The Hebridean Folklore Project
The Hebridean Folklore Project is what happens when the desire to do something purposeful, meets up with inspiration, the richness of Scottish Gaelic culture and synchronicity.
The Hebridean Folklore Project was founded in 1996 as a cultural organization to help keep Scottish Gaelic folklore alive & accessible. The Project focused on connecting with the tradition bearers and elders from Scotland’s Outer Hebrides islands, listening to their stories and when possible recording their stories, songs, poems and memories in Gaelic and sometimes in English.
Field research began in 1996 and continued until 2004. During those years I travelled to the Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles from the U.S. for varying lengths of time usually three to five months. In all season and all weather I walked, hitched, ferried and bussed over the land, arriving to a warm fire to visit with good folk, elders and tradition bearers. We enjoyed hours of conversation about their home-land, their lives growing up on these remote islands, Gaelic language and the stories that swam both thick and tenuous through the years and generations.
By 2004 close to forty folks had taken the time to sit with me, offering a story to this Project. Some stories are personal narratives from their own family history, like the story of an extraordinary collie named Fly told by Hugh Matheson of Baleshare. Some are centuries old folklore, like the story of the Beasties Causeway told by Donnie MacRury of Carnish. Many of these story carriers and tellers have since passed on, and many of these stories have only lived in the telling, meaning they have not been written down.
The heartiest of thanks to so many from Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Iowa, Scotland and beyond. Also big thanks to master sound engineer, Tim Britton for his hard work and support in the digitization, and this nifty article he wrote! Thanks to Gaelic USA for their support, here's an interview done with them in 2016.
It is such a delighted to be able to send these recordings back to the Outer Hebrides. They have been shared with many of the family members of those who shared their stories. The recordings have also been shared with Ceolas, a Gaelic cultural organization based in Daliburgh, South Uist, who are very keen to receive these unique recordings and in time include them in their archival listening room at some time in the future. In keeping with the Project's mission to help keep Scots Gaelic folklore alive and accessible it is a great pleasure to also share these recordings with the University of Glasgow's Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic project. The full body of recordings are available to anyone with an internet connection at the Mothan Archive.
I am currently working with the edges of orality and the literary on a possible book retelling these stories bringing them to another life on the page.