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Sorley MacLean's Island (clip)

Documentary about the Gaelic poet

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The Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean recites his poetry and discusses his work with fellow writer Iain Crichton Smith. This extract begins with views of Skye looking onto Raasay. Sorley MacLean and Iain Crichton Smith discuss the demise of the Gaelic language. Views of the Cuillin Mountains, Skye. "Nuair Bha Mi Og" sung by Dolina MacLennan. Sorley MacLean and Iain Crichton Smith take a boat ride over to Raasay with a voice-over of MacLean talking about the influence of Raasay and its history on his writing. Shots of a graveyard and sheep shearing on Raasay. The clip finishes with MacLean reading from this poetry.

Questions & Activities


  • How does Sorley MacLean explain why Gaelic is declining?
  • Why might children not want to speak Gaelic? Why are people afraid of being different?
  • Where is Raasay? What was its original name and what did it mean?
  • What is an island culture? What islands traditionally speak Gaelic?
  • What are the Highland Clearances?
  • Do you think Raasay was over-populated?


Gaelic: Research what has happen to Gaelic since this film was made and how it was orchestrated.

Gaelic / History: Research the role of the 1883 Napier Commission and the policy changes that came out of it.

History: Sorley MacLean refers to overpopulation as being the excuse used for many of the Highland Clearances. Research who came up with this idea and how this view was propagated. How were the Highland Clearances orchestrated and in what way did the local population defended themselves - culminating in the Battle of the Braes. As an extension, Sorley MacLean mentions that he hopes these experiences will be of help to other groups experiencing clearances and oppression. Discuss who this might be, for example, Amazonian Indians, Somali Fishermen (piracy) etc.

English / Gaelic: Discuss / Debate: Why is language diversity important and what aspects of language are unique to specific languages. What if anything would Scotland lose if Gaelic, Doric and Scots died out completely?

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-004-125-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 3141
Date 1974
Genre Documentary, Arts
School Subject Gaelic, English, Geography, History
Subject Matter Literacy, Clearances
Who Douglas Eadie (director), Ogam Films (production company), Scottish Arts Council and Films of Scotland (sponsor)
Where Raasay
Attributes Colour, Sound
Clip Length 11:30
Film Length 22:21