BIRLINN into the Gaelic

December 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

 By Alan McCrorie

GalGael Trust has announced plans to build a 50-foot birlinn, the first to be constructed in Scotland in four centuries.

GalGael speakers Soren Neilsen, John MacAulay, Denis Rixson, Maxwell MacLeod and Colin Martin

GalGael speakers Soren Neilsen, John MacAulay, Denis Rixson, Maxwell MacLeod and Colin Martin

 

 The Govan-based group used their Birlinn: 400 Conference at the Pearce Institute to take the first steps towards restoring a lost piece of Scottish maritime heritage.

Birlinns, or Highland Galleys, were outlawed in 1609 as part of the Statutes of Iona written to undermine, then eradicate, Gaelic culture.

The day-long conference heard from a number of speakers including author Denis Rixson, who told of the evolution of the birlinn and its kinship with other vessels and seafaring traditions along the North Sea and Atlantic that dated back many hundreds of years.

 

Dr Colin Martin, of St Andrews University, explored the significance of medieval boat finds at Rubh’ an Dunain, a peninsula on Skye. The site features an inland loch and canal that runs to the sea.

The audience, which included boatbuilders, historians and heritage professionals from as far afield as Denmark and Scotland, also heard author John MacAulay’s reflections on the birlinn. Soren Nielsen of the Viking Boat Centre at Roskilde in Denmark recounted the voyage of the Havhingsten, a full-scale reconstructed ship, from his home waters to Dublin in Ireland.

Journalist and adventurer Maxwell MacLeod used his address, titled ‘The relationship between chocolate and birlinns’ to touch upon the boats’ significance as ships of trade.