June 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Linda Norgrove‘s life was a remarkable one and filled with many achievements in facing the challenges she met. So it seems fitting that The Linda Norgrove Foundation’s key fundraising event in 2011 should mirror this in some small way.
Over six days from 11 to 16 July 2011, Rhoda Bamsey, one of their volunteers, will run an ultra marathon across the whole of the Western Isles where Linda Norgrove grew up.
It’s a distance of approximately 160 miles so Rhoda will be running the equivalent of six marathons in six days to raise much-needed funds for the Linda Norgrove Foundation.
She will also have company! Brian Hindson, a trustee of the Foundation, and John Conway, the Foundation’s volunteer website developer, are going to complete the same route on bicycles.
If you would like to sponsor Rhoda, Brian and John, then please make a donation on the secure online fundraising site - and thank you for your donation.
For further information, you can contact them through the Foundation’s contact form.
May 16, 2011 § 1 Comment
Keose via Lochiegirl
Some of the older inhabitants of Keose village remember the distinctive sight and sound of psalmsinging on boats that would bring South Lochs communities across Loch Erisort for kirk services in the villages on the north side of the Loch. If you have never heard or seen this, there is a chance to get a sense of what it was like on Friday 10th June when a group will come together for a re-enactment and celebration in Keose Bay.
Writer Donald S Murray will read his new poem sequence,’ PsalmBoat’, written in response to the story of the Loch Erisort psalm journeys. Artist Déirdre Ni Mhathúna will record the event on video and audio. Writer and artist Ian Stephen will sail the beautiful ‘Broadbay’ community boat, with a specially restored old brown sail hoisted on its mast. Community activist and historian Maggie Smith will keep things in good order and has promised a wee gathering in Laxay Hall afterwards.
This is fast turning into a very special event involving local history buffs, writers, artists, singers and of course – boats. Maggie Smith, Falmadair and An Communn Eachdraidh have been working behind the scenes to bring everyone together.
Psalmsingers, boats, sailors and all interested folk are warmly invited to join in.
March 9, 2011 § Leave a Comment
For those of you who are on social networks…
The Harris Tweed Authority now has a Facebook and Twitter page as well as video channels on Vimeo and YouTube.
An easy way to keep up to date that doesn’t involve loitering round these here parts all day.
And apparently there’s a new website to follow later this year. Exciting!
February 20, 2011 § 5 Comments
Last night another island Twitterfest occurred, this time it was #islandfilms that got trending.
And it’s still going.
My personal, entirely biased, Top 10 of the best efforts goes like this…
2. Airigh Potter
3. Da’s (Arnish) Boot
4. Cearns Dog Millionaire
5. Lochs, Stocinis, & Two Herring Barrels
6. There’s Something about Marybank
7. The Kids Are No Bad, Yerself?
8. Ferris Bueller’s Sabbath Observance
9. One Flew Over The Guga’s Nest
10. Chentlemen Prefer Blones
Also Jurassic Pairc, Moulin Rudhach, Full Metal Seacaid…
January 20, 2011 § 6 Comments
Mike Day is the director of a new film documenting the age old Ness tradition of guga hunting on Sula Sgeir. His team recently gained a rare insight into the men, the hunt and the culture that surrounds the annual journey into the Atlantic for food.
Mike kindly took a little time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for the blog…
TC: How did you hear about the guga hunt and what particularly sparked your interest in making the film about it?
MD: I heard about the hunt from a friend while I was living on my boat and sailing around the west coast making a film about crofting. She wasn’t sure if the hunt still existed and so when I found out that it was still going strong I was very keen to find out more so I came to Ness.
TC: The hunters are normally very secretive or cautious about their tradition especially from “outsiders”, how did you manage to get permission to film the hunt in such detail?
MD: I think there was a lot of trust built on both sides, that and bloody minded perseverance made the film what it is.
TC: Who were your team and did they know what they’d let themselves in for?
MD: The team of five included four sailors and one non sailor, Andy, the producer. Myself and Andy were the only film crew. Andy certainly had no idea what he’d let himself in for in terms of the voyage, it was his first time on a boat and a real baptism of fire to say the least. The four sailors all had a lot of ocean sailing experience but none of us had experienced the continual bad run of weather we got up there on that trip. Confused seas and huge breaking waves swamped us on one occasion and we were knocked over flat in the water. My respect grew enormously for the Niseach men who once rowed and sailed there in open boats, and going right back even without a compass. I regularly thought about that on our 18 hour trips to Sula Sgier.
TC: Could you describe the approach to Sula Sgeir and the island itself? For those who haven’t been it’s hard to appreciate the remoteness and hardships faced by those who hunted there in the past.
MD: The journey isn’t popular with some of the hunters or some of our crew! It is rough up there with the current known as ‘the river’, that’s the first phenomenon you reach, not far north of the Butt. Sometimes it was like hitting a wall, suddenly it all broke lose and the sea just seemed to boil. Then there’s the shallowing bank south of Sula Sgeir within sight of the island, that’s where we found the big waves and the fun usually started. After sailing all night this is also the point where the rock starts to appear through the waves, looking mysterious on the horizon and very desolate. The skies are filled with welcoming guga patrols as you approach and by the time you arrive the skies are thick with birds.
TC: How was the weather and did you sleep on land or on shore? Are there still stone bothies, earwigs and peat fired pots of tea?
MD: I ‘slept’ on our boat, although in reality all I actually did was lie down and get thrown against the wall by the waves for a few hours. We headed for the shelter of North Rona at nights, which it turned out was only sheltered relative to the surrounding seas, which were monstrous. The stone bothies are still there and are well maintained, I heard there were less earwigs now, not sure where they would have gone, I certainly didn’t see one, and there are still peat fired pots of tea.
TC: What are your thoughts on the animal welfare issues raised every year in some quarters? Did you have any issues or reservations with the traditional catch and dispatch process?
The numbers of gannets is rising so I see no conservationist argument against the hunt. As far as the killing method is concerned, I never actually saw it, I’m assured it is swift. I don’t think any method of killing animals is going to be particularly nice, but I’d much rather have my meat free range than from factory farmed animals and mechanised abattoirs.
TC: How would you describe the hunters attitude to their various roles? Does the sense of importance and tradition still remain with them or did it seem like just another job they had to do to earn money?
MD: I think there was a great respect amongst men for the traditions and their ancestors who’ve been there before them. It’s hard to go to Sula Sgier and not be humbled by the history of the hunt and the voyage the men take.
TC: What were your impressions of the Isle of Lewis and the local people in general and did you learn any gaelic along the way?
MD: It was really great to have a chance to spend so much time exploring Lewis and getting to know the people. I didn’t get to learn too much Gaelic unfortunately, but I certainly learnt hardy hardy on this trip!
TC: Now the million dollar question. Did you eat the guga and what did you think?!
I did eat the guga, on Sula Sgeir, and I enjoyed it and ate every morsel of meat, blubber and skin! I was surprised by the meat, it’s really unique and I appreciated tasting this rare flavour.
TC: Finally, will you be back or was it a once in a lifetime event for you?
I’m sure I’ll be back and I look forward to catching up with everyone when I return, it was quite an adventure going on the hunt and making the journey back and forth and we met a lot of great Niseachs along the way.
The Guga Hunters Of Ness will be shown on BBC 2 tonight at 9pm.
January 12, 2011 § Leave a Comment
In furtherance of previous posts regarding anti-gaelic sentiment and the furore over BBC Alba’s move to Freeview (to the detriment of some radio channels) I thought I’d flag up the An-Diugh documentary recently shown on the channel as a prime example as to why wider access to the information, culture and content of their programming is so vital to Scotland, its people and politics as a whole.
The program Midweek – An-Diugh provides an amazing opportunity to see how the BBC’s Midweek series reported on the West Highland Free Press and the 7:84 theatre company in 1974, and how both have fared since then. The West Highland Free Press sections in particular highlight just how radical a publication it was (is) and how important a contribution it made to the futures of the people of the western Highlands and Islands
Vital viewing and very inspiring from a personal point of view and if nothing else the interviews with lairds and landlords of thirty years ago show just how far things have come in many respects.
(I’d also like to note some satisfaction taken in the fact Brian Wilson and co were as scruffy and hirsute in their youth as I. Although I suppose being mid 20s in the 1970′s gives them more of an excuse.)
January 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
Love him or loathe him, author and journalist John Macleod writes very good books!
Born in Lochaber in 1966, sfter graduating from Edinburgh University, he began his career at BBC Highland in Inverness and quickly established himself as a freelance writer. He won Scottish Journalist of the Year in 1991 and contributed regularly to The Scotsman and The Herald. He is presently a columnist with the Scottish Daily Mail.
He’s also the author of Birlinn Books first publication of 2011. Following on from the excellent book on the Iolaire disaster When I Heard The Bell, he now tackles life under the rule of infamous Lewis factor Donald Munro.
In 1844 Sir James Matheson bought the Isle of Lewis, awash with hope and good intentions, only, in 1853, to put a rat-faced factor from Tain in sole charge of the estate. Within months Donald Munro, the self-styled ‘Chamberlain of the Lews’, had seized practically every office of civic, legal and industrial power in the community and for the next two decades held the entire island under an absolute reign of terror.
This is a study of Highland landlordism at once at its most benign – Sir James refused to enact Clearances in Lewis and vested thousands of his own fortune in assorted well-intended schemes, for little return; its most self-indulgent – as the baronet built a mock-Tudor castle, imported soil and trees and constructed his own Arcadian fantasy; and at its most blind – as he gaily left his tenants under the jackboot of a factor so monstrous he is still remembered with blazing hatred on Lewis, recalled in such nicknames as ‘the Shah’, ‘the Beast’ and ‘Red Donald of the Hens’.
In None Dare Oppose, John Macleod paints a stunning portrait of island society in Victorian Scotland held under a capricious and feudal oppression – until one quiet, decent corner of that island fearlessly rose against the subjugation, marching on Stornoway to a gripping court-room finale. It is an astonishing and powerful tale, beautifully accomplished and compellingly told.
January 9, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Now that you’ve had enough of the turkey eating season…
The Guga Hunters of Ness will have its broadcast premier on BBC2 Scotland at 9pm on the 20th January…
In the rest of the UK it’s on Sky Channel 990 and live on iPlayer.