2019 was busy; 2020 was not!
Along with our normal activities in 2019, visits to Auchindrain, and the usual round of Guilds and other organisations, we had a few out-of-the-ordinary engagements.
The year began with a trip down the coast, where Frances was to give a talk to the Largs and District Historical Society. Entitled Bittersweet”, it was an overview of Greenock’s sugar trade, with songs from the rest of Sgioba Luaidh, including our own “sugar song”, and the sad story of Frances’s great-grand-uncle. You can listen here, and here's a link to the story.
We don’t get very many local engagements: we are often away in places with names none of us has ever heard of, but we were delighted to take part for the second time in the Gaelic Awareness Day, organised by Inverclyde Gaelic Learners group. We performed a stint in the Oak Mall in Greenock, along with the talented children of Whinhill Gaelic Unit, finishing the event with a rather noisy ceilidh! A good time wa had by all.
Staying in Greenock, we were invited to take part in a woolly day in the Wee Crafty Owl wool and craft shop, which was a lot of fun. The bollards in Jamaica Street were brilliantly “yarn bombed” for the occasion. The audience was augmented by passengers from the cruise ship “Crown Princess”, which was calling at Greenock that day. They looked a bit bemused!
During the summer we had two trips to the top of Loch Lomond for Clanscape days at Cashel and Ardess. We always love these events, with all the varied activities on offer. Our Christine had a go at stone carving. We call her Michelangelo now.
We returned to Loch Lomondside for an Outlander-themed day at The Cruin, with a very international audience. There were plenty of eager volunteers to waulk at the table with us, but special mention must be made of the team of enthusiastic, not to say rumbustious gentlemen, who certainly infused the proceedings with life and laughter. And that was before they had their gin tasting! The weather was glorious; the setting was magnificent; and the scones were wonderful! A memorable day!
There was another Outlander event in Drymen, with a tour group from various parts of USA. We have reservations about the historicity of the Outlander series, but because of the waulking scene in the first episode, it has brought us a lot of “business”! So we won't complain!
The highlight of 2019 has to be our trip to Canna. None of us had been to the island before, so it was a big adventure. We were there at the invitation of Fiona Mackenzie, the archivist at Canna House, which was the home of John Lorne Campbell and his wife, Margaret Fay Shaw, well-known collectors of songs, stories, folklore – and butterflies, in John’s case. Fiona curates their vast store of Gaelic-related material. She organised this event to mark the re-issue of JLC’s three-volume collection of waulking songs, many of which are in Sgioba Luaidh’s repertoire. It was a privilege to be involved in this significant event, and we are grateful to Fiona for the invitation. We spent all Saturday waulking in the Shearing Shed, with the enthusiastic support of some very wet visitors, taking shelter from the rain! We had time the following day to explore a bit of the island, and to visit JLC’s grave in a bluebell wood. We were enchanted by this very special island, and hope to be able to visit again – maybe in better weather! The trip was an important milestone for our Frances, who had only recently rejoined Sgioba Luaidh after having open-heart surgery. She was not at all certain she could stand up to the long journey, but she has never looked back!
She wishes to record her gratitude to “her girls” for rallying round so magnificently during her enforced absence. Special thanks go to Eleanor for hosting practices in her house.
During the year we had visits from American friends: we had a house ceilidh with Laura and Don from West Virginia; and we arranged a special waulking session for Heidi and her family from Utah.
Sad news came in April 2019, when we lost our dear Margaret. We miss her quiet presence, and her wicked sense of humour. Fois shìorraidh dhuit, a Mhairead chòir.
And then there was 2020!
We have had a total of two engagements, everything else having to be cancelled, of course, because of coronavirus. We were looking forward to a return visit to The Cruin by Loch Lomond, and to singing in Stirling Castle, but it wasn’t to be.
However, in February we sallied forth on the long journey to Dumfries for a great day with the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.
In March, just before lockdown, the newly-refurbished Watt Institution in Greenock invited us to perform at one of their lunch time sessions, which went well, with a sizeable, and lively audience. This was the debut of our two newest members, Liz and Ross. We discovered that it is really useful to have a man in the group! (Think heavy tub, and recalcitrant Seumas the Sheep!) What a shame that we have had to suspend operations before L & R really got going with us!
So we are having a protracted sabbatical, but some good souls have actually been keeping up their songs, and learning more. We live to waulk another day. Some of our cancelled “customers” have been in touch, hoping that we will still be willing to go to them when things improve. We have even had new enquiries.
A wee rest will probably do us good, so we’ll come back refreshed and ready for anything! Thig crìoch air an saoghal, ach mairidh gaol agus ceòl. (The world may end, but love and music will last.) So here’s to better things in 2021. Tha sinn a’guidhe dhuibh uile slàinte, sonas is sìth fad na bliadhna a tha romhainn – ach gu h-àraid, slàinte.