Seordag Stories Origins

Joan Hutchison (nee)Sutherland and Seordag Murray with children at the MOD.

Joan Hutchison (nee) Sutherland and Seordag Murray with children at the MOD.

Seordag (the TV Hen) was inspired by my Great Aunt Seordag Murray. She was fun, had a sharp and witty sense of humour and was one of only a few Gaelic speakers left in Assynt. She did a lot to try and keep the language alive. She taught Gaelic classes in Lochinver and helped my mother Joan, who taught us on the music side, to prepare us for the MOD (Gaelic culture festival). Seordag had also worked in radar during WW2, so Seordag the TV Hen hatched from the combination of Gaelic and technology. Other influences included the nearby Summer Isles and Gruinaird Island; used for biological warfare.

Cearc and Pal

Seordag began as a videosculpture in 1992. She had a real television for her stomach, linked by cable to a VHS recorder, playing a looped video of her hatching from a gold egg. After creating a metal cage for her she was exhibited in galleries (which led to my first animation commission as Background & Props Artist for West Highland Animation).

Gold Egg Day

I made a series of paintings in different styles with Seordag in the Assynt landscape.

Seordag at Clachtoll

Cearc Agus Ubh

In 1993 Scottish Television commissioned me through their "First Reels" programme to make a short film starring Seordag, called "Cearc Agus Ubh" (Chicken and Egg).

Lean with egg

Seordag Murray and my other Great Aunt Helena Sutherland (Lena) both played themselves in the video. We shot in Lena's garden, henhouse, Seordag's kitchen and the dining room of the Culag Hotel, Lochinver.

egg video wall

My parents helped me to make the stopframe animation section of the video in our freezing cold shed in the middle of winter. We used corrugated iron sheets reclaimed from our old byre as a backdrop. I welded together steel (left over from making creels) into a giant egg and used the TV sets from the Culag Hotel's bedrooms to create an egg video wall.

Where Will I Make My Nest

Seordag Tv

Between the late 90s and the early 00s I wrote the short story "Where Will I Make My Nest?" Seordag Murray translated it into Gaelic ("Càit An Dèan Mi Mo Nead?").

I made Seordag TV,a 3D animation clip of part of the story in a loop, while attending a Maya course at Escape Studios in London, with a grant from the Scottish Arts Council.

The Mobile Chicks in 3D

I included new characters Seodag's mobile chicks: Bluey,Greeny and Pinky. Also Soley the One-legged Seagull, inspired by my Shetland grandmother Barbara's pet seagull. Gaelic sisters group MacKenzie sang the traditional "Nighean Rua Bhàn" as the voices of the chicks. Edinburgh band Eat The Peach did the intro music which included Soley playing his bodhran.

I had made an experimental video of my mother's band The Lochinver Ceilidh Band and so was thinking of musical intruments when I came up with the musical cyborgs Blarag the cowfiddle and Ewella the accordion sheep.

Marlene the crofter

My Aunt Marlene MacKenzie is a crofter and she was the inspiration for the crofter in the story.

Marlene and the Coigach Herd

Marlene with the Coigach Herd.

Seordag TV

Interactive website using Flash

I set up Seordag TV as an interactive bilingual website and made English and Gaelic versions of the first story.

I created a second story called "Seordag and the Seer" which was inspired by the legend of Highland prophet the Brahan Seer. It later became the picturebook origin story "Scrying Stone".

A Selfish Moment

An extract of "Càit An Dèan Mi Mo Nead?" was performed by the Gaelic Youth Theatre at the MacPhail Theatre, Ullapool on Feb 24th, 2006.

I continue to make and exhibit paintings of Seordag.

Seordag and the Deadgirls

Seordag & The Deadgirls at the Cameo in Edinburgh in 2017.

Suilven Towers High

Suilven Towers High at the Ceilidh Place, Ullapool in 2018.

Seordag Stories

Seordagstories

During lockdown Adobe Flash support ended and I took down the Seordag TV website. I had already some self-publishing experience on my YA novella "Storm Hags" and my mother Joan's book of fiddle tunes "The Golden Grain", so I started making the picturebook series Seordag Stories. Joan composed a set of tunes to go along with the stories. In memory of my now deceased Aunt Seordag, with the help of friends and Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (The Gaelic Books Council) I found Gaelic translators and also released the series as Stòiridhean Seòrdag. The ebook (epub3) versions have Read Aloud so you can click and hear the stories too.

Flossie the Flying Sheep

In book 2 "Broken Bow" I introduced the character Flossie the Flying Sheep. She actually started off a a mural I made in the Wayfarer's Bar, Culag Hotel and also is the logo for Flying Sheep Publishing. Seer in the lab

In book 3 "Scrying Stone" we find out more about Seordag's past and her friend The Seer.

Cosmic Cockerel in the spaceship

In book 4 "Lost Voice" I introduced the mobile chicks' father the Cosmic Cockerel and aliens the Ugs ( which alongside the Uts appear again in book 8 "Gig Across The Galaxy")

Blanc

Book 6 "Dinghy" was inspired by Soley's story of how he got his wooden leg on the way to Whalsay (where my father is from). It was based on an oral story from my parents and included my grandfather Willie and his boat The Valkyrie.

I am currently working on more books in the series and on a 2D animation version.