WW1 touring exhibition makes its home at Harris ferry office

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Caledonian MacBrayne’s port office in Tarbert, Isle of Harris, has become the latest venue for the thought-provoking Gairm nan Gàidheal – Call of the Gael – exhibition.

Conceived and curated by Stornoway-based Pròiseact nan Ealan, and installed by The Creative Cell/ An Còmhlan Cruithachail, the exhibition series was launched on October 31 last year at An Lanntair.

The installation at Tarbert Port Office marks the fifth location and will remain in place throughout the summer – the Harris version of the display has moved the short distance from Sir E Scott School in Tarbert, where it opened in March.

Exploring the role played by the islanders from the Western Isles who fought in The Great War, the exhibition investigates the high price paid by these Gaelic warriors in service of King and country, as well as the devastating effects the high losses had on their island communities.

It is supported by pictorial display boards with both historical narrative and personal recollections, as well as a moving collection of artefacts, including a WW1 German army helmet, sourced from family collections across the Western Isles.

The display boards recount the roles played by the Gaelic soldiers and sailors during the conflict – the Tarbert exhibition also has additional panels featuring personal stories and photographs supplied by Harris islanders, allowing the display to be rooted strongly in the community.

A South Uist version of Gairm nan Gàidheal has recently opened at Kildonan Centre and joins Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy, North Uist, which launched in March. A Barra variant will also open in due course. The exhibition was also on show from August to October last year at Lionacleit School on Benbecula.

“We have had both passengers and local people coming in to see the exhibition,” said Tina MacLeod, clerk at the Tarbert office. “It has brought something very different to the offices and certainly gives visitors a pause for reflection.

“CalMac is proud of its own strong history within the communities it serves and it feels fitting to be able to host the exhibition in tribute at the port office.”

Chrissie MacRae, Pròiseact nan Ealan project coordinator, said: “The reaction to the Gairm nan Gàidheal exhibitions has been remarkable. Clearly, the impact of the Great War in our islands is keenly felt and with excellent support from the Commun Eachdraidh network in the islands we have been able to unearth stories and experiences which have lain dormant for decades.

“We are sure that the people of Harris and the many passengers and visitors who pass through the ferry terminal will embrace and appreciate the exhibition as much as islanders have in other communities. It’s been an honour for us all at Pròiseact nan Ealan to have been involved in these exhibitions and we would like to thank CalMac for hosting us at the Tarbert Port Office.”