Deeds Not Words

 The story of remarkable Hebridean women in the struggle for equality and the vote. 


Script by Toria Banks

Directed by Muriel Ann Macleod

New music & songs by Mary Ann Kennedy



Hebridean  Performances

An Lanntair Arts Centre,  Stornoway 

Thursday 15th February : 7.30pm

Friday 16th February : 10am

(Senior Schools performance & older peoples groups) 

Friday 16th February: 7.30pm 

Saturday 17th February : 7.30pm

Bernera Community Centre, Lewis

Monday 19th February 7.30pm

Leverburgh Village Hall, Harris

Tuesday 20th February at 7.30pm

Carinish Hall North Uist

Thursday 22 February 10.30 am (Senior schools)

Thursday 22nd February 7.30pm

Stoneybridge Hall, South Uist

Friday 23rd February at 7.30pm

Castlebay Hall,  Isle of Barra

Saturday 24th February at 8pm

Advanced booking advised for all performances.

Images courtesy of the National Army Museum and the Tormod an t-Seòladair collection.




Deeds not Words is a new Hebridean play being produced in the Isle of Lewis by Rural Nations Scotland CIC in partnership with An Lanntair. The play will tour to rural venues across the Outer Hebrides in February 2018. The play has been written by London based playwright Toria Banks based on brand new research into the role of Hebridean women in the suffrage movement.

The play presents the surprising narratives of several Hebridean women taking us out of Lewis to Serbia and back again to St Kilda featuring familiar places and names but telling some astounding, unheard of stories of bravery and resourcefulness that are anything but old fashioned. Focusing on stories of local woman including Helen MacDougal from Barvas, the Stornoway suffrage society and the herring gutters who took up the call of the munitions factories. The bilingual play will be directed by Muriel Ann Macleod who through the project hoped to make a piece of theatre for Island women, to encourage and inspire women today to engage with political and local representation and take action in their own communities. Both English and Gaelic language and song combine with newly created and archive audio visual elements  to tell these remarkable true stories.

A small cast of three Hebridean and Scottish actresses will take on the variety of roles played out with a new Gaelic song and music commission from Mary Ann Kennedy and an almost entirely female production team. Deeds not Words evokes valiantly the 100th year of women's suffrage in 2018.


The play received funding from the Scottish Government, CNES, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Point and Sandwick Trusts and LEADER as well as being supported through local contributors and sponsorship from 17 local businesses.

The opening night of Deeds Not Words will take place at An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway on February 15th followed by evening and schools performances before touring Lewis, Harris,the Uists and Barra between the 20th-24th February 2018.


This new play was commissioned from London based Toria Banks who has delivered Hebridean scripts before as dramaturg on Roghainn Nan Daoine (director, John Wright 2011) and then in 2012 she developed the script for We Have Won the Land with Muriel Ann Macleod (director).

Deeds not Words - The story of what happened when Hebridean women got the vote.

In the General Election of 1918 women in the UK had the vote for the first time. Not all women, but most of those over 30. In the same year, the Western Isles returned their own MP for the first time. These two facts generate fascinating questions for a play to address:  What was the story of women's suffrage, so far away from the centres of the movement in London and Glasgow? What did it mean to the women of the Hebrides, from Stornoway to St.Kilda to be given a vote? Or in the case of the youngest and poorest, to be denied a vote? And how can we tell these stories from the periphery of the UK, of Scotland, of our history?

In 1918, at the end of the worst conflict the world had ever known, the stakes could not have been higher. What's more, in the same year, the Isle of Lewis was sold to a new owner. But the election of that year offered voters a choice between two politicians from the same party. The only alternative to the Liberals, the Land League candidate, lost his deposit. Turn out was low. What exactly was it women had fought to participate in? And was it religion, culture, language or apathy that held women voters back?

To create this play, Rural Nations Scotland CIC artists have undertaken considerable research within the community, with local and national historians and in libraries accross the country to look at what Hebridean women did during the 1911 to 1918 period.  We have uncovered a powerful and remarkable history of our women and their unique achievements.

The play raises questions that still plague us as a nation today, about the value of the democratic process, of who we choose to represent us, and whether it matters. 

In the play we will see the individual stories of a number of Hebridean women who have left a trace  in the historical record of the early 20th century. Women who participated in the story of women's struggle to win the vote, or were amongst the first to use it.

Through drama, humour, storytelling and music, the audience will share in the imaginative, compassionate act of reanimating these women from the traces they have left behind.

The Deeds not Words proejct will also deliver community workshops in scriptwriting, set  & costume design and lectures on Island womens suffrage and Scottish Womens Hospitals.

Image from Scottish Womens Hospitals.

Deeds not Words  Partnerships:

The new writing commission for Deeds not Words has been funded by CNES and a local bequest from Janet Macleod(1935-2014).  Rural Nations has  developed partnerships with the following organisations as the work was developed towards production:

  • An Lanntair Arts Centre will be supporting partners for the production of the play and the premiere performances will take place there.
  • Arts nan Eilean Rural Venues Network to present the work on tour in rural venues in the Outer Hebrides.
  • Teatermaskinen in Riddarhyttan Sweden have invited Rural Nations to present the work on tour in Sweden in 2018
  • Deeds not Words has been selected as the Hebrides show to be performed as part of the Reclaim the Future Project and will be reinvented and presented in Dunkerque, France in 2018.



WOMEN AND THE WAR - we are still searching for local stories relating to the period of the play.


Can you tell us about women and girls who left the islands in the war to work in munitions factories during WW1?

Can you tell us anything about the WRENs in Stornoway during WW1? We know that there were WRENs (founded in 1917) in Stornoway from at least January 1918.

Can you tell us anything about women who became nurses during the war, or about the Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service?

We'd love to hear your family stories about what it was like for women in the islands with the men away during WW1.


The Playwrights commission for Deeds not Words was funded by Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar and a bequest from Janet Macleod (who was a domestic science teacher in the Hebrides beween  1959 and 1987).



An Lanntair

15th,16th & 17th February

Book tickets here.

Bernera Community Centre, Lewis

19th February

Book tickets here.

Leverburgh Hall, Harris

20th February

Book tickets here.

Carinish Hall, North Uist

22nd February

Book tickets here.

Stoneybridge Hall, South Uist

23rd February

Book tickets here.

Castlebay Hall, Barra

24th February

Book tickets here.




Workshops & Talks

Script Writing Workshop with Toria Banks

Thursday 15th February



Book A Place


Scottish Women's Hospitals Archive Talk with Alan Cumming

Wednesday 14th February

7.30pm - 8.30pm at Museum Nan Eilean FREE

Join Alan Cumming for a talk and presentation about the Scottish Women's Hospitals with archive material from the National Library of Moving Image and local historical associations in Lewis. Alan has carried out extensive research into the work of women who served with the Scottish Women's Hospitals which were set up with two very specific aims: firstly, to help the war effort by providing medical assistance and secondly, and equally importantly, to promote the cause of women’s rights and by their involvement in the war, help win those rights.

Find out more on the Scottish Women's Hospitals website.

Photographic Exhibition

14th to the 24th February at Museum Nan Eilean FREE

View some of the archive material and photographs of women from or in the Hebrides identified as part of research for the Deeds Not Words production from the period 1911-1918



Sunday Times

(Julia Horton 21st January 2018)

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