Heroic week in Sleat

Scotland’s Isle of Skye is playing host this week to a major international conference devoted to the songs, stories, legends, and literature recounting the battles and adventures of the ancient Gaelic heroes Cù Chulainn and Fionn mac Cumhail, their friends, allies, spouses, lovers, and adversaries.

The conference is being held for the first time in Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, University of the Highlands and Islands, in cooperation with the university Celtic departments of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. The University of Glasgow’s Celtic & Gaelic studies is based in the College of Arts’ School of Humanities Sgoil nan Daonnachdan.

Some 70 delegates from 12 different countries will be coming together to discuss heroic tales and verses that have been at the centre of the Gaelic cultures of Scotland and Ireland for well over a thousand years, stories that, through the controversial Ossianic epics of James Macpherson, helped to spark the Romantic movement across Europe and have had an incalculable influence on world literature up to the present day.

As well as investigating manuscripts and oral recordings of the songs and tales, and the lives of those who collected them, conference papers will deal with diverse topics such as drinking-feasts, otherworld women, love triangles, Scottish-Irish mercenaries, and the many different places named after the heroes across Ireland and Scotland. Subjects range in time from pre-Christian Irish mythology, through the heyday of the tales in the Middle Ages, to cartoon animations of our own day. Of particular interest to islanders will be research investigating the legendary warrior queen Scāthach said to have trained Cù Chulainn at her castle in Sleat.

The conference will also play host to the launch by Professor Donald Meek of a new website that will for the first time put online for the general public one of the most iconic collections of heroic verse in Gaelic literature, the sixteenth-century Book of the Dean of Lismore. Another highlight will be a presentation of one of the greatest ballads in the tradition, Bās Chonnlaoich, the Death of Connlaoch, by two of Gaeldom’s biggest stars, singer Margaret Stewart and storyteller Pādruig Morrison, at Sabhal Mòr on Thursday at 8pm.

Sabhal Mòr Principal Boyd Robertson said: "We are delighted to play host to Ulidia Finn this week. Such scholarly conferences make a huge contribution to the college’s research environment, encouraging us to look again at important parts of our culture, and making results of academic research available to the wider public."

For those wishing to attend the conference, there is a community day rate of Ģ25 (Ģ20 students/unwaged), while tickets for Bās Chonnlaoich will be available on the door (Ģ5, young people free). Further information on www.ulidiafinn2018.scot