“Lismore is an island where each ruin, each knoll, carries some tale, some secret tradition unique to that spot.” Donald Black, founder member of Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre (the home of 'Comann Eachdraidh Lios Mòr')
In 1994 a group of Liosachs (natives of the Island of Lismore) formed Comann Eachdraidh Lios Mòr specifically to preserve the language and culture of Lismore before they died out forever. These were the last native speakers of Lismore Gaelic. They gathered together documents and artefacts and procured the then empty schoolhouse in which to house them for a peppercorn rent. In this way did the Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre have its humble beginnings. They then set about sourcing funding for a custom built centre. The family of three of the members donated land at a prime site in the centre of the island and the serious work began. It is entirely due to the vision and dedication of these astute islanders that the Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre as it stands today came about.
When the innovative, eco friendly building was opened on 17 March 2007 it put the Gaelic language and culture at the heart of Lismore once more. After 13 years of hard work, members of the Comann Eachdraidh Lios Mòr broke the silence that had been imposed on the island’s culture when English became the language of advancement and the Gaelic language and culture were encouraged to die. The first turf was turned on 15th February 2006. The building was designed and built by a local architect and builder. It has a grass and sedum roof and geo thermal heating and houses an Exhibition Area, a Library, an Archive room, a Gift Shop, and a Café. It also provides a genealogical service with world wide access.
The museum and its collections achieved national accreditation in 2013. Since then the curators have sought to maximise access to the objects, documents and images by the public, by refreshing the museum display each year, and through publication, including articles on the Society website. Recent features have included "The Story of Lismore in Fifty Objects" and "the Diary of Mary Cameron MacGregor 1868: A year in the Life of Lismore Manse" (internet Source in Local History). Since 2015, the Society has managed community archaeology, investigating the Medieval and Early Church history of Lismore, and hosted monthly talks on heritage topics by local and invited speakers.
Sitting beside it is the award winning Taigh Iseabal Dhaidh a faithfully reconstructed cottar’s cottage which opened four years’ earlier on 19 August 2002 and in its first year won the Best Place to Visit in Scotland Award and was also the Overall Winner of the UKFX Tourism Awards 2003.
(At this point the Comann Eachdraidh Archive, which was being painstakingly put together, was still housed 2 miles away in the old school house at Achnacroish.) The cottage is a typical late nineteenth century cottar’s house which has been rebuilt to look at the island’s past and to show the traditional skills which many islanders still have.
For a population of 176 to handle a £600,000 project is a tribute to the skill, determination and cohesiveness of the whole community and, twelve years on, the Centre is being run very successfully, by the next generation of volunteers, most of whom are not native Gaelic speakers but who are acutely aware of the importance of preserving this precious inheritance.
Today the Centre is a very lively hub hosting an annual festival, winter talks, historical walks, musical events and an exhibition portraying a different aspect of island life every year.
The licensed café serves excellent food made from locally sourced produce and also provides a venue for islanders to gather in the evenings for fish and chip nights and other themed evenings