Friday, 31 October 2014
A previous blog offered a summary of Duncan MacDonald’s life story. It may be divided into a few sections of varying lengths. Here is offered the fourth part (NFC 1180, pp. 203–17) where MacDonald related to Calum Maclean his experience of kelping, a process of drying seaweed, which was a mainstay of the Hebridean economy for many years although it went from boom to bust and vice versa many times. The opportunity has been taken to modernise the Gaelic orthography and also to offer a translation.
Obair an Staimh
Bhitheamaid daonnan an àm a’ gheamhraidh ag obair air na staimh agus ’s e staimh a bha torrach sa gheamhradh agus nuair a bha an t-earrach a’ tighinn, bha a’ liaghag air ceann a staimh a’ fàs cho reamhar is cho tiugh leis an sùgh a bha san stamh agus nam faice’ sibh stamh a’ tighinn chon a’ chladaich a-nall mu Bhealltainn, bhiodh e fosgailte na bhroinn agus na bha de shùgh ann air a dhol dhan fheamainn agus ann an toiseach an t-samhraidh daonnan a’ chiad ghaoth àrd a thigeadh bha i a’ froiseadh na liaghag far an staimh agus bha an liaghag sin a’ tighinn na stacannan a dh’ ionnsaigh a’ chladaich agus bheireamaid ris a’ bhragaire a chur air tìr agus ga sgaoileadh air glas agus air a’ mholl cuideachd agus nuair a bhiodh e a dhà na trì lathaichean ann a shin sgaoilte, tana, ceutach fon turadh agus fon ghrèin, bha e airson car a chur dheth agus treis dhen taobh eile a chur ris a’ ghrèin agus bha sin air a dhèanamh agus an uair sin nuair a gheibhte e tioram, cho tioram agus gu riaraicheadh e an duine leis bu leis e bha e air a chur ann an goc mar gum biodh feur air an raon agus bha e air fhàgail ann a sineach cunntais lathaichean as a’ ghoc gus an tigeadh e car air ais agus ’s ann nuair a thigeadh e air an uair sin agus a bhiodh e sion sam bhith liath, ruighinn, sin nuair a dhèanadh e a’ cheilp a b’ fheàrr agus bu truime. Na loisgeadh duine tioram, cruaidh e cha bhiodh ann, as a’ cheilp, ach gual tioram de luathaidh dhuibh. Ach ma tha e a’ fàs liath as a’ ghoca, bha e an uair sin a’ fàs cho tana agus ged a bhiodh poit bhrochain ann. Agus nuair a theann sinn ri losgadh, bha an toiseach àtha ri dhèanamh, dà bhalla ri chuir suas. Agus mu throigh gu leth a dh’ àirde annta agus mu throigh o chèile agus aon chlach às gach ceann dhen àthaidh agus bhiodh mu through gu leth a liathad eadar an dà bhalla agus bhiodh aon sia troighean na seachd a dh’ fhaid ann agus nuair a bha duine a’ dol a theannadh air losgadh na feamann na bhroinn sin, bha e an toiseach a’ faighinn eallach fraoich air neo ma bha e goirid do dh’ àite as an robh soar ag obair bha e a’ faighinn poca dhe na sliseagan aige agus ga chur ann am meadhoin na h-àthadh air am fad agus a’ faighinn na feamann a b’ fhaide agus ga caitheamh thall ’s a-bhos eadar na ballachan agus pàirt dhith – an t-iorball aig a’ bhad daonnan air uachdar an fhraoich na na sliseagan a bha a miadhoin na h-àtha. Agus bha e an uair sin a’ faighinn aithinne teine–’s e bhiodh aige, agus ga shèideadh agus ga chur ris an fhraoch na ris na sliseagan as an àthaidh agus bha a’ ghabhail a’ tòiseachadh. Agus bha an duine a’ teannadh ri bad aotrom an-dràsta is a-rithist a chumail air uachdar an teine gus am faigheadh e an àtha a’ dol na griosaich air fad. Agus nuair a gheibheadh, loisgeadh i air a’ cheann fo dheireadh an fheamainn fhliuch a thigeadh às a’ chladach. Agus a h-uile h-àite a ficheadh e fosgladh a’ tighinn às an àthaidh, bha e a’ cur bad air uachdar an fhoslaigh. Cha robh e a’ caitheamh a’ bhad le neart uair sam bith, air neo nan caitheadh rachadh e sìos às an fhosgladh chon a’ ghrunna agus is dòcha nach obraicheadh e ceart idir agus ma dh’ fhaoite air a’ cheann fo dheireadh gur h-ann a chuireadh e às an àthaidh, nan tachradh cus dhith. Agus bhiodh mòran a’ losgadh còmhla, ceathrar is còignear is ma dh’ fhaoite sianar is sia àthannan a’ losgadh còmhladh fad an latha. Agus a-nist nuair a bha am feasgar a’ tighinn dh’ fheumadh iad ma seach na h-àthannnan a ligeil sìos air chor agus gun cruinnicheadh iad còmhladh gu gach àthaidh airson a’ cheilpeadh. Agus bha iarainn-cheilpeadh aca, iarainn a dhèanadh an gobha sa cheàrdaich agus a bhiodh aon cheithir troighean a dh’ fhaid san iarann agus plùic air a’ cheann ìseal aige, an ceann a bhìte a’ stopadh san àthaidh agus bha osan air a’ cheann eile agus bhiodh cas fhiodh air a cuir às, às am biodh aon ceithir na còig a throighean às a chois fhiodha agus an darna ceann aice air a chur a-staigh as an osan agus tarraing na dhà ga teannachadh ann. Agus a-nist bha fear ma seach dhe na ceilpeirean a’ toiseachadh ri bruich na h-àthadh agus a’ chiad fhear a ligeadh sìos i nuair a shaoil leis a bha i bruich, bha e a’ smìdeadh air an fheadhainn eile còmhla ris agus bha iad a’ tighinn agus bha iad a’ teannadh ri obrachadh na ceilpeadh agus a’ chiad rud a bha iad a’ dèanamh bha iad a’ tarraing na ceilpeadh leis na h-iarainn às an darna ceann chon a’ chinn eile agus am fear leis bu leis i air neo feareigin eile dhe na daoine a’ cuir a-staigh a’ reòdhaidh a bh’ air na ballachan gu h-àrd le corran na làimh aige agus a h-uile bìdeag a reòdh dhen cheilp a bha ceangailte ri clachan gu h-àrd am barr a’ bhalla bhathar ga leagail a-staigh na bhroinn. Agus a-nisd nuair a bha a’ chuid bu mhutha aca na cheilp air a tharraing a cheann na h-àthadh, bha fear an uair sin a’ dol a-staigh na bhroinn agus a’ caitheamh làn do thodhar fo chasan agus a’ sgioblachadh suas leis an spaid aon smodal nach tug na h-iarainn leotha. Agus nuair a bha iad a’ smaointinn a-nist a bha a’ cheilp fada gu leòr suas aca as an àthaidh, bhathar a’ cur sgrath mhath fhluich tarrsainn as an athaidh agus chumadh sin suas a’ cheilp. Bhathar an uair sin a’ teannadh ris a’ cheilp obrachadh eadar an sgrath sin agus ceann na h-àthadh suas gus dìreach gun canadh iad riutha fhèin gun robh i air a deagh cheilpeadh agus nach robh an còrr a dhìth orra. Agus ’s ann leis na h-iarainn a bha iad ag obair. Bha iad an toiseach ga tarraing ’uca a cheann na h-àthadh agus bha iad an uair sin a’ tòiseachadh air a h-obrachadh ’ugad agus bhuat. Agus chuireadh iad an t-iarann fodha agus bha iad ga obrachadh air ais ’s air aghaidh, na ceithir iarainn innte taobh ri taobh agus na fir na seasamh aig ceann na h-athadh. Agus bha iad an uair sin a’ tòiseachadh leis an h-iarainn agus iad na stop air am bualadh sìos an comhair an cinn gus am biodh i dìreach air a ceilpeadh agus bhathar an uair sin a’ sadadh a-staigh feamainn fhluich air a h-uachdar air chor agus nach fhaigheadh uisge na sìon na còir. Agus an uair sin an làr-na-mhàireach na an earair nuair a bhiodh a’ cheilp sin ri thogail, cha robh ach an fheamainn fhluich a shradadh dhith agus bhiodh an darna leth dhith an uair sin air losgadh. Agus bhathar an uair sin a’ dol chon na h-ath-àtha agus a’ dèanamh an nòs ceanda oirre agus a h-uile h-àtha gus am biodh dìreach a h-uile gin air an ceilpeadh. Agus bha na daoine an uair sin a’ smaointinn mura biodh an àtha is a’ cheilp air a ceilpeadh mar sin nach dèanadh i feum idir. Agus an ceann latha na dhà na trì an uair sin bha a’ cheilp sin ri toirt às an àthaidh agus ri bristeadh le òrd na le cloich na cnapan agus a’ cur ann an tòrr agus bha sibh a’ buain sgrathan a rachadh ga tughadh mu timcheall, an torra a bh’ ann a shin agus a’ cumail gu math dìonach gun uisge faighinn na còir. Agus bhiodh sibh sìor-chur dhan tòrr na ceilpeadh, a’ losgadh a h-uile latha fhad ’s a bhiodh feamainn agaibh a loisgeadh sibh gus am biodh na bh’ air tìr agaibh loisgte agus an tigeadh brath gun robh soitheach air tighinn airson a’ cheilp a thoirt air falbh. Agus bha sibh an uair sin a’ teannadh ri cur a-mach gu baile-puirt le cairt agus bhathar ga tomhas dhuibh air a’ chìdhe agus ga cur air bòrd dhan t-soitheach agus cha robh sìon a dh’ fhios agaibh gu dè a gheibheadh sibh air a son gus an innseasdh am bàillidh dhaoibh dè rinn i latha na cunntais a-null mu Fheill Màrtainn a-rithist, ach co-dhiù gun robh tasdan royalty ri chumail às a h-uile tunna stamh agus cha robh e an uair ud ri chumail às a’ cheilp idir, a cheilp na feamann. A-nist mu thuairme 1904 na 5 ’s ann a thugadh fainear na staimh a losgadh air a’ chladach agus an cur air falbh ann am pocannan, an luath aca agus ’s e luath-stamh a bheir sinn ris. Agus bha sibh a-nist a’ faighinn aon chòig notaichean an tunna air luaith nan stamh, bliadhnaichean a ceithir, bliadhnaichean a trì, bliadhnaichean tasdan an ceud. Ach cha robh an aon phrìos aig dithis sam bith. Bha prìs air leith air gach duine. Ged a bhiodh dithis ag obair ann am pàirt a’ losgadh na feamann na na stamh às an aon tòrr agus a’ dèanamh da leth air an uair sin, bha pris air leth aca mar bu bhicheanta. Ach co-dhiù nuair a theannadh ri losgadh na stamh bha crùn de royalty ga chumail on h-uile duine às an dùthaich. Agus bha aige ris an luath a bh’ ann a shineach a chur gu baile-puirt agus am baile-puirt a bh’ ann mu mhiadhain na dùthchadh againn mu dheas, Loch Aoineort. Agus a-nist cha tigeadh an stimear a-staigh chon a’ chidhe aig ceann a’ bhàigh ann an sin idir. Bha i a’ fuireach a-muigh pìos mòr, mòr san loch air acaire. Agus bha sgoithean an locha ’s e iad a bha a’ cuir a-mach na ceilpeadh ga h-ionnsaigh air a’ mhuir-làn agus dh’ fheumadh iad stad air a’ mhuir-tràigh gus an tigeadh an làn a-rithist agus tha aig a h-uile duine aig an robh luath-staimh na ceilp ri dhol a-mach agus a cuir air bòrd às na sgoithean. Agus mura bhithea’ tu a’ cuir air bòrd na ceilpeadh às na sgoithean, bhithe’ tu ag iomradh na sgothadh còmhla ris an duine leis bu leis i agus ga chuideachadh gus a cuir air bòrd a-muigh às a’ bhàta. Agus cha robh sìon saoghalta agad airson sin. Cha robh thu ach a’ dèanamh sineach an asgaidh. Agus nuair a bhiodh a’ chunntais ri dhèanamh, sin nuair a gheibhea’ tu a-mach dè rinn do chuid luath-stamh agus na pocannan a chaidh mu timcheall bha an cairtearachd à Loch Sgiobard na à Loch Baghasdal agam ri phaigheadh. Agus bha deagh bheachd agam-sa air an sin a chionn bha mi fhìn latha ann an Loch Sgiobard air thuras dhomh fhìn is gu dè bh’ air a’ chìdhe ach na pocannan agus chunna mi dìreach iomchaidh dà phìle dhiubh a chaitheamh air a’ chairt agam fhìn agus an toirt leam dhachaigh agus fios ’m gum feumainn a h-uile fear aca agus thuirt mi rium fhìn:
“Gu dearbha, cha bhi mise a’ paigheadh cairtearachd phocannan am bliadhna.”
Thug mi ’ugam fhin iad. Ach gu tubaisteach latha na cunntais bha, mar a bheirear air às a’ Bheurla, carting of bags orm-sa mar a bha air duine eile agus cha robh reusan dhomh gearain.
Agus thug iad fainear an uair sin nach robh feum air ceilp na feamainn a bhith ga ceilpeadh idir ach direach nuair a sguirea’ tu a’ losgadh is a bhiodh am bad mu dheireadh dhen fhemainn agad air a chur air an àthaidh, falbh dhachaigh is leigeil leithe ann an siod. Agus bha sin ann ach bha mòran dhe na seann-daoine nach robh a’ creidsinn sin idir. Rud eile dheth, cha robh iad ag iarraidh balla a chur mu timcheall mar a bhathar o shean idir ach a losgadh na tòrr air a’ chnoc. Bha mòran de na seann-daoine a bha a’ dèanamh na h-àthadh mar a bha iad o shean agus a’ dèanamh roinn de cheilpidh orra cuideachd. Ach mar a bha na seann-daoine a’ cràmh às, leig na daoine òga seachad obair a’ cheilpidh buileach agus dh’ fhaodadh iad sin a chionn bha an fheamainn a’ dol na ceilp a cheart cho math gun cheilpeadh idir, a chionn chunna mise an dà sheòrsa. Chunna mi air a ceilpeadh i is chunna mi a’ dol na ceilp i gun cheilpeadh idir. Bha i a cheart cho math agus cho trom. An àite sam bith air a’ mhachaire ghabhadh i a losgadh. An còrr cha robh feumair ach brosnachadh dhan teine an toiseach le fraoch agus dh’ fhaodadh an teine a bhith an àite sam bith air a’ chnoc.
Stad obair na ceilpe mu 1932 agus suas mu 1941 ’s ann a thòisich an Cefoil air obair.
Nuair a bha mise òg, bhiodh bainnsean ann agus bhiodh bàltaichean ann is bhiodh luaidh ann agus an dèidh an luaidh daonnan mar bu trice bhiodh bàl is dannsa ann airson treis a dh’ oidhche. Agus bhiodh iomain ann cuideachd air lathaichean sònraichte a-null ma lathaichean fèillte na Nollaig’, Latha Fhèill Anndra mar bu bhicheanta, a’ chiad latha a dh’ Fhèill na Nollaig’ bhiodh iomain ann agus Latha nan Trì Righean, sin an latha mu dheireadh de dh’ fhèillte na Nollaig’, bhiodh iomain ann. Agus bhiodh tasdan ga chuir mun cuairt air a h-uile gille òg a bha san iomain agus duine sam bith eile thogradh tasdan a chur ann de leth-sheann-daoine bhathar ga ghabhail cuideachd. Agus bha dithis ghillean air choireigin gan taghadh a-mach a rachadh a dh’ iarraidh fhiach de dh’ uisge-beatha. Agus an oidhche sin bhiodh am bàl ann am fear dhe na taigheachan-sgoile agus gheibheadh fear aon trì na ceithir a lan uisge-bheatha air sàilleamh a thasdain agus dannsa gu leòr agus cridhealtas fad na h-oidhche gu maduinn.
Às na taighean-luaidh bhiodh na h-ingheannan fuathasach deònach a dhol dhan luadh nan cluinneadh iad gum biodh dannsa is bàl ann an dèidh an luaidh agus bha na gillean a’ cruinneachadh agus am pìobaire agus an dèidh an luaidh bhathar gan cuir ann am biadh ann a sineach agus bha an dannsa agus an cridhealas a’ tòiseachadh agus bhìte a’ dannsa ann an sineach gus am biodh e ma dh’ fhaodhte eadar uair is dà uair sa mhadainn ma rachadh na daoine dhachaigh.
Agus bhiodh air rèitichean agus bainnsean na deochannan mòra ann agus tha beachd agam is bha mi a’ cluinntinn riamh gun robh deoch gu leòr air rèiteach m’ athar fhìn. Agus bha aon duine sònraichte a’ falbh far an rèitich deireadh na h-oidhche agus gu dè a bha ach starsach suas a thaigh a’ rèitich agus bha e gu math fliuch air gach taobh dhen starsaich agus aig ceann àrd na starsaich shuas bha tobar agus cha tug an duine an duine leis mar a bha e leis an deoch fainear gun robh an tobar idir ann ged a bha e eòlach gu leòr air agus dhan tobar a chaidh e sìos. Agus ràinig a chasan an grunn ann agus cha d’ rinn e ach dìreach laighe air a’ bhruaich aige suas agus an ath duine a thàinig fhuair e e às an tobar agus dh’ fhaighneachd e dè bha e a’ dèanamh an siod agus thuirt an duine leis a’ leth-fhacal a bh’ aige gun robh e a’ faicinn deorda bha e a’ dèanamh ann.
“Thig a-nuas às an sin, ma-tà,” ors’ esan, “agus bi a’ falbh dhachaigh.”
“A! faoda’ tu,” ors’ am fear a bha san tobar.
“Tha Beurla gu leòr agad.”
Agus bha e cho mi-dhòigheil a h-uile sìon a chanadh e mar siod. Chaidh a shlaodadh a-nuas às an tobar agus a thoirt dhachaigh.
Phòs mi sa bhliadhna 1913 agus an tè a phòs mi ’s ann ’s an aon bhaile rium fhin a bha i. Chaidh mi fhìn is i fhèin a bhreith san aon bhaile, a thogail is an n-àrach agus bha mi suas rithe fad dheich bliadhna agus an uair ud ann a 1913 phòs sinn agus tha sinn pòsda fhathast. (Mairead Aonghais Ruaidh Mhic an t-Saoir a chanar rithe.) Tha ar teaghlach againn ach a’ chiad mhac a bh’ againn, dh’ eug e agus ’s e sgoilear fhuathasach math a bh’ ann. Agus tha bràthair dhomh a-staigh còmhla rium fhathast, e fhèin agus mac eile dhomh agus dithis nighean. Agus tha farsaingeachd fearainn gu leòr againn, trì chruitean againn, cruit aig gach fear againn fhìn, mi fhìn is Niall agus cruit agus taigh aig mo mhac agus tha stoc math againn cuideachd. Tha ceithir mairt againn agus b’ àbhaist dhuinn barrachd a bhith againn. Ach tha beothaichean seasg eile gu leòr againn a bharrachd air an sin, ceithir mairt-laoigh agus tha beothaichean seasga gu leòr eile againn a bharrachd air an sin. Agus tha trì na ceithir a dh’ eich againn agus b’ àbhaist ceithir agus a còig a bhith againn. Bi daonnan againn mu thuairim is acaire buntàta agus bi mu sia na seachd a dh’ acraichean seagail againn agus ceithir na còig a dh’ acraichean coirce cuideachd. Bi fiar-spealaidh gu leòr againn. Bi mu thri cruachan feòir againn a h-uile geamhradh. Tha naoi na deich a chaoraich a fear aig gach duine aig a bheil na trì cruitean. Tha mu dheich air fhichead de chaoraich againn. Tha mu thrì na ceithir de ghamhna againn. Uaireannan eile bi barrachd is sin againn. ’S ann le crann Gàidhealach a bhios sinn a’ treabhadh. Tha eich againn co-dhiù airson an treabhaidh.
Ann an 1909 thàinig fear dhachaigh à Glashchu a bha pòsda aig piuthar mo mhàthar, William Deering agus a bhean aige air bàsachadh, agus dithis de chloinn còmhla ris gus bha dùil aige an dithis chloinne fhàgail còmhla ruinne. Ach a thaobh agus gun robh sinne air a dhol impric a Pheighinn nan Aoireann agus nach robh taigheadas na farsaingeachd againn san àm airson a’ chlann a chumail, cha do dh’ fhàg e idir iad a’ bhliadhna sin. Ach thug e gealltanas dhomh fhìn a-nis gu rachainn a-mach a choimhead air gu ruige Glaschu a dh’ aithghearrachd agus gheall mi dhà sin a dhèanamh. Agus glè bheag às a dheaghaidh sineach dh’fhalbh mi agus fhuaradh air dòigh agus chaidh mi air bòrd às an Dunara ann an Loch Baghasdal. Agus bha e a-nist ag iarraidh orm uair sam bith a bhithinn a’ falbh telegram a chur ’uige a dh’ innseadh nuair a bhithinn a’ ruighinn. Agus a-nist a thaobh agus nach do dh’fhalbh an Dunara an àm an Loch Baghasdal cha robh mise a’ dol a chur telegram air falbh gu bràth gus am bithinn dìreach a’ dol air bòrd. Agus bha a h-uile duine air cadal mun tànaig an Dunara agus cha robh rathad air an telegram a chuir air falbh. Ach dh’fhalbh mi air an Dunara co-dhiù agus ràinig i Barraigh. Agus bha deagh shìde againn cuideachd a’ falbh. Bha i fuathasach math agus nuair a ràine sinn Barraigh, bha a h-uile duine ann a shineach nan cadal cuideachd ach feadhainn a bha a’ feitheamh na stimear agus bha aon fhear ann, piermaster, fear Raghnall Seonstan agus b’ àithnte dhomh fhìn e mun deach e a-null gu ruige Barraigh. Bha e ann an Loch Sgiobard againn aig a’ chidhe agus ghearain mi ris nach robh duine ann an Loch Baghasdal dhan toirinn telegram nuair a chaidh mi air bòrd agus:
“A-nist,” orsa mi fhìn, “bheir mi dhut-sa an telegram agus cuire’ tu air falbh sa mhaduinn i nuair a dh’ fhosglar an oifis agus ’s ann gu fear a tha mi a’ dol a choimhead air a Ghlaschu a tha i a’ dol agus bi e gam choinneachadh-s’ aig a’ chidhe.”
Agus thug mi dha sia sgillin airson an telegram a chur air falbh. Agus dh’fhalbh a’ stimear an uair sin à Bàgh a’ Chaisteil agus chuir i aghaidh air Glaschu. Chaidh dìreach. Cha robh i a’ tadhall an àite air a’ dol suas. Agus bha aon seòladair oirre a mhuinntir na dùthcha. Bha mi fhìn gu math eòlach air agus bhithinn a’ bruidhinn ris an-dràsta agus a-rithist agus bha Tearraich oirre cuideachd a bha a’ dol gu ruige Èirinn a dh’ iarraidh bàta iasgaich agus bha mi fhìn is iad fhèin a’ bruidhinn agus fad an t-siubhail agus sinn còmhla. Is ràine sinn an seo Glaschu is chaidh sinn air tìr. Bha mise a’ coimhead feuch am faicinn an duine a bha gus bhidh gam choinneachadh. Ach, ge-tà, chan fhaicinn. Ach bha mi ann an Glaschu dìreach a latha ’r-nan-earair air falbh à Uibhist agus cha robh mi a’ faicinn duine air a’ chìdhe nuair a ràine mi. Ach co-dhiù fhuair mi seòrsa de dh’ ionnsachadh bho ghille a bha a-staigh air holidays à Glaschu mun d’fhalbh mi, far a faicinn na càraichean agus an dath a bhiodh air a’ chàr dha rachainn agus a bheireadh suas chon a’ Bhyars Road mi a chionn ’s ann gon a’ Bhyars Road ann a Hillhead a bha mise a’ dol. Agus ràine mi an t-àite agus chunna mi an càr uaine na liath mar a chaidh a chantail rium agus thoisich mi air dàr-bheachdnachadh air. Ach ma robh mise sgìth a bheachdnachadh air agus dhèanamh cinnteach gum b’e seo an càr bu chòir dhomh a dhol ann dh’fhalbh an càr. Ach cha b’ fhada gun tànaig a leithid eile suas agus cha robh agam-sa a bhith cho fada a’ beachdnachadh air an fhear seo. Rinn mi cinnteach gur h-e seo fear dhe na càraichean agus chaidheadh air bòrd ann. Ach cha robh sìon a dh’ fhor agam ciamar a bha mi a’ dol a dh’ fhaighinn às. Dh’fhalbh an càr agus an ceann treis a dh’ ùine stad e agus dh’ èibh an duine ainm àite air choreigin agus thàinig roinn dhe na daoine a-mach às agus thàinig feadhainn air bòrd. Agus thachair seo uair na dhà eile agus thug mise an uair sin an aire gum biodh deagh chothrom agam-sa air an àite a bha mi fhìn a’ dol ann fhaotainn, gun èighte mar seo e. Agus bha sinn a’ dol air aghaidh ach gu dè ach mu dheireadh chunna mi Byars Road sgrìobhte air oisean ann agus nuair a thàinig an càr suas dlùth ris stad e air a shocair. Thàinig feadhainn a-mach agus thàinig mise a-mach cuideachd agus feadhainn eile theann iad ri dhol a-staigh agus dh’fhalbh mise agus ghabhadh sìos an t-sràid. Agus tha mi am beachd gu h-e 229 Byars Road number a’ chlaus (close) a bha mi ag iarraidh. Ach, ge-tà, ’s e gach darnach a number a bha mi a’ faighinn, ach cha robh mi a’ dèanamh mòran seallaidh fiach am faicinn, ach sùil aithghearr le m’ shùil agus bha an dàrna number gam dhìth. Thug mi an seo sùil air an taobh eile dhen t-sràid agus thall air an taobh eile fhuair mi dìreach a’ number a bha a dhìth orm agus thuig mi an uair sin mar a bha number a bhos agus an ath number thall. Agus fhuair mi dìreach an dearbh number a bha a dhìth orm agus ghabh mi a-staigh dhan chlausa dhòigheil. Agus chunna mi doras air gach taobh dhìom ann a shin agus ainmeannan na daoine a bha a’ còmhnaidhe as na taighean air na dorsan. Agus dhìrich mi suas staighre agus thachair dà dhorus eile rium agus chunna mi na h-ainmeannan a bh’ orra agus tha mi a’ smaointinn gur h-ann air an treas – air an fhear a b’ àirde co-dhiù a bha taigh an duine a bha mise ag iarraidh agus nuair a ràine mi e, chunna mi dìreach William Deering sgrìobhte air an doras agus bhuail mi ann as doras agus thàinig an nighean a dh’ ionnsaigh an dorais agus thug i geòbadh gu math faoin air agus nuair a chunnaic i cò bh’ ann:
“O!” ors’ i-fhèin, “it’s Duncan.”
Agus ghabh mi-fhìn a-staigh agus bha William Deering ann a shin ann an leaba’ na shìneadh a’ ligeil analach agus dh’ èirich e as a’ mhineid ann am choinneamh.
“Ach gu dè air an t-saoghal,” ors’ e-fhèin, “mar a fhuair thu a seo?”
“O! fhuair gu dògheil,” ors’ mi-fhìn. “An d’fhuair sibh-fhèin an telegram a chuir mi ’ugaibh?”
“An-dà, cha d’fhuair,” ors’ esan.
Dh’ innis mise an uair sin mar a thachair.
“An-dà, cha d’ fhuair sinn i idir,” ors’ e-fhèin, “ach bha làn-dhùil againn ris an telegram bhuat agus bha mi-fhìn agus an nighean a’ dèanamh suas gu rachamaid sìos chon a’ chìdhe nuair a gheibheamaid i agus gum bitheamaid ann am falach feuch a faiceamaid dè mar a rachadh dhuibh-sa nuair a thigea’ tu air tìr.”
“A! an-dà,” ors’ mi-fhìn, “chaill sibh an spòrs a bha sin agus rinn mise an gnothach gu dòigheil.”
Agus a-nist as an àm a bh’ ann a shin ’s e sia tasdain faraidh a bh’ orm-sa gu Glaschu à Loch Baghasdal. Agus thug mi còig latha deug ann a shin an Glaschu còmhla ris an duine sin. Agus bha mi a’ cur aoidhreachd mhòr air Glaschu leis mar a bha e le ùpraid agus gu h-àraid as na garrachan-iarainn, a h-uile seòrsa buille gun stad gun fhois gun tàmh, gun dìobradh a dh’ oidhche agus de latha faoda’ mi, agus a h-uile seòrsa fuaim aig na buillean. Bhitheamaid a’ dol a-mach a’ choimhead geamachan football. Bhitheamaid a’ dol do pictures fhad ’s a bha mi ann. Agus mu dheireadh a seoach rinn mi airson tilleadh dhachaigh. Agus thill mi air an ath turas a bha an Dunara a’ tilleadh an ceann a’ cholla-deug. Ach bha an tìde na bu mhiosa againn air an turas seo agus bha i a’ tadhall ann a mòran aiteachan air a turas a’ tighinn a-nuas dhan Ghàidhealtachd agus dha na h-eileannan seach mar a bha i air a turas a-mach agus thug i am barrachd ùine gu h-àraid nuair a bha an droch thìde a’ tachairt oirre. Ach co-dhiù ann am beagan lathaichean thàine mi dhachaigh. Agus bha mise a staigh tuilleadh. Cha deach mi a Ghlaschu na air falbh às an dùthaich tuilleadh às a dheaghaidh sin.
We’d always be during the winter-time working on the seaweed for the staimh (type of seaweed) was ripe in the winter and when the spring was coming, the tangle on the oarweeds end had grown so large and fat with the juice that was in the oarweed and if you say the oarweed coming over to the shore around May Day, it would be opened up inside and the amount of juice had gone into the seaweed and at the beginning of summer always when the first high wind came it was spray the tangle from the oarweed and the tangle would come in heaps towards the shore and we’d take, using the oarweed, to land and spread it on as ash and on the shingle as well and when it would be two or three days there spread thinly and well and drying under the sun, he would wish to turn it over for a while on the other side so that it could be sunned and that was done it would then be dry, so dry that the man would be satisifed with it and it was put into a rick as it were made of hay that you find in a field and it was left there for a number of days in the rick until it would be turned back and then it would be grey and stiff and then you could make the best and heaviest kelp. If the man burnt it dry and hard then the kelp would only turn out as a dry coal of black ash. But if was getting grey in the rick, it was then getting so thin as if it had the consistency of a porridge in a pot. And we began be burn it, a kiln had to be constructed and two walls would be erected. And they would be about one and a half feet high and about a foot from one another and on stone was at each end of the kiln and there would be a foot and a half of a slope between the two walls and there would be six or seven feet in length and when a man was going to begin burning the seaweed in it, he would begin with get a bundle of heather or, else if it was closeby a place where a joiner was working then he would get a sackfull of wood shavings and that was put in the middle of the kiln throughout and he got the longest seaweed and it was thrown here and there between the walls and a part of it – the tail of the bit was always on top of the heather or the wood shavings that was in the middle of the kiln. He would then get a fire going – that’s what he used, and he blew it and he put it by the heather or with the woodshavings in the kiln and the fire would take. And the man began on the lightest lump now and again keeping it on top of the fire until he got the kiln firing to a hot heat. And when that was done, it would burn on the head until the wet seaweed had been gathered from the shore. And every place that the ficheadh[?] would open coming out of the kiln, a clump was put on top of the opening. It did not use up the clump with its strength at any time, or else if it did it would go down through the opening down to the ground and perhaps it would not work correctly at all and perhaps in the end it would put out the kiln, if too much of it happened. And many would be burning together, four and five and perhaps six and six kilns would be burning togther all day long. And now when the evening came they had to dismantle the kilns one after another for they would gather together for each kiln in order to make kelp. An they had a kelping iron, a piece of iron made by the blacksmith in the smithy and the iron would be four feet in length with a hook (plùic) at the lower end, the head would be prodded into the kiln and there was a corner at the other end and a wooden leg would be put out which would be four or five feet in the wooden leg and the other end of it ws put in the corner and turned once or twice to tighten it. And now each man in turn of the kelp workders started boil the kiln and the first man would let it down when he though it was boiled, and he waved to the other few to come togther and they came and he began to work on the kelp and the first thing they did was to pull the kelp with the iron from one end to the other and the man who had it or some other one of the men would put in the reòdhaidh[?] on the higher walls with a scythe in his hand and every particle of the reòdh[?] of the kelp that was tied to the stones higher up on top fo the wall were let down inside it. And now when they had most of the kelp pulled aside to the head of the kiln, the man then was going inside it and he was filled full of manure and trampled underfoot and it was tidied up with a spade of the refuse that had been taken with the iron. And when they now thought that their kelp had been long enough in the kiln, they would put a good many wet peats over the kiln and this kept up the kelp. It was then that they began to work the kelp between the peats and the kiln head just up until they would say to themselves that it was good kelp and nothing else was needed to be done. And they used the iron for this work. They began to pull it to themselves to the kiln head and they started to work it to an fro. And they would put the iron under and they worked it back and forth, the four irons would be side by side with the men standing at the kiln head. And they would then start with the irons and they were prodding and thumping it down headlong just until it turned into kelp and they would then throw in the wet seaweed on the surface so that no water or anything else could get in. And then the next day or the day after that when the kelp would be lifted, only the wet seaweed had to be removed and and the other half of it would then be burnt. It was then put into the next kiln and the same process was then carried out in every kiln until every one of them had kelp. And the men thought that if the kiln and the kelp had not been kelped then it would be any use. And at the end of a day or two or three then the kelp would be taken out of the kiln to be broken down with a hammer or with stones or lumps and it would put into a heap and then you would cut some peats that would be thatched around it, such a heap kept it quite protected so that water could not get in. And then you would always be adding kelp to the heap, burning everyday while you had seaweed and you burn all that you had on land was burnt and a message would then arrive that a vessel had come to take the kelp away. And you were then starting to put it out to the port with horsecart and it was weighed for you on the quay and put on board the vessel and you had no idea what you would get for it until you were told by the bailiff what it had made on the counting day over at Martinmas again, but in any event there was a shilling of royalty to kept back for every ton of seaweed and it was not then to be kept for the kelp at all, the kelp seaweed. Now around 1904 or 5 it was brought to the attention concerning seaweed being burnt on the shore and packed way in sacks, the ash from them which we would called seaweed ash. And you were getting fifteen pounds for a ton for the seaweed ash, four for years, three for years, years for shilling for a hundred. And no two men had the same price. Each man had his own price. Even though a couple were working on a part of the seaweed buring it or on the same seaweed from the same heap and then making two halves of it then, there was a different prices more often than not. But in any event in order to burn the seaweed there was royalty of a crown to be paid from every man in the district. And he had to send the ash to a port and the port was in the middle district down south at Loch Eynort. And now the steamer couldn’t come in to the quay at the head of the bay there at all. She would wait out a big, big distance in the loch on anchor. And the vessels in the loch they were putting out the kelp during high tide and they would have to stop when the tide was out until the tide came again and everyone man who had seaweed ash or kelp had to go out and put in on board from boats. And if you did not put the kelp on board from the boats, you would move the boat along with the man who owned it and help him until it would put on board out of the boat. And you had no wordly gain but that. You only did this for free. And when the accounting would be done, then you would find out what the seaweed ash made and the sacks that were put around were carted from Loch Skipport or from Lochboisdale which I had to pay. And I remember that because I was on a trip one day in Loch Skipport and what was on the quay but the sacks and I saw that it would be just appropriate to make two piles of them and to throw them onto my own cart and to take them home and I knew that I would need every one of one and I said to myself:
“Indeed, I’ll not have to pay for carting sacks this year.”
I took them for myself. But, unfotunately, on the accounting day, as they say in English the carting of bags, I had to pay just like every other man had to and I had no reason to complain.
And they noted then that there was no need for kelp or seaweed for kelping at all but just when you stopped burning it and the you had the last lump of seaweed had been put in the kiln, you left for home and let it be there. And that happened and many of the old folk didn’t believe this at all. Another thing, they didn’t want to put a wall around at all as they used to but burnt the heap on a hillock. Many of the old folk made the kiln as they had done before and they made a good measure of kelp with it as well. But as the old folk died out, the young people let the kelp go by completely and they may do that because the seaweed that made kelp was just as good without kelping at all, for I have seen both types. I have seen it kelped and I seen it made into kelp without any need of kelping at all. It was just as good and heavy. It could be burnt on any place on the machair. For the rest of it all was needed was to kindle a fire at the start using heather and the fire would take in any place on the hillock.
The kelp work ceased about 1932 up until around 1941 when the Cefoil work began.
When I was young, there were weddings and balls and there were waulkings and always after the waulking, more often than not, there would a ball and a dance for while at night. And there was shinty as well on special days such as the fair days at Christmas, St Andrew’s Day more often than not, and there was shinty on the first day of Christmas and on the Day of the Three Kings, which was the last day of the Christmas festival, and shinty was always played. And a shilling was put around for every young lad playing at shinty and any other person if they pleased would put up a schilling for a middle-aged men which was taken too. And two lads or another were picked out and they would go and fetch some of whisky. And on that night there would be a ball in one of the schoolhouses and a man would get three or four full whiskies for a schilling and there would be plenty dancing and enjoyment all night long until morning.
In the waulking houses the lassies would be very willing to go to the waulking if they heard there would be a dance and ball on after the waulking and the lads would gather and the piper and after the waulking there would be food served and then the dance and the enjoyment would begin and there would be dancing until it would be perhaps be between one or two o’clock in the morning before the people began to go home.
And at engagements and weddings there was lots of drinking and I remember that I have always heard that there was plenty drink at my own father’s engagment. And one particular man who left from the engagment party at the end of the night and what was there but a threshold up to the house of the engagment party and it was quite wet on each side of the threshold and at the highest end of the threshold there was a well and the man did not take the man with him as he was drunk and did notice there was a well at all although he knew fine well it was there and he fell down it. And his legs reached the bottom and he only just there on his aide and the next man who came got him out of the well and he aksed what he was doing there and the man said in a half word that he was seeing deorda and that’s what he was doing.
“Come up out of there, then,” he said, “and be away home.”
“Ah! You may,” said the man in the well.
“You speak plenty English.”
And he was so unhappy about everything that would be said there. He was pulled up out of the well and taken home.
I got married in 1913 and the woman that I married hailed from the same township as me. I and she were born in the same township, and brought up and reared there and I had courted her for a full ten years and then in 1913 we married and we are still married. (She is called Mairead Aonghais Ruaidh Mhic an t-Saoir ‘Margaret daughter of Red-haired Angus MacIntyre’). We have our family but our first son died and he was terribly good scholar. And we have a brother staying with us yet, him and my other son and my two daughters. And we have good enough spread of land, we have three crofts, a croft for each of us, myself and Neil and my son has a house and we have a good stock as well. We have four cows but we used to have more. But we have enough unfertile beasts and in addition to that, there are four calves and as well as that we have enough other unfertile beasts. And we have three or four horses and we used to have four or five. We always have around an acre of potatoes and we had around six or seven acres of barely and four or five acres of oats as well. We had plenty of scything hay. We had three haystacks every winter. Nine or ten sheep were owned by each one who had three crofts. We had around thirty sheep. There was around five hiefers. At other times we had more than that. We used the Highland plough for ploughing. We had horses in any case for ploughing.
In 1909 a man came home from Glasgow who was married to my maternal aunt, William Deering, and his wife had passed away, and he had two children with him and he expected to leave his two children with us. But because we were about to move to Peninerine and we did not have enough room at the time to keep the children, he did not leave them at all that year. But he promised me now that I’d go out to see him in Glasgow soon and I promised him to do that. And short time after that I left and everything was arranged and I went on board the Dunara in Lochboisdale. And he wanted me now anytime I would be away to send him a telegram saying when I would arrive. And now because the Dunara did not leave on time in Lochboisdale I was not going to send a telegram until I was just going on board. And everyone was asleep before the Dunara arrived and there was no way to send a telegram. But I left on the Dunara in any case and she reached Barra. And we had good weather too on departing. It was terribly good and when we reached Barra everyone was asleep too but for a few who were waiting for the steamer and one of them, the piermaster, a man called Ronald Johnston whom I knew before he went over to Barra. He was in Lockskiport at the quay and I complained to him that there was no one in Lochboisdale who I could give a telegram to when I went on board and:
“Now,” I said, “I’ll give you the telegram and you’ll send it away in the morning when the office is opened and it was to the man who I was going to see in Glasgow that it was going to sent and that I’ll meet him at the quay.”
And I gave him six shillings to send the telegram. And the steamer then left from Castlebay and she set her face to Glasgow. It went straight there. She did not visit anywhere else on the way down. And there was one local sailor on board. I knew him quite well and I’d speak to him now and again and there were Harrismen on board as well that were going to Ireland to fetch a fishing boat and I and they were speaking together all the way. We reached Glasgow and went on land. I was looking to see if I could spot the man that was going to meet me. But, though, I couldn’t see him. But I was in Glagow just two days after leaving Uist and I didn’t see the man at the quay when I arrived. But in any event I was given some directions from another lad from Glagow who stayed with us on hoilday before I had left, where I could see the trams and the colours of the cars to which I’d go and take me up to Bryer’s Road for I was going in the direction of Bryers Road in Hillhead. And I arrived in the place and I saw the yellow or grey tramcar that had been told to me to get and I started to study it. But before I became tired of studying it to make sure it was the right car for to me to go on the tramcar left. But it was not long another arrived and I didn’t need too long to study this one. I made sure it was the one of the tramcars and I went on board. But I had no idea how I was going to get off. The tramcar left and after a little time it stopped and the man shouted the name or another and a group of people got off and few others came on board. And this happened one or two other times and so then I knew that I would have a good chance to make the place that I was going to because of this shouting. And we were going on and what did I see eventually but Bryer’s Road written on the corner and when the tramcar leisurely came up close to the stop. A few got out and I got out as well and a few others were nearing to go in and I went down the street. And I think that it was 229 Bryer’s Road was the number of the close that I wanted. But, though, I was only getting every second number, but I wasn’t seeing too well to see correctly, but I took a quick glance with my eye and the second number was still required. I took then a look on the other side of the street and over on the other side I found just the number I needed and I understood then that the number on this side and the next number was over by. And I got just the right number I needed and I heartedly went into the clause. And I saw a door on each side of me there and people’s names were always on the doors of the houses. And I climbed up the stairwell and I was met with two other doors and I saw the names on them and I think it was on the third – on the highest one anyway which was the one which I was looking for and I reached it I just saw William Deering written on the door and I knocked on the door and a lassie came to the door and she gave a surprised gasp, quite weakly, when she saw who it was:
“Oh!,” she said, “it’s Duncan.”
And I went in and William Deering was there lying in bed taking a breather and he got up in a minute to meet me.
“But how in the world,” he asked, “did you get here?”
“Oh! I got here fine,” I said. “Did you get the telegram that I sent you?”
“Oh, well, no,” he said.
I told him then what had happened.
“Well, we didn’t get it at all,” he said, “but we fully expected a telegram from you and my daughter made up our minds that we’d go down to the quay when we’d get it and that we’d go and hide so we’d see how you’d manage when you came to land.”
“Ah, then,” I said, “you’ve lost your chance to have a bit of fun and so I managed very well.”
And now at that time it was six shillings I had to pay for the fare to Glasgow from Lochboisdale. And I spent those fifteen days in Glasgow in the company of that man. And I was slagging off Glasgow for it was full of noise especially the shipbuilding works, there was every short of hammering without end or cessation, without any peace, or cessation all throughout the night and day I might say, and every kind of noise with the blows. We’d go out to watch football matches. We’d go to the picturehouse while I was there. And at last I made ready to return. And I returned on the next ferry on the Dunara in a fortnight. But we had worse weather on this journey and it visited many place on the way up to the Highlands and Islands in contrast to the journey out and it took far longer especially because of the bad weather. But in any case I returned home in a few days. And I stayed at home thereafter. I’ve never gone back to Glasgow or have left the island since then.
NFC 1180, pp. 111–256
Images: Duncan MacDonald, 1951, Peninerine, South Uist, by Dr Werner Kissling. By courtesy of the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh.