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31 December 2018Sùil air ais 2018

2018 was the year of three tweeds! Unforgettable was our sojourn in Skye, where we took part in Lamb to Loom …  and Beyond in Portnalong. (We were the Beyond!) We had the joy of waulking a new tweed, all 20 metres of it, woven by Skye Weavers, from the wool of local sheep. And afterwards we visited the Weavers in Glendale to hand back the finished article. Our Catherine was able subsequently to buy a poncho made from “our” tweed. Very nice it is too! something very special for her to parade in! We were blessed with a great summer, so Skye was looking its glorious best. Those of us who had never been to the island before were well impressed! We can re-live our Skye adventure by clicking here.

Thanks to our friend Liz Gaffney-Waite, we had the chance to waulk two more tweeds, one of which we did at the MacGregors’ Clan Gathering at Dalmally Community Centre. For the other one we travelled back to Dalmally and waulked it on the platform of the railway station, where Liz has her studio (Heartfelt by Liz). A unique experience! We think the passengers in the trains thought so too! We have now waulked ten tweeds, and claim to be the only extant group who have done so many. (Unless, of course, you know different!)

As if waulking three new tweeds wasn’t excitement enough, October brought a further highlight when we took part in a Big Waulk with Clò nan Nighean from Barra and Còmhlan Luadh Bhàideanach, who were in Dunoon to take part in the Mòd. A long-talked about project, which finally came to fruition. It was a brilliant experience to waulk with like-minded people and enjoy each others’ songs. There were two dozen of us at the board. We had fun! You can see a video here.

During the year we took part in some other special events: Clanscape at Ardess on Loch Lomondside; Lochgilphead Pictish and Celtic Festival; Museum Memories in Paisley, marking the closure of the museum for refurbishment; Gaelic Awareness Day in Greenock’s Oak Mall. And we had another Hebridean trip when we sailed over to the Isle of Cumbrae for a meeting of Millport Historical Society.

We had our regular visits to Auchindrain Township, with some special days laid on for Knitting Tours from Ireland. A new, interesting partnership!

As usual we had a number of engagements with Guilds and SWI in far-flung places like Dalry, Elderslie, Ayr, Alexandria (a school visit), Alloway, Dolphinton, Rutherglen, Troon and Bothwell. We finished the year in style with a fabulous St Andrew’s Night in Priory Church, South Queensferry, an ancient church, practically under the bridges. Frances was delighted to have the chance of singing puirt á beul for two step-dancers. Slightly scary, but very satisfying! Scary, because they only had one practice – over the phone! – and a quick rehearsal in the kitchen before the ceilidh! Satisfying, because when the steps mesh together with the songs it just feels so right!

The last, very good news of 2018 is that Dr Anne Lorne Gillies has graciously agreed to be Honorary President of Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh. In fact we owe our existence to Anne, because it was at her summer schools in Stirling many years ago that Frances first learned about waulking, and caught the bug of traditional Gaelic song. So if Frances is the group’s “mother”, Anne is our seanhmair! Also, she it was who recommended us to the organisers of the festival, Nastarsze Pieśni Europy (The Oldest Songs of Europe) in Lublin, Poland, where we spent an unforgettable few days. Anna chòir, tha sinn fada, fada nad chomain. Fàilte do Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh!

We are now enjoying an unusually long break, as we have had a very busy year. And are looking forward to another one! We wish all our friends and supporters a happy and peaceful 2019, with plenty of laughter and song. Tha sinn a’guidhe dhuibh uile slàinte, sonas agus sìth, le ceòl is craic gu leòr anns a’ bhiladhna a tha romhainn.

15 December 2018Ending the year in style

Our last few engagements of 2018 were memorable.

In October at Auchindrain we had the first of several visits from Irish Knitting Tours. They were mostly from Canada and USA. (I know - it's complicated!) Then in the afternoon we had a delightful group of children from Tayvallich Primary School. But the real drama of the day was the failure of the electrics in Frances's car. Luckily we had almost arrived at Auchindrain when it happened: car wouldn't steer properly (no power steering), no lights, no indicators, no hazard lights... Garage found no fault, but gave some highly technical advice: If it happens again, turn off and turn on again! It didn't happen again, and we drove cautiously all the way home to Greenock. We live to waulk another day!

A couple of weeks later the electrics held out for a nasty run down the coast to Troon, through lashing rain and big puddles on the road. But the ladies of St Annes’ Guild greeted us with a welcome cuppa - a sure way to Sgioba Luaidh's heart! The cuppa seemed to give us extra energy - our performance went with a swing, and great hilarity. We featured several Barra songs for the sake of Rhoda from Barra, who sat in the front row, and was one of those who joined us at the table. As we tucked into the lovely supper afterwards, we enjoyed chatting to the Guild ladies so much, we could hardly tear ourselves away - except Anne and FRL, who were rushing off to catch the Dunoon ferry. Weather was much improved on the return journey, and we all made it home safe and sound.

Quite nice to get to an engagement in the daylight! We had an afternoon spot with the Tuesday Club at St Bride's, Bothwell. It was a lovely crisp day, and we enjoyed the drive down, arriving really early, as we found the place more easily than expected. We had a good session with an enthusiastic crowd, and a fair number of very competent volunteers at the table. In honour of the imminent St Andrew's Day, several of the audience were decked out in tartan, and afterwards we were regaled with oatcakes and cheese - and tablet. Lots of tablet! Oh man, we fair enjoyed our trip to Bothwell!

What a fantastic St Andrew’s night we had in South Queensferry! A long run, but my goodness, it was worth it! The venue was Priory Church, down near the river, practically under the Bridges, a beautiful, very old church, with stone barrel-vaulted roof, so great acoustics. We arrived about 6pm, to be regaled with soup and sandwiches, and, of course, lashings of tea.
They were a great crowd, really lovely people. We did our spot, with a special rendition of "Mile marbhaisg air an t-siucar", which is the song Frances made for her ancestor, blinded in an accident in a Greenock sugar-house. Very emotional for her, because present in the audience was her (far out) cousin Jim, who, while searching the internet for that very ancestor, found a film of Sgioba Luaidh singing the song. Tonight was the first meeting between the two long-lost cousins! 
The other highlight for Frances was singing puirt-a-beul for the step-dancers, Sheila and Cheryl. Considering they only had one practice - over the phone! - and a quick rehearsal in the kitchen, it went pretty well. Frances says: "It was a bit nerve-racking, because if you are singing for dancers there is absolutely no let-up - you daren't miss a beat! It was a real thrill to see the steps meshing so well with the puirt. I want to do it again!" Click here to see them in action

A great finale to 2018 for Sgioba Luaidh!

We are not posting any photos meantime, because we normally link them to our Flickr account. But Flickr are changing the goalposts, so we'll have to make other arrangements. Remember, you can see some of our pics on our Facebook page

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