When I say Seanchas Ile you probably think about the book that was published a year ago. Seanchas ÃŒle is an oral history project that started to preserve the Gaelic history of Islay. The book contains a selection of transcriptions of the local stories, traditional beliefs and proverbs which were collected by project workers. The stories are given in Islay Gaelic, with English translations on opposite pages. The book is very interesting if you are keen on learning more about the island's rich (Gaelic) history. Back then Susan Campbell wrote a book review. To refresh your memory here is a quote from her review: "the book is a gem; both attractive and important in presenting Islay Gaelic folklore in an easily accessible way. Seanchas Ã¬le will interest Islay people, Gaelic speakers and learners, students of ethnography and anyone with an interest in Islay. Definitely one for the bookshelf." As a follow up on the book review Carl Reavey, editor of the Ileach, interviewed Emily Edwards who has been working on Islay for two years on the Seanchas Ã¬le project, collecting and recording stories, proverbs and recollections from Gaelic speakers. Continue reading....Recently the new Seanchas ÃŒle website was launched, in both Gaelic and English, as a follow up on the book: "On this exciting new site you will be able to find out about Islay's unique Gaelic heritage of past and present. The Island's renowned whisky distilling, as well as its Gaelic literature and song and other traditional industries, are still part of life on the island where the Seanchas ÃŒle project aims to collect, record and preserve this rich Gaelic heritage for future generations." This sounds promising and so is the website if you have a closer look. The site offers sound samples from some of the original Gaelic oral recordings including the Gaelic and English translations in a downloadable PDF format which can be found in the heritage section. At the bottom of this post you can find an example of one of these interviews. In the Islay Gaelic section you can find more information about the language on Islay: "The Gaelic language has been spoken on Islay for longer than in almost any other part of Scotland. For this reason, some aspects of Islay Gaelic have closer affinities with Irish Gaelic than most other Scottish Gaelic dialects, which makes it particularly unique." In this section you will also find a wordlist with Gaelic to English translations.
In the folklore manuscript section you will find The Maclagan manuscripts, which are a collection of West Highland folklore material collated towards the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century. In this section you will find a treasure of local folklore in several PDF files. Below an article from one of these tales about how the Frenchman's Rocks got their name. There is another section called "About the Seanchas ÃŒle Project" where there is more background information on the project and Islay. Furthermore there is a links section and an enquiries section. I think this is one of the most important Islay websites that has been launched in the last years and I had a great time to explore some of the PDF documents.
A tale from a native of Portnahaven, Islay
One time a vessel came in to the loch here and we called her the 'Bloody Yankee'. My own great grandfather was a miller at Octofad there at the time, and it was he that piolated her in to the loch. When she reached the harbour, she set fire to fifty two other vessels that were at anchor, and her crew went ashore, and took away with them every likely man they were able to get their hands on. Some of the people on the island got word sent to government, and when the 'Bloody Yankee' went away, after doing all the harm she could, she was met out there, between this and Ireland by the government ships and there was a fight, and many were killed. The vessel drifted in, and was wrecked on the Frenchmans rock there. That is why it is called the Frenchmansâ€™ rock.
An interview by Emily Edwards about gathering carrageen.
LM: Lena McKeurtan
EE: Emily Edwards
LM: And what we would do with the carrageen, we collected carrageen in the sea and we laid it out on the grass and left it there on the grass until the colour lightened, it is dark brown. And we picked out the little pieces of dirt, little bits of grass or thing like that, and we dried it and put it in a bag. Itâ€™s good for patients, you know, that arenâ€™t keeping well. Itâ€™s like custard in a way, or rennet, similar to table jelly but itâ€™s white, itâ€™s made with milk. Itâ€™s good for you. The Irish make it, itâ€™s Irish Moss in English. The Irish think that as well. You get in the sound here, but you donâ€™t get it here, you go down to the shore where there are no toilets and things, you know, and you notice that itâ€™s more slippery down there around Ruadh Phort MÃ²r and Ruadh Phort Beag and Port Askaig. You wouldnâ€™t think to take anything, I wouldnâ€™t eat the fish either. People would eat the fish but sometimes I would come home with a fish or someone would come home and they would say â€˜Where were you fishing here?â€™. I would be at the pier at Ruadh Phort MÃ²r or at Port Askaig, you wouldnâ€™t eat it, you would give it to the dogs or the cats [laughing].
LM: But if you go, you would get, you know, Black Rock, thatâ€™s at MacArthur Head, you fish down there. Well, everyone ate cod and flounder that were in at Bowmore and there were lotâ€™s of sewage around Bowmore compared to here, the sound here is very clean and thereâ€™s always a strong current running north or south.
EE: Uh-huh and it runs so fast.