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A new series of BBC ALBA monologues this month will mark the 100th anniversary of the sailings of the SS Marloch and SS Metagama to the 'New World'.

Marloch is Metagama: Guthan (Marloch and Metagama: Voices) is an eight-part series of short, dramatised monologues, airing a century on from the legendary sailings from the Western Isles to Canada on BBC ALBA and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal.

The departure of the steamers SS Marloch and SS Metagama is considered one of the most important chapters in the history of Gaelic Scotland as nearly 600 islanders departed the islands in a single week in April 1923, all seeking a better life in North America.

The semi-fictional stories, written by Iain Finlay Macleod and Hannah McKirdy, were inspired by some of the women, men and children who were on the famous vessels, the the SS Metagama and SS Marloch, which, unusually for the time, picked up emigrants directly from the Western Isles rather than embarking them in major ports such as Glasgow or Greenock.

The Marloch set sail for Canada from Lochboisdale and the Metagama from Stornoway, offering people new beginnings and job opportunities, which were in such short supply in Scotland at the time.

The two ships represented very different ventures. The majority of the Lewis emigrants on the Metagama were young, single men looking for opportunities not available to them on an island still suffering from the trauma of WWI. The Marloch carried families enticed by the promise of a new model Catholic community being set up on the distant prairies of Alberta.


Mairi Anna is a young woman coming to terms with the elements and homesickness in Red Deer, Alberta.

However, what they had in common was a lasting impact on the communities they left behind – townships and villages still struggling with the effects of war, economic privation, and in the case of Lewis and Harris, the loss of over 200 men on the Iolaire troop ship in 1919.

The voyages of the Marloch and the Metagama were the last chapter in a history of mass migration from Gaelic-speaking Scotland to North America that went back centuries. There are millions of descendants of the Scots settlers in Canada and the US today.

From the eve of the voyages in April 1923 right through to 1966, the series tells many tales, including the excitement of young Lewisman Murdo to be headed for America, as well as the regrets of Mairi Anna struggling with the challenges of Canadian winters.

Most of those depicted, though, are optimistic - and hopes outweigh regrets as they reflect on the life-changing voyages of the SS Marloch and SS Metagama.

BBC ALBA and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal will be featuring more content later in the year, including first-hand accounts from the audio archive and the community and artistic responses to the centenary of the Marloch and the Metagama.

Marloch is Metagama: Guthan airs on BBC ALBA every evening from April 15-21 and is available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after.