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!

 

Isle of Harris Distillers

 

It’s not every day that someone gets to visit a distillery for work and I was thrilled to be invited to see and smell the aromatics and botanicals that are used in the Isle of Harris Distillery for their drinks in connection with reminiscence through this project.

Shona Macleod met with me and showed me around the sensory area of the building, filled with jars of incredible aromas and boxes of tactile, hand-plunging grains, peats and touchy-feely tweeds. This is an experience area as part of the Distillery Tour.

Shona explained that the Sugar Kelp is hand dived and carefully prepared and dried at Hebridean Seaweed to create an expensive but stable, dried ingredient, which will make it suitable for our project to be shared in our reminiscence boxes.

I also came away with a rose based hand cream, created from local machair-gathered wild flowers (for hand massages and aromatic effect combined) and the Harris Distillery blend tea from Hebridean Tea Store, a blend of Assam teas with smokey Lapsang Souchong, evocative of peat fires, for aromatic qualities as much as reminiscing over leaf tea and drinkability!

The shop is stocked with a beautiful display of Harris Gin bottles, twisting in spirals along the shelves as well as local apothecary blends crafted into soaps, cologne, balms and creams. There are some gorgeous leather bound notebooks, jellybeans and books adding bursts of colour.

The cafe offers tremendous attention to detail with warm scones, soft butter and recycled tables and cutlery jars.

I think that everyone receiving the trial sensory box for reminiscence will love the local focus on wild flowers and kelp, local fragrances that will hopefully evoke deep memories for people to share with their loved ones.

Hand Memory – by Jon Macleod

Hand memory pdf

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images: Net mending session at Blar Buidhe, Carding wool at Harris house, Knitting pattern, Anne Campbell (Garenin) Milking – using fuigheagan (waste wool from tweed weaving) to tie the tail out of the way …., Setting nets off Gallan Head, Ciosan.

Hand Memory

Building on earlier sessions with people living with dementia that explored traditional skills and the role of ‘hand memory’ we have created further sessions for eliciting memories as well as creating opportunities for haptic stimulation, that may link to life knowledge of work tools, craft skills and techniques such as creel and basket making, knitting, carding and spinning wool, net mending fishing and tweed weaving. To explore this in greater depth we have collaborated on a joint funding proposal with Dr.Stephanie Bunn, Senior lecturer in Anthropology (specializing in Material Culture) at St. Andrews University. This new project looks at ‘eliciting oral histories and ‘hand-memories’ as a means of co-designing supportive, inclusive and locally distinct communities for people living with dementia as well as providing research that will feed into developing new innovative design tools.

Another objective is to exchange knowledge of basketry practice in memory work with An Lanntair’s experience of placing oral traditions at the centre of our approach to local history-making and recording. We will draw on local familiarity with basketry to elicit both oral and embodied memories from community elders, who are often the only members of communities now to retain such skills. An Lanntair’s experience with orality and dementia will in turn enhance the work with other communities in the project, along with providing oral material which will enrich the collection at Lewis’s Museum nan Eilean. 

Dr.Bunn’s previous project ‘Woven Communities’ looked at basketry, memory, and embodied thinking and grew out of an initiative and collaboration between a group of Scottish basketmakers, the Scottish Basketmakers Circle whose aim was to collect together and document all the diverse research conducted about Scottish vernacular basketry, learning skills from regional practitioners, researching in their local communities, surveying basket-related plant ecology and visiting museum collections and archives;

“There is a wealth of information which comes forth when people see you making baskets – often they are eager to correct you just to start with and let you know you are doing something wrong. Then many memories come flooding back.”- Liz Balfour, (Woven Communities Project Partner).

One focus of the new project will look at re-discovering local skills and knowledge by hosting practical reminiscence events and hand memory exercises. We will follow a basket making process all the way through, from gathering weaving materials, processing them and then weaving a specific vessel such as a ‘Ciosan’. This was ‘a coiled basket made from sea-bent (marram grass), or sometimes straw. The coils are stitched together using twine made from rush, marram, even split willow or bramble, or bought twine’. Its function was to hold oat or barley meal.

Word Collage Poem

I Don’t Know You ..

I don’t know you
But a Siarach by the blàs
My mother was from Carloway
We had cousins over your way in Keose.

They would come to the communions over the moor
Twice a year, rain hail or shine.
And stayed the entire week.
We gave them room and lay in the barn.

My father went to Uig to buy a cow once
He walked all the way to Valtos and back in one day
Oatmeal when the sun was at its highest point
And water from the moorland stream.

My father, he was in the war with a man from Lochs
Crossbost -Alasdair Mor a big man
He became one of the Oatmeal Monuments
Then the Clyde Trust -The Skye Navy.

I prefer the land and the sky myself
The moor between Tolsta and Ness
I was a herder when I left school at 14
2 shillings a ewe we got to keep
Then from treacherous bogs and cliffs

I can still walk that moor today
Know it like the back of my hand

Oh well it so lovely that you came to see me
I hope it is kippers or salt herring tonight
No fresh fish nowadays
We were brought up on fish.

See and bring me some haddies the next time
Don’t be long till you call again
I just knew I knew you when you came in.

Maggie Smith

Christmas Baking at Dun Eisdean

I took some Christmassy ingredients and recipes to Dun Eisdean today.
We produced some mini Christmas Puddings, mini Christmas cakes, mince pies and some chocolate chip cookies. We iced the cakes with a thick icing and a cherry. You can find the recipes on our recipes page.

We went for the mini versions of puddings and cakes to save on cooking time but we definitely packed in the flavour with ingredients such as orange zest, ginger wine, brandy, prunes, raisins and grated apple.

We talked about Christmas cooking smells, memories, recipes and what we remember our Mothers and Grandmothers cooking for us.

I laid the Christmas lights out along the table and we enjoyed Christmassy music on the radio as we worked. The hardest part was softening the butter…and waiting for the oven to cook it all!

Little library session last night

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The team enjoyed an intimate library cafe session last night where we presented the project and shared the words of the people we have been working with. Ian Stephen shared his personal experience of working on the project and what it has meant to him as well as relatives of participants, through spontaneous feedback in the local shops. He spoke about the poetry, films and workshops and told several stories and shared his own poetry and the work of Frank Thompson. Ian explained that one relative told him that a session he was involved with immensely improved the quality of what turned out to be his father’s very last week. And that a poetry reading brought a much loved and missed relative back to life for a precious time.

Maggie told some wonderful collected stories in Gaelic and English and Jon offered a projection slideshow of images from the project.

We shared cyanotype images from Mhairi Law’s workshop, word portraits and collages and these were very well received.

The daughter of one of our participants read her mother’s word collage poems and shared with the group that her daughter was so excited about them that she shared them on Facebook with all of the family.

Jane Hepburn & Ian Stephen

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We were treated to a beautiful session of live music from Jane Hepburn and poetry/storytelling from Ian Stephen today at An Lanntair Auditorium, all set to local image projections, which added to the mood of the occasion immensely.

Hand memory

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Returning to hand memory – a lady I was working with at the mini food festival on Thursday was talking about how she used to make butter regularly but couldn’t quite remember how.

Another lady (hilariously) overwhipped the cream with a hand electric whisk to separate it (and I do wholeheartedly apologise to Solas staff for the walls/ceiling after that! – I remarked to Tristan ap Rheinallt afterwards that his wonderful butter-making artefacts are enclosed for a reason!) And then the bowl was passed on to another participant for the next stage of butter making.

This lady, while explaining that she couldn’t remember how, carefully poured the buttermilk into containers to save it for baking, washed the butter under cold, running water, then squeezed the liquid out, turning off the tap. She kneaded the butter lightly, occasionally cooling her hands under the cold tap and she said we mustn’t overwork it. Next, she carefully assessed how much salt it needed and worked that in, finally shaping it into roughly 250g size pats. She explained that she would have used wooden things to shape it (like the artefacts Tristan brought to share from Ness Historical Society) and we made the butter look more authentic by making fork-lines on the top.

I will be exploring more opportunities for expressing hand memory through the project, with tasks such as net mending at a forthcoming workshop on 22nd September and weaving at a later date.

Paula