Mairead ni´n Thomais Iain

Over the past few years, Highland Village animation staff have been transitioning interpretation from 3rd person to 1st person (or role playing). Through this process, staff have developed their own personas each with their own stories and experiences. In this blog, we meet Mairead ni’n Thomais Iain she has made a new home in Alba Nuadh / Nova Scotia. 


Mairead ni’n Tomais Iain left Buaile Dubh, Iochdar, Uibhist a Deas (South Uist) with her parents, four brothers and her father’s brother’s family when she was just a young girl. They arrived in Nova Scotia in 1841 and settled in Upper Grand Mira. Years later, she has married fear do chloinn ‘ic ‘ille Leathain, Uilleam (a MacLean man, William) and they have three children Màili, Mórag, and Iain.

 They make their home in Baghasdal, Ceap Breatainn (Boisdale, Cape Breton). This evening they are preparing for a luadhadh (milling frolic) to take place. Mairead’s homespun wool has been woven and the cloth taken off the beart (loom). It is ready now for the final stage of processing. She has also made a mulachag do chaise (a cake of cheese), a bonnach and Iain churned the cream into butter for the occasion. A person may also have a chance to sample Uilleam’s pòit-dhubh (moonshine) before the night is out.


 After shearing the sheep, Màili and Mórag use the feàrsaid (drop spindle) to spin the carded rolagan (rolls of wool ready to be spun) into yarn. Mairead then dresses the beart (loom) and does all the weaving in the home. The rich brown coloured cloth they will mill this evening, dyed with crotal (lichen), will be used to make trousers for Iain and Uilleam.

 After soaking the cloth in maistir (stale urine), it will be pounded and passed deiseil (sunwise) around a makeshift table while singing milling songs. Uilleam‘s mother, Seònaid, over sees the work ensuring it is shrunk evenly and appropriately for the garments which will be made.


 Mairead’s neighbours will gather and bring their own homespun wool to taigh Mairead (Margaret’s house) for the luadhadh (milling) to share in the work, sing together and enjoy fearas-chuideachd (good times/ company together). The children are looking forward to the festivities of the evening which will surely include dancing, family histories, music, stories, and even match making.

Mairead learned her songs from Peigi Bheag (Little Peggy), her mother’s mother, whom she was named after.  Peigi Bheag lived in Mairead’s home as she was growing up.  She was wonderful to sing.  She’d be singing while spinning, weaving, churning, milking, at taighean céilidh (in the céilidh houses) and of course at milling frolics. Mairead is very happy to be passing these songs on today to her own children.


 – Mairead nin Tomais Iain is portrayed by Séidheag Aonghais Iain Pheadair (Shay MacMullin) originally from, Upper Grand Mira, currently residing at A Rids (Mabou Ridge).   She has been with the Highland Village Museum for the past 2 seasons and has attended Stòras a Bhaile for the past 5 years.


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