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August 27, 2012

Clan Currie Erects a Memorial Cairn at "Baile nam Bàrd"

Members of the Clan Currie from around the world gathered on the Scottish island of South Uist to build and dedicate attend a new memorial cairn (monument) at Stilligarry, home to the MacMhuirich bards for hundreds of years.

The monument is located at the medieval ruins at Baile name Bàrd - Township of the Bard - as it is known in Scots Gaelic. On the day prior to the unveiling of the monument, Council Archaeologist Deborah Anderson led Clan MacMhuirich Symposium attendees through the findings of a test trench dug within the foundation of the site which as she reported was clearly the home of an important family given its sheer size versus similar homes of the period.

Clan Currie Society president, Robert Currie also outlined plans for a future expanded excavation of the site to learn more about life in the Outer Hebrides and particularly this impressive home which may also have served in the capacity of a bardic school. Stilligarry was the home of the Clan MacMhuirich, progenitors of Clan Currie, the Hereditary Bards to the MacDonalds of Clanranald for over 300 years. It was from this site in South Uist that multiple generations of MacMhuirich bards penned the Gaelic literary masterpiece, the Red Book of Clanranald.

The dedication took place on Sunday afternoon, August 26, 2012. Members of clan and community gathered together at Stilligarry for the dedication of the memorial cairn in honor of the MacMhuirich bards. A feature of the new cairn is a collection of stones submitted by clansfolk from the four corners of the globe representing the clan's far-flung sons and daughters. Stones came from as far away as New Zealand and South Africa.

The ceremony began with selections from the Liniclate Youth Pipe Band under the leadership of Donald MacDonald. Rev. Dr. David Currie, Chaplain of the Clan Currie Society, led the ceremonies which included segments from the Old Testament on the meaning of cairns as a place to commemorate and remember. Currie also compared the exile of St. Columba with that of Muireadach O’Daly, both having left Ireland for Scotland.

The cairn, shrouded under a bolt of Currie tartan was officially unveiled by Robert Currie and Stilligarry crofter Alasdair MacDonald. Piper Angus MacKenzie performed a new pipe tune, commissioned by the Society especially for the occasion and composed by renowned piper and Gaelic historian Iain MacDonald.

Alan Currie and Professor Willie Gillies read a new MacMhuirich poem, “Baile nam Bàrd Sleeps No More” in English and Gaelic. The ceremony concluded with the monument being christened with the “water of life.”

Alasdair Allan, MSP attended the cairn dedication. “I was pleased to have been invited to attend a series of events, organized by the Clan Currie Society to commemorate the MacMhuirich bards who lived and worked on those islands for centuries. The contribution made by these bards to Scotland’s literary heritage is of immense importance. The Clan Currie who, along with many Macphersons and MacMillans on the islands can claim direct descent from the bardic line, are to be commended for keeping this proud history alive.”

The highlight of the weekend for me was the unveiling of a new cairn in Stilligarry. It's a fitting tribute to the bards, built on the site of one of their former residences and is well worth a visit. I know that the Clan Currie’s interest in Benbecula and South Uist will continue and I look forward to further ventures which will bring mutual benefit to their Society and our communities alike.”

The cairn was made possible through generous donations from members of the worldwide Clan Currie. Additional donations will be accepted through the end of September to help the Society reach their fundraising goals for the project. All donors will be listed on a scroll to be presented to the Kildonan Museum in South Uist. They will also receive a special commemorative item from the dedication ceremony.