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Threading Donn: stitching the Gaelic bard

The partnership behind Donn Country, a two-year programme to celebrate the life and times of renowned Gaelic bard Rob Donn (pronounced down), has launched an exciting community wall-hanging project called Threading Donn.

Last Saturday Threading Donn participants meet in Durness to discuss the creation of the special wall-hanging commemorating the Gaelic bard. The project received £5,400 of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones programme,

Individuals, craft groups and schools from all over Mackay Country are making textile panels using  a variety of techniques and textiles to produce the community piece. The wall-hanging will celebrate the life and work of Rob Donn who lived in Mackay Country (Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh) from 1714-1778.

Although an illiterate drover Rob Donn produced verse of outstanding quality providing us with a unique social commentary of Mackay Country, her people and the wider political and social aspects of the time.

As part of the day Gaelic speaker, Christine Stokes, outlined the historical role of bards and the context in which Rob Donn was born into. The oral tradition was the way news was transmitted during Donn’s life and his skilled  observations allowed him to communicate without embellishments, getting straight to the point.

Christine explained that Donn levelled his verse at all social levels and no one was safe from his often-sharp tongue. She explained his work is valued highly by scholars due to the unique way he composed and his skilled exploitation of language.

Donn’s work explores a rich diversity of themes and Fiona Mackenzie from Strathnaver Museum explored some of these by identifying poems that discussed particular subjects. Themes include poaching, droving, agriculture, Jacobitism and many more giving participants a rich source of ideas that will allow participants to take various approaches to Donn’s work.

The group then heard from Rachel Skene who discussed textiles generally and gave examples of the various ways different materials can be used to produce a composite piece.

Anyone wishing to participate will be very welcome and should contact Fiona Mackenzie on 01847 811 110 or at fiona@strathnavermuseum.org.uk for more details. Another meeting will be organised towards the end of August marking the half way point in the making process. Finished pieces will then be ready for assembling in November.