Islay letter with Hugh Smith

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Welcoming the new year

All were delighted that Storm Dylan had become a spent force when Bowmore welcomed 2018 with an impressive fireworks display at the village harbour.

The large number of well wishers in party mood enjoyed a festive display of pyrotechnics providing illuminations above Lochindaal in what is now an annual event financed by a generous a group of civic-minded and public-spirited local business people.

At the stroke of midnight, the bells of the floodlit Round Church hanselled the arrival of the new year and piper Linsey MacArthur, accompanied by her drum-playing sister Rona, provided the ne’erday music prior to ‘rockets galore’ streaking through the night sky.

Following the display, the revellers headed for the village hall where seasonal entertainment and a measure or two of the island’s most famous product ensured further celebrations went on into the wee sma’ hours.

The Bowmore fireworks display is also a charity event and those who benefited from the spectators’ generosity were the Islay Hospital and the Fire Brigade Benevolent Fund.

The island was particularly busy during the ne’erday holiday period although the almost deserted village streets over the two-day holiday would suggest otherwise.

Nevertheless, a large number of visitors arrived on the island in the hope of enjoying the traditional Hogmanay knees-up. They were joined by Ileach returning to their native shores to share the various celebrations with family and friends And they certainly did!

Gathering line-up

It has just been announced that one of island’s best known personalities will be the guest chairman at the Glasgow Islay Association 2018 annual gathering.

Lifeboat mechanic David MacArthur will preside at the event, which takes place in the Glasgow University Students’ Union on Friday March 2, beginning at 7.30pm.

The popular Ileach has been the mechanic on the Port Askaig lifeboat Helmut Schroder II of Dunlossit for the past 12 years and has been part of the volunteer crew since 1969.

David will be accompanied by his wife Fiona, whom he married last year, at An Comunn Ileach’s 156th annual get-together.

Concert bill toppers will be local vocalist Alasdair Currie, winner of the men’s gold medal at the Royal National Lochaber Mòd last year, and Robert Robertson, who enjoyed similar gold success at the Royal National Mòd in Paisley in 2013.

Robert also fronts the popular group Tide Lines, and was acclaimed as the Gaelic Singer of the Year at the 2017 Scots Trad Music Awards last month.  And he still finds time to pen the Glasgow Letter in this newspaper.

Sharing the platform with the gold medallists will be Connel singer, musician and composer Clare Jordan, and Lochaber accordionist Martin Skene, who is also a cellist and pianist of no mean ability.

Amply filling the students’ union stage and raising the roof in the process will be the Kilchoman Distillery-sponsored Islay Pipe Band, with their Pipe Major Nigel Morris at the helm.

Kirsteen Grant will provide the piano accompaniments and the programme will also feature the association’s Pipe Major Andrew McCowan Jnr.

In charge of the proceedings will be the group’s new president, Katherine McNaughton, suffering a little from wedding fever as she prepares for her June nuptials, and she will be assisted and encouraged by the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed additions to the gathering organising committee.

And, while all this is going on, Trail West will be preparing to entertain the young at heart and fleet of foot heading to the ensuing gathering dance in the same venue.

Hugh Smith, 4 Flora Street, Bowmore, Islay PA43 7JX. Tel: 01496 810658