Western Isles Hospital

We held two sessions today at Western Isles Hospital.  The first one was at Clisham Ward for the NHS, Alzheimer Scotland and our Arora project collaboration Tuesday Ceilidh.

It really was a ceilidh today, with plenty of chat about Highland dancing, discovering where we all are from, how we came to the island if we hadn’t always been here, the discussions event went to how a marriage proposal came about! Maggie’s Gaelic was so very welcome, for four native Gaelic speakers and one lady, who is fluent.

The Minister came to visit and offered, on request, to present two verses of Psalm 23 in Gaelic. This meant so much to the people at the Ceilidh today. There were tears. I asked one lady ‘How long since you sang a psalm?’ ‘Oh, a very long time. A very long time. I feel blessed by the word of God. I used to go every week. Every week.’

After all that emotion, Maggie brought out her Melodeon and played some tunes. When I looked around the room, I noticed three ladies singing along, knowing the words. And faces of doctors, nurses, support staff and other professionals popped by at the door to see what was happening. It was fun to see those faces light up at the sight and sound of our ceilidh.

We had some Parkin, a selection of biscuits with tea and coffee and some local magazines and national brochures to look through.

Five people came along from the wards, supported by an OT Assistant, a Dementia Champion, plus Maggie, and myself from the Arora project and Pauline from Alzheimer Scotland with her lovely daughter. One visitor stayed for the session and our wonderful guest the Minister, whom I was unable to ask his name because I was comforting a lady who felt very emotional with joy. I will find out and add his name here.

After this session, we popped next door to Clisham Ward and Maggie played the Melodeon with a gentleman from Uist, who remembers a lot of the tunes. He managed to sing along to one tune, then he started looking across the room and I noticed another lady dancing and singing along with a nurse. After Maggie took a break from playing, the gentleman was able to sing back to us the tunes Maggie had been playing with him. The nurses took a photograph of the session. I think they captured the joy in his face as he just finished singing. I definitely saw his recognition of us when we greeted each other.



Quilt Kits for Carers

How to videos on Youtube for our Carers Patchwork Cushion Kits
If you would prefer these videos as a DVD, as part of your kit, please ask and I will add a DVD in the kit for you.

carers-cushion Page 1 of Chris Hammacott’s instruction sheet.
page2 of Chris Hammacott’s instruction sheet.

If you would like a kit to have a go at patchwork and making your own cushion and are a carer of a person living with dementia across the Western Isles, please get in touch with mailto:paula@lanntair.com

If you just fancy having a go at patchwork and have some scrap fabric at home (no sewing machine needed for this), have a look at episode one of the Youtube videos on the link above and you can make your own kit up using the list of items needed and dimensions to cut your pieces in the text box there.

The very first kit has gone out to Chrissie on the Isle of Lewis, who said..
“I’m going to make a start on this tonight!”




Carer’s cushion kits

I have in my hot little hands three complete kits with everything you need to make a patchwork cushion, all tucked into a craft project bag for this (and future) project(s). It even has a cushion pad to finish it with. 

We commissioned Chris Hammacott to create these kits for carers across the South Isles to try a new craft.

Chris and I have made some how to films if you prefer to see instructions rather than read them from the included sheet. Please ask if you would like them on DVD.

Chris is working on a wool needlecraft kit for us next.

If you are a carer of someone living with dementia in the South Isles and would like a kit, please let me know. There are only three but the instruction sheet and videos will be uploaded online for you to use to create a cushion with your own fabrics if you miss out. I am making one with old jeans right now.

Tuesday Ceilidh on the ward


Today’s Tuesday Ceilidh on the ward at Western Isles Hospital was enhanced by the Royal National Mod and by wonderful children. Do you think our ‘baby in a box’ scheme will catch on?


Heather brought the ever entertaining Noah along and Oliver brought the Mod to us, seeing as so many people in hospital were unable to attend personally. Oliver recited a Gaelic poem with incredible passion and emotion, even those of us without Gaelic were moved by his confident delivery of A Ghaoth (the wind) by Mairead Maciver. Oliver wore his Dementia Friends badge on his tie.

The rest of the hour included visitors joining us, we looked at pictures and village magazines, enjoyed the lovely china cups and the company of junior and senior staff alike.

We had eight visitors, six staff members, five patients, a volunteer, a member of the Alzheimer Scotland team and myself. The atmosphere was lively and happy, the buzz was very pleasant and sociable. Everyone left, having had a great time and Ellen Donnelly from Alzheimer Scotland said, ‘Lovely ceilidh today – lots of positive responses from attendees and supporters.’
Denise Symington, Health Board, said ‘Wasn’t it lovely today? I think even renaming it the Tuesday Ceilidh had a positive impact on the session.’
Speech and language team member said ‘This is great, it is going to be so useful for trainee staff, giving them confidence. It’s fun, too. Brilliant resources as well.’

Voluntary Arts Scotland



Here is the team from Voluntary Arts Scotland (and our wonderful Alex) enjoying a break from their usual surroundings to have their AGM at An Lanntair.

I very much enjoyed presenting the project to the team today, very much enjoyed a bowl of steaming soup in the Cafe Bar with everyone and look forward to continued conversations after this visit.


Licking Scallop Shells

Maggie went to visit the lovely Lena MacBratney, who delights in serving homemade cakes and copious amounts of tea to visitors. Lena is ninety five, lives in Stornoway and gave an amazing account on her early life in Ranish in the Lochs district of the Isle of Lewis.

“My two grannies had a cow and every Saturday we made butter in the shimmid. The milk was put in basins for a few days and then we used a scallop shell to take the cream off the milk, before we put the cream in big urns. When we were finished we were allowed to lick the shells clean. Cream never tasted quite so good since then. My granny would have her white apron on, and we would have blathach to drink and make scones. Lovely!

In the winter the herring drifters would come into the bay in Ranish and you would think it was a village, with all the lights from the boats. My own father was fishing and my grandfather Murdo Nicolson had a drifter. One winter my grandfather bought my father a motor boat and then he caught lots of fish. As children we had to fill the basins with fish and share it out among the people in the village, who had no one to go fishing for them.

In the autumn my mother would send my sister and I, to Johanna’s house in Achmore to help with the hay. We hauled the hay in eallachs on our back, from the bottom of the croft by the loch, up to the house. Johanna was of the Chisholmites and didn’t go to church. She was a great Christian. We had to go on our knees to pray every night and we didn’t wash the dishes on Sunday. My sister and I worked hard but we didn’t get a penny for it. Then we would go to Na Doill in the Glen, to get a creel for my mother. Then we would walk proudly back to Ranish with an Achmore creel on our backs.

At 14 years when my sister and I left school, we went to the fishing. I was there at fourteen, gutting herring on the pier in Stornoway, where the herring girl statue is today. There were lots of Point women busy with barrels at the cutadh as well. I worked for the curer Duncan MacIver and after the season was over in Stornoway, we sailed to Stronsay, then Lowestoft in the winter. The next year we went to Lerwick, then Yarmouth.

It was a hard life we weren’t idle and there was not much pay. If we earned money we would buy things for my mother, like bedding, but nothing for ourselves “

Lena MacBratney age 95

Lena MacBratney age 95

National Care Leavers Week 2016

To celebrate National Care Leavers Week 2016,  we are hosting a lunchtime meeting with the CEO of An Lanntair (Elly), senior programming, outreach and inclusion staff, people living with dementia and care experienced young people on Friday 28th October.

The link between these two communities for us is partially Life Changes Trust, who fund this project and fund projects nationwide supporting care experienced young people and people living with dementia. The other link is volunteering. So many care experienced young people volunteer for us and for local charities and organisations through Volunteer Centre Western Isles and Alzheimer Scotland.

These islands are famous for warm hospitality and we all love getting together for a ceilidh, so what better way to celebrate this national event than to do just that?



Project presentation at the An Lanntair AGM and farewell to Heather

We presented our project at the An Lanntair AGM tonight, along with some of our wonderful friends and collaborators. We don’t often stop and think about what we have done and what we have achieved and this was a lovely opportunity to do so with our colleagues and the An Lanntair board.

We also said farewell to Heather, who has left the project and is going to be focussing on some freelance design work and setting up her own business. All the best, Heather!

Hand to hand

A lady from North Uist said to me yesterday ‘Hand to hand, that is how we learned. And they were very good at it, the weaving. They had to be. You couldn’t have a horse collar falling apart. It wasn’t for fun, these were things we needed for work. And everyone who learned hand to hand like my grandmother and my mother, they became very good at it. It was the best way to learn. No books, no. No need for books.’