TIDES: Iain Caimbeul “Community agency, participation and local Gaelic development: research insights from two island Gaelic communities”.

Sgrùdadh air riaghladh com-pàirteachail agus fèin-stiùireadh coimhearsnachd a tha bunaiteach ri bhith a’ toirt taic do choimhearsnachdan dùthchasach Gàidhlig 

Access Iain’s full preliminary report as a pdf here:

This research study builds on the legacy of the Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community research (GCVC)[1] through exploring community agency and participation factors relevant to how Gaelic development interventions engage with the Gaelic vernacular community.

This small research project sought to gain an initial understanding of the extent to which community agency and participation are observable at the community level in relation to policies aimed at local Gaelic development priorities.  Sustaining the position of Gaelic as a viable community language will require that development agencies and communities work together to strengthen the  socioeconomic and sociolinguistic conditions which will enable a better future for the language. A key recommendation from the research is that a LEADER-type programme be adopted to put Gaelic development on a sustainable pathway for change.

Sgrùdadh air riaghladh com-pàirteachail agus fèin-stiùireadh coimhearsnachd a tha bunaiteach ri bhith a’ toirt taic do choimhearsnachdan dùthchasach Gàidhlig 

Tha an sgrùdadh rannsachaidh seo a’ togail air dìleab an leabhar-rannsachaidh ‘Staing na Gàidhlig anns a’ Choimhearsnachd Dhùthchasaich2 tro bhith a’ sgrùdadh factaran riaghladh com-pàirteachail agus fèin-stiùireadh coimhearsnachd a tha a’ buntainn ri leasachadh na Gàidhlig anns na coimhearsnachdan dùthchasach Gàidhlig. Tha an sgrùdadh seo mar a’ chiad cheum ann a bhith a’ togail tuigse air dè na ceanglaichean com-pàirteachais a tha follaiseach aig ìre na coimhearsnachd a thaobh poileasaidhean a tha ag amas air leasachadh na Gàidhlig ann an sgìrean ionadail. Tha toraidhean an rannsachaidh stèidhichte air co-chomhairleachaidh agus sgrùdadh ann an dà sgìre dhùthchasach Ghàidhlig, aon ann an taobh an iar Leòdhais agus an sgìre eile ann an taobh tuath an Eilein Sgitheanaich. Chaidh an rannsachadh seo a dhèanamh aig àm cuingealachaidh COVID-19, agus mar sin, bha an rannsachadh a’ sireadh sealladh ionadail a thaobh a bhith a’ gabhail ri dùbhlain mar sin agus sgrùdadh a dhèanamh air dòighean anns am faod coimhearsnachdan tighinn a-mach às na suidheachaidhean sin.   

Tha na ciad toraidhean bhon rannsachadh seo a’ sealltainn gu bheil na feartan a tha bunaiteach do riaghladh com-pàirteachail agus fèin-stiùireadh coimhearsnachd caran briste mar a tha iad sin a’ buntainn ri poileasaidh Gàidhlig agus cùisean dealbhaidh ceangailte ri gnìomhan sòiseo-chànanachas an luib choimhearsnachdan fa leth. Tha ceanglaichean gu ìre lag eadar poileasaidhean cànain agus na coimhearsnachdan dùthchasach Gàidhlig a-rèir freagairtean bho na coimhearsnachdan a ghabh pàirt anns an rannsachadh seo. Tha e cudromach gum bi suidheachadh na Gàidhlig mar chànan coimhearsnachd stèidhte air bunait sheasmhach agus airson sin tachairt feumaidh co-obrachadh agus conaltradh nas fheàrr a bhith ann eadar na buidhnean-leasachaidh oifigeil airson gum bi com-pàirteachas ann a tha comasach le bhith a’ dèiligeadh leis na duilgheadasan bunaiteach sòiseo-eaconamach agus sòiseo-chànanach a tha nan cnapan-starra do bhith a’ togail agus a’ cleachdadh na Gàidhlig an luib choimhearsnachdan. 

Thathas a’ moladh modhan-leasachaidh na Gàidhlig a chur air slighe ùr agus radaigeach, stèidhte air prògram coltach ri LEADER. Bhiodh goireasan agus dealbhadh leasachaidh sòiseo-chànanachais aig ìre ionadail fo smachd dhìreach urrasan coimhearsnachd ionadail agus / no co-chomainn. Thathas cuideachd a’ moladh gum bu chòir prìomhachasan leasachaidh na Gàidhlig aig ìre ionadail a bhith stèidhichte air fòram riochdachail coimhearsnachd a tha ag obair fo sgèith urrasan coimhearsnachd / co-chomainn. Ann a bhith a’ stèidheachadh fòram riochdachaidh airson a’ choimhearsnachd dhùthchasaich Ghàidhlig, coltach ri ‘Seanadh Saoranach Coimhearsnachd’, tha seo air fhaicinn mar eileamaid chudromach ann a bhith a’ dèiligeadh ris an neo-chothromachadh deamocratach anns an dòigh anns a bheil poileasaidhean a tha buntainn leis a’ Ghàidhlig air an dealbhachadh agus air an cur an gnìomh anns na sgìrean dùthchasach Gàidhlig. 

Iain Caimbeul

Iain Campbell specialises in small-language policy and planning with extensive experience and knowledge of Gaelic language development processes. Career experience has included project management; strategy development; socio-economic and economic impact analysis; change management and policy reviews; benchmarking; and evaluations of public sector programme initiatives.

Iain Campbell is currently a Research Fellow with the Language Sciences Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands.   Recent employment positions have included: Director of Hecla Consulting and Senior Manager of the Soillse Gaelic Research Project. Iain Campbell has held public sector appointments as a Board Member, Cathraiche (Chair) and CEO of Bòrd na Gàidhlig; a Board Member of MG ALBA and a Member of the BBC Trust Audience Council for Scotland.  https://pure.uhi.ac.uk/en/persons/iain-caimbeul

An exploration of agency and participation factors relevant to supporting Gaelic vernacular communities. 

This research study builds on the legacy of the Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community research (GCVC)1 through exploring community agency and participation factors relevant to how Gaelic development interventions engage with the Gaelic vernacular community. The study is a first step in developing an understanding of the extent to which community agency and participation are observable at the community level in relation to policies aimed at local Gaelic development priorities. Research outputs are based on consultations and surveys in two rural Gaelic vernacular districts, one in west Lewis and one in the north area of Skye. This research was conducted during the period of COVID-19 restrictions, and thus sought to ascertain local perspectives on adapting to such challenges and to explore mechanisms by which the communities can emerge from these circumstances.  

Preliminary research outputs signal that the critical factors of community agency and participation are fragmented as these relate to Gaelic policy and socio-linguistic planning matters amongst individual communities.  Linkages between language policy and the vernacular Gaelic group are weak according to the members of the two communities who participated in the research. It is critical that Gaelic as a community language is set on a sustainable footing. This will require cooperation and communication linkages to be strengthened between official development bodies and relevant communities in order to address current socioeconomic and sociolinguistic problems which act as barriers to normalising Gaelic as the language of the community.     

It is recommended that a new and a radical approach based on a LEADER-type programme be adopted to put Gaelic development on a pathway for change. The suggested new approach would put resources and local sociolinguistic planning under the direct control of local community trusts and/or cooperatives. The research also suggests that a community forum be established under the auspices of local community trusts/cooperatives. The establishment of a representative forum for the Gaelic vernacular community, analogous to a citizens’ assembly, will be an important element in addressing the democratic imbalance which community members attach to the current approach to language policy and planning as this relates to Gaelic development actions within the vernacular community.  

Access Iain’s full preliminary report as a pdf here:

See also: Ó Giollagáin, C., Camshron, G., Moireach, P., Ó Curnáin, B., Caimbeul, I., MacDonald, B. and Péterváry, T. (2020) Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community: A comprehensive sociolinguistic survey of Scottish Gaelic (GCVC). Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.

See also: Agency and Participation Factors: the Gaelic Vernacular Community.

TIDES: Mairéad Nic Craith on “Island Space” in the Land of Colmcille.

Creating an “Island Space” in the Land of Colmcille

by Professor Mairéad Nic Craith

This year is a special anniversary of Colmcille (also known as Columba). Oral history suggests that Colmcille was born in Gartán in County Donegal around 521 AD. That makes this year his 1500th birthday. Although he was of royal descent, Colmcille decided to dedicate his life to Christianity and was sent to St Finnian’s monastery in County Down.  While there, Colmcille secretly copied a book of psalms that Finnian had brought back from Rome. Finnian was angry that a copy had been made without his knowledge and appealed to the High King that the copy was rightfully his, but Colmcille refused to give it up. Tensions between the two monks may have served as the catalyst for the battle of Cúl Drebene where some 3,000 lives were lost. Following the dispute, Columba went into self-imposed, penitential exile, vowing to win as many as 3,000 souls for Christ. He established a new monastery on the Hebridian island of Iona where Conall, the King of Dal Riada, had granted him the site.

It is no accident that the story of Colmcille is still with us today after 1500 years. According to Hallam and Ingold (2008), traditions must be worked at to be sustained. Commemorations of Colmcille go back centuries, but a particularly important milestone occurred in 1997, when the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and a Minister of State in the Scottish Office, Brian Wilson, launched a new initiative commemorating the saint. Mary Robinson spoke about “creating an island space … in which Ireland and Scotland can share what they have in common.” (https://www.president.ie/en/media-library/speeches/signatures-on-our-own-frequency-the-sabhal-mor-ostaig-lecture-by-president) Since then a number of acts of commemoration have occurred. This blog focuses on three of these, with reference to mapping.         

The first map, Tír Cholmcille (2003), conceptualised by Roy Pedersen was designed to challenge the way we look at the lands of Ireland and Scotland. We have become so used to looking at maps in a particular way that we forget there are other ways of seeing the world. As Dennis Woods (1992) says of the power of maps, “from their inception, it has been essential that states appear as facts of nature, as real enduring things”. Tír Cholmcille, which can be viewed at https://colmcille.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Colmcille-Map.pdf, puts Ireland and Scotland on one single map. Although there is no change in geography, the map is a radical change in perspective.  A change in angle on the map encourages people to look again at the image they have of the two countries and the physical connection between them.

The second map is entitled Slí Cholmcille.  The route that together landscapes and communities in Ireland and Scotland which are associated with Colmcille and can be viewed here: https://colmcille.net/st-columba-trail/. The route begins in Ireland, the land of Colmcille’s birth, and ends in Scotland, the land where he is buried. En route, one travels across many islands, beginning with Tory Island, off the coast of Donegal. There is a legend associated with Colmcille on Tory island, suggesting that the island’s ruler initially denied Colmcille permission to build a monastery there. Colmcille sought a compromise and proposed that he only required as much land as would be covered by his cloak. Thinking that he could hardly refuse such a small piece of land, the ruler agreed. However, when Colmcille threw down his cloak, it magically expanded until it covered the entire island. The furious ruler set his vicious dog on Colmcille. When the saint saw the beast coming, he blessed him and asked him to die, which the dog duly did!! When the ruler saw this, he repented and granted permission for Colmcille’s monastery.

The third example is a story map entitled Columba’s Scotland. This was designed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) in 2021. HES commissioned poetry about places associated with the saint which can be viewed at https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/ae1235fda91c489e83a414a0d580d4fb.

Scottish islands which feature on the story map, include Eileach an Naoimh, where tradition holds that Columba’s mother is buried. Iona is the island that is most strongly associated with the saint; following a successful £3.75 million appeal, the the Iona Community’s residential and guest accommodation next to the Abbey was re-opened this summer.

All three maps have profound implications for Irish and Scottish communities. In re-imagining the geography of Ireland and Scotland, Tir Cholmcille draws attention to the proximity of these countries to one another. Although legend has it that Colmcille left Ireland and headed to Scotland as a penance for his misdeeds, the map may tell another story. Perhaps Colmcille didn’t necessarily perceive Ireland and Scotland as separate entities and, rather than leaving Ireland, was simple moving northwards from one Gaelic community to another that in need of Christianisation.. The re-orientation of the map draws attention to the shared Gaelic culture, which is particularly strong in the islands. The partnership between Bòrd na Gàidhlig in Scotland and Foras na Gaeilge in Ireland, which has supported these initiatives, has strived to deepen connections between the Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic language communities. The Gaelic dimension has been enhanced with the presentation of placenames in the original Gaelic rather than in an English translation that served to disconnect many islanders from the land and placelore.

The Gaelic connection has been especially visible in the Colmcille 1500 celebrations. In June, Maolcholaim Scott reported that a special programme in Manx Gaelic was designed to celebrate the anniversary of Colmcille’s birth: https://colmcille.net/sharing-gaelic-culture-laa-columb-killey-in-the-isle-of-man/  Gaelic celebrations on the Isle of Man included a choral anthem entitled Y Folliaght (The Secret) that profiles the sea journey of  Colmcille and the marvellous sights and sounds that he witnessed. A recording of the anthem can be played back at:  https://www.culturevannin.im/watchlisten/audioarchive/y-folliaght

            The re-mapping of the Colmcille story (as well as the 1500 celebrations) have given Scottish islands an opportunity to come centre-stage. The centrality of islands in the Columba narrative is important since we tend to think of islands as edge places – a tendency that is reinforced by the power of maps to interpret in “a scientific manner”.  Maps affirm states, and states affirm maps. Doreen Massey (1994) calls this the politics of location. We have come into a mind-set that assumes a core and a periphery, a centre and an edge – and you can’t have one without the other, but the islands are always seen as at the “edge”, but this is not the case in relation to islands in the Colmcille narrative.

Although most closely associated with Iona, Colmcille is connected with many Scottish islands. In Canna, the archivists put together a series of sounds and images of places that are linked with the saint for a video which can be viewed here:  https://www.nts.org.uk/stories/the-feast-day-of-st-columba. While there is no absolute historical evidence, John Lorne Campbell (from Canna) argues persuasively that Canna was the summer home of Columba, and that it is the mysterious island of “Hinba” or “Himba” that is mentioned in the Columban diaries. The video highlights the archaeological connections of Canna and St Colmcille, and the soundtrack features Gaelic music.

It would be impossible to establish concrete historical evidence for every aspect of Colmcille’s life, but there is also a sense in which the facts do not matter (Nic Craith 2013). Whether the character of Colmcille is historical or semi-fictional is irrelevant for the purpose of tradition-bearing, although most people believe in his historical reality. The ‘history’ of Colmcille continues to be regenerated and remade, and his significance for island place-making has become layered. In “How Myths Die”, Lévi-Strauss (1974) argues against the disappearance of myths. They can be transformed, exhausted even, but they do not disappear. Instead, they can be recreated or re-actived

In the case of Columba, one is dealing with a ‘truth story’ rather than a true version of events (a distinction I first heard from John Bell at Greenbelt, a Christian arts festival, in Cheltenham). It is a story that resonates with Scottish communities (see Ian Bradley) https://www.dailyadvent.com/gb/news/140d401e921f7b8c01a6e0ba65129a9a-Celebrating-St-Columba-our-grumpy-but-muchlauded-saint-who-was-born-1500-years-ago) Although not the patron saint of either Ireland or Scotland, Colmcille’s popularity was such that his relics were carried in front of the Scottish army at the Battle of Bannockburn. There is a sense in which Colmcille is the real patron of the Gaels of Dal Riada. His 1500th anniversary has generated many creative initiatives, from poetry to music to art. Accompanying this blog is the image of a new icon that was commissioned from iconographer Pavel Lupu. This beautiful (copyright) image is yet another example of the continuing tradition of a popular saint.


Hallam, Elizabeth and Ingold, Tim (2008) “Creativity and Cultural Improvisation: An Introduction”.  In: Elizabeth Hallam and Tim Ingold eds, Creativity and Cultural Improvisation, Routledge.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1974) “How Myths Die”, New Literary History, 5(2), pp. 269-81.

Massey, Doreen (1994) Space, Place and Gender, Polity Press.

Nic Craith, Mairead (2013) “Living Heritage and Religious Traditions: Reinterpreting Columba/Colmcille in the UK City of Culture”, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 22(1), pp 42-58.

Woods, Dennis (1992) The Power of Maps, Guilford Press.

Image courtesy of Pavel Lupu

SRUC Islands Webinar: Mike and Kathryn present on islands enterprise research

Enterprising Islanders. The promotion of localism, foundational economies and community wealth building.

Danson, M. and Burnett, K.A. SRUC Islands Webinar Series Invited Talk. June 2021

Big thanks to SRUC @RuralPolicySRUC, Dr Jane Atterton and colleagues for the Islands Webinar series invitation and really great to have all questions, examples, observations, and ‘where and what next ‘comments and feedback from webinar participants.

The wealth of island community knowledge, activity and energy is crucial in any wider policy and evaluation process; so too is the opportunity to connect, bridge and share old and new history and experiences. Thank you: loads “to think with” and “to do with” together!

Please see the recent book, a collection of island studies essays for further linkages discussed in part in our talk Scotland and Islandness (2021).

See also our invitation to submit an idea or suggestion for our Tides essay series. This series in the 2020-2021 Year of Coasts and Water is just launched this month. Do look at the information on how to get in touch and offer a note of interest to contribute a short essay or commentary to our Tides focus online: scotcis.wordpress.com/tides-short-essays-and-commentaries-on-and-of-interest-to-scottish-island-studies/.

The first Tides essay was by Mike on this very theme of Enterprising Islanders. The promotion of localism, foundational economies and community wealth building. June 1st 2021.

TIDES: Ray Burnett “Little Islands at the Edge of the Ocean”- Celebrating ColmCille 1500

“Little Islands at the Edge of the Ocean” – Celebrating ColmCille 1500

by Ray Burnett

Scotland’s islandscapes are a variegated multiplicity of intricate and ceaselessly shifting combination of land, sea, and seaways. Each offers a bifocal physical and cultural prism, a ‘way of seeing’, through which individual and communal sense of place, identity and islandness expresses itself and societal relations of power and authority, dominance and subalternity map themselves out on a contested maritime terrain.  

As explored further (Burnett 2021) in the Scotland and Islandness book edited edition, the earliest recorded layer of Scotland’s islandscape can be considered as that of the 6th to 8th centuries, when the protohistory of the late Atlantic Iron Age overlapped with the Early Christian era – the ‘Age of the Saints’, the age of the Word.[i] Confined to the islandscapes of the Hebrides, the essay sought to trace and tease out some aspects of this period through a specific focus on ‘islandness’.

One of the premises underpinning Scotland and Islandness was an awareness of the significant contribution our islands and island communities have made to the cultural, political, and social history, not just of Scotland, but of the wider transnational world of Europe and beyond.[ii] A significant dimension of this has been the enduring residual culture legacy of the Early Christian era. Over two millennia of settlement history, successive generations of scholars, bards, story-tellers and community tradition-bearers have ensured that a cultural palimpsest of multi-layered texts and lore, traditions and arts, practices and beliefs, has accumulated across Scotland’s far reach of islandscapes.

In concluding his Life of St Columba, Adomnán of Iona wrote that it was no small favour conferred by God that ‘one who dwelt on this little island on the edge of the ocean’ should have earned a reputation that had reached across the three corners of Spain and Gaul and Italy beyond the Alps, even to Rome itself, ‘the chief of all cities.’[iii] Paradoxically, assessing fully the significance of the Early Christian era across all of the Hebrides involves acknowledging a critical paradigm shift: a move away from seeing everything from an Iona, Columban and Dal Riata perspective. Two important projects, both accessible online, are important in this regard.

The Papar Project

The  Papar Project originated in a 2001 conference on the theme of ‘The papar in the North Atlantic: Environment and History’. It focuses on a distinctive feature of the Early Christian era in both the Western and Northern Isles (and Iceland), namely, island place names containing the word papar (a reference to priests or monks). The names are to be found in a great arc from Papil, Unst in Shetland, through Pabail, Lewis and Pabaigh, the Barra Isles in the Outer Hebrides, to Pabay on Skye and Papadil on Rùm. Significantly none are to be found in the Argyll islands, south of Ardnamurchan Point. 

These place names derived from the legacy of Norse incursions into Scotland’s seaways and islands but what was the nature and purpose of the early Christian presence the Norse would encounter? Were the settlers of these places followers of a cenobitic or eremitic monastic life, or priests present in a pastoral capacity?  In the latter context, an important dimension of the papar project was its environmental focus, including close examination of the origin, formation and function of anthropogenic raised soils, an evident link to agriculture (see Simpson et al., The Papar Project: agricultural assessment).

The project also considered the nature of the Norse impact on the ‘papar’ and the final detailed report on The Hebrides  (following an earlier report on the Northern Isles) is of considerable importance in relation to the nature of secular island settlement in the Hebrides in the latter part of the Early Christian era as well as the spiritual and ecclesiastical dimension of the Hebridean islandscape.

Gordon Hatton / Nunton Chapel / CC BY-SA 2.0

Eòlas nan Naomh

Eòlas nan Naomh, ‘Saints of the Uists’ is an initiative launched in 2018 between Glasgow University Celtic Department and Ceòlas, the community charity based in South Uist dedicated to the promotion of the Gaelic language and Gaelic culture of the Uists. Much smaller in scale and tighter in focus than the Papar project, this study from an island studies perspective is no less important. From its university base, the Glasgow University contribution has been to draw together current academic studies on the early and medieval Christianity of Uist; to identify sites and placenames of interest in regard to the latter and to discuss the saints associated with these sites in the Uists. It has been a deep and extensive enquiry and the detailed information already collated online at Eòlas nan Naomh provides an excellent  digital platform to enable the project  team to take forward their principal aim: ‘to stimulate further discussions on the sites in question and the role of the Uists in the early Christianity of the Western Isles’.

The Eòlas nan Naomh online resource illuminates in readily accessible form a key historical era of Scottish island studies and the Eòlas nan Naomh Project Introduction essay should be regarded as ‘Essential Reading’ with its comprehensive  accompanying Bibliography providing  an excellent  link for those interested in further ‘Recommended Reading’.

This wealth of academic work on Uist hagiotoponyms has been augmented by the parallel community cultural work of Ceòlas. With a focus on the early saints whose dedications and traditions are prominent in the Uists – Cainneach, Donnan, Brìde, Donnan, for example –  the Early Uist Saints Project has been collecting and recording information on these saints as transmitted through the oral tradition and indigenous knowledge of the predominantly Gaelic-speaking island communities of Uist. This work on the islandscape of ‘the saints of Uist’ thereby provides an integral community framework through which the deep knowledge of locality and oral history of the Uists can be celebrated and disseminated.

Ceòlas has described this work as a contribution to Slighe Chaluim Chille, the Columba Trail, a project that seeks to raise awareness of the legacy of St Columba across the competing representations in the religious history of Ireland and Scotland. Through a focus on Derry, a city with deep Columban associations, Màiréad Nic Craith (Nic Craith 2013) has traced the reshaping of these divergent historical narratives in a contemporary setting. Contextualising the emergence of a fresh narrative that seeks to redefine the Columban city of Derry ‘as a common heritage space for a previously divided people’, the study underlines the contribution such initiatives can make in the distinct cultural context of Scotland and most especially the Hebrides.

Colmcille 1500: A feast for Scottish island focus

Over 2021 in Ireland (the country of Columba’s birth and formative years) and Scotland (the country of his exile and death) the 1500th anniversary of his birth is being celebrated through a rolling calendar of diverse events, many online, organised under the rubric of Colmcille 1500 (521-2021). The rich programme of online public lectures and wider research commentaries are all of interest but in relation to the Scottish islands, particularly but not exclusively the Hebrides, and as 9th June  –  the Feast Day of St Columba of Iona approaches – three contributions focusing specifically upon island place and islandness invite particular mention.

The first is an article by Gilbert Márkus, a distinguished scholar in this field in the current (May 2021) Innes Review. In ‘Four blessings and a funeral: Adomnán’s theological map of Iona’ Márkus examines the last chapter of Adomnán’s Vita sancti Columbae (i.e. his Life of St Columba) which is devoted entirely to Columba’s movements around Iona in the final days of his life. In this account he elicits the spiritual themes and outlines how they are structured spatially, revealing Adomnán’s mental map of the island. Adomnán thereby invites the reader to see how salvation is revealed in time and space, in movement, and in dwelling within the spatial order of an islandscape established by Columba’s blessings.

The second recommendation is to draw attention to the public lectures series Colm Cille 1500: Téacsanna agus Traidisiúin / Columba 1500: Texts and Traditions that the Royal Irish Academy will be running from 25 August to 13 October 2021. The full programme,  available here contains much of relevance to the ‘Age of the Saints’ in Scotland. One contribution of particular interest from a Scottish island studies perspective, however is the lecture by Professor Thomas Owen Clancy, University of Glasgow entitled Tír, tráig, tuile, ‘Land, strand and tide’: Colum Cille’s voice and the poetics of place’, to be given on 8th September 2021.

Thirdly, Professor Jonathan Wooding, Honorary Professor, Medieval and Early Modern Centre, University of Sydney will deliver a lecture as part of the Trinity College, Dublin Columcille in Context programme on 29 June 2021 entitled Peregrinatio in the Careers of Columcille and his Monastic Family. As is made clear by Jonathan Wooding in his lecture abstract, it is a contribution of direct relevance to the Scottish islands and the notion of ‘islandness’. The presentation will examine instances of peregrinatio in the western Scottish and Atlantic islands from the 6th to the 9th century by which time Columban monks were making voyages to islands lying far to the north and north-west. The contribution will consider the different theological ideas that are found in the accounts of these journeys, as well as their implications for studies of settlement, including recent fieldwork in Iceland.

Each lecture is in a programme of virtual events that are accessible online. They promise to be of great interest in this celebratory ColmCille 1500 year and beyond.


Burnett, R. 2021 Little Islands on the Edge of the Ocean, in KA  Burnett, R Burnett & M Danson (eds), Scotland and Islandness: Explorations in Community, Economy and Culture. vol. 13, Studies in the History and Culture of Scotland, Peter Lang, pp. 29-52.

Ceòlas online resource Early Uist Saints Project Available at: https://www.ceolas.co.uk/our-work/heritage/.

Eòlas nan Naomh, online resource especially ‘Introduction Essay’: Available at: https://uistsaints.co.uk/introduction/.

Márkus, G. 2021  ‘Four blessings and a funeral: Adomnán’s theological map of Iona’, The Innes Review 72 (1): 1–26 DOI: 10.3366/inr.2021.0279.

Nic Craith, M. 2013 ‘Living Heritage and Religious Traditions Reinterpreting Columba/Colmcille in the UK City of Culture’ Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 22 (1): 42-58 DO1: 10.3167/ajec.2013.220104.

Simpson, I.A., Crawford, B. and Ballin Smith, B. (n.d). Papar place-names in the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland: A preliminary assessment of their association with agricultural land potential.  Access online at:  The Papar Project: agricultural assessment.

Links to ColmCille 1500 Lectures Series and Events detailed:

29th June 2021 Professor Jonathan Wooding, Honorary Professor, Medieval and Early Modern Centre, University of Sydney as part of the Trinity College, Dublin Columcille in Context programme, on ‘Peregrinatio in the Careers of Columcille and his Monastic Family’.

8th September 2021 Professor Thomas Owen Clancy, University of Glasgow, Tír, tráig, tuile, ‘‘Land, strand and tide’: Colum Cille’s voice and the poetics of place’. Part of  Colm Cille 1500: Téacsanna agus Traidisiúin / Columba 1500: Texts and Traditions that the Royal Irish Academy will be running from 25 August to 13 October 2021.

[i] Although there is a vast legacy of prehistoric settlement in the islands, it is only with the named places, people of the AIA and the oral and written history and tradition of the EC era that a sense of attached across the centuries begins.

[ii] This ‘contribution’ has been unquestionably negative as well as positive not least for other global island communities over the European colonization and British imperial eras.

[iii] Sharpe, R. (1995), Adomnán of Iona, Life of St Columba, Harmondsworth, p. 233

Social justice: community land, energy and forestry event SCIS @ENGAGE

Laig Bay, Eigg K A Burnett SCIS

A Social Justice Approach to Community Land, Energy and Forestry
 Monday, 29th April 2019, 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Book here: https://www.engage.strath.ac.uk/event/597

Registration from 9:30 am
Venue: The Technology and Innovation Centre, University of Strathclyde

This event aims to evaluate the current policy and practice of land reform in line with aspirations of social justice and with particular focus on forestry and energy. Bringing together experienced land reform researchers, journalists and public representatives, with community organisations and energy, labour and law academics.

There will be talks from Andy Wightman, MSP, Lesley Riddoch, author; Peter Peacock, former MSP and land reform campaigner;  and  Angela Williams from the Knoydart Foundation and Director of Community Land Scotland.  Followed by panel and audience discussion with contributions from Tiffany Kane, Operations Manager, organiser and campaigner for Common Weal and Kathryn A. Burnett, School of Media, Culture and Society, University of the West of Scotland is Co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Island Studies<https://scotcis.wordpress.com/about/>.

The event is supported by Scottish Universities Insight Institute and is dedicated to the memory of John Booth of the Isle of Eigg renewable energy system. We are delighted to be joined by representatives from the island at the event

Who should attend?
We encourage all with an interest in land reform, community energy, forestry and tackling social inequality to attend.

This is an event that is open to the public.

Benefits of attending
This events brings together some of the most respected voices in Scottish Land reform along with community representatives and researchers who have been focusing on localised energy and forestry projects. This promises to be a provocative session that places the idea of social justice firmly at the centre the debate designed to inform future policy and practice.

Brian Garvey
Department of Work, Employment & Organisation
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Tel: 0141 548 3999
email: brian.garvey@strath.ac.uk

Islandness: Identity and Independence Panel MECCSA 2019

MECCSA 2019 (Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Association) Annual Conference, University of Stirling

SCIS blackIslandness: Identity and Independence Panel proposer: Dr Kathryn A Burnett, University of the West of Scotland;  Contributors Mr Tony Grace,  Mr Ray Burnett and Dr Kathryn A. Burnett; Chair: Dr Sarah Neely, University of Stirling.

This Scottish Centre for Island Studies panel contribution is offered in close reflection of the 40th anniversary of MacDiarmid’s death in 1978, and the 90th anniversary of the formation of the National Party of Scotland, which involved both MacDiarmid and Mackenzie. 2019 itself is the 50th anniversary of the release of the iconic island film ‘Whisky Galore’ based on Compton Mackenzie’s celebrated novel. This film continues to offer a set of island tropes that signify both Scottishness and Britishness as well as the ‘national antisyzgies’ of cultural authenticities, the islandness complicities of place and people and the mediated complexities of remoteness, connectedness and independences. A further thematic of ‘island and national liberty’ draws on archival records and new film practice celebrating the ‘father of biography’ James Boswell, and his celebrated accounts of ‘tours’ including the Hebrides (1773) with Johnson, as well as his earlier account of Corsica and most particularly its independence movement.

We are delighted to be working in partnership with The Boswell Trust and hope to revisit aspects of this themed panel later in the year as part of the Boswell Trust’s event and celebrations diary 2019.

BT logo

The Curiosity Cabinet, by Catherine Czerkawska

Vulpes Libris

Perhaps we need to consult more in the den – I had no idea that the Island in Anne’s choice yesterday would be so close to the island setting of mine today (and that after I’d made such a point of saying that there is no discernible theme this week).

Catherine Czerkawska’s novel The Curiosity Cabinet is set on a fictional Hebridean Island, Garve, or Eilean Garbh. It reminded me of a gentler version of the island of Raasay, and made me yearn to go back; in fact, it is based on the island of Gigha, which has immediately found a place on my holiday list. I love islands and all that is unique about them. I love the idea that each island is a miniature world, with tiny bays, moors, mountains, and that is so easy to shrug off the day to day and behave as though the…

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Conference: Access to World Heritage Sites from St Kilda to Uluru


Programme and further information  of this exciting conference hosted by New Media Scotland are detailed below.

Register now at: http://iknowwhereimgoing.eventbrite.com/

I Know Where I’m Going
Remote Access to World Heritage Sites from St Kilda to Uluru

Wednesday 23rd & Thursday 24th November 2011
Informatics Forum, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AB

At a time of economic crisis and environmental threat, countries everywhere have to address the dual challenge of protecting and preserving their natural and cultural heritage while maximising their economic value. This two-day international conference will focus on the potential for new technologies to create high-quality, remote-access visitor experiences for World Heritage Sites and other sites of cultural, historical and natural significance where remote access is either desirable or necessary.


To showcase some of the new technologies available (3D/4D scanning, mobile technologies, GPS/GIS, satellite technologies, apps and social media) & discuss their applications.

To debate policy issues linked to the benefits and challenges these new technologies present for sites preservation, conservation, and interpretation worldwide; particularly in terms of remote and virtual access to sites which are sensitive, and in terms of economic benefits for tourism.

To encourage site managers worldwide- particularly within the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Network- to consider the benefits & impact the new technologies could have for their own sites and allow them to investigate those further.

Wednesday 23rd November 2011
Remote Access Technologies & Applications

Registration 8.30am

Welcome/Failte 9.30am

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture & External Affairs, Ms Fiona Hyslop MSP.

Introduced by Malcolm Maclean of Pròiseact Nan Ealan (Gaelic Arts Agency) & Conference Chair.

Keynotes 9.45am

-Dr. Mechtild Rössler, Chief of the Policy and Statutory Section, UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

-Mr Robin Turner of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland Remote access to St Kilda through time and space.

-The St Kilda World Heritage Site Remote Access Centre, by the Rt. Hon Brian Wilson.

Q&A chaired by Joanne Orr, Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO in Scotland.

Break 11:00am

Presentations 11:20am

-3D Digital Technologies for Remote Access and Sustainability, by Doug Pritchard and Chris McGregor (Digital Design Studio-Glasgow School of Art & Historic Scotland Scottish Ten).

-Visualising our Underwater Heritage,
by Mark Lawrence and Chris Rowland (DJCAD-University of Dundee & ADUS).

Remote Insights into our Marine Natural Heritage, by Paul Thompson (University of Aberdeen).

Q&A chaired by David Mitchell (Historic Scotland).

Networking Lunch & St. Kilda Exhibition at Inspace 12:35pm

Keynote 2:00pm

-Mr Ben Kacyra, Founder of CyArk,
Introduced by Malcolm Maclean of Pròiseact Nan Ealan (Gaelic Arts Agency) & Conference Chair.

Presentations 2:20pm

-Space & natural & cultural heritage sites, by Mario Hernandez
(European Space Agency & UNESCO Space for Heritage Project).

-Visualizing Heritage: New media technologies and the representation of ancient tombs of Monte Albán,-Mexico, by Prof. Ellen Hoobler (Cornell College, USA).

Q&A Chaired by Doug Pritchard (Digital Design Studio-Glasgow School of Art).

Break 3:15pm

Presentations 3:35pm

-Are we there yet? The future of shared mobile context and its impact on visitor experience
by Ben Mosse (Nokia).

-Mainlimes Mobil – Presenting Archaeology and Museums with the help of smartphones
by Erik Dobat (Boundary Media KG, Germany).

-Jurassic  Tweets: Can micro-blogging and social media be of value to World Heritage Sites?
by Dr Sam Rose (Jurassic Coast WHS, UK) & Louise Matthews (Bournemouth University).

Q&A chaired by Dr Diarmad Campbell (British Geological Survey.

Wrap-up session 4:45pm

-Do we know where we are going? What opportunities? What challenges?
by Sue Davies (UK National Commission for UNESCO & Wessex Archaeology).
Wine Reception & St.Kilda Exhibition at Inspace

Music at the National Galleries Scottish Restaurant 6:30pm

Conference Dinner at the National Galleries Scottish Restaurant 7:30pm

Thursday 24th November 2011
Key Issues for Remote Access

Registration 8:30am

-Ruth Parsons (CEO of Historic Scotland) & Kate Mavor (CEO of the National Trust for Scotland).


-Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park by members of the Board of Management and Parks Australia on remote access technologies in a living cultural landscape: issues of ownership and participation (video conferenced session).

-Remote access technologies and the preservation and promotion of Intangible Cultural Heritage, by Joanne Orr, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland & Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO in Scotland.

Q&A chaired by Jane Jackson (Capita Symonds).

Break 10:30am

Presentations 10:50am

-Remote access technologies and resource poor settings: Does it work? Is it sustainable?
Panel session with Dr Kodzo Gavua (University of Ghana), Mr Ali Ould Sidi (World Heritage Site Manager of Timbuktu WHS, Mali) and Mr Zagba Oyortey (Culture Works Africa).

-Do we know where we have been? Using the Oral tradition & storytelling: as the oldest remote access medium to heritage sites,
by Tom Muir (Storyteller & Folklorist from Heart of Neolithic Orkney WHS).
Networking Lunch & St. Kilda Exhibition 12:30pm


-Cultural tourism trends and the role of remote access in knowledge-based tourism and World Heritage
by Mr Peter DeBrine (UNESCO Programme Specialist in Sustainable Tourism).

-Shortening the heritage tourism value chain: How can new technologies empower people to create, and seize, the added value of world heritage tourism,
by James Rebanks (Rebanks Consulting Ltd, UK).

Q&A chaired by Benjamin Carey (Dunira Strategy).


Presentations 2:40pm

– Connecting Generations, Exploring Places: Enabling Remote Access to Archives
by George MCKenzie (National Records of Scotland).

-Remote access for learning & sharing: the CyArk Archive and the Digital classroom
by Elizabeth Lee (CyArk).

Q&A chaired by Alexander Bennett (National Trust for Scotland).

Wrap up session 3:35pm

-Concluding remarks & policy directions, by Mr Peter DeBrine
(UNESCO Programme Specialist in Sustainable Tourism, World Heritage Centre).


Building on the experience gained at World Heritage properties, the conference aims to create a network (both physical and remote) of interpretation specialists, curators, conservators and custodians facing the challenge of creating remote access to sensitive, hard-to-access or other trans-national sites. It will bring together Sites directors and heritage practitioners- both tangible and intangible- in the UK and abroad, but also policy makers and technological innovators, and will seek to break down conventional sectoral divides between heritage practitioners and technological innovators, in order to debate remote access.

For more information visit www.inspace.ed.ac.uk

Ainmeil Thar Cheudan 2011 Final Programme posted.

The final programme for the  centenary celebration of Sorley MacLean’s life and work at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig June 15-18 2011 is now available at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s event website http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/A-Cholaiste/Naidheachdan/somhairle/clar-ama_en.html. The programme details a rich and distinguised list of poets, scholars, musicians, singers, and many friends and colleagues, coming together to celebrate Sorley’s life and work. The plenary speakers and academic paper abstracts are also detailed here in full.

On Wednesday the programme features a night of island music and poetry.  Thursday and Friday offer  two full days of  academic papers, panel discussions, readings, island film screening, and exhibitions. On Saturday 18th June, and in association with Urras Dualchas Ratharsair,  the island studies focus moves to Sorley’s  birthplace, the island of Raasay  for a full day of walks, talks, music and poetry. For specific details on how to book for this Raasay event please go to http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/A-Cholaiste/Naidheachdan/somhairle/raasay_en.html

Clàr-ama na Co-labhairt


Ainmeil Thar Cheudan

Comharrachadh Ceud Bliadhna bho rugadh Somhairle MacGill-Eain

Diciadain 15 –  Disathairne 18 Ògmhios 2011

Mar  chomharrachadh air ceud bliadhna bhon rugadh Somhairle MacGill-Eain (1911 –  1996), tha Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Ionad Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig agus an t-Ionad  Albannach airson Sgrùdaidhean Eilein aig Oilthigh Taobh Siar na h-Alba a’ toirt cuiridh dhuibh tighinn còmhla rinn aig comharrachadh de bheatha,  de  shaothair agus de  na dh’fhàg e mar dhìleab.Am measg nan urramach ionadail, nàiseanta is  eadar-nàiseanta a bhios a’ nochdadh ann, bidh Liz Lochhead, a chaidh a chur an  dreuchd o chionn ghoirid mar Bhàrd-molaidh na h-Alba agus Aonghas MacNeacail. Bidh cuideachd an t-Ollamh Douglas Gifford, Timothy  Neat, an t-Ollamh Máir Ní Annracháin agus Crìsdean MacIlleBhàin.

Gheibhear fuireach aig a’ Cholaiste airson  £275 le trì oidhcheannan, biadh agus dìnneir na co-labhairt sa phrìs. Cosgaidh  e £35 a bhith an làthair gach latha as aonais cosgais àite-fuirich agus tha  prìsean sònraichte ann do dh’oileanaich.

Ma tha sibh ag iarraidh àite a bhucadh aig  a’ cho-labhairt lìonaibh AM FOIRM AIR LOIDHNE seo a-steach no cuiribh fios gu  Sandra Byrne air 01471 888 000 no air post-d.

Remote Access to World Heritage Sites from St Kilda to Uluru 23-24 November 2011- Edinburgh

“I Know Where I’m Going”
Access to World Heritage Sites from St Kilda to Uluru
23-24 November 2011- Edinburgh

Call for Papers


This international conference will explore the potential and
challenges created by new technologies to develop high-quality, remote-access,
visitor experiences for UNESCO World Heritage Sites and
other sites of cultural, historical and natural significance. The conference has
three main objectives:
a-    To showcase the new
technologies available:
including the 3D laser scanning of St Kilda WHS  as
part of the Scottish Ten project to create exceptionally accurate digital models
of Scotland’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and others
worldwide, in order to better conserve and manage them (http://www.scottishten.org/).  Other forms of
digital mapping will also be demonstrated.
b-    To debate the benefits and
challenges these new technologies present.
This applies not only to issues
of preservation, conservation, interpretation but also to the benefits and
pitfalls of virtual access to sensitive sites and the economic benefits of
tourism promoted thus.
c-    To encourage site managers
– particularly within the UNESCO World
Heritage Sites network – to consider the benefits & impact these new
technologies could have for their own sites, allowing them to investigate these
further and clarify issues of acquisition, installation, costs
WE ARE NOW INVITING PAPERS which address the key following questions with regards to
remote access:
What are the most relevant trends and recent developments in remote access
technology? What are the special considerations for
different categories of heritage experiences (from underwater sites to open air
museums to historic houses/listed buildings)? What are the benefits and
disadvantages of remote viewing, and for whom?
How can technological innovation both support remote access and contribute to
conservation of all aspects of a heritage site, from the historic environment to
artefacts? When is remote access less sustainable? Who controls the ability to
view heritage sites and materials remote, and the content which is available to
How can a balance be achieved between tourism development and environmental
protection at heritage sites? Can the owners/custodians of a site benefit
financially from remote viewing? (e.g issues of data ownership, land rights and
intellectual property). Will remote viewing encourage physical tourism or
diminish it? 
How can remote access and remote access technologies contribute to formal and
informal Education about the sites?

       How can storytelling and other arts contribute
to remote access heritage interpretation?
(you can download the full call for papers
document at http://inspace.mediascot.org/beholder/iknowwhereimgoing):
Keynote speakers will include Dr Mechtild Rössler, Chief of
section Policy and Statutory Implementation Unit, UNESCO
World Heritage Centre.
you would like to present a paper addressing the themes of the
Conference, please submit an abstract. Abstracts should be submitted in
pdf format and be limited to 2 pages and 1,000 words (including title and author
information, but excluding references). The evaluation will be based on the
quality of the submission. Submissions and inquiries are through: rawhsc11@gmail.com . The deadline
for submissions is 3rd April 2011. On
submission of an abstract, authors should receive an email confirming receipt of
their submission.
To register your interest in attending the Conference
please contact :
Project Manager
Submission of title and
abstract:              3rd April, 2011
Notification of acceptance:
25th April, 2011
for early-bird registration:          30 June, 2011
deadline:                              11 November, 2011
Remote Access to World
Heritage Sites Conference:
23 & 24 November,
Sincerely,Isabelle Uny

Proiseact nan Ealan

Ainmeil Thar Cheudan: A Centenary Celebration of Sorley MacLean (1911-2011)

Ainmeal Thar Cheudan

A Centenary Celebration of Sorley MacLean (1911-2011)

Thursday 16 – Saturday 18 June 2011
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Isle of Skye

In commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Sorley MacLean (1911 – 1996) Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the Scottish Centre for Island Studies, Faculty of Business and Creative Industries, University of the West of Scotland invite you to join in a celebration of his life, work and legacy.

It is anticipated that this event will offer a range of academic and creative responses to Sorley’s cultural and political legacy with particular attention to his deep roots and referencing of island culture, history and experience. Furthermore, this proposed event will explore, with both established and more recently introduced scholars and artists, the significance and importance of Sorley MacLean within the wider context of the national culture of Scotland, the cultural terrain of the Highlands and Islands, and the cultural engagement of the 20th century Scottish left.

The academic focus will be a two day event structured around a selection of papers and discussion panels, as well as performance and creative practice activity detailing both Sorley’s own work and his inspiration to others.

In keeping with the internationalist perspectives that permeate Sorley’s own work, the event will be framed as an opportunity to offer an appreciation of what experiences and understanding of island life and culture, and of an island sense of place and dwelling, specifically but not exclusively in reference to Scotland, informed Sorley in his creative work and commentary.

Online Booking: Access  event website at http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/A-Cholaiste/Naidheachdan/somhairle/index_en.html


‘The Furthest Hebrides’: Critical reach from contested shores: Kathryn Burnett and Ray Burnett deliver to IGU 2010 Conference, island of Ven, Sweden

Finding Their Place: Islands in Social Theory

The Island of Ven, Sweden, 27–30 August, 2010

ABSTRACTS PARALLEL PAPER SESSION B1: Identity, culture, tradition and knowledge



 ‘The Furthest Hebrides’ : Critical reach from contested shores

Kathryn A Burnett & Ray Burnett

University of the West of Scotland, UK


Scotland’s islands are paradoxically peripheral yet conceptually central to an

understanding of the layered complexity of issues relating to land and identity in

contemporary 21 st  century Scotland. Through a specific focus on Scotland’s

western isles, this paper traces the authoring of the layered constructions and

reconstructions of space and place that has produced a dense and variegated

palimpsest; the process of the ‘making’ of the Hebrides. It examines visual and

documentary representations to draw out some of the issues of ‘belonging’ and

ownership, appropriation and dissemination, in the context of the nationalidentitarian

functions of culture, that are embedded in the complimentary and

contradictory ‘ways of seeing’ the contested terrain of island cultural landscape(s).

Through a grounded multi-disciplinary approach to the issues raised and the

exemplars elaborated on, the paper opens up several overlapping and inter-related

issues of concentric and conflicting identities, delineation of the field of cultural

discourse, the inscription of meaning and value and the production of cultural

landscapes, and the deeper processes of complicity, self colonialism and


The paper concludes by advocating that a detailed study of how these processes

of ‘making’ are mediated at local (island), national (Scottish) and supra-national

(UK) level opens up new channels for further research in the intricate waters of

the cultural dynamics of authorship, ownership, ‘belonging’ and power in the

politics of land and identity.

From the Hebrides to Herm


See images here of the trip to the island of Herm during the conference.  Compton MacKenzie lived on the island of  Herm from 1920-1923. See here for some additional images and details of his time on the island and neighbouring Jethou. http://www.ciss1950.org.uk/herm_postcards.html or  for some information on the tenants of Jethou, including MacKenzie, see this link http://www.faed.net/cfaed/jethou/jethou.htm

A co-authored paper (Ray Burnett and Kathryn A Burnett)  on  the legacy and influence Compton MacKenzie and other writers and film makers have had on the  iconography and representation of  Scotland’s Hebrides was delivered by Ray Burnett, Hon. Research Fellow, School of Creative and Cultural Industries,  to the SICRI 2010 ART AND ISLANDS ISLOMANIA CONFERENCE  conference in Guernsey.

SCIS Paper on Compton MacKenzie delivered to SICRI conference 2010


A co-authored paper (Ray Burnett and Kathryn A Burnett) was delivered by Ray Burnett on behalf of SCIS to the SICRI 2010 ART AND ISLANDS ISLOMANIA CONFERENCE  conference in Guernsey. The paper –  “Portaying the Hebrides: the irresistible lure and the irredeemable legacy” – offers a critical examination of the life and work of Compton Mackenzie in relation to the wider representation of islands.  The abstract for the paper is available below.  A version of this paper was delivered to the June 18th 2010 SCIS Research Meeting and Seminar, UWS. Thanks to colleagues for their comments.

From the 18th century to the present, the islands that lie off the western seaboard of Scotland, collectively known as the Hebrides, have been one of the foremost island groups in Europe to attract the attention of artists and to acquire a substantial volume of cultural representations of their landscape, environment, people and communities, in literature, music, song, the visual arts, photography and film. Restricting itself to artistic representations in literature and film this paper examines the formulation and the legacy of two recurring and influential tropes of cultural representation of these islands ─ the ‘Hebridean Other’ and ‘Solitude and Desertion’.

The literary prism for this close focus study is provided by the life and work of Compton Mackenzie, the islomanic inspiration for D. H. Lawrence’s short story, ‘The Man Who Loved Islands’. MacKenzie’s lifelong attraction to islands involved successive periodic residency on acquired island properties from Capri in Italy, to Herm and Jethou in the Channel Islands and the Shiants and Barra in the Hebrides. The screen adaptations of MacKenzie’s Hebridean novels and the acclaimed Hebridean classics of the Michael Powell / Emeric Pressberger partnership provide the filmic prism.

The paper discusses the twin tropes of the ‘Hebridean Other’ and ‘Solitude and Desertion’ with specific reference to key iconic cultural representations, the novel/film adaptation Whisky Galore! (1947/1949 and the films The Edge of the World (1937) and I Know Where I’m Going (1945). It reflects on the enduring consequences of this cultural legacy for the island locations and communities with which they are associated, Barra, Eriskay, St Kilda, Mull and its adjacent isles in relation to the cultural referential framework they created. And it concludes by tracing the far-reaching and continuing reverberations in relation to ongoing issues relating to the cultural and symbolic capital of the islands.