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Norman Maclean: BBC Tribute

12/10/2017 Leave a comment

If you didn’t catch the broadcast on BBC Alba, here’s a link to their programme on Norman on the iPlayer. 28 days left to watch!

“Tormod – Na Bheachd Fhèin/Norman – In His Own Words”

Categories: Community, Video

Norman Maclean – if he turns up!

16/12/2016 Leave a comment

normansblogThere’s a treat in store for anyone who’s seen and liked Norman Maclean‘s work on Island Voices (or elsewhere). Norman is starting his own blog – “If he turns up” – and is inviting readers to give it a shot. It will consist of slices from his newest title, not yet published – “A Half-Breed Looks Back”.

“I’ll do this on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until I have evidence, one way or another, that there is measurable demand for my stuff. Please share with anyone who may be turned on by my ramblings about slum life in 50s Glasgow, undergraduate lowlights and a veteran entertainer’s return to the Hebrides.”

Here’s his first post – Ready, Steady, Go!

Nach sgaoil sibh an naidheachd seo, a chàirdean!

Categories: Community, UGC

Norman Maclean’s World in a Week

24/10/2016 Leave a comment


On consecutive days in the last week of April Gordon Wells recorded a series of Gaelic conversations with famed writer and entertainer Norman Maclean, in which Norman spoke reflectively of his memories and impressions of Gaelic life in Glasgow and the Hebrides from the middle of the Twentieth Century up to the present day.

The five videos, ranging between 35 and 55 minutes in length, will soon be posted online starting on Monday, 7th November. Word for word transcriptions will be made available simultaneously on Clilstore, enabling instant one-click vocabulary checking for Gaelic learners*. All in all there are 27,000 words and over three and a half hours of listening material in this collection, forming a unique new resource for serious study by learners and researchers. But Norman is a master raconteur, and there are plenty songs, jokes, and stories along the way. So, while it’s certainly an education, entertainment galore is also guaranteed for the more casual listener!

Over the week the conversations ranged over a wide variety of topics. In broad terms, however, each day had a different central focus:

Monday Sinnsireachd
Tuesday Foghlam
Wednesday Coimhearsnachdan
Thursday Cruthachalachd
Friday Gàidhlig

For the latest information on the release dates for these videos you can subscribe for e-mail notifications in the side panel, or try following Island Voices on Facebook.

The “Saoghal Thormoid” project is a collaboration between Soillse, the inter-university research partnership which supported the recordings through its Small Research Fund, and Guthan nan Eilean (Island Voices). All recordings are free to access.

Update: All recordings in both the “Saoghal Thormoid” and “Sgeulachdan Thormoid” collections are now available on the “Norman Maclean” page.

*Clilstore also provides links to automatic Google Translate versions via the “unit info” tab. While machine translation from Gaelic to English is still at a very rudimentary stage, these versions can give at least an impression of the gist of the conversations for those viewers who have yet to start learning the language of Eden…

Categories: CALL, Community, Research, Video

Norman Maclean

22/11/2015 Comments off

1. Saoghal Thormoid



On consecutive days in the last week of April 2016 Gordon Wells recorded a series of Gaelic conversations with famed writer and entertainer Norman Maclean, in which Norman spoke reflectively of his memories and impressions of Gaelic life in Glasgow and the Hebrides from the middle of the Twentieth Century up to the present day. The five videos range between 35 and 55 minutes in length. Word for word transcriptions are also available on Clilstore, enabling instant one-click vocabulary checking for Gaelic learners.

All in all there are 27,000 words and over three and a half hours of listening material in this collection, forming a unique new resource for serious study by learners and researchers. Over the week the conversations ranged over a wide variety of topics, including potentially uncomfortable perceptions and depictions of identity. In broad terms, however, each day had a different central focus, as shown in the table below.

The “Saoghal Thormoid” project is a collaboration between Soillse, the inter-university research partnership which funded the recordings through its Small Research Fund, and Guthan nan Eilean. The hyperlinks in the third column of the table will take you to relevant Island Voices pages. The WordPress post gives a one-paragraph summary of the day’s conversation, with onward links to the materials. The Clilstore link provides a full scrollable wordlinked transcript with embedded video. The YouTube link supplies the free-standing video alone without supplementary material.

A volume including synopses and all transcripts in printable format (with a foreword by Professor Conchúr Ó Giollagáin) is also available here.

  Topic Island Voices Links
Monday Ancestry WordPress post

Clilstore transcript

YouTube video

Tuesday Education WordPress post

Clilstore transcript

YouTube video

Wednesday Communities WordPress post

Clilstore transcript

YouTube video

Thursday Creativity WordPress post

Clilstore transcript

YouTube video

Friday Gaelic WordPress post

Clilstore transcript

YouTube video

Views expressed by participants in Soillse research do not reflect any official opinion of the Soillse partnership.


2. Sgeulachdan Thormoid



This collection of six Gaelic stories (plus an introduction) was created by Norman Maclean – Tormod MacGill-Eain. The recordings were made during visits to his house by Gordon Wells in October 2015. In the “links” column you can click on “Youtube” to go directly to the recording of the appropriate story. A “Clilstore” link will take you to a wordlinked transcript. You can click on any word to take you directly to an online dictionary to find its meaning.

Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean is massively indebted to Norman, both for the recordings themselves, and for consenting to place the scripts at the project’s disposal. The copyright rests with the author.

Title Content Links
Facal-toisich Norman explains how he came to put this series together and place it online, in the context of Johannes Gutenberg and the history of publishing. YouTube


Mìorbhailtean ann am Barraigh Michael from Bornish, South Uist, faces a difficult situation, but is given hope of a miracle. YouTube


Cabhag The story of Cabhag’s canine heroics in an unsettling encounter on a misty mountainside YouTube


Hàllain Politics, Verbosity, Love, and Death. The romantic story of Fionnlagh Phàdruig a’ Chnuic and Peigi Iain Bhig YouTube


Dòmhnall Phàdraig agus Màiri Claire 40 years married “as happy as two shoes”. Màiri Claire knows how to deal with her partner’s crisis of confidence YouTube


Bodach nan Serviettes A grand dinner for the pensioners of Harris, with libations galore YouTube
A’ Bhean-Uasal NicÌomhair à Cnoc an t-Soluis air a’ Bhac A noble Lewis lady undertakes a long journey to Tibet for a special meeting with a special person YouTube



Norman Maclean: Òran do Sgoilearan Chàirinis

02/10/2014 1 comment

TormodCarinishNorman Maclean’s grandfather (also Norman – Tormod Ailein) was lost at sea in the First World War, when Norman’s mother was still young.

In another contribution to the “An fheadhainn tha laighe sàmhach” project, Mary Morrison arranged for Norman to visit Sgoil Chàirinis, where his mother was a pupil, to recite this specially composed Gaelic song, and help the children learn to sing it.

In the video clip below Norman gives a crystal clear rendition of the words.

With his kind agreement, a written version is also made available on Clilstore so you can listen and read at the same time. Click on this link – Unit 2307 – to go to the transcription.

Categories: CALL, Community, Video

Norman Maclean and Am Pàipear

19/04/2010 2 comments

Seo an treas eisimpleir de stuthan ùra airson Guthan nan Eilean. Tha an t-ùghdar Tormod MacGill-Eain a’ bruidhinn ri Eairdsidh MacAoidh a sgrìobh pìos fada mu dheidhinn sa Phàipeir.

In the piece above writer and entertainer Norman Maclean talks in Gaelic about how he came back to live in Uist. In the piece below he talks in English about creative writing, and refers to some of the issues with which he has struggled.

As with all Island Voices materials the full package will include word-for-word transcripts of all interviews, and short documentary clips in both Gaelic and English giving a plain language introduction to the full Am Pàipear story.

Categories: Video

Norman’s World – In Print!

13/06/2017 1 comment


For all that the Guthan nan Eilean project is about recording “Island Voices”, and so capturing and curating speech, there are those who still prefer to read – and not just online but off paper. With that in mind, the Soillse-supported “Saoghal Thormoid” series featuring Norman Maclean in conversation with Gordon Wells has now been made available in printable format.

This document, “Saoghal Thormoid – Norman Maclean: Synopses and Transcripts“, contains a verbatim written version of all the recordings in the series, and is free to download. Complementing the transcripts are the brief synopses of each day’s discussion previously published online.

What’s additionally new, however, is the Foreword by Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Director of Soillse and Gaelic Research Professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands, in which he maps out the significance of Norman’s lifelong contribution to Gaelic culture, and the potential for research and recovery that work of this nature embodies.

“Tormod’s life is an acknowledgement of the cultural wealth of Gaelic society, and by virtue of this archive, he represents an ambassador to its future.” Give it a read!

Categories: Community, Research

Mediating Multilingualism: Video Documentation

20/03/2019 Leave a comment

“So, tha cunnart ann a bhith a’ dèiligeadh le aon chànan a-mhàin… Ma tha cànain eile agad tha an saoghal a’ sìor leudachadh a-muigh, agus faodaidh tu roghainn a dhèanamh, faodaidh tu deagh thaghadh a dhèanamh.”

(“So there’s a danger in dealing with only one language… If you have other languages the world keeps widening out, and you can make choices, you can make good choices.”)

This extract from Saoghal Thormoid, particularly in keeping with the theme of the Indo-Scottish colloquium at Amity University Haryana, was used as the final example in Gordon Wells’s second presentation, in which he was invited to speak on aspects of Video Documentation in an ethnographic context.

The PDF of the presentation, with live links to further exemplifying material is available here.

Categories: Research, Video

Looking Back on Island Voices

27/12/2017 Leave a comment

Series 1 of the Island Voices videos first came out on DVD in 2007. The project has grown a lot since then in various ways. Everything is now online (instead of DVD); Series 2 (Outdoors, Generations, Enterprise) added greatly to the number of videos created by project staff; and community members and groups have got involved in creating learning materials themselves. Perhaps the one thing that hasn’t changed is that the greatest emphasis is still placed on trying to base any recordings that come out of the project on real island life. That can still be seen even in the latest series “Sgeulachdan Thormoid” and “Saoghal Thormoid”, in which the project recorded stories and conversations from Norman Maclean in his final years, after he’d settled back in Uist.

Support for learners

Island Voices started (with help from the European Union) as a scheme for giving simple support in using new technology to learners and teachers. So, from the start the project has been about developing skills in community members in creating and sharing learning materials. As there generally tends to be more material for beginners (particularly in Gaelic) than there is for people who want to progress on to fluency, the project placed an emphasis on more advanced materials – with a mixture of documentary clips and interviews with community members speaking naturally. That’s the kind of material available in Series 1 and 2, with additional support available through Clilstore which gives you an online transcript alongside the film itself.

Made by the community

After those series, the project changed its way of working. It wasn’t project staff who created the new materials, but community members themselves. You can see examples on the “Bonnie Prince Charlie” or “The Great War” pages – series that were created in collaboration with Stòras Uibhist and Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath – in which people like Tommy MacDonald, Mary Morrison and others made their own recordings for sharing on the project website. In this way the project obtained new stories at a level even closer to the community, and new people got a chance to get involved in the work and to develop skills.

Social media and other languages

The project started online on WordPress (for a central website) and YouTube (for the films). But then the Facebook page was added, to help with sharing information about what was happening in the project and in the community. There is also a Twitter account, and overall there are well over 3,000 followers now, who are spread across the world. From the beginning the project worked bilingually with English and Gaelic. But as things have grown and developed, other languages have appeared, such as Irish, Welsh, Basque and others. Once people start learning a new language, they may naturally develop an interest in bilingualism, and how you can use different languages together.

Norman Maclean

Perhaps Norman Maclean was among the quickest to appreciate this, and he was also one of the readiest people to record Gaelic stories and other materials. After returning to Uist he did some pieces for Series 2 to begin with. He also got involved in the Storytellers and Great War pages. But his “pièces de résistance” were the series he made towards the end of his life. The project was very fortunate to get the opportunity to record his voice while he still had the ability to tell his own stories in his own style (“Sgeulachdan Thormoid”), and then to relate his thoughts and memories of Gaelic life in Glasgow and the Islands in a collection of long conversations (“Saoghal Thormoid”). All these recordings are now available on the website under the title “Dìleab Thormoid”. There can be no doubt that this is a very special resource that will keep advanced learners and other researchers very busy in the years to come.

Natural spoken language

Although Island Voices was established for the benefit of learners, it has always sought to capture and curate the natural language of people in the community. Emphasis was placed on Gaelic – or English – as it is spoken, though there is also written support for those who wish it or may find it useful. In this way project users get a taste not just of the languages and how they are really used today, but also of the local island way of life in the multilingual, multicultural world in which we all live.

Dìleab Thormoid

18/09/2017 3 comments

Tha beagan ùine air a dhol seachad a-nis on a chaochail Tormod MacGill-Eain (31/08/17) aig aois 80 bliadhna. Agus chaidh tòrr a sgrìobhadh ma dheidhinn mar-thà, ann am pàipearan naidheachd is eile, far an deach a mholadh gu mòr:

The Times (Peter Ross)
The Herald (Phil Davison)
The West Highland Free Press (Angus Peter Campbell)
Bella Caledonia (Jamie Chambers)
The Scotsman (John MacLeod)

Mar a thuirt sinn air Facebook agus Twitter aig an àm, chan eil na faclan againne airson rud nas brìoghmhor na na chaidh a sgrìobhadh shuas a ràdh mun duine fhèin. Ach ’s e rud mòr mòr a rinn Tormod airson Guthan nan Eilean thairis air na bliadhnaichean, agus tha còir againn an dìleab a dh’fhàg e dhuinn a chomharrachadh le taing agus meas mòr.

’S ann ann an 2010, beagan as dèidh dha thilleadh a dh’Uibhist, a thàinig sinn tarsainn air Tormod an toiseach, fhad ’s a bha sinn a’ dèanamh filmichean mu dheidhinn Pàipear Uibhist ann an Dalabrog airson Series 2 Enterpise cuide ri Eairdsidh MacAoidh a bha na neach-deasachaidh aig an àm. Mar a thionndaidh gnothaichean a-mach ghabh e pàirt mhòr sna filmichean aithriseach (Gàidhlig agus Beurla), ach a bharrachd air an sin thug e dà agallamh dhuinn agus dà phìos “to camera” air a thoil fhèin, agus iad sin san stoidhle shònraichte aige ann an guth soilleir làidir. Abair toradh dhuinne agus dhan obair a bha sinn a’ dèanamh!

Ach cha b’ e sin ach toiseach an sgeòil. Beagan bhliadhnaichean an dèidh sin, nuair a bha am pròiseact air gluasad air adhart rud beag, agus a’ feuchainn ri obair chlàraidh a bhrosnachadh sa choimhearsnachd, chaidh Màiri Mhoireasdan a thadhal air Tormod a-rithist, agus e a-nis a’ fuireach ann an Griomasaigh. Bha Màiri a’ sireadh sgeulachdan – agus sin a fhuair i gun teagamh sam bith! Nan robh i dìreach air “Àiridh na h-Aon Oidhche” a-mhàin fhaighinn ’s i a bhiodh toilichte, ach a-rithist, aon uair ’s gun robh Tormod air tòiseachadh bha e doirbh stad a chur air. Agus mar sin fhuair sinn dhachaidh le “Blàr Chàirinis” sa chamara againn cuideachd, agus an dà sgeul sin a’ nochdadh air an duilleag “Storytellers” againn fhèin, ach cuideachd an dèidh sin air an gabhail agus air an leasachadh le TRACS aig an Scottish Storytelling Centre ann an Dùn Èideann.

B’ e an ath rud a bh’ aig Màiri An Cogadh Mòr – pròiseact a rinn i le Comann Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath. Bha pàirt aig Tormod an sin cuideachd, agus tillidh sinn thuice sin aig an deireadh. Ach an uair sin, thàinig am “Big Bang” – dà phròiseact mòr a rinn Tormod air ar son san dà bhliadhna mu dheireadh. ’S e fhèin a dh’fhaighnich an toiseach am biodh ùidh againn ann an sreath de sgeulachdan a bha e air sgrìobhadh a chlàradh. Cha b’ e ruith ach leum dhuinn gabhail ris! ’S iad sin na seachd bhideothan a nochd an toiseach mar “Sgeulachdan Thormoid” ann an 2015. Le tiotalan mar “Mìorbhailtean ann am Barraigh”, “Bodach nan Serviettes”, agus “A Bhean-uasal Nicìomhair à Cnoc an t-Soluis air a’ Bhac” tha fios agad fiù ’s mus cluinn thu iad gu bheil spòrs gu bhith agad gan èisteachd. Agus ged a bha Tormod a’ faireachdainn aois (78) a-nis, agus a’ leughadh a-mach a’ mhòr chuid dhiubh, bha stoidhle aige fhathast na dhòigh-lìbhrigidh.

Agus an uair sin, dìreach an uiridh, lean sinn “Sgeulachdan Thormoid” le “Saoghal Thormoid”, agus iad air an cur còmhla air an aon duilleag “Norman Maclean”. ’S e a th’ ann an “Saoghal Thormoid” ach sreath de chòmhraidhean anns an tug e dhuinn trì uairean gu leth dhen Ghàidhlig as fheàrr a chluinneas tu riamh san latha a th’ ann. Air an cur air dòigh le Soillse tha na clàraidhean sin air a dhol a-staigh dhan Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic (DASG) aig Oilthigh Ghlaschu mar-thà. Faodaidh sinn a bhith cinnteach gun cùm iad sin sgoilearan agus luchd-rannsachaidh chànanachais trang gu leòr sna bliadhnaichean ri teachd! Ach chan ann a-mhàin airson na Gàidhlig aige, ach cuideachd na beachdan agus na cuimhneachan aige air beatha nan Gàidheal an dà chuid ann an Glaschu agus sna h-Eileanan. Mar a thuirt Àrd-Ollamh Conchúr Ó Giollagáin an seo, “Tormod’s life is an acknowledgement of the cultural wealth of Gaelic society, and by virtue of this archive, he represents an ambassador to its future.”

Agus chan eil teagamh ach gun tug an obair sin buaidh shònraichte air Gordon Wells, a rinn na clàraidhean. Mar a thuirt e ann an àite eile, “There’s plenty of laughter and entertainment along the way, of course, but it’s well worth listening to Norman for many other reasons than that: vividly recalled childhood memories of mid-Twentieth Century Glasgow and the Hebrides; open introspection on the community relations issues of those days, and their lingering effects; wide-ranging discussion of creative influences in music, literature, and popular entertainment; all brought right up to date with acute, and sometimes cutting, commentary on current affairs, but topped off with a generous commitment to the continued sharing of cultural gems. And all in language that I, as my mother’s son, can only describe as beautiful.” Nach e a bha fortanach gun d’ fhuair e an cothrom na clàraidhean seo a dhèanamh!

San dealachadh, measg nam molaidhean às gach ceàrn a th’ air tighinn troimhe mu dheidhinn Tormod, gu h-àraid air na bliadhnaichean mu dheireadh aige air ais ann an Uibhist, ’s iomadh duine a th’ air iomradh a thoirt air cho deidheil ’s a bha e air cuideachadh a thoirt don òigridh sna h-eileanan a bha a’ feuchainn ri grèim a chumail air ceòl agus cultar na Gàidhlig. Bha sin cho soilleir ’s a ghabhas san fhilm eile seo a rinn e airson Guthan nan Eilean, san t-sreath “The Great War” a chuir Màiri Mhoireasdan ri chèile. Sgrìobh e na rannan seo gu sònraichte airson na cloinne aig Sgoil Chàirinis (an sgoil dhan deach a mhàthar, agus i air a h-athair fhèin a chall sa chogadh). Tha teachdaireachd shònraichte aige dhaibh, agus chìthear gu soilleir cho mòr ’s a bha e a’ còrdadh ris a bhith ga lìbhrigeadh – agus, gun teagamh, mar a chord e riuthasan a bhith ga èisteachd. Abair dìleab!

Tha ar co-fhaireachdainnean a’ dol dhan teaghlach aige, agus dhan h-uile duine a bha dlùth ris, no a choimhead às a dhèidh sna bliadhnaichean mu dheireadh. Agus tha sinn gu sònraichte an comain Peigi is Mike Townsend a chuidich sinn le bhith a’ cur na clàraidhean mu dheireadh air dòigh, a bharrachd air a h-uile rud eile a rinn iad airson Tormod. ’S cinnteach nach bi a leithid ann a-rithist, ach tha sinn cho taingeil aig Guthan nan Eilean gun robh e cho deònach ar cuideachadh. Ged a bhios e fhèin agus an cànan aige bhuainn a-nis, ’s e a thug eisimpleir dhuinn. Tha cothrom agus còir againn an eisimpleir sin a leantail. Fois shìorraidh dha anam.

Categories: CALL, Community, Research, UGC, Video
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