Writer and poet Donald S Murray took to the stage in Uig, Isle of Lewis, last night (Saturday September 14th) with a musician from Shetland, a choir from Harris, a singer from Achmore and Aberdeen…and his long-time musical collaborator, Iain ‘Costello’ Maciver.
Donald – now living in Shetland but originating in Lewis – was putting on a unique show of words and music which reflect the Iolaire disaster and its aftermath.
Originally derived from readings of his novel As the Women Lay Dreaming – set in the context of the 1919 Iolaire tragedy in which 201 men died just a few metres from the shore off Holm near Stornoway – the performance has developed to include a range of work, including a rendition of a work by Murdo Macfarlane – the Melbost bard – entitled A-raoir Reubadh an Iolaire – by Donna Dale.
The event in Uig Community Centre is – so far – the only island venue for the stage version of “As the Women Lay Dreaming” and was only the second time that the entire concept had been performed.
Songs and music will be provided by Iain ‘Costello’ MacIver accompanied by Còisir Bhan Na Hearadh as well as Shetland-based musician Donald Anderson and Donna Dale who is from Achmore but now based in Aberdeen.
The book ‘As the Women Lay Dreaming’ has been shortlisted for the Authors Club Best First Novel Award and highly commended in the Sir Walter Scott Historical Fiction Award.
Donald said: ”I was very much looking forward to hearing this material performed where it belongs - on the Isle of Lewis, in an area which was so deeply affected by the Iolaire disaster.
“So far it has been very well received in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and at book festivals on the mainland. It was time it came home.”
The readings included some new poems which Donald has composed that are inspired by the railway from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and particularly the tiny request stop at Achanalt between Garve and Achnasheen. This collection is due to published in the Spring.
At the end of the performance, Donald thanked Brian Wilson and Joni Buchanan for their support to hold the event; the musicians and singers; those involved in running the community centre; and the audience for turning out on a very stormy night which at some stages of the performance had the battering noise of winds on the roof and walls as a slight reminder of the night of the tragedy itself.