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Tales From The Cèilidh House

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L to R: Willie Macgregor (Pitlochry), Effie Macleod (Northton), Margaret McLellan, (Manish), Rena Campbell (Finsbay)

Our Global Harris Cèilidh is now underway for 2022 as we bring this age-old Outer Hebridean tradition to the rest of the world.

It's a straightforward idea that celebrates the simple pleasures of getting together with friends and family to share an evening of good company, music, food and drink.

Sometimes the word cèildh can mean a big get-together with lots of dancing, but more often than not here in the islands, it's just a 'visit' to someone's house to socialise for a night.

To help convey this informal spirit of the Harris cèilidh, we've been fortunate enough to share some special photographs of such gatherings from times gone by.

A typical house cèilidh in Tarbert, Isle of Harris.

One of our favourites is this black and white image sent to us by Mr John Morrison who lived at number 12 West Tarbert in our home village.

The picture shows his parents' PK' and Mina Morrison, alongside friends Roddy John Macdermid and Kenny Macaskill. Wearing the bonnet is Alasdair Macinnes, who was also known as 'Cock a' Dandy', Murdo Campbell, also known as Pollan Beag, and Finlay Campbell, who was known as Pym, and John Macdermid.

With the whisky obviously in full flow, an accordion in action, and some wonderfully happy faces, there's something about this image which captures all the fun of an old-fashion island night-in. John confirms the status of his parent's home at number 12 being a regular ceilidh house…

"Despite being up on the hill, there would be a procession of people coming and going throughout the evening, and some hardy souls would still be 'visiting' a couple of days later!"

Family and friendship at another typical house cèilidh.

We also love this photo from Fiona Macsween. Fiona tells us….

"My uncle Norman, Tina and Chrissie were only a fraction of the people who would come to our house for a ceilidh. It was the hub of the village. Many people from the island would always stop en route to their destination for a wee visit but often stayed as the craic was good, and there was always food and a dram or two for each and every one of them."

She continues…

"As a child growing up, I will always remember waking up late at night to the music playing and my mother singing Gaelic songs. My little sister, Joanna and I would get up and join in the ceilidh, sometimes helping the ladies make tea and sandwiches for them all. Everyone was made so welcome."

Neil Mackay, Leverburgh/Northton; Malcolm Macleod, Manish; John Macleod aka Toman, Manish; Iain Angus Macleod, Manish/Horgobost

Finally, she recalls…

"Alistair and Maryann MacDonald, also from the Isle of Harris, lived nearby. Alistair played the accordion and bagpipes, and they were always contributing to the ceilidh in our house. He was a fab box player, and I will never forget the camaraderie between everyone."

They say every picture tells a story. There is something rather special about looking back at these moments when friendship and fun came together to create an evening to remember, even if that memory was somewhat hazy at the time!

Our sincere thanks to Fiona MacSween, Margaret Maclellan, and John Morrison for kind permission to use their images, and if you have any you'd like to share with us along with a table or two from your own cèilidh house, we'd love to see them.

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If you have any old photos or tales from the cèilidh house, drop us a line at ceilidh@harrisdistillery.com. And remember to download your free Harris Cèilidh Book with ideas and inspiration for your own cèilidh gatherings HERE.