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As we prepare for our trip to Raasay on 12 August,, a little about this island which lies off Skye and is one of the Inner Hebridean Islands. Raasay has views over The Sound of Raasay to Skye, and the Inner Sound to Applecross. In ‘The Life of St Columba’ by Abbot Adomnan, there are numerous occasions where “…there came a shout across the sound”, as pilgrims to Iona would call across to the monks to send a boat over to them. I am quite intrigued to see if any of the artists in the group pick up on the reference to Sound and Inner Sound, and the tangential connection of the relationship between Speaker, Listener, and the communication that ensues.

Raasay was birthplace and home of Gaelic poet Sorley Maclean ‘Hallaig’ (this post’s photo, by Emma Nicolson, is of ‘Hallaig’), on Raasay, is one of his poems which, set at twilight, focuses on this deserted township on Raasay, which had been decimated during the Highland Clearances. The first line of the poem, translated by Seamus Heaney reads, “Time, the deer, is in Hallaig Wood”. The Norse name Raasay means ‘Isle of the Roe or Red Deer’.

Raasay House, an outdoor activity centre where the group will stay, was once visited by Boswell and Johnson in 1773, during their expedition which became ‘The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides’. Reputedly, Boswell became drunk both nights that he stayed there.

Local author Roger Hutchinson who wrote ‘Calum’s Road’ will give a talk to the group during our stay on Raasay. Calum MacLeod lived at the northern end of Raasay and during his lifetime had seen the population of his community decline. During his time off, over twenty years, he single-handedly built a road, to be able to take future generations to Arnish. Whilst building the road he uncovered all manner of objects from past times, including a greenstone axe-head which he believed to be, “… made in the Lake District in Stone Age times, although how it got to Raasay I do not know”. (P138, ‘Calum’s Road’, 2008, Birlinn Limited).

In ‘A Place to Believe In; Locating Medieval Landscapes’ edited by Professor Clare Lees, a scholar in our group, from Kings College London (& Gillian R. Overing, 2006, The Pennsylvania State University Press), in the first chapter, cultural geographer Yi-Fu Tuan is referred to. “For Tuan, the reading of a landscape is always a dialogue between physical environment and human perception….as a window onto human activity”. As we move across Raasay on the first day, in dialogue with time, place and each other, it will be interesting to see what the group begins to uncover.