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31 December 2016Sùil air ais

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.

Pics here.

15 December 2016New sat-nav needed?

We have had an interesting "autumn term", beginning with a gala day at the Scotcon event at Edinburgh Corn Exchange in early September. Scotcon was an extravaganza of all things Scottish, based loosely around the "Outlander" films /books. For weeks beforehand our seamstresses, Innes and Irene, worked indefatigably to kit us out in new costumes with an 18th century look. What a day we had! The place was fair jumping, with stalls with all kinds of crafts, re-enactors (Border Reivers, Robert the Bruce's Men ...), not forgetting the amazing Clanadonia with their "tribal" pipes and drums! We waulked busily in our cosy corner, with loads of volunteers joining us at the table, including some of the "Outlander" cast. At one point during the afternoon a piper started playing full blast for dancers at the other end of the hall where we were singing. Not ideal from our point of view! But we persevered! It takes more than bagpipes to put Sgioba Luaidh off our stot! It was a long, busy, tiring day, but good fun! You can see some pics of the event here, and decide if you like our new costumes!

Later in September we gaily set off for a place we had never heard of - the village of Ravenstruther, a few miles from Lanark. (Pronounced Renstrie - life with Sgioba Luaidh is one long learning experience!) We left really early in the evening to avoid Glasgow traffic, planning to stop in Lanark for our tea. But lo, the road into Lanark was closed. By the time we went to get directions from a nearby house, a whole tail of cars had lined up behind us. So we passed on the instructions to them all, made an about-turn, and set off at the head of a procession to drive through the village of Nemphlar (great name!) on an alternative road to Lanark. All except Margaret, driving the second of our cars! She stopped to give directions to someone else, and lost us! All was well eventually. What did we ever do before mobile phones? We had our tea, had a great night with the ladies of Ravenstruther (pronounced Renstrie!) WRI. But on our way home we got totally wandered at the awful roadworks, and ended up outside Shotts Prison on the road to Edinburgh! We made it home eventually!

Our annual Caravan Ceilidh was late this year, having to be postponed till the beginning of October. We had a good blether, a wee singsong, and a great supper. Then the eejits got lost on the way put of the caravan park! In fairness, they are not used to being there in the dark, so they missed the turn onto the main driveway. By the time they found their way out, they had missed the last ferry from Hunter's Quay. Luckily they were able to get the 11.10 passenger ferry from Dunoon, in a complicated manoeuvre involving a taxi on the other side to retrieve a car parked at McInroy's Point. Fortunately Eleanor has a handy daughter living in Dunoon, so she was able to find a bed for the night. So they didn't all have to cram in and sleep in the caravan after all! Click here for a few pics.

We managed to find our way without incident to perform for Guilds at Cathcart Old Parish Church and Stow Brae in Paisley.

As usual, we spent a day at Auchindrain on the last Saturday of each month. On our August visit we were delighted to be joined by Morag, who is a member of Clò nan Nighean, the Barra waulking group. It's great to share songs with a fellow-fanatic! Some pics here.

The last Saturday in September was a day of gales and pelting rain. We survived a bumpy ferry crossing with waves breaking over the cars. Auchindrain was quiet, with few visitors, but Cat Liath (Grey Cat), who oversees things at the Township, joined us for most of the day. He is not allowed in the Visitor Centre, and sensibly realised that Martin's House with its peat fire was the cosiest place to be. He duly inspected our tweed, and pronounced it suitable for a nice comfy cat bed! Click here for some pics of our handsome Cat Liath.

On our final visit of the year we had no visitors at all, but we put the time to good use, practising our songs. We took some very nice (we think) photos of a spooky, misty Loch Eck, and magical raindrop jewels on the grass. Click here to see.

We are now on our Christmas break, and will resume practices after our New Year ceilidh on 9 January.

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