Comunn Eachdraidh an Taobh Siar

Comunn Eachdraidh an Taobh Siar (CEaTS) was one the first groups of its kind to be set up in the Western Isles. Its aim was to have a small team of workers in the local townships of Shawbost, Bragar and Arnol so as to gather together a range of cultural items which would help preserve something of the way people had lived there, especially throughout the twentieth century.

The first major phase of this project continued over a period of some eight years - from around 1979 until 1987. CEaTS was based in the Old Mill at Glen House in Shawbost which was donated throughout by Finlay MacLeod.

Funds were provided by the Manpower Services Commission and the organisors/sponsors were Donald Smith (Bragar) and Finlay MacLeod (Shawbost). There was a local committee who helped with the project, whose membership included Kenneth Campbell (Bragar) as Treasurer and Donald Alan MacLeod (Shawbost) as Chairman.

The CEaTS field-workers tended to be employed for one year, and in some cases for two years. These included: Peggy Mairi MacPhail (Shawbost), Iain MacLeod (Bragar), Katie Ann MacLeod (Shawbost), Murdo Campbell (Shawbost), Annette MacLean (Bragar), Roddy MacLeod (Shawbost), Mairi MacLean (Shawbost), Agnes MacLean (Shawbost), Mairi MacLean (Shawbost), Finlay Smith (Bragar), Donald M. MacIver( Bragar), Margaret I. MacLeod (Shawbost), Normanna MacArthur (Shawbost).

A comprehensive range of materials and information was collected by CEaTS over the successive phases on the project.
The following is a summation of what was collected: this material was transferred to the newly formed committee of CEaTS in 2001.

A photographic darkroom was set-up in an old loom shed belonging to Finlay MacLeod and this enabled the team to make copies of hundreds of photographs borrowed from local families with the original prints being returned safely to their owners. Negatives were made of all these photographs.

Many individuals in the townships were interviewed and recorded on audiotape concerning their life experiences. Transcripts were made of all these interviews. Both the transcripts and the recordings are now in the CEaTS archive.

A full collection was made of local songs and this comprises the most complete collection of the words of these songs that has been made. These are in the archive.

Detailed information and mapping were compiled on the location of each family's sheiling site out on the moor. This complemented the accounts given in interview. These are in the archive.

A book was compiled of local telephone numbers, also giving people's patronymic and nickname, as well as each family's sheep earmarks. Two editions were published.

A Roll of Honour was compiled and this was incorporated into the Ness - Bernera Roll of Honour.

Collections were made of oral and written accounts of a wide range of topics such as Harris Tweed, the Church, World Wars, Fishing and many other topics. A file on each of the many topics is in the archive.

This is only an outline of the wide variety of material that was brought together by the project and which formed the basis of a number of exhibitions at the Glen House Mill and in Bragar School and Shawbost Museum. Many of the people interviewed - and a number of the project team - are no longer alive, and much of their knowledge and accounts of their life experience at home and away, at war and in peace, would have been lost but for the work of CEaTS.

The archive is a unique record, often told in the voice of those who lived here, of what people's experiences in these townships throughout the twentieth century. Maybe neither they nor the team who worked on the project realised fully at the time the importance of the archive they were creating: it is certainly up to those who follow to care for and to broadcast the richness and wealth of this community record.

Bha iad a' fuireach ann am bailtean an Taobh Siar 's thug iad cunntas slàn - an diofar mhodhan -- air na rinn iad fhèin 's air na bha mun cuairt orra tro bhiadhnaichean am beatha. Bha fiosrachadh aca air dòigh-beatha a bha aosta agus luachmhor agus bha grinneas cainnte air an teanga gus an cunntas sin a thoirt gu snasail, sgeilmor.