MacPhail – 29.8.19

Angus MacPhail.

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For nearly four years now, I have been filing my weekly articles to the Oban Times and as regular readers will know, the subject matters hold certain common themes.

Among the foremost-featured areas have been music, boats, fishing, anniversaries and birthdays, providential coincidence, Highland hospitality, the Mod, music festivals, Gaelic language and culture, good ceilidhs and well-known characters of the West Coast. This week’s offering covers a man who encapsulates all of the above.

I have known Lachie Robertson from Mallaig for 20 years, and many a good escapade we have had together. Today (Thursday), Lachie will turn 60, as too – if my memory serves me correctly – will his Danish-built fishing boat, Reul a’ Chuain (Star of the Sea). As this paper will be published on the same day, I thought it fitting to celebrate the aligning of dates and stars, and write about this very well-known West Coast character, piper, fisherman and expert host and ceilidh maker!

Over the years Lachie has proved himself to be a consistently successful fisherman, and has combined this well with taking time off for music and enjoying life outwith his work.

Fishing is a job that requires far more commitment than most professions and to combine it with a busy social life is difficult. Lachie has always managed to strike a good balance between the two, and is well respected and well known for both.

Although Lachie has never played music professionally, he is as well known in the music industry of the West Coast as he is in fishing. The Mull Music Festival, the Mod and many other events and festivals scattered around the coast have been regular destinations for Lachie over the years, and when he is not present at one or either, then many will comment that ‘it is just not the same without him!’

I recall in particular the Mod when it was in Oban in 2015 for being the catalyst for a great Lachie experience.

I had been working flat-out in the Ceilidh House all week, and therefore had not joined in any of the socialising of the Mod. On the Saturday following it, we were playing at a wedding on Mull, so still no ceilidhing for me! I arrived back in Oban on the Sunday afternoon, with a week-long pent-up desire for a good party. I walked into the Kelvin Hotel and who was at the bar but Lachie Robertson and Andy Campbell from the Vatersay Boys. The drams, tunes, songs and crack of that afternoon were sufficient to make up for my whole week of abstinence!

Last weekend we were playing at the Tonder Festival in Denmark, and after the gig I was looking up at a crystal-clear starry sky. The Plough happened to be in almost exactly the same position as it appears on the front cover of the new Skipinnish album. As I was aligning the last two stars of the plough to identify the Sea Star/Polestar/Polaris/Reul a’ Chuain, a shooting star crossed my vision.

As well as the particular wish I made when I saw it, I hope that that shooting star is a good omen for Lachie’s Reul a’ Chuain and Lachie himself to have many, many more birthdays ahead! Slàinte Lachie!