A big crowd gathered in An Lanntair on Saturday evening (October 28th) during Faclan/the Hebridean Book Festival for the launch of Stornoway publishers Acair latest book…Forradh: Sly Cooking – its title taken from one of the 42 Gaelic words which are profiled within it, both in words and images.

Present for the event was author Catriona Black – far from her present home in the Dutch village of Santpoort-Noord – who is a former art critic for the Sunday Herald, an illustrated children’s book author, and a short film animator.

In addition, the bar of An Lanntair has an exhibition based on “Forradh: Sly Cooking,” which shows off Catriona’s linocut illustrations of Gaelic words from Eriskay and South Uist, words that were first collected in the 1890s by Father Allan Macdonald, the renowned 19th century priest, poet, and folklorist, and published by John Lorne Campbell in Ireland in the 1950s.

The event was introduced by Acair’s Manager, Agnes Rennie. She said: “This book is intended both for a Gaelic audience and a non-Gaelic speaking audience. This amazing collection of words is also accompanied by phonetic descriptions.” Some of the words in the book are no longer used in the area where they were originally found but which are still used in Lewis. And there are words that she had never heard in Lewis.

An Lanntair’s Roddy Murray spoke of Acair’s 40 years, and An Lanntair’s 32 years. He explained that all the images in the book are also part of the exhibition. The choice of the bar as the location for exhibition meant that people were getting really involved with it.

Catriona Black talked of the huge range of work undertaken by Father Allan Macdonald, who had many roles in his locality, including nurse and political campaigner. The book on which she based Forradh: Sly Cooking is a dictionary of nearly 3,000 words that he collected. John Lorne Campbell who edited it, described it as the most readable dictionary that ever existed. She said: “He’s absolutely right. I read it from cover to cover, it’s like a story.” It shows a vibrant community, full of humour. Then she conceived the idea of an illustrated book based on her favourite words.

Some of her favourites include “Mionagadanan,” which describes particles seen in a ray of sunlight coming into a house, and “Glaigeil,” a reference to the noise that women make when they get together. “There are lots about women – some of them are less than complimentary,” she said.

She explained how on Monday (30th October) there would be a TV documentary which followed her visit to South Uist and Eriskay, in search of these lost words, which was directed by Roddy Maclean and will air as part of Trusadh on BBC Alba. She said they took a list of around 50 words with them and drew the attention of local people to them – around 20 of them were still known locally.

She originally had done two children’s books for Acair using a graphics program – Cairistìona Camaillean agus an sgòth dhraodheil and An Tractar agus an Liobht – and had intended to use that same process for this book. But a friend pointed out that the resulting illustrations looked like lino-cuts – so Catriona returned to that traditional method, which she had used years previously, and found that work done using that method was very popular with local customers in The Netherlands. So The Forradh: Sly Cooking project actually took more than four years to reach fruition.

She told the staff of Acair who were present how pleased she was with the published product. “I am really delighted at how it turned out. This is exactly what I had in mind.” She said that the team at Acair “really got it” from the moment she spoke to them, “they really got what I wanted.” She said she wanted to encourage Gaelic-speakers, to “bring a smile to their faces” and to bring these words back into use, and she wanted non-Gaelic speakers to get involved with them as well. She has also created a website - http://www.slycooking.com/ - for the project which she hopes will accumulate other contributions about words.

SLY COOKING - 42 Irresistible Gaelic Words – Foradh Price: £5.95 Author: Catriona Black
ISBN: 9780861524464