Glasgow Letter – 6.1.22

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In my final column of 2021, I hoped for a slightly more exciting Hogmanay than last year’s.

Unfortunately, my Mum and Dad both testing positive for Covid kicked this hope right into touch and condemned me to my second isolation period within a month!
I am still testing negative but clearly there was no first footing on the cards for a second year running!

Thankfully, there was some great viewing on television and congratulations must go to everyone involved in this year’s Cèilidh na Bliadhn’ Ùire – BBC Alba’s live hogmanay ceilidh which was broadcast, conveniently for this column, from Glasgow.

The lack of a live audience often makes a gig like that very difficult for performers, but I thought the whole show generated a really lively, natural atmosphere.

The set design, made from fishing nets and creels, was very appropriate for a true West Highland cèilidh led, as ever, by the fantastic house band, the Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band, who were joined by New Tradition, led by Iain Costello MacIver. These two bands complemented each other perfectly – the Glenfinnan crew leading the cèilidh dances and playing some great traditional Gaelic songs, whilst New Tradition played a variety of Gaelic songs with Costello’s trademark country twist.

There was a fine line up of singers for both these bands to accompany: Emma MacLeod from Scalpay, Chloe Steele from Uist, and Iain ‘Spanish’ Mackay from Lewis making sure most Hebridean bases were covered! And a special mention should go to Glenuig’s Iain MacMaster who put down the box for a song half way through the evening.

The show was augmented by pre-recorded performances from the Stornoway Youth Pipe Band, Còisir Ghàidhlig Leòdhais (a selection of choral singers from Lewis), and Peat and Diesel, and was presented with great humour by Niall Iain MacDonald and Cathy Bhàn.

It was one of these programmes that just felt really positive and happy – despite everything that is going on around us at the moment – and it certainly cheered up my Hogmanay in isolation no end.

Covid or not, my mum and dad managed to stay up past the bells and dad even managed a hot toddy! The following day, his symptoms were all but gone, so perhaps the cure for Covid is a hot toddy with the BBC Alba Hogmanay show!

On the first, to keep my mind off the fact I would normally be first footing, I put on Take the Floor where Gary Innes was introducing a fantastic New Year’s Day Party with music from Iain Cathcart and his Scottish Dance band.

Gary had interviewed me for the programme before Christmas and asked me to choose a song to be played. I chose Clare Island by the Saw Doctors – two of whom (Leo Moran and Anto Thistlethwaite) I had the pleasure of singing with on a BBC Alba Hogmanay show a few years ago.

It was nice to think back on Hogmanays gone by; and look ahead to more lively ones in years to come!