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(By Katie Laing)
WHO in the Western Isles could forget the terrible events of January 2005, when three generations of the same family lost their lives as they tried to flee the hurricane that hit the islands.
Murdina and Archie MacPherson and their two children all perished, as did Murdina’s father, Calum Campbell, when the cars in which they were travelling were swept away by the sea. It is thought they left Murdina and Archie’s home in South Uist for fear of it being flooded.
Calum, who was 67, was well known as a piper and piping instructor and had also composed some tunes. The sheer number of them, though, did not become clear until his son Niall embarked on the difficult task of sorting through his father’s effects.
These tunes have now been put together in a new book from Lewis-based publishers Acair, working with various members of Calum’s family and staff from The National Piping Centre in Glasgow, in particular Roddy MacLeod MBE.
Ceòl Chaluim – The Pipe Music of Calum Campbell of Benbecula is a fitting tribute to a Hebridean who contributed so much to the music of this part of the world.
Roddy MacLeod hailed it as a “very welcome addition to the published repertoire of pipe music” and said that he had been unaware of just how much music Calum had written until staff at The Piping Centre began typesetting them.
The same was true of Calum’s family. In his introduction to the book, Niall said he would find pipe tunes in “boxes and folders, drawers and cupboards”, adding: “Some of them I was aware of, others I had never heard before.”
Niall found 60 or 70 tunes in various stages of completion and took them to the Piping Centre where Roddy agreed that 50 of them were complete tunes by Calum while the rest were second or third (even fourth) parts to pre-existing tunes.
Calum’s sister Catriona Garbutt, who wrote another introduction to the book, and her daughter Marion had an integral role in proofing the music.
Roddy gave all the compositions the thumbs up, telling Niall they were all “good tunes”. They had also all been signed and dated by Calum himself – a sure sign that, for his perfectionist dad, they passed muster.
Niall said: “The one thing I know is that if he had his name upon it, he declared it suitable as a good tune. I wouldn’t have been comfortable publishing something that he wasn’t satisfied was decent.”
Calum was a Hebridean piper out of a long tradition and this is evident in his tunes which, like the songs of village bards in earlier times, commemorated many local events and personalities. Most famous of them was Hercules the Bear, composed in 1980 about the animal that escaped while filming a TV advert in North Uist.
The tune is one of Niall’s personal favourites. “Quite a lot of his tunes mimic what the sentiment was. He was clearly envisaging Hercules jumping over the peatbogs and fences and almost sticking two fingers up, saying ‘you can’t catch me’.” Hercules the Bear is, naturally, a jig.
Calum’s compositions have another pleasing trait, as well as their sense of humour and light touch on life: onomatopoeia.
The Pumping Station, for example, written in 1956, mimics the noises of the engines in the pumping station in Balivanich where Calum’s father had worked, while Marion Margaret MacRury is about an aunt who was particularly proficient at picking winkles and the tune mirrors the sound of the winkles dropping in a bucket.
Another of Niall’s favourites is Harry in a Hurry. Written about an old cousin who was “so deliberate and slow”, Calum composed a tune that was quite the opposite.
This was one of the tunes played by renowned singer Julie Fowlis at a preview for the book in The Piping Centre back in August. The book was formally launched on Wednesday October 14 at The Royal National Mod in Oban. Julie was taught by Calum at Carinish Primary School and said he “introduced me to the music of the pipes and opened up a new world to me,” adding: “For that, Calum, I am forever indebted to you.”
Another esteemed piper, Fred Morrison, wrote the foreword. He recalled first hearing Calum play in the late 1970s and being drawn to his “musical, expressive and individual” playing. Of the book, he said: “For his music to be shared with everyone at last is a fitting tribute.”
A second concert is to be held to mark the launch of the book, this time in the Balivanich Hall, on November 12. A documentary on the making of the book, by Mac TV, is also in the pipeline and is due to be shown on BBC Alba at the end of December.
While there is an element of catharsis – “this is the first time we’ve been able to talk about it and look at music and at piping” – the whole process has been quite arduous.
And having been through it, Niall believes a lot of our heritage is at risk of being lost because of that acute mourning period, when loved ones cannot look at the creative works that have been left behind, and the subsequent uncertainty about what to do with the material when they can finally face it.
“I think a lot of our heritage gets lost because of this healing period. Quite often, people don’t really acknowledge that they have come out of it.”
He added: “The first tune was written in 1956. If it’s one person’s lifetime of works and it gets lost in a box then that’s tragic for our heritage and I think Acair should be commended for encouraging people to do this.”
He said they were also “very, very pleased with the help we’ve got from The Piping Centre”. Again, without them, the book would not have been possible.
He admitted it would be “quite a big thing” for their family to finally see their father’s book. “It never leaves you,” he admitted. “The tragic element is always there.”
Ceòl Chaluim – The Pipe Music of Calum Campbell of Benbecula is available from www.acairbooks.com, priced £10.95.
Joni Buchanan introduces Elisabeth Shipton, right
The first evening event to be held at the new Museum and Archive beside the newly restored Lews Castle in Stornoway on Saturday night (October 17th) was about the role of women in World War One.
This was a talk by Elisabeth Shipton , author of the groundbreaking book Female Tommies - the Frontline Women of the First World War, first published last year and already reprinted.
The brightly-lit meeting room beside the newly restored courtyard was full of members of the Islands Book Trust and other people interested in hearing about the vital role of women in the war effort, including the career of Flora Sandes who ended up as a fully-fledged frontline member of the Serbian army, on the southern front of the Allied campaign against Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The meeting was introduced by Joni Buchanan, from Uig, who spoke of various known examples of Island women who made major contributions during the world wars but whose role tended to be overlooked or forgotten in the main histories of the period.
Elisabeth Shipton - assisted by a series of contemporary images displayed on screen - then explained how the women's war effort fitted into the contemporary campaign to win women the right to vote, along with the developing role for women both in nursing, and in medical practice overall. She highlighted how women fought battles with bureaucracy to get as close to the Front Line as possible, and how they found an almost total failure to provide care for the wounded brought away from the Trenches - at one stage, the wounded were simply tipped off the ambulance stretchers on the roadways of towns behind the Front Line and effectively left to die because provision had not been thought through.
Elisabeth Shipton pointed out that a lot of research had been done to expose the horrors inflicted on soldiers fight on the Front Lines, and a lot of research has looked at the changed roles of women on the Home Front, where they moved into jobs vacated by the men who were away fighting. However, little had been done to look at the women "who blurred the boundaries between the gender division and the ones that wanted to go to the Front Line…they wanted to challenge the social parameters they faced at the time."
She explained her own interest was started by the stories of her grandmother Catherine O'Donnell who served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force during World War Two. When she started studying World War One, she originally assumed they would have been similar female auxiliary forces…but at the start of the war, that was not the case. Around 200,000 women served with the armed forces, largely as nurses, during World War One - but the formal structures only came into existence towards the end of the war.
So women's involvement was largely through voluntary organisations that they set up and ran to provide hospitals and nursing services - one of the most influential of these was the Scottish Women's Hospital. At the start of the war there were about 1,000 women qualified as doctors in the UK, with Scotland leading the way as it had two medical schools which admitted women.
Elisabeth Shipton said the campaign for women's right to vote had brought women together, got them used to organising movements, sharing experiences and creating institutions. She highlighted how initial opposition to female involvement by the UK forces and government meant that the women's organisations often got the front-line having been sponsored by other governments, such as those of Belgium, Serbia and France.
Female Tommies - the Frontline Women of the First World War. Elisabeth Shipton, the History Press, £18.99
Available as an e-book - http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/index.php/female-tommies-24483.html
More than 100 folk music fans from Pennsylvania sat enraptured on Sunday night (11th October) as they listened to the magical vocals and musical talents of the Hebrides’ very own Julie Fowlis.
Sponsored by the local Susquehanna Folk Music Society, the gig at the intimate Abbey Bar in the city of Harrisburg marked the fourth night of Julie Fowlis’ latest US tour, which began on 8th October. “We started off in Vermont, it’s beautiful with the autumn colours. We’ve been before, and it’s always nice to go back to places that you’ve enjoyed visiting the first time round,” Julie explained in a quiet moment during the band’s sound check.
“I love the experience of touring in America, it’s very very different to touring anywhere else. The audiences are different, even the practicalities are different, like the big highways and the enormous hotels, everything’s to the max, supersized - the whole experience is like having the volume turned up!”
The award-winning singer was joined on the stage by her band, which features her husband, Éamon Doorley, on Irish bouzouki, Duncan Chisholm on fiddle, and Tony Byrne on guitar. Julie also demonstrated her skills as an instrumentalist, deftly playing the bagpipes, the flute, and the Indian shruti box at various points throughout the 90-minute show.
She was softly spoken and friendly as she chatted to the audience before each set, explaining why she finds certain songs particularly moving, and outlining the cultural context behind the lyrics, whether that was the proud proclamations of the Clan Macdonald, a musical interpretation of a Sorley Maclean poem, or the simple but soothing sounds of a Gaelic lullaby.
“I’m just continually inspired by other singers, and the old songs in particular, they’re so amazing,” said Julie before the show. “I mean they’ve lasted five and six and seven hundred years, you know it’s not for nothing that they’ve survived, they’re strong melodies, and they’re strong stories, and they obviously speak to people on some level.”
Given the two standing ovations Julie and her band received from the crowd in Pennsylvania, it seemed the old Gaelic songs had a similar effect on a new American audience last weekend, and will continue to do so as Julie continues her tour across ten US states over the next three weeks.
Gaelic superstar Julie Fowlis with award-winning writer Katie Macleod
A chef from Iochdar, South Uist has been named as the Young Highland Chef of 2015. Twenty-five year old David MacDonald beat off competition from nine other finalists to win the title at a cook-off, held at Burghfield House in Dornoch.
David was selected as the winner of the title by a panel of expert judges led by internationally renowned chef Albert Roux OBE KFO. The other chefs on the panel were Andrew Fairlie of Gleneagles Hotel; Brian Maule of Chardon d’Or in Glasgow; Steven Docherty of The First Floor Café in Windermere; Glen Watson of The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield and Derek Johnstone from The Golf Inn in Gullane, East Lothian.
David wins a week’s work experience at the Roux family’s two Michelin starred restaurant, Le Gavroche, in London, £500 and a trophy.
The Young Highland Chef competition, now in its sixth year, is organised by North Highland College UHI’s Burghfield House training restaurant and the Albert Roux Consultancy.
Entrants aged between 18 and 30 were invited to submit a three-course dinner menu for two with crab in the starter, venison in the main and apple in the sweet, with a budget of £20 per cover. Ten applicants who were judged to have come up with the best menus on paper went on to cook their dishes at the final.
David, who is a sous chef at the New Drumossie Hotel in Inverness, produced the winning meal. He prepared crab and pearl barley risotto, roast crab claw, smoked eel and parsley mascarpone for the starter; loin of venison, boulangerie potato, caramelised onion puree, confit shallots, charred leeks, burnt onion and juniper jus for the main and vanilla custard, apple compote, toffee apple, cinnamon, shortbread and coffee for the sweet.
Michael Golledge (23) from Grandview House in Grantown on Spey came second in the competition, winning £250 and a week’s work experience at The RAC Club in London. Thomas Wright (23) from the Coul House Hotel in Contin took the third spot, receiving £100.
Speaking about his win, David said: “Having come second in the previous year’s competition, I was determined to win this year. I wasn't so nervous for this year’s competition as I have learnt so much in the last year and felt more comfortable with this year’s brief. As soon as the brief was out I knew straight away what my menu would look like. I am excited to have won the opportunity of a week’s work experience at Le Gavroche. Just to be able to see how a kitchen of that standard operates will be amazing.”
Albert Roux said: “Young Highland Chef 2015 has, without doubt, seen unprecedented success. Entries were at a record level and choosing the finalists from the written entries was particularly difficult as the standard was extremely high. Thought had gone into the dishes, with flavours and presentation of the highest order.
"The generosity of the sponsors and Burghfield House, the hosting venue, made this a competition young cooks will continue to aspire to. Well done to all who participated, particularly the winner David MacDonald, who will now spend one week training at Le Gavroche.”
Anne Frew, assistant director of service industries at North Highland College UHI, said: “Hosting the Young Highland Chef of the Year competition is the highlight of the year for our staff and students at the North Highland College UHI Burghfield House campus.
"It is such an inspirational experience for the young chefs and hospitality managers of the future to have the opportunity to meet and provide hospitality for six of Britain’s most accomplished chefs. The competition itself is going from strength to strength and it was lovely to be able to welcome this year’s ten finalists to the Burghfield for the competition cook-off.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, later tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating David MacDonald. David Stewart said “This is a great achievement for David. This competition showcases the talent we have here in the Highlands and Islands and I would congratulate David, and the other nine finalists, together with North Highland College UHI and the Albert Roux Consultancy who organised the competition for the sixth year. I wish David, and all the finalists, all the very best in their future careers."
Other finalists in the Young Highland Chef competition were Sean Beaton of the Eilean Dubh Restaurant in Fortrose; Claire McMurray, a student at West Highland College UHI; Darren Ross of the Roxburgh Hotel and Golf Course in Kelso; Jordan Clark of the Loch Melfort Hotel near Oban; Curtis Cross of Links House in Dornoch; Ross Payne from West Loch Hotel in Tarbert and Ruari McCartney from the Ulbster Arms Hotel in Halkirk. Each contestant was presented with a signed certificate and a Robot Coupe Micromix Blender.
Burghfield House is run as a training restaurant by North Highland College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. The University of the Highlands and Islands and North Highland College UHI offer a range of tourism and hospitality courses, including a professional cookery HNC and a tourism and hospitality BA (Hons).
David MacDonald in the live cook-off
Left to right: Steven Doherty, Albert Roux and Andrew Fairlie tasting David’s winning menu
The Young Highland Chef 2015 judges and winner. Left to right: Derek Johnstone, Steven Doherty, Brian Maule, Andrew Fairlie, David MacDonald, Albert Roux, Glen Watson
Photos taken by Mark Rodgers (MKR Photographic)
His trademark hats became familiar to millions of schoolchildren in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and now Donnie Macleod is getting ready to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the groundbreaking Gaelic TV programme ‘Dòtaman’.
Donnie Dòtaman is arguably the most famous star that Gaelic TV has ever produced.
Brought up in Edinburgh, his mother hailed from Aird in Point, while his father was from Tolsta Chaolais.
Having left Gaeldom’s supergroup ‘Na H-Oganaich’ in the early 1980s, he busied himself as Norman Maclean’s sidekick in the hugely popular ‘Tormod air Telly’ comedy series.
But it was when Neil Fraser, the-then head of Gaelic at the BBC, decided to focus specifically on pre- school children that Donnie Dòtaman was born.
Donnie explains: “Neil realised that if the Gaelic language was going to survive, we had to target children before they even went to school.
“The plan was to do a dozen pre-school programmes in a similar format to Blue Peter.
“Little did we know at the time what impact it would have in years to come." ‘Dòtaman’ or spinning top in Gaelic, was chosen as a title for the show, so given Gaeldom’s propensity for nicknames, it didn’t take long for its presenter to become known as ‘Donnie Dòtaman’.
“I’ve been known by it ever since,” Donnie laughs. “No matter what I do, I can’t get away from that name.”
The show was an immediate hit with young viewers, with its colourful, vibrant and fun themes. Spellbound kids would eagerly tune in every week to see specifically what hat Donnie was wearing for that particular episode.
“The hat thing came about almost by accident,” Donnie revealed. “I came in one day with a seagull on my hat and after that, I would wear a hat based on whatever theme the programme was following.
“For instance, if we were doing a show on a farm, I’d have animals on the hat, or if we were doing a circus theme I’d have big top on it.”
Peter Falk, who played legendary detective ‘Columbo’ was famed for using his own trenchcoat during all the years the show aired. Similarly, Donnie’s hats were all his own, and he has them still to this day.
“I’ve probably got about 300,” he laughed. “I store them all in the loft, along with the sets and the puppets we used.
“Recently I took everything down for filming and set it up in the conservatory, which I’ve now renamed as my ‘Dota-den’.”
As part of the 30th anniversary, some of Donnie’s hats are now on display at reception in BBC HQ in Glasgow, and he says the response has been ‘unbelievable’. “Everyone stops and comments on them,” he said. “There’s a big kid inside all of us.”
As part of the celebration anniversary show, celebrities including comedian Des Clarke, and singer Michelle McManus, share their reminiscences growing up with ‘Dòtaman’ on the telly. “They were unaware it wasn’t in English!” said Donnie.
“That’s what was brilliant about the show – the kids could absorb the meaning through vision.
“Producers made a conscious decision not to subtitle the programme, as they thought that Gaelic speaking children would use that as an easy option. It was very much a Gaelic show.”
Now a successful TV producer himself and based in Glasgow where he works with the BBC, Donnie is more familiar to viewers these days as the presenter of his own DIY show on BBC Alba – ‘DIY le Donnie’.
But he will always be Donnie Dòtaman – and is more than happy to accept that identity. “I’m extremely proud of Dòtaman, as it’s been my life,” he said.
“At its height, I couldn’t even go to the shops without kids running up, asking for my autograph and a photo, and of course that was all due to the popularity of the programme.
“’Dòtaman’ was simple, it didn’t try to be too clever, and that’s why it was such a successful series and loved by all for so long.”
A special anniversary show has been recorded by MacTV, and will be transmitted on October 5 on BBC Alba.
BBC ALBA CELEBRATES 30 YEARS SINCE THE LAUNCH OF LEGENDARY GAELIC CHILDREN’S TV HIT, DÒTAMAN
Trusadh - Dòtaman at 30 / Dòtaman aig 30 BBC ALBA – Monday 5 October 9.30 – 10.30pm
This month marks 30 years since BBC Scotland broadcast the first episode of a new Gaelic children’s tv show, Dòtaman.
Little did anyone know of the success the show and its iconic presenter, Donnie ‘Dòtaman’ MacLeod, would enjoy as it became one of the most famous Gaelic brands on TV!
Famed for its trademark hats, wonderful storytelling, colourful outfits, and catchy songs which Donnie made his own with his trusty guitar, more than 400 episodes were made of the series over 16 years.
In a nostalgic and warm hour long anniversary programme, we hear from Donnie and the team behind the show, as we explore what made it the success it was and why it was so appealing for generations of Scots, both Gaelic and non-Gaelic speakers alike. With new renditions of Dòtaman classics, and contributions from celebrity fans Michelle MacManus and Des Clarke amongst others, we discover how Dòtaman appealed to all, and enjoyed a true cult status in Scottish culture – even making it to the Edinburgh Fringe this year!
Dòtaman aig 30 – a colourful celebration of the iconic Gaelic children’s programme as it marks its 30th year.