support

Le Gordon Wells

This week the St Andrews team of Alan Miller and Sharon Pisani completed the round-up and review of the Aire air Sunnd survey and activities, following on from Jess Wood and Gordon Wells. Their specific focus was on “Digital use and activities”, presented online again and available to view on YouTube.

These YouTube screenshots will give a quick impression of the range of topics covered: from digital accessibility in the North Uist community, through use of social media, special areas of interest such as Gaelic place names and climate change issues, and on to forthcoming events and ongoing needs – including further guidance on digital opportunities and potential.

Digital Access

Social Media

Placenames etc

community concerns

Digital support

The screenshots give a taste. The “full meal” is available here:

That’s the fourth video in the series of reports – all gathered together on this CEUT YouTube playlist:

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Recording Community Conversations

Le Gordon Wells

AASReviewImageFollowing on from the North Uist “Wellbeing” survey, Gordon Wells this week reviewed the Island Voices contribution to the Aire air Sunnd project led by Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath.

Adopting a slightly different format to Jess Wood’s presentations last week, Gordon speaks to camera on Zoom while screen-sharing key points from the Island Voices Aire air Sunnd webpage. Speaking in Gaelic he reinforces the point that using this language does not exclude non-speakers or early learners, given the multilingual technical resources that are now available online.

His video recaps the various recordings that have been created for the project in the past year or so, including the “Gaelic Crisis” presentation, and the Progress Report, as well as the recording sessions with community members covering storytelling, artefact description, and environmental issues. In so doing, it also shows how the YouTube subtitling and auto-translation functions can be put to effective use, and includes a quick demonstration of the Clilstore platform too, while emphasising the alternative effectiveness of recorded speech in a world where written communication is often taken for granted as the default norm.

Summing up, Gordon stresses the untapped value of various recording collections (in addition to Island Voices’ own), noting in particular how open resources such as Tobar an Dualchais have the potential to bring present and past communities together in a new manner to support North Uist cultural wellbeing, offering innovative ways of forward-looking engagement with the island’s Gaelic heritage so positively valued by all. At the same time, it needs to be recognised that community-wide engagement in such activity is dependent on community-wide comfort with the new digital tools that enable it. This is probably an area of work that needs closer attention.

Here’s Gordon’s talk on YouTube:

You can get a wordlinked transcript, with the video embedded, in this Clilstore unit:

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Wellbeing – and the place of Gaelic

Le Gordon Wells

The results of the Aire Air Sunnd community survey in North Uist are going online. Jess Wood from the University of Aberdeen kicked off on Monday 19th June with an overview, split between two videos on a dedicated CEUT YouTube playlist, both of which are well worth watching to get a sense of the breadth and depth of the project. It’s been an ambitious collaborative exercise, turning out interesting and challenging findings for anyone interested in taking a rooted and holistic approach to community wellbeing across the board.

For those with a particular interest in Gaelic, Jess has devoted quite a bit of time in the first video to analysis of responses on this topic. We’ve picked out some headlines below.

The overall sample of 79 respondents divided themselves up roughly equally between Fluent Speakers, Learners, and Non-speakers of Gaelic.

The slide below shows a really strong level of agreement in the group overall with the notion that “Gaelic has an important symbolic value in the community as a vehicle for transmitting our island culture and heritage”.

Aire Air Sunnd, Wellbeing survey methods results_15. 06.23_part 1_finalHowImportant

Another immediately striking statistic is the 90% figure for those expressing concern over the declining trend in use of Gaelic, as shown in this slide:

Aire Air Sunnd, Wellbeing survey methods results_15. 06.23_part 1_finalninetyOverallconcern

And what may be particularly interesting about this figure is the way that similar sentiment is shared across all three groups – Fluent Speakers, Learners, and Non-speakers – with even 58% of those who have no Gaelic expressing concern about the decline in its use.

While Jess is duly cautious in her presentation, a topic eliciting a 90% level of concern might well be considered a community wellbeing issue worthy of further investigation…

If these figures pique your interest do take a look at the online presentation to find out more. The project also plans to run another face-to-face event in August at which Gaelic and other questions arising from the survey will be further discussed and developed. You can find full details and keep abreast of other events leading up to it on the CEUT Facebook page.

Here’s Part 1 of Jess’s presentation, in which she provides an update on the findings of Section 1 of the survey (including the questions on Gaelic):

In Part 2, Jess talks about the key findings of Section 2 – Use of the School, and Section 3 – Personal Wellbeing:

And coming soon, keep an eye out for an Island Voices video follow-up from Gordon Wells on “Recording Community Conversations”, to be followed shortly after by more detail on Digital Use and Activities with Alan Miller and Sharon Pisani from St Andrews University.

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Còmhradh air crìonadh nan cladaichean

Le Gordon Wells


In our second community recording for Aire air Sunnd there are two new features. Firstly we’re very grateful to the Tobar an Dualchais project, and of course to the next-of-kin, for making a recording of Ruairidh na Càrnaich available for discussion in the same manner we used for “Còmhradh air Blàr Chàirinis“. This was a suggestion and request that came from the Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath Gaelic group themselves, to which Flòraidh Forrest at Tobar an Dualchais responded immediately and most helpfully, going the “extra mile” to additionally commission a transcription of the recording, which has also been a great help in creating a Clilstore unit for the full YouTube clip. It was Ùisdean’s idea to pick this particular clip, in which Ruairidh talks about historical coastal erosion in North Uist, in a recording made in 1958. With climate change now such a “hot topic” it makes particularly interesting listening to hear how it was thought about and discussed in times gone by.

Secondly, we also experimented with a “hybrid” format for the meeting, with most of the participants meeting together in Sgoil Chàirinis, while a couple of others joined in on Zoom. Obviously, it’s easier to hold a conversation with people all in the same room together, though that does pose recording challenges, particularly when folk are quite naturally more likely to all talk at once, and you’re trying to use the ordinary everyday recording equipment we all now have to hand in our phones or laptop computers. So it was interesting to see how that would work with some people also joining in remotely. We’ve done some editing with the final recording to select “best bits” where the recorded conversation is clearest. So we have missed some parts out, but hopefully viewers will still get a good idea of how the discussion went, after listening to Ruairidh’s high quality audio recording in full.

We have again added Closed Caption subtitles as an optional extra, and these can be auto-translated into a wide range of languages, including English, from the original Gaelic, using the YouTube settings wheel. It may be worth bringing to the attention of Gaelic learners that you can also slow down the playback speed of the clip (without altering the pitch!) if there are any parts that you struggle to follow in real time.

Members and supporters of Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath, the North Uist Historical Society, listen to and talk about Ruairidh na Càrnaich’s Gaelic discussion of Uist coastal erosion with John MacInnes, as presented on the Tobar an Dualchais website. Part of the Ideas Fund “Aire air Sunnd” project, in which the Universities of Aberdeen, St Andrews, and the Highlands and Islands team up with Island Voices to provide research support for well-being initiatives on the island.

The full details of the recording of Ruairidh na Càrnaich are as follows: Cunntas Air Crionadh Nan Cladaichean Ann An Uibhist A Tuath, Roderick MacDonald, (contributor), John MacInnes, (fieldworker), ref: SA1958.171.B4, the School of Scottish Studies Archives, the University of Edinburgh. Permission, which is gratefully acknowledged, has been granted for this use only.

The full transcript is also available as a Wordlinked Clilstore unit here – – and here –

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Aire air Sunnd: Artefacts & Stories

Le Gordon Wells


The Aire air Sunnd Digital Fèis was a celebration of community heritage spread over two days in September 2022, held at the old Carinish School, now headquarters for Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath, the North Uist Historical Society. Digital activities involved digitising artefacts from the community, recording stories, listening to Gaelic voices, and exploring heritage places through virtual reality. A cèilidh was also held with music and drama from young people of North Uist.

The fèis was held as part of the Ideas Fund “Aire air Sunnd” project, in which the Universities of Aberdeen, St Andrews, and the Highlands and Islands team up with Island Voices to provide research support for well-being initiatives on the island. The recordings in the video below were made by the St Andrews digitisation team, and can be viewed as separate items alongside several clips in English on the CEUT site.

This selection of Gaelic videos has been brought together in a single clip on the Island Voices YouTube channel to enable optional auto-translatable subtitling. This means that even if you have little or no Gaelic you can still listen to the original spoken descriptions while reading the subtitles – whether in Gaelic, or English, or another language – at the same time.

Another alternative for conscious learners of Gaelic who don’t want to use subtitles is to try this Clilstore unit, where video and scrollable transcript are available on the same page, with one-click access to dictionary translation of individual words: or

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Còmhradh air Blàr Chàirinis

Le Gordon Wells

AntamagadcroppedProbably most people in North Uist recognise the importance of the Gaelic language to the local culture, even if not all speak it themselves. But in the interests of “inclusion” there is an often-felt pressure on Gaelic-speakers to use English more and more, and Gaelic less and less. This can be true, perhaps even particularly so, in community groups with a mission to bring people together around a common interest – such as local history, for example.

This is one of the issues that Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath are attempting to address in new ways through the Ideas Fund “Aire air Sunnd” project, in which the Universities of Aberdeen, St Andrews, and the Highlands and Islands team up to provide research support for well-being initiatives on the island.

Part of the Island Voices contribution is to enable the viewing of selected extracts from the Guthan nan Eilean collection in order to stimulate Gaelic discussion, reminiscence, and ideas, and perhaps the airing of questions and concerns, so creating a contemporary and accessible record of speakers’ thoughts, memories, and opinions. Recordings of these discussions can then be transcribed for wider dissemination to enable any and all interested community members to gain increased knowledge and understanding of local stories, customs, practices, and issues, without first requiring them to be voiced in English.

That’s the theory, at least. Now for the practice! Here’s a first attempt. What do you think?

Members and supporters of Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath, the North Uist Historical Society, view and discuss Norman Maclean’s telling of the Battle of Carinish. YouTube CC subtitles offer multilingual automatic translation options from the original Gaelic.

The full transcript is also available as a Wordlinked Clilstore unit here – – and here –

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Aire air Sunnd – by Ear and Eye

Le Gordon Wells

Here’s a refreshing change! We’ve been banging on about the “Primacy of Speech” since Island Voices first started, as part of the mission to positively acknowledge the communication skills we all possess in whichever languages we speak – irrespective of any additional literacy we may or may not also have. The title “Progress Report” perhaps brings something rather dry and dusty to mind, and doesn’t necessarily scream “Read me!” at everyone, but this one offers something different. Co-ordinated by Sharon Pisani, Aire air Sunnd project officer, it’s a collection of unscripted video recordings offered by participating university and other partners, all introduced by CEUT chair Ùisdean Robertson. The contributions are mostly in English, but the mix of accents may reveal (or perhaps conceal?) a linguistically diverse competence in more than one of the speakers! And, of course, apart from regional accents, there are various other features unique to natural speech. Tone of voice, rhythm stress and intonation patterns, facial expressions, physical gestures and other accompanying body language – all these are additional expressive elements that elude capture in the printed word.

Have a look and listen here:

We may hope that the variety of voices will keep the listener interested from beginning to end, by presenting the information – or “telling the story” indeed – in a different, perhaps more engaging, way than pages of written text. (Okay, “skimreading” may not be an option for the spoken word if time is short, but YouTube’s “Chapters” function is an alternative if you want to skip forwards at any point – or backwards – to focus on a particular speaker…)

Plus, there’s more – appealing to the eye as well as to the ear!


The Aberdeen team put together these two eye-catching posters for the Digital Fèis to explain in more detail how their Wellbeing strand is developing. Packed with information, they also contain images of artefacts and photographs from the Gaelic walks with Archie.

You can click on the images of these posters to enlarge them and examine the detail more closely.

And you can see more images and explanations of the artefacts on CEUT’s project page for the Wellbeing workshops.

And finally, as the pictures below show, the St Andrews digitisers were kept busy throughout the same event. Again, you can click on the image to enlarge it, and will then be able to click through one more time on individual pictures to go straight to the 3D or video exhibit on the project’s Digital Fèis page.


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Island Voices & Aire Air Sunnd

Le Gordon Wells

The Island Voices project has collaborated with Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath (The North Uist Historical Society) on joint work in the past, and we’re delighted to renew the link in the new Wellbeing initiative, “Aire Air Sunnd”, led by the Comann Eachdraidh in a partnership which brings in the Universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews, as well the Highlands and Islands (UHI). It’s funded by the Ideas Fund, with each partner contributing from some of its own strengths and specialisms. This leaflet gives an outline of the overall shape of the project, with an explanation of what the different components are.

The project was launched on Friday 6th May in a hybrid format event, with the various academic partners giving online presentations to a North Uist audience either “Zooming in” from their own homes, or gathering at the Carinish School society headquarters, with the St Andrews “Smart Heritage” team taking care to record the contributions from the various presenters. The Island Voices role will be primarily linguistic, focussing on Gaelic in particular as a key element of local cultural heritage. You can see Gordon Wells’s short (15 minute) presentation here on initial thoughts and plans for the Guthan nan Eilean component of the project.

The eagle-eyed may spot that most of the images after the second slide contain embedded links. If you wish to explore these further, please open this PDF version of the presentation. You can then click/tap any picture or graphic to explore the webpage to which it links.

Cò MiseOrdinarily, Gordon probably wouldn’t start a presentation with the level of personal detail offered here. But the CEUT connection is a close one, as his first picture shows!

The story of a rooted Hebridean family with close connections around the globe, through Australia, Canada, China, Singapore and elsewhere, as well as India (if we were also to go through the histories of Ann’s eight brothers and sisters…) is probably one that many other Hebridean family albums could tell just as well. When it comes to reflection on the links between heritage and wellbeing, and the value of transcending imagined boundaries, bilingual Island Voices may offer special insights!

North Uist residents and relatives! If aspects of this project are of interest to you and you’d like to learn more about it or are interested in taking part, contact details and further information are on the project leaflet. Siuthadaibh!

Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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