Tha an duileag seo a’ feuchainn freagairtean a thoirt do cheasnaichean neonach a nochdas air an larach-lin seo bho am gu am.
To encourage interchange of ideas and knowledge, the site will introduce a hot topic for discussion each season. These seasons will loosely relate to the quarters of the year and they will be referred to by their Gaelic equivalents – Faoilteach, Bealtain, Lunasdal and Samhain. Students of Gaelic Spirituality will spot that the odd man out here for them is Faoilteach. Within the ancient Gaelic polytheistic tradition, Faoilteach would have been replaced with Feile Bhrighde, the reason being that the names can also refer not just to seasons but to Feast Days which mark the beginning of Seasons. Feast-Days were divided into two seasons, Geamhradh (Winter, the ‘dark-half’) and Samhradh (Summer, the ‘light-half’), and between these seasons were four Quarter Days that were based in the pastoral and solar cycles. Quarter Days were occasions for family and communal feasting and celebration, so cementing social solidarity. Activities included story-telling, the recitation of poetry, competitive sports and céilidhs. Events that were of social, economic, and religious importance were:
Oídhche Shamhna – October 31/ November 1; the end of Summer and the beginning of Winter; a time to honour ancestors and other dead and a primordial time when the Otherworld (ghosts, spirits and the like) were most active.
Latha Fheile Bhrighde – February 1; ‘the feast day of Bríde’ (note Cille Bhrighde, Kilbride, in South Uist); a celebration closely associated with the hearth, home,family and the stirrings of Spring.
Latha Bhealtain – May 1; the end of Spring and the start of Summer; a time when the Otherworld is particularly active again and a time for purification.
Latha Lúnasa/Lùnasdal – August 1; a harvest festival instituted by Lugh in honor of his foster-mother Tailtiu who died whilst clearing the land for cultivation and a celebration of Lugh’s release of the harvest.
The Days of the Week were called:
Sunday – Di-Domhnaich; Monday – Di-Luain; Tuesday – Di-Mairt; Wednesday – Di-Ceudaoin; Thursday – DiardAoin; Friday – Di-hAoine; Saturday – Di-Sathuirn. The naming tradition is thought to have derived from a mixture of pagan and Christian – hence Monday, Tuesday and Saturday are named after the planets, Moon (Luna), Mars and Saturn; the other days are Christian – Aoin means a fast and Wednesday is named after Ash Wednesday (Ceud Aoin – the First Fast), Friday is named after Good Friday (na h-Aoine, The Main Fast) and Thursday is The Day Between-Fasts, De Eadar Da Aoin; Sunday is the Day of Our Lord (Di ar Domhnaich, from Dominus).
Months of the Year were called:
January – Am Faoilteach Earrach; February – An Gearran; March – Am Mart; April – An Giblean;May – Am Bealtain; June – An t-Og Mhios; July – An t-Iuchair; August – An Lunasdal; September – An t-Sultain; October – An Damhair; November – Am Mios Dubh; December – An Dubhlachd
The choice of seasonal topic will be determined by some intriguing area of enquiry which has been brought up by a visitor. In the absence of an authoritative source in the first instance, the topic will be presented in the form of questions and assumptions to be knocked down or challenged. The first ever topic looked at the literacy of Island folk and efforts that incomers make to try to educate them. Pride of place must go to a letter to John McQuien in upstate NY from a cousin in Cape Breton. John’s sister Margaret Fell travelled to Cape Breton and met Murdoch and his wife for the first time. This is Murdoch’s letter of introduction (courtesy of Laurie Johnson) to John, talking about their family.
False Bay Beach
Jan 17 1887
My Dear Cousin,
I take the present opportunity of writing you these few lines for the first time in my life. I am well and all mine, hoping these few lines will find well and all yours. Dear cousin I am at a loss what to write to you. I am now an old man of 64 years born in Loch Maddy in 1823. In 1826 then father moved in land to Drammanan and took your father’s place which he held until 1841, then all the tenants were swept away we came here. Our family was small, only me and Donal. He got married about the year 1846. He was killed about 1862, leaving a widow and eight children, three boys and five girls, two of them are in Boston, one in the asylum, one at home. Two of the boys are home, one in California. I was married in 1850 to Euphema McQueen. I had five sons and five daughters, all living but one boy he died an infant. Two of my sons are married here. Ian is in Boston and Esabella, she is married there to John Boyd. Three more of my daughters are married here so I am all alone almost but my youngest daughter Flora. My father in law he is with me also. I had to take in his at (?) he is (93?) year, he is also blind but his memory is good yet. He was a seaman along with Uncle John and able to tell us good old yarns about their seafaring. He himself was (capt?) of the Pomona until he lost her.
Now my dear cousin, I hope your dear sister and my beloved Mrs Fell got home all safe. She is a dear soul. She stole my heart and the Lord bless her. Tell her I got home all right and for her to let me know if she got my likeness from that Mr. Askill. I suppose you heard of the death of your dear cousin Donal McLean. I saw it in the newspaper and for him we shall not mourn as them that have no hope for I verily believe to him to die was no loss but great gain.
Now dear cousin I must come to a close and you must write to me as soon as you get this and give me your age and your wife’s name and number of children and their names and their age. Is there any of them married. My dear cousin, give my love to all my cousins.
Mrs. McLeod sending her love to Mrs Fell.
I remain your affectionate cousin