12th July 2010
Young and Adult Explore Bragar
For four whole mornings last week a group of young people and adults was to be seen walking out and about in the township of Bragar. This was part of a summer scheme where young people were accompanied by three local adults who led the group to a number of sites where the structure and history of each one was discussed in Gaelic. This innovative inter-generation project was organised jointly by CnaG’s North West Lewis Gaelic Initiative and the local Historical Society, Comunn Eachdraidh an Taobh Siar.
The aim of the venture was to encourage a group of local youngsters (aged between 10 and 17 years) to explore for themselves, at first-hand, sites and locations throughout their home environment in the company of adults who would tell something of each site’s background – a Gaelic-medium community curriculum of excellence! Time was spent at locations such as the following: St John’s Chapel/Cill Sgàire is a fine example of a number of medieval chapels along the Lewis coast. This one is rather special in that it has the remains of two small chambers, a nave and chancel. Its arch is now collapsed through disregard, and the group studied photographs taken early in the 20th Century when the arch was still in place; the Broch/Dùn, by far the oldest built structure in the village and which sits in Loch an Dùin, gave pause for thought, being one of some 140 such sites in the Western Isles; a drawn plan of the dùn was studied as was something of its history going back to the Iron Age some 2000 years ago. Happily, this township has no less than eight Norse Mill sites on one stream and some of those were visited and discussed, with the help of photographs of them working in the 1930s. The sites of a number of village shops gave rise to a lot of interest and questions: these seemed almost as far removed as any of the archaeological sites visited. The group spent time at a number of geos among the cliffs, where notable events had occurred, not least the huge blue whale which came ashore there in 1920; a group photograph was taken at its jawbone which stands at a house by the main road. The remains of a number of blackhouse buildings were seen, along with a kiln and willow enclosures, and special elements were highlighted such as a bed built into the outer wall of one building, a winnowing vent, a hobble and a kiln flue. The group spent time out on the Aird Mhòr trying – unsuccessfully – to locate an Ordnance Survey benchmark left there on a stone by the map-makers of around 1850; but other such benchmarks were seen and discussed.
After a full lunch of soup and sandwiches, prepared by other local stalwart volunteers, from the Comunn Eachdraidh each afternoon session in Ionad na Seann Sgoil was devoted to a series of workshops where visiting adults introduced the group to topics such as video and interview skills. Each kept a daily events diary. A radio piece was made for Aileag and an article was written for Fuaran, the local community newspaper.
A new tune was composed and played for the project by Pipe Major Peter MacKay – ‘Moladh Bhràgair’/ ‘In Praise of Bragar’.
The whole venture was filmed so as to provide a visual record of what was done and to produce a DVD as a historical resource for the community, this will be launched later in the year.
Both youngsters and adults regard this whole summer project as a huge success and something that could be undertaken on a more regular and extended basis: the idea of a Gaelic-medium community curriculum is so educationally sound as to be a rare and inspirational treat.
Comunn Eachdraidh An Taobh Siar said: “We are delighted to be working with Iomairt Ghàidhlig Iar Thuath Leòdhais to implement this important and useful scheme. We hope this will raise peoples awareness of our history, heritage and the work of the Comunn Eachdraidh in the community.”
Iomairt Ghàidhlig Iar Thuath Leòdhais chairperson Magaidh Mackay said: “We are pleased to be associated with this type of project where young people and adults are working together, encouraging intergenerational communication. Undoubtedly, the importance of collaborative working between the Iomairt and other organizations, like the Comunn Eachdraidh, in order to strengthen Gaelic in the area cannot be underestimated, and we are grateful for the support of the funding organizations.”
The North West Lewis Gaelic Initiative is funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and funding for this specific project was provided by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and MG ALBA.