As we come to the end of 2016, we look back on another busy and varied year for Sgioba Luaidh. Once again we travelled to places we had never heard of, and, pleasingly, we had a few return visits too. It's always nice, and reassuring, to be asked back! Click here for some picture highlights of 2016.
In January the year started with a bang, literally, for Frances and her hapless passengers, on the way home from High Blantyre, as she drove into a deep pothole and burst a tyre. It meant a long wait in the dark for the RAC to arrive, and a very late return home to Greenock. Frances and Margaret had a wee jaunt to Rutherglen the following day to return the RAC man's emergency tyre. This gave us a useful opportunity to reconnoitre the venue for our subsequent performance in Rutherglen.
Still in January we took part in a busy Gaelic Day in the historic Tolbooth. On the way home the road signs were obscured by snow, but we managed to find our way with only a few slight diversions!
Other places visited were Lanark (again), Cathcart, Paisley, and Ravenstruther (which we now know is pronounced "Renstrie"! Our route home from Ravenstruther took us twice as long as it should have done, as we got wandered at the fearsome roadworks and ended up in Shotts, heading for Edinburgh!
In September we did have a day in Edinburgh, to take part in Scotcon, an extravaganza of all things Scottish, loosely based on the "Outlander" films/books. Thanks are due to Innes and Irene for making our new and splendid 18th century costumes.
In West Kilbride we shared the bill (and a great supper) with Mark Hogarth, marketing manager of Harris Tweed Hebrides. We learned a lot - and so did he, because althought he is an expert on Harris Tweed he had never hand-waulked before!
Strangely enough, Sgioba Luaidh don't get very many engagements on our own doorstep, but this year we had a few gigs around Greenock and Gourock: at Westburn Guild, Crown Care, and the Chit Chat club, with whom we enjoyed a lunchtime Burns Supper in the Beacon. Along the road in Gourock we performed for St John's Contact Group, and at Old Gourock and Ashton Church we took part in a fund-raiser concert for the Ardgowan Hospice.
On several occasions we took the ferry over to Argyll to perform in Strone and Dunoon (St Mun's and Holy Trinity). And of course we made our regular visits to Auchindrain Township during the summer months. We were there eight times this year, including an extra "Command Performance" for a special open day in June, when we were filmed for Italian television. On a later visit we were filmed again, this time by a gentleman who is making a historical film about Argyll. And in July we were filmed yet again, for the new interpretive tablets which will in future be available to guide visitors round the Township. We are thinking of joining Equity!
The summer wouldn't be complete without a trip to Mull and Ulva. We spent a very wet August day in Sheila's Cottage on Ulva, and a drier, very busy day at Duart Castle. Following on reduced ferry fares the Islands experienced record numbers of tourists, and most of them seemed to be on Mull! It was non-stop all day - the busiest we have ever been at the castle.
We had only one school visit this year, but it was a lovely one. Silverwood PS in Kilmarnock is one of the best schools we have been to. They sent lovely thank-you letters ("Awesome." "The best visitors EVER!")
In May we were saddened by the death of Donald Macleod of Harris and Portnalong (Skye), who was a good friend and loyal supporter of Sgioba Luaidh, always ready to help with our Gaelic, and give us valuable advice. We miss his quiet presence and his "Gaelic Helpline". A chuid de Phàrras dha.
During 2016 Sgioba Luaidh notched up 400 performances since our foundation in 2000. We marked the occasion with a sumptuous lunch in Inverkip Hotel, and enjoyed reminiscing about some of the adventures we have had over the years.
It has been a good year: interesting places, lovely people, lots of lovely food (always important to Sgioba Luaidh!).
We look forward to what 2017 may bring. We shall resume operations with our New Year ceilidh on Monday 9 January, and our first engagement at Comunn Tir nam Beann in Edinburgh on 4 February.
We wish all our friends and supporters a very happy, healthy and peaceful 2017, filled with laughter and song. Slàinte, sonas, sìth - agus ceòl dha na càirdean gu léir fad na bliadhna a tha romhainn.