BHO TANGUSDAIL GU TONGA (From Tangusdale To Tonga)
When a group of young people from Barra’s Feis travelled halfway around the world to the South Pacific islands of Tonga, they scored a number of firsts; not only was Feis Bharraigh the inaugural Feis, kicking off in 1981 what has become one of the biggest success stories in the Scottish cultural renaissance, but was the first Feis to undertake a cultural exchange with another country. They were also the first Feis youngsters to become TV stars!
“Are you all one family?” asked the slightly perplexed Air New Zealand check-in clerk at London’s Heathrow Airport, as she processed the boarding passes of the eleven youngsters for the flight to Los Angeles, seven of whom were called MacNeil.
“Sort of!” came the reply, and indeed several were related somewhere down the line, although probably too complicated to start trying to explain the intricacies of clan history at that particular moment. Undoubtedly, however, a family in spirit!
This lively and colourful programme documents the group’s trip from Barra to Tonga, and follows their experiences, impressions and friendships, as they share their music, dance and song with Tongan youth, and in turn learn about Polynesian life, customs and culture. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the young Barraich, the trip, supported by the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council, has since encouraged other Feisean to foster cultural links with groups abroad, and Metagama’s documentary conveys all the colour, sound and flavour of their exotic destination.
MURCHADH MACPHARLAIN: BARD MHEALABOIST (Murdo MacFarlane: Melbost Bard)
This profile of the late Melbost Bard was a labour of love for Producer, Liza Mulholland – Murdo was her grandfather’s cousin and it was a long-held wish to make a programme celebrating his life and work.
With performances from many of Gaeldom’s best-loved artistes, for whom Murdo’s songs were so influential, contributions from family and friends, along with archive film and recordings, this documentary is a moving and fitting tribute to a man who not only modernised Gaelic song but wrote about big political issues such as inequality, war and militarism as well as the everyday matters of life and love. His passion for his people and culture rang out in all his work, resonating today with a new generation of musicians, singers and Gaels.
The programme was directed by Iain Finlay MacLeod and won the Best TV Arts Award at the Celtic Film and TV Festival in 2001.
SIREADH AGUS SIUBHAL (Seeking and Searching)
This documentary looks at the lives of three young apprentices-with-a-difference! Offering a fascinating glimpse into a world unfamiliar to most of us, it explores the experiences of young men training for the Catholic priesthood, Free Church of Scotland ministry and ordination as a Buddhist.
Highlighting the every day as well as the spiritual, the programme delivers an engaging and colourful insight into why the three young men chose their vocation and what it means to them and their families, as well as how it will impact on the rest of their lives.
If you have ever wondered what makes a person shun a conventional career to follow a spiritual path, this documentary throws intriguing light on the subject. Filmed in Barra, Rome’s Pontifical University and Scots College, the Free Church College in Edinburgh and Cambridge Buddhist Centre, it reveals both ancient traditions and modern spiritual lives as we get to know these three dedicated and articulate young men.
FUIL A’ CHIUIL (Blood Of The Music)
This programmes looks at the phenomenon of the musical family, profiling and celebrating three of the Gaelic and traditional music world’s best loved and prominent families; the Handersons of Fort William, the MacKenzie sisters from Lewis and the Campbell family of Barra.
The documentary offers an entertaining glimpse into their lives and work, and features new performances as well as archive footage. The programme was shortlisted in the Celtic Film & TV Festival’s Best TV Arts Documentary category in 2003.
NA GAIDHEIL URA (The New Gaels)
Presented by Babs MacGregor, this programme explores the growing popularity of learning Gaelic in Scotland – the who, why and how of the phenomenon of the Gaelic learner and their importance to the survival of the language.
Examining Gaelic-medium education, the work of development bodies and those delivering courses and resources, this documentary questions what needs to be done to help more learners to fluency and how this can help secure the future of the language.
BIG MARY OF THE SONGS
Marking the centenary of the death of one of the Highlands’ greatest songwriters and Skye’s most famous daughter, this documentary pays tribute to Mary MacPherson – better known as Mairi Mhor nan Oran – who enjoyed an almost legendary reputation in her native island through her fierce support of the late 19th century land reform movement.
A plain-speaking critic of the Highland Clearances, many of her songs deal directly with the crofters’ struggles and her committed identification with their cause won her a lasting and cherished place in the hearts of Gaels. With her songs still widely sung today, this documentary offers an evocative insight into, and assessment of, the life and work of Big Mary Of The Songs.
Featuring contributions from leading writers, artistes and cultural commentators including John McGrath, Prof Donald Meek, Dr Ewen Cameron and Aonghas Dubh MacNeacall, the programme was an in-house BBC Scotland production, devised and researched by Liza Mulholland and produced by husband, Bruce MacGregor.
ELDER BROTHER IN THE MUSE
Marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of one of Edinburgh’s most talented but neglected sons, this feature celebrates the short life and outstanding work of the 18th century poet, Robert Fergusson. Before he died tragically in the Edinburgh Bedlam at the age of just twenty four, Fergusson created a formidable body of work depicting the teeming life of Auld Reekie before the building of the city’s New Town.
Such was the brilliance of his vivid, humorous and perceptive portrayal of old Edinburgh and biting political satire on its citizenry, that Robert Burns hailed Fergusson as his greatest influence and single most inspirational predecessor. Describing him as “Thou, my elder brother in misfortune, By far my elder brother in the muse”, Burns arranged and paid for the erection of a headstone on Fergusson’s previously unmarked grave in the Royal Mile’s Canongate Kirkyard.
The lives of the two poets overlapped by several years but Fergusson’s early death prevented their paths from crossing. Whilst one can only guess at the friendship and creativity which might have blossomed from such a meeting, what is undoubted is not only his profound influence on Burns, but the outstanding brilliance and stature of Fergusson as a Scots poet, whose place in the canon of Scottish literature is rightfully celebrated in Liza Mulholland’s documentary.
The programme, devised and produced by Metagama Productions for BBC Radio Scotland, is presented by Billy Kay and includes contributions from some of our top Scottish writers, including James Robertson and Prof Robert Crawford. It was shortlisted in the Best Radio Documentary category at the Celtic Film & TV Festival in 2001.