Rekindling links with Connemara

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A group of 15 adults and teenagers from Connemara on the West Coast of Ireland have very recently concluded a week-long visit to Ness, Isle of Lewis where they re-kindled cultural links that were first established over 10 years ago when a party of Nisich visited the Emerald Isle in 1999 in the run up to the ‘Ceilidh san Iar Thuath’ millennium celebrations, and the official opening of Taigh Dhonnchaidh, the music and arts centre based in Habost.

During day time hours, the week-long event - Ceangal Chonamara & Nis 2011 included workshops with youngsters from Ness and Connemara learning Gaelic and Gaeilge, sean nos and highland dancing, poetry, singing, melodeon and guitar.

The two groups toured together seeing places of interest in Ness such as Breanish Tweed, the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse and of course Eoropie Dunes Play Park.

They also toured the West Side visiting the Arnol Black House, Carloway Broch and the Calanais Stones and received a guided coastal walk in Ness leaving both parties immersed in island history and culture. The group also learned about media after being recorded for BBC ALBA’s An Là and Radio nan Gàidheal’s Aileag.

The youngsters taught each other dances and re-introduced dannsa an rathaid to Port of Ness by dancing to the sounds of Connemara box player PJ Sonai O’ Conghaile and Ness pipers, Hector and Calum Murdo Maclean.

At the well attended barbeque and cèilidh held at Taigh Dhonnchaidh, another dannsa an rathaid was held with the Ness Melodeon Band providing the music. Not content with dancing on the road, the pipers took to the table, which the dancing tutors later used as a platform to show off their steps!

On the last day of the trip, the Irish visitors made a very impressive display at the West Side Agricultural show, ensuring that the Siaraich weren’t missing out on all the fun, with the week finally rounded off with a cèilidh in the Ness Social Club.

All those who took part during the week also attended the cèilidh with the addition of the exceptional Lewis singer Margaret Stewart who delighted the audience with her fine mix of Gaelic song.

The enthusiasm of the youngsters to learn about each other’s cultures was an inspiration to the community of Ness and the two groups ably demonstrated the value of their own respective cultures.

This often led to renditions of the songs ‘Brochan Lom’ and ‘An Rogaire Dubh’ being heard long into the night and has left children on each side eager to help fund another trip next year, this time with the Nisich going to Connemara!

Taigh Dhonnchaidh would like to thank all those who helped and supported at events throughout the week. You know who you are! Thanks also goes to our local councillors, CnaG, Sgioba na Gàidhlig, The Ness Funeral Society, Iomairt Ghàidhlig Iar Thuath Leòdhais, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Fèisean nan Gaidheal for all their financial support and without whom the event would not have been possible. Ceud mìle taing dhuibh uile!