November Newsletter

October news

Jon is at the 26th Alzheimer Europe conference in Copenhagen right now, 31st October to 2nd November, to present our project poster about bilingualism and hand memory.


31st October, for Halloween and to celebrate the life of Gene Wilder, Pocket Cinema screened Young Frankenstein to raise funds for Alzheimer Scotland Lewis & Harris branch.

31st October, Paula went to Solas Day Centre to print personal images onto cotton, to provide materials for Chris Hammacott to be ‘Quilter in Residence’ to Solas for November. Chris has been commissioned to create personal lap quilts and cushions.


Tuesday Ceilidhs at Western Isles Hospital in October featured a stirring Gaelic Poem from the Mod, recited in a breathtakingly moving style by young Oliver, Gaelic psalm singing from the Rev Calum Iain MacLeod, Melodeon playing from Maggie Smith and lots of visitors, including little Noah.


Chat around the table at the Carers High Tea included armadillos, 9 feet of snow in Russia, dishwashers, quilting, house renovation and matching jumpers.


Our first Carer’s cushion kit went to a carer in Tong. We have two left and Chris is now working on a wool Florentine stitching kit for carers.

We have a new Facebook page, as requested by Carers. @aroraanlanntair

Our South Isles posts have been advertised this month and we will be interviewing early in November.

We joined the DEEP (Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project) National network. DEEP website We have updated the DEEP website with our information and submitted it for moderation.


It’s Faclan festival week at An Lanntair, take a look at the events on the website.

It’s the last 2 weeks of The Loom exhibition in the gallery at An Lanntair. The loom has been reimagined and reconstructed in a way which is mesmerising, offering sensory immersion in colour, light and music. Come and enjoy the show.

Last Thursday of every month
Carer’s High Tea with Alzheimer Scotland. If you are a carer of a person living with a dementia, please book with Alzheimer Scotland Bells Road 01851 702123. Come and enjoy a free meal in wonderful company at An Lanntair’s cafe bar and check out the exhibition and galleries. Come together or come for a break. Thursday 24th November.

Tuesday Ceilidh at Western Isles Hospital in collaboration with NHS Western Isles and Alzheimer Scotland. 2-3pm. Visitors welcome! Supportive memory cafe on Erisort ward for people in hospital, frequent guests.

Monthly dementia friendly screening at the Pocket Cinema. Please contact to be added to the mailing list.


Please check our blog for events:

Month of November: Chris Hammacott is Quilter in Residence at Solas Day Centre. Chris has been commissioned to create individual quilts and cushions using personal photographs.

Carer’s Cushion Kits
If you are a carer of a person living with a dementia across the Western Isles and would like to have a go at patchwork, please get in touch with as we have two remaining complete cushion kits designed by Chris Hammacott to give away. No sewing experience or a machine required.

November 21st: Woven Communities events across the Uists and Benbecula this week. Our academic collaboration project with University of St Andrews continues with grass weaving and hand memory opportunities across the South Isles. Leading up to a final exhibition and a Symposium in January at St. Andrews.

November: DEEP Group project (Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project) across care centres and Western Isles Hospital. Personalising Surroundings with photography and Gaelic proverbs.


17th November, we are on Benbecula with the Life Changes Trust team to support their event to encourage funding applications from the South Isles.


High Tea & Armadillos



We held our monthly Carers’ High Tea with Alzheimer Scotland at An Lanntair tonight. It was a great opportunity to begin work on the first Carers’ Cushion Kit. Chrissie decided she liked the birds fabric towards the edges and laid out her kit, complete with heart, on the table. We made a start on stitching one seam and pinning the next.

There’s a Gaelic saying – the hardest part is making a start.

Tonight’s conversations were interesting… Amadillos, hedgehogs, Russia, knitting, wooden train sets and statues cut from trees by chainsaw. We also made the most of the Loom exhibition downstairs for the last time, as next month, our meeting date will see a new exhibition. The baked haddock with spiced chickpeas and spinach special on the board was particularly fantastic. Thanks, everyone!

Thanks also, to the excellent Front of House team, who helped us deal with a pressing medical situation swiftly and with minimal stress.

School Days

Today’s theme is school days. Transcribed by Maggie Smith

In Tong the boys cadged a lift by hanging of the end of a catcher’s cart loaded with herring. In Lochs a cap with dangling fishing flies was hidden in the school wall until the bell rang. A Stornoway lass was caught ‘skiving’ from the Clock School. Spotted ‘down town’ by her mother, she got the ‘works’ and a young teacher tells of five schools in South Lochs in 1948 and points that in 2016 there is only one school in the district.

Dol dhan a’ sgoil

An Ard Tung   Bhiodh each agus float a thighinn à Lacasdail, a dh’ Ard Tung le bascaidean agus bucais sgadan. Rob an Deàcoin, bha e cho bodhar ris an talamh. Bhiodh na balaich a leum air cùl a float. ’S bhiodh iad crochait rithe gu ruigeadh iad an sgoile, neo cars bith càite, an robh an float a dol.

Mairi Anna à Aird Tung

Eòrpaidh    À Eòrpaidh cha robh busaichean neo càill ann, air ar cois, ’S iomadh latha tough a bha ann cuideachd. A mach seachad air Tràigh Shanndaidh, fada fada mas do thog iad an Decca Station agus sinn a dol an Sgoil Lionail.

Tarmod Mac A Ghobhainn

Steòrnabhagh  Bha sinn a falbh à Perceval Road, tarsainn air an raon far a bheil Bun Sgoil Steòrnabhaigh an diugh, cha robh ann ach achadh an uair ud. Sios chun a’ Chlock School agus Johnny Crae a ma’ sgoile. Thachair mo mhàthair rium aon latha shios am baile agus coir agam a bhith anns an sgoile. Thug i dhomh slàr man a bhus. Bha mi airidh air cuideachd. Bhiodh sinn a muigh anmoch gu reugan a dh’oidhche fo na lampposts Cha robh feagal agad ro dhaoine sam bith, chan eil e mar a tha e an diugh.

Iseabal à Steòrnabhagh

Ranais     Bhithinn a dol chun a’ chreag air mo slighe às an sgoil. Bha bonnaid agam agus bhiodh na dubhan timcheall an oir aige. Bha sinn mar na rodain air na creagan.

Dòmhnall A MacLeòid

Taobh a Deas nan Loch     A chiad àite anns an robh mise teagaisg an 1948 ’s ann an Leumrabhagh agus bha 60 leanabh anns an sgoil.
Bha còig sgoiltean air taobh deas Loch Erisoirt an uairsin. Grabhair, Leumrabhagh, Cròmor, Cearshader agus Planasgair (Maribhig).Smaoinich fhein agus ’s e aon sgoil a tha ann an diugh.
Bhithinn an uairsin a dol a Sgoil Chromòr airson an latha. Bhiodh Dòmhnall Louis a falbh leum a null air Diciadain. Bha Angus Campbell a ma’ sgoile a deanamh woodwork an cois nam balaich agus dh’ fheumadh iad cuideigin a dheanadh Domestic Science cocaireach agus fùighal, leis a chlann nighean.

Maighread NicLeòid.

Images taken at Ness Historical Society, Autumn 2015.

Islander to Islander

This is a theme that comes up from time to time but it’s subtle. Meeting with carers, there have been few words to describe this but some powerful pointers.

For example the question, ‘Where does the money come from, to fund this session?’ I reply ‘From local events, people coming to see a film, walk for Alzheimer Scotland, cycle, that kind of thing pays for the meals for carers.’ A lengthy nod. ‘That’s good.’

At another session with carers, one lady sang to make a podcast recording, enjoying the idea that they could be supporting someone isolated in a hospital or at home on another island. She said ‘Islander to Islander. Yes. That’s it.’

Of course, project wages are covered by Life Changes Trust funding and collaborations with other funders for South Isles posts  (Alzheimer Scotland and Remoage) and this has been the firm basis with which to build the project. It has been a very flexible and enabling basis to respond to the often subtle requests from the community.

We have been asked for a Facebook page repeatedly, so we have been working on that as a team this week. It will be live by the end of the week. 

Carers have asked for opportunities to try new crafts at home, so Chris Hammacott, a crofter and weaver living locally and offering various textiles workshops at An Lanntair was commissioned by us to come up with some solutions. She has dreamed up and created ‘Carers Cushion Kits’, which contain everything you need to make a hand or machine stitched patchwork cushion with full instructions and we made how-to videos. Chris is now working on a local wool Florentine stitching kit for the next project. The first kit has gone out to a carer and we have two left for anybody wanting to have a go. The cushion kit comes in a handy craft bag for this cushion project in progress and future craft projects.

At the Western Isles hospital each week, people gather for the Tuesday Ceilidh on the ward, supporting each other. Local Ministers, children, families all drop by to support. Community supporting community.

We continue to record podcasts, ‘In Conversation’ pieces with older people living across the Western Isles, to entertain and support people along with our ‘Memory Box’ scheme, which is in trial at the moment and will be bookable through the mobile libraries. This set of themed boxes will welcome stories, pictures and contributions from people enjoying the contents, which in turn will support more local people.

And tonight at An Lanntair, Alzheimer Scotland hosts the Carers High Tea – carers chatting together and supporting each other. 

On 31st October, Oriana is hosting a Pocket Cinema screening of Young Frankenstein at An Lanntair in memory of Gene Wilder. The funds will go to Alzheimer Scotland Lewis & Harris branch and will likely fund meals for carers through the Carers High Tea events each month, which are shortly being rolled out across the South Isles through our new South Isles Practitioner posts. Contact to be added to her mailing list for details. Please come!

Islander to islander- with a little help from our wonderful funders, collaborators, the fantastic teams at An Lanntair, Western Isles Hospital, Western Isles Libraries, Alzheimer Scotland and each other. 

Shona Illingworth on Radio 4 today

All in the Mind with Shona Illingworth

We gave a talk on hand memory at Shona’s ‘Lesions in the Landscape’ exhibition at Taigh Chearsabhagh recently, so it was interesting to hear her speak about memory on Radio 4 today.

The team felt the important connections between this exhibition, memory and of the St Kildan stories now being out of the reach of living memory, much as many of the skills we are reconnecting people with through our Woven Communities collaboration project.

We feel the urgency that the hand memory of local people somehow retaining the skill of grass weaving and crafting is our final opportunity to authentically reproduce grass woven items, once ubiquitous across the Uists and Benbecula.


Western Isles Hospital

We held two sessions today at Western Isles Hospital.  The first one was at Erisort 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 Calum Iain Macleod 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 Minister Calum Iain Macleod, whom I was unable to thank properly because I was comforting a lady who felt very emotional with joy.

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.

Note: The Reverend Calum Iain Macleod ministers from Back Free Church and you can find Gaelic sermons online through the links on their web page. This might be helpful to isolated people wanting to hear a Gaelic sermon, for those who might be unable to travel. Back free Church sermons in Gaelic and English  Our podcasts on Soundcloud ( Soundcloud Arora An Lanntair link ) have a playlist of Gaelic psalm singing and waulking songs.



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

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.’