Atlantic Gaels

Writer and Broadcaster Aidan O'Hara explores the cultural and historic ties between County Donegal in Ireland and the Scottish Western Isles.

Writer and Broadcaster Aidan O'Hara explores the cultural and historic ties between County Donegal in Ireland and the Scottish Western Isles.

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WELL-known writer and broadcaster Aidan O’ Hara takes to the An Lanntair stage next week as he delivers an illustrated presentation exploring the cultural and historic ties between the Western Isles and Co.Donegal.

For centuries there have been close cultural links with Donegal. Historians have pointed out that our people are of the same stock and speak the same language – or languages, indeed.

Close trading links, inter-marriage and cultural contacts strengthened and sustained the relationship on both sides of the sea.

Aidan’s talk will include stories of times when Donegal exported whiskey to the people of the islands, who in turn came over with barley, corn, herring and ponies!

Music, song and dance too play a vital part in a shared heritage.

A major part of the presentation will deal with the Scottish soldiers from the islands known as galloglaigh in Gaelic and gallowglasses in English.

These mercenary warriors were attached to powerful Donegal clans – among them the O’Donnell and O’Doherty families – and they eventually settled in Ireland.

In fact, like so many natives of the country, Aidan has galloglaigh blood in his veins with ancestors whose names include Mac Colla (Coll), Mac Suibhne (Sweeney) and Mac Ruairi (MacRory and Rogers).

In the centuries before the Tudors came to power, Donegal and the northern part of Ireland in general was terra incognita to the centre of power in Dublin Castle.

There was active and constant communication with the West Highlands and the term ‘the Wild Irish’ was applied not only to the Irish in Ireland but to the Islands and Highlands as well, as Edinburgh and London sought to bring them under control.

Aidan O’Hara presents his talk ‘Atlantic Gaels’ at An Lanntair arts centre, Stornoway, on Tuesday, November 20th. For more information visit www.lanntair.com