Sgeulachdan na Mara/Sea Stories

Sgeulachdan na Mara/Sea Stories is a mapping the sea project based around the island of Barra, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

Sea Stories explores the intimate relationship between people and place and seeks to make visible the rich cultural knowledge that exists in the seas around Barra. It has been developed as an online cultural map by artist Stephen Hurrel and social ecologist Ruth Brennan, in association with Voluntary Action Barra & Vatersay (VABV), and involving school pupils in interviewing local Barra fishermen and the older members of the community.

The project grew out of research undertaken by social ecologists Ruth Brennan and Iain MacKinnon and audio-visual material generated by artist Stephen Hurrel, for the publication Dùthchas na Mara / Belonging to the Sea (Authors: MacKinnon and Brennan. Photographs: Hurrel)

The website was launched on Barra on Saturday 16th November 2013. Sea Stories is now aa resource within the Barra community which be added to on a continuing basis. 

Sea Stories builds on a cultural project (Connecting Coastal Communities) funded by Colmcille (Ireland and Scotland), which connects the fishing heritage and culture of the Gaelic speaking island communities of Arranmore (off Donegal, Ireland) and Barra. In the Connecting Coastal Communities project, the researchers started the work of gathering local names and stories associated with the sea through conversations with several older fishermen in both Arranmore and Barra. It was clear from these conversations that the relationship of humans with the sea has created a rich heritage which is in danger of being lost. There is increasing reliance by fishermen on technology such as sonars and depth sounders and little or no need for the older ways of navigating and finding fishing grounds, through the use of marks (on land and sea) and related stories. By engaging the Barra community (including school children) in gathering these names and stories, Sea Stories has the potential to revive an interest in these stories by linking the younger and older generations on Barra and enabling the younger generation to make this heritage accessible and visible in the 21st century.




Project details

Duration: September 2012 - September 2013

Funders: Creative Scotland (Value: £46,000)

Partners: Stephen Hurrel (Hurrel Visual Arts); Voluntary Action Barra and Vatersay