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  • I was delighted to attend The Skye Photography Festival as a workshop leader a few years ago, held, obviously, on the beautiful Isle of Skye.

    One of the events we hosted was a walk through the ruins of Duntulm Castle (north Skye) where we held a low-tech (!) 'multimedia' event, with the backdrop of a stunning view across towards the Western Isles. It was a delight!

    Amongst a small group of Skye folks and visitors were naturalist and historian John Love, and poet Maiolios (Myles) Campbell, who told stories, Sine Gillespie who talked and sang, as did renowned gaelic singer Anne Martin, whilst I photographed the proceedings with my digital cameras, immediately sharing the creations in the LCD on the back for all to enjoy. 'Multimedia' on the cheap!

    I had just bought a small sound recorder, had no experience of using it, had no windsock for it, and had no idea what the resulting sound would be like, but I used it anyway. It was windy, very blustery and cold, and the wind noise has made its presence felt in the recording. However not too badly throughout, really only at the start, and only intrusive in a few places, but I think this 'blusterwind' adds to the immediacy and raw beauty of what occurred.

    So, picture the scene. We are just below the ruins of a spectacularly sited ruined castle, facing the Western Isles which are sat low on the horizon, the mountains of Harris rising above the low bulk of the surrounding islands. The wind is blowing, hard, my eyelashes fluttering and my eyes watering. Above us a weak sun puts up a futile attempt to regain control before the advancing Atlantic front bustles in and whacks us hard, as the forecast has predicted. The smell of rain is strong in the air. We are huddled behind a stone wall, no sound of traffic, only wind and the human voice, with the Atlantic down below hissing and sighing as it rushes in and out across the wave-round rocks. Elemental.

    The story told is about Mairi nighean Alasdair Ruadh (Mary MacLeod) who was a poetess of high renown and who was born at Rodel in Harris in 1615, and is buried, so it is said, face down in Rodel. The story of Mairi nighean is in the recording and there is online material you may also pursue if you're interested.

    Sine sings 'Ri fuam an taibh' (to the sound of the Atlantic), and later Anne sings a strathspey that tells of the history of the Clan Macleod at Duntulm Castle.

    What is fascinatingly beautiful is the way both Anne and Sine talk about Mairi nighean Alasdair Ruadh as if her life and work were something recent, rather than 400 years ago. And that's the lovely thing about rural highland Scotland, the history is all around us, it is writ large on the landscape, and it suffuses our every waking moment with its presence.

    We walk with ghosts each day.

    I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into the living history of my beautiful country.
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