On Friday morning we set off from Ibrox around 7:30am, up through Fort William, over the Skye Bridge at Kyle, up to Uig (which promptly reminded me of a middle-aged shirtless arm-wrestler grimacing to the sound of a conga drum… but that’s another story) and then the boat from Uig to Tarbert. It was a beautiful, calm crossing and the sun was shining. The rest of the band (Breabach) spotted some dolphins on the way, and I was reeling as we sailed right past the village of Urgha, Harris.
My paternal Great Grandmother (Christina) was a Mackinnon from Urgha Beag. I have not yet managed to visit this area on foot but, observing the stark hills and coastline from the boat made me think of how it might have been for her growing up in this location. She left Harris as a young adult and made her way to start a new life in British Colombia in the early 1900’s.
Boat docked, James Mackenzie was in Tarbert to meet us with a van and we shot up the road to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis to take part in the amazing and renowned Hebridean Celtic Festival. The band have performed at the festival before in the past but it is no less thrilling to be in Lewis, playing on the mighty ‘Heb Celt’ stage at the foot of the castle grounds to an anually packed tent-full of folk.
We stayed very near by (see pic from my hotel room) at the Royal Hotel, this is where my grandpa Malcolm MacCrimmon and grandma Mairi (nee Chisholm) celebrated their marriage in 1945. My grandma originally hailed from the village of Grabhair (pronounced Gravir) in South Lochs. She sailed for Quebec City in January 1946 to meet her new husband Malcolm, took the train out west together started a family and lived out the remainder of their lives.
Saturday morning came like a slap in the face. We got up early and made the trip back down to Tarbert, boat to Uig and then drove to Minginish in Portnalong, Isle of Skye. I had never been to this specific part of the island, although it is not at all far (as the crow flies) to Dunvegan and Borreraig where the ancient MacCrimmon’s taught for many generations and held the post as pipers to MacLeod of Dunvegan. The show in Minginish Community Hall was in complete and total contrast to our festival-sized Heb Celt experience on the Friday night. There were loads of local folk as well as a bus load of visiting Germans all squished into the hall for a night of piping, singing and dancing – It was a brilliant evening! We just love playing in village halls…especially in the far reaches of rural Scotland. It was a lovely and memorable experience to be part of.
Playing before us were Malin Lewis and Seumas Maclennan, two wonderful Skye musicians. I was very excited by the innovative piping of Malin Lewis who performed a range of traditional and contemporary tunes on a set of self-made two octave smallpipes. A stunning sound, considered delivery on the instrument and a very exciting and unique young musician all round, worth keeping an eye out for.
Post-show session at the Old Inn, Carbost
Cheers for now,