News from Finlaggan by Catriona Bell

History, Culture and Community Celebration at Finlaggan

Easter weekend proved a busy time for the Finlaggan Trust with nearly 200 visitors coming to see the newly extended Lords of the Isles Information Centre. They recorded their enjoyment of the new displays, greater range of artefacts and the stunning view of Eilean Mor from the all glass gable-end, leaving comments such as 'Magic', 'Very atmospheric', 'Love the new building', 'Fab', in the Visitors Book.

As with many projects final touches to the displays are still continuing, the last stitches going into a magnificent wall hanging designed and made by the Quilters, but all will be in place for the Official Opening on 16 May. This special day will celebrate the work which has taken five years from initial plans to opening, and the tremendous support – local and global – which made it possible.

The Lords of the Isles were responsible for a flowering of Gaelic culture, there will be music, song and dancing. Islay was the centre of their power over Scotland's west coast and islands local and guest experts will be there to tell the story and answer questions. The Lords brought people from all over the west and further afield to Islay, we'll be doing that. They feasted – but they never tasted venison as it will be presented at the evening ceilidh. Continue reading...Medieval historian Dr Fiona Watson and Dr David Caldwell, both contributors to the BBC Scotland production 'Scotland's History' will join Trust committee members, Rona Mackenzie and Donald Macfadyen, in telling Islay's story. It's an ongoing story - a look at the surnames recorded on one of the new displays shows the living link between Righ Innse Gall, the Lords' Gaelic title, and people living on Islay to-day.

The new extension to the Finlaggan Information Centre

For the evening ceilidh our local singers will be joined by Kirsteen Macdonald and James Graham. Best known as the weather girl on BBC Alba, Kirsteen is also a National Mod double Gold Medal winner and made her Islay debut at the An Comunn Ileach gathering in Glasgow in March. James was the first Gaelic singer to win BBC Scotland's Young Traditional Musician of the Year, he's a Mod Gold Medallist and has sung with groups such as Na Seonaid and Urachaidh.

Did the Lords have pipers? It doesn't matter, 21st century Islay has very good ones as James Carmichael will prove on the day. They did have clarsach players, pieces of harp were found on Eilean Mor, and harps will be played again on the 16th, but - apart from thanking Lyn MacLean for highly efficient networking - we'll keep that for the next issue!

The programme of work on the Information Centre, the new bridge and website, was funded by local businesses and private trusts, HIE, the Nadair Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund, the Community Environment Renewal Scheme and the Finlaggan Trust's own fund raising. Army Engineers designed and built the bridge as an exercise, using materials provided by the Trust.

This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.

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