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18 December 2014Last engagements of the year

Our last two engagements of 2014 were both way down in Ayrshire. First was a Guild night at Straiton, a long run of sixty miles. The ladies greeted us with the welcome words: “You’ll need a cup of tea after coming all that way.” Then they sat us down at a table laden with sandwiches, pancakes, scones and cakes. A good start to what turned out to be a lovely, happy, friendly evening, with much hilarity, and some interesting chats afterwards (over more tea). The evening was a fundraiser for Mary’s Meals, for which Sgioba Luaidh were delighted to waive our fee and travel expenses.

Then on 4 Dec we travelled to Kilmarnock to a meeting of Ayrshire Country Link. They are a small group, but were very enthusiastic about our performance. They asked lots of questions – just what we like! The Portmann Hotel provided a nice supper. (We like that too!) A lovely end of term!

We are now on holiday until 12 January, when we have our Old New Year ceilidh. First practice on 2015 is on Monday 19 January.

Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh (and Seumas the Sheep) wish all our friends and supporters a very happy and peaceful Christmas. Beannachdan na Nollaige dhuibh uile.


01 November 2014A new song!

Yvonne Lyons is a Greenock based singer-songwriter, involved in “Absent Voices”, a project which aims to “explore and preserve in words, pictures, song and sound, the legacy of Greenock’s once mighty sugar industry”. During September Yvonne ran a songwriting class on the theme of work songs, and invited Sgioba Luaidh to one of their sessions to deliver a workshop on waulking songs.

Yvonne also commissioned Sgioba Luaidh to compose a new waulking song, with some connection to the sugar industry. This was an exciting challenge. Frances put together a wee song based on a family story, which met with approval, and feels good to waulk to. We recorded it on our last visit to Auchindrain, since our table there has a good sound! Yvonne is happy with the finished version, which will feature in the “Absent Voices” exhibition in the McLean Museum, Greenock, from 22 November to 20 December. You can listen to the song here, and see the words and translation here, with notes on the story behind it.

Auchindrain Township is now closed down for the winter, although you can still visit and walk around the site. On the day of our last visit the rain was torrential, and non-stop all day! There were very few visitors, but one remarked, “ On a day like this you get a more authentic flavour of what life must have been like!” Once we were snug in Martin’s House, with a roaring peat fire, we were perfectly happy singing our songs and getting on with the waulking. Normally we are disappointed when there are not many visitors, but on this occasion we were glad to have the chance to record our new song, “Mìle marbhaisg air an t-siùcar.” We hope to post a wee video in the near future, but we are having technical problems!

On the way home we were relieved that the earlier gales had died down, and we had a trouble-free journey, unlike the memorable day back in July (yes, July!) when an intrepid carload of Sgioba Luaidh narrowly avoided running into a newly-fallen tree on the road!

Other outings during October included a jolly evening in Erskine, and a session in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, where we performed as part of the Imprint book festival. What a laugh we had there! We explained our last song, which has the verse: “I won’t marry a MacRae; they sleep in on the Sabbath.” When we finished, the gentleman who was to give the vote of thanks stood up and announced, in beautiful Harris Gaelic: “My name is William MacRae – but I could never get sleeping on the Sabbath because my father was a minister!”

11 October 2014After a long gap!

Oops! The Chronicler has been sleeping! But Sgioba Luaidh have not been idle in the meantime. In August we had our annual trip to Mull, spending a day waulking in Duart Castle. We think it must be the first time in history that a Clan Chief has sat at a waulking board! Well done, Sir Lachlan! And thank you for lending us your adorable grandchildren!

We always enjoy our visits to the lovely wee island of Ulva, but this year our loyalty was just a bit strained! As we got changed and set up in Sheila’s Cottage, there was a sudden downpour. “Oh dear! There’s a drip! Move the table… Oh, another one! Move the bench…” Then the drips came thick and fast through the thatch till the whole place was awash! Impossible to waulk! (Rhona, of course, was prepared with her umbrella!) We made a run for it to the Boathouse for a cup of tea. Once the thatch had swelled the dripping stopped; Camilla and Kenny swept the water out, and we had a busy day’s waulking after all, with plenty of visitors glad to shelter from the rain. Lovely to meet Camilla and Kenny from Patagonia, who were working on Ulva. Kenny is Coinneach Fionnlagh MacLeòid, in Scotland in search of his roots. Click here for pics of our trip to Mull and Ulva.

Another highlight in August was our caravan ceilidh. This year we welcomed Fr Nico Masamba from Tanzania, who was working in Greenock for the summer. His Gaelic was better than our Swahili! Click here for pics.

Still in August, five of us took part in a Clan Lamont event in Dunoon, commemorating the massacre at Castle Toward in 1646. We were supposed to be outside, but the rain was pelting down (this was Dunoon, after all!) so we all took refuge in the Queen’s Hall. We did our bit, then the pupils of Dunoon Grammar along with the Walking Theatre Company re-enacted the history of the Lamonts. Very well presented, and we were all delighted when the wicked Campbell of Argyll got his comeuppance! Pics here.

Into September, and we had a really interesting day, waulking in the Moirlanich Longhouse, a National Trust property near Killin. It’s a fascinating place, reminding us of our beloved Auchindrain. They opened specially for our visit, as it’s not usually open on a Saturday. It was very busy, with a lot of interest both in the building, and in our waulking. We were delighted to be joined at the cleith by a young Gaelic speaker, Annie, aged 7, and Ava, who is nearly 2. It was lovely to see how the baby enjoyed “waulking” sitting on mummy’s knee – exactly how girls would have learned in the old days, starting really young, so that it became part of them. Click here for pics of our visit to Killin and Moirlanich.

During the summer we didn’t neglect Auchindrain, although we regretfully had to cancel one of our scheduled visits, because of illness. (We are fine now, thank you!) We had a memorable day in mid-September when it was so foggy in the morning that we had trouble finding the ferry! But it brightened up, and we were able to waulk outside in the hazy sunshine. Pics here.

And the very next day we adjourned to the Hunter’s Quay Hotel for our Myra’s Big Birthday. Frances gave a rendition of "Oran a’ Bhirthday Party", without which no birthday is complete, and we had a wee waulk on the coffee table. (Frances just happened to have the clò still in the car.) Well done to Myra’s family for keeping the secret – the surprise was complete! And the cake magnificent!  Meal do naidheachd, a Mhairead chòir. Click here for some pics of the day.

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