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Tribute Paid to Renowned Gaelic Poet, Sorley MacLean

Leading academics, poets and artists from Scotland and Ireland gathered on the Isle of Skye this week to celebrate the life and work of the renowned Gaelic poet, Sorley MacLean.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, in partnership with the School of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of the West Scotland, marked one hundred years since the poet’s birth in 1911 with a series of lectures, readings and musical tributes celebrating the life and work of MacLean.

Opening the proceedings, Professor Boyd Robertson, Principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, paid tribute to the poet, who was a member of the original Board of Trustees and the first Writer in Residence at the College, and offered a special welcome to members of the MacLean family attending the event. Quoting Irish poet Seumas Heaney, a great friend and admirer of MacLean’s, Professor Robertson said:’It is often late, by chance, and with sudden delight, that we find those poets who later become vital to us.

‘Over the next two days we will hear from a wealth of distinguished speakers and artists not only of the eminent poet but of the historian, the genealogist, the educationalist, the shinty enthusiast and proponent of the Gaelic language and culture.’

Anne Gifford, Head of the School of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of the West of Scotland added:’We are delighted to be hosting this event together with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in honour of the contribution of Sorley MacLean to Scotland, highlighted here through scholarship, poetry, music, art and film. 

‘We look forward to sharing our experiences of the next few days with a wider international audience by creating an accessible online legacy for the many people who have and will be inspired by MacLean and his work.’

Key speakers included Douglas Gifford, Emeritus Professor at the University of Glasgow, Scottish writer and poet, Christopher Whyte, Professor of History of Scottish Art at the University of Dundee, Murdo MacDonald and Professor Máire Ní Annracháin from University College Dublin.

Director Timothy Neat presented his much admired film’˜Somhairle MacGill-Eain: A Bhàrdachd agus A Shealladh’™, the 1986 BBC Alba Gaelic version (sub-titled) of‘˜Hallaig: the poetry and landscape of Sorley MacLean’ and five new publications were launched, including’˜Dàin do Shomhairle’™, a collection of works from writers inspired by MacLean, commissioned by the Sorley MacLean Trust and the Scottish Poetry Library. 

Distinguished Skye poet Aonghas MacNeacail read a number of poems both written and inspired by MacLean, and invited writer and poet, Pádraig de Buis, to join him reading MacLean’s’˜Hallaig’ in English, Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic.  MacNeacail said:’By standing against extinction of the language, and placing its creativity on the same plane as the international literature of his time, Sorley MacLean achieved renewal of the Gaelic language while raising our literature to global significance.’

The event was sponsored by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Morrison Construction, Scottish Islands Writers Network, Creative Scotland, Scotland’s Islands, the Gaelic Books Council, Highland Council, Royal Celtic Society, Pròiseact nan Ealan and Clan Donald Skye. 

Filming and recordings from the event will be available soon on the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig website

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