Creative workshop for Oban High School pupils in Iona’s changing landscape

Senior pupils from Oban High School were invited to discover and explore Iona’s Changing Landscape as part of a three-day workshop in September.

The  pupils worked with Donald Shaw, co-founder of Capercaillie and the engine of Celtic Connections; Mull writer Jan Sutch Pickard; and Gaelic PhD student, Eleanor MacDougall.

The island workshop, hosted by the National Trust of Scotland, culminated with a performance by the pupils at Iona Abbey, including poetry and song – and a Gaelic walking chant performed by six pupils from Iona Primary School.


The singers were also supported by music tutors Sileas Simpson, Murdoch MacDougall, and Morven Gage, Principal Teacher of Music, Oban High School.

National Trust for Scotland Ranger, Emily Wilkins, was also able to assist the pupils as they began their voyage of discovery about the island.

Now in its second year, the “Changing Landscape” workshop, was extended to a three-day event following last year’s successful launch.

Donald Shaw – more familiar as a musician, composer, and artistic director of Celtic Connections 2007 – is himself a former pupil of Oban High School.

He was more than happy to be involved in working with the pupils from the School of Traditional Music for a second year, saying: ‘Just like its people, land and climate, the wonder of Scotland’s traditional music is in how it evolves and inspires through every new generation of writers, singers and musicians. Being creative with these young artists in such a magical environment on the edge of the world re-affirmed my belief that we are in a great moment for our culture.’

The pupils were able to explore the island’s rich natural and cultural heritage, including traditional crafting, fishing and archaeology through their chosen medium.

Senior pupils studying Advanced Higher English discovered the island’s stories with Mull writer and storyteller, Jan Sutch Pickard. They were able to interview crofters, fishermen and other inhabitants on the island.

Those studying Advanced Higher Gaelic worked with Gaelic PhD student Eleanor MacDougall, and pupils from Iona Primary School. With the help of  Donald Shaw and their teacher, the primary school children were invited to explore the use of the rhythm of the traditional Gaelic walking songs,  to discover the Gaelic names for their favourite places on the island, which they performed at the end of workshop concert.

The island, which is looked after by the National Trust for Scotland with an emphasis on interpreting and conserving its natural and cultural heritage, including traditional crafting, wildlife and archaeology, has long provided an inspiration for inspiration for artists, writers and musicians.

Trust Ranger, Emily Wilkins says: ‘The project started as a way of involving pupils who were not necessarily engaged with the outdoors. We were keen to work with these pupils in a creative collaboration. It was an opportunity to introduce them to the rich natural and cultural heritage of the island and to help them find ways to explore it for themselves through music, song and language. It also helped them understand how the music they are playing in school is inspired by the Scottish landscape and cultural heritage.’

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Learning a foreign language would be so much more useful to our young people than this inward looking brain washing in the dead tongue gaelic .

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    Regularflyer October 3, 2015 10:14 am Reply

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