GriogairMacAllein is a Highland based, award winning writer, storyteller, poet, folklorist, photographer, play-writer, dramaturge, broadcaster and photographer. It's quite a list, yet speaking to Griogair, you begin to understand where his connection to the arts first formed.
"With my father a Master Watchmaker, parental grandfather a Jockey, maternal grandmother a Traveller and Music Hall Performer, unsurprisingly I have followed a creative path with a deep sensitivity for 'a' the airts', gathering material both orally and visually, frae 'a the pairts'".
Griogair was born in Aberdeenshire, "The Winter storm of February 1955 promised me a dramatic entrance into Aberdeenshire as the only child of Peggy and Roly. Through subsequent years of growing up the inevitable question of ‘Where did I come from?’ was replied to with, ‘I came down on a snowflake!’ - a lesson in the craft of storytelling if ever there was one! I kind of like to hold onto that thought."
The road to the highlands
We're always curious to hear how people ended up living in our wee corner of the world and like many others, Griogair seemed to be pulled here by the fates and the drastic landscape of Assynt.
"I’m often asked about my favourite place in the Highlands or Scotland for that matter. I’m a believer in the ‘meant to be’. After descending into Aberdeenshire on a ‘snowflake’ with no choice, my ‘meant to be’ favourite location has often evolved from the most unexpected circumstances.
With my late partner and soul mate June, Glencoe was and is a landscape trodden and climbed with huge memories and emotions over the years of sharing. A relatively unplanned 3 week stay on the Knoydart peninsula led to nearly a year living in a tent and working on the ‘Knoydart’ boat with ‘Big Donald’ providing access to visiting a’ the Sma’ Isles of the West Coast: Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna and of course the Isle of Skye.
With regards to living in the NW Highlands, the choice of accommodation in the village of Lochinver arose from necessity. My lease of a flat in Inverness was at an end and my application for re-housing ‘somewhere’ in the Highlands for myself and Border collie ‘Floraidh’ offered a wee house in Lochinver.
With years of immersing myself in the mountains, rivers, and woods (literally), the people, culture and heritage of Assynt and beyond, I am privileged to say that the relationship is most certainly a ‘meant to be’ forever! I am proud to be able share that relationship with visitors from around the world through my walks and storytelling including writing, photography and ‘Telliesperie’ social media."
Bringing together all the above disciplines, Griogair formed Telliesperie' a title adopted from the old Scots dialect ‘Storyteller’ – ‘tellie’ to tell and ‘sperie’, to ask or inform.
Naturally, through Telliesperie, Griogair hosts 'story walks' through the landscape of Assynt; telling tales and short stories, through various mediums, of how the landscape has shaped the beliefs and rituals of generations and explaining the Highland flora & fauna. As part of the arsenal of 'tools' Griogair introduces natural elements such as stone and gnarled wood for igniting the imagination (rhythmical and visual). Griogair describes himself as:
"A 'guide'- and through using our senses and imagination we explore, freely, unharnessed from discriminatory and cultural restraints, to finding ours and other stories to share."
Much of his material is meticulously researched from obscure, lesser known or ephemeral sources and ensures their accessibility to people of all ages and abilities. He always adapts stories and structure of the workshops and sessions to suit the individual or group needs. His approach embraces and supports group collaboration.
Griogair also officiates at fasting ceremonies - the ancient practice of Hand Fasting. "The gentle ‘binding’ of each of their hands by the wrist with ribbons, cords or any meaningful material chosen by the celebrants is an agreement and public declaration of mutual love and the beginning of creating a life together – initially for ‘a year and a day’".
It is fair to say that the tradition of ‘Hand Fasting’ is wrapped in elements of folklore but it’s expression of genuine unity and open demonstration of love is not to be taken lightly and those chosen rituals are shared by the celebrant and the couples with or without family members before the ceremony.