A Taste of Trotternish celebrates Skye bard’s 250th anniversary

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The life and work of Màiri Mhòr nan Òran will be celebrated this month in a two-day community gathering – Blas Thròndairnis (a taste of Trotternish) – being organised by Ionad Thròndairnis.

The organisation, which is working to establish a new cultural centre in Flodigarry, is holding the event at Talla Stafainn (Staffin Community Hall) on Friday 19 and Saturday November 20.

Màiri Mhòr nan Òran (Big Mary of the Songs/Mary Macpherson) was a nurse and prolific songwriter from Skye, known for her powerful songs of protest, praise, exile and hope.

She championed crofters in the struggle for tenure of their land and her poetry celebrates many aspects of Gaelic culture at the time, as well as shinty – the sport of the Gaels.

In addition to presentations on Màiri Mhòr from Dr Priscilla Scott, Professor Alan Riach and Cailean Maclean, Anne Martin and Myles Campbell will bring to life some of the songs from the Trotternish area and the people who composed them.

Ionad Thròndairnis will also be collaborating with the Blas Festival which takes place at the same time and, as part of the gathering, there will be a Community Cèilidh on Friday November 19, with the 2021 Blas Commission, Buaidh nam Ban, featuring Kim Carnie of Mànran and Staran forming part of the evening.

Margaret Nicolson, chairperson of Ionad Thròndairnis said: ‘2021 marks 200 years since the birth of Màiri Mhòr nan Òran and we think it fitting that this milestone be celebrated in our inaugural gathering which, we hope, will become a regular event. It is also important to us to ensure songs from Trotternish continue to be passed on.

‘We published a book of some of the songs a few years ago and have initiated a community-based collection project, Guthan na Tìre (Voices of the Land), which will result in a digital archive of songs, stories, place names and so on being accessible in the new centre, to which the presentations from this gathering will contribute.’

‘We are looking forward to welcoming people to Trotternish for this unique event which should be of interest to anyone with a liking for Gaelic songs and poetry. We also hope it will mark the bringing together again of the community which has been lacking, with good reason, over the past years and a half. We will be taking all necessary precautions to ensure people can feel safe in attending the event.’

The Ionad Thròndairnis Community Gathering, Blas Thròndairnis, has been made possible with funding from Maoin nan Ealan Gàidhlig, a Creative Scotland fund specifically to support Gaelic arts projects.