Gaoth (Wind)


The wind is ever present in the Outer Hebrides activating sound in everything: – in the trees at Stornoway castle; blowing dried leaves down a deserted road on a empty Stornoway Sunday; in the reeds at Luskentyre, Harris with wild geese flying overhead; making the gate at the ruined and deserted Ormacleit Castle, South Uist sing a song that is repeated and varied in numerous gates, fences and sheep pens all over the Hebrides; whipping up a huge surf at beaches all over the west side; making the empty of containers at Griminish harbour on North Uist rattle and thunder; driving wind turbines mad …….and constantly buffeting the microphone from all sides.

In 2006 I visited the Communn Eachdradh Nis (Ness Historical Society) on the West side IMG_2708of Lewis. In between searching though the immense amount of material on croft histories as well as videos of herring girls, hand spinning and road dances, Alison Brown and Mairi MacKenzie (who was kindly translating from the Gaelic) chatted to me about the proposed wind farm which I had seen the plans for in a shop front in Stornoway. At that time apparently almost every one was against this proposal for a huge amount of windmills stretching across the moor from Tolsta to Ness which would be able to be seen from the Ullapool – Stornoway ferry as well as heard over a wide area. These plans for one of Europe’s largest windfarms on Barvas Moor were rejected by the Scottish government in early 2008. In 2012 a much smaller (36 instead of 181 turbines) and relocated scheme to land west of Stornoway was given the go ahead.

_MG_2962Nowadays every inhabited island seems to have at least one community hall for concerts, ceilidhs, Scottish dancing, sales of work, yoga etc and many of them are running from their own wind turbines.

Gaoth’ is one of the many the Scottish Gaelic words for ‘wind’. The Outer Hebrides are the most strongly coherent Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) speaking area in the world. Gaelic is a Celtic language related to Welsh, Cornish and Breton. In the 1901 and 1921 censuses, all parishes were reported to be over 75% Gaelic speaking, By 1971 most areas were still more than 75% Gaelic speaking and it remains a relatively strong in spite of a continued decline. In the 2001 census 61.1% of the population of the Outer Hebrides spoke Gaelic (compared with 1.2% in the whole of Scotland). A handful of Gaelic speakers can be found in the United States, Canada and Australia most of whom are descended from nineteenth century emigrants.

Gaoth (Wind) 9’59”