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Museum nan Eilean and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have received funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Museums Galleries Scotland to employ a maritime heritage project officer as part of this year’s Coasts and Waters 2020 initiative.
Shona Maclellan has been employed as the ‘Dualchas na Mara’ project officer and her remit will be creating a programme of activities that are connected to the coasts and waters.
The year long project will focus on the maritime heritage of the islands and how important it was in history and still is for communities today.
Bòrd na Gàidhlig gave £25,000 support towards the project and another £4,082 came from Museums Galleries Scotland.
With this funding a programme of activities with the Gaelic language at its heart will be developed and will showcase the culture, language and heritage connected to the sea.
Shona is from South Uist with strong family connections to boat builders and fishermen, as well as being brought up by the sea on the island. As part of her degree with the University of the Highlands and Islands, she has been researching the history of pirates and Vikings in the Outer Hebrides.
‘There are so many Gaelic stories and songs about boats, seals and mermaids in Gaelic culture, much of it forgotten or locked away somewhere,’ explained Shona.
‘This project is a great opportunity to unlock those stories but to also explore other maritime heritage such as lighthouses, ship wrecks, ferries and fishing.
‘Through the activities programme, we will get to hear those stories again, re-learn old methods such as rope knots and record the placenames around our coastlines. Although the post is based in Stornoway, many of the activities will happen throughout the islands.’
From the herring trade to the kelp industry, the islanders have always made a living from the sea, and although times have changed, many still rely on the sea for their livelihoods today.
Caitriona MacCuish, Museum nan Eilean development officer, stated: ‘This is a really interesting and important project for Museum nan Eilean. We are very grateful to the funders because it allows us to create a programme of activities about the heritage of the sea for this national Year of Coasts and Waters.
‘The activities will not only be within our museums walls but also outdoors and throughout the whole of the Outer Hebrides.’