MacPhail – week 48

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I have covered the merits of a good wedding a few times in this column but never have I touched on the magic of a good birthday party.

I’ve been to many and played at many over the years, and all are different in the effect and experience created. From intimate house parties with a few drams, to lavish feasts in plush hotels or just an informal gathering in the pub, a birthday party can come in many shapes and sizes and in all these guises can be enjoyed greatly and all can suitably mark the occasion being celebrated.

Last Friday I was at one of the best gatherings of this type I have experienced yet.

This was a 50th party in Milngavie Town Hall to mark the half-century of Donald Iain Brown from Tiree.  D.I. left Tiree in his late teens and has carved out a highly successful career with the BBC.  The range of folk at the party reflected the background and work life of the birthday boy with a great combination of those who had travelled over from Tiree, those from the Glasgow Highland scene and many media executive types from all over the UK.

Added to this was a core of close family and friends and the mix of attendees knitted together perfectly to give a biography in people of those who had shaped, touched and been part of his life.

I was sitting at a table along with my mother and her friend Cath MacPherson, both who had taught D.I. at Cornaigmore School. Cath was recalling tales about his first day at school when she had to ask mum to come down from the secondary school to interpret for her as D.I. could only communicate in Gaelic. These types of stories – from times long past, through to the present day – where significant ingredients to the night.

The music was from older brother Campbell Brown and his band Gunna Sound as well as very informal guest spots from many other partygoers. This meant the entertainment was like a proper old-style ceilidh.  With fiddle music from Marie Fielding, box tunes from Ian Smith of Trail West and Martin Gillespie from Skerryvore, piping from Finlay Johnston and John MacLeod and songs from Mairi MacInnes, the Glasgow Gaelic Choir, D.I. himself and his daughter Shona this was indeed a very fine ceilidh!

As any regular readers of this column will know I have a great love for good food and I have to give particular mention to the buffet, which was prepared by Alastair MacKinnon from Sandaig, Tiree.  Every morsel of it was homemade and every morsel of it was absolutely delicious. Many birthday parties are let down by soggy sandwiches, tasteless sausage rolls and frozen supermarket puddings.  Not so here and a great feast was had!

All in all this night of celebration was akin to how the ultimate birthday party would be portrayed in a Hollywood Blockbuster.  This was no fictional creation for the big screen though. It was merely reflection of the character of the birthday boy himself.

A great night was had by all and I wish many happy returns to Donald Iain.