A’ cruinneachadh Ainmean-àite Èirisgeidh / Collecting the placenames of Eriskay

Tha Liam Crouse, Oifigear Mheadhanan is Conaltraidh Gàidhlig aig Ceòlas, air aoigheachd againn le bloga ùr. Tha sinn glè thoilichte a bhith ag obair còmhla ri Ceòlas agus Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba air an ath-leabhran san t-sreath Gàidhlig air Aghaidh na Tìre (ga fhoillseachadh 2019). Seo agaibh Liam a’ bruidhinn mun obair rannsachaidh aige. / Today’s blog is written by Liam Crouse, Gaelic Media and Communications Officer at Ceòlas. We’re pleased to be working with Ceòlas and Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (Gaelic Place-names of Scotland) on our next Gaelic in the Landscape booklet (launching in 2019).  Here Liam discusses his fieldwork.

Eilean na Coilleig Port na Coilleig Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh An Tràigh Leis Bruthach Choinnich

Eilean na Coilleig, Port na Coilleig, Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh, An Tràigh Leis, Brutach Choinnich ©Liam Crouse

’S fhad’ o thugadh dhut-s’ an t-urram
Aig a’ Phrionnsa Teàrlach,
’S ann bha fuireach an sàr dhuine
Chuir gu’m fulang Leòdaich.
Is Iain Mùideartach an curaidh
Dh’iomair cluich air Lòchaidh –
Thug iad uile greiseag unnad
Fir an-diugh gad thòrachd.

   –  Rann à ‘Eilein na h-Òige’ le Mgr Ailein

Thar iomadh linn, b’ e rudan a’ tighinn a dh’Èirisgeidh a bheireadh aithne dha. Tha an t-eilean a’ nochdadh sna leabhraichean eachdraidh le tighinn an Oighre Òig air tìr aig Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh aig tòiseachd Bliadhna Theàrlaich, agus ’s aithnte leis a’ mhòr-shluagh an t-eilean air sgàth gun tàinig bàta air tìr san robh mìltean de bhotail uisge-beatha air Roc na Polly ann an 1941. Thàinig Mgr Ailein còir – sagart, bàrd agus cruinneachair na beul-aithrise – às a’ Ghearasdan Abrach. Agus thàinig mar an ceudna deagh chuid de na h-eileanaich iad fhèin, cuid à Barraigh agus cuid eile air am fuadach à Cùl na Beinne Mòire gu Hairteabhagh, far an robh aca ri còmhnaidh sna h-uamhan fad aon gheamhraidh mus deach am fuadach a-rithist a dh’Èirisgeidh san 19mh linn.

Sgala an Fhaing Rubha a' Ghoill sa chùl

Sgala an Fhaing, Rubha a’ Ghoill sa chùl. ©Liam Crouse

Tha suidheachadh, fonn agus aimsir Èirisgeidh air cruth a thoirt air beatha nan eileanach. Tha an t-eilean creagach lom agus chan eil de mhòine ann a chumadh na teintean a’ dol. Dh’fhalbhadh na daoine gu ceàrnaidhean eile ann an sgothan gus a bhuain, mar Na Sluic Mònadh, Rubha nam Bàsadairean no eadhon Bun Sruth ann an Uibhist a Deas. Tha ‘Ciste Mhuire’ ga chuairteachadh, agus tha oitirean agus an fhairge mhòr air ginealaichean de dh’Èirisgich a tharraing chun an iasgaich.

Buinidh a’ chuid as motha de na h-ainmean a fhuaireadh sa phròiseact seo ris a’ chòrsa agus na h-uisgeachan timcheall air an eilean. Saoilidh mi gu bheil na ceudan de phuirt is de chidheachan beaga ann, air an togail leis an làimh airson sgothan nan daoine. Tha ainm air gach roc is bogha is sgeir –  feadhainn dhiubh sin air sàillibh gun do bhuail Dòmhnall no Ruairidh no sagart annta latha mì-shealbhach air choireigin.

Dòmhnall Iain MacAoghnais

Dòmhnall Iain MacAoghnais. ©Liam Crouse

Tha e iongantach gun deach na h-uimhir – còrr is 300 ainm-àite (a’ chuid as motha nach eil a’ nochdadh air mapaichean) – a chruinneachadh ann an ùine cho goirid. Tha mi làn-chinnteach nach d’fhuair mi iad uile, ’s dòcha nach d’ fhuaireadh fiù ’s an leth-chuid. Agus tha mi cinnteach gun d’ rinn mi mearachd no dhà. Tha fhios gum faodainn-sa a bhith air bruidhinn ri barrachd dhaoine. Ach – tha mi cuideachd den bheachd gun seas an leabhar seo am measg nan leabhraichean prìseil eile le Ainmean-àite na h-Alba agus Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba mar theisteanas air an eòlas dhualchasach a th’ aig muinntir Èirisgeidh air an àrainneachd aca.

’S e mo dhòchas gum piobraich am pròiseact seo daoine gu bhith cuimhneachadh air seann ainmean-àite, agus na sgeulachdan co-cheangailte riutha. Tha mi an dòchas gum bi daoine ag innse far an d’ fhuair mi rudan ceàrr agus dè tha ceart. Ach, as motha, ’s e mo dhòchas gum bi cuideigin ann nuair a thathar a’ cuimhneachadh – can mar an comann eachdraidh – a chlàras agus a ghlèidheas an t-eòlas sin.

Eilein na h-Òige (2)

Eilein na h-Òige. ©Liam Crouse

Bha cuimhne aig gach duine ris an do bhruidhinn mi air beatha an eilein mus do thogadh an cabhsair ann an 2001. Bha cuimhne aca air Sgoth a’ Bhaga (Sgoth Iain ’illeasbuig) agus Sgoth Nèill Mhòir a’ tighinn a-steach dha na Haunn. Bha aonan ag innse dhomh mun Pholly agus a bhith a’ falach sochair a’ bhronn ann an Sgor na Beiste.  Chaidh farsaingeachd na 20mh linn a thoirt dhomh ann an cuimhneachain muinntir Èirisgeidh agus tha mi a’ toirt mo thaing mhòir do gach duine a thug an ùine dhomh gu fialaidh, gu sònraichte muinntir a’ Chomainn Eachdraidh.

’S e eilean Gàidhealach a th’ ann an Èirisgeidh fhathast, agus tha seo air na h-ainmean-àite a ghleidheadh gu h-ìre. Mura h-eil feum air ainm, agus e gun a chleachdadh, thèid e anns an dìochuimhne. Chaidh a ràdh rium grunn thrioban, mar eisimpleir, nach biodh ainmean nan sgeirean agus nam boghannan ach aig na h-iasgairean, a fhuair anns an teaghlach no air an sgothaidh iad. Tha coimhearsnachdan dlùth nan Eilean Siar air cumail orra le cleachdadh nan ainmean-àite aca – rud nach eil fìor ann an àiteachan eile a dh’fhiosraich caochladh saoghail. Air sgàth seo, bha am pròiseact seo a’ faireachdainn dhomhsa mar gun robhar ag iasgach le lìn am measg sgaothan sgadain seach le aon dorgh air an robh bodach beag crìon. Mar a leanas am pròiseact seo air ann an àiteachan eile a thuilleadh air Èirisgeidh, ’s e mo dhùil ’s mo dhòchas gun tèid dùthchas nan àiteachan eile a tha fhathast làidir a chlàradh ’s a ghleidheadh cuideachd.

Tha sinn an comain Liam airson a chuid obrach cudromaich. Gheibhear tuilleadh dhealbhan ’s mìneachaidhean air Instragram.

 

Today’s blog is written by Liam Crouse, Gaelic Media and Communications Officer at Ceòlas. We’re pleased to be working with Ceòlas and Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (Gaelic Place-names of Scotland) on our next Gaelic in the Landscape booklet (launching in 2019).  Here Liam discusses his fieldwork.

’S fhad’ o thugadh dhut-s’ an t-urram
Aig a’ Phrionnsa Teàrlach,
’S ann bha fuireach an sàr dhuine
Chuir gu’m fulang Leòdaich.
Is Iain Mùideartach an curaidh
Dh’iomair cluich air Lòchaidh –
Thug iad uile greiseag unnad
Fir an-diugh gad thòrachd.

It’s long since you were honoured
By Prince Charlie’s visit,
As well by that splendid man’s abode
Who sent MacLeods to suffer,
And the hero John of Moidart
Who drove the play on Lochy –
They all spent some time in you,
Men seek you out today.

– Excerpt from ‘Eilein na h-Òige’ by Fr Allan MacDonald of Eriskay

For centuries, it has been things of the outside world coming to Eriskay which has brought it wider recognition. The Young Pretender first made footfall here at the start of the ’45 at Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh (‘The Skerry of the Summer Shieling’); a storm-tossed ship filled with whisky ran aground on Roc na Polly (‘The Submerged Rock of the Politician’) in 1941. The beloved Mgr Ailein, a celebrity of his day who collected folklore and composed verse, was native to Lochaber. So too came many of the island people themselves, suffering a double clearance first from the townships air Cùl na Beinne Mòire (‘at the back of the Big Mountain’) to Hairteabhagh, where they were forced to live in caves during the first winter, and then to Eriskay.

Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh agus An Tràigh Leis

Sgeir na h-Àirigh Samhraidh agus An Tràigh Leis. ©Liam Crouse

The geography, geology and climate of Eriskay, craggy and bare (air a luimead gura lurach), surrounded by Ciste Mhuire – the rich waters of An Oitir (‘The Fishing-banks’), has moulded the islanders. The soil is poorer than neighbouring South Uist and most families have fishermen in them. There is less peat-bog for fuel, and it was harvested in remoter parts only reachable by boat, such as Na Sluic Mònadh (‘The Peat Hollows’), Rubha nam Bàsadairean (‘The Point of the Sinking Bogs’) or at Bun Sruth (‘The Foot of the Stream’) in South Uist. But islanders are well accustomed to boats.

Most of the placenames gathered pertain to the coast and surrounding waters. Most suitable inlets were used as ports, as is attested by the probable hundreds of small, hand-built quays. The ruic (‘submerged rocks’), boghannan (‘reefs’) and sgeirean (‘skerries’) all have names of reference – sometimes in a nod to those unfortunate enough to have foundered on them.

Bàrr an Rubha Bhàin

Bàrr an Rubha Bhàin. ©Liam Crouse

The sheer number of placenames recorded – over 300 – during the short space of time is impressive. I am positive I did not get them all, possibly not even most of them. I am also positive I’ve made a mistake or two. I’m sure I could have spoken to more people. However, I am sure that this edition of the brilliant placename series by Ainmean-àite na h-Alba and Scottish Natural Heritage will be a testament to the traditional ecological knowledge carried by the people of the island. And I am indebted to all those who gave their time and energy to this project.

It is my hope that once the booklet is published and disseminated it will encourage further reminisces and discussion about these places. I hope people highlight where things are not quite right or where there’s more to the story. And I hope that someone – such as the local comann eachdraidh – is there to record that additional knowledge for posterity.

Bàgh na h-Aibhne Duibhe Sgeir a' Bhanca Sgeir an Fhèidh

Bàgh na h-Aibhne Duibhe, Sgeir a’ Bhanca, Sgeir an Fhèidh. ©Liam Crouse

Each person I spoke to remembered island life before the causeway, built in 2001. They fondly remembered Sgoth a’ Bhaga (Sgoth Iain ’illeasbuig, ‘The Post Boat’) and Sgoth Nèill Mhòir sailing into Na Haunn. One told me of seeing the wrecked SS Politician and hiding the boat’s offerings at Sgor na Beiste (‘The Cleft of the Beast’). The whole of the last century was covered in the shared experience and memory of the islanders.

Eriskay is lucky enough to remain a Gaelic-speaking island, and this had led to a retention of these placenames. If placenames are not used, or have no use, they are forgotten. It was said more than once, for example, that fishermen were the only ones who would have the names of certain islets and skerries, passed down through families and on the boats. The close-knit communities of the Outer Hebrides have continued to use their placenames; this is not the case in other areas which have witnessed more drastic changes in lifestyle. These factors made this project feel more like holding a tin-can to Niagara Falls than to a withering stream. I hope that as this placename project continues to place beyond Eriskay, those other areas overflowing with indigenous knowledge are recorded too.

Our thanks to Liam for his invaluable work. Find more images and placename meanings on Ceòlas’ Instragram.

 

 

 

 

 

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