Jura Lives

The Isle of Jura's Oral History Project.
Creating an island archive of living memories and stories. With few people, some visitors, and many deer, it's a way of life that we hope to capture - you will be able to read how the project is going, hear clips from interviews, see documentary materials and join in here. The project is happily funded by grants from Argyll and the Islands LEADER 2007-2013 programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Isle of Jura Development Trust. 
Ask me anything

Here’s a sample of Jura in sound, for people online to enjoy.

Originally created to accompany the photographic exhibition in the the back room at the Parish Church, Isle of Jura, Scotland, this soundscape was made from recordings captured on-location around the island during the creation of the Jura Lives Sound Archive.

Around 80 individual sound effects files can be heard in the finished collection, alongside documentary style recordings from island activities (from the inimitable Sports’ Day to going to ‘out west’ in an argot, high-days like the Glasgow-Jura Gathering to ordinary days with the Roadmen), and 91 personal interviews with 110 contributors aged between 19 and 95. 

The sounds in this montage are :

The Sea, Recorded at Corran Sands 19th October 2012 / The Church Bell, Recorded at Music Festival Sunday Service 23rd September 2012/ Hymn, Recorded at Rev Barlow’s induction 26th September 2012 / Procession with piper, Recorded at the wedding of David Smith and Hannah Waterworth 14th July 2012 / Morning, Recorded at Knockrome 6th October 2012 / Children Playing, Recorded at ‘Tea on the Beach’ Inverlussa 1st June 2012/ Banging, Recorded at erection of community marquee 12th July 2012 / Peat Digging, Recorded at Strone with Neil Cameron 3rd May 2012 / Thèid Mi A-null gu Tìr Mo Rùin, Recorded at Caigenhouses with Catriona Paterson 10th April 2012 / Deliveries, Recorded at Jura Stores 15th June 2012 / Dog Whistle, Recorded at Ardlussa with Molly Fletcher and Tink 28th July 2012 / Chickens and Children, Recorded at Inverlussa 1st June 2012 / Vehicles, Recorded in Craighouse 14th July 2012 / Gaelic Ceilidh, Recorded at Jura Progressive Care Centre with Iain Cameron and Angus McAffer 8th April 2013 / Stags, Recorded near Feolin Farm during the rut 6th October 2012 / Music & Dancing, Recorded at the Glasgow Jura Gathering with ‘Deoch an Dorus’ 9th November 2012

With thanks to all participants

If you weren’t at our archive Launch Party last month, you’ll have missed the first ever ‘Jura Oscars’. They were awarded for outstanding stories in the categories of the Jura Lives project’s 8 themes :

childhood, transport, change, ceilidhs, the community, landscape, animals, transport and life on the estates.

We arrived at these 8 themes at the beginning of the project, after asking people what they considered most unique about life on Jura.

Here’s a short taster of the nominations in the category ‘change’ to relive at home! If you want to pick a winner, please do so by writing under the post on our Facebook page here :


We have so far isolated more than 90 other stories about change in our collection of recorded interviews. The whole fantastic archive can now be accessed at the Service Point on Jura, Mon-Fri from 10-2.

News about the new ‘Jura Lives’ sound archive has been spreading. Last week, Project Officer Jane Carswell was invited to the Scottish Parliament for a reception, after the Scottish Council on Archives featured some clips from the Jura Lives collection in their ‘Scottish Archive Week’ exhibition at the Parliament in Edinburgh. The event was designed to raise awareness about the wealth of material held by archives across the country, and to show how democratic the collections are in comparison to the sort of history that is created by the dominant powers of the day. According to research by Visit Scotland, there has been such growth in ‘ancestral tourism’ that it now earns Scotland £101million each year, so archives like the oral history project’s in Jura is not only a great resource for the residents there, it also has huge potential value.

Mrs Carswell has been running the project for almost two years and said, ‘The stories and moments that we have captured for the archive are full of integrity, and reveal Jura in all its uniqueness. The contributors near and far have been brilliant and do the island great credit.’

More than 180 people have been recorded in high quality for posterity, accross individual interviews and group recordings, including collaborations with Small Isles Primary School’s ‘Crofting Connections Community Cafe’ and the ‘Guthan Dhiura’ series with ICCI. Besides this, there are real-life recordings on location around Jura at 18 different occasions and events, including the annual Music Festival, Regatta, Fishing Competitions and the Fell Race.

The archive and will be launched in Jura on Saturday 26th October. All interested parties are welcome to attend; please email juralives@gmail.com

And what would George Orwell have to say about that?


So there’s still no Jura on Google… Can the mightiest of global companies and knowledge-gobblers be stumped by some blunt rock and stoic silence?  I can think of a few possible explanations why this is:

1.  Eric is up there somewhere using the power of 1984 to shield us from Big Brother because this was the one place in the universe from where he could see this all coming;

2. The company realises that it will come and go while Jura quietly shifts not an inch. It’s (virtual)paper-scissors-stone and there is only going to be one winner;

3. It’s an acknowledgement that this ancient Gaelic place is not part of the Western world, in thought, or how people treat one another, or in fixation with commerce;

4.  No one tries to draw lines around heaven. 

I think I feel safer. Yes, this is real, this is time, and here, like nowhere else, you can know it.


Here’s a nice Blog by Mora Morrison, who’s been helping the project this week. Thanks for your help Mora!

For as long as I can remember Jura has been a home to my family. After buying our cottage in Keils in 1986 we have enjoyed many good times here so, after seeing an advertisment for Jura Lives in Jura Jottings, I decided to volunteer for a week as a way of giving something back to the island, as well as gaining experience of interviews.

In my university course, International developement and sociology, I find discussion is dominated by global culture, religion and language and as a result I feel like it is tempting to learn about other cultures than your own. One evening I went with Jane to the Gaelic college on Islay to hear about a national project, Tobar an Dualchais and to share with them our progress. Listening to discussion on how best to preserve and present recordings the importance of such projects really struck me. As well as a way of celebrating communities, they can tie down Scottish heritage and act as an anchor during a rapid tide of globalisation. They can be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike and highlight those things that make Scotland Scotland.

‘Jura Lives’ is committed to helping two community groups on the island as part of their funding agreement, one of which will be the church. There is a vintage photo exhibition in the church which shows how the island, and its inhabitants, have changed over the years. The tours of the island with a local guide on the Jura Bus stop at this exhibition, so it was decided that we should make a short sound installation to accompany the images. I was assigned the job of listening through some of the recordings from the comprehensive archive to pull out sounds that encapsulate the general atmosphere of the photos as you journey through the times. These include the crackling of fire, chatter, singing, peat digging, bag pipes, cattle and the soothing sounds of the sea. As much as the island has changed , or may change, to me these sounds collectively represent the island’s heartbeat, embodying all aspects of Jura; its people, buildings, animals, wildlife, work, celebrations, events, even weather.The recordings capture a mood, a way of thinking, and the background sounds of the moment they are recorded, allowing a future listener to really be back in that moment.

Working with this project has offered a wonderful insight into Jura, into how things have changed and the hopes for the future and, as a result, I come away not only with new skills but an enriched understanding of what makes this island so special.

Mora Morrison

Talk for the Scottish Council on Archives

I’m getting set to test drive some of our work on an unsuspecting mainland audience this week. Will they be interested in the same things we’re interested in on Jura? Will they get an idea of the place through hearing first-hand clips of its heritage? Will we, compared to other archives in Scotland, have our digital shit together? 

Thursday will tell…. Edinburgh here we come!

BONAFIDE!  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II remembers Jura, played on the beaches with her family and is interested in the oral history project!

After stories from the Tarbert Darrochs and Ian MacKinnon about their forebears going aboard Britannia to be presented with wallets, then relaxing with the Royals on the beach at Glenabatrick, I wrote to Buckingham Palace to see if the Queen remembered it too. I put in some handouts about the funders and some photographs that illustrate the project’s themes, and look what was lying on my desk this morning….

Free Ringtones - for iphone users 

The stags, the fighter jet, and the wee ferry can be found at the link above, for those iPhone owners who are having difficulty downloading the new ringtones from SoundCloud

This is how to do it :

1. Make sure iTunes is closed

2. Click the link to dropbox above

3. Ctrl click to download your *choice* sound!

4. Keep it as a binary file when saving to Desktop / Downloads

5. Drag it into iTunes, where it should appear in your ‘Tones’ folder

6. Let me know how it goes!

Bye for now, Jane

On board in July for A Day in the Life of… series of interviews. 

Renaissance gardening - it’s no picnic…

The project has been lucky enough to spend A day in the life of … Peter, Jura House Garden, this month.He’d recently constructed the prototype of the whisky-barrel-and-fallen-tree sun lounger that you see above.  Other wooden benches of his adorn the garden’s sun traps and ebullient sight lines, though the only time we sat down on one such structure was to have coffee from a flask mid-afternoon while doing a quick recap of the events he had seen in the garden and on the estate over the last 36 years.

The rest of the time we talked while he weeded.  He weeded while he described washing the gravel on the paths, described some of the hybrids he had concocted and their names purple pap, mirjam, described how the wind had stripped off all the long leaves from the eucalyptus above the line of the metre-thick wall.  He barrowed the weeds while he pointed out where the butterflies lay their eggs every year, described the mulching with seaweed and the composting-making, listed the historical artefacts he had found in the soil-pile midden that had been started outside the garden wall in Georgian times.

He cut-back plants while he talked about designing by colour and shape, holding up a flower or a leaf against something he was experimenting with in the nursery, weeded as he described moulding the future by constantly deciding what to pull out and what to leave.

Meanwhile, in the background of the recordings, his son mowed, on foot, a 4 acre field in front of the house, round the tree, up, back, round the tree…  The industry and patience that make natural beauty even better must run in that family.

More Information