By 1697, Martin Martin had graduated from the University of Edinburgh and made his now famous and arduous tour of the Western Isles of Scotland. He left us some of the earliest descriptions of life on St Kilda, our furthest inhabited island and strong in the national consciousness.
In 1986 I headed out there myself - on a much less well known tour - on an old sailing ship the Lorne Leader, in the company of a St Kildan, Lachlan MacDonald, in his eighties at the time and sleeping in the bunk above me. You can see young Lachlan in many of the photos of the island prior to evacuation in 1930. I remember him as tall, friendly, self contained - and with a snore that kept most of us awake (which we of course denied).
In the ship’s galley, in the presence of such a man, at sea, another traveller Max MacLeod (his own family part of famous Hebridean lineage) sang old songs to us, his voice natural, untrained and without drama. An ordinary voice made powerful by the setting and company. Max was aware of this. It is a strong memory.
The history of small isles art production is original, varied and great - perhaps the scale of land-to-human helps us feel we are bigger than we actually are.
Songs from the Frivolous Past
a reference to religious austerity imposed from 1822 on St Kilda... will be a series of objects, films and immersive technology surrounding events such as these... on one of the stacs in 1727, three men and eight boys were marooned for 9 months, without any means of communication or understanding why there was no rescue. They will be improvised pieces using the raw materials available to the castaways and mindful of the few fragments of poetry, spirit and song we have from that time and place.