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The latest project of Berneray Historical Society is now well underway and the whole community is being asked to join in.  

The project is exploring the historical and cultural impact of emigrations from Berneray, by establishing who went where, when, how and why?

Members hope to discover aspects of Berneray’s Gaelic island culture that the emigrants took with them and which have been maintained in their new lands by their descendants.

Entitled A'  Tilleadh ar n-Eachdraidh Dhachaigh (Bringing Our History Home), the project will establish a unique body of research on Berneray's diaspora by gathering information from outwith the island before it is lost.

The research is being performed by recently-appointed project worker Peter Kerr, who has an established body of research into the islands specialising in the social history of the Parish of Harris in the 19th century. His own Harris ancestry stretches back 220 years to Strond and very likely earlier from across the Sound of Harris to Berneray itself.

He says: “So far we have identified nearly 500 people (almost four times the present population) who, during the past 240 years, left the island to make a new life for themselves, whether elsewhere on the islands, on mainland Britain or thousands of miles away across the sea.

“We will learn of their stories and experiences and examine how many aspects of the culture have fared (not only poems, songs and music but also artefacts, designs, practices, traditions, festivals and so on). We will therefore investigate both the influence that Be‡rnaraich have had on their new communities whilst bringing their memories home.”

Using its existing comprehensive and meticulously compiled database of Berneray's past inhabitants, in combination with local resources and volunteers and by liaising with museums and heritage societies in the Western Isles and overseas, the society hopes to provide a unique insight into the island’s past.

The results will be widely accessible, both on the island and on the internet, and the aim is to provide resources for local secondary school students as well as hosting public events to publicise the findings.



Historical project to track island emigrants                  22/9/11