Blar - A Report by Susan Campbell

Thig crioch air an saoghal, ach mairidh gaol is ceòl. The world will pass away, but love and music will endure.

Susan Campbell reports: "The long awaited evening came; the night of the Blàr performances which played to enthralled audiences in a full Bowmore Hall. This event has been a true Islay and Jura whole-community effort and labour of love, with so many islanders joining to sing or play music, draw or paint or photograph, read Gaelic poetry or share their skills by tutoring young people.

Iseabail Mactaggart, Raymond Lafferty and Clare Jordan, the three principal figures behind the two performances of Blàr in Bowmore Hall. Photo:

Blàr is based on the poem “Blàr Thraigh Ghruineart” by William Livingstone, one of the lesser-known Islay Bards. Livingstone wrote the poem in his native Gaelic during the 19th century, possibly retelling a story of the battle which had become part of the oral history in Islay. The work was one of his political statements on war, politics and nationalism. Continue reading....

The Traigh Gruinart battle was fought over rights to lands in the Rhinns of Islay, between an uncle, Lachlan Mor MacLean of Duart, Isle of Mull and a nephew, MacLean’s sister’s son James MacDonald of Dunyvaig. There is everything contained in the tale that there should be for a good-going yarn; historic facts of a documented family feud, rich lands under dispute, mystery and Second Sight of a cailleach, and a strange mythic individual called the Dubh Sìth, the black-haired dwarf who was offended and afterwards gave full retribution when the chance came. The tragic conclusion at Kilnave chapel was the end of an epic tale.

The two performances of ‘Blàr’ were full of magic, and expressed all the drama in full measure. The music composed by Clare Jordan and arranging sections of the ‘Blàr’ poem is complex and it needed all the singers and musicians to give their best, from the youngest child in the chorus and right through the whole 140 or so performers. The evocative visuals were prepared by Raymond Lafferty, and were a distinctive and beautiful complement to the musical performance. As Producer, Iseabail Mactaggart, Còisir Ghàidhlig Ìle conductor and singer extraordinaire herself, drew together the whole array of performers, technicians, ticketing with Fèis Ìle, visiting primary schools to tell the story and make the children aware of part of the island’s history and Gaelic heritage. Iseabail brought together the varied groups and individuals, inspiring and encouraging so all felt that they were truly ‘Blàrachs’.

Story published with kind permission of the Ileach Newspaper