Come and celebrate love memorial’s first anniversary

Public art sculptor David Wilson puts the finishing touches to the celtic bench at Deirdre's Shieling above Glen Etive.

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Romantics and those with a passion for a good story  are invited to a special celebration marking the first anniversary of one man’s memorial to love.

The occasion, starting tomorrow June 21,  sees two days dedicated to the unfolding love story behind Deirdre’s Sheiling, perched high above Taynuilt.

It includes the UK premiere of a concerto inspired by the tale of Deirdre of the Sorrows and following a Europe-wide hunt to track down its composer who is flying over specially to conduct it.

This weekend marks 12 months since Sam MacDonald, who had the enchanting memorial built with help from friends and supporters as a fulfillment of a promise to his late artist wife Evelyn, first opened it up to the public.

The shieling, 1,500ft up on Beinn Ghlas, overlooking Glen Etive, is a legacy to the ancient love story that stole Sam and Evelyn’s hearts. The spot, with its panoramic views, was a favourite picnic place of the pair.

Work to get the finishing touches done in time for the weekend has been ongoing, almost to the very day.

Public art sculptor David Wilson has been staying with Sam for the past five weeks putting in more than 300 hours of hard graft to finish a Celtic-knot bench  at the heart of the shieling. A four-cornered cast bell has also be re-installed for visitors to ring as loud as they like.

Tomorrow the public is invited along to the Corran Halls Studio Theatre at 5pm for a free seminar about the 12th-century Glenmasan Manuscript telling the love story of Deirdre and Naoise, two young runaways who fled from Ireland to escape an angry king and found happiness for a time in Glen Etive.

Professor Ruari O’Huiginn, Professor of Celtic Studies at Trinity College Dublin will give the seminar and the National Library of Scotland is making a facsimile  copy of the original manuscript for people to see at the event. The original manuscript, which gives the most complete account of Deirdre and Naoise’s story, was found in Dalavich in a chimney space in the 1700s and passed through several hands, including a Kilchrenan minister, before ending up in possession of the National Library, which will want the copy back to reuse for educational purposes.

Irish consul general to Scotland Mark Hannify and Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell have also been invited to the event that sees celebrations continue on Saturday June 22 at 2.30pm with a free concert at St John’s Cathedral, Oban, for the UK premier of the Glenmasan Concerto, performed by the Glasgow Wind Orchestra who are known as one of the top symphonic wind orchestras in the UK.

The piece will be conducted by its Swiss composer Marc Jeanbourquin whose imagination was caught by Deirdre and Naoise’s romantic tale back in 2016.

‘I knew of the concerto, but when I discovered it had never been performed in the UK I was determined to bring it to Argyll. I contacted the Swiss Embassy who made contact on my behalf and I was delighted that Marc was equally enthused by the idea. He was able to send me the entire orchestral score and amazingly he asked if he could come and conduct the piece as well,’ said Sam.

The concert, in collaboration with Oban Music Society, and under the direction of musical director Kevin Price will also include works by Philip Sparke, Malcolm Arnold, Peter Graham, Richard Strauss, Matthew Brown, Norman Richardson and Korb and Roever. There will be an interval during the performance with tea and coffee served in the vestibule.

Sam said: ‘Come and learn more about this wonderful love story that everyone just thought was a fairytale but really happened.

‘This past year has been hugely satisfying. It’s been such an exciting project, so many people have shared my vision. It’s never been difficult to find the energy and enthusiasm for it. Who would not be intrigued and fascinated by this story? It is a love story that is still unfolding and touching hearts.’

Over the past year, the sheiling has been attracting visitors, who have made their way up the three-mile track to see the memorial for themselves. There are plans to make more parking spaces for a small number of cars and there is a likelihood it will be featured on maps for the latest part of the newest pilgrimage walk passing through Glen Lonan to Iona.