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On a cold winter’s night in Stornoway, I waited outside the Caberfeidh Hotel, wondering what to do. I was working for the Stornoway Gazette, the ‘Only Newspaper Printed in the Outer Hebrides‘ according to its masthead, and I was the Island’s soul dedicated newspaper photographer. What’s more I was onto a scoop. I’d had a tip-off from the Manager of the hotel, that a, ‘big band from the south’ was staying with them.
He’d told me the band’s name as if it really should mean something to me. Oh ‘Ultravox‘ I said knowledgeably when he called with his hot scoop, wow. I think I’d heard of them, just, but I around that time I was a little in the musical wilderness. Anyway, I went into the bar to scope the place out and got into conversation with a cool looking leather jacketed Glaswegian. A few pints later, I confided my mission to him and asked if he knew the band?
I suppose I’d been expecting someone fairly outlandish and aloof to be the leader of this big band from ‘the south’ but when my new drinking buddy told me he thought I might be looking for him, I was chuffed. This was Midge Ure. I was even even more delighted when Midge asked us on the band’s video shoot the following day.
These pictures were taken at Callanish Stones the day after my meeting with the band. I can’t remember the date exactly but it was mid winter ’84 and bitterly cold. The band recorded the video for ‘One Small Day’ which was a single released from the album ‘Lament’.
The stones are called Tursachan Chalanais in their Gaelic name and are an ancient Megalithic site built around 3000 years BC. They lie on the west coast of the island of Lewis.
The Feis movement was founded in the early eighties in response to a resurgence of interest in traditional music. At that time I worked as a freelance photographer and film maker in the Highlands and Islands. Then it was impossible not to be drawn to what was happening at the various Feisean that were springing up all over Scotland.
The first Feis I went to was in Barra in the summer of 1988. As I wandered from class to class in Castlebay school, it was clear that there was something fundamental happening to traditional music. Fiddles screeched, drums beat, children danced – an energy I’d never witnessed before was being unleashed.
It wasn’t just at the children’s Feis, but all around, amongst the tutors and those attending adult Feisean and events: there was a real feeling of optimism.
Over the years since then, a hard core of dedicated enthusiasts from all walks of life around Scotland have ensured that many of the wee ones of the Feis movement have become the big names of the traditional music scene in Scotland and much further afield. The Feis movement is a shining example of people working togther in communities to produce something far larger than the sum of the parts.
These children are playing at a Gaelic medium school in Carnish, North Uist, which lies in the middle of the Hebrides.
Although there are some schools where Gaelic is taught like Carnish, it is not compulsory in Scotland to teach children the language. There are many who see Gaelic as the native language of Scotland, but it hasn’t got the same official status as either Irish or Welsh have in there own countries.
Many parents of children in the Gaelic medium schools that do exist in Scotland are not Gaelic speakers themselves, but prefer that their children learn the language.
An Diugh means ‘today’ in Scottish Gaelic. Some say the writing is in the sand for the language.
Gaels speak of their unique language and culture. But the Hebrides are also populated by many ‘white settlers’. These incomers have been attracted by jobs, cheap property, low crime, fresh air, the surf, empty beaches, or to just escape. To these new locals, Gaelic culture is as valid as any other and can sometimes be exclusive.
Trying to make Gaelic appealing in a modern context is an industry in its own right. This picture was taken for Proiseact nan Ealan, (The National Gaelic Arts Agency) to draw people’s attention to the perilous state of the language.