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"From High Bank to 'High Noon':  A Prince Edward Island Gaelic out-migration song-poem from the Far West.”

Public Lecture by Iain S. MacPherson, University of Ulster

Macphail Homestead, 7PM, Friday, 19 August 2016

The Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead Foundation (Urras Baile an Urramaich Anndra MhicPhàil) is pleased to invite members of the general public to a lecture on 19 August 2016 at 7PM, entitled, “High Bank to ‘High Noon’: a Prince Edward Island Gaelic out-migration song-poem from the Far West” by Iain S. MacPherson, Lecturer in Irish and Celtic Studies at the University of Ulster and a Scottish Gaelic speaker with strong family roots in Prince Edward Island.


This talk focuses on a Scottish Gaelic song-poem (Chì mi uam, uam, uam, ‘I see from me, from me, from me’) composed by Donald A. Stewart (Dòmhnall Aonghas Stiùbhart, 1839-1914), an Isle of Skye-born Prince Edward Island Gael who relocated later in life to North Dakota where he died.


Stewart’s life represents a common trajectory of Highland emigration to British North America and subsequent out-migration (or further emigration events) to other regions on the continent, as is well documented by our Island’s strong historic ties of kinship to places like ‘the Boston States.’


Stewart was two years old when his family emigrated with him from Skye to Prince Edward Island in 1841 settling on a farm at High Bank (Am Bruach Àrd), King’s County, an area settled by people from both Skye and Raasay, serving as a coastal extension of the Gaelic-speaking heartlands in the interior communities of Bellevue, Orwell Rear and Caledonia.

Like many second-generation PEI Gaels, Stewart left the Island to work on constructing the eastern section of the transcontinental railway and then relocated to a farmstead at Bismarck, North Dakota, in the American ‘Far West’. In the words of one report on British emigration to the Dominion of Canada in the 1920s, Canada was seen as acting as an emigrant ‘sieve’, attracting important numbers of first-generation immigrants from the ‘Old Country’ (the imperial ‘mother-country’) but then losing equally important numbers of second-generation Canadians in their ensuing acts of out-migration to the US.


This talk will explore notions of both rootedness and displacement within Donald Angus Stewart’s song about outward migration. Among other things, Stewart’s composition clearly enacts the tripartite nature of time and space in his own migration narrative: Skye as the locus primus; High Bank, PEI, as the place where he was raised and importantly for him where his loved ones are buried; and finally the song’s unnamed North Dakota present where he finds himself in a multi-ethnic and foreign world.


Admission to this lecture is by donation. All proceeds will go to supporting the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead Foundation in its mission to provide pertinent programming concerning our Island’s unique forms of cultural expression and heritage. Tea, coffee and light refreshments will be served.


The lecture will serve as an extension of Eilean an Àigh: Gaelic Folkways Festival and Summer Institute, commencing onsite the following Friday evening, 26 August, at 7PM with the inaugural Bard Jane MacLeod Memorial Lecture (Òraid Chuimhneachaidh na Bana-bhàird Shìne Mhòir NicLeòid) sponsored by the Institute of Island Studies, UPEI that will be delivered by Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire of NUI Galway, entitled “Atlantic Songlines: Gaelic Singing in Contemporary Island Communities.” On Saturday, 27 August, Ó Laoire will be joined by instructors Mary Jane Lamond, Seumas Watson and Dr. Tiber Falzett for the Gaelic Folkways Summer Institute’s workshops and milling frolic onsite at the Homestead from 10AM-4PM followed by a concert and square dance at Orwell Hall on the site of the Orwell Corner Historic Village, 7:30-10:30PM.

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