Carragheen

Carragheen is a common and widely foraged seaweed in Gaelic Scotland, with a name that tells the forager where it can be found.

Leugh ann an Gàidhlig

Cairgein (also given as Carraigean) is a special seaweed in a Scottish Gaelic context as it is still foraged in a traditional manner, being generally used to make a pudding or jelly. The name derives from carraig ‘rock’ – the very substrate on which the small marine alga grows – although the modern Scottish Gaelic name might have been influenced by the English form carragheen which derives ultimately from the Irish Gaelic carraigín ‘small rock’ (it is also referred to in English as ‘Irish Moss’). Despite its popularity as a foraged food, the current author has not located a reference to it in the Gaelic landscape. Sgeir a’ Charraigein on the west coast of Mull, opposite the island of Ulva, at first appearance looks like ‘the skerry of the carragheen’ (and it is likely the species grows there) but an early Ordnance Survey map shows that the skerry is in fact named for a nearby sea-pinnacle called An Carraigean. It is ‘the skerry of the small rock’!

Sgeir a’ Charraigein off the west coast of Mull, despite initial appearance, is not named for the seaweed species but for an adjacent isolated sea-rock ‘An Carraigean’. The author has so far failed to locate a ‘carragheen’ place-name in Scotland but he is still looking!
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

It is only at the lowest tides that enough carragheen is revealed to allow its collection in quantity. It is an attractive, diminutive weed, reaching around 15cm in length but usually smaller. It is dichotomously branched with squarish tips to the fronds, it bears no air bladders, and it varies in colour from bright green to dark purplish-brown, depending on depth and habitat. Sometimes found growing on relatively bare rock, it can also be somewhat hidden within beds of larger alga such as kelps. As with other fixed marine algae, it is most sustainably harvested by being cut with scissors rather than by detaching the entire plant from its substrate. Be gentle with seaweeds!

Carragheen as it appears (at low tide) growing on a rock © Roddy Maclean

The Gaelic name cairgein actually includes two species – carragheen (Chondrus crispus) and false carragheen (Mastocarpus stellatus), the latter having pointed ends to its fronds and a slightly warty texture, but this need not bother the forager, as both species can be used in the same way.

Carragheen (Chondrus crispus). © Roddy Maclean

The traditional way of dealing with carragheen in Gaelic Scotland is to lay the freshly-cut plants out in the sun and allow it to bleach (the species is best collected in the spring or early summer when its Vitamin A content is at its maximum). It is recommended that it be rained upon three times (the Scottish weather usually obliges!) and it is said that the best surface to dry it on is a clover lawn, as the plant will absorb sweetness from the clover flowers, although it is not clear if this has ever been scientifically validated!

Semi-bleached carragheen. Exposure to sunlight dries, bleaches and preserves the seaweed © Roddy Maclean

The bleached, dried carragheen is then stored in a dry, dark place in a hessian sack and can be used in the winter months. Some people even store it for a couple of years before using it. The dried seaweed is boiled and sieved to produce a relatively flavourless, white or light grey gelatinous pudding, rather like a blancmange, which is easily digested and was traditionally used in the Gàidhealtachd (and beyond) as a recuperative food for people suffering from stomach complaints. The flavour comes from the additives which are only restricted by the cook’s imagination – cinnamon and nutmeg are commonly used ingredients – and various sweet sauces are often drizzled over the pudding, topped with fresh fruit (raspberries are favoured if they are in season). What emerges is a foodstuff with no noticeable maritime flavour.

Get the recipe for this Hebridean carrageen pudding with rose water and cardamom from the Food and Forage Hebrides blog.

Perhaps surprisingly for such a seemingly innocuous and cryptic alga, carragheen has not been without its controversy. The extract, known as carrageenan, which is used as a thickener and gelling agent in products such as ice cream, cottage cheese and various desserts – as well as in infant formula – has been promoted as a vegan-friendly alternative to gelatin, which originates in animals. However, some scientists have suggested that carrageenan is inflammatory and even toxic within the digestive tract, although their findings have been rejected by other scientists and by regulatory agencies in a number of countries.

Cairgein has an alternative and rather poetic Gaelic name – màthair an duilisg ‘the mother of the dulse’ as it was seen as being the precursor to a slightly larger red seaweed which grows in similar locations and is still widely used in Scotland – dulse. In fact, this is the only name recorded for the species in the Gairloch area of Wester Ross by Roy Wentworth who compiled a comprehensive dictionary of the local dialect in the modern era. While Eriskay priest Father Allan McDonald (Maighstir Ailein) recorded only carraigean as a Gaelic form, he described the species as ‘a short sea-weed like dilse growing on same rocks as dilse’.

Dulse (or ‘dilse’ if you prefer) is another delicious seaweed beloved of the Gaels. But, for this blogger – as with the dried, bleached carragheen sitting in its hessian sack – the delicious dulse will have to wait for another occasion to be revealed!

This blog was written by Inverness-based writer, broadcaster and storyteller Roddy (Ruairidh) Maclean, whose work highlights the connections between the Gaelic language and Scotland’s environment.

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An Cairgein – sàr-fheamainn

ʼS iomadh duine a bhios a’ cruinneachadh a’ chairgein air cladaichean creagach mar a bhiodh ar sinnsearan o shean.

Read in English

ʼS e an cairgein (no carraigean) feamainn shònraichte do na Gàidheil. Bidh feadhainn fhathast ga chruinneachadh airson silidh no slaman a dhèanamh. Tha ainm a’ tighinn bho na carraigean air a bheil e a’ fàs, ged a tha dùil gur dòcha gun tug an t-ainm Beurla (a thàinig bhon Ghaeilge carraigín) buaidh air an riochd Ghàidhlig. Ann am Beurla, bithear cuideachd a’ gabhail ‘Irish Moss’ air. Ged a tha Gàidheil na h-Alba air a bhith ga chleachdadh o chian nan cian, chan eil e a’ nochdadh ann an ainmean-àite. Bha dùil aig an ùghdar gun robh Sgeir a’ Charraigein far cladach an iar Mhuile mu choinneimh Eilein Ulbha ga ainmeachadh, ach tha sgrùdadh de sheann mhapa a’ sealltainn dhuinn gu bheil an sgeir ainmichte airson carraig bheag ‘An Carraigean’ a tha ri a taobh.

Tha seann mhapa a’  sealltainn dhuinn nach eil Sgeir a’ Charraigein air taobh an iar Mhuile ag ainmeachadh a’ chairgein ach clach air a bheil ‘An Carraigean’. Chan eil an t-ùghdar eòlach air àite sam bith far a bheil an cairgein ainmichte air clàran na h-Alba. A bheil sibhse?
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

ʼS ann dìreach nuair a tha tràigh mhòr ann a tha cairgein gu leòr ri fhaicinn air a’ chladach airson a rùrachd. ʼS e feamainn bheag, tarraingeach a th’ innte a’ bhios a’ ruigsinn 15cm ann am fad, ged a tha e mar as trice nas lugha na sin. Tha na meuran gobhlach le cinn car sgueathar orra, chan eil builgeanan èadhair air na frondaichean agus bidh caochladh dhathan air an lus, eadar uaine agus donn-phurpaidh dorch, a rèir àrainn agus doimhneachd. Uaireannan, bidh e a’ fàs gu fosgailte air carraigean ach faodaidh e a bhith am falach am measg feamainn nas motha, leithid stamh (liadhag). Mar a tha leis na feamainn eile a tha ceangailte ris a’ ghrunnd, tha e nas glice a bhith gan gearradh le siosar seach a bhith air an tarraing buileach glan bhon creig. Air ur socair le feamainn!

An Cairgein mar a chithear e a’ fàs air carraig © Ruairidh MacIlleathain

Tha ‘an cairgein’ a’ gabhail a-staigh dà ghnè – an cairgein fhèin (Chondrus crispus) agus an cairgein brèige (Mastocarpus stellatus). Air a’ chairgein bhrèige tha cinn nam frondaichean car stobach agus tha rùsg rudeigin foinneach orra. Chan eil sin a’ dèanamh diofar don neach-rùrachd, ge-tà, oir faodar an dà ghnè a chur gu feum anns an dearbh dhòigh.

An cairgein © Ruairidh MacIlleathain

ʼS e an dòigh nòsach a th’ aig na Gàidheil airson an cairgein ullachadh na lusan a chur a-mach airson tiormachadh agus blianadh sa ghrèin. ʼS e toiseach an t-samhraidh an t-àm as fheàrr airson a chruinneachadh, nuair a tha an ìre de Bheothamain A aig a h-àirde ann. Thathar a’ moladh gum bi an lus air a fhliuchadh trì tursan le frasan (a bhios mar as trice furasta gu leòr ann an samhradh Albannach!) agus thathar ag ràdh cuideachd gur ann air rèidhlean seamraig as fheàrr a thachras sin oir gheibh an fheamainn milseachd bho fhlùraichean na seamraig (ged nach eil e soilleir a bheil luchd-saidheans air a leithid a dhearbhadh fhathast!)

An cairgein, agus e leth-ghealaichte an dèidh a bhith fo sholas na grèine airson grunn làithean no seachdainean, © Ruairidh MacIlleathain

Bithear a’ gleidheadh a’ chairgein ghealaichte ann an àite tioram, dorch ann am poca heisein agus faodar a chleachdadh thar mìosan a’ gheamhraidh. Bidh cuid ga stòradh airson suas ri dà bliadhna mus cleachd iad e. Bithear a’ goil a’ chairgein agus ga chriathadh, agus gheibhear slaman bàn no liath a ghabhas ithe gu furasta agus a bh’ air a chleachdadh gu traidiseanta mar bhiadh dhaibhsan a bha a’ fulang le droch stamag. Chan eil blas mòr sam bith air a’ chairgein – bidh am blas a’ tighinn bhon stuth a chuireas an còcaire ris. Gu tric, bithear a’ cleachdadh caineal no cnò-mheannt agus bithear a’ dòrtadh sabhs milis thairis air a’ mhìlsean, agus measan air a mhuin (sùbhaichean craoibhe ma tha iad rin lorg). Gu h-annasach, chan eil blas na mara air a’ bhiadh, ged as ann don t-sàl a bhuineas an fheamainn.

Tha an reasabaidh airson mìlsean cairgein le uisge-ròis is càrdamon air bloga Food and Forage Hebrides.

ʼS dòcha gum bi e na iongnadh airson lus-mara cho beag agus falaichte, ach tha connspaid air èirigh mun stuth a thig às a’ chairgein – carrageenan – a th’ air a chleachdadh airson biadh a dhèanamh nas tighe – leithid uachdar-reòite, gruth, mìlsean agus biadh do leanaban. Tha cuid a tha measail air biadh bho lusan air a roghnachadh thairis air gelatin – a th’ air a dhèanamh de stuth bho ainmhidhean. Ge-tà, tha cuid de luchd-saidheans a’ cumail a-mach gun toir carrageenan droch bhuaidh air a’ chaolan ann an daoine, agus eadhon gu bheil e puinnseanta, ged a tha luchd-saidheans eile a’ dol às àicheadh sin, agus tha buidhnean-dìon bìdh ann an grunn dùthchannan ag ràdh gu bheil e sàbhailte.

Tha ainm Gàidhlig eile air a’ chairgein – màthair an duilisg – oir bha na seann daoine dhen bheachd gum biodh an duileasg – feamainn dearg eile a tha ri lorg air an aon phàirt dhen chladach – a’ fàs às. Gu dearbh, ʼs e sin an t-aon ainm a chlàr Roy Wentworth airson an fhaclair aige de dhualchainnt sgìre Gheàrrloch ann an Taobh Siar Rois. Chlàr Maighstir Ailean, Sagart Èirisgeigh, e mar carraigean ach sgrìobh e gu bheil e ‘coltach ris an duileasg agus a’ fàs air na dearbh chreagan air am bi an duileasg a’ fàs’.

ʼS e an duileasg feamainn bhlasta eile air a bheil na Gàidheil cianail measail. Ach, airson a’ bhlogair seo – cleas a’ chairgein thiormaichte a tha na phoca heisein – feumaidh iomradh air an duileasg a bhith air a ghleidheadh gu latha eile!

Bha am blog seo air a sgrìobhadh le Ruairidh MacIlleathain, a tha na sgrìobhadair, craoladair, eòlaiche-nàdair is sgeulaiche, stèidhichte ann an Inbhir Nis.

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Art on the Bog: Flanders Moss and Forth Valley Art Beat

Today’s blog is written by our Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve (NNR) manager, David Pickett. He describes a fantastic art event taking place on the reserve, as part of the Forth Valley Art Beat, Central Scotland’s Open Studios and Art Event.

Artist Fiona Clasen’s artwork at Flanders Moss, as part of Forth Valley Artbeat

“How about spending the afternoon visiting a bog?”. For many people this would not represent an entertaining afternoon – but the chance to go to an art gallery for the afternoon might be much more appealing.

And so in this way, the Flanders Moss bog gallery was born. With the lure of fine art, many people who might never normally have set foot on a bog have now visited the Moss and enjoyed the art on the reserve’s boardwalk and viewing tower.

This month, the NNR team have just hung their fourth exhibition as part of the Forth Valley Artbeat  – the Forth valley open studio and art event. The previous two exhibitions have showcased the results of projects with local schools, with one focusing on curlews and the other on botanical illustrations of bog plants.

But the art this year is a bit different. Last autumn and spring, working within lockdown restrictions, the NNR team took five intrepid local artists for a hike far out onto Flanders Moss – to places that very few people manage to get to due to the difficult terrain.

Graham Tristram’s Crossing Flanders VI, part of the art exhibition at Flanders Moss until 16 August.

The idea was for the artists to experience and bring the inaccessible middle of the moss to visitors with their resulting artwork. Despite the challenges of hard walking, long days, not many dry places to sit and a landscape with less structure than most, the artists rose to the challenge and produced some fantastic works, each illustrating the extreme landscape of Flanders with their own take on the colours, setting and feel of this special place.

Once the art works were completed, the pictures were copied, laminated to take the weather, framed and placed on the boardwalk or in the viewing tower. Showing the artwork close to its origins and in the open air enables each piece to have a a wonderful effect – quite different from if you viewed the artwork indoors.

The viewing tower at Flanders Moss, where some of the artwork is displayed – as well as a stunning view!

The bog gallery will be open for all to see until Monday, 16 August. If you visit to view the art work, don’t forget to look out for some of the bog inhabitants at the same time. Sundews, lizards and dragonflies can all be seen while walking on the boardwalk. But if you take friends, perhaps just tell them they are visiting an art gallery!

To follow the happenings at Flanders Moss NNR and other NatureScot Central Scotland NNRs, read the Stirling NNRs blog at https://2bogsaswampandsomeislands.wordpress.com/ 

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On a hide to nothing…how to remove a bird hide from the middle of a wetland.

Our NatureScot student placement scheme provides great opportunities for recent graduates to get invaluable work experience that puts their new skills into practice.

Countryside Management graduate Fraser Wilson continues his series of posts about his work as a National Nature Reserve Assistant, helping to maintain and improve these special locations for the many thousands of visitors they receive each year…

We recently made use the dry weather to remove two old bird hides from Caerlaverock NNR, ready for the new ones being built.

This is “Holland’s hide”, a fairly square edged bird hide with glass windows and flat roof. Built in sections, this was the easier of the two hides to dismantle. Getting it off the reserve however was another story!

The hide dismantled in to six large walled sections, a stack of decking wood floor and trim, along with a whole lot of corrugated asphalt roofing sheets and windows. The weight of each section was too much to lift safely between two people across 600+ metres of boardwalk to the trailer, and travelling back and forth with just a handful of timber at a time was not practical. We needed a better solution.

Thought of by the reserve team, and built with repurposed castors, we managed to create a sort of heavy duty trolley, helping save us so much time and effort in getting the various parts of the hide off the reserve. 

The frame of the trolly consists of two sleepers from the base of the hide bolted to boards which have the castors fitted underneath. Two castors spin freely to help give us steering as some of the boardwalk sections have tight turning. You can see from the picture above just a small section of the boardwalk we needed to get the hide out ascross. A long way to lift such a large amount of heavy timber!

We loaded up the trolly with three large sections at a time then rathched strapped them down to prevent them coming loose. We then took turns pushing and pulling the trolly across the length of the boardwalk to the trailer. We did around five of six loads like this before we managed to clear the site of all the various parts. 

During one of our runs we spotted this common toad (Bufo bufo) at the edge of the boardwalk. Although a common species around most of Scotland, It’s always nice to see wildlife about when out on the reserves.

After a tidy up of all the tools and loose rubbish, we were done. We decided to keep the original foundation posts in place in case the new hide can be built atop of them. If not, we will come in and chainsaw them away to tidy them up.

I slept well after this, thats for sure, and I went home aching from muscles I never knew I had but it was another great job to get done and be part of. Well worth the effort. 

I am looking forward to what the new hides bring. This one is being replaced by a hide a whole metre higher than the current base, helping elevate the position from which visitors can see some of the many species around the reserve. As a team, we actually frequently use this area to carry out or WeBS (Wetland Bird Surveying) surveys. A new, more practical hide for our own use too could be very handy, especially in such an exposed location where winds and rain during surveys can be……interesting.

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Learning how to build a boardwalk at Caerlaverock

Our NatureScot student placement scheme provides great opportunities for recent graduates to get invaluable work experience that puts their new skills into practice.

Countryside Management graduate Fraser Wilson continues his series of posts about his work as a National Nature Reserve Assistant, helping to maintain and improve these special locations for the many thousands of visitors they receive each year…

Improving the initial piece of boardwalk that leads visitors from the merse path to the boardwalk loop at Caerlaverock NNR was a job we’d been meaning to do for a while. The issue with the existing piece was that visitors tended to come off the grass bank onto the board where there is no anti-slip mesh or gripper strips. We could have just re gripped this area but there would still have been a large gap between the bank and the boards that we felt needed fixing to avoid anyone slipping or tripping.

The photo above shows the board walk in situ before we did anything to it. The first step was to remove the existing wire mesh, top boards, and anti-weed membrane below. We then removed all existing posts as they were rotten.

This exposed a big muddy ditch, highlighting the importance of having a suitable board walk here for people to safely cross.

Next, we placed the stingers roughly where we wanted them to go. Once happy with the levelling and placement, we knocked in six posts, cut them to the correct height, and then bolted the stringers to them to make a nice solid frame. 

We then placed all the board walk boards and screwed them in place before laying down a length of weld mesh that we pinned down with galvanised u-nails. This helps create a rough footing for people to walk across, without which the boardwalk would become extremely slippery.

The photos above show the finished job 🙂 It is a job that I am really happy to have been a part of. I’ve helped relocate old pieces of boardwalk to new areas on other reserves, but I’d never actually helped build one from scratch. It was a great learning experience.

To top the job off, the weather was incredible and the amount of bird life that was one the reserve was amazing. It was probably the warmest day of the year at the time, and a nice hint to what summer might bring!

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Stones of Inverness

Stones with special names and stories – in and around the Highland capital – are among the treasures highlighted in a new book published by NatureScot.

Leugh ann an Gàidhlig

As the author of the recently published ‘Place-Names of Inverness and Surrounding Area’, I admit to finding it difficult to identify the most interesting or remarkable toponyms (out of more than 570 in the book) in this part of Scotland – my own home for many years. Nevertheless, I have chosen to highlight a handful of place-names that include the Gaelic element clach ‘stone’. A bodach once famously said – ‘if only the stones could speak, what stories they would tell’. Well, sometimes they do speak to us through their names and the traditions connected to them. Mere lumps of rock they might be, but they have borne witness to the comings and goings of people over many centuries and they can remind us of who our ancestors were and, to some extent, who we are today.

The area covered in the book consists of a rectangle of country centred on Inverness, ranging from Kirkhill in the west to Ardersier in the east, and running south from the Moray Firth to beyond Abriachan and including most of Loch Duntelchaig. In terms of toponymy, the whole area, including Inverness, is dominated by Gaelic. In terms of history, one pivotal event stands out, and I encountered it repeatedly in my researches – the Battle of Culloden in April 1746.

Clach an Airm

Of course, there are many stones on the battlefield of Culloden, some of which mark clan graves – and there is the famous roadside Cumberland Stone upon which the eponymous duke is reputed to have stood while observing the mayhem and slaughter. However, it is a shoulder-height stone in Strathnairn – unmarked, untracked and now surrounded by coniferous forest – that for me (finding it on an atmospherically quiet, misty day) provided the most powerful memento of that awful battle. It is Clach an Airm, locally translated as ‘the stone of the arms’, which reputedly received its name from being visited by members of Clan Chattan in order to sharpen their swords before joining the Jacobite army at Culloden. 

Clach Cailleach nam Muc

There are two other remarkable stones in Strathnairn, both of which have notable stories attached to them. The first is Clach Cailleach nam Muc ‘the stone of the old woman of the pigs’ near Achvaneran which is reputed to be the site of the death of a woman who was famous for travelling with her pigs and for being eaten by them (although a charitable interpretation is that she became pig-food only after dying of natural causes). It is likely that the cailleach was a native of Stratherrick who lived in the 19th century, and who would walk her pigs to market in Inverness, taking nightly shelter under the stone which sits above the local farms in a birchwood on a rocky hill.

The third Strathnairn stone in the book has a much older heritage, if oral tradition is to be believed. It is Clach na Brataich ‘the stone of the flag or banner’ and, unlike the other examples, it is not natural but has been heavily worked by human hand. Roundish and flat with a hole in the middle and appearing like an oversized and unfinished millstone, it sits near the southern end of Loch Ashie – a location which is pertinent to its name, for in oral tradition it is regarded as the anchor point for a flagpole which carried the banner of the forces of the Fianna during their bloody battle against the Scandinavian prince, Ashie. The history, of course, is highly suspect (the legendary heroes known as the Fianna roamed the Gaelic lands of Scotland and Ireland centuries before the Vikings appeared on these shores), but the oral tradition persists, and there are reports of ghostly soldiers belonging to opposing armies being seen in the vicinity of Loch Ashie even in modern times.

Clach na Brataich

Beyond Strathnairn, to the north, another fascinating stone is Clach an Àbain ‘the stone of the backwater or silted-up channel’, which sits in glorious isolation in the middle of Petty Bay. Its claim to fame rests on it being moved more than 200 metres by an unseen hand on the 20th of February 1799 (its original and subsequent positions being marked on old Ordnance Survey maps). Not only that, but the occurrence had been reputedly predicted years before by the minister at Petty, the Rev. John Morrison, who had the dà-shealladh ‘second sight’. Was the translocation an act of God or was the unseen hand a sheet of ice in bitterly cold weather that picked up the stone and moved it seawards with the ebbing tide and a roaring southerly ‘hurricane’?!

To the west of the Ness, there are also stones which are famous in the history of the town of Inverness. One is Clachnahagaig, originally east of the river and removed during the building of the Caledonian Canal, which involved diverting the river eastwards. While the original stone no longer exists, its ‘replacement’ – a carved stone marker – still referred to by anglers as the ‘Clachnahagaig Stone’ – lies between the river and the Caledonian Canal close to Torvean and marks the southern extent of the town’s (public) fishings on the Ness. The salmon fishing rights of the townsfolk were confirmed by royal charter in 1591, a document in which Clachnahagaig is named. The original Gaelic is unclear – it might be Clach na h-Eagaig ‘the stone of the small notch’ but other recorded forms challenge that option. 

Clach an Àbain

The old village of Clachnaharry, now at the northern extremity of the Caledonian Canal, is also named for a stone, but its meaning is likewise contested. Some favour Clach na h-Aire ‘the watch stone’ – as it was a location to keep watch for incursions into Inverness from the north, but the earliest record is that of the Rev. James Fraser in the 17th century Wardlaw Manuscript who claimed it to be Clach na h-Aithrigh ‘the repentance stone’, a place for sinners’ pennance when Catholicism still held sway.

But perhaps it is fitting that the last mention of the clach names in the book is of an ancient stone in the very heart of Inverness itself. Sitting outside the Town House, once the nerve-centre of local government in the Highland Capital, is Clach na Cùdainn ‘the stone of the tub’, at one time considered to be the single most important artefact which claimed the affections, and represented the identity, of Invernessians. To some it was Inverness’s version of the palladium of Troy that kept the Greek city safe. Originally situated closer to the river, the flat, smooth stone was a location where the women of the town ‘were wont in ancient days to rest their water pails in passing to and from the river’ and was thus a focal point for socialising and exchanging news and gossip. Its name (in the original Gaelic form rather than the anglicised ‘Clachnacuddin’) is chiselled into the base in which it is protected but it seems to me that few Invernessians are aware of the stone today, and that most people who walk past the front door of the Town House are oblivious to its existence. If ‘Place-Names of Inverness and Surrounding Area’ helps to make more people aware of the stones – with names and stories that link us to our past – that pepper the landscape of the Highland capital and its environs – then the current author will consider his labours to have been worthwhile!

Clach na Cùdainn

This blog was written by Inverness-based writer, broadcaster and storyteller Roddy (Ruairidh) Maclean, whose work highlights the connections between the Gaelic language and Scotland’s environment.

The publication can be downloaded from NatureScot’s website and a limited number of printed copies are available via the Gaelic Books Council’s website. We are grateful to Bòrd na Gàidhlig for funding this project. 

A virtual lecture of the research findings is scheduled for September and will be publicised in due course.

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Clachan Inbhir Nis

Tha clachan le ainmean agus dualchas sònraichte – ann an agus timcheall prìomh bhaile na Gàidhealtachd – am measg nan neamhnaidhean ann an leabhar ùr a chaidh fhoillseachadh le NatureScot.

Read in English

Mar ùghdar an leabhair ‘Place-Names of Inverness and Surrounding Area’ – a th’ air ùr-nochdadh – aidichidh mi gu bheil e doirbh mo chorrag a chur air na h-ainmean-àite as inntinniche anns an sgìre oir tha uibhir dhiubh ann (còrr is 570 anns an leabhar). Aig a’ cheann thall, thagh mi sùil a thoirt air na h-ainmean anns a bheil an eileamaid clach. Tha dùthaich nan Gàidheal làn eisimpleirean de chlachan iongantach le stòiridhean ceangailte riutha agus tha sgìre Inbhir Nis coltach ris a’ chòrr dhen Ghàidhealtachd (ann an seaghan eile cuideachd a bharrachd air na clachan).

Tha an leabhar a’ gabhail a-steach ceart-cheàrnach de dhùthaich eadar Cnoc Moire agus Àird nan Saor, a’ ruith o Linne Mhoireibh gu deas air Obar Itheachan anns an taobh an iar agus gu faisg air ceann a deas Loch Dùn Seilcheig anns an taobh an ear. ʼS i a’ Ghàidhlig an cànan as motha a nochdas air an tìr agus ʼs e an tachartas eachdraidheil as trice a nochdas ann an cunntasan mu ainmean-àite – Blàr Chùil Lodair anns a’ Ghiblean 1746.

Clach an Airm

ʼS iomadh clach a chithear air làrach a’ bhlàir, agus feadhainn dhiubh a’ comharrachadh uaighean nam fineachan. Faisg air làimh, ri taobh an rathaid mhòir, tha Clach Chumberland air an robh an Diùc na sheasamh, agus e a’ cumail sùil air a’ chath, co-dhiù a rèir aithris. Ach feumaidh mi aideachadh gur e clach eile co-cheangailte ris an droch latha sin as motha a thug m’ aire. ʼS e sin Clach an Airm ann an Srath Narann, a fhuair a h-ainm on a gheuraich saighdearan Seumasach an claidheamhan oirre nuair a bha iad a’ dèanamh air Cùil Lodair. Tha i an-diugh ann am meadhan coille, gun sanas oirre no eadhon ceum ga h-ionnsaigh agus lorg mi i air latha balbh, ceòthach.

Clach Cailleach nam Muc

Tha dà chloich iongantaich eile ann an Srath Narann, agus sgeulan co-cheangailte riutha. Tha Clach Cailleach nam Muc faisg air Ach’ a’ Mhainnirein air mullach creag gharbh ann am meadhan coille-bheithe. A rèir beul-aithris, bhiodh a’ chailleach a tha ainmichte a’ falbh le treud de mhucan timcheall sgìre Loch Nis, agus fhuair i bàs fon chloich far an do dh’ith a cuid mhucan i (ged a tha beachd ann gun do thachair sin às dèidh dhi bàsachadh gu nàdarrach). Tha e coltach gum buineadh i do Shrath Fharagaig agus gun coisicheadh i (anns an 19mh linn) le a mucan gu ruige Inbhir Nis airson feadhainn a reic aig margaidh. Bhiodh i a’ briseadh a turais gach rathad aig a’ chloich far am faigheadh i fasgadh airson na h-oidhche. 

Tha dualchas fada nas sine aig a’ chloich eile, co-dhiù ma chuirear sùim ann am beul-aithris. Tha Clach na Brataich eadar-dhealaichte bho na h-eisimpleirean eile oir chan eil i ann an riochd nàdarrach. ʼS e clach a th’ innte a chaidh a chruthachadh le mac an duine. Tha i cruinn agus rèidh le toll anns a’ mheadhan agus tha i car coltach ri clach-bhrà mhòr is trom a tha neo-chrìochnaichte. Tha i na suidhe air an talamh faisg air ceann a deas Loch Athaisidh agus thathar a’ dèanamh dheth gun robh crann air a stobadh dhan toll às an robh bratach nam Fianna air a taisbeanadh aig àm catha eadar na gaisgich Ghàidhealach sin agus feachd Lochlannach fo chomannd prionnsa air an robh ‘Athaisidh’ mar ainm. Chan eil cus fìrinn anns an eachdraidh oir bha na Fianna ann am bith fada mus do nochd na Lochlannaich air cladaichean na h-Alba, ach tha am beul-aithris a’ seasamh chun an latha an-diugh, agus tha cunntasan iongantach aig daoine a tha a’ cumail a-mach gum fac’ iad taibhsean de sheann saighdearan timcheall Loch Athaisidh.

Clach na Brataich

Gu tuath air Srath Narann, lorgar Clach an Àbain na suidhe leatha fhèin air cladach rèidh Bàgh Pheitidh. Tha an tè seo ainmeil oir chaidh a gluasad 260 slat a dh’ionnsaigh na mara agus gu dìomhair air an oidhche dhen 20mh Gearran 1799 (tha a suidheachadh tùsail clàraichte air seann mhapaichean na Suirbhidh Òrdanais). Chan e sin a-mhàin, ach bliadhnaichean ro-làimh thuirt an t-Urr. Iain Moireasdan, Ministear Pheitidh, aig an robh an dà-shealladh, gun tachradh a leithid air sàillibh pheacaidhean a choitheanail. Ge-tà, an e làmh Dhè a ghluais a’ chlach no an robh i air a togail le deigh agus air a ghluasad a-mach le tràghadh na mara agus gailleann bhon cheann a deas?!

Gu siar air Abhainn Nis tha cuideachd clachan ainmeil. ʼS e tè dhiubh ‘Clachnahagaig’ a bha o thùs gu sear air an abhainn ach a chaidh a ghluasad nuair a bhathar a’ togail a’ Chanàil Chailleannaich. Ged nach eil a’ chlach thùsail ann am bith a-nise, tha tè bheag shnàighte ann na h-àite air a bheil ‘Clachnahagaig Stone’ ann am Beurla Inbhir Nis. Tha a’ chlach ainmichte ann an cairt rìoghail a chaidh fhoillseachadh ann an 1591 oir b’ e sin a’ chrìoch a deas aig còraichean muinntir Nis air cleachdadh na h-aibhne airson iasgach a’ bhradain is eile. Agus tha i fhathast a’ comharrachadh ceann a-mach an iasgaich phoblaich air Abhainn Nis. Tha dùil gur e Clach na h-Eagaig a bh’ air a’ chloich bho thùs, ged a tha sgoilearan air riochdan eile a chur air adhart cuideachd.

Clach an Àbain

Tha seann bhaile ‘Clachnaharry’ na sheasamh an-diugh air iomall Inbhir Nis aig ceann a tuath a’ Chanàil Chailleannaich agus chaidh ainmeachadh cuideachd airson clach, ged a tha diofar bheachdan air tùs an ainm. Tha cuid a’ dèanamh dheth gur e Clach na h-Aire a th’ ann (airson Clach na Faire) oir bhite a’ cumail sùil air daoine a thigeadh le droch rùn on cheann a tuath an sin. Ge-tà, tha an t-Urr. Seumas Friseal ag innse dhuinn ann an Làmh-sgrìobhainn Chnoc Moire (bhon 17mh linn) gur e Clach na h-Aithrigh a bh’ oirre. Bhiodh peacaich a’ foillseachadh an cuid aithrighe – no aithreachais – airson am peacaidhean an sin nuair a bha an sluagh nan Caitligich.

Saoilidh mi gu bheil e iomchaidh gur e an t-ainm-àite mu dheireadh le ‘clach’ tè a bha uaireigin fìor ainmeil ann am meadhan baile Inbhir Nis fhèin. Tha Clach na Cùdainn an-diugh na seasamh fo Chrois na Margaidh taobh a-muigh Taigh a’ Bhaile. Bha i uaireigin na b’ fhaisge air an abhainn agus bhiodh boireannaich Inbhir Nis a’ cur an cuid chùdainnean oirre fhad ʼs a bhiodh iad a’ gabhail naidheachdan bho chàch a chèile (agus iad air an rathad don abhainn). Bha i cho cudromach do mhuinntir Inbhir Nis ʼs gum biodh gu leòr a’ gabhail ‘Clachnacuddin lad’ no ‘Clachnacuddin lass’ orra fhèin nuair a bha iad ann an sgìrean eile, agus iad moiteil às a’ cheangal eadar iad fhèin is a’ chlach. Tha e duilich dhomh, anns an latha an-diugh, nach eil a’ chlach ainmeil seo air aire muinntir a’ bhaile mar a bha. Ma bheir an leabhar ùr Clach na Cùdainn – agus na clachan eile mun chuairt a’ bhaile – gu aire an t-sluaigh, bidh an t-ùghdar seo riaraichte dha-rìridh.

Clach na Cùdainn

Bha am blog seo air a sgrìobhadh le Ruairidh MacIlleathain, a tha na sgrìobhadair, craoladair, eòlaiche-nàdair is sgeulaiche, stèidhichte ann an Inbhir Nis.

Tha an leabhar-iùil ri fhaighinn air-loidhne air làrach-lìn NatureScot agus tha àireamh bheag de lethbhreacan clò-bhuailte ri faighinn air làrach-lìn Comhairle nan Leabhraichean. Tha sinn an comain Bòrd na Gàidhlig airson am pròiseact seo a mhaoineachadh.

Bidh òraid air-loidhne san t-Sultain agus thèid an tuilleadh fiosrachaidh a sgaoileadh san àm ri teachd.

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Caerlaverock litter-clearing

Our NatureScot student placement scheme provides great opportunities for recent graduates to get invaluable work experience that puts their new skills into practice.

In his second post about the work of a National Nature Reserve assistant, Countryside Management graduate Fraser Wilson reports on what is, very sadly, an increasingly necessary task on our reserves – clearing litter…

As much as Caerlaverock is a beautiful National Nature Reserve, a downside to being a coastal reserve is that some of the larger tides from the Solway Firth can wash up all sorts of rubbish on to the merse. A job that is always on the to-do list is to regularly keep on top of this rubbish and get it off the reserve.

As we recently had a skip dropped off at our nearby workshop we got to work, walking miles up and down the reserve finding and collecting bundles of rubbish before getting it all to one area to load on to the trailer and off the reserve. Unfortunately with the sensitivity of the reserve, and with breeding birds due to nest any day now, we couldn’t make use of any machinery which would disturb the site and so all of what we found would have to be removed manually.

The photos show just a very small sample of what we’ve collected over the last few weeks. The most common items seem to be large plastic drums and plastic tubs.

As much as it is time consuming, and sometimes difficult to get out to some areas of the reserve to access this rubbish, it is one of those jobs I like to do as it has an immediate impact, helping remove items which look unsightly and which serve no positive purpose by being there.

All of the items have been sent off for recycling and hopefully don’t find their way back to the reserve. Going forward, we plan to keep doing litter picks of smaller items as much as we can, and then will remove larger items as and when they appear.

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We’ve signed the power of youth charter

Young people have had a rough year. Disproportionately affected by the impacts of the pandemic, young people have seen disruptions in their learning and studying, a drop in volunteering and job opportunities, as well as the cancellation of most social plans.

NatureScot has pledged to do what it can to support young people and we are proud to be one of the founding signatories to the #IWill campaign’s Power of Youth Charter.

Young people are one of our key stakeholders in achieving a nature-rich future. They are not just the leaders of the future, but the leaders of today. A strong youth voice is critical to improve biodiversity loss and deliver the nature-based solutions we need to address the climate emergency. We are committed to ensuring all young people are empowered to take action, make a difference, and influence change.

As part of our commitment to young people, we pledge to take action on the following areas detailed in the charter:

  • Prioritise empowering young people to volunteer and take social action
  • Open up our decision-making structures
  • Work in partnership
  • Evidence the benefits of youth social action
  • Recognise and celebrate young people

Youth engagement can seem like a daunting task. But done properly, it can prove a meaningful and valuable experience for all involved. Not only do young people benefit from the experience and skills in developing projects and participating in governance, but those delivering them can gain valuable insight from a young person’s perspective and be sure in the fact that implementation is likely to be more successful.

The NatureScot board recently approved the new NatureScot Youth Engagement Action Plan, detailing the ambitious and wide ranging actions that put young people at the heart of what we do.

Based on recommendations from young people, through Scotland’s Youth Biodiversity Panel – ReRoute – and our own Young Employee Panel, the plan outlines how we will equip and empower young people from all backgrounds to take social action through;

  • integrating young people better into our decision-making;
  • better engaging young people in how Scotland creates, maintains and accesses nature and green and blue spaces; and
  • creating more opportunities for volunteering, training and employment.

Driven by our work with young people, the plan takes an intersectional approach, proposing stronger engagement, empowerment, and integration of co-design across the organisation with relevance to all under-represented stakeholder groups. We can’t however do this alone. We work closely with brilliant partners across Scotland such as Young Scot, TCV, John Muir Trust, Scottish Countryside Rangers’ Association, Backbone CIC and many more. We invite you to join us and other organisations in supporting young people, through signing your organisation up to the Power of Youth Charter.

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Traille nam Banarach

Tha iasg a bhuineas don aiginn a’ nochdadh – gu h-annasach – ann an seann chrònan bleoghainn.

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Tha e fìor ri ràdh nach eil an traille – iasg-mara a bhuineas do theaghlach nan langannan agus ris an canar tusk no cusk ann am Beurla – a’ nochdadh gu tric ann litreachas no òrain nan Gàidheal. Ge-tà, tha an t-iasg seo – a tha ri lorg ann an uisge domhainn pìos a-mach bhon chladach – air ainmeachadh ann an crònan bleoghainn a chaidh a chlàradh le Alasdair MacIlleMhìcheil anns a’ chruinneachadh iongantach aige, Carmina Gadelica. Tha e a’ nochdadh ri taobh nan naomh as cudromaiche ann an Crìosdachd nan Gàidheal.

’S e an traille iasg-mara a bhios a’ fuireach air a’ ghrunnd far a bheil e clachach aig doimhneachd eadar ceud agus mìle meatair. Photo: MAREANO / Institute of Marine Research

Tha abairt againn– ʼs ann às a ceann a bhleoghnar bò – a tha a-mach air mar a gheibhear barrachd bainne bho bhò a tha toilichte seach bho thè nach eil. Agus bha e aithnichte aig na seann Ghàidheil gur e an dòigh as fheàrr airson bò a thoileachadh a bhith a’ seinn gu binn dhi! Seo mar a mhìnicheas MacIlleMhìcheil a’ chùis: ‘Bidh na bà a’ fàs cleachdte ris na tàlaidhean seo agus cha toir iad bainne seachad às an aonais, no uaireannan, gun na fuinn as fheàrr leotha a bhith air an seinn dhaibh. Tha cho measail ’s a tha crodh Gàidhealach air ceòl a tha a’ toirt air tuathanaich aig a bheil treudan mòra a bhith a’ fastadh bhanarach aig a bheil deagh guth-seinn …’

‘Banarach Albannach’ – cairt-phuist ann an Taigh-tasgaidh Clach-guail na h-Alba.
(C)The Scottish Shale Museum.

Tha MacIlleMhìcheil an uair sin a’ mìneachadh cumhachd a’ chàirdeis eadar obair nam banarach agus àrainneachd na Gàidhealtachd an Iar, co-dhiù mar a chunnaic e fhèin an gnothach. ’S dòcha gu bheil sin ag innse dhuinn mar a gheibh an traille a-steach do dh’òran mu rudeigin a thachradh air talamh tioram: ‘Tha e inntinneach agus beothachail a bhith a’ faicinn triùir no ceathrar de chloinn-nighean dreachmhor am measg treud de sheasgad, ochdad no ceud bò Ghàidhealach air cluain no cliathaich beinne. Cànran is ataireachd na fairge pìos air falbh, sluaisreadh nan tonn air a’ chladach, ceileireadh na h-uiseig san adhar, òran neo-chrìochnaichte na smeòraich air a’ chreig … geumnaich a’ chruidh … freagairtean nan laogh anns a’ bhuaile, seinn nam banarach ann an co-sheirm le gluasad an làmhan, agus fuaim a’ bhainne shneachdaich a’ tuiteam dhan chuinneig, òrachadh nan cnoc is nan dailthean, deàrrsadh a’ chuain nas fhaide a-mach agus a’ ghrian a’ dol fodha ann am muir òr-bhuidhe, tha iad uile a’ cruthachadh dealbh nach treigeadh cuimhne an neach-coimhead gu bràth.’ Saoil an robh na banaraich fhèin a’ tuigsinn glòir an cuid obrach?!

Seo, ma-thà, an crònan bleoghain a chlàir MacIlleMhìcheil air dd 258-9 de Leabhar 1, le eadar-theangachadh Beurla fodha:

Thig, a Bhriannain, on chuan,
Thig, a Thorrainn, buadh nam fear,
Thig, a Mhìcheil mhìl’ a-nuas
’S dìlinn dhòmhsa bò mo ghean.

Hó m’ aghan, hó m’ agh gaoil,
Hó m’ aghan, hó m’ agh gaoil.
M’ aghan gràdhach, bò gach àirigh,
Sgàth an Àrd Rìgh gabh ri d’ laogh.

Thig, a Chaluim chaoimh, on chrò,
Thig, a Bhrìde mhòr nam buar,
Thig, a Mhoire mhìn, on neòil,
’S dilinn dhòmhsa bò mo luaidh.
Hó m’ aghan, hó m’ agh gaoil.

Thig am fèaran on a’ choill,’
Thig an traill’ à druim nan stuagh,
Thig an sionn’, chan ann am foill,
A chur aoibh air bò nam buadh.
Hó m’ aghan, hó m’ agh gaoil.

* * * *

Come, Brendan, from the ocean,
Come, Ternan, most potent of men,
Come, valiant Michael, down
Forever make my best cow mine.
Ho, my wee heifer, ho my beloved heifer,
Ho my wee heifer, ho my beloved heifer.
My beloved wee heifer, cow of every shieling,
For the sake of the High King accept your calf.

Come, beloved Calum of the fold,
Come, great Bride of the cattle herds,
Come, gentle Mary from the clouds,
Forever make my best cow mine.
Ho, my wee heifer, ho my beloved heifer.

The woodpigeon will come from the wood,
The tusk will come from the open sea,
The fox will come but not deceitfully,
To welcome the virtuous cow.
Ho, my wee heifer, ho my beloved heifer.
Bidh traillean aig ìre inbheach a’ tighinn beò aig doimhneachd mhòr, ach ’s fheàrr leis an fheadhainn òga uisge nas eu-doimhne. Photo: MAREANO / Institute of Marine Research

Chan urrainn a bhith cinnteach le obair MhicIlleMhìcheil nach do ‘sgioblaich’ e na chuala e anns a’ chrò. Ach, eadhon le sin, tha e a’ fàgail dhuinn duan a bheir còmhla gàirdeachas ann an nàdar agus na naoimh as cudromaiche ann an eachdraidh nan Gàidheal Crìosdail – agus iad uile air an seinn gu snog leis an amas bainne gu leòr fhaighinn on bhon. Ach carson a thagh a’ bhanarach an traille, seach iasg eile a bhiodh na b’ aithnichte do dhaoine, leithid trosg, sgadan no saoidhean? Don bhlogair seo, tha sin dìomhair fhathast!

* * * *

Bha am blog seo air a sgrìobhadh le Ruairidh MacIlleathain, a tha na sgrìobhadair, craoladair, eòlaiche-nàdair is sgeulaiche, stèidhichte ann an Inbhir Nis.

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