seaboardgàidhlig

bilingual blog dà-chànanach

Seann Eaglais Neig Oidhche na Nollaig, le coinnlean, cuileann, ceòl agus deagh shunnd!

Nigg Old Church on Christmas Eve, with candles, holly, carols and good spirits!

Ann Am Baile Rìoghail Dhaibhaidh /  Once in Royal David’s City

Ann am baile rìoghail Dhaibhaidh,
Ann am bàthaich ìosail thruaigh,
Chàirich màthair chaomh a leanabh
Anns a’ phrasaich, ‘s E na shuain;
Moire ainm na màthar chaoimh,
Iosa Crìosd’ a leanabh gaoil.

Thuirling E bho Nèamh gu talamh,
Ged bu Dhia nan uile E;
B’ e an stàball thug Dhà fasgadh,
B’ i a chreathall prasach bhreun;
Leis a bhochd is leis an truaghan
Thathaich Slànaighear caomh neo-thruaillidh.

Is tre làithean àigh a leanabachd
Thug e urram agus spèis,
Umhlachd gràidh do’n mhaighdinn ainnir
Dh’àltraim E na uile fheum;
Sin mar dh’fheumas òigridh Chrìosda
Spèis is urram thoirt do dh’Iosa.

Chan ann a-nis san stàball shuarach
Leis na h-ainmhidhean mun cuairt,
Ach ‘s na Nèamhan air a chàradh
Aig deas-làimh na Naomhachd shuas;
Is mu thimcheall air an crùnadh,
A’ chlann bheag a thug Dhà ùmhlachd.

Translation:   1. In the royal city of David, in a stable lowly and pitiful, a gentle mother laid her sleeping baby; Mary was the gentle mother, Jesus Christ her beloved baby.
2. He came down from Heaven to earth, though He was king of all; it was the stable that gave Him shelter, it was the manger that made His cradle; with the poor and the lowly, the pure gentle Saviour came to live.
3. And through the joyful days of His childhood He gave honour and obedience, respectful love to the virgin maiden who cared for His every need; that is how the children of Christ must give honour and obedience to Jesus.
4. He is not now in the lowly stable with the animals all around, but set up in heaven at the right hand of the Godhead above; and around Him, crowned in glory, the little children who gave Him honour.

Taing do George Seto air geocities: http://www.geocities.ws/george_seto.geo/xmas_sng.html

Èistibh ris an seo – listen to the Gaelic version here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p012rqyl

Once in Royal David’s City

Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honour and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

 

Chì mi na Mòr-bheanna / Mist-covered Mountains

An Teallach, Loch Droma

Am bliadhna bha cothroman gu leòr agam beanntan àlainn is drùidhteach na Gàidhealtachd fhaicinn ri linn na h-obrach agam no còmhla ri luchd-tadhail, agus chuir sin nam chuimhne an t-òran ainmeil Chì mi na Mòr-bheanna. Mar às àbhaist thòisich mi ri rannsachadh. ‘S e Iain Camshron a sgrìobh e ann an 1856, is esan à Baile a’ Chaolais ach ag obair fad bhliadhnaichean ann an Glaschu, agus mar sin ‘s e òran cianalais airson a dhachaigh a th’ ann. Mar phort chuireadh fonn slaodach air, a bha na thionndadh mìth-òrain Bheurla, Johnny stays long at the Fair. Dh’fhàs am fonn seo ainmeil mar cheòl na pìoba, agus chluicheadh e aig adhlachaidhean Sheòrais VI, JF Kennedy, agus Màthair na Ban-rìgh.

Tha grunn chlàraidhean den òran Ghàidhlig ann, eadar Alba agus Alaska (ceanglaichean gu h-ìosal), ach ‘s ann san tionndadh Bheurla, The Mist-covered Mountains of Home, a tha e as ainmeile.  Tha YouTube làn chlàraidhean dheth, a’ mhòr-chuid mar dhreach ionnsramaideach, bhon chluicheadair-giotàir, John Renbourn,  gus na Vatersay Boys agus na Scots Guards. Chluich fiù ‘s còmhlan Mark Knopfler e airson an fhiolm Local Hero.

Agus tha tionndadh àlainn Albais ann cuideachd, ach le faclan gu tur eadar-dhealaichte mu na Fuadaichean: Smile in your sleep, bonnie baby (Hush, hush).

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Ben Wyvis

This year I had plenty of opportunities to see the beautiful, impressive mountains of the Highlands in the course of my work or with visitors, and that brought to my mind the famous Gaelic song Chì mi na Mòr-bheanna (I’ll see the high mountains). That of course set me to researching it. It was written by John Cameron in 1856. He came from Ballachulish but worked for many years in Glasgow, so it’s a typical song of Highland homesickness. It was set to a slow air which was a version of the English folk-song Johnny stays long at the Fair.  This tune became very popular as pipe music and was played at the funerals of George IV, JF Kennedy, and the Queen Mother.

There are many recordings of the Gaelic song, from Scotland to Alaska (some links below), but it is most famous in its English version, The Mist-covered Mountains of Home.  YouTube is full of recordings of it, mainly as an instrumental, from guitarist John Renbourn to the Vatersay Boys and the Scots Guards. It was even played by the Mark Knopfler band for the film Local Hero.

And there’s a beautiful Scots version too, though with completely different words about the Clearances: Smile in your sleep, bonnie baby (Hush, hush).

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ChÌ mi na Mòr-bheanna

Glen Shiel

Séist
O chì, chì mi na mòr-bheanna
O chì, chì mi na corr-bheanna
O chì, chì mi na coireachan
Chì mi na sgorran fo cheò

Chì mi gun dàil an t-àite san d’rugadh mi
Cuirear orm fàilte sa chànain a thuigeas mi
Gheibh mi ann aoidh agus gràdh nuair a ruigeam
Nach reicinn air tunnachan òir

Chì mi na coilltean, chì mi na doireachan
Chì mi ann màghan bàna is toraiche
Chì mi na fèidh air làr nan coireachan
Falaicht’ an trusgan de cheò

Beanntaichean àrda is àillidh leacainnean
Sluagh ann an còmhnuidh as còire cleachdainnean
‘S aotrom mo cheum a’ leum g’am faicinn
Is fanaidh mi tacan le deòin

 

Translation of original Gaelic:

Slioch, Loch Maree

Chorus
Oh I’ll see, I’ll see the great mountains,
Oh I’ll see, I’ll see the steep mountains,
Oh I’ll see, I’ll see the corries,
I’ll see the peaks beneath the mist.

I’ll see very soon the place of my birth,
I’ll be welcomed in the language I understand,
I’ll receive hospitality and love when I arrive,
That I would not sell for tons of gold.

I’ll see the woods, I’ll see the thickets,
I’ll see fair fertile meadows there,
I’ll see the deer at the bottom of the corries,
Hidden in a garment of mist.

High mountains with beautiful slopes,
People of the kindliest habits living there,
My step is light as I go leaping to see them,
And I’ll stay there with pleasure for a good while.

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English version of the song: The Mist-covered Mountains of Home

Cuillins, Sligachan

Chorus

O ro, soon shall I see them,
Hi ro, see them, oh see them.
O ro, soon shall I see them,
The mist-covered mountains of home!

1 There shall I visit the place of my birth,
They’ll give me a welcome the warmest on earth,
So loving and kind, full of music and mirth,
The sweet-sounding language of home.

2. There shall I gaze on the mountains again,
On the fields and the hills and the birds in the glen,
With people of courage beyond human ken,
In the haunts of the deer I will roam.

3. Hail to the mountains with summits of blue,
To the glens with their meadows of sunshine and dew,
To the women and the men ever constant and true,
Ever ready to welcome one home.

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Ceanglaichean / Links:

Stac Pollaidh

Various Gaelic (esp. Griogair Labhruidh, from Ballachulish): http://www.bbc.co.uk/alba/oran/orain/chi_mi_na_mor_bheanna/

Tania Opland (Gaelic, Alaska): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgTzxScVhXM

Vatersay Boys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D3PkGzDGoU

John Renbourn:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fwUuGVUjpA

Mark Knopfler Band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK_Klo0ZvBM

Smile in your sleep, bonnie baby (Corries):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwi9fBF4H_U

 

Taigh-tasgaidh Gheàrrloch

Leis gun robh luchd-tadhail gun chrìoch agam am bliadhna, bha mi air an rathad còmhla riutha gu math tric, a‘ sealltainn dhaibh na Gàidhealtachd – beanntan is muir, bailtean iasgaich is croitearachd, caistealan agus taighean-tasgaidh. ‘S fhad o nach fhaca mi fhìn uiread den sgìre, agus lorg mi rud no dhà air nach robh mi eòlach roimhe.

‘S ann mu fhear de na h-ionadan-dualchais sgìreil a tha mi airson sgrìobhadh an-diugh, mu Thaigh-Tasgaidh Gheàrrloch. ‘S dòcha gun do leugh sibh mu dheidhinn san Ross-shire Journal o chionn ghoirid. Mar a tha sinne ann am Machair Rois, tha iadsan a‘ dèanamh maoineachadh-sluaigh gus barrachd airgid a thogail airson goireasan nas motha ‘s nas fheàrr fhaighinn – feumaidh iadsan gluasad gu togalach ùr ann an 2019.  Ach tha na tha aca mar-thà fìor dhrùidhteach.

Tha iad fhathast ann an seann togalachan croitearachd ri taobh a’ bhaile, àite brèagha agus freagarrach dha na taisbeanaidhean nam broinn. Mar a chithear air a’ phlana agus anns na dealbhan, tha cuspairean eadar-dhealaichte ann, air an taisbeanadh ann an roinnean air leth timcheall air na rùmannan, is iad uile uabhasach math dèanta.  Tha tòrr stuth dìreach tarraingeach aca, a’ toirt dhuinn dhealbhan beòthail de dhiofar dhreuchdan agus dhòighean-beatha san sgìre fad nan linntean, gu ruige meadhan an 20mh linn – innealan iasgaich, croitearachd is breabadaireachd, stail uisge-beatha neo-cheadaichte no poit-dhubh,  agus ath-chruthachaidhean de sheòmar-sgoile (le leasan Gàidhlig air a’ bhòrd-dhubh), de sheann bhùth a’ bhaile à Mealbhaig, agus de sheòmar-suidhe taigh-croite. Tha taisbeanadh glè inntinneach mu chreag-eòlas Rois an Iar ann cuideachd. Taobh a-muigh tha seann bhàtaichean iasgaich rim faicinn agus iomadh ball-acainn eile.

Ach tha rudan eile ann a tha fìor shònraichte. Bha iongnadh orm gu bheil clach Chruithneach aca, a’ chiad tè air a lorg air taobh an iar na Gàidhealtachd. ‘S e clach gu math tràth a th’ innte, tè Clas 1, le iolaire agus bradan oirre, caran coltach ris an fheadhainn ann an Srath Pheofhair (Clach na h-Iolaire) agus Eadardan (a’ Chlach Bhiorach).  Agus tha an lionsa mòr à taigh-sholais Stevenson aig an Rudha Rèidh ri fhaicinn, ann an ath-chruthachadh den t-seòmar as àirde den taigh-sholais. Fìor dhrùidhteach.

Rud eile a tha fiosrachail agus feumail – tha tasgaidhean agus clàraidhean ann de gach seòrsa, seann dealbhan, smsaa.  Agus bùth le foillseachain ionadail, raon farsaing de leabhraichean eile, agus làmh-cheàrdan. Tha na daoine an sin (ag obair gu saor-thoileach) càirdeil agus cuideachail.

Bha mi toilichte cuideachd na h-uiread de shoidhnichean dà-chànanach fhaicinn air feadh an àite.

Uile gu lèir faodaidh mi an taigh-tasgaidh seo a mholadh gu mòr – tha stuth gu leòr ann a bhiodh fìor inntinneach do mhuinntir Machair Rois, agus ‘s dòcha gum biodh e a’ brosnachadh bheachdan ùra dhuinn cuideachd, is sinn airson ar dualchas fhèin a thaisbeanadh nas fheàrr san àm ri teachd.  Tha barrachd fiosrachaidh ri fhaighinn, mun mhaoineachadh aca cuideachd, air an làraich-lìn: http://www.gairlochheritagemuseum.org

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Gairloch Heritage Museum

As I’ve had a stream of visitors this last year, I’ve often been on the road with them, showing them the Highlands – mountains and sea, fishing and crofting villages, castles and museums. It’s a long time since I saw so much of the area, and I found several things I hadn’t been to before.

I want to write about one of the local heritage centres today – Gairloch Museum. You may have read about it recently in the Ross-shire Journal. They are, like ourselves on the Seaboard, trying to raise more funds via crowdfunding to improve and expand their facilities – they have to move to a new building in 2019. But what they have there already is truly impressive.

They are still in old crofting buildings close to the town, a lovely site and very appropriate to the displays inside. As you can see on the plan and in the pictures, there are many different subjects covered, all exhibited in separate sections around the rooms, and all very well put together. They have a lot of really fascinating material giving a lively picture of trades and lifestyles over the centuries, up to the mid-20th century – fishing, crofting and weaving implements, an illicit whisky still, re-creations of a schoolroom (with a Gaelic lesson on the board), the old village shop from Melvaig, and a croft-house living-room. There’s also a very interesting exhibition about the geology of Wester Ross. Outside old fishing boats can be seen, along with many other implements.

But there are other really special items. I was surprised to see they have a Pictish stone, the first to be found on the West Highland mainland. It’s a pretty early stone, a Class 1, with an eagle and a salmon on it, quite similar to those in Strathpeffer (the Eagle Stone) and Edderton (Clach Bhiorach).  And the huge lens of the Stevenson lighthouse at Rudha Reidh can be seen in a reconstruction of the top room of the lighthouse. Stunning.

And they have something else informative and useful – there are archives and records of every kind there, old pictures etc. They also have a shop with local publications and a wide range of other books, and crafts. The people working there (volunteers) are friendly and helpful.

I was happy too to see so many bilingual signs all around the displays.

All in all I can highly recommend this museum – there’s plenty of material that will be of interest to Easter Ross folk, and maybe it will inspire us with new ideas as we aim to display our own heritage better in the future. Lots more information, including about their funding, on their website: http://www.gairlochheritagemuseum.org

Dealbhan agam fhìn, le cead bhon taigh-tasgaidh / own pictures, with permission from the museum.

 

 

Cullen Skink

Tha mi uabhasach measail air adag smocte agus fortanach gu leòr gum bi Lachaidh, fear-èisg à Bucaidh, a’ tighinn gach seachdain thugainn agus adag aige am pailteas – fileadan ùra is smocte, Finnan haddies agus fiù ’s Arbroath smokies.

Ged is toil leam gu mòr adag air a praidhigeadh air dòigh thraidiseanta, le bainne air a chur ris a’ phana aig an deireadh, tha reasabaidhean blàsta eile ann.   Tha aon dhiubh, Cullen Skink, gu math ainmeil, agus tha e ri fhaicinn ann an taighean-bìdh spaideil san latha an-diugh, le gritheidean cian-annasach, ach bho thùs ‘s e brot simplidh sàthach beathachail a bh’ ann. Agus sin mar a tha an reasabaidh agamsa – an tionndadh as fheàrr leam às dèidh dhomh iomadh reasabaidh fheuchainn.  Dhòmhsa ‘s e blàs na h-adaig an rud as cudromaiche – chan eil feum aice air cus ghritheidean eile a bhiodh ro laidir.

‘S e Finnan haddies a chleachdadh iad am bailtean iasgaich Linne Mhoireibh, agus ‘s e sin as fheàrr leam fhìn, ma bhios iad rim faotainn – agus ma bhios ùine agam na cnàmhan a thoirt asta.  Nì iad an sùgh as fheàrr. Air neo, faodaidh tu fileadan adaig smocte le craiceann a chleachdadh, agus mura h-eil blas a’ bhrota làidir gu leòr, cuir beagan sùigh-èisg às a’ bhùth ris.  Agus mar as trice cha rùisg mi am buntàta, ach faodaidh tu ma thogras tu.

Gritheidean (6 pòrsanan matha)

2 Finnan haddies (mu 600gr) NO fileadan adaig smocte mu 500 gr.

1 uinnean

2 leigeas

3 -4 buntàta meadhanach

400 ml. + 200 ml. uisge

450 ml. bainne

50gr. ìm

Piobar dubh

Peirsill no creamh-gàrraidh mar sgeadachadh

 

Cuir an adag ann am praidheapan mòr le 400 gr. uisge fuar air an stòbha air teas meadhanach. Leig leis goil agus bruich an adag air a socair mionaid no dhà eile. Fhad ‘s a bhios an t-iasg a’ bruich, geàrr an t-uinnean agus a’ phàirt uaine de na leigeasan gu mìn, agus geàrr a’ phàirt gheal ann an sliseagan tana.

Nuair a bhios an adag deiseil, thoir am praidheapan dhen teas. Thoir a-mach às an uisge i agus cuir gu aon taobh i. Cùm an t-uisge mar sùgh-èisg. Cuir pana mòr eile air an teas leis an ìm.

Bruich na leigeasan agus an t-uinnean air an socair anns an ìm ach am fàs iad bog ach fhathast soilleir,  mu dheich mionaidean. Anns an eadar-ama geàrr am bùntata ann an ciùban beaga .

Cuir am bùntata agus am piobar dubh dhan phana agus cuir mun cuairt iad am measg nan leigeasan fad mionaid no dhà, an uairsin cuir riutha an t-uisge san do bhruich an t-iasg tro chriathar mhìn. Lùghdaich an teas agus leig leis a’ bhuntàta bruich gus am bi e bog.

Anns an eadar-ama thoir an craiceann agus na cnàmhan às na h-adagan agus cuir iad air ais sa phraidheapan fhalamh. Bris an t-iasg ann an bleideagan gu faiceallach, an aire nach bi cnàmhan beaga air am fàgail ann.

Nuair a bhios am buntàta bog, thoir am pana dhen teas agus cuir am praidheapan a-rithist air leis na cnàmhan, an craiceann agus 200gr. uisge gus an goil e, agus mar sin bidh beagan sùigh-èisg a bharrachd agad. Cuir ris a’ bhrot e, tron chriathar mhìn.

Thoir an dàrna leth den ghlasraich às a‘ phana agus cuir e gu aon taobh  Cuir an dàrna leth de na bleideagan-adaig agus am bainne dhan phana, agus pronn e gu mìn le inneal-measgachaidh no plocan-buntàta.

Teasaich am brot a-rithist agus cuir e ann am bobhlaichean le spàin mhòr den ghlasraich agus de na bleideagan-adaig nach deach am pronnadh. Sgeadaich le peirsill no creamh-gàrraidh e. Ith e le aran cruasbach no aran-coirce agus ìm.

 

 

Cullen Skink

I’m extremely fond of smoked haddock and lucky enough to have Lachie the fishman from Buckie coming round every week with a wealth of haddock – fresh and smoked fillets, Finnan haddies, and even Arbroath smokies.

Though I do love smoked haddock fried in the traditional way with milk added to the pan at the end, there are lots of other tasty recipes. One of them, Cullen Skink, is now pretty famous, and you see it in posh restaurants nowadays with exotic ingredients, but originally it was just a simple, filling, nutritious soup. And that’s what my recipe is – the version I prefer after trying lots of different ones. For me the taste of the haddock is the most important thing – it doesn’t need too many other ingredients which would overpower that.

It was Finnan haddies that they used traditionally in the Moray Firth fishing villages, and that’s what I also prefer if available, and as long as I have enough time to remove the bones. They make the best stock. If not, you can use smoked haddock fillets, preferably on the skin, and if the taste isn’t strong enough, you can add a little shop-bought fish stock. And I don’t usually peel the taties, though of course you can if you want to.

Ingredients (6 good portions)

2 Finnan haddies (c. 600 gr.) OR smoked haddock fillets, c. 500 gr.

1 onion

2 leeks

3 -4 medium potatoes

400 ml. + 200 ml. water

450 ml. milk

50gr. butter

Black pepper

Parsley or chives as garnish

 

Put the haddock in a big frying pan with 400 g. cold water on a medium heat.  Let it come to the boil and simmer it for a further couple of minutes. While the fish is cooking, chop the onion and the green part of the leeks finely, and slice the white part thinly.

When the fish is cooked, remove the frying pan from the heat. Take the haddock out of the water and put to one side. Keep the water as stock. Put another large pan on the heat with the butter.

Cook the leeks and the onions gently in the butter till they are soft but don’t let them brown, for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile cut the taties into small cubes.

Add the taties and black pepper to the pan and stir them in with the vegetables for a couple of minutes, then add the water in which you cooked the fish, through a fine sieve. Reduce the heat and simmer until the taties are soft.

Meanwhile remove the skin and the bones from the Finnan haddies and put these back in the empty frying-pan for now. Carefully break the haddies into flakes, making sure no small bones are left in them.

When the taties are soft, take the pan off the heat and put back the frying-pan with the fish bones and skin and 200 gr. cold water. Boil them up to make a little more stock, and add this too to the soup, again through a fine sieve.

Remove about half of the vegetables from the soup with a slotted spoon and set aside. Put half the haddock flakes into the pan with the soup and puree it all finely with a blender or tatie masher.

Reheat the soup and serve in bowls with a large spoonful of the reserved haddock flakes and vegetables, garnished with parsley or chives if wished. Eat with crusty bread or oatcakes and butter.

 

 

 Conasg

As t-samhradh bidh mi ag obair mar neach-iùil luchd-turais, a‘ mhòr-chuid dhiubh às a’ Ghearmailt. Nuair a bhios sinn air a’ bhus aig an àm seo den bhliadhna, air an t-slighe bhon loidhnear ann an Inbhir Ghòrdain gu ceann-ùidhe turasachd air choreigin, leithid Loch Nis, bidh iad uile a’ cur an aon cheist – dè an stuth buidhe sin? Chan fhaca iad riamh conasg, agus cuiridh e dìreach annas orra, gu h-àraidh an uimhir dheth agus an dath làidir.   Tha iad eòlach air bealaidh, ach a rèir coltais chan eil conasg sa Ghearmailt, no co-dhiù chan eil e cho cumanta ‘s a dh’aithnicheadh iad e.

Agus gun teagamh sam bith ‘s e sealladh drùidteach a th‘ ann, a thogas cridhe, an dùthaich làn de bhuidhe agus de dh’fhàileadh chnò-chòco.  Tha àitichean ann a tha ainmeil air a shon, mar an cnoc air cùlaibh Bhun Ilidh, no an rathad sìos gu Eurabol, ach tha conasg gu lèòr againn ann am Machair Rois cuideachd, m.e. air an leitir ri taobh Clach Baile a’ Chnuic.

Bun Illidh / Helmsdale

Ach àlainn ‘s mar a tha e, faodaidh conasg a bhith cunnartach cuideachd.  B’ àbhaist do dh’fhuineadairean conasg a chleachadh san àmhainn mar chonnadh fìor èifeachdach, agus  bidh e a’ losgadh a cheart cho math agus cho luath air a’ chnoc, a’ cur togalaichean, daoine agus stoc ann an cunnart. Chunnaic sinn seo shìos fo Chathabol mìos air ais. Tha cuimhne agam gun robh sinn a’ cleachdadh pìosan conaisg thioraim gus na teintean-campa againn a lasadh nuair a bha mi anns na Guides. Tha an luaithre luachmhor mar mhathachas-talmhainn cuideachd – ‘s dòcha gur e sin an adhbhar air an ath-shlànachadh luath aige às dèidh theintean fiadhaich.

Ach tha cunnart eile ann – na drisean. Air preasan abaich tha iad fada, cruaidh agus cho geur ri ràsar, cnap-starra èifeachdach do dhaoine agus bheathaichean. Mar sin tha an conasg driseach feumail do dh’eòin beaga a thogas an nid ann, m.e. an gocan-conaisg agus an gealbhonn. Ach tha conasg feumail do thuathanaich cuideachd – nuair a tha na drisean air am bruanadh ann am muileann- brùthaidh, ‘s e fodar beathachail a th’ ann.

Whins (and heron), Portmahomack

Chuireadh daoine conasg gu feum ann an dòighean eile cuideachd.  Rachadh plangaidean fliuch an sgaoileadh air na preasan – chumadh na drisean iad sìos sa ghaoith agus gheibheadh an nigheadaireachd fàileadh a’ bhlàith. Rinn iad sin aig an allt ann am Baile a’ Chnuic aig àm mo sheanmhar.  Rinn daoine stuth-dathaidh às na flùrain cuideachd, agus thèid an cleachdadh an-diugh fhathast gus fìon, tì agus sailead a dhèanamh.

Agus tha aon fheart inntinneach eile aig a’ chonasg – ged a tha am blàth aig àirde tron earrach agus tron t-samhradh thrath, faodaidh flùrain a bhith air tron bhliadhna gu lèir. ‘S ann air an adhbhar sin a tha an seanfhacal ag ràdh:  “When gorse is out of bloom kissing is out of season.”

Mar sin, fhad ‘s a bhios sibh a’ mealadh sealladh a’ chonaisg bhuidhe ghlòrmhoir, faodaidh sibh a bhith a’ smaoineachadh cuideachd dè cho inntinneach agus feumail ‘s a tha am preas àlainn seo.

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Whins

Ullapool

In the summer I work as a tour guide on the buses from the liners in Invergordon, and most of my passengers are Germans. When we’re driving to our tourist destinations, such as Loch Ness, they all ask the same question: What’s that yellow stuff? They’re never seen whins, and it really amazes them, especially the sheer amount and the intense colour.  They’re familiar with broom, but apparently they don’t have whins in Germany, or at least it’s not common enough for them to recognise it.

And without a doubt it’s an impressive sight, one that lifts the heart, the countryside full of yellow and the scent of coconut. There are places that are famous for it, such as the hill behind Helmsdale, or the road down to Embo, but we have plenty of whins here in Easter Ross too, such as the hillside beside the Hilton Stone.

Whin fires, Cadboll

But lovely though they are, whins can be dangerous too. Bakers used to heat their ovens with whins as it was a very effective fuel, and it burns just as well and as quickly out on the hill, endangering buildings, people and livestock, as we saw down below Cadboll a month ago. I remember that we used pieces of dry whin to light our campfires when I was in the Guides. The ashes are valuable as soil-dressing too – maybe that’s the reason for the whins’  fast recovery after wildfires.

But there’s another danger – the thorns. On a mature plant they are long, hard and as sharp as a razor, an effective barrier to man and beast. Whins are therefore useful to the small birds who build their nests there, e.g. the whinchat and the linnet. But whins are useful to farmers too – when the thorns are crushed in a crushing-mill, they make nutritious fodder.

Chapel,Hilton

 

People would make use of whins in other ways too.  Wet blankets would be spread on the bushes – the thorns would hold them down in the wind, and the washing would get the scent of the blossom. They did that at the burn in Hilton in my grandmother’s day. People also made dye from the blossoms, and they are still used today to make wine, tea and salad.

And whin has one other interesting feature – although the blossom is at its best in spring and early summer, it can have blossoms on it throughout the year. That’s the reason for the saying: “When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season.”

So while you’re next enjoying the glorious yellow whins, you can be thinking too about how interesting and useful this beautiful bush is.

 

South Georgia

1. Grytviken at South Georgia, whaling station 1989

Bha mi riamh uabhasach measail air  ’S truagh nach do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr,  òran a sgrìobh Gàidheal a bha air fhasgadh air bàta-muc, ag obair a-mach à South Georgia. Bha an t-airgead math, ach bha a’ bheatha cruaidh, fada air falbh bho chàirdean, bhon Ghàidhealtachd agus bho shìobhaltachd fad mòran mhìosan.  Bidh mi chaoidh a’ smaoineachadh air an luchd-obrach ola san linn againn fhìn nuair a chluinneas mi an t-òran sin, agus iomadh Gàidheal san aon suidheachadh.

Bha mi riamh airson South Georgia a lorg air a’ mhapa agus chaidh agam air mu dheireadh thall.  ‘S e eilean gu math iomallach, iarghalta a th’ ann, eadar na Falklands agus Antarctica, gun shluagh bunaidh idir. Thug Captain Cook an t-ainm air, airson Rìgh Sheòrais, ann an 1775, agus thagair esan an t-eilean, agus na South Sandwich Islands faisg air, airson an Rìoghachd Aonaichte – rud a bha na fhactar ann an Cogadh nam Falklands.  Thòisich sealg nan ròn an sin beagan às dèidh sin, agus bho thoiseach na ficheadamh linn a-mach b’ e na mucan-mara a bha na bu chudromaiche. Cha do mhair seo fada nas motha, dìreach gus na ficheadan, agus tha aithrisean uabhasach ann mun deidhinn:  The whaling stations’ tryworks were unpleasant and dangerous places to work. One was called “a charnel house boiling wholesale in vaseline” by an early 20th-century visitor. Its “putrid vapors [resembled] the pong of bad fish, manure, and a tanning works mixed together .“(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Georgia_and_the_South_Sandwich_Islands )

 Is beag an t- iongnadh nach do chord a’ bheatha sin ris a’ bhalach anns an òran.

Tha stèiseanan sealg nam mucan-mara anns an eilean dùinte a-nis, agus na prìomh stèiseanan (Stromness agus Grytviken) nan taighean-tasgaidh san latha an-diugh, ach tha buidhnean-rannsachaidh agus luchd-tèarainteachd ann fhathast. Chaochail Shackleton an-sin ann an 1922 agus chaidh adhlacadh ann an Grytviken.

  • Tha an t-òran fhèin ri leughadh nas ìsle, agus ri chluinntinn tro cheangal ri clàradh YouTube (Artair Cormaig).
  • Tha ceangal ann cuideachd ri cruinneachadh dhealban tarraingeach.

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2. Whaling and Sealing Ships at Grytviken, South Georgia

I always liked the song ‘S truagh nach do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr – It’s pity I didn’t stay on dry land – a song written by a Highlander who hired on a whaling ship working out of South Georgia. The money was good but the life was hard, far away from friends, the Highlands and civilisation for months on end.  I’m always reminded of the oil workers in our own times when I hear that song, with many a Highlander in the same situation.

I always meant to look for South Georgia on a map, and have finally got round to it. It’s a pretty isolated, inhospitable island between the Falklands and Antarctica, without any native inhabitants. Captain Cook named it after King George in 1775 and claimed it, along with the nearby South Sandwich islands, for the UK, which later was a factor in the Falklands War. Seal-hunting began shortly afterwards, then whaling became more important from the beginning of the 20th century. This didn’t last long either, just into the twenties, and there are horrific reports about it: The whaling stations’ tryworks were unpleasant and dangerous places to work. One was called “a charnel house boiling wholesale in vaseline” by an early 20th-century visitor. Its “putrid vapors [resembled] the pong of bad fish, manure, and a tanning works mixed together (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Georgia_and_the_South_Sandwich_Islands )

Small wonder the lad in the song wasn’t too enamoured of the life there.

The whaling stations on the island are closed now, and the main stations (Stromness and Grytviken) are now museums, but there are research groups and security staff there still. Shackleton died there in 1922 and was buried in Grytviken.

  • Here’s the song, followed by a link to the recording by Arthur Cormack, and another link to impressive pictures of the whaling station at Grytviken:

 

 ‘S truagh na do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr

‘S truagh nach do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr,
‘N fhìrinn a th’ agam nach maraiche mi,
‘S truagh nach do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr,
Rim mhaireann cha till mise sheòladh.

Ruith na muic-mhara ri gailleann sa chuan,
Mo mheòirean air reothadh a dh’aindeoin a bhith cruaidh,
B’ fheàrr a bhith ‘n-ceartuair air acair air Chluaidh,
Na bhith dìreadh nan crann an South Georgia.

Dìle bhon t-sneachd ‘s tu gun fhasgadh on fhuachd,
D’ aodann ga sgailceadh le fras bho gach stuagh,
‘N t-airgead am pailteas ‘s gun dòigh a chur bhuat,
‘S e sìor losgadh toll ann ad phòca.

Nuair gheibh sinn fòrladh ‘s nuair ruigeas sinn tràigh,
Falbhaidh an òinseach-sa còmhla ri càch,
Chosg mi de dh’airgead air cunntair a’ bhàr,
A cheannaicheadh trì taighean-òsta.

(Le Dòmhnall Iain Mac A’ Mhaoilein)

It’s a pity I didn’t stay on dry land

It’s the truth that I’m no sailor

It’s a pity I didn’t stay on dry land

As long as I live I won’t return to sailing.

 

Chasing the whales in a storm at sea

My fingers frozen despite their toughness

It would be better now to be at anchor in the Clyde

Than climbing the masts in South Georgia.

 

Heavy snow showers and you’re without a shelter from the cold

Your face slapped with a shower from every wave

Plenty of money with nowhere to spend it

And it forever burning a hole in your pocket.

 

When we get leave and we reach the shore

This idiot will go along with the rest

I’ve spent enough money at the bar

To buy three hotels.

 

Agus seo an t-òran air a sheinn le Artair Cormaig / the song sung by Arthur Cormack.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A_LvyCgWxI

 

Seo dealbhan drùidhteach den stèisean / Impressive images of the abandoned whaling station at Grytviken:

http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2010/01/abandoned-antarctica-south-georgia-island/

 

Agus dealbh no dhà eile / and a couple of further pictures.

Photo credits, all Creative Commons:

  1. Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute, Creative Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1989_Grytvikken_hg.jpg
  2. By Liam Quinn from Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons
  3. By Liam Quinn from Canada (Replica of Shackleton’s “James Caird” in Grytviken) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  4. By Geoff3Cae, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26612635

 

An Giblean

Cha b’ àbhaist dha na Gàidheil ainmean nam mìosan a chleachdadh dìreach mar a bhios sinne gan cleachdadh san latha an-diugh. Chunnaic iad na mìosan gu ìre mar ràithean, gun fhad suidhichte. Bruidhnidh sinn fhìn mu “a long winter” no “a short summer” – ‘s ann caran mar sin a bha e leis na mìosan.  B’ fheudar dhan mhìosachan a bhith sùbailte, freagarrach do chearcall beatha nam beathaichean agus do dh’obraichean caochlach àiteachaidh no iasgaich.

Ge b’ e dè cho fada no goirid ‘s a bha e, ‘s e mìos mu dheireadh na leth-bhliadhna dorcha a bha anns a’ Ghiblean, a’ coimhead air adhart mu dheireadh thall gus an dàrna leth den bhliadhna,  gus na mìosan soilleir. Chan eil freumhan an ainm ro chinnteach, ach ‘s dòcha gu bheil e ceangailte ri “giblean”, neach luideach –dhèanadh sin tuigse, às dèidh geamhraidh fhada chruaidh.

Tha abairt no dhà ann ceangailte ris a’ mhìos seo. Tha “rot na Càisge” air gèiltean a thuath a thig gu h-àbhaisteach fad trì làithean aig toiseach a’ Ghiblein, agus bha “Cailleach” air an t-seachdain ann am meadhan a’ mhìosa. ‘S e “càileach” no “cailleach” a bha air sguab mu dheireadh na buana, a chaidh a sgeadachadh agus a chumail na crochadh air cnag gu treabhadh an earraich, agus an uair sin a bheathachadh dha na h-eich.

Bha Là na Gocaireachd aig na Gàidheil cuideachd, agus bha ainm a bharrachd air: Là Ruith na Cuthaige. Sin latha nuair a chuireas tu neach air gnothaich gun fheum, mar gus nead na cuthaige a lorg (nach eil aice idir). Caran mar “wild goose chase”. Agus gu tric, mar am bliadhna, tachraidh a’ Chàisg anns a’ Ghiblean, adhbhar eile subhachhas a dhèanamh, le buaidh an solais air an dorchadas.

Tha mi ‘n dòchas nach bi sibhse a’ ruith às dèidh na cuthaige a’ chiad latha den Ghiblean am bliadhna, agus gum bi a’ Chàisg shona agaibh uile!

 

April

The Gaels didn’t use the names of the months quite as we do today. Thy saw the months rather like seasons, without a fixed length. We ourselves speak of “a long winter” or “a short summer” – it was a bit like that with the months. The calendar had to be flexible, to adapt to the life-cycle of the animals and the seasonal activities of agriculture and fishing.

However long or short it was, April was the last month in the first half of the Celtic year, the dark half, looking forwards at last to the second half, to the bright months. The roots of the name are unclear, but may be linked to the word ‘giblean’, a ragged person, which would make sense after a long hard winter.

There are one or two expressions connected to this month. The “rot na Càisge” – Easter gale, is the name given to the three-day northerlies that tend to come at the beginning of April, and the middle week of the month was called ‘Cailleach’ – old woman. “Càileach” or “cailleach” was the name given to the last sheaf of the harvest, which was decorated and kept hanging on a peg till the spring ploughing and then fed to the horses.

The Gaels had April Fools’ Day too, and it also had another name, Là Ruith na Chuthaige, Day of the Cuckoo Run. That’s when you send someone on a fool’s errand, like going to find the cuckoo’s nest (which it doesn’t have). A bit like a wild goose chase. And of course Easter often falls in April, another reason for celebrating the triumph of light over darkness.

I hope none of you will be running after the cuckoo on April 1st this year, and that you will all have a happy Easter!

Tyneham, Baile Fàs

An seo air a‘ Ghàidhealtachd tha clachain agus bailtean-fearainn fàs gu leòr againn, a’ mhòrchuid ri linn nam Fuaidaichean, is iad gu tric nan tobhtaichean a-nis. O chionn ghoirid bha mi beagan làithean ann an Dorset air cèilidh air caraid dhomh, agus chaidh sinn do bhaile beag a tha fàs air adhbhar eile.  

Tha baile Tyneham na laighe ann an sgìre Purbeck faisg air oirthir Caolais na Frainge, ann an srath fada torrach. ‘S e baile le eachdraidh fhada a th’ ann, air ainmeachadh anns an Leabhar Domesday, le seann taighean chloiche-aoil, agus Eaglais Ban-naomh Moire, air a steidheachadh ann an 13mh linn. Bha taigh-maineir àlainn bho 1580 agus taigh-reachdaire toirteil clasaigeach ann,  lòn-thunnag, sgoil aon-seòmar agus oifis a’ phuist. Aig àm an Darna Chogaidh bha a’ mhòrchuid ag obair air an fhearann no airson teaghlach Bond anns an taigh-mhaineir, agus beagan dhiubh mar iasgairean bho bhàgh beag eadar na creagan, uile gu lèir dòigh-beatha thradiseanta Shasannach air an dùthaich, dìreach mar a chì sinn i anns na nobhailean aig Agatha Christie.

Dh’atharraich sin uile anns an t-Samhain 1943. Gu h-òbann, gun ghuth air roimhe air sgàth Achd Dìomhaireachd Oifigeil, fhuair gach teaghlach san t-srath litir bhon riaghaltas ag ràdh gun robh aca ri an taighean agus an tuathanasan fhàgail ro cheann ceithir seachdainean, dìreach ron Nollaig. Bha feum aig Oifis a’ Chogaidh air an t-srath. Thuirt iad gum faodadh na teaghlaichean tilleadh às dèidh a’ chogaidh. Anns an eadar-àm bu choir dhaibh àite-fuirich a lorg còmhla ri càirdean, air neo lorgadh an Riaghaltas aiteigin dhaibh.

“The Government appreciate that this is no small sacrifice which you are asked to make, but they are sure that you will give this further help towards winning the war with a good heart.”

Chumadh an dubhar air a’ chùis – bha dad ri leughadh sna paipearan (a-mach air barrachd shanasan-reic innealan-tuathanais), agus chan fhaodadh muinntir Tyneham cus innse mu a dheidhinn fiù ‘s do chàirdean. Thathar ri ràdh, leis gun robh a’ mhòrchuid dhiubh nan gabhaltaichean, nach d’fhuair iad airgead-dìolaidh idir ach luach toradh nan gàrraidhean. Co-dhiù, thug iad leotha na b’ urrainn dhaibh agus dh’fhàg an 225 dhiubh an dachaighean fo bhròn ach (a rèir coltais) aontach ris. Sgrìobh aon tè teachdaireachd mu dheireadh a chuir i air doras na h-eaglaise:

“Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.

Bha Oifis a’ Chogaidh ag iarraidh an srath a chleachdadh mar raon gunnaireachd agus gus na D-Day Landings ullachadh. Mar a thachair, bha an sgìre cho freagarrach airson treanadh an airm ‘s nach robh iad airson a thoirt air ais às dèidh a’ Chogaidh. Ann an 1948 chuir an t-Arm òrdugh ceannachd èigneachail air, agus mar sin chaill muinntir Tyneham an dachaighean agus am fearann gu bràth. Chan fhaodadh iad fiù ‘s tighinn a thadhal air no gus na bha air fhàgail de shealbhan pearsanta fhaighinn. Thug e deicheadan agus iomadh iomairt phoblach gus an robh cead aca am baile fhaicinn a-rithist, anns na 1970an, agus chunnaic iad an uairsin nach robh mòran air fhàgail dheth. An àite “treating the village kindly”, bha an t-arm air na taighean a chleachdadh airson targaid-losgaidh no bomaidh, no mar gharaidsean ‘s an leithid, agus bha a h-uile rud ann am fìor dhroch staid, gun mhullaich agus fo phreasan. Bha an taigh-maineir eachdraidheil air a leagail gu làr, an taigh-reachdaire air a threigsinn, agus na bha ann de dh’fheartan ailtireachd sònraichte air an creachadh no air an reic. Cha robh ach an eaglais agus an sgoil gu ìre ri shàbhaladh.

Sgoil

Ged a bha feadhainn an dòchas gum biodh cead aca tilleadh agus am baile ath-thogail, cha robh an t-arm no an riaghaltas deònach sin a dhèanamh – bha an raon ro fheumail dhaibh . Agus anns an eadar-àm bha a’ mhòrchuid de mhuinntir toilichte gu leòr ann an taighean-comhairle cofhurtail agus ag obair ann an oifisean an àite air an fhearann. Bha e foillaiseach gum biodh an dòigh-beatha air atharrachadh co-dhiù, cogadh ann no às.

Ach bha faireachdainn brathaidh agus searbhadas aig mòran san sgìre fhathast, agus – às dèidh iomairtean poblach sna meadhanan – san dùthaich san fharsaingeachd. Chaidh cudrom a leigeil air an riaghaltas agus bho 1975 a-mach ghabhadh tadhal air a’ bhaile bho àm gu àm, agus gus na 1990an chaidh lìonra chas-cheuman a stèidheachadh san t-srath, ri chleachdadh aig deireadh-seachdain nuair nach robh trèanadh a’ dol. Chaidh am baile fhèin a sgioblachadh agus na ballaichean-taighe a bha air fhàgail a chàradh. Ann an 2008 chaidh an eaglais agus an sgoil ath-fhosgladh mar thaigh-tasgaidh. Tha Tyneham agus na cas-cheuman fosgailte aig deireadh-seachdain agus gach Lùnasdal a-nis.

Rectory

‘S e àite ciùin, bòidheach a th’ anns a’ bhaile an-diugh, agus anns na taighean gun mhullach tha panailean-fiosrachaidh ann le eachdraidh nan teaghlaichean agus seann dealbhan, tarraingeach agus brònach aig an aon àm. Beanaidh e ri do chrìdhe an leughadh.  Ach tha a’ ghrian air cùlaibh gach sgòth – ged a tha tancaichean meirgeach air an sgaoileadh thairis air an dùthaich agus feansaichean agus soidhnaichean an airm, air sgàth ‘s nach robh daoine a’ fuireach air an fhearann, no dòighean-tuathanais ùra air toirt a-steach, ‘s e seòrsa tèarmainn-nàdair air tuiteamas a th’ anns an sgìre an-diugh, làn eun, bheathaichean agus lusan tearc.

Faodaidh mi Dorset gu lèir a mholadh airson turais, gu h-àiridh an oirthir – ‘s ma dh’fhaoidte gun sgrìobh mi barrachd mu a dhèidhinn uaireigin.

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Tyneham, Deserted Village

Here in the Highlands we have plenty of deserted villages and townships, most of them as a result of the Clearances, and often now just ruins. Recently I was visiting a friend in Dorset and we went to a village which was deserted for a different reason.

The village of Tyneham lies in the Purbeck area near the Channel coast, in a long fertile valley. It’s a place with a long history, mentioned in the Domesday Book, with old limestone cottages and St Mary’s Church, founded in the 13th century. There was a lovely old manor-house from 1580 and a substantial classical rectory, a duck-pond, a one-room school and a post office. At the time of World War II  most people were working on the land or for the Bond family in the manor-house, and a few as fishermen out of a little bay between the cliffs – all in all the traditional English country way of life, as we see it in Agatha Christie novels.

All this changed in November 1943. Suddenly, with no previous warning due to the Official Secrets Act, every family in the valley was given a letter from the government saying that they had to leave their homes and their farms within 4 weeks, just before Christmas. The War Office needed the valley. They said that the families could return after the war. In the meantime they should look for accommodation with relatives, otherwise the government would find somewhere for them.

“The Government appreciate that this is no small sacrifice which you are asked to make, but they are sure that you will give this further help towards winning the war with a good heart.”

It was all kept in the dark – there was nothing in the newspapers (apart from increased numbers of farm-equipment sales notices), and the Tyneham villages were not allowed to say much even to friends. It’s said that as most of them were only tenants they got no compensation except for the value of produce left in their gardens. In any case, they took with them what they could and the 225 of them left their homes, with a heavy heart but, apparently, resigned to it. One woman wrote a last message and posted it on the church door:

“Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”

The War Office wanted to use the valley as a gunnery range and to prepare for the D-Day landings. As it happened, the area was so suitable as army training terrain that they didn’t want to give it back after the war. In 1948 the Army took out a compulsory purchase order on it, and with that the people of Tyneham lost their homes and land for ever. They weren’t even allowed back to visit or to fetch what was left of their belongings. It took decades and many public campaigns to win permission for them to see their village again, in the 1970s, and they saw then that not much was left of it. Instead of “treating the village kindly”, the army had used the houses for target and bombing practice, or as garages and the like, and everything was in a dreadful state, without roofs and overgrown. The historic manor-house was razed to the ground, the rectory derelict, and the architectural features plundered or sold off. Only the church and the school were to some extent salvageable.

Although some hoped they would get permission to return and rebuild the village, neither the Army nor the government were willing to do this – the range was too useful to them. And in the meantime most of the inhabitants were contented enough in their comfortable council houses and working in offices instead of on the land. It was clear that their way of life would have changed in any case, war or no war.

But many in the area still had a sense of betrayal and of bitterness, as did – after public campaigns in the media – the country at large. Pressure was put on the government and from 1975 on the town could be visited from time to time, and by the 1990s a network of footpaths was established in the valley which could be used at weekends when there was no training in progress. The village itself was cleaned up and the walls of the remaining houses repaired. In 2008 the church and the school were opened as a museum. Tyneham and the footpaths are now open at weekends and in August.

The village is a peaceful, pretty place now, and in the roofless houses there are information panels with the history of the families and old photographs, fascinating and melancholy at the same time. It’s very moving to read them. But there’s a silver lining – although rusting tanks, fences and army signs litter the countryside, because there are no people living there and no modern intensive farming methods have been brought in, the valley has become a sort of accidental nature reserve today, full of birds, animals and rare plants.

I can recommend the whole of Dorset for a trip, especially the coastline – perhaps I’ll write more about it sometime.

 

 

 

Eaglais Chille Mhìcheil fo Chruth-Atharrachadh

An Giblean 2012

Cha mhòr còig bliadhna air ais, sa Ghiblean 2012, sgrìobh mi pìos an seo mu Eaglais Chille Mhìcheil san Eilean Dubh, an seann eaglais ud le cladh ri taobh Bhàgh Uadal. Leis nach deach càil a dhèanamh rithe thar nam bliadhnaichean,  bha i ann am fìor dhroch stàit.  Ann an 2012 bha planaichean aig Urras Chille Mhìcheil (buidheann shaor-thoilleach) an eaglais a shàbhaladh agus a h-ath-nuadhachadh mar ionad eachdraidheil agus mar ghoireas coimhearsnachd. Bha coltas gu math àrd-amasach aig na planaichean, nan dèanadh tu coimeas eadar an tobhta a bha anns an eaglais aig an àm sin (fiù ‘s na bu mhiosa às dèidh dhan mhullach tuiteam  a-steach fo shneachd trom san aon bhliadhna) agus dealbhan spaideil na làrach mar a bhiodh e às dèidh nan obraichean rùnaichte uile. An-diugh tha mi airson sùil a thoirt air na h-adhbharan air cudromachd na làraich, agus cuideachd air na thachair anns an eadar-àm.

Chaidh an eaglais a stèidheachadh sna Meadhan Aoisean le paraiste aice fhèin, bho 1662 a-mach còmhla ri Cùl a’ Chùdainn mar pharaiste ùr, Ruigh Solais.  San latha an-diugh ‘s e àite sàmhach, iomallach a th’ ann, ach cha robh e an-còmhnaidh mar sin. Feumaidh cuimhne a bhith againn gun robh Baile Dhubhthaich na àite-taistealachd cudromach cliùiteach sna Meadhan Aoisean, agus thar nan linntean thàinig iomadh taistealach bho cheann a deas na h-Alba, gu tric a’ leantainn na seann slighe bho sgrìn Naomh Fionan aig Taigh Mhàrtainn ann an Gall Ghàidhealaibh.  Ghabh an luchd-siubhail seo – is iad luchd-turais an linn, agus cuid dhiubh beartach gu leòr – an rathad bho Mhanachainn Mhic Shimidh tron Eilean Dubh thorrach fhuranach gu Crombadh gus am bàta-aiseig fhaighinn gu Neig agus an rathad gu Baile Dhubhthaich. Nam measg bha an Rìgh Seumas IV, a bha ann am Baile Dubhthaich ochd tursan deug mu 1500, is e a’ measgachadh taistealachd agus poilitigs.  ‘S e ‘Slighe an Rìgh’ a tha air an rathad seo an-diugh fhathast.

An t-Iuchair 2012

Mar sin chan eil ann an àite iomallach bochd a bha anns na paraistean seo, ach ann an sgìre thrang shoirbheachail, agus an luchd-fearainn gu tric beartach gu leòr airson eaglaisean a thogail agus leacan-uaighe mòr-sgeadaichte a phàigheadh, mar a chì sinn anns na h-eaglaisean aig Cille Mhìcheil agus Cùl a’ Chùdainn agus sna cladhan aca. Lean seo fad linntean, fada às dèidh àm nan taistealachan cuideachd, agus mar sin tha leacan agus carraighean-chuimhne gu math drùidhteach aig an dà chuid, Cille Mhìcheil agus Cùl a’ Chùdainn, bho na Meadhan Aoisean gus an 19mh linn. Ged a chaidh an dà thogalach o fheum mar eaglaisean-paraiste o chionn 200 bliadhna, agus chaidh Cùl a’ Chùdainn a dholaidh, chaidh Cille Mhìcheil a chleachdadh fhathast mar thrannsa-adhlacaidh do phrìomh theaghlaichean na sgìre. Bha e ro anmoch Cùl a’ Chùdainn a shàbhalachdh, ach bha an t-Urras agus mòran sa choimhearsnachd den bheachd gun robh Cille Mhìcheil, le a h-eachdraidh fhada inntinneach agus a leacan agus a carraighean brèagha, airidh air ath-nuadhachadh.

an t-Sultain 2016

Agus às dèidh dhaibh mothachadh a dhùsgadh agus maoin a thogail agus iarrtasan-tabhartais gun chrìoch a lìonadh fad fichead bliadhna, ach iad-fhèin an eidheann chronail a thoirt falbh agus na ballaichean a propadh suas, tha iad air a’ chùis a dhèanamh mu dheireadh thall. Le cuideachadh bho iomadh buidheann, nam measg bho Mhaoin-Dualchais a’ Chrannchuir, thòisich an obair mhòr air an togalach. Tha na bha ri fhaicinn sna planaichean còig bliadhna air ais ri aithneachadh beag air bheag ann an da-rìribh a-nis. Tha a’ chompanaidh Laing Traditional Masonry dèanadach leis na ballaichean agus a’ mhullach, anns a bhith a’ cleachcadh na seann chlachan agus sglèataichean cho fad ‘s a ghabhas, agus dòighean-obrach tradiseanta. Mar sin ‘s urrainn do luchd-obrach òg na sgilean seo ionnsachadh, agus bha bùthan-obrach de mhuinntir na sgìre cuideachd. Ghabh mi fhìn pàirt ann an tè airson obair-snaidhidh cloiche, agus chuidich mi mar shaor-thoileach na h-arc-eòlaichean a bha a’ cladhach an làir am broinn na h-eaglais.

arc-eòlas san làr

Anns an eadar-àm cha mhòr nach eil am mullach agus na ballaichean deiseil, tha leacan air an làr, tha iad a’ cur sìos càballan dealain, agus tha iad a glanadh agus a’ càradh nan carraighean-cuimhne, gu h-àiridh an ‘Regnard memorial’ bhrèagha chlasaigich. Nuair a bhios sin deiseil, bidh iad a thoirt a-steach agus a’ taisbeanadh cuid de na leacan snaidhte às na 14mh agus 15mh linntean bhon dà chladh. Tha a’ chuid ann an Cùl a’ Chùdainn gu sònraiche àlainn – tha iad gu ìre mhòr fon fhòid fhathast. Tha iad fìor phrìseil agus sònraichte, mòran le ìomhaigh claidheimh le seòrsa cuibhle mun dòrn-chur agus geugan a’ tighinn às an lann, ach tha iad an cunnart bho na siantan agus bho na lomairean-feòir làidir aig a’ Chomhairle.

Cùl a’ Chùdainn

Chan eil cho doirbh idir a-nis creidsinn gum bi an aisling a bha aig an Urras ga firinneachadh. Tha iad rim moladh airson am foighidinn agus an dìlseachd, agus airson na rinn iad dhuinn uile. ‘S e goireas mìorbhaileach dhan choimhearsnachd agus do dhualchas Rois an Ear a bhios ann,  ionad-tadhail a tharraingeas thaistealaich ùra air ais do Shlighe an Rìgh. Agus nuair a bhios bàta-aiseig Neig-Crombadh a’ ruith a-rithist as t-samhradh, cha bhi e fada idir bho Bhailtean Mhachair Rois….

BBC Naidheachdan: https://www.facebook.com/BBCNaidheachdan/videos/10154953034253735/

Radio nan Gàidheal, Aithris na Maidne 30.01.17 ,  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0894k3d Bho ca. 1.25.14    gu  1.29.40

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The transformation of Old Kirkmichael

Sep 2016

Almost 5 years ago, in April 2012, I wrote a piece about Kirkmichael Church in the Black Isle, that old church with a graveyard beside Udale Bay. As nothing had been done to it over the years, it was in truly desperate condition then. In 2012 the Kirkmichael Trust (a voluntary group) had plans to save and restore the church as a historic monument and a community resource. These plans looked pretty ambitious when you compared the ruinous church then (even worse after the roof fell in after heavy snow) with the attractive pictures of the site as it would look after all the desired works. Today I want to have a look at the reasons for the importance of the site, and at what has been happening there in the meantime.

Cullicudden churchyard

The church was founded in the Middle Ages with its own parish, from 1662 combined with Cullicudden as Resolis parish. Nowadays it’s a quiet spot off the beaten track, but that was not always so. We have to remember that Tain was a famous, important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and over the centuries many a pilgrim made his way there from the south of Scotland, often following the old pilgrims’ route from the shrine of St Ninian at Whithorn in in Galloway. These travellers – the ‘tourists’ of their day, many of them wealthy – took the road from Beauly’s priory through the fertile, hospitable Black Isle to Cromarty, to get the ferry over to Nigg and the road to Tain. Among them was James IV, who visited Tain 18 times around 1500, combining pilgrimage with politics. The route is called the King’s Way to this day.

Cullicudden mediaeval sword-slab

These parishes were therefore not poor, isolated places, but part of a bustling, prosperous area, where landowners were often rich each enough to finance churches and pay for ornate grave-slabs, as we see in the churches of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden and their graveyards. This continued down the centuries, long after the time of the pilgrims, and so we see impressive memorial stones in both Kirkmichael and Cullicudden, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Although both buildings went out of use as parish churches about 200 years ago, and Cullicudden Church became completely ruined, Kirkmichael was still used as a burial aisle for the leading families of the area. It was too late for Cullicudden to be saved, but the Trust and many in the community believed that Kirkmichael, with its long, interesting history and its fine memorial slabs, was well worth restoring.

And now, after 20 years of raising awareness, and funds, and filling in countless grant applications, and themselves removing damaging ivy and propping up the old walls, they have finally reached their goal. With help from many bodies, among them the Lottery Heritage Fund, work on the great project has begun. What we saw in the ambitious plans back then can gradually be recognised in reality. The firm Laing Traditional Masonry have been working industriously on the walls and roof, re-using the old stones and slates as far as possible, and using traditional methods. In this way young masons can learn these old skills too, and there have also been workshops for the community – I took part in a stone-carving one myself. I also volunteered on the dig run by archaeologists in the floor of the church.

Oct 2016

By now the walls and the roof are nearly finished, there are stone slabs on the floor, they are laying electricity cables , and they are cleaning and repairing the memorial plaques inside the church, especially the fine classical ‘Regnard memorial’. When that is all finished they will be bringing in and displaying some of the carved 14th and 15th century grave slabs from both graveyards. Those in Cullicudden are particularly beautiful – they are largely covered by turf nowadays. They are all precious and very special, many of them with a carved sword with a kind of wheel around the hilt and branches coming out of the blade, but they are in danger from the elements and the council’s hefty lawnmowers.

Jan 2017

It’s not so hard at all now to believe that the Trust’s dream will really come true. They are to be congratulated for their patience and their faith, and for what they have done on behalf of us all. It will be a marvellous resource for the community and for our Easter Ross heritage, a visitor-centre that will draw new pilgrims back to the King’s Way. And when the Nigg-Cromarty ferry starts up again for the summer, it won’t be far away at all from the Seaboard Villages…

Feb 2017 (Pic. Andrew Dowsett – mìle taing!)

Kirkmichael Trust: http://www.kirkmichael.info/  (videos and pictures, background)

Kirkmichael on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kirkmichaeltrust/

The King’s Way: http://walkingandwriting.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/blogger-has-unfortunately-become.html

BBC Naidheachdan: https://www.facebook.com/BBCNaidheachdan/videos/10154953034253735/

Radio nan Gàidheal, Aithris na Maidne 30.01.17 ,  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0894k3d Bho ca. 1.25.14    gu  1.29.40