Meg Bateman poem to herald Scotland’s newest university

One of the highlights of today’s (Thursday, 25 August) celebration event for the new University of the Highlands and Islands will be the reading of a poem written especially for the occasion by the Skye-based writer and academic Dr Meg Bateman.

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Dr Meg Bateman recites her poem, along with Dr Donna Heddle and Dr Gillian Munro.

Dr Bateman’s evocative work – “Let the Northern Land Shine” – brings to life the mission of the university, and its place in one of the most beautiful and diverse parts of the world.  It will be read in Gaelic, Scots and English by Dr Bateman and two colleagues to around 800 guests at an academic robing ceremony this afternoon at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness.

Meg Bateman is one of the nation’s leading Gaelic poets. She teaches at the Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, one of the university’s 13 partners, on the Isle of Skye, and is an honorary senior lecturer at the University of St Andrews.

Dr Bateman explained:

“It was interesting to consider that Scotland's newest university is situated in the very area that gave birth to some of her oldest educational institutions. The focus of the university on the local, opening out on the global, was also an inspiration. This seems as true of the work done on mountain studies and renewable energy as of child studies and rural development. I read the prospectus and asked my colleagues in various colleges of what achievements they were proudest. I planned the poem in English, wrote it in Gaelic, translated it into English and then let each side make its own way, so the English is not always a direct translation. I worked pretty hard for a week or so, and the part that took longest - the part about individual colleges and courses – was, in the end, the part I rejected.  Working at UHI allows us to live in a beautiful part of the world, and I think the landscape itself is the best symbol of our unity in diversity.”

The formal robing ceremony – featuring music and film by students, a welcome in five languages by local children, and the presentation of the university mace – will be followed by a procession to the Town House in Inverness for a civic reception. It will be headed by the Royal British Legion Inverness Pipes and Drums. The procession will pause on Ness Bridge around 6.45pm as Tornado jets from XV Squadron, RAF Lossiemouth, complete 13 flypasts in one day across each of the university’s campuses, from Shetland College UHI in the north to Argyll College UHI in the south.

Guests from Scotland’s universities, local authorities, the Scottish Government, the university’s academic partners, the education and business sectors, will join church leaders, Lord Lieutenants, and people who have made a significant contribution to the university’s creation, for the big day.

Celebrations will continue over the next two months at the historic graduation ceremonies of the university’s partner colleges and centres. These ceremonies will mark the first degrees awarded by UHI as the University of the Highlands and Islands. The first takes place tomorrow (26 August) at Lews Castle College UHI, Isle of Lewis.

Author's note

The title is based on Lassais tír túath, a line from an elegy for St Columba, “Amra Choluimb Chille”, composed by Dallán Forgaill in 597.

My thanks to my colleagues all over UHI, and especially to Alison Hay who asked me for the poem and to Donna Heddle who suggested the excerpt from the Orkneyinga saga, translated here by Jacqueline Simpson. My thanks too to Neil Campbell, Iain Mac an Tàilleir, Máire Ní Annracháin agus Justin Bateman.