The MacMhuirich family of classic bards, who resided in the townships of Stadhlaigearraidh and Dreumasdal in South Uist between the 16th and 19th centuries, were the subject of Ceòlas Uibhist’s 2017 community symposium. The community was out in force during the four day event, featuring lectures by professors Dr Sìm Innes, University of Glasgow, Dr Ùisdean Cheape, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, piper and singer Ailean Dòmhnallach and local tradition bearers.
The symposium was opened by an exhibition of photos, memorabilia and artwork in Taigh-cèilidh Ghèirinis. Items were provided on loan by households in the two highlighted townships, as well as several submissions from Uist families on the mainland. Members of the public are welcome to visit the exhibition until the 17th August, open between 12pm-6pm.
The annual Sunday mass at St Micheal’s Church in Àird Choinnich featured the harmonious voices of Guthan an Iar, and the symposium was brought to an end at a contemplative service at the Church of Scotland in Howmore Church.
There was excellent attendance at the largely Gaelic-medium lectures, held in Sgoil an Ìochdair over a two-day period. Attendees enjoyed learning about the genius required to compose 13th to 17th century classical Gaelic verse from Dr Sìm Innes, who spoke about Muireadhach Albanach, the progenitor of the Clann Mhuirich bards.
Dr Ùisdean Cheape spoke of the lineage’s twilight, with accounts of the steady disintegration of the family’s ancient library, once consisting of seven cartloads of manuscripts, as well as tales of MacMhuirich Mòr, a sorcerer known in local oral tradition. Both morning lectures were followed by Ailean Dòmhnallach bringing the MacMhuirich poetry to life through song.
Iseabail Dhòmhnallach, who can trace her sloinneadh back to the 13th century Muireadhach Albanach, also presented a charming presentation on the living MacMhuirichs – those who were known, and are fondly remembered, by the local population.
Evening events included the ever-popular symposium quiz, a piping recital starring Brìghde Chaimbeul and Seonaidh Mac an t-Saoir – himself a Currie descendent, and the Cèilidh Mòr, ably presented by the symposium stalwart and BBC radio personality Mòrag Dhòmhnallach.
In tandem with the symposium, Ceòlas ran its second Gaelic immersion course in July, attended by both residents and teachers training for Gaelic-medium education. Students not only received class-based learning, but also had the opportunity to interact with Uist’s Gaelic-speaking community while strolling through the townships, at cèilidhs, and out cockling on the Fadhail a Deas.
The symposium was supported through Creative Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, HIE and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.