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Voices: The Hebridean Story 

Blackhouses at Gearrannan
Image courtesy of Voices: The Hebridean Story 

The Scottish Council on Archives (SCA) is preparing for Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022. As part of this, we wanted to capture the stories of people living in the Hebrides to find out their experiences of the coronavirus pandemic. We wanted to hear from people of all ages and backgrounds, including people whose stories are often forgotten.

We heard on the news terrible things happening in the UK and around the world– death rates were high, stats about job losses and furlough, the economy suffering. But how did individuals cope, and it was important for future generations to hear the stories of ordinary people living through the pandemic that we all know as Covid19.

Where better to start than capturing those stories from people living on the Hebridean Islands.

Tricky planning

Planning this project was tricky. Not knowing what the future holds we had to plan to do everything remotely – interviews, emails, Zoom meetings. Not ideal, but we can’t let a pandemic get in the way of our work!  However, travel restrictions lifted in August, and we were able to spend two days on the Isle of Lewis, recording interviews in person.

SCA were very fortunate to have recruited a brilliant and dynamic summer intern, Taylor Webb funded through The Robertson Trust. Taylor and I met with project partners, Dom Miller from Ourstory Scotland, giving us advice on talking to interviewees and making them feel comfortable to speak freely. Jeni Park and Conor Walker from Scotland’s Sounds provided training on the technical aspects such as recording, saving, and cataloguing sound files. We also thank Seonaid MacDonald and team up in the Hebridean Archives , Tasglann an Eilean  for welcoming us and allowing Taylor and I to conduct Covid friendly interviews in her office. 9 out of the 18 were done in person. Special thanks to former SCA trainee, Shona Maclellan for doing all the Gaelic translations and showing us around the Top hotspots in Stornoway and introducing us to the North Uist Gin – Downpour. Delicious.

We hope that this project will be the starting point of a wider oral history programme to celebrate 2022: Year of Scotland’s Stories, and you can find out more here.

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