Heritage sites in North Tolsta

Category: Society News

Heritage Sites in North Tolsta

For sometime now the Comann Eachdraidh has been made aware of how place names in our township are not used nowadays and are likely to be forgotten.  Although O.S. maps record most of these, there are many place names and incidents associated with these places that only the older generation can recall.

Many regard the ruins of shielings on the moor as prehistoric dwellings, not realising that every shieling was part of the life on the crofts in Tolsta less than one hundred years ago.

The Comann Eachdraidh decided this spring to produce a project that would research and record as much as possible of this important aspect of our history and the main aims of our project are:-

• To explore and record the heritage of the shielings in the North Tolsta area, including local place names and stories.

• To record this oral village history with NTHS members through workshops and interviews, in Gaelic and English.

• To investigate and survey the ruins of historic shielings and the paths that people would have taken through the moorlands. To record data using GPS, digital memory boards and photographs. To research and scan documents such as old croft records and photographs.

• To involve up to 75 volunteers in the project. To deliver training to six volunteers, for example in the use of maps, GPS and digital memory boards, interview techniques, research methodology and surveying techniques.

• To share the project findings through public meetings, displays, a website and a magazine.

The estimated cost of the project is approximately £8,500.  We applied successfully to Heritage Lottery Fund and they awarded us a grant of 81% of this total eligible project costs.  This amounted to £6,700.  This allows us to proceed.  We are grateful to the Heritage Lottery for their support.

Between the eighteenth and the early twentieth century it was customary for crofters throughout the island to move to shielings with their cattle and sheep in spring and remain on the moor herding their stock during the summer months.  Over the years many incidents were recalled and stories were passed on by oral tradition, usually in the ceilidh houses in the winter months.

Many in our membership of nearly 400 have expressed a desire to learn more about this important part of our heritage and the Comann Eachdraidh hope that the project will go some way towards filling the gap left by the Ceilidh Houses. It is essential that this is completed before the older generation pass on. By using modern technology the project should appeal to the younger generation and link it to their lives.

We would thus encourage readers to inform committee members if they can recall information that was passed on to them from this time. We can visit them at home for a ceilidh or arrange a meeting locally to gather any information on sites of shielings etc.  We would also like to meet with the more physically active members to take GPS readings for us.

With your help this should be a very worthwhile project.

Best wishes

Donald Murray, chairman