The Skye Magazine is an exciting insight into Skye and Raasay, as well as providing information on new up-and-coming businesses, and new ventures on the island. The Skye Magazine in its printed form, appears once a year from May, and thousands are distributed throughout the islands.

And the on-line edition - below - is updated throughout the year with new reports, photographs and information from all across the Islands.

So, just click download, enjoy learning about the beautiful isles of Skye and Raasay, and, if you aren’t here already, make sure to plan a visit sometime soon!

Sun, wind, shelter…and Skye Sea Salt

When you pick up a packet of salt from the award-winning Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company, you are holding in your hands something produced by sea, wind - and lots of hard work from directors, Chris Watts and Nanette Muir! 
Their hands-on approach to their business means they are labouring at every stage of the process - from pumping the fresh salt water out of sparkling Loch Snizort, near Skeabost, to harvesting it from their solar drying polytunnel, performing quality checks and, finally, lovingly packaging their salt.

Read more: Sun, wind, shelter…and Skye Sea Salt

New vegan, gluten-free range at Café Sia

When Cafe Sia in Broadford officially opened its doors recently after a month's refurbishment, visitors were able to enjoy a number of exciting changes which include non-slip decking, as well as adjustments to the far right area of the cafe.  What used to be home to a large coffee roaster belonging to the Isle of Skye Roastery is now an extended bench area, pictured above, perfect to ensure a comfortable dining experience.  
Director, Tom Eveling, says: "We weren't able to use the roaster when the cafe was busy, so we have moved it to another location."  The staff areas have also been updated to ensure a better flow.  "We have better equipment, a better work space and it's much more organised behind the scenes," explains Tom.
And, if you crave delicious gluten-free or vegan food, you will be able to find it at Cafe Sia.  "We are working hard to give those with specific food requirements more options," Tom says.  "We already do gluten-free pizza, but we are also doing a gluten-free and dairy-free pizza with vegan cheese.  We are producing a lot more gluten-free options on our menu, like our fish finger bap, our club sandwich and brunch baps.  We want to increase what we have on offer for vegans and those who are gluten-free.  That's our main aim this year!"

From Glendale, Skye to the Arizona desert…with Gaelic

University of Arizona Gaelic Research Scientist, Muriel Fisher, with Dr Andrew Carnie, Professor of Linguistics and Dean of the Graduate College, and her
2015 Excellence in Community Linguistics Award

 

The historic, adobe-style Arizona Inn in the desert city of Tucson might seem an unexpected place for two island Gaels to meet (writes Katie Macleod), but then again ‘unexpected’ is a word that describes the career of University of Arizona Gaelic Research Scientist, Muriel Fisher, to a tee.

For the last eight years Muriel – who hails from Feriniquarrie in Glendale on the Isle of Skye – has been a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Arizona in the southwestern USA.  She is part of the University’s Critical Language Programme, aiding the Department of Linguistics in their research of Gaelic.  It’s one of 14 ‘less commonly taught’ languages in their remit, taking its place in the course catalogue alongside the likes of Kurdish and Swahili.

But how did the language of the Misty Isle find its way into classrooms located in the legendary deserts of the American West?  According to Dr Andrew Carnie, Professor of Linguistics and Dean of the Graduate College, it all began as “a happy accident.”  “We happened to have a number of faculty [members] interested in Celtic languages and Muriel lived in town. Having access to a native speaker consultant is a critical part of doing research on a language.”

Interaction with the communities who speak the language is essential for successful linguistic work: this is why the faculty journey to Skye annually to conduct experiments and collect data, with Muriel acting as a liaison.  “They have a bunch of experiments that I help them develop, and then I act as a liaison between the locals and the linguists.”

“Linguists are like brain surgeons, they want to dissect it [the language], and they write papers about various aspects of it. It’s completely different to what we might think. It’s mathematical... I love all the different bits of Gaelic that they teach me, things that I would never ever have known,” says Muriel.

Andrew, who invited Muriel to join the department, explains that “Linguists are interested in how humans use, produce and understand language, as well as how we acquire it and how we pass it on to the next generation.  Gaelic is a particularly interesting language. While it is genetically related to English and Spanish... it has many properties that make it very different in the spectrum of languages we look at. It has all sorts of rare properties.” 

In an attempt to understand these rare characteristics, Muriel and her colleagues are currently working on a project involving both the University of Arizona and the University of Nevada; they recently received a grant from National Science Foundation, allowing them to undertake necessary linguistic research into Gaelic on the Isle of Skye.  

An official partnership is also in the works between the University of Arizona and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, where Muriel has been teaching summer classes for more than 16 years.  If all goes well, a student exchange will take place, with students from Skye studying in Arizona, and vice versa.  “So many people care about the language, culture and traditions and are available to teach us about their language,” says Andrew.  “This makes the language a joy to study while at the same time contributing to the science of language.”

As if university classes and linguistic research weren’t enough to keep her busy, Muriel wears yet another hat: she offers Gaelic lessons via Skype to students around the world.  Her lessons (both on and offline) are not solely about Gaelic grammar, but Gaelic culture too.  “We come from a storytelling culture,” she says.  “So I also talk about where we grew up and our culture. You can’t separate them. Out here in the desert I talk about the sheep and the peats!”

Over the years her Skype students have logged on from as far afield as Colorado, New York, Mexico, England, and France. But whether they’re in the Sonoran Desert, in Skye, or around the world, the students always move Muriel with their desire to learn the language.  

“They move me to tears,” says Muriel. “That’s what gets your heart.  What makes it possible is the people, because the people themselves, they’re so interesting... because they’ve got this desire for the Gaelic. I just get really sentimental about it. There’s something about it that gets them in the heart and in the soul.”

Muriel is modest about her role and her achievements: it is over an hour into our conversation before I discover she has been recognised at the highest level by the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), receiving the 2015 Excellence in Community Linguistics Award. Muriel is only the second person to receive the award, which “recognises the outstanding contributions that members of language communities make for the benefit of their community’s language.”

“I think that’s alright. I’m quite chuffed,” admits Muriel, in that understated fashion typical of islanders. The LSA honoured Muriel not only for her “outstanding work with the teaching, promotion, and documentation of Scottish Gaelic” which has helped people around the world learn (or indeed, re-learn) Gaelic, but also for her contribution to linguistic research and documentation efforts relating to the language.  

It’s an impressive achievement, even more so for someone who found their way into teaching via all manner of adventures at home and abroad.  Muriel first moved to the USA in 1972, or as she says with a laugh: “When I was young and fabulous.”  Having previously worked as an artist in Tuscany and at the post office in Glendale, she soon found herself selling traditional Skye scones in Woodstock and even sheep herding with the Navajo in the Arizona desert.  

But it was teaching English in Mexico that opened the door to her current career. “That boots on the ground confidence... I think it helped me a lot,” she says of her two years across the border.  It was that experience that saw her start private Gaelic lessons in Tucson almost 20 years ago, begin working with the now-closed Tucson Open University, and graduate into the indispensable role she plays at the University of Arizona linguistics department today.

Muriel couldn’t have done any of it, she says, without her family: her husband, Paul Fisher, whom she affectionately refers to as Darling, and her two children, Alexandra and Jahil, who live in Los Angeles and New York City, respectively. Alexandra’s son, Cole, is even taking informal Gaelic lessons from his Nana.

Through it all, Muriel retains her attachment to Skye. She misses the land, and the sea, and - like so many islanders - still calls it ‘home.’ “Our earth home” she says with a laugh. That sounds so new agey! My home is with my husband, because I love him... but also we go ‘home’ when we go home [to Skye]. You’re connected to the land here, and you back and you recalibrate... You feel recharged, you seriously go back and charge your batteries.”

Muriel will be returning again this summer to teach her regular Gaelic classes at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, as well as a new addition, one centred on ‘The Island.’  She says it will be much more hands on, with students going on trips to the likes of Raasay and Cana, engaging in situations where they will use the language they are learning.  As Muriel explains, “When you’re out there and you’re ordering tea, you’re going to remember your ‘bun’ or your ’soup’ or your ‘coffee’ – that stuff - much better.”

“I’m very very grateful to them,” she says of Sabhal Mòr, and the opportunity the role affords her to return to the island. “I don’t know what I would have done without them, because it’s Skye, you know?  I would still be grateful if it was on Uist or Harris or Lewis, but the fact that it’s on Skye is just fabulous.”

As we joke and laugh over gin martinis at the Arizona Inn, it’s clear to see that Muriel doesn’t take herself too seriously. She strives to make her Gaelic classes fun and enjoyable, and has a passion for the language and the people who are trying to keep the language of the island alive – even if it’s in the desert on the other side of the world.

(Katie Macleod, who formerly worked for The Skye Magazine, is an internationally recognised travel-blogger based in New York - http://storiesmysuitcasecouldtell.com)



All the way from Montana, Rich Hall heads for Portree

Step away from the mobile phone.  Put away the tablet.  The wonderfully acerbic comedian Rich Hall is about to come on stage for an already-sold-out performance in Portree, and he would like your undivided attention.

Rich, one of the most magnetic stand-ups currently at work in this country, is chatting in the run-up to hugely anticipated spring tour of the UK - Rich Hall 3:10 to Humour

The American-born comedian, who was raised in North Carolina, emphasises that what he is looking forward to more than anything else on this tour is the experience of performing,  “What I love about stand-up is the immediacy of it.  Having run the gamut of TV panel shows, after a while you know how to do them and they are not so much fun anymore.

“But now I know I’m going to be on stage somewhere like Portree, and that prospect is really exciting.  For those two hours, no one is looking at their phones.  It’s a true non-media event.  Those sorts of occasions are rapidly disappearing, and that’s why I value them so much.”

A stand-up whose plainspoken, growling indignation and waspish observations have won him fans all over the world, Rich has been described as a transatlantic messenger lampooning each country he visits with his common sense comedy.

The Montana resident is renowned for his expertly crafted tirades.  His biting, yet compelling comedy has helped earn him a Perrier Award in Edinburgh and a Barry in Melbourne.  He is a coruscating presence – both on and off stage.

The stand-up, who was the inspiration for the curmudgeonly barman Moe Szyslak in The Simpsons, says he gets a kick out of touring this country.  “I may have become overly familiar with the motorway service stations of the UK, but I really like discovering new places.  It’s important to visit out of the way towns because it gives you a new perspective.”  This is his first visit to the Outer Hebrides.

One of the many aspects that distinguishes Rich’s live act is the brilliant way he can craft delightful on-the-spot songs out of the smallest items of information that he gleans from the audience. 

The comic, who won two Emmys for his work as a writer on The David Letterman Show, explains that, “I do what Americans call ‘crowd work’.  I really enjoy that because I can turn it into improvised songs, which is a big thrill for me.  I always have a guitar beside me on stage in case something happens.“

Rich continues that he does not need a lot of material to work on.  “It’s funny, the less I get from people, the more you can improvise.  Nothing is out of bounds.  I want them to tell me, ‘I’m a clerk,’ rather than, ‘I work for the council finance department and am involved in the end of year expenditure’.  As soon as I hear the word ‘clerk’, my head immediately starts formulating rhymes for it.”

The fuel that powers Rich’s act is a marvellous sense of simmering fury.  Appearing regularly on Stand Up for the Week, QI, Live At The Apollo, Have I Got News For You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, the stand-up gets riled by, “The level of incompetence and amount of crap in the world.  I’m also incensed by the fact that we are all turning into button-pushing squirrels.  That has brought about a serious loss of personality in this impersonal, digitised world.”

Also a very accomplished documentary maker who has fronted six critically acclaimed BBC4 programmes focusing on US popular culture and the Wild West, the stand-up is equally angry about the by-the-yard, rote nature of so many comedians’ material these days. 

He says that, “What is exasperating is that as comedians we live by the word.  I see that very swiftly deteriorating, and I find it really scary.  There doesn’t seem to be any appreciation any more of the written and spoken word.  Everything is turning into shorthand.  When a comedian like Dylan Moran gets on stage and speaks in his own very distinctive language, that really appeals to me. 

“But nowadays a lot of performers are simply acting out the role of comedian and going through the motions.  They use a very predictable cadence of comedy – ‘here comes the punchline’.  If you close your eyes, you can hear it coming.  But in order to have a very individual way of saying things, you need to perfect that live.”

Of course, Rich is not that irate in reality – it is simply a persona he adopts for comic effect on stage. He says that: “It works because people know that I’m not really that angry.  Anyone that angry should not be doing comedy.”

Rich, who in the past was a regular on Saturday Night Live, has enjoyed particular success in this country, where his trademark downbeat style really strikes a chord.  The comedian reflects that “British audiences are always very appreciative of the spoken word.”

Finally, Rich reiterates how much he is relishing the idea of playing to British audiences once more and receiving our rapt attention.  He concludes that, “You have someone’s complete attention, which is almost impossible nowadays.  You can’t go to a sports event without someone Tweeting about it every five seconds.”

(Rick’s sold-out shows in the Hebrides are on Monday 8th February at An Lanntair, Stornoway; and then on Tuesday 9th, he’s at Aros, Portree.  His latest audio CD, “Waitin’ on a Grammy”, is available to buy on CD and download now from here!)

 

 

 

Interview by James Rampton

 

 

 

College moves ahead with village plan

Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Skye's National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, has long been at the forefront of promoting and nurturing the language and culture of Scotland.  With that remit, it makes sense that the college would grow and expand according to the needs of its students, staff and wider community. 
Part of that expansion involves the creation of a new village in Sleat called Baile na Cille Bige or Kilbeg Village, for which the latest outline plan is shown above.  The aim is to provide up to 75 new housing units for the local community including the college's own staff and students; new college teaching, administrative and research facilities; as well as sports and recreation facilities for college users and the local community. 
Dòmhnall Angaidh MacLennan, Head of Estates and Services, says that this expansion will help the college to grow and prosper.  "This is a long-term plan," he stated.  "This is going to be happening over a 25-year-long time frame.  We formally opened Phase One in October 2015 in the presence of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP."
Phase One, seen above,  consisted of site servicing and infrastructure, as well as the development of a new Administration, Research and Knowledge Exchange building, which has been named Ionad Iain Nobail in honour of the college’s late founder Sir Iain Noble.  Dòmhnall Angaidh stated: "It was Sir Iain's vision and energy that first got the college going. His legacy very much lives on with how the college has grown since its inception and naming the first building at Kilbeg in Sir Iain’s honour made perfect sense."
Costing over £6m, this significant capital expenditure project has been enthusiastically supported by the Scottish Government. Funding assistance has been provided by the Scottish Funding Council, the Scottish Government, the European Regional Development Fund (Convergence) of the European Union, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The Highland Council and the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Development Trust which incorporates the former Highland Fund and Urras na h-Aiseirigh.  Dòmhnall Angaidh said: "The college now has almost 43 years of growth behind us since being founded in 1973 and we offer upwards of 100 jobs here, on a year-round basis, in addition to offering courses in Gaelic language and related subjects to up to 1,000 students annually across our entire range of courses. The college, as a whole, generates a turnover of £5m per annum.  Each of our funding partners to Phase One at Kilbeg have been crucial to the college’s success to date.  They have wanted to work with us again and help the college continue to prosper."


Phase Two will see the redevelopment of the existing Àrainn Ostaig steading and adjoining buildings to provide upgraded facilities for conference and training activities together with associated delegates’ accommodation and catering provision.  Phase Three will involve the development of college and community indoor and outdoor sports and recreational facilities as the heart of the new village being planned for Kilbeg. 


The new building, Ionad Iain Nobail, was officially opened on 21 October 2015 by Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland.  The First Minister, also in the same visit, delivered the annual Sabhal Mòr Ostaig lecture, during which she emphasised the importance of the Gaelic language and culture.  She is quoted as saying: "What we're trying to do now is to ensure that our education legislation and schools system help, rather than hinder, the development of Gaelic.  So, we're adopting a proportionate and practical approach which will help to secure the language's future.  We want more people to learn Gaelic, to use it and to see its relevance in their everyday lives.  And, in doing so, we will ensure that Gaelic contributes to the social and economic wellbeing of local communities." 
The recent and emerging developments at Kilbeg will help ensure that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig remains at the forefront of promoting and teaching the Gaelic language together with its rich research, media and artistic traditions, while also providing for the practical needs of the growing numbers of college students, staff and and its wider community of users.

(Article written by Roz Skinner)