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Digital Subscriptions > The Oban Times & Lochaber Times > 23rd March 2017 > Songs, rockets and Gigha gents in Saskatoon

Songs, rockets and Gigha gents in Saskatoon

ISLAND social life in the early 20th century revolved around the ceilidh house, ‘danns an rathaid’ (dancing in the road) and the luadh (pronounced ‘loo-ugh’): the finishing, fulling or waulking the homemade tweed after the wool had been woven and taken from the loom in crofters’ homes.

The gathering of six to 14 women sang lustily to lighten the task, as they pummelled the cloth back and forth in unison, thump, thump, thump, on a door-like ‘cleith’. The cloth was sewn into a loop and soaked in warm, soapy water, stale urine with melted dog-fish livers to remove oil and dirt as well as soften and shrink the fabric.

The rhythmic waulking songs, known as orain luaidh (‘or-ine loo-ie’), were led by the best singer, like a shantyman on a ship, and the rest came in on the chorus while the leader took a breath. After nine songs, the cloth ought to be ready, noticeably softer, thicker and more tightly woven.

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