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From Carloway with love

02/2020

Students at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig were recently gifted a beautiful length of Harris tweed by the Carloway Mill in Lewis for use in Gaelic waulking songs (òrain luaidh).

As Decker Forrest, Programme Leader for the BA (Hons) Gaelic and Traditional Music degree, explained: “Singing is a regular event at the College, whether in Gaelic song classes led by Christine Primrose or in less formal gatherings and singing clubs that meet weekly. Waulking songs feature regularly and it seemed to me that if students could participate in the physical actions of these songs it would add another layer of interest and give them a better understanding of how they would have originally been sung.”

Obtaining a suitably sufficient length of tweed presented the College with a financial challenge and so Decker decided to write to Donald John MacArthur at the Carloway Mill, explaining what they wanted to do and asking whether there was any way they might be able to help.

“About a week later, a large parcel arrived at the College with a lovely note from Donald John. We had a wee celebration shortly thereafter and sang a few songs with the tweed, led by students Josie Duncan, Saffron Hanvidge and, of course, our own Head of Gaelic Song, Christine Primrose.”  

Christine remarked, “Gaelic song brings those who are interested in Gaelic language and culture together in a way that nothing else can. Using the tweed makes people feel more connected with the songs being sung and helps take some of the focus off the actual singing, which makes less confident singers more relaxed and willing to participate.”

It is particularly fitting that the tweed should come from Carloway – the birth place of Christine herself – and both staff and students at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig are extremely grateful to the Carloway Mill for their generosity.