Scottish Gaelic ‘Boat Song’ documentary for BBC Alba

Documentary uses archive recordings to explore superstitions and myths in fishing communities.

The first ever cinema documentary entirely in Scottish Gaelic called Iorram (Boat Song) will be shown on BBC Alba on New Year’s Day.

“The sea has always sustained this community, while also holding the power to ravage the lives of the families who rely upon it. This film is an immersive and poetic portrait of life in the Outer Hebrides, as the islands and the language face an uncertain future.

“It offers whispers and shadows of people and tragic events long since gone, yet whose memory continues to shape life on the islands today.” – Director and producer Alastair Cole

The documentary is described as a ‘lyrical portrait of life in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides’ and is a Bofa and Tongue Tied Films production, in association with Creative Scotland and BBC ALBA.

Director Alastair Cole takes the audience on an immersive journey into the heart and soul of a 1000-year-old community, blending archive sound recordings of voices from the past with visuals of island life today with an original score by acclaimed folk musician Aidan O’Rourke.

A trove of sound archive is at the core of the film, recorded by pioneering Scottish ethnographers in the mid-20th century, who visited the Western Isles to capture the hardship and romance of life lived in precarious balance with the sea.

These newly restored archive recordings preserve an oral history of lore and legends, tall tales and tragedies, passed down through generations of Gaelic speakers.

The soundtrack of voices, stories and songs from the past is accompanied by 4K imagery of the daily working rhythm of the islands, on land and on water, shot over the past three years. The tough realities of fishing and gutting in all weathers and seasons co-exist alongside superstitions and visions of mermaids, faerie folk and mysterious vanishing islands.

“Archive sound recordings of ghostly voices, stories and songs from the last century are mixed with stunning footage of daily life in the islands today, to create a lyrical and playful dialogue between past and present, and sound and vision.

“As Scotland and the UK enter a new future, this provides a reminder that the threads of history and identity at this furthest edge of the British Isles are woven, unmistakably, in the lyrical power of the Gaelic language.” – Director and producer Alastair Cole

Iorram (Boat Song) is on BBC ALBA on Friday, January 1 at 6.35pm and will be available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days afterwards.

A longer cinema version will be released in theatres across the UK from March 2021.

lorram was directed and filmed by Alastair Cole, produced by Adam Dawtrey and Alastair Cole and edited by Colin Monie. The School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University assisted with the archive material used in the documentary.


BBC ALBA; Sky 141 (Scotland) / Sky 169 (rest of UK), Freeview / You View 7 (Scotland only), Virgin Media 161, Freesat 109 and on the BBC iPlayer

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