ANGUS MCPHEE - Weaver of Grass

ANGUS MCPHEE or MACPHEE was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital. During this time he chose not to speak - instead he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. These he hung on trees in the hospital grounds.

This blog follows the progress of HORSE + BAMBOO THEATRE as they develop and tour a show about Angus....

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Oidhche Challuinn

Of all the scenes in 'Angus - Weaver of Grass' that we researched, probably the most difficult to find information on was the Oidhche Challuinn

From the Silconglan website: "Described as the Eve of New Year's Day (it) was of supreme importance in the Highlands and Islands of the West and took precedence even over Christmas. It was a time of much ceremony and gaiety, but underneath the levity lies a sinister hint of the old ritual and sacrificial nature of the festival. The Eve of New Year was known as Oidhche Challuinn, and New Year's Day as La Challuinn.......Up to the beginning of the century at least, the festivities of New Year's Eve were fully in operation and people went round the houses....chanting special rhymes continuously.......The part of the hide used was the loose flap of the beasts neck; this was called in Gaelic caisean-uchd. This they used to singe in the fire and present it to the members of the family, each in turn; every member of the household was required to smell it as a charm against all things evil and harmful."

In our show the burning caisean-uchd was held over Angus, then about to go off to war, and it flickered as if to be extinguished. His friends blow at it and revive the smouldering sheepskin. I intended it as a kind of presentiment of what was about to befall Angus.

Anyway, looking at the Island of Berneray Community website I found the photograph above and a brief description of the events that took place this year on January 12th, using painted cardboard box masks.

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