An ambitious project to map emigrants from the islands and tell their stories was launched on Friday evening (May 31st) in Harris.

Isle of Harris Distillery has linked up with Bill Lawson of the Seallam! visitor centre in Northton to start the project, which will link personal memories with interactive technology to chart the settlement of Hebrideans worldwide.

The Diaspora Project explores the long history of island emigration and the worldwide family of far-flung friends which exists today. In a social media launch statement on Friday, a spokesman said: “Our distillery was built to challenge the long-term decline in our community's population but the seeds of this were sown over two centuries ago.

“It's a long and often painful story but, over the coming months, we hope to share many of the incredible stories of Harris men and women who ventured across the world to build new lives.”

An interactive map has been set up, on which individual stories will be logged, with island descendants encouraged to share pictures and family histories. The spokesman said: “We invite you to share your own tales too. If you, your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents (and beyond) have connections to our island we'd love to hear about them. Message us on social media or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Some island descendants have already begun to share the project, with Flora Macdonald from Cairns in Australia writing: “It’s been quite a journey from 10 Scott Road, Tarbert to Cairns Australia and to Hermanus, South Africa – the seas divide us!”

You can find out more about the Disapora Project at www.harrisdistillery.com/journal/diaspora-project

Pictures show a contemporary newspaper illustration of the Hercules, which took emigrants from Harris to Australia in 1852