A most enjoyable evening of entertainment took place in the Community Hall on Friday 24th February, 2006 to launch our well received publication, Clachan Crìche. The evening began with a presentation of aerial views of Lewis, with special emphasis on Tolsta, taken by Ruairidh Moir (courtesy of Bristow's Helicopters). The chairman, Donald Murray, introduced the book and the artistes. Angus Macleod, Slios-na-Beinne and Anne Marie Henderson, Seaview read their selection from the book and singers Margaret Hulse, Mary Smith and Seonaidh ‘Beag' Macmillan entertained the audience with songs from Clachan Crìche. After food and refreshments the audience reassembled and joined in the singing led by Margaret, Mary and Seonaidh - everybody singing together in good old-fashioned ceilidh style!
“Clachan Crìche” is an anthology of Gaelic verse composed by natives of North Tolsta between the years 1850 and 2000 and assembled over a number of years by the local historical society.
These poems and songs cover a wide spectrum of topics and styles and give an illuminating insight into the occupations and way of life representative of that robust, enterprising crofting, fishing and seafaring community. They include poems containing much factual information about the older traditional dwellings and their furnishings, about agricultural implements, about fishing equipment and about the general cycle of crofting activities; humorous songs about local customs and characters; poems in sombre vein conveying the sorrow of bereavement or the sadness of separation from home and family; nostalgic poems recalling the pleasures of youthful pursuits; spiritual verse reflecting the loyalty to Christian values which was so deeply rooted in the people.
There are over 70 poems in the collection, each of intrinsic interest and worthy of inclusion, and some which have a particular attraction. These include some familiar items, such as John MacLeod's “An t-Eilean a Tuath” , John Maclennan's “Fadachd an t-Seòladair” and George Morrison's humorous and telling commentaries on local events and customs and on bureaucratic institutions in a wider context. Others, perhaps less well known generally, are especially worthy of a place in such an anthology – for example, the works of Murdo D. MacDonald, who left 37 North Tolsta for Canada at the age of 3 years and never returned but whose compositions would suggest that he had spent all his days in the village of his birth; Margaret Ann Mackay's poems ,which display such an intimate, detailed knowledge of local homes, people and customs; the spiritual verse composed in compelling, challenging style by Coinneach Mhurchaidh Bhuidhe.
The North Tolsta Historical Society deserves much credit for its sustained efforts to preserve and disseminate the poetic tradition of the district as well as for its continuing commitment to the regular publication of “Seanchas”, its excellent quarterly magazine. “Clachan Crìche” will undoubtedly appeal to North Tolsta folk, whether living locally or elsewhere. It can also be assured of a warm reception within the general Gaelic community.