Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has secured funding from National Lottery Heritage: Now and Then fund for the Sìth 19/ Peace 19 Project.

This is following last year’s focus in Island schools and communities on commemorating and learning about events related to World War One.

The new project involves CnES Heritage Apprentices working with local historical societies (Comainn Eachdraidh) throughout the Outer Hebrides and youth programmes run by the Community Learning and Development team, examining the local response to – and significant events following - the peace treaty in 1919.

On 4th August 1919, the town of Stornoway held a Peace Celebration to celebrate the signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty and the end of the First World War.

Articles covering the event in the Highland News at the time are the inspiration for this project and have led to the apprentices working with the centre for public engagement Gateways to the First World War on a project exploring changes that happened in 1919 to the communities of the Outer Hebrides.

Other subjects to be examined include the Land Act of 1919, post-war activities and Spanish flu.

Another topic of interest is the fresh bread ban that was put in place during the First World War. British food supplies had been affected by a number of factors: poor harvests at home and abroad; reduced food imports as a result of enemy action; and decreased manpower due to workforces being siphoned off by the military. By May 1917, the Minister for Food warned the Cabinet that feeding the country after September would be ‘a difficult problem’.

The government launched a propaganda campaign encouraging bakers and housewives to use potatoes to bulk out their loaves and commanded that commercial bakers could only use ‘standard flour’, a mix that contained more of the grain that, during peacetime, would usually be discarded.

As a further measure, the Ministry of Food and wider government made attempts to influence consumption, as well as production, by introducing the Bread Order in 1917. This regulation made it illegal to sell bread until 12 hours after it had been baked. According to The Times, the government realised that stale bread was ‘more nutritious’ and would be consumed 5% less than fresh bread.

The project seeks to involve young people in replicating the Carnival celebrations of the inaugural 1919 parade, which welcomed the lifting of the ban with a float full of bakers and loaves of bread.

The apprentices will create and deliver free workshops to assist Comainn Eachdraidh with research skills, recording oral history, creating exhibitions and creating educational activities.

The funding will help produce exhibitions specifically focussed on the theme of peace in 1919, which can then be transported and used along with the educational materials produced in any setting such as halls, schools, care homes and historical societies.

There will also be an opportunity to learn more about post-War Britain through an exhibition and talk by historian Professor Lucy Noakes on Armistice and Peace Celebrations, provided and funded by Gateways to the First World War. This will take place on 11th July in Stornoway Town Hall at 1pm and will be live streamed online.  

“Please join us for this free event, either by coming along to the town hall or viewing online. Online viewers can email questions in advance - or in ‘real time’ on the day - to Shona Maclellan (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), who will also provide the livestream link,” say the organisers.

Workshops have so far taken place in Carinish in North Uist, as well as in Lochs, Ness and Tolsta in Lewis with participants learning more about where to find information on the islands, how to write interpretation for exhibitions, how to undertake an oral history project and creating educational materials and activities. Further workshops will follow in other areas throughout June.

Dr Sam Carroll, Community Heritage Researcher, Gateways to the First World War said: “I am really delighted that all the hard work that has gone into developing the Outer Hebrides Peace Celebrations 1919 - 2019 project will now begin to bear fruit. Gateways to the First World War are looking forward to working with Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar to help bring to light and celebrate this important and exciting community heritage.”