Thursday, May 09, 2024

Còisir Dhùn Èideann (Edinburgh Gaelic Choir)

 I recently joined the Edinburgh Gaelic Choir in the hope that it will offer a creative way for me to learn Gaelic. It's a small, friendly group. We learn songs in Gaelic and get a good amount of help on Gaelic pronunciation from the conductor who is a fluent Gaelic speaker. 

The choir is looking for new members, so if you're in Edinburgh, enjoy singing and have an interest in the Gaelic language then why not join in! Details on their website here.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

A Year of Learning Scottish Gaelic!

Last year, I made a belated new year's resolution to learn Scottish Gaelic. Today I reached a 365 day streak of learning the language on Duolingo. Over a million people across the world are learning Scots Gaelic with Duolingo. Find out more here.

I did do a term of evening classes in Scottish Gaelic with Edinburgh Council's Adult Education Programme. However I was very disappointed in them and didn't sign up for another term. University of Edinburgh offers a wider range of classes, though they're more expensive and I was put off by the tutor who I met who said I'd need to sign up for the total beginners class despite having done a term with the council and a few months with Duolingo. 

More Online Resources

Learn Gaelic is a free online resource for learning Scots Gaelic. It shares a Gaelic word a day on social media. 

Speak Gaelic is a Scots Gaelic learning programme, offering online classes and producing learning materials for other organisations. The programme is broadcast on BBC Alba (see below) and you can also watch all the episodes on Youtube.

BBC Alba offers broadcast TV primarily in Scots Gaelic with some excellent programmes.

Scots Gaelic Week (20-26 February)

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Monday, September 25, 2023

Commemorating the Women and Girls of the Dalry Magdalene Asylum

The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, also known as Magdalene asylums, were institutions, usually run by Roman Catholic orders, which operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. They housed so called "fallen women", an estimated 30,000 of whom were confined in these institutions in Ireland. Less well known is the fact that Magdalene asylums also operated in Scotland. They were not quite as strict as those in Ireland, but that doesn't mean they were pleasant places to be incarcerated. 

The Edinburgh Magdalene Asylum stood for a time in the Dalry part of Edinburgh and a number of the girls and women who were housed there are buried in North Merchiston Cemetery. One of the projects that the committee of the cemetery friends group has been involved with is preparing a plaque to commemorate the lives of these women. 

We are very pleased to report that the plaque is now in place on the burial mound in the cemetery. 

The plaque says: 

"The Dalry Magdalene Asylum. Conceived with the notion of Christian charity and philanthropy, the first Edinburgh Magdalene Asylum opened its doors in 1797 in Canongate as a kind of half way house for women leaving prison. In the mid 1800s, The Dalry Magdalene Asylum (subsequently renamed Springwell House) was founded as a reformatory school for what were then called 'fallen women'. The Asylum remained a reformatory school for women and girls until the 1950s. It has now been converted into apartments on the corner of Ardmillan Terrace and Gorgie Road. This is the mound in which some of the residents of the asylum are buried."

The burial mound was formerly marked only by this pretty but uninformative gravestone: 

Thanks are due to our committee member Lauren for putting the plaque together, and to Dr Jowita Thor for helping with the research.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Failte gu Alba (Welcome to Scotland)

Failte gu Alba (Welcome to Scotland) is an excellent documentary in BBC Alba. Singer Mischa MacPherson meets refugees and asylum seekers making a new life in Glasgow. Working on various musical projects, they share their stories and reflect on the importance of music in their lives. The programme is available for another couple of weeks, and you can watch it here.

Evye Madyise, a Zimbabwean musician living in Glasgow, features in the documentary. You can listen to some of her excellent music on Soundcloud here

Tuesday, April 04, 2023


 the ballot paper — 
shifting sands
previously published in tsuri doro, issue 10 
I have two senryu in Issue 85 of Failed Haiku, you can read the whole issue here.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Chimneys at Lauriston Castle

 There's something quite beautiful about the chimneys at Edinburgh's Lauriston Castle!

You can read more about today's walk around the castle grounds over on Crafty Green Poet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Manchester Voices

 Manchester Voices is a fascinating research project run by a team from Manchester Metropolitan University. The project explores the accents, dialects and identities of people from Manchester in the North-west of England. 

The team identified four distinct Greater Manchester dialects - ‘Manc’, ‘Lancashire’, ‘Wigan’ and ‘posh’. Most people would probably say I have a 'posh' accent (and many people tell me I do sound posh), but really I have a Lancashire accent (posh Lancashire?). Of course, my accent has been affected by living in Edinburgh for over 30 years!

There's lots to explore on the Manchester Voices website! You may also be interested in the following articles about the project:

D'you know what I mean? article in the Mancunian Way newsletter

Vocal Pride on the Manchester Metropolitan University website

A permanent exhibition of Manchester Voices will be found in the city's central library.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Three Thrillers from Northodox Publishing


Her Sister's Shadow by Catherine Wimpeney

Greater Manchester DCI Kay Harris is haunted by the memory of her sister's recent suicide. Concerned for her mental health, her superiors  push her into taking some time off. Kay retreats to her family's holiday home in the Scottish Highlands, taking with her, Ava, a young woman she prevented from committing suicide. 

Wimpeney is a former mental health nurse and qualified psychotherapist, and used her experience in writing this thriller. The subject matter is fairly heavy, including issues around expectations of women in the workplace, bullying at work, mental health support and trauma recovery, but the book is lightened by a good sense of humour.

As a birdwatcher, I liked the frequent bird based similes that Kay used to describe things, eg "Their phones rang intermittently, like robins marking territories". I was disappointed that this disappeared from the book quite quickly, though perhaps that was a deliberate attempt to add to the sense of Kay's deteriorating mental health. 

It's an engrossing read, though slightly uneven (and perhaps could have done with better editing). Definitely worth reading if you're interested in the issues.

Her Sister's Shadow by Catherine Wimpeney,



 The Girl Beneath the Ice by Joseph Darlington  

School pupil Tasha Barcroft is found frozen in a river in the middle of a very cold winter. It falls to Inspector Dafydd Todor to find out how she died. 

This story focuses on different people in Tasha's life, including her boyfriend Lucas, schoolgirl Frigg who had been bullied by Tasha, Mrs Barcroft, Tasha's grandmother. Did any of these people have motive to kill Tasha or was it in fact Todd, the recluse who lives in a makeshift home in the forest while apparently being employed as a ranger (though he seems to not even know whether he really has a job, making him pretty unbelievable as a character)?

The winter setting is very effectively conveyed through description of the weather and landscape and the book is a real page turner, the reader definitely wants to know what happens next. However, there seemed to be inconsistencies in the plot and in the understanding of the physics of frozen rivers. 

Worth a read if you like thrillers set in winter. 

The Girl Beneath the Ice by Joseph Darlington. Under the Bridge - Paperback

Under the Bridge by Jack Byrne

The year is 2004, a body has been discovered in the Liverpool Docklands. Anne McCarthy, a new reporter on a local newspaper, is keen to investigate the case and finds that she has let herself in for more than she bargained for. 

The body dates back to the 1970s, a time of industrial strife and smuggling. 

By getting involved in the investigations, Anne uncovers hidden histories and secrets and the lives of the Wicklow Boys, a group of men smuggling contraband into the docks. Meanwhile, Anne's friend Vinny, who is starting a research project into what makes up the Liverpudlian identity, starts to question what he knows about hos own family history.

This is a thoroughly researched, tautly written thriller bringing in the history of Irish immigration into Liverpool and questions around Liverpudlian identity, while telling an excellent story.

Under the Bridge by Jack Byrne.

You can read my review of Airedale by Dylan Byford (also published by Northodox) on my Crafty Green Poet blog here.


All four books published (2021) by Northodox Press, a publishing company committed to books from the north of England.  


Disclaimer: I won these books in a competition on Twitter

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Join the Campaign to Save the Edinburgh Filmhouse

Cinema goers were saddened last month when it was announced that the Centre for the Moving Image was going into administration, meaning the end of Edinburgh's Filmhouse Cinema (and its online sister Filmhouse at Home), Aberdeen's Belmont Cinema and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The reasons given for the collapse of the charity include the effect of the pandemic on reducing cinema audiences (I've rarely been to the cinema since COVID struck and have watched films online including on Filmhouse at Home), the recent huge hike in energy prices in the UK and the general cost of living crisis. In truth, apparently, the signs had been there for years, but the charity hadn't made them public. I think if problems had been made public, then people would have rallied round to save the cinemas and festival before all this happened. 

At the same time, one of the major art galleries in Edinburgh has closed its doors until the Spring and there are rumours of other closures across the Scottish arts sector.

We need our cultural institutions! Depending on the film, cinema can offer escapism or directly address the issues that face the world. 

So, a campaign has been launched to Save the Filmhouse. You can read about the campaign on the Edinburgh Evening News website here, find out more on the campaign website or follow @SaveFilmhouse on Twitter

Edited to add: A crowdfunder has now been set up to secure the future of Filmhouse