Official unveiling all set to take place in Argyll

A new landmark is set to be unveiled on the site of the Beinn Ghlas wind farm in Argyll.

Onshore wind generation firm Ventient Energy is throwing its support behind the installation, commissioned by the original landowner.

Sam Macdonald, who owned the land overlooking Loch Etive, commissioned Scottish sculptor and public artist David Wilson to design and build the Sheiling for Deirdre and Naoise. The Deirdre and Naoise story was a particular favourite of Sam’s late wife Evelyn and is one of the most significant early stories of Irish history.

Edinburgh-headquartered Ventient Energy is contributing funds to the unveiling ceremony of the Sheiling as part of its commitment to supporting local projects and communities around the locations of its wind farms.

The sheiling – a Gaelic word for a hut, or collection of huts, once common in wild and lonely places in the hills and mountains – is being officially unveiled at a ceremony on Saturday, 23 June, being attended by Michael Russell MSP and Mark Hanniffy, the Consul General of Ireland to Scotland, along with more than 100 guests and local dignitaries.

Irish President Michael D Higgins is sending a message of support as he is unable to attend the ceremony.

The sheiling, situated near one of the turbines on the Ventient Energy wind farm, will have the appearance of being on the site for 1000 years due to its historic features and will look across the stunning Scottish landscape to where Deirdre and Naoise lived in the 7th century AD.

Sam’s late wife Evelyn Day, who was originally from County Waterford and attended Belfast Arts School and then London Arts School, loved the story of Deirdre and Naoise. She was delighted to find out that Sam Macdonald’s father Neil was a fan of the story but disappointed that many other people she met in Argyll were not aware of it.

The story, which links Ireland with Scotland, was first featured in the Glenmasan Manuscript which is held in the National Library in Edinburgh.

It is the 780th anniversary of the manuscript in June and Michael Russell MSP is also involved in that celebration.

Scott Mackenzie, CEO of Ventient Energy, said: ‘We’re delighted to support Sam Macdonald in creating the stunning Sheiling for Deirdre and Naoise. Its creation is being celebrated by the entire community and is something that can be visited and enjoyed by locals and visitors from further afield, including Ireland.

‘The Beinn Ghlas windfarm has been in operation since May 1999 and has been owned by Zephyr, now part of the Ventient Energy portfolio, since 2004. The business is managing 12 windfarms across Scotland and is the third largest generator of onshore wind energy in the UK.

‘We are committed to giving back to communities where our wind farms are located and to supporting a wide range of local projects. The Sheiling is just one example of a range of projects we fund and support.’

Sam Macdonald said the stories preserved largely through oral tradition are from a time when: ‘an aristocratic warrior class dominated.’ He added that they: ‘are characterised by dramatic stories of fighting and adventure on the part of the chiefs.’

He said Deirdre’s powerful story with its: ‘elements of lust, treachery and ultimate death’ is vividly told.

He added that while one may question whether the characters in the story ever existed, recent research into place names in the North Lorn area of Argyll raised the idea that perhaps Deirdre, Naoise and his brothers Arden and Ainle were real and did reside in Glen Etive – as his father had said – given the number of place names that memorialise them in the landscape.

In raising the Sheiling for Deirdre and her lover Naoise, Sam Macdonald hopes to revitalise the stories and introduce visitors to the subsequent development in history which led to the establishment of the Irish Kingdom of Dalriada, including most of Argyll and its islands.

He said this might also reinforce the strong social and cultural ties that link the people of the west Highlands with their Irish neighbours across the water.

The Sheiling will also feature the statue of Deirdre and Naoise that was originally created by the Glasgow School of Art graduate Fiona McLeod for Scotland’s National Gardening Show held in Strathclyde Park in 1997. This statue has been in Sam Macdonald’s gardens since the show closed, having attracted more than 30,000 visitors.

The opening of the Sheiling will include an on-site bell casting ceremony. The Celtic Bell to be cast was designed by the Iona artist Mhairi Killin. Members of the Oban Gaelic choir will sing Deirdre’s Lament on Leaving Scotland.