This story is called “Sou’ West by South,” says the elderly man, his voice crackling on the old recording. I can picture him now, leaning forward in his chair in front of the fire in a taigh ceilidh of the old day, the younger folk listening as he hands down the stories.

It is a good story, this, one to eek out the long nights of winter and to make sense of the death and the unknown, to seed comfort.

A ghost story, the story of a skipper of a boat who changed course one night when two apprentices saw an old man whom they did not know hunched over the slate in the chart room.

The unknown man, who both boys said was not one of the crew, who was not known to them, had written “South west by South” on the slate, the lantern rocking above his head, the creak of the boat, the sound of the wind whistling in through the open chart room door.

And so the skipper – perhaps used to ghosts, to signs, to second-sighters – changed course.

In the morning, the sun rising, they came upon a wreck with one living person on it. When the apprentices hauled him on board, they saw he was the old man whom they’d seen in the chart room the night before. The captain of the wrecked boat.

These are the stories that attracts Gill Russell, the artist behind the new An Lanntair exhibition named after this tale, itself found after trawling through the extensive collection on Tobar an Dualchais, the always fascinating audio archive of stories and songs and memories collected by field recorders from the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh from Gaelic and Scots communities from the 1930s onwards.

Russell, herself based in Strathdon, yet having travelled frequently to the Western Isles since childhood, spent countless hours searching through the archive, and then, too, speaking

to islanders who could tell her of

the connections between land and

the sea in the Hebrides.

Russell’s work is in mapping the environment, although not in an Ordnance Survey sense. She is drawn to places of significance, whether mythological or geographical or other – her many collaborations with the poet/artist Alec Finlay in recent years attest to this, too.

There is a seeking out of stories and information, of names and places, and of how they are marked. She maps the routes of rivers from source to sea in visual veins – she calls them “tributrees”. She marks the names of shipwrecks – in position – on a page without marking the islands around which they are wrecked, and gives the importance of the names to the invisible coastline on which, or off which, they foundered.

She maps the near-lost names of the skerries and rocks in the Sound of Harris, now deemed obsolete by many modern mariners – although perhaps not all – who rely on satellite navigation to chart the tortuous course through the skerry-strewn passage between Leverburgh (Harris) and Berneray (North Uist) which would previously have been done by learned knowledge, and reading of the signposts of sea and land.

“It’s incredible because the Sound of Harris is almost more land than sea,” she tells me of this last section of the project. “I became fascinated by the Loch Portain ferry weaving through these rocks.”

Russell made what she has called a “schematic” amonochrome circular image made up of names and of the signals of the navigation buoys on the route. “I became quite geeky about it,” she laughs, “I was fascinated by the way they individually flash and what that means. I like to mix up the heritage with the modern stuff!”

The names themselves came from the book, The Sea Names of Berneray, by Donald McKillop, and from Cal Mac “motorman” Donald Maclean, interviewed extensively in the exhibition, “who grew up eight metres from the high water line in Berneray and jumped on any boat going anywhere.

“He knows the loch and the Sound of Harris, and how really important those names were, how essential it was to know the names of the skerries to describe how to get places,” says Russell.

“And it was then I began to realise that I’m the spectator, the tourist, and that I needed to find the authentic voices in the aural histories.”

She has collected it all here, and in a book that accompanies the exhibition, a reckoning of the marine heritage of the islands, of the voices of the past and a history that is ghosted over the present.

South West by South - An T-Eilean Fada, The Long Island: A Poetic Cartography, An Lanntair, Kenneth Street, Stornoway, Lewis, 01851 708480, Until 22 July, Tues-Wed, 10am-5pm, Thurs-Sat, 10am-late

Critic's Choice

Making use of the posters for cultural events that didn't happen because of Covid last year and a hard-working shredding machine, artist Laura McGlinchey has created Paper Cave, a walk-in installation in a glass-fronted bakery art space in Ayr. Nurture/Narture, itself the brainchild of father-daugther duo, Robert and Saskia Singer, during the first lockdown, has grown into an artists' collective based around a bakery in the historic centre of Ayr, and McGlinchey, who first created Paper Cave during lockdown last year, has been reworking her idea in this new public space, spending the last four weeks creating the painstaking cave from scratch, fully – intentionally - in sight of anyone passing by.

The materials themselves are gleaned from the local environment, not least with the help of the community, from paper, seaweed and cardboard to bits of plastic, shaving foam and flour. Chemical reactions amongst the “ingredients” are part of her process of exploration into textures. The physical structure itself is built up using paper loops, layering them inch by inch before covering everything in a large amount of thickly applied paint, the layers sometimes “ironed” together with plastic.“Gravity is one of the main materials that I work with,” she says. “It hugely contributes to the transformative nature of the work and increases the element of chance that already comes with painting.”

Whilst visitors can walk in to the installation, there will also be musical events in the space, curated by McGlinchey, from actsQuiche, Grayling, Jenny Clifford, Scarlett Randle and band, Adult Fun, Shredd, Craig John Davidson.

Laura McGlinchey: Paper Cave, DOUGH, 22 Sandgate, Ayr, 01292 738459,

Don't miss: Life in the Time

This online exhibition (funded by the National Lottery Community Fund) is put together by AMINA, the Muslim Women's Resource Centre, brings together the creative work of over one hundred Muslim, Black and minority ethnic women in Scotland experiencing challenges in their lives that were made even more difficult during lockdown. Life in the Time is a collection of poems, films, postcards and images expressing experiences of racism, motherhood and coercive control, amongst other things – and all the women were given support during the process by AMINA. “We were not voiceless, it's just noone was listening.”