Inaugural Gaelic literature festival draws a crowd

‘Às an Tobar’, the first Gaelic-medium literature festival held in Uist, was hailed a success by organisers Ceòlas Uibhist. The festival, which took place between 30th November and 2nd December, exhibited the range of work being produced in Gaelic, both by Uist authors or about Uist subjects. Over 130 people were in attendance throughout the weekend across the events.

Friday featured three sessions of ‘Leugh is Seinn’ with Linda MacLeod, who travelled from Eriskay to Ormacleit and Ìochdar, bringing her musical reading to kids across South Uist. ‘Leugh is Seinn’ is a Gaelic Books Council organised event aimed at encouraging Gaelic reading to children of preschool age.

In the evening, Ceòlas’ AGM was followed by the Uist launch of ‘Forradh: Sly Cooking’, an illustrated selection of a number of the words and expressions collected by Fr Allan MacDonald (1859-1905) in Eriskay and South Uist. Catrìona NicIlleDhuibh, author of ‘Forradh’ and originally from Edinburgh, flew in from the Netherlands, where she is now resident. Illustrations of Gaelic words in the book, in the form of linocuttings, were also for sale (

Locals had a second chance on Saturday afternoon to discuss these cherished words, many of which are still remembered by the community. Conversation ranged from landscape-specific features such as ‘bàsadair’ and ‘sùil-chruthaich’ to personality descriptors including ‘cabag’ and ‘smuig’, demonstrating the semantic wealth of the Gaelic language in the area.

Seonag Monk, well-known in the Gaelic world as radio presenter and comedy writer of great merit, delighted audiences conversing about her writing inspirations and reading from her book ‘Mil san Tì’. Growing up in the ferryman’s house in Gramasdail, Benbecula, she was surrounded from an early age by storytelling and this has manifested in her own attractive style.

South Uist has been home to a great number of Gaelic bards of high quality over the years. In 2017, Marion Morrison received the New Gaelic Writers Award for her Gaelic poetry, a prize by the Scottish Book Trust and Gaelic Books Council to encourage new writers in the language. The audience listened to a selection of her poetry, ranging from Romani in the Barcelona streets to sunsets from the Our Lady of the Isles statue on Ruaidheabhal, before being treated to a short cèilidh in the traditional style.

Ceòlas would like to thank the festival’s funders – Scottish Book Trust, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, HIE and Creative Scotland, and to Kildonan Museum, Acair publishers, MacTV, our caterer and all those who came out to the events. The festival will be back during the same week in 2018.