Working the land in Breasclete

Aonghas Ruadh a man who was there, maintains “That the Breasclete Re-seeding turned out better than any other re-seeding on the island” The very first re-seeding scheme created in the Isle of Lewis in the 1950s. No tractors or spreaders were used on the area, with the work of spreading lime and grass-seed all done by hand. All the men lined up with buckets and moved forward together in a straight line “Mar a bhiodh iad a’ cur a’ chorc uaireigin, làn do dhùirn do shìol air a fhrasadh fad do làimh”.

A representative from each croft in Breasclete turned to and they are pictured below with Angus Macleod from the Board of Agriculture.

Angus Macarthur treasurers this picture as a momento of how the village men worked together and it has pride of place in his room in the care home. After naming everyone in the picture, Angus spoke in his native language about his memories of life on the croft and his first job working in the Harris Tweed Mill in Stornoway in 1952.

 

Air a lot :Bhiodh sinn a falbh leis a bhò a h-uile madainn a-mach ga na cnuic air cùl Bhreascleit. D’fheumadh gach duine a dol a-mach leis a’ bhò aca fhein, neo bhiodh iad a sabaist. Bhiodh crodh Ceann a Muigh Bhreascleit a sabaist ri crodh Cheann a Staigh Bhreascleit, mar gum biodh iad ag radh “Seo an area againn”. Thigeadh an crodh leotha fhein aig àm bleòghainn.

Nuair a bhiodh Faing Beinn Chrionaig ann, bhiodh làraidh An Charaich a falbh làn dhuine, a-mach am Pentland mu ochd uairean. Thòisicheadh an trusadh agus bhiodh sinn air ais anns an fhaing am Breascleit ma aon uair deug neo da-reug. ’S a toirt an latha a rùsgadh mas e àm an rusgadh a bh’ann. Cha robh creag nach robh ainm orrra. Bha aon àite ann air an robh An Anail. Aite air Rathad a Phentland far a faigheadh tu air stad le claibh, do chùl a chur ri aghaidh na creig’ agus bha sloc anns a’ chreag a gabhadh cuideam a’chliabh.

Bha Rathad a Phentland gu math feumail do mhuinntir Bhreascleit ’s e Cailleach Perrins a fhuair an teàrr air an rathad. Cha robh air a bhith ann roimhne sin, ach rathad morgain làn chlachan. Bha i na Councillor aig Ross and Cromarty County Council. Bha i air ceann na daoine a choisich air a’ mharch le piobaire, saoilidh mi gur e Calum Piper a bh’ann. Bha i a’ deanamh ructions mu dheidhinn an rathad agus choisich i fhein agus crowd eile à Breascleit a Steòrnabhagh. Sin man a fhuair sinn an teàrr.

Tha cuimhne agam na bodaich a cruinneachadh an taigh mo sheanair, a tighinn a d’èisteachd ri naidheachdan a’ chogaidh aig naoi uairean air an Home Service. Bha an accumulator agus battery a dol a Steòrnabagh air làraidh An Charaich airson a’ chargeadh. Bha an taigh, dubh le ceò nam pìob, leis a Bhogey Roll. Bhiodh na bodaich ann a suid a toirt am beachdan air cuisean gu meadhan oidhche.

Bha rations ann aig àm a’ chogaidh bha coupons ann. Bha Niall Alasdair an ceannaich à Ciribost a tighinn air an eathar, bàta sùil, a d’ iarraidh na rations gu Cidhe Bhreascleit. Bhiodh sinn a faighinn sail anns an eathar uaireannan nam biodh tìde aige. Bha Shed An Charaich a’ faighinn tòrr ga na coupons. Bhiodh iad a tighinn à Tolsta Chaolais dhan an t-seada aige.Bha na leabraichean coupons a tighinn bhon a Mhinistry of Food ann an Steòrnabhagh.

Ag obair anns a’ mhuillin

Chaidh mi a d’ obair dhan a’ mhuilinn an uair a dh’ fhag mise an sgoil ann an 1952. Bha tòrr mhuillin ann an Steòrnabhagh an uairsin Newall,Tod, Muillean Smith, Stickie agus Stephen Burns .Bha grùnn bhusaichean a tighinn às an Rudha agus bhon a’ Bhac le na bha ag obair anns na muillean.

Bha sinn a toiseachadh aig ochd a h-uile madainn gu sià uairean ach gun robh sinn a sguir aig meadhan latha Dihaoine. Bha hooter ann a Muillean Smith a chluinneadh tu air feadh Steòrnabhagh agus bha sin a’ seirm gach lath agus sinn a faighinn uair a thìde aig tràth diathad. ’S ann aig na spinning flats a bha mise.

Thall againn fhìn ann am Breascleit bha small producers ann. Daoine man Dòmhnall Iain a’ Chidhe agus bhiodh e deanamh clòithtean agus a’ cumail spares nam beart. . Nuair a thòisich mise a’ fithe, bha ma 60 breabadair anns a’ bhaile. ’S e boireannaich bu mhotha bha fithe. Bha dhà neo trì bheartan anns a h-uile seada beart an uair ud. Bha na teaglaichean cho mòr agus air a sguireadh aon daoine, leumadh cuideigin eile air a’ bheart. Bha thu ag ionnsachadh man a bha thu a fàs an àrda, bha a’ bheart man pìos den fhurnadair.

Aonghas MacAmhlaigh Breascleit

 

 

Badag

Had a lovely afternoon in Trianaid getting to know some of the residents and carers. I took along a range of local books and photos. Many of these were based around the theme of planting and feannagan (lazy beds). These included photos of cutting the seaweed for fertilizer and the tools used in the process. Someone had been told that the cas-chrom (foot plough) was invented in Grimsay by the boat builders who could turn their hands to anything. Other areas in Uist such as Baleshare didn’t need the foot plough because the ground was soft so they just used a sliobhag (dibble). There were lots of nods and agreement about who the man in the photo was with the sgùird (canvas bag).

  

I took along a badag (home made feather brush). This was recognized immediately and the sweeping gestures demonstrated along with some detailed explanations of how they were used in their homes. Dusting flour, on the griddle pan while making scones, sweeping the top of the stove and some even used it for sweeping ashes away. The feathers were kept very clean because they were used for cooking. People mainly used hens feathers, or any feathers they had access to, bunched them together and tie them up with string. Voila! A great use of local materials and easy to make, I might start a campaign to ‘Bring back the Badag’!

Other things I learned today;
The daffodils I brought along with the orange centre are actually Narcissus – a cousin of the daffodil.
A skinned otter would get you enough money for a night out at the dance.
Herbs are the best remedies for everything and it’s a gift to know how to use them.
Gannets will only eat fish they catch themselves.
Wild roses are the best.

Best offer of the day:
I’ll teach you how to make a creel we just need some bamboo and something to knit with.

The daffodils were hugely admired; ‘oh it’s daffodil time’, mmmm, lots of smelling and happy smiles ‘oh you’re the daffodil lady’, ‘are you going to leave them here?’

            

Podcasts

Check out our Podcasts page – there are Gaelic language lessons there (Gaelic Without Trying series to enable carers to learn Gaelic without having to commit to lesson time) PLUS our Gaelic Culture Podcast series of beautiful songs, stories and poetry in English and Gaelic.

Please share it widely. It is intended for sharing with people in the community living with dementia, so please highlight this to anybody you know who works with, cares for, is related to or knows anybody across the islands who might enjoy them.

I will have some headphones and splitters next week for any care centres or hospitals who would like to share these with residents/patients/clients.

Spinning session with Mary Smith

Maggie Smith and Mary Smith held spinning sessions at Blar Buidhe and Dun Eisdean Care Centres today.

Memories flowed of carding and setting up weaving machinery and how the carding process was boring but machinery was available to do it.

We spoke about natural dyes, onion skins and flowers, different uses for urine(!) and that the spinning wheel was made in the 1980s in Carloway. Each area has a particular kind of drop spindle but the ones Mary brought were mostly used for plying the wool.

It was wonderful to work with Mary Smith after hearing about her work a few times…..and Maggie brought beautiful Gaelic flavour and a traditional weaving song to the sessions….but the cat totally stole the show!

 

Beàrnaraigh Loch a Ròag by Chrissie Bell Maclean

Blog 3 Chrissie B Maclean

Chrissie Bell Maclean had her 89th birthday this month. Memories of summer holidays with her granny in Great Bernera in the 1930s, is the theme of her poetry Beàrnaraigh Loch a Ròag

Local singer John MacDonald, very taken with the lyrics, created a melody and hopes to feature the track on his next recording.

This is a delightful poem about Great Bernera and its landmarks. Chrissie Bell Maclean has a real gift for poetry.

Beàrnaraigh Loch a Ròag

Air madainn mhoch ’s an t-sàmhradh
Nuair bhios druchd air bhàrr an fheòir
’S a chì mi ghrìan ag èirigh
Anns an iarmailt gòrm gun sgòth
Chan eil àite san t-saoghal seo
A chì mi bhios nas bòidhche
’S mi fuasgladh mo shùilean
Ann am Beàrnaraigh Loch à Ròag

’S iomadh àite tha àlainn
Anns na h-Eileannan a Tuath
Ach ’s ann an Eilean Bheàrnaraigh
Is tric a tha mo smuain,
Tha sonas is toil-inntinn ann
Is binne guth na h-eòin
A’ seinn air bhàrr nan craobhan
Ann am Beàrnaraigh Loch à Ròag

Ged tha sìan nam bliadhnachan
Ag atharrach gach nì
’S an aois a deanamh dealachadh
Agus sgaradh anns an tìr
Bithidh ’n caoimhneas is an càirdeas
A chaoidh ga chumail beò
’S gach cnòc is gleann cur fàilte orm
Ann am Beàrnaraigh Loch à Ròag

’S iomadh latha àlainn,
Ghabh mi an t-aiseag air an t-shàil
Gu Rudha Glas an Circibost
Ann an sinn bha m’àite tàmh
Gun tug mi spèis nach dealaich rium
’S cha cheannaicheadh an t-òr
An t-eireachdas san caoimhneas
Ann am Beàrnaraigh Loch à Ròag

Dh’fhàg mi làrach chasan
Anns gach cnoc is lèann is tòm
Bho acarsaid an Dùbh Thob
Gu taighean Barraglom
Suas gu Mullach Hacleit
Far ’m b’eòlach mi nam òig
’S a-mach gu baile Bhreacleit
Ann am Beàrnaraigh Loch à Ròag

Nuair thig mi mach gu Bostadh
Far bheil luchd mo ghaoil nan tàmh
The tobhtaichean ar sinnsearan
An-diugh le feur a fàs
Tha sin na adhbhar smaoineachadh
Gum bheil ar beatha mar cheò
Air latha breàgha sàmhraidh
Ann am Beàrnaraigh Loch à Ròag

Chriosaidh NicIleathainn Chrissiebell MacLean

Interview, transcription and introduction by Maggie Smith

Cultural Learning

I was very inspired by meeting Michelle Miller recently, who is working for the Scottish Government project Focus on Dementia. She won the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship last year and went to Japan to look at the ways people deal with dementia. I heard some energising stories of how car dealerships and other companies listed the jobs they had available each day for volunteers and a group of younger people living with dementia went off to undertake these tasks, sharing the workload as colleagues, taking pride in doing a great job and then coming back around the table in a resource centre for tea and food, talking about what they had done during the day. I find so much community and personal value attached to this approach.

Of course, many people volunteer in the Western Isles. More so than Shetland, from what I could gather on my recent visit for Up Helly Aa. However, Shetland has some interesting supported living models and some fantastic nurse led dementia diagnosing is happening there. The two lead nurses for dementia were handing out quiche and cake and having long and meaningful conversations with people attending the fortnightly dementia cafe at a church hall alongside Alzheimer Scotland staff and volunteers, while I was there. A bus filled with people from a day centre arrived, everyone eager to catch up with each other and talk about the recent Up Helly Aa, where the Guizer Jarl and his squad of burly Vikings had taken care to visit each and every care facility during the day, which had given everyone a purpose for baking and preparing treats for them all, in advance of the evening torchlit parade and ceremonial burning of the Galley. How many other cultures take such care in sharing festivals and activities across care settings? We do at An Lanntair, through Life Changes Trust but I think we are quite innovative in that respect.

Looking at the Ceilidh culture across the Western Isles, I was excited to see something very similar on a ferry from Cape Town to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was famously held. Not only held, actually, but that’s another story. A group of women of all ages were sitting together in a circle and singing local songs, some prayer songs, including a rousing chorus of ‘Thank you Jesus, Amen!’ when we safely reached the shore after a wallowy crossing! They entertained the entire group on board and it was incredible to see the similarity between a ceilidh here on Lewis, a gathering….people can’t help but chat, tell stories and maybe sing a few songs. It’s part of life here. And gathering places might have been the Post Office, the Scrapyard, the most popular guy on the street’s front room – not particularly a pub or bar. Alcoholic drinks venues were illegal within living memory – a lovely gentleman at the dementia cafe was telling me a story about his time as a Police Officer on Lewis, where an illegal drinking den was trying to get a license as a hotel/bar. Thousands of beer can pulls were collected from the floor of the building, carefully laced onto a string and presented in court as ‘evidence’, which made the court room bustle with stifled laughter at the time. Because of the cultural significance and the fact that a gathering is so beneficial to people, I have commenced plans to support hospital patients to hold a weekly ceilidh. I hope this works out.

Back to Cape Town, I noticed horrifying differences between people’s status – some cruising around in stretch limos, others taking their entire families to eat out daily, some living in Hollywood Hills style mansions….and some living rough in car parks and eating out of bins. Many people try to eke a living from helping tourists with luggage and as guides, as artists or selling souvenirs (all politely and non confrontationally, I have to add)  but there is little in the way of social support. The benefit system there is based on what has been paid in to the scheme and when it runs out, it is over.

Years ago, I went to Seoul in South Korea – the city and country life was very different. In the country, women largely stayed and raised children on the funds that the men earned by working themselves incredibly hard in the city. All night, I would see people having meetings and it wasn’t uncommon to see small groups of men sharing a bowl of kimchi soup with tofu at 11pm in a small cafe bar. With obligatory Souju. Older people in the country rarely stopped farming and growing and caring for little family members unless they were very unwell. Several generations lived together, which in that culture and many others gave rise to ‘Love Hotels’ to give married couples a break and some privacy! I digress because I have seen these on hotel booking sites in Brazil too.

I’m heading to Brazil for my son’s wedding in March – I’m already wondering how people support each other in Favelas and in general. What provision is there for social security and care? What about health care for poorer people? How is dementia perceived there? What about older people – are they generally valued and respected? I’m looking forward to finding out.