Following the devastating losses in WWI and the Iolaire disaster, this had a profound impact, demographically, socially and culturally on island communities.
Commemorating a significant chapter in the history of Gaelic Scotland, the new BBC ALBA Trusadh episode follows artistic duo musician, Liza Mulholland and writer Donald S Murray, as they embark on a unique journey of creative discovery, seeking a true sense of the lives and experiences of those involved.
Travelling to Canada and America to walk in the footsteps of the SS Metagama emigrants, they find out more about Liza’s family story – a personal account which reflects that of so many island families in the early 20s.
Visiting Detroit to see where her grandfather had lived and worked, Liza said: “When my grandfather arrived in Detroit, he quickly got a job on a new skyscraper called the Fisher building. He worked with 11 other Gaelic speaking Lewis men as bricklayers, carpenters, stonemasons.
“I remember him telling us that the Lewis men etched their names into the exterior walls of the Fisher 30-floors up… They christened it the ‘Lewis Skyscraper’.”
Donald reveals that during the trip he often wrote a few lines at a time, as a genesis of an idea from his experiences. He reads: “There’s a medley of voices in these streets, different tones and rhythms as I shift along my feet. Not the notes and sounds that I have always known but a thousand different languages that make me feel alone.”
They returned to Scotland to create In the Wake of the Metagama, a unique theatre experience, featuring new and traditional music, song, story and visuals, which debuted in An Lanntair in Stornoway earlier this year.
Liza and Donald are joined by a host of artists including singer and actor Dolina MacLennan, singer and piper Calum Alex Macmillan, and singer-songwriter Willie Campbell (of bands Astrid and Tumbling Souls); as well as award-winning fiddler Charlie Mckerron (of Capercaillie and Session A9), Canadian cellist Christine Hanson, and visual artist Doug Robertson.
Trusadh: Sruth a’ Mhetagama (In the Wake of the Metagama) continues BBC ALBA’s centenary commemoration of the 1920s emigration from the Hebrides.
The programme premieres on BBC ALBA and iPlayer on Monday at 9pm. Watch live or on demand: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001s6mj (in Gaelic with English subtitles).