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Researchers at the University of Ulster hope to reveal more about the social and cultural lives of Gaelic speaking fishing communities in a unique two-year study.Dr Maxim Fomin and Professor Séamus Mac Mathúna from the Research Institute for Irish and Celtic Studies are investigating the experiences of Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers at sea.

The project, entitled Stories of the Sea: A Typological Study of Maritime Memorates in Modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic Traditions, is the first major study of its kind. It will examine first-hand, personal accounts of experiences at sea by Irish and Scottish fishermen, boatmen, foreshore gatherers and beachcombers from the end of the nineteenth century to the present day.

It will also bring together for the first time an archive of important stories and information from communities in the Western Donegal Gaeltacht, Tory and Rathlin Islands, the islands of the Western coast of Ireland and the Isle of Skye, the Outer Hebrides and Orkneys in Scotland.Dr Fomin said: “First-hand recollections of experiences at sea form an important component of the narrative tradition of Irish and Scottish Gaelic coastal communities and this study will contribute to a greater understanding of the social and cultural life of these communities and of the close maritime connections between Ireland and Scotland over many centuries.

“One of the main aims of this project is to make the existing data, whose dissemination and analysis has been largely neglected until now, available to wider audiences and to bring it up to date.”Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council via a grant of over £200,000, this major study will involve close collaboration with University College, Dublin and the University of Edinburgh, and will result in the publication of an online resource of narratives which will be available to the public.