Befriending Lewis & Harris / Dèanamh Càirdeas le Leòdhas ’sna Hearadh

Local Heroes art project

Hebridean Connections, the digital community archive co-ordinated by the Western Isles Heritage Service, provided inspiration for a celebratory exhibition which ran over the winter holiday period at our local arts centre, An Lanntair.

The local charity, Befriending Lewis & Harris, founded in 2015 to tackle isolation and loneliness, established its Befriending Arts Project in 2018. This project’s latest endeavour was a focus on local heroes: using Hebrideans as inspiration for artworks.

Led by Creative Co-ordinator Elaine Smith, and supported by volunteers, project members depicted local people who had made memorable community contributions, commemorating them by creating a series of mixed media works.

The artists drew upon biographies recorded in the Hebridean Connections website, which is co-ordinated by the Western Isles Heritage Service. Elaine liaised with the Hebridean Connections project assistant, Caroline Brick. Caroline checked that there were no issues regarding the chosen individuals and their biographies. For instance, were there any data protection or copyright considerations, or sensitivities relating to personal stories or proposed depictions that descendants of the local heroes needed to be consulted about? Caroline also liaised with local historical societies which had originally provided the information contained in the Hebridean Connections database. Happily, there were no worries about the proposed subjects of artworks, and Caroline was able to give the go-ahead for this inspirational project.

The resulting artworks were displayed in the Café Bar Gallery of the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway, between 6th December 2021 to 28th January 2022:

Learn more about the inspirational Hebrideans who are celebrated as local heroes:

Donald Macaulay

Donald Macaulay was a herbalist who provided care for the people of Bernera in the early nineteenth century.

Catherine Mary Macleod

Catherine Mary Macleod of the Uig Manse co-ordinated knitting projects to provide socks for servicemen during the First World War.

John Finlay Macleod

In 1919  John Finlay became a hero on the night of the Iolaire disaster, swimming ashore from the wrecked yacht to secure a lifeline rope, on which forty men escaped.

Peter Macritchie

Peter Macritchie of Ardroil ran a bus service for about thirty years, running errands and making sure that his passengers got home safely.

Murdo Matheson

Comedian Murdo Matheson’s alter ego Cailleach An Deacoin raised money for charitable causes.

Ann Smith

Ann Smith became the first and only female Provost of Stornoway. As well as her pioneering political career, she participated in many aspects of local community life; she was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Ross and Cromarty, and was awarded an MBE.

Exhibition legacy

Creative Co-ordinator Elaine Smith reflected on the creative processes and benefits of the Local Heroes project. We were very pleased to note that she described Hebridean Connections as a “fantastic online resource”. She also observed how provision of community support has special resonance during our pandemic times.

The Scottish Council on Archives has just published its manifesto for local government: Why archives and records matter. The manifesto identifies the use of archives and records to improve health and wellbeing in areas such as social isolation – Hebridean Connections is delighted that its digital archive has assisted Befriending Lewis in this aim. Heritage Service staff are very pleased to have helped facilitate this inspirational undertaking, and congratulate the talented members of the Befriending Arts Project.

The Befriending Lewis exhibition can be viewed virtually via An Lanntair’s website.

All photographs: copyright Caroline Brick

This entry was posted in Hebridean Connections and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.