seaboardgàidhlig

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Veere, Tìr Ìosal: Na Dùitsich agus na h-Albannaich

Banais rìoghail - royal wedding

Banais rìoghail – royal wedding

Anns an Iuchar bha mi ann an Veere, baile beag bòidheach ann an Zeeland san Tìr Ìosal, gus Grèis-bhrat Diaspora na h-Alba fhaicinn; bha an taisbeanadh-siubhail mòr an sin fad dà mhìos. Bha mi air pàirt beag dheth fhaicinn ann an Inbhir Nis an-uiridh mar-thà, ach b’ e seo an obair-ghrèis iomlan, barrachd is 300 pannalan tarraingeach. Tha iad air an grèiseadh le coimhearsneachdan-fuaigheil saor-thoilleach air feadh an t-saoghail, ann an Canada, Patagonia, san Ruis, sna h-Innseachan, ann an Astràilia, Sìona, san Roinn Eòrpa … anns gach àite air an t-saoghal far an do leig Albannaich an acair bho na Meadhan-Aoisean a-mach. ‘S e aon de trì “peathraichean” a th’ ann – Grèis-bhrat Blàr Sliabh a’ Chlamhain (2010), Grèis-bhrat Mòr na h-Alba (2012-13) a sgrìobh mi mu dheidhinn an-uiridh, agus Grèis-bhrat an Diaspora (2012-14) e fhèin, gach fear fo stiùireadh neach-ealain Andrew Crummy.

Cha bhi Grèis-bhrat an Diaspora ri fhaicinn ann an Alba a-rithist ro 2017 – tha e a’ siubhal tron t-saoghal san eadar-àm; mar sin bha mi ro thoilichte cothrom fhaighinn fhaicinn ann an Veere. (Ach tha Grèis-bhrat Mòr na h-Alba ri fhaicinn an an Cair Chaladain an-dràsda, gu 20mh den t-Sultain.)

Tha na dealbhan de Ghrèis-bhrat an Diaspora a thog mi ann an Veere rim faicinn an seo, ma bhios ùidh agaibh annta: https://www.flickr.com/gp/seaboard/151th6

Sisteal - Cistern

Sisteal – Cistern

Ach carson a bha e ann an Veere, anns an Tìr Ìosal, idir? Tha sinn buailteach dìochuimhneachadh gur e an fhìor rathad-mhòr a bha anns a’ mhuir gus o chionn ghoirid, agus mar sin bha e nàdarra gu leòr gun robh ceanglaichean-malairt agus iasgaich làidir ann eadar taobh an Ear na h-Alba agus an Tìr Ìosal. Bha luing Albannach air acair ann an Veere anns an 13mh linn mar-thà, ged a bha Brugge na bu chudromaiche an toiseach, le bathair-a-steach Albannach saor o chìsean. Ann an 1407 fhuair Brugge cùmhnant mar aon phort-inntrigidh dhan Roinn Eòrpa ( ‘staple port’) airson bathair Albannach, le còirichean sònraichte, ach às dèidh dhan abhainn an-sin stopadh le eabar, fhuair Middelburg, baile-malairt ann an Zeeland, an t-sochair seo ann an 1518. Ach bha Middelburg fhèin beagan fad’ air falbh bhon mhuir fhosgailte cuideachd agus mar sin chaidh Veere, port na bu lugha ach glè fhreagarrach – air a’ chosta ach faisg air ionad-malairt mòr Middelburg (agus na bu bhàidheile ri Pròstanaich) ainmeachadh mar ‘staple port’ airson bathair Albannaich ann an 1541, rud a mhair gu 1799.

Bha luchd-malairt Albannach steidhichte ann an Veere fada ro sin, ge-tà. Bha na ceanglaichean cho làidir ‘s gun do phòs a’ Bhana-phrionnsa Màiri, nighean Sheumais 1 Alba, Wolfert à Borselen, Morair Veere, ann an 1444. Thairis air ùine dh’fhàs coimhearsnachd Albannach làidir ann an Veere, aig an robh sochairean sònraichte, mar eaglais agus lagh aca fhèin, tobair mhatha meadhan sa bhaile (mar An Sisteal, ri fhaicinn fhathast), saoradh bho chìsean air fìon is leann, lighiche is ostair aca fhèin, amsaa. Bha Taigh na h-Alba ann airson choinneamhan malairteach agus comannach, agus Gleidheadair (‘Conservator’) mar cheannard na coimhearsnachd Albannach san Òlaind. ‘S e dreachd gu math politigeach a bh’ anns a’ Ghleidheadair uaireannan – m.e. gus luing-cogaidh Bhreatannach a chur air dòigh, no rèisimeid Albannach a thogail, mar dhìon nuair a bha Veere no an Tìr Ìosal ann an cunnart, m.e. an aghaidh nan Frangach no nan Spàinnteach. (Fiù’s san Darna Chogadh ‘s e saighdearean Albannach a shaor Veere, mar phàirt de Ghnìomhachd Infatuate, 1944.)

Cuileann-Ros, Culross

Cuileann-Ros, Culross

Agus dè am bathar a chaidh a mhalart? Sa phrìomh àite bha a’ chlòimh Albannach, bho na Meadhan-Aoisean, bho thùs rùsgan corralach bho mhanaich Abaid Mhaolrois. Chaidh seo tro Veere (mar ‘staple port’) a-steach dhan Roinn Eòrpa, far an robh margadh prothaideach a’ feitheamh. Ach thar nan linntean dh’fhàs bathar eile cudromach cuideachd, leithid sgadan, bèin, lìon, uisge-beatha, agus gual agus salann gu h-àraidh à Cuileann-Ros ann am Fìobha (baile-cèile Veere an-diugh, agus fianais e fhèin de na linntean-malairt tarbhach sin).

Agus dè chaidh air ais sna luing-mhalairt? Bha bathar gu math eadar-dhealaichte ann, leithid fìnealtasan-bidh is dighe Eòrpach, aodach, leathar, bathar-pràis, taidhleachan Dùitseach. Aig àm a’ Chogadh Chatharra ann am Breatainn, chuir luchd-malairt Dùitseach an t-uabhas de dh’armachd gu Alba. Ach rud ceart cho cudromach, ‘s e na leacagan-phana dearga a thàinig a dh’Alba mar bhallaist agus a tha rim faicinn an-diugh fhahast air mullachan nan taighean taobh an Ear na h-Alba, gu h-àraidh ann am Fìobha – leithid Cuileann-Ros, Dìseart is Cathair Aile.

Leis gun robh ceanglaichean cho maireannach agus seasmhach eadar na coimhearsnachdan Albannach agus Dùitseach, is beag an t-ioghnadh gun robh iomlaid-fhoghlaim sgairteil ann cuideachd, seòrsa de phrògram-Erasmus tràth, le oileanaich Dhùitseach a’ frithealadh oilthighean ann an Alba agus oileanaich (agus ollamhan) Albannach aig Oilthigh Leiden.

De Schotse Huizen

De Schotse Huizen

Nuair a chaidh sochairean agus inbhe ‘staple port’ a thoirt air falbh aig àm Napoleon, lùghdaich malairt le Alba (dh’fhàs Rotterdam na bu chudromaiche), agus re ùine chaidh coimhearsnachd nan Albannach ann an Veere às a chèile, às dèidh nan linntean mòra. ‘S e baile sàmhach ann a th’ ann an Veere a-nis, a thaobh malairt co-dhiù (gu h-àraidh nuair chaidh dam a thogail aig beul na linne ann an 1961), le marina beòthail agus meadhan a’ bhaile eachdraidheal bòidheach, làn de chraobhan agus flùraichean, nam measg mòran ròsan-malla brèagha àrda. Ach dè tha air fhàgail de na h-Albannaich ann an Veere an latha an-diugh? Tha fiosrachadh agus cunntasan oifigeil gu leòr ann, agus dealbhan agus buill àirneis a bha aca, cuid dhiubh rim faicinn sna taighean-tasgaidh, ach gu mì-fhòrtanach chan eil mòran de na togalaich aca ann tuilleadh. Ach tha muinntir Veere uabhasach moiteil às an fheadhainn a tha air fhàgail.

A-mach on t-Sisteal, taigh-tobair cloiche às an 16mh linn, tha dà sheann taigh drùidteach ann, faisg air a chidhe, air a bheil De Schotse Huizen, an dà chuid air an togail san 16mh linn cuideachd. Bha sgèimheachadh nan taighean seo a’ nochdadh inbhe an luchd-malairt Albannach. ‘S e Het Lammetje (an t-uan) a th’ air aon dhiubh, fear math ghlèidhte, a’ toirt tarraing air a’ mhailairt-chlòimhe, agus e na dheagh shampall den stoidhle Ghotach Dhùitseach, air an taobh a-muigh ‘s a-staigh. Chaidh am fear eile, In Den Struijsch (an struth) atharrachadh gu ìre ri ùine, ach tha e brèagha fhathast, le eileamaidean clasaigeach air. Tha taigh-tasgaidh inntinneach mu àm nan Albannach anns na taighean an-diugh, agus sin far an deach Grèis-bhrat an Diaspora a thaisbeanadh.

Nach math gu bheil fianais mar sin ann air an dàimh fhada eadar Alba agus an Roinn Eòrpa – bha Alba riamh gu math fosgailte a thaobh cheanglaichean do ar nàbaidhean thall thairis. Faodaidh mi turas gu Veere, Middelburg is Brugge a mholadh – sgìre is bailtean brèagha iad fhèin, agus iad nam pàirt cho inntinneach den eachdraidh againn fhìn.

 

Veere, NL: the Dutch and the Scots

Margadh - Market, Veere

Margadh – Market, Veere

In July I was in Veere, a small town in Zeeland, the most southerly province of the Netherlands, to see the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry; the travelling exhibition was there for about 2 months. I had already seen a small selection of the panels in Inverness last year, but this was the full works, more than 300 fascinating panels. They were embroidered by volunteer groups all round the world, in Canada, Patagonia, Russia, India, Australia, Europe…everywhere in the world where Scots dropped anchor, from the Middle Ages on. It’s one of three “sisters”: the Prestonpans Tapestry (2010), the Great Tapestry of Scotland (2012-13), which I wrote about last year, and the Diaspora Tapestry itself (2012-14), each one under the artistic diirection of Andrew Crummy.

The Diaspora Tapestry won’t be back in Scotland until 2017 – it’s touring the world in the meantime, so I was delighted to have the chance to see it in Veere. (But the Great Tapestry is on show in Kirkaldy till 20 September.)

My photos of the Diaspora Tapestry can be seen here, if anyone is interested: https://www.flickr.com/gp/seaboard/151th6

But why was the Tapestry in Veere in the first place? Well, we tend to have forgotten altogether that it was the sea which was the real highway until comparatively recently, and that there were therefore close trade and fishing links between the East of Scotland and the Low Countries. Scottish ships were already anchoring in Veere in the 13th century, although Bruges was more important initially, with duty-free imports of Scottish goods. In 1407 Bruges negotiated the contract to be the ‘staple port’ for Scottish imports, i.e. the sole entry-port for Europe, with special rights, but when the river there silted up, Middelburg, a trading centre in nearby Zeeland, was granted that privilege in 1518. Middelburg itself however was also a bit too far from the open sea, and therefore Veere, a smaller but more suitable port right on the coast, close to Middelburg’s commercial hub (and more open to Calvinism), was declared ‘staple port’ for Scottish imports in 1541, a role which lasted till 1799.

An t-Sisteal - Cistern

An t-Sisteal – Cistern

Scottish merchants had established themselves in Veere long before that, however. The links were so strong that Princess Mary Stewart, daughter of James I of Scotland, married the Lord of Veere, Wolfert van Borselen, in 1444. In the course of time the Scottish community in Veere became very strong, and acquired special rights, such as their own church and courts of law, good wells in the town centre (like the Cistern, still there today), freedom from duties on beer and wine, their own doctor and innkeeper, etc. There was a Scots House for trade and social meetings, and a Conservator as head of the Scottish community in the Netherlands. This could be quite a political role at times, e.g. deploying British warships, or raising Scottish regiments, when Veere or the Netherlands was in danger, e.g from the French or Spanish. (Even in World War II it was Scottish soldiers who liberated Veere, as part of Operation Infatuate in 1944.)

And what kind of goods were traded? Primarily it was Scottish wool, from the Middle Ages on, originally superfluous fleeces from the monks of Melrose Abbey. These were channeled through Veere, as ‘staple port’, for trade in Europe, where a profitable market was waiting. But over the centuries other exports became important too, such as herring, flax, whisky, and especially coal and salt from Culross in Fife (twinned with Veere today, and itself testimony to the prosperous centuries of trading).

Taigh-tasgaidh, museum

Taigh-tasgaidh, museum

And what came back in the merchant ships? There was quite a variety of goods, such as European food and drink specialities, textiles, leather, brass-work, Dutch porcelain tiles. At the time of the Civil War in Britain, vast amounts of weapons were also exported to Scotland by the Dutch. But just as importantly, the red Dutch roof-tiles that were used as ballast in the returning ships (as the holds of coal-ships were too dirty for anything other than building materials) still leave their mark on house-roofs in the East of Scotland today, especially in Fife – for example in Culross, Dysart and Crail.

With such a strong, long-term relationship between the Scots and the Dutch, it’s hardly surprising that there was a lively educational exchange too – a sort of early Erasmus programme, wiih Dutch students attending Scottish universities, and Scottish students (and professors) at Leiden University.

Once Veere’s ‘staple port’ privileges were removed by Napoleon, trade with Scotland decreased (Rotterdam became more important), and over time the centuries-old Scottish community in Veere disintegrated. Veere today is a quiet backwater, as far as trade is concerned (especially since the building of the dam over the mouth of its firth in 1961), but it has a lively marina and a very pretty historic centre, full of trees and flowers, among them beautiful tall hollyhocks. But what is left of the Scots in Veere today? There’s plenty of information and offical records, and paintings and furniture, which you can see in the museums, but unfortunately not too many buildings any more. However the people of Veere are extremely proud of those they do still have.

De Schotse Huizen

De Schotse Huizen

Apart from the Cistern, a stone pavillion housing the well dating from the 16th century, there are two impressive old houses beside the quay, called De Schotse Huizen, both built in the 16th century too. The richness of the decoration showed off the status of the Scots merchants in Veere. One of them, a well-preserved example of Dutch Gothic inside and out, is called Het Lammetje (the lamb), referring to the Scottish wool trade. Its neighbour, In den Struijsch (the ostrich) has been altered over the years but is still attractive, with classical elements. There’s an interesting museum about the time of the Scots merchants inside them nowdays, and that’s where the Diaspora Tapestry was displayed.

Isn’t it great that there are still such witnesses to the historic relationship between Scotland and mainland Europe – Scotland was always very open as regards links with our neighbours over the seas. I can certainly recommend a visit to Veere, Middelburg and Bruges – the area and towns beautiful in themselves, and with a long heritage they share with us.

 

 

Càl-colaig càise beagan eadar-dhealaichte…

Càl-colaig le buntàta is càise

Càl-colaig le buntàta is càise

Gritheidean

1 càl-colaig meadhanach mòr
mu 750 gr buntàta
mu 125 gr càise cruaidh sgrìobte, leithid Cheddar, Parmesan
mu 150 ml uachdar singilte no uachdar-còcaireachd soya (m.e. Alpro)
salann
piobar dubh garbh-bhleithte

Cuir am bùntata do phana le uisge agus salann agus leig leotha bruich fhad ‘s a tha thu a’ deasachadh na gritheidean eile.

Geàrr an stoc a-mach às a’ chàl-cholaig, ach fàg an càl-colaig fhèin ann an aon phìos.

Rùisg an stoc agus cuir am pàirt geal às a’ mheadhan, ann an dà no trì pìosan, do mhàs a’ phana. Ma bhios duilleagan òga ùra ann, nach eil ro thiugh, cuir iadsan dhan phana cuideachd. Còmhdaich an stoc agus na duilleagan le salann agus uisge teth às a’ choire – ach 1 – 2 òirleach a-mhàin; bidh an càl-colaig a’ bruich san smùid.

Cuir an càl-colaig air muin nam pìosan-stuic, agus còmhdaich e le mullach a’ phana. Thoir chun a’ ghoil e agus leig leis earr-bruich mu 7 – 10 mionaidean gus am bi an càl-colaig al dente. Thoir sùil air gu tric – chan fhaod e fàs ro bhog!

Anns an eadar-àm sgrìob an càise.

Nuair a bhios am buntàta agus an càl-colaig deiseil, tilg iad ann an sìoltachan.
Geàrr am buntàta na dhà leth agus sgaoil iad air màs soithich-quiche. Brìs an càl-colaig ann am pìosan agus cuir e am measg a’ bhuntàta.

Sgap cuid mhath den phiobar dhubh gharbh-bhleithte air, sgaoil an càise thairis air, agus mu dheireadh dòirt an t-uachdar no Alpro air a’ mhullach.

Cuir fon ghrìosach gus am bi a h-uile rud òir-dhonn.

Tionndaidhean eile:

Ma bhios tu ag iarradh rudeigin nas susbaintiche, faodaidh tu sliseagan beucoin a chur air.

Nuair a bhios buinneagan-Bruisealach ri fhaighinn, bidh iadsan uabhasach blasta seach càl-colaig san reasabaidh seo cuideachd, gu h-àraidh leis a’ bheucon.

Faodaidh tu broccoli a chleachdadh an àite no còmhla ris a’ chàl-cholaig.

***************************************************

Slightly different cauliflower cheese…

Buinneagan le buntàta is beucon

Buinneagan le buntàta is beucon

Ingredients

1 medium cauliflower
c. 750 gr potatoes
c. 125 gr hard cheese, grated, e.g. Cheddar, Parmesan
c. 150 ml single cream or soya cooking-cream (e.g. Alpro)
salt
rough-ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a pan with water and salt and let them cook while you prepare the other ingredients.

Cut the stalk out of the cauliflower, but leave the cauliflower itself in one piece.

Cut off the tough skin of the stalk and put the white middle part in the bottom of a pan, cut into two or three pieces. If there are any tender fresh young leaves, put them in the pan too. Add salt and cover them with boiling water from the kettle – only 1 -2 inches; the cauliflower will cook in the steam.

Sit the cauliflower on top and put the lid on the pan. Bring it to the boil and then simmer for 7 – 10 minutes until the cauliflower is al dente. Check frequently – it mustn’t get too soft!

Meanwhile grate the cheese.

When the potatoes and the cauliflower are ready, turn them out into a colander. Cut the potatoes in half and spread them over the bottom of a quiche-dish. Break the cauliflower into pieces and spread them among the potatoes. Scatter the rough-ground black pepper over it all, then the cheese, and finally pour the cream or Alpro over the top.

Place under the grill until golden brown.

Variations:

If you want something more substantial, you can add bacon rashers to the topping.

When Brussel sprouts are in season, they are extremely tasty instead of the cauliflower, especially with the bacon.

You can also use broccoli as well as or instead of the cauliflower.

Flùraichean an Earraich / Spring flowers

Snowdrops, Gealagan-làir

Snowdrops, Gealagan-làir

Tha sinn daonnan toilichte nuair a nochdas na ciad fhlùraichean den bhliadhna – na gealagan-làir agus na lusan a’ chrom-chinn, agus beag air bheag na dìtheannan beaga earraich air na lòintean, an uairsin na preasan agus na craobhan fo bhlàth. Ged a dh’fhaodas an geamhradh a bhith fada, tha dathan nam flùraichean a’ comharradh gum bi an t-earrach agus an samhradh a’ tighinn.

Seo cruinneachadh beag de dh’ainmean lusan an earraich sa Ghàidhlig – agus mar a tha sa Bheurla, tha feadhainn inntinneach, neònach no dìreach bòidheach nam measg. Agus cuid mhath le ‘cuthag’, an tosgaire an earraich ud, nan ainmean.

Daffodils, Lusan a' chrom-chinn

Daffodils, Lusan a’ chrom-chinn

We’re always happy when the first flowers of the year appear – the snowdrops and the daffodils, and gradually the little meadow flowers, then the bushes and trees in blossom. Although the winter may be long, the colours of the flowers are a sign that spring and summer are coming.

Here’s a little collection of the Gaelic names for some spring flowers – and as in English, there are some interesting, curious or simply pretty ones among them. And a good few that mention the cuckoo, that ambassador of spring.

 

Blackthorn-Sgìtheach-dubh

Blackthorn-Sgìtheach-dubh

blackthorn /sloe: sgìtheach/sgeach dubh – the black briar (the white blossom comes on the bare black twig before the leaves)

bluebell: bròg na cuthaige – cuckoo’s shoe, or bogha-muc – pig’s bow

broom: bealaidh or bealach – the bright one

buttercup: buidheag an t-samhraidh – little yellow one of the summer; creeping buttercup: gàircean

lesser celandine: searragaich – the flask-like ones, or bròg na làrach – shoe of the ground

clover (red/white): seamrag-dhearg / -gheal = shamrock

Red-Campion-cow-parsley-Lus-nan-ròis-costag-fhiadhain

Red-Campion-cow-parsley-Lus-nan-ròis-costag-fhiadhain

cow parsley: costag-fhaidhain – wild chervil

daffodil : lus a’ chrom-cinn – plant of the bent head

daisy: neòinean – little one of noon, or dìthean caorach – sheep flower

dandelion: beàrnan-Brìde – the little gapped plant of St Brigid (from the leaves, and St Brigid’s day in Spring); dandelion clock: dathan-gobhainn – the smith’s darts

dog-violet: dail-chuach – meadow-goblet

Germander-speedwell-Nuallach

Germander-speedwell-Nuallach

forget-me-not: lus-midhe – louse plant (not as romantic as in English!)

germander speedwell: nuallach – roarer, howler (!), or lus-crè talmhainn – ground clay-plant

grape hyacinth: bogha-mucag –piglet’s bow

greater stitchwort: tùrsach – sorrowful

hawthorn: sgìtheach/sgeach/droigheann-geal – white briar

hyacinth: lus nan coinnlean gorm – plant of the blue candles

Greater-Stitchwort-Tùrsach

Greater-Stitchwort-Tùrsach

lady’s smock: spòg na cuthaige – cuckoo’s claw

marsh-marigold: beàrnan-Bealltainn – gapped one of Beltane (May Day), or lus-Màiri – Mary’s plant, or bròg-an-eich-uisge –kelpie’s shoe

primrose: sòbhrach/sòbhrag, soisgean

red campion: lus an ròis – rose herb, so called as it was used to ease ‘the rose’, a name for St Antony’s Fire, a severe skin complaint, or còrcach coille – forest hemp, or cìrean-coilich – cock’s comb

Marsh-marigold-Beàrnan-Bealltainn

Marsh-marigold-Beàrnan-Bealltainn

ragged robin: flùr na cuthaige – cuckoo flower, or bròg na feannaig – crow’s shoe, or caorag-lèana – wee sheep of the meadow, or cìrean coilich – cock’s comb (again)

Scots bluebell / harebell: currac-cuthaige – cuckoo’s cowl

snowdrop: gealag-làir – wee white one of the ground

tufted vetch: peasair nan luch – mouse’s pea, or peasair-radain – rat’s pea

whin: conasg, or gunnas (Ross-shire variant)

white dead nettle: deanntag-mharbh – dead nettle, or teanga-mhìn – smooth tongue

 

 

Ainmean Gàidhlig gu ìre mhòr bho Dwelly / Gaelic names mainly from Dwelly

Dealbhan agus eadar-theangaidhean leam fhìn / my own photos and translations of Gaelic names

 

A’ Chuthag

1.An t-Earrach - Spring

1. An t-Earrach – Spring

Aig an àm seo den bhliadhna bidh mòran daoine – agus chan e na ‘twitchers’ a-mhàin – ag èisteachd gu faiceallach do gach ceilearadh eun a chluinneas iad, an dòchas gum bi an ceilear sunndach sònraichte a chiad chuthaige san sgìre nam measg. Bha na cuthagan riamh nan dearbhadh gun robh an t-earrach ann agus gun tigeadh an samradh a-rithist às dèidh a’ gheamraidh fhada, is iad a’ tilleadh mu dheireadh bho Afraga gu Breatainn. Tha iad air an comharrachadh ann an iomadh òran is pìos bàrdachd, tradiseanta is clasaigeach, bho Sumer is icumen in (13mh linn) gu On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring le Frederick Delius (20mh linn). Tha òrain Ghàidhlig gu leòr ann cuideachd far a bheil sinn a’ cluinntinn mun chuthag agus na bàird a’ cur fàilte chridheil oirre, mar O Fàilte ort fhèin, a chuthag ghorm, le d’ òran ceòlmhor milis! no Thig an smeòrach as t-Earrach, Thig a’ chuthag ‘s a Chèitein.

Tha iomadh abairt no seanfhacal ann mu theachd na chuthaige:

“Sneachda na Caisge, sneachda nan uan agus sneachda na cuthaige”. Ma thig na tri sneachdan sin, bidh an samhradh math.
“glasadh na cuthaige” an sneachd beag a chuirear tràth ron t-samhraidh
“glasanach na cuthaige” – beul an latha
– San linn a chaidh seachad, nan do dh’ innseadh cuideigin do chàch gun cuala e a’ chuthag “gun bhiadh na bhroinn”, bha e ag ràdh nach robh e air ithe mus cuala e goirsinn na cuthaige airson a’ chiad uair den bhliadhna; agus bhathar a’ meas gur e bliadhna mhì-shealbhach a leanadh sin. Air an adhbhar sin dh’itheadh daoine “grèim-cuthaige” (rudeigin beag) nam b’ fheudar dhaibh a dhol a-mach tràth sa mhadainn ron bhracaist aig an àm seo den bhliadhna.
– agus “cuthag-chluaise” a theirear ri cuideigin, gu h-àraid clann, a bhiodh ag innse air daoine eile – a’ seinn mar a’ chuthag. Mar sin, tha ràdh ann a tha cur sìos air sin; “Ge binn leinn a’ chuthag cha bhinn leinn cuthag-chluaise.”

2. Beathachadh -Reed-warbler feeds cuckoo

2. Beathachadh -Reed-warbler feeds cuckoo

Ach chan ann airson na dreuchd seo mar thosgair an earraich a-mhàin a tha cliù sònraichte aig a’ chuthag – tha taobh eile aice nach eil cho tlachdmhòr: fàgaidh i a h-uighean ann an neadan eun eile. ‘S fheàrr leatha neadan eun le uighean coltach ri uighean cuthaige, agus air monaidhean na Gàidhealtachd ‘s e an t-snàthadag, le nead air an talamh, a bhios a’ fulang as trice. Nuair a thig an t-àl a-mach, fàsaidh an t-isean-chuthaige mòr gu luath agus cuiridh e na h-uighean no na h-iseanan nas lugha eile a-mach às an nead. An uairsin bidh na h-eòin aig a bheil an nead a’ toirt biadh is cùram dhan isean-cuthaige a-mhàin, ged a dh’fhàsas e a dh’aithghearr nas motha na a ‘phàrantan’. Fiù ‘s nuair a bhios e a-mach as an nead, leanaidh iad e airson grèis gus a bheathachadh. ‘S ann bhon chàirdeas neònach seo a gheibh an t-snàthadag an t-ainm eile sa Ghàidhlig, an gocan-cuthaige – ‘s e ‘neach-frithealaidh‘ a th’ ann an ‘gocan’.

Agus seo abairtean eile a tha a’ dèiligeadh ris an taobh seo den chuthag.

– “Tha e coltach ris an t-snàthadag a’ leantainn na cuthaig” – nuair a bhios cudeigin daonnan a’ leanntain cudeigin eile, mar leanabh beag a bhràthair mòr.
– “cho sona ri cuthag ann an nead a coimhearsnaich
– “cur air ruith na cuthaige” a’ cur neach air ghocaireachd, no air gnothaich gun fheum, gu h-àiridh a’ chiad latha den Ghiblean.
– Agus “gheibh thu e nuair a gheibh thu nead na cuthaig” – chan fhaigh thu a-chaoidh e!

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The Cuckoo

3. air iteal - on the wing

3. air iteal – on the wing

At this time of the year many people – and not only ‚twitchers‘ – pay particular attention when they hear birds singing, in the hope of catching the distinctive call of the first cuckoo in their area. Cuckoos have always been seen as evidence that spring is here and summer is on the way after the long winter, as they return at last from Africa to Britain. They are celebrated in many songs and poems, traditional and classical, from Sumer is icumen in (13th century) to On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring by Frederick Delius (20th c.). There are many Gaelic songs too with the poet welcoming the cuckoo warmly, such as O Fàilte ort fhèin, a chuthag ghorm, le d’ òran ceòlmhor milis! (Welcome to you, blue cuckoo, with your melodious sweet song!) or Thig an smeòrach as t-Earrach, Thig a’ chuthag ‘s a Chèitein (The mavis will come in spring and the cuckoo in May).

There many Gaelic expressions or sayings about the coming of the cuckoo:

“Sneachda na Caisge, sneachda nan uan agus sneachda na cuthaige”(Easter snow, lamb snow and cuckoo snow) If these three snows come, it will be a good summer.
“glasadh na cuthaige” – the ‘greying of the cuckoo’, light snow which falls shortly before the summer
“glasanach na cuthaige” – ‘the lightening of the cuckoo’ – the dawn
– In the last century if someone said they had heard the cuckoo “gun bhiadh na bhroinn”, on an empty stomach, i.e. before breakfast, it was supposed to mean a bad year would follow. People therefore would grab a “grèim-cuthaige”, a quick ‘cuckoo snack’, if they had to leave the house very early at this time of the year.
– and “cuthag-chluaise”, an ‘ear cuckoo’, meant a tell-tale, a child who would ‘sing’ on his friends. This led to the expression “Ge binn leinn a’ chuthag cha bhinn leinn cuthag-chluaise” – although we find the cuckoo itself pretty, we’re not so fond of the ‘ear-cuckoo’.

4.  a' laighe - perching

4. a’ laighe – perching

But it’s not only for this role as harbinger of the spring that the cuckoo has earned its special reputation. It has another, less attractive side: it lays its eggs in other birds’ nests. It prefers the nests of birds whose eggs are similar to its own, and in the uplands of the Highlands it’s the ground-nesting meadow-pipit who is its most frequent victim. When the litter hatches, the cuckoo chick grows big very fast and throws the other eggs or smaller chicks out of the nest. Then the birds whose nest it is devote all their time to feeding and caring for the cuckoo chick alone, even though it soon grows bigger than its ‘parents’. And even when it leaves the nest, they follow it around for a good while and continue to feed it. It’s from this curious relationship that the meadow-pipit gets its other name in Gaelic, ‘gocan-cuthaige’, ‘cuckoo’s attendant’.

And here are some sayings related to this side of the cuckoo:

“Tha e coltach ris an t-snàthadag a’ leantainn na cuthaig” – ‘He’s like the pipit following the cuckoo’ when someone trails along behind someone else, like a child following his big brother.
“cho sona ri cuthag ann an nead a coimhearsnaich” – as happy as a cuckoo in her neighbour’s nest
“cur air ruith na cuthaige” – send someone on ‘the cuckoo run’ – sending him on a fool’s errand, especially on April Fool’s Day.
– And “gheibh thu e nuair a gheibh thu nead na cuthaig” – ‘you’ll find it when you find the cuckoo’s nest’, i.e. never!
Taing airson na h-abairtean agus an fhiosrachaidh do /Thanks for the sayings and information:

Dwelly air loidhne, Uicipeid agus Ruairidh MacIlleathain air làrach SNH.
http://www.cairnwater.co.uk/gaelicdictionary/ , http://gd.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuthag ,
http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/B1163343.pdf )

A h-uile dealbh / All photos: Creative Commons
1. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:K%C3%A4gu_%C3%B5unapuul.jpg
2. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reed_warbler_cuckoo.jpg
3. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cuculus_canorus_vogelartinfo.jpg
4. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cuculus_canorus2.jpg

Rubha an Tairbeirt agus na ‘Lighthouse Stevensons’

P1310958[1]‘S e aon de na comharran-stiùiridh as ainmeile ann am Machair Rois a th’ ann an Taigh-solais Rubha an Tairbeirt. Le a thùr àrd geal agud a dhà bhann dearg, agus a shuidheachadh fàbharach air ceann creagach an leth-eilein, tha e a’ cumail faire air Linne Mhoreibh agus Caolas Dhòrnaich. Tha e ri fhaicinn bho mhìltean a-muigh air a’ mhuir agus air feadh na h-oirthir, sealladh a thogas inntinn mharaichean, muinntir an àite is luchd-tadhail. Ach dè cho eòlach a tha sinn air an taigh-solais agus a eachdraidh? Cò thog e, agus cuin, agus carson?

Gu ruige toiseach an 19mh linn, cha robh ann an taighean-solais – ma bha iad ann idir – ach tùir no càirn le teine air am mullach. Cha robh iad idir feumail ann an sìde fhliuch fhiadhaich, nuair a bha am feum orra a bu mhotha. Chaidh àireamh ana-mhòr de luing fodha gach bliadhna timcheall air oirthir Bhreatainn, gu h-àiridh ann an Alba, agus barrachd dragh aig na marsantan agus an luchd-seilbheachd mu am bathar chaillte na mun chriutha. Le leasachadh sgilean innleadaireachd aig deireadh an 18mh linn – smaoinich air Telford agus a shlighean-uisge is a dhrochaidean aige, chunnaic an luchd-seilbheachd cothrom an call malairteach sin a lughdachadh le taighean-solais na b’ fheàrr agus ann an barrachd àiteachan, agus beathannan a shàbhaladh aig an aon àm. Chaidh impidh a chur air an riaghaltas gun cuideachadh iad sin a chuir air dòigh agus a mhaoineachadh, agus rè ùine chaidh Bòrd Thaighean-solais a’ Chinn a Tuath a stèidheachadh.

‘S e aon de na rionnagan am measg luchd-togail taighean-solais tràth a bh’ ann an Robert Stevenson (1772 – 1850), a thòisich mar neach-cuideachaidh dhan oide aige, Thomas Smith, e fhèin innleadair-taigh-sholais ùr-ghnàthach den chiad ghinealach (thog esan solas Kinnaird Head ann an 1787), agus às dèidh sin mar a chom-pàirtiche. Fhuair Robert an cothrom na sgilean agus an leanailteachd iongantach aige a dhearbhadh anns a bhith a’ togail an taigh-solais drùidhteach air Creag a’ Chluig, sgeir làin-mhara chunnartach taobh a-muigh inbhir Linne Tatha (1805-1811) – euchd do-dheànta, a-rèir beachd na mhòrchuid aig an àm. Bha an dà chuid, an tùr agus an lampa casta fhèin, nam mìorbhailean den linn. Bho sin a-mach bha an-còmhnaidh fèill mhòr air, agus thog e mu fhichead taigh-solais timcheall air Alba airson a’ Bhùird, bho Linne Foirthe gu Sealltain, cuid mhòr dhiubh ann an suidheachaidhean cunnartach dùbhlanach. Agus nam measg bha Rubha an Tairbeirt.

Swallows' nests Tarbat Ness

Swallows’ nests Tarbat Ness (photo W. Huggan)

Thàinig an co-dhùnadh a thogail às dèidh caill de 16 luing ann an stoirm làidir ann an Linne Mhoireibh ann an 1826. Bha farpais ann eadar Covesea (Inbhir Lòsaidh) agus Rois an Ear airson togail taigh-sholais, ach choisinn Rubha an Tairbeirt. Bhathar an dùil gum biodh e riatanach do shoithichean a bhiodh a’ cleachdadh Sligh-uisge a’ Ghlinne Mhòir, a bha dìreach air a crìochnachadh le Thomas Telford. Thòisich an taigh-solais ag obrachadh ann an 1830, le lampa cumhachdach paireafain agus lionsaichean iomadh-fhillte – bha Robert na eòlaiche a-nis. Mhair seo gu 1907, nuair a thàinig lampa-dealain na bu làidire na àite. Cha deach an t-inneal-solais fhèin ath-nuadhachadh ach ann an 1892, le David Stevenson, ogha Robert, agus mhair seo gu fèin-obrachadh an taigh-sholais ann an 1985. (Tha an solas sin ann an Taigh-tasgaidh na Mara ann an Greenwich a-nis, agus ‘s e sealladh drùidhteach a th’ ann, ri fhaicinn air YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6AZ0wnjwms ) Thog na h-innleadairean Bhictorianach obraichean a mhaireadh gu bràth, agus bha na taighean-solais Albannach nam buill-sampaill do chàch air feadh an t-saoghail.

Fhuair Covesea an taigh-solais aige fhèin cuideachd air a’ cheann thall; chaidh a thogail ann an 1846 le Alan, mac Robert, a thog taigh-solais Chrombaidh cuideachd. ‘S ann a nochd rè ùine sreath sàr-innleadairean san teaghlach Stevenson, mic is oghaichean, a thog na ficheadan de thaighean-solais timcheall air oirthir na h-Alba, is iad an-còmhnaidh a leudachadh crìochan teicneolas an latha. ‘S e ogha Robert, mac Thomas, a bhrìs an tradisean sin: an sgrìobhadair Robert Louis Stevenson, a bha an toiseach na bhriseadh-dùil mòr dha na pàrantan. Ach tha an ceangal ris a’ mhuir a bha cho buadhmhor ann an eachdraidh a theaghlaich ceart cho làidir anns na sgrìobhaidhean aige fhèin, leithid Kidnapped, Treasure Island:
Whenever I smell salt water, I know that I am not far from one of the works of my ancestors. When the lights come out at sundown along the shores of Scotland, I am proud to think they burn more brightly for the genius of my father!’

‘S urrainn dhuibh a h-uile rud mun deidhinn a leughadh anns an leabhar The Lighthouse Stevensons le Bella Bathurst, agus am film aithriseach BBC fhaicinn air YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_tSajYoqe8
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Tarbat Ness and the ‘Lighthouse Stevensons’

P1170826[1]One of our most famous landmarks on the Seaboard is the lighthouse at Tarbat Ness, with its tall white tower with the two red bands, and its advantageous position at the craggy head of the Fearn Penisula, watching over the Moray and the Dornoch Firths. It’s visible for many miles out to sea and along the coast, a cheering sight to mariners, locals and visitors alike. But what do we know about the lighthouse and its history? Who built it, and when, and why?

Up until the early 19th century, lighthouses, where there were any at all, were simply towers or cairns with a fire on top. They were at their least useful in stormy wet weather, just when ships needed them. Huge numbers of ships and their crews were lost each year round the British coast, especially in Scotland, the merchants and investors more distressed about the loss of goods and ships than about the men. As engineering skills evolved in the late 18th century – think of Telford and his canals and bridges, investors saw a chance to cut their losses with more and better lighthouses, and save lives into the bargain. Pressure was put on the government to help organise and fund this, and in due course the Northern Lighthouse Board was founded.

One of the rising stars among early lighthouse builders was Robert Stevenson (1772 – 1850), first assistant then partner to his engineer step-father, Thomas Smith, himself an innovative lighthouse builder of the first generation (he build Kinnaird Head light in 1787). Robert got the chance to prove his extraordinary skill and tenacity by building the amazing Bell Rock lighthouse on a dangerous tidal reef outside the Tay estuary (1805-1811) – a feat previously considered impossible. Both the structure and the complex lamp itself were marvels of the age. After that he was always in demand, and built around 20 lighthouses for the Board around Scotland’s coast, from the Forth to Shetland, many in dangerous and daring locations. And one of them was Tarbat Ness.

P1060816_zps5f6eab3c[1]

Spring flowers Tarbat Ness (photo W. Huggan)

The trigger for its construction was the loss of 16 vessels in a storm in the Moray Firth in 1826. There was competition between Covesea (Lossiemouth) and Tarbat Ness for a lighthouse. Tarbat Ness won, as it was considered essential for traffic from Telford’s Caledonian Canal, newly finished at the time. Tarbat Ness entered service in 1830, with a powerful paraffin lamp and complex lenses – Robert was an expert by then. This was only changed in 1907 to an incandescent pressurised lamp, and the lightroom machine was updated in 1892 by Robert’s grandson, David, lasting till the automation of the lighthouse in 1985. (The optic is now in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and is a wonderful sight – see it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6AZ0wnjwms ) Victorian engineers built to last, and Scottish lighthouses served as models around the world.

Covesea also got its lighthouse in the end, built by Robert’s son Alan in 1846, who also built Cromarty lighthouse. In fact there was a whole dynasty of Stevensons, sons and grandsons, who built scores of lighthouses around Scotland’s coasts, always pushing the limits of the technology of their time. The one who broke the tradition was Robert’s grandson, son of Thomas, the writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who was initially a great disappointment to the family. But his writing – Kidnapped, Treasure Island – was inspired by the same sea that inspired his light-house-building family:

‘Whenever I smell salt water, I know that I am not far from one of the works of my ancestors. When the lights come out at sundown along the shores of Scotland, I am proud to think they burn more brightly for the genius of my father!’

You can read all about them in Bella Bathurst’s book The Lighthouse Stevensons, and see the BBC documentary about them on YouTube:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Robert_Stevenson_%28lighthouse_engineer%29_-_Google_Book_Search_-_Biographical_Sketch_of_the_Late_Robert_Stevenson.jpg

Robert Stevenson (Creative Commons)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_tSajYoqe8

Robert Stevenson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Stevenson_%28civil_engineer%29#/media/File:Robert_Stevenson_%28lighthouse_engineer%29_-_Google_Book_Search_-_Biographical_Sketch_of_the_Late_Robert_Stevenson.jpg

Bell Rock Lighthouse (Creative Commons)

Facebook 24.03.15

https://www.facebook.com/highlandarchives/photos/a.346470258814219.1073741827.246320848829161/678128252315083/?type=1&theater

Ordnance Survey, Sheet 94 ( 1 inch = 1 mile), 1878

Our featured Parish for the next two week is Tarbat, Ross & Cromarty. The Statistical Accounts of Scotland describe the Parish and derivation of the name as;

“The Parish of Tarbat occupies the eastern promontory of the shire of Ross, being bounded on the south and east by the Murray Firth, on the the north by the Dornoch Firth and terminating in a narrow point called Tarbat Ness on which of late an elegant lighthouse has been built.”

“From the local circumstances the Parish has its name – Tarbat, being a Gaelic word expressive of the peninsular situation of the place and its having the appearance when viewed at a distance of a body stretched out in the sea and nearly surrounded by it. ‘Tar’ signifying a belly or prominence and ‘bart’ drowned or immersed by water.”

Na Cruithnich

Calf Stone,Tarbat Old Church Museum

Clach an Laoigh / Calf Stone

Tha ùidh shònraichte aig muinntir Machair Rois anns na Cruithnich, is an sluagh àrsail seo na phàirt den dualchas againn. Tha sinn mòiteil – mar a thuigear – às na sàr-eisimpleirean de leacan snaighte Cruithneach a tha againn ann am Baile a’ Chnuic, Seannduig agus Neig, agus ‘s ann am Port mo Cholmaig a tha làrach den chiad mhanachainn Chruithneach a chaidh riamh a lorg. Chaidh iomadh criomag obair-cloiche Cruithnich eile a lorg anns na cladhaichean le Màrtainn Carver an sin, nam measg pìosan brèagha is luachmhor, ri fhaicinn ann an Ionad Taisgealaidh an Tairbeirt. ‘S e ‘Clach an Laoigh’ am pìos as ainmeile, le tarbh agus bò ag imlich laogh air an snaigheadh oirre, a’ toirt fianais air cho sgileil agus ealanta ‘s a bha na Cruithnich anns an obair seo.

Tha an fhianais-chloiche seo gu sònraichte cudromach air sgàth ‘s nach eil eachdraidh sgrìobhte aig na Cruithnich fhèin (ach corra sgriobt Ogham air cuid de na leacan) – chan eil againn ach beagan aithrisean mun deidhinn air an sgrìobhadh le sluaghan eile, mar na Ròmanaich, a bha na nàimhdean aca, gun teagamh le cuid mhath de phropaganda ann. Tha fios againn gun robh iad cumhachdach ann an Alba aig àm nan Ròmanach ann am Breatann agus fad beagan linntean às dèidh sin. Pictland mapBha cliù aca gun robh iad nan làn-ghaisgich air blàr catha. Dh’fhàs na leacan na bu sgileile, na b’ ealanta, agus na bu sgeadaichte, agus nochd eileamaidean Crìosdail orra anns na linntean na b’ anmoiche; ach chan eil fìor fhios againn dè tha na samhlaidhean tillteach Cruithneach orra a’ ciallachadh no a’ comharrachadh – na slait-V, na cearcaill dhùbailte, na slait-Z amsaa.

Ach às dèidh dhaibh binnean an cumhachd a ruigsinn, anns an t-seagh chultarach co-dhiù, chaidh iad à sealladh mar shluagh air leth (a thaobh aithrisean eachdraidheil agus clachan a bharrachd, air a’ char as lugha) nuair a thàinig an sluagh Albannach, le àite-suidhe ann an Dùn Ad, taobh Iar-Dheas na h-Alba, gu cumhachd, bhon 9mh no 10mh linn a-mach. Tha e coltach gun robh na Cruithnich a’ bruidhinn cànan Breatannach, ‘s dòcha ceangailte ri seann-Chuimris, ach nochd Gàidhlig nan Albannach an àite sin cuideachd anns na sgìrean far an robh na Cruithnich làidir roimhe.

Shandwick Stone

Clach Neige / Nigg Stone

Chan eil fhios againn ciamar a thachair an t-atharrachadh-cumhachd seo anns an da-rìribh – an robh e gu sìtheil, m.e. tro chaidreachas an aghaidh nan Lochlannach, no tro cho-choslachadh ceum air cheum, no an deach na Cruithnich a cheannsachadh tro bhuaidh-làrach nan Albannach? Bha agus tha fhathast beachdan eadar-dhealaichte am measg an luchd-eachdraidh.

Ach anns na bliadhnaichean a dh’fhalbh lorg na h-arceòlaichean barrachd làraichean agus iarsmadh Cruithneach drùidhteach anns an sgìre againne, agus ann an Taobh an Ear-Thuath na h-Alba san fharsaingeachd, eadar Tairbeart Machair Rois, Siorrachd Mhoreibh, m.e. Am Broch (Burghead) le dùn Cruithneach, agus Siorrachd Obar Dheathain, m.e. Roinnidh (Rhynie) leis na clachan ‘Rhynie Man’ agus an Craw Stane. Tha na ceanglaichean eadar na làraichean – am biodh seo deas-ghnàthach, poiliteagach no eaconamach – a’ fas nas inntinniche agus nas cudromaiche cuideachd. Tha e a’ fàs nas soilleire gun robh ionad smachd cudromach nan Cruithneach againn ann Alba an Ear-Thuath, ‘s dòcha fiù ‘s rìoghachd ainmeil Fortriù fhèin. Bha na h-eòlaichean a’ creidsinn ro sin gur ann ann an Siorrachd Pheairt a bha Fortriù, ach mar thoradh air obair le Alex Woolf mu 2006, tha coltas gur ann an sgìre Linne Mhoireibh a bha e.

Rhynie axe reconstruction

Tuagh iarainn aig ‘Rhynie Man’ with axe reconstruction

Tha cladhaichean arceòlais nas ùire a’ toirt taic ris a’ bheachd seo, m.e. ann an Roinnidh fhèin, far a bheil Gòrdan Noble bho Oilthigh Obar Dheathain den bheachd gur e ionad rìoghail Cruithneach a bh’ ann, air sgàth an ainm fhèin (Rhynie, bho rìg = rìgh ann an Celtis tràth) ach cuideachd on a lorg iad nìthean luachmhòr ann, leithid pìosan cuaich-glainne mhìn bhon Fhraing, nach cleachdadh ach na h-ìrean sòisealta a b’ àirde aig an àm sin. Chaidh meatailt a leaghadh an sin cuideachd, a rèir choltais – lorg iad uidheam agus pìosan beaga obrach-iarainn grinn, agus tha tuagh aig ‘Rhynie Man’ air a’ chlach ainmeil. Ann an Gaulcross (Banbh), mu 20 mìle bho Roinnidh, lorg iad mòr-ulaidh iongantach le airgead Ròmanach air an ath-chleachdadh leis na Cruithnich, nam measg seudraidh ealanta.

Faodaidh sibh mòran de na nìthean seo fhaicinn a-nis, gus 31 den Chèitean, aig taigh-tasgaidh beag King’s Museum ann an Obar Dheathain. Bha mi ann agus ged a tha e beag, ‘s e taisbeanadh math dèanta a th’ ann, le mineachaidhean glè shoilleir, mapaichean feumail, bhideo agus eisimpleirean de dh’obair-iarainn air an dèanadh le ath-chruthachadh fùrneis Chruithneach, ‘s an leithid sin. Tha e fìor inntinneach – gu h-àraidh do dhaoine à Dùthaich nan Cruithneach mar a tha sinn fhèin. B’ fhiach dhuibh a dhol ann.

Ceanglaichean agus gailearaidh gu h-ìosal!

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The Picts

Hilton Stone

Hilton Stone reconstruction

Seaboard folk have a special interest in the Picts – after all, that ancient race is part of our heritage. We’re understandably proud of the prime examples of carved Pictish stones we have in Hilton, Shandwick and Nigg, and Portmahomack is the site of the first Pictish monastery ever found. Many pieces of Pictish stone-work were found in Martin Carver’s digs there, among them some beautiful, precious items, which can be seen in the Tarbat Discovery Centre. The most famous of them is the ‘Calf Stone’, with a bull and a cow licking her calf carved on it, bearing witness to how skilful and artistic the Picts were in this craft.

This witness in stone is all the more important because we have no written records from the Picts themselves (apart from occasional Ogham script on some of the stones) – there are only a few accounts about them written by other peoples, such as the Romans (their enemies), no doubt with a fair bit of propaganda included. We know that they were powerful in Scotland at the time of the Romans in Britain, and for a few centuries after that. They had a reputation as fearless warriors on the battlefield. Their stones grew more skilful, more artistic, and more decorated, and Christian elements appeared in the later centuries; but we don’t really know what the recurring Pictish symbols on them meant or commemorated: the V-rod, the double disc, the Z-rod etc.

Burghead Pictish fort (image)

Burghead Pictish fort (image)

But after they had reached the peak of their power (in the cultural sense at any rate), they disappeared from sight as a separate people, certainly as regards historical accounts and further stones, when the Scots, with their headquarters in Dunadd, in the south west of Scotland, came to power, from the 9th-10th century. It’s possible that the Picts spoke Brittonic, perhaps related to Old Welsh, but the Gaelic of the Scots appeared in its place too in the areas where the Picts had previously been strong.

We don’t know how exactly this power-change happened – was it peaceful, e.g. through an alliance agianst the Vikings, or via gradual assimilation, or were the Picts conquered on the battlefield by the Scots? The historians are still out on that one.

Gaulcross Hoard 2

part of Gaulcross Hoard

In recent years, archaeologists have found more sites and impressive Pictish remains in our own area and in the North East of Scotland in general, between the Tarbat Peninsula, Moray, e.g. Burghead with its Pictish fortress, and Aberdeenshire, e.g. Rhynie, with the ‘Rhynie Man’ stone and the Craw Stane. The links between the sites – whether ritual, political or economic – are becoming more interesting and more important to the archaeologists too. It’s becoming clearer that we had an important centre of Pictish power in the North East, possibly the famous kingdom of Fortriù itself. Until recently experts had believed Fortriù was in Perthshire, but after work published by Alex Woolf around 2006 it seems likely that it was in the Moray Firth area.

reproducing ancient iron metal smelting

reproducing ancient iron metal smelting

More recent excavations support this theory, e.g.in Rhynie itself, where Gordon Noble of Aberdeen University believes it was a royal centre, because of the name (from rìg = king in early Celtic), but also because they found very precious items there, such as pieces of a fine glass goblet from France, which would only have been used by the highest social class at that time. Metal was also smelted, apparently, as they found moulds and examples of fine metal-work there, and Rhynie Man himself is depicted carrying an iron axe. In Gaulcross in Banff, 20 miles from Rhynie, they found an amazing hoard of Roman silver recycled by the Picts, including fine jewellery.

You can now see many of these items (especially from Rhynie and Gaulcross) until 31 May at the little King’s Museum in Old Aberdeen. I was there myself, and although it’s small, the exhibition is very well done, with clear explanations, useful maps, a video and examples of iron-work made in a recreated Pictish furnace, etc etc. It’s really interesting – especially to those of us from the land of the Picts. It’s definitely worth a visit!

Links and gallery below!

part of Gaulcross Hoard

part of Gaulcross Hoard

Ceanglaichean / Links:

Tarbat Discovery centre: http://www.tarbat-discovery.co.uk/ ; Sculpture catalogue: http://www.york.ac.uk/archaeology/staff/sites/tarbat/stonecat/sculptureCatalogue.html

Groam House Pictish Museum, Rosemarkie:  http://www.groamhouse.org.uk/

Crafting Kindoms Picts posterThe Northern Picts project: http://www.tarbat-discovery.co.uk/index.php/archaeology/archaeology-fortriu/    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/417334508372858/?fref=ts

Exhibition till 31 May 2015 in King’s Museum, Old Aberdeen – Crafting Kingdoms, the Rise of the Northern Picts:  http://www.abdn.ac.uk/museums/   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kings-Museum/139642292752093?fref=photo

 

Gailearaidh / gallery (briog airson dealbhan nas motha /click to enlarge):

Sgairbh

Skaravak

Skaravak

Ach a-mhàin an fhaoileag uile-làthaireach, ‘s e an sgarbh – còmhla ris a’ cho-ogha aige, an sgarbh-an-sgùmain – an t-eun as ceangailte ri Machair Rois nam inntinnse. Fiù ‘s nuair a bha mi glè òg, bha e na treat a dhol cuirt a-nall gu Skaravak. Bu sin crìoch den t-saoghal a b’ urrainn dhomh ruigsinn air cois, agus bha na h-eòin dubha ana-mhòra (dhomhsa) air a’ chreig, mar sheann draoidhean crotach rògach, an dà chuid eagalach agus tarraingeach.

‘S ann bho ainm Gàidhlig no Lochlannach (torskarv) air an eun a fhuair Skaravak fhèin an t-ainm, ainm a chleachdadh a h-uile duine fiù ‘s nuair nach do chleachd duine Gàidhlig air an Seaboard ach na h-iasgairean. Ann an Arcaibh agus Sealtainn tha ‘scarf’ aca air na h-eoin, agus ann an Gallaibh ‘scarfies’.

Nam bheachdsa tha barrachd dhiubh ann a-nis, agus chì thu iad gu tric nan suidhe air creagan sa Phorst, a’ sìneadh na h-amhaich fhada agus a’ tiormachadh na sgiathan aca sa ghrèin, no a’ gobaireachd ann an sreath air balla-calaidh Bhail’ an Todhair. Bidh sgairbh ag ithe iasg agus easgannan, agus chithear iad air sgèith thairis air uachdar na mara agus a’ daibheadh a-steach gus biadh a ghlacadh. San là an-diugh tha coltas gu bheil mòran sgarbh a’ fuireach a-staigh san tìr cuideachd, a’ neadachadh ann an craobhan agus fiù’s ann an cruinn-dealain, ach ann am Machair Rois bidh iad a’ cumail ris na creagan mar a bha iad riamh.

Sgarbh-an-sgùmain / Shag

Sgarbh-an-sgùmain / Shag

Tha na sgairbh-an-sgùmain caran nas lugha, agus ann an seusan a’ bhriodachadh bidh dath uainealach orra, agus cìr bheag (‘sgùman’, Beurla ‘shag’) air a’ bhathais chas aca. Tha an sgarbh inbhich dubh-ghorm, uireannan le làraichean geala air sliasaid is amhach, agus gun chìr. Tha iad ri fhaicinn le chèile air an aon chreag no bhalla, ach tha na sgairbh nas cumanta.

B’ àbhaist do dhaoine sgairbh a shealg agus ithe – ‘s e biadh sònraichte a bh’ ann, mar ghuga, agus bha feòil gu leòr orra gus teaghlach a bhiadhachadh. Leis na sgilean iasgaich a tha aca faodaidh iad a bhith nam farpaisich do iasgairean ann an iomadh àite, ach ann an dùthchannan eile, mar Shìona, thèid an trèanadh an luchd-iasgaich a chuideachadh.

Gu tradiseanta chithear iad mar shanntach agus gun iochd, na dh’fhaodas a bhith air cùl a’ chliù mhì-shealbhach aca. ‘S dòcha gur ann air an adhbhar sin a chleachd W.W. Gibson sgairbh anns a’ phìos bàrdachd aige ‘Flannan Isle’ (1912), ag innse an sgeul mu thriùir chiopairean-taigh-sholais a chaidh air chall gu dìomhaireach – aon de na pìosan bàrdachd a b’ fheàrr leam aig an sgoil:

And, as into the tiny creek
We stole beneath the hanging crag,
We saw three queer, black, ugly birds—
Too big, by far, in my belief,
For cormorant or shag—
Like seamen sitting bolt-upright
Upon a half-tide reef:
But, as we neared, they plunged from sight,
Without a sound, or spurt of white.

 

Cormorants

P1010905

Caladh Bail’ an Todhair / Balintore harbour

Apart from the ubiquitous seagull, the bird I associate most with the Easter Ross seaboard is the cormorant, along with its close relative, the shag. Even in my early childhood, the promise of “a walk over to Skaravak” was a treat. Skaravak was the limit of the walkable world, and the (to me) huge black birds on the rock, like spooky old wizards with hunched shoulders, were something scary but fascinating.

The bird’s name, sgarbh in Gaelic (pron. ‘skarav’), and torskarv in the Norse languages, gave the landmark ‘Skaravak’ its name, used by everyone even after Gaelic was no longer much spoken on the Seaboard apart from by the fishermen. In Orkney and Shetland they are still called scarfs, and in Caithness scarfies.

It seems to me that they are even more numerous now than they used to be, and you often see them sitting on rocks by the Porst, stretching their long necks and drying their wings in the sun or wind, or gossiping in lines on Balintore harbour wall. Cormorants mainly eat fish and eels, and can be seen flying low over the water and diving for food. Nowadays there are apparently many inland cormorants, known to nest in trees or even pylons, but on the Seaboard they keep to their traditional rocks and cliffs.

Sgarbh / Cormorant

Sgarbh / Cormorant

The shag is a slightly smaller bird, and in the breeding season has a greenish tint, whereas the cormorant is more blue black, and often has white patches on thigh and throat. The shag can also have a small tuft on its steeper forehead. You find them both on the same rock or wall, but the cormorant is more common.

People used to hunt and eat cormorants – they were a delicacy, like guga, and had enough flesh on them to feed a family. Skilled at catching fish, the birds are competition for anglers in some places, but in some other countries, e.g. China, they were actually trained to help catch fish.

They are also traditionally regarded as greedy and ruthless, hence perhaps their reputation for being unlucky. Perhaps that is why the poet W.W. Gibson used them in his 1912 poem ‘Flannan Isle’ about the mysterious disappearance of 3 lighthousemen – one of my favourite poems at school.

Dealbh sgairbh-an-sgùmain le J. Datchens, le cead. Na dealbhan eile leam fhìn.

Shag photo by J. Datchens, with permission. The other photos my own.

Rionnagan na Nollaig – Christmas Stars 

Seo reasabaidh airson bhriosgaidean-Nollaig tradiseanta Gearmailteach: ‘Zimtsterne’ – rionnagan caneil. Guten Appetit!

Here’s a recipe for traditional German Christmas biscuits: ‘Zimtsterne’ – cinnamon stars.

 P1080740Rionnagan Caneil

4 gealagain-uighe

beagan sùgh-liomaid

300 gr. siùcair mhìn ‘icing’ (+ beagan airson a’ chlàir)

2 spàin-tì caneil

350 gr. chnòthan-almoin agus/no chnòthan-calltainn air am bleith (+ beagan airson a’ chlàir)

Buail na gealagain-uighe gu math gus am bi iad rag, gleansach agus aotrom. Ris an sin cuir 3 – 4 boinnean sùgh-liomaid, agus às dèidh sin an siùcar mìn tro shìoltag – measgaich gu socair e, beag air bheag. Thoir 4 – 5 spàinean-bùird a-mach às a’ mheasgachadh airson a’ chomhdaich-shiùcair, agus cuir gu aon taobh seo ann an àite fuar. A-nis cuir an caineal agus na cnòthan ri na tha air fhàgail den mheasgachadh, gu math faiceallach.

Crath an siùcair agus cnòthan a tha air fhàgail air a’ chlàr-obrach agus rollig an taois a-mach gu 1/4 òirlich de thiughad. (Ma bhios i ro steigeach, cuir pàipear-cèire no film claonach oirre mus rollig thu a-mach i.)

Dèan rionnagan beaga le gearradair-pastraidh agus cuir iad air sgàl-fuine air a chrèiseachadh. Slìob na chuir thu gu aon taobh de mheasgachadh gealagain-uighe orra agus fuin anns an àmhainn iad aig 150°C mu 15 – 20 mionaidean (Chan fhaod an uachdar fàs donn.)

 

Zimtsterne – Cinnamon Stars

 4 egg-whites

a little lemon juice

300 gr. icing sugar (+ a little for rolling out)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

350 gr. ground almonds and/or ground hazelnuts (+ a little for rolling out)

 Beat the egg-whites well till stiff, shiny and light. Add 3 – 4 drops of lemon juice, then add the icing sugar through a sieve, mixing in gently, little by little. Take out 4 – 5 tablespoonfuls for the icing and put aside in a cool place. Now carefully fold the cinnamon and the ground nuts into the remaining mixture. 

Sprinkle the remaining icing-sugar and ground nuts onto the work-surface and roll out the dough to about a quarter-inch thick. (If it’s too sticky, lay waxed paper or cling-film over it before you roll it out.) 

Cut out little stars with a pastry-cutter and put them on a greased baking tray. Brush with the egg-white mixture you put aside ealier. Bake in the oven at 150°C for about 15 – 20 minutes. (The icing should not get brown.) 

A’ Mhaighdeann-Mhara / the Mermaid

Seo òran tradiseanta gu math freagarrach do Mhachair Rois agus dhan t-sìde stoirmeil a bhios againn cho tric aig an àm seo den bhliadhna.

mermaid_stormyweather

 

Òran na Maighdinn-Mhara

A-mach air bhàrr nan stuadh ri gaillinn

Fuachd is feannadh fad’ o thìr

Bha mo ghaol dhut daonnan fallain

Ged is maighdeann-mhara mi

 

Sèist:

Hù-bha is na hoireann hù-bha

Hù-bha is na hoireann hì

Hù-bha is na hoireann hù-bha

’S ann le foill a mheall thu mi

 

Chan eil mo chadal-sa ach luaineach

Nuair bhios buaireas air an t-sìd’

Bha mi ’n raoir an Coire Bhreacain

Bidh mi nochd an Eilean Ì

 

Seall is faic an grunnd na fairge

Uamhan airgid ’s òir gun dìth

Lainnearachd ’s chan fhaca sùil e

Ann an cùirt no lùchairt rìgh.

 

Song of the Mermaid

 Here’s a traditional song that’s very appropriate for the Seaboard and the stormy weather we so often get at this time of year.

 

Out on the top of the waves in the storm,

The cold flaying my skin far from land,

My love for you is eternal and strong

Although it’s a mermaid I am.

 

Chorus:

Hù-bha is na hoireann hù-bha

Hù-bha is na hoireann hì

Hù-bha is na hoireann hù-bha

It’s with treachery that you deceived me.

 

My sleep is but restless

When the elements are turbulent.

Last night I was in Corryvreckan,

Tonight I’ll be in Iona.

 

Look and see at the bottom of the ocean

Silver and gold caves in abundance,

Glittering radiance no eye has ever seen

even at the court or palace of a king .

 

Seo Isbeal NicAsgail mhìorbhaileach nach maireann ga sheinn / here’s the late great Ishbel MacAskill singing it.

http://youtu.be/tBzd3HVE8Uo

 

P1170770

 

Dealbh den Mhaighdeann-Mhara: Seaboard Memorial Hall, le cead /Mermaid pictiure  with permission SMH            
Dealbh de chaladh Bail’ an Todhair leam fhìn /Balintore harbour: my picture.