'Great Book' honours Irish, Scottish culture

An inter-island celebration of Gaelic culture in words and pictures has opened at the Blasket Island Centre, Ionad an Bhlascaoid…

An inter-island celebration of Gaelic culture in words and pictures has opened at the Blasket Island Centre, Ionad an Bhlascaoid, in Dun Chaoin, west Kerry and simultaneously at eight other galleries in Ireland and Scotland.

An Leabhar Mór (The Great Book of Gaelic) celebrates the Gaelic cultures of Ireland and Scotland, bringing together 100 visual artists, poets and calligraphers from both countries.

The book was launched simultaneously at eight different sites in Scotland and Ireland, with the exhibits of the pieces spread between the Isle of Lewis, North Uist, the Isle of Skye, Falcarraigh in Donegal, Inis Oirr on the Aran islands and Rathlin Island. Ionad an Bhlascaoid in Dun Chaoin has 12 of the pieces.

The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Mr O'Donoghue, who opened the exhibition in Dun Chaoin, said the effort amounted to "a symbolic reconnection of Ireland and Scotland".


"This initiative springs from the fact that Scotland and Ireland share two languages, a rich music tradition and some significant history.

"As it enters its fourth millennium, the Gaelic language and oral tradition is one of the oldest and richest languages in Europe. It may come as a surprise to many people that to this day, there are only 650 words of difference between Scottish and Irish Gaelic," Mr O'Donoghue said at Saturday night's opening event.

The project is centred on 100 specially commissioned art works based on 100 Scottish and Irish poems dating from the 6th to the 21st centuries. The poems are all personal favourites selected by Irish and Scottish writers, including Séamus Heaney and Hamish Henderson. The artists worked with a team of calligraphers to create a range of contemporary art works in a wide variety of media.

The exhibition drew nearly 1,000 visitors daily to Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art following its original launch in November 2002.

To date, it has been seen by more than a million people at a series of venues.

The Leabhar Mór exhibition will tour internationally for six years before the individual art works are removed from their frames and brought together to form a "book". This book will then go on permanent display.

Mr O'Donoghue paid tribute to the Gaelic Arts Agency on the Isle of Lewis for organising the event.