Uist shortlisters

Two local films have been shortlisted FilmG Open Awards. The competition had a record number of entries this year, so to be on the shortlist is already a marker of success.

A team of young filmmakers from Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath joined the Uist Unearthed team to tell the story of Ùisdean mac Ghilleasbuig Chlèirich (Hugh, son of Archibald the Cleric), a 16th century villain whose dreadful deeds are still talked about today! Their film has been shortlisted under the Culture category.
Also in the running is a short film produced by Eriskay producers Eoina Rodgers, Veronice MacKinnon, Alasdair Lindsay, Jonathan Beaton and Danaidh Wilson. The film looks at the longstanding Eriskay tradition of the the Hogmanay Caisein. The Eriskay film is up for both the Culture category and for Best Film.

FilmG is a Gaelic short-film festival and competition promoting and encouraging all aspects of filmmaking. FilmG has been a significant development vehicle for BBC ALBA, with many of its participants going on to develop media careers and receive further industry recognition.

FilmG’s Project Manager, Murdo MacSween, said: “The competition was so strong this year and our judges had a very difficult time picking the nominees, calling it the ‘best year ever’.

“FilmG is about developing great Gaelic storytellers and filmmakers, and if this year’s nominees are anything to go by, the future of Gaelic broadcasting looks to be in safe hands!”

FilmG Project Executive at MG ALBA, Alison Bruce, said: “Each year we’re blown away by the creativity and high quality of the FilmG entries and this year is certainly no different.

“FilmG is a fantastic route to get noticed in Gaelic media and it’s encouraging to see so many talented individuals engaging with the competiton. We wish all nominees the very best of luck and look forward to seeing who picks up an award at this year’s awards ceremony in February.”

The winning films will be announced at the FilmG Awards on Thursday 16 February 2023 at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow.

Na Cullaigearan Na h-Èirisgeich

Eoina Rodgers, Veronice MacKinnon, Alasdair Lindsay, Jonathan Beaton & Danaidh Wilson. Gach Oidhche Challainn, bith na balaich òga ann an Èirisgeigh a’ cumail suas cleachdadh a tha a’dol air ais ceudan de bhliadhnachan. Bidh iad a’ falbh o dhoras-gu-doras air an eilean agus ag ràdh duan Gaidhlig aig gach taigh. Bidh iad cuideachd a’ cleachdadh coinneal sònraichte, ris an canamaid caisin. Tha an traidisean laghach tha seo a’ bàsachadh ach tha e fhathast air a chumail beò ann an Èirisgeigh. Tha am film seo a’ sealltainn dhuinn mar a bhios na h-Eirisgeich ag ionnsachadh na feadhainn òige gus an tradisean a chumail suas.

Each Hogmanay, the young boys in Eriskay maintain a tradition which goes back hundreds of year. They go from door-to-door on the island and recite a Gaelic poem at each house. They also use a special candle, which we call a Caisein. This tradition is slowly dying out but it is still kept alive in Eriskay. This film shows the process of the tradition being passed down from the older generation to the younger ones to maintain it.

Ùisdean Mac Ghilleasbaig Chlèirich
Uist Unearthed & Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath

B’ ann do Dhòmhnallaich Shlèite, meur cudromach de Chlann Dòmhnaill, a bha Ùisdean mac Ghilleasbaig Chlèirich. Chaidh a dhèanamh na bhàillidh air Uibhist a Tuath ann an 1580 AD le Dòmhnall Gorm Mòr, MacDhòmhnaill Shlèite, a bha càirdeach dha. Bhiodh am bàillidh a’ rianachd an fhearainn às leth an uachdarain, mar eisimpleir a’ togail a’ mhàil agus a’ cumail fhiadh na frìthe. Ach bha droch rùn aig Ùisdean, agus dh’fheuch e MacDhòmhnaill Shlèite a mhurt. Mar a tha am film seo, air a cho-riochdachadh le sgoilearan Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath, a’ sealltainn, cha deach a’ chuilbheart mar a bha e an dùil!

Ùisdean mac Ghilleasbuig Chlèirich is still known locally as a dastardly villain. Ùisdean mac Ghilleasbuig Chlèirich (Hugh, son of Archibald the Cleric), was a member of the Sleat branch of the influential Clan Donald. Around 1580 AD, he was granted Factorship of North Uist by his relative Donald Gorm, chief of the MacDonalds of Sleat. Being the Factor meant that he oversaw the clan’s territories in North Uist – collecting rent from the tenant farmers and managing stocks of wild game. However, Ùisdean had greater ambitions, and soon began plotting against his chief. As our animation co-produced with the pupils of Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath shows, this ended up going poorly for him!

Careers Fair highlights the range of opportunities for young people

Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Outer Hebrides marked November’s Scottish Careers Week 2022 by hosting Careers Events across the Western Isles.

In Uist, 279 Sgoil Lionacleit pupils, members of the public and parents gathered in the Lionacleit Sports Centre on Thursday 10th November to hear what local employers had to say.

Pupils were able to find out about a broad range of local career options, with 27 local employers, support services and learning providers on hand to answer questions and highlight the great range of opportunities available – from health and emergency services, to childcare, education, technology and construction. There was representation from larger organisation including NHS, MOWI and security and defence contractor QinetiQ.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader, Cllr Paul Steele, said: “It is crucial that young people across the Western Isles are made aware of the range of employment, education and training opportunities available to them. It has been fantastic to see the engagement and genuine interest of young people at these events and equally the commitment of the business community to inform and inspire.

“To see three events such as this take place across the Western Isles on three consecutive days demonstrates the fantastic work of DYW Outer Hebrides and partners in narrowing the gap between local employers and every young person in the Western Isles.”

A glimpse through time with Alasdair MacGillivray

When the contents of the Balivanich School time capsule were exposed to the light of day on 30th September 2022 before the gathered school community and former pupils and staff, I thought that it might be a good time to look back (from the security of retirement!) at the first twenty-five years of the ‘new’ (now ‘old) Balivanich Primary School by the sea.

When we were completing our teacher Training in Aberdeen in the mid-1960s, a saying often heard around the training college was: “While a week, or even a day, can be a very long time in politics, twenty years can be a very short time in the life of a school!” These wise words of caution were obviously given to try and temper our enthusiasm, and probably over-enthusiasm; the suggestion being that a school was akin to a giant oil tanker. If you wish to institute major changes, you need to make very minor adjustments to the course you are steering at a very early stage: major change is for the long haul. The political comment has certainly come home to roost over the last few days and weeks. I think that, though, even in those distant years, school buildings were built to last, but static schools preserved in aspic were on the way out! The new constant from now on would be CHANGE.

Balivanich Primary school was physically opened in April 1972 and officially opened in September 1972. It is believed to have been the only solely primary school built by Inverness County Council in its island areas. I would think that the first twenty-five years in the life of the school witnessed more changes to the school – and probably in the school – than any other period in its relatively short operational life.

The time capsule assembled in 1997 was to mark the anniversary of the first twenty-five years of the ‘new’ school beside the sea. It contained items which we thought would be of interest to pupils in 2022 – a snapshot of school and community life in the late 1990s. How many items one can remember is quite a taxing exercise! A programme of events and activites was drawn up for the whole of 1997 school year- the time capsule is the last of these.

I wonder how many pupils thought that it would be their own children who would be opening the boxes with them. How many members of staff thought that it would be their children or grandchildren who would be assisting in the ‘big reveal’ in September 2022? I must confess that I saw the year 2022 from that 1997 viewpoint as a grey blob in the distant future; it seemed so very far away, and possibly someone of my age daren’t think that they might actually witness its opening!

Balivanich Primary School set out on its path to fuller more modern ICT provision in a very slow and hesitant way: the school was nearly three years old before the local authority thought it would be a good idea to install a telephone; my predecessor had to visit the telephone kiosk in Columba Place if he wished to make urgent telephone calls. This was many years before the introduction of that wonderful institution The School Secretary. The Director of Education had a well-prepared and well-rehearsed defence against requests for additional school expenditure such as this during his regular visits to the school.

Year 1: You can’t have a secretary because you don’t have a typewriter; Year 2: You can’t have a typewriter because you don’t have a secretary. Repeat annually as required!

In 1975 we had a black and white television set to be timetabled for the whole school of about 140 pupils; we had a master radio in the headteacher’s office, piped to all the classrooms, and we had a rather wonderful cassette tape recorder (a really modern invention at the time!) we had won for submitting an entry and winning, to a national slide-tape competition. With the introduction of computers in the early- to mid- eighties our ICT steps began to gallop, so much so that after considerable begging, bargaining and fund-raising, it is safe to say that all within our school were reasonably computer literate and proficient by 1997, when the time capsule was being assembled.
What were the main challenges during these twenty-five years from 1972 to 1997 can be summed up (like the best sermon) with three ‘Ts’: Tides, Tempests and Turnover!

Tides. This part of Aird/ Balivanich was well known for tidal incursions long before the school was built, so it was inevitable that the high tides would continue to visit us, especially if backed up by strong north-westerlies. I’m sure that the good folk of Balivanich and Aird would have warned Inverness County Council of this risk. The school was barely two years old when the tide came in to a depth of 15 cm throughout the building: we had permanent tide marks on all the new furniture to commemorate this event. I can recall the tide lapping at the front door on at least seven occasions and coming into the school at least three times. Canute only had a kingdom to worry about, we had the safety of up to two hundred precious pupils and fifteen very valued members of staff to guard! It was the sea that finally defeated the school as a viable centre for education.

Tempests. During a visit from an executive from CLASP Buildings (the makers of this type of prefabricated structure, very popular with local authorities in the 60s and 70s) the fellow expressed the view that our location was probably the most exposed of any of their buildings throughout the world. I think he was pleasantly surprised that it was still standing, which wasn’t overly-reassuring! (…and 50 years later it’s still standing). It’s not surprising we had a constant battle with the elements. In addition, the flat roof, covered with tar and stone chippings to absorb the sun’s heat(?), ensured that our large armour plate glass windows were constantly being smashed under an avalanche of stones (twenty on one occasion), which also stripped the paintwork off staff cars from time to time. Where the tar cracked, the rain found its way to the classrooms and store cupboards below.

Turnover. As most of our pupils were children of service families (Army and RAF) there was a constant coming and going of pupils throughout the year: it wasn’t exceptional to enrol as many as 80, 90 or more new pupils during one school session and to see just as many leave us during that year – all at different times, after attendances of a few days up to two years on average.

Just before the end of our twenty-five years under the microscope, all this sadly came to a sudden and very abrupt end.In the mid-1990s just in the space of two years, 90 pupils left us not to be replaced, reflecting the developments at the Range and RAF Benbecula. No more would we look forward to drawing some of our pupils from all over the world.

In spite of (or because of) all of the above, I think it fair to say that we all loved working in Balivanich Primary School during 1972 to 1997, and beyond. There is a theory which maintains that the more challenging the conditions within the workplace, the more the staff work and pull together. Many visitors to the school often complimented us on the feeling of welcome, harmony, warmth, care and co-operation, they experienced on entering the school buildings.

The overarching feeling for us throughout these twenty-five years was: what a joy and privilege to share, even in a small way, in the development of all the pupils who passed through our school. We think most of them found it a very positive and happy experience.

Perhaps twenty – even twenty-five – years, is indeed a very short time in the life of a school?

Alasdair MacGillivray Oct 2022

Hard work and a lot of nettle rash as the community gets to work

The Lochmaddy community gathered on a sunny Saturday to begin the work of transforming the village playpark.

Clearing a mountain of overgrown foliage the workers uncovered the play equipment and ground ready to be repaired and repainted, and ready for the installation of a new boat swing, a gentle nod to Lochmaddy’s port history.

Local parent Helen Stoddart has been working tirelessly on moving the planning for the new playpark to action, it’s a credit to her hard work that the children will this summer be able to play in the park safely.

Helen told Am Pàipear: “This is just phase one for Lochmaddy. There are plans drawn up for a larger development around the edge of the football pitch, which will have equipment suitable for toddlers to teens. For this to go ahead, Lochmaddy Hall Committee are putting out a call for more volunteers to help with the planning and funding applications to make this a reality. If you can spare a little time and enthusiasm to see a fantastic play facility come to Lochmaddy, please do get in touch to offer some help.”

The Committee was faced with more work than expected, as Helen explained: “A previous announcement on Facebook from RAF Boulmer that their contractor JRC services would make over the football pitch and playpark area did not not come to fruition, so unfortunately, it is back to the Lochmaddy Hall Committee to create this space for the community and visitors to enjoy.”

The funding for the gardening equipment and volunteers lunch was secured by North Uist & Benbecula Locality Partnership through the Community Shout Out Fund supported by CnES, NHS Western Isles, The Scottish Government and Scottish Rural Network.

The plans for the playpark are available to view in Lochmaddy Hall.

Helen can be contacted by email at

UHI Degree Show at Taigh Chearsabhagh

Four long years of study and many months of final preparations are coming to fruition for the art students at UHI’s North Uist Campus, based in Taigh Chearsabhagh.

The annual Degree Show will exhibit the work of graduating Fine Art students Sif Nielsen and Kathrhona Lawson. Sif moved from Denmark to study here, and has been based in Lochmaddy for the past four years. Kathrhona spent the first three years of her degree in Stirling, and came to Uist for her final year. Both artists were drawn to Uist by its natural environment and cultural heritage, and both have chosen to remain here to continue their work, joining a growing and vibrant community of artists that includes the Uist Arts Association, Taigh Chearsabhagh and UHI.
Running along side the degree show, the annual Open Studio exhibition will showcase the work of the other students studying at the North Uist campus, across both the one year NC Art and Design and the BA(Hons) Fine Art. The other students are: Jessie Coldwell, Emily Dodd, Nisha Hallberg, Andrew Wallace (NC Art and Design) Ami Robb, Liz French and Maggie Barker – BA(Hons) Fine Art.

The student population at Taigh Chearsabhagh is small but diverse, and that makes for a unique learning experience, as Course Leader Anne Mackenzie

explains: “Our current students range in age from 17 to 50, and last year we had a 70 year old who graduated from the course. Some are local, or from other parts of the Western Isles, and a good number came from across the UK and beyond to study here. That breadth of experience really adds value to the to the student’s time with us.”

Pictured is Nisha Hallberg, from Brighton, whose award winning designs for signage will be installed in the doorways at the new Cnoc Soillier building this summer. Nisha is heading off to Edinburgh to continue her studies.

Jessie Coldwell, who came to the NC course straight from Lionacleit School, was clear that the course has opened new doors for her: “I wouldn’t have chosen to pursue art as a study option if this course hadn’t been available locally. The portfolio preparation element has been so helpful in getting me ready to apply.” Jessie’s applications proved successful and she will be continuing her studies in Dundee.

The college is very much part of the community, and Anne encourages anyone with an interest in studying art to get in touch: “There are learning opportunities for different entry levels, so if you are a beginner or want to revisit your creativity after a gap, the NC course may be right for you or if you have an existing grounding in visual art and the academic qualifications, the BA (Hons) Fine Art offers an exciting opportunity.”

Both shows open on May 28th, with the Degree show closing on June 11th and the Open Studio exhibition continuing on until June 25th.

By Liam Macphee

Schools from all over Uist and Barra recently took part in the well-known football competition Cuach na Cloinne. The competition is a 5 a side tournament which is aimed at encouraging young people to use more Gaelic in their day to day life – even when playing football.

The football on display in the tournament was brilliant to watch as every team was desperate to win their way to the finals.

Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath 1 (SUAT1) won the regional final at Sgoil Lionacleit and will travel to Bught Park in Inverness to play in the final on the June 1st.

SUAT1 were unbeaten in their group, which was brilliant in itself; they went on to play Sgoil Dhalabroig, who topped the other group, in a great game of football to end off the day North vs South! Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath 1 managed to take the game quite comfortably, with a

4-2 win seeing them book their place in the finals in Inverness.

Am Pàipear took the opportunity to speak to Alex O’ Henley, UEFA’s Scotland Correspondent and award winning broadcaster and Gaelic match commentator, he said:

“You are never too young to get into the winning habit and Cuach na Cloinne is a great opportunity for the stars of tomorrow to showcase their talent while competing against contemporaries from Gaelic schools across Scotland. Sgoil an Iochdair were the first team from the Southern Isles to win this trophy a few years ago and hopefully Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath will go on to emulate them in Inverness. Uist and Barra football offers a development pathway for young talent and North Uist will be hoping that these youngsters will be breaking into their senior side in the next few years.”

Maria Murray, Development Director at Comunn na

Gàidhlig (CnAG) said: “It’s fantastic that we are able to run events like this again. The level of excitement, Gaelic and football are all excellent!”

Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath teacher Dianne Morrison is accompanying the children to Inverness, along with PE teacher Margaret Mary Findlay. Diane was delighted with the school’s performance: “As a school, we are incredibly proud of the children. After two years of restrictions, it’s fantastic to be able to take them away to Inverness for the finals. Many thanks to CnAG for organising the event.”

Pictured left to right are: back – Cathal Dobbie, Alexander MacIsaac, Ruairidh MacRitchie; front – Jack Prior- Pitt, Owen Mathis-Foote, Kyle Stewart.