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* Here is a special announcement. ‘Fort William Community Council is commemorating the West Highland Railway Line Centenary. Ceilidh Train to and from Glasgow, Monday, September 5, 1994. Departs Fort William 08.00; departs Glasgow 18.30. Coffee and biscuits on the outward journey; cold buffet on the return trip. Local artistes in all the coaches for your entertainment. Licensed bar on the train. All inclusive ticket price is £18.50’.
So we bought our tickets, purely in the interests of research, to see how the Ceilidh Train might compare with the rail excursions of yesteryear. And we were not disappointed . So here is the report (considerably expurgated).
‘Och, the train won’t leave the Fort at 8 o’clock’, was the inevitable local forecast. As far as we were concerned it departed nearly bang on time. At 8.46. The first happening we found ourselves musing about was to ensure we all gave a wave to the good folk of Belhaven, Invernevis (and Armadale). I thought they had put the washing out early at these establishments – till I realised that the ‘flags’ being flown in honour of the Ceilidh Train included the brandishing of several pairs of smalls on the end of brushes and mops!
It was only on settling down as we passed Glenlochy Distillery that everyone realised there was no heating on the train. However, an announcement came over the intercom. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to the Ceilidh Train. The bar is now open in the Guard’s Van – and they’re waiting for customers’. John looked up at the tannoy, and spoke to it loudly, saying ‘No wonder there’s nobody in the bar – our bahoochies are frozen to the seats’! However, then came a rapid thaw as there was plenty of ‘central heating’ in the Guard’s Van – with all drinks at £1 a shot. So it wasn’t long until the ‘ice was broken’ – along with the seals of a battery of Fort William back-up bottles which were spirited out of shopping bags.
The pipers, accordionists, fiddlers, and singers in Gaelic and English and (although we didn’t realise it at the time that they were going to provide much of the entertainment – the dancers were limbering up as we passed Torlundy).
Meanwhile, two Clagganites were vying with each other for the title of the West Highland Pipeman of the Year (in the No Smoking category)
Joe was first to get his vocal chords working, between Roy Bridge and Tulloch. ‘Anyone got a request’? Joe asked . ‘Aye, can you sing ‘Far, Far Away’? came the concerted response. No, but we were regaled with ‘Bonnie Glenfinnan’, even though we weren’t on the Mallaig Line.
By the time we had given the Morgans a wave at Corrour the ceilidhing was in full swing. (By the way, Corrour Station celebrates its centenary on September 14).
We ceilidhed on even after the train pulled in at Queen Street. On with the dance, including a Strip the Willow on the platform, permeated with one or two staggers. Then we all dispersed into the city to amuse ourselves for five and a half hours.
The Glasgow streets were actually quite quiet. Until that is, the Lochaber locals converged on them. I’m not sure that Glasgow knows yet what hit it. But hit it was. Marks was mobbed, BHS besieged and C&A’s choc-a-bloc. ‘It’s busy the day’, the shop assistants mused. ‘It must be that Teuchter Train in fae Fort William’.
Under the Hielan’man’s Umbrella I heard this female yelling ‘Evening Times! Extra Late Final’ Read all about it! I thought to myself, ‘I’d know that voice in Hong Kong’! Sure enough, on the news stand, selling papers was – Divy! She had even got herself a part-time job in Glesca for a couple of hours.
The Park Bar had its busiest Monday afternoon ever. Aye, and there were quite a few regulars with Lochaber connections. It was in there that the shout went up ; ‘Quick, the ceilidh’s started at the station!’ When we got there, sure enough, the main concourse had been taken over by the Ceilidh Trainers. Much to the amazement and amusement of most the commuters (Those going on the Edinburgh train didn’t look overly impressed). The next song was a dance, as the pipes, accordions and fiddles played for an Eightsome, Gay Gordons and Highland Schottische. Thanks to this impromptu ‘Take the Platform’ half-hour, Queen Street didn’t look as if it belonged to Glasgow any more.
(To be concluded on September 19)