NEWS & UPDATES
151st ANNUAL GATHERING WEEKEND
"Islay has changed in the 45 years or so since I adopted the island as my second home," said Kenneth Thomson, conductor of the celebrated Ceolraidh Ghaidhlig Ghlaschu, in his chairman's remarks at the Glasgow Islay Association’s 151st annual gathering in Partick Burgh Hall on Friday, 1st March.
The guest chairma, who has been at the helm of the 'GG' for 30 years and a member of the choir since 1968, noted that the fall in the native Ileach population was due, in some measure, to young people opting to head for the mainland. While this was regrettable, the influx of incomers is to be welcomed as they make their own valuable contribution to the life and culture of the community. The chairman, who was accompanied by family members, recalled early memories of holidays at Port Charlotte where a paternal forbear, Alex MacMillan, was manager of the village distillery.
The Campbeltown-born speaker also shared memories of meeting and wooing Valerie Ferguson, a trainee home economics teacher, during student days in the Kintyre peninsula. This wooing led to marriage in 1971, produced a son and a daughter, and the proud parents enjoyed a full and active life together until Valerie's tragic death in a road accident in July 2009.
Kenneth, a Mod gold medallist and choral music arranger of great ability and note, spoke of the encouragement and friendship he received and enjoyed in choral circles, and added that Gareth Malone's high profile choral programmes on TV ensured that choir membership was now regarded as being distinctly 'cool.'
Following this heart touching but never maudlin address, Kenneth and his daughter Alison received momentos of the occasion. These were handed over by Brighde Morrison, a member of the Glasgow Islay Junior Gaelic Choir and the evening's guest accordionist who set feet tapping in the process.
Association president Malcolm Campbell saw to the introductions and welcomed the city audience, representatives from kindred associations and those who had travelled from the home island for the event, including the nonagenarian Betsy West from Port Wemyss.
Malcolm, accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, also greeted honorary patrons Lord Robertson of Port Ellen and Professor Sir William Stewart, along with their wives. The president, the Association's 27th to date, also welcomed family members, including his mother in law Cath Crawford, recovering from recent knee surgery. There was also a special greeting to honorary president Milda Martin, who also underwent recent surgery.
Also on the receiving end of a presentation was Norma MacDougall who has been the gatherings' piano accompanist for over a decade and has tickled the ivories at similar events over many years. Making the presentation was committee member Irene Justice whose late husband Iain had a life long connection with the Association.
The president, who completes his three year term of office in June, thanked the office bearers and committee members for their efforts for this year’s event and for ensuring that last year's sesquicentennial celebrations were an outstanding success.
The opening piping selections were played by Greg Harley, a member of the Johnstone Pipe Band and he has also entertained her Majesty at Balmoral.
There was a special welcomed for two of the island's young performers and their input and pleasing voices delighted all. Taking their well deserved bows were Port Ellen's Kirsten Laurie and Ruaraidh MacKinnon from Port Wemyss. Both have enjoyed successes at local and National Mėds and are guaranteed return visits to the 'Islay' platform.
Mod gold medallists Eilidh J Davies, Invergarry, and Paul MacCallum, South Uist, lived up to expectation and their 'join in and sing' song selection, many penned by local bards, had the audience clamouring for more.
Piano accompanist Kirsteen Grant kept all on an even musical keel and former director Gordon Gillies thanked all the participants with his usual exceeding good humour.
Performers and audience brought the curtain down on another successful gathering with a spirited rendering of the traditional 'Soraidh leibh'.
Despite lively music from the ceilidh band Reely Jiggered attendance at the gathering dance, held on the following evening in the Strathclyde University Union, was - to out it mildly - most disappointing. This, too, was the situation at the dance which followed the home gathering at Bowmore in July of last year.
Perhaps it is now time for the gathering organisers to expend all their energies on the successful concert format and consign the gathering dance to history and file it under the 'those were the days' index.
6th June : AGM. New committee members very welcome!