Gaelic psalm exhibition starts its island tour

​Since launching in January an exhibition which explores the traditional forms of Gaelic psalm singing has been well received – and now it's set to tour the islands, with a launch at the Kinloch Historical Society in Balallan.
The exhibition will be launched in Balallan on Friday.The exhibition will be launched in Balallan on Friday.
The exhibition will be launched in Balallan on Friday.

​For the last three months, it has been available at Museum nan Eilean in Stornoway and from Friday (19th) will be on show in Kinloch, where it will remain till June.

The exhibition will then tour other Hebridean communities including Portree, Lionacleit and Ness, when visitors can learn more about the sacred song traditions of the islands and explore sound recordings, film, a digital archive and interactive virtual tour.

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“Seinn Spioradail: Sacred Soundscapes” is based on the extensive work of Dr Frances Wilkins, Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen.

She has spent the last six years undertaking fieldwork documenting and recording Gaelic spiritual singing including hymnody, Gaelic psalmody and spiritual bàrdachd, to create an archive and bring the music to a wider audience.

Dr Wilkins said: “We are excited to be bringing the exhibition to Balallan, considering the village’s central importance in the development of this tradition over the years.

“One of the contributors, who features in the exhibition, is Margaret MacInnes, who was raised in Balallan and taught at the school here for a number of years before moving to North Uist and laterally Inverness. Her beautiful handwritten personal hymnbooks feature in the exhibition, which she compiled in her teenage years, copying the down from local singers and composers.”

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Vice chairperson of Kinloch Historical Society Magaidh Smith commented: “I am looking forward to seeing the response of the Kinloch community when their own culture is reflected back to them.”

Many of the sound recordings, photographs and videos made during the project form the basis of a website and online digital archive (at, which has been developed in partnership with the Open Virtual Worlds team at St Andrews University. A CD and book are due to be released later in 2024.

Dr Wilkins adds: “Doing the research in the Hebrides was an incredible experience. I have met so many inspiring people and am very grateful to everyone who has been involved and helped me with the project. I am pleased that my research and its publication is playing a part in the preservation of these unique song traditions.”

Co-curator Ronan Martin said: “It’s been a privilege to work with the material collected by Dr Wilkins and learn more about this remarkable tradition, which plays such an important part in many people’s daily lives.

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“We will be at the opening in Balallan and look forward to returning to Lewis and meeting some of the project’s contributors again. It will be wonderful to have singers who were involved in the project at the exhibition opening.”

The exhibition opening event will take place on Friday 19 April from 5:00-7:00pm. Entry is free with refreshments provided. More information at: